Young hearts run free

 

Teaching mama and baby yoga has had me questing to discover the best yoga postures for energy. Because sleep is hard to come by when mothering a baby. I’ve learned that back bends, twists and deep breathing can help.

Inhale. Exhale.

And time apart. Which is why I’m camped out at my local independent coffee shop. Alone with my americano and my words. Blending in with the regular crowd, I think. And all of a sudden a swarm of moms and babies are entering. Unkempt, earthy, tired. Noisy. I feel like I’m undercover – I’m one of you but you can’t tell. My baby is at home with her granny. I miss her. But I love being here on my own.

Inhale. Exhale.

I’m so excited to talk about things outside of baby. To scale my life in a bigger ecosystem. To say we’re ordering in and not feel like I somehow failed to fulfill the duties of Home Life President. As defined in a different time, for a different woman. A job I’ve learned is not for me.

These Mondays though, they come with pangs. A pang of future Mondays. What will it feel like? To get dressed and leave the house without her? To leave her in the care of another? Another who doesn’t love her like I do. Who won’t sing her our songs.  My eyes sting.

Inhale. Exhale.

I have often remarked, if it was the 1950s we mothers wouldn’t sit around planning our childcare, agonizing over daycare wait lists and nanny shares and transitioning back to work. I have said this out loud to rooms of new mothers, in these safe sisterly communities we are always trying to create, for me in vain. No one has picked up the conversation. Is it too painful? Confusing? Overwhelming? A foregone conclusion? A stupid comment?

I don’t wish myself back in time. Not for a second. The fight for gender equality has barely started in my view, and I won’t give one inch back. But sometimes these choices don’t feel like choices. To spend the bulk of the week working outside of the home, or, caring for my young child. Now my job is to make an impossible choice I can live with.

Inhale. Exhale.

Podcasts, walks, fatigue, anxiety, cuddles and overwhelming love. These are the ways I will remember maternity leave. A warping, tinting, melting, of the glass walls through which I see this world. They say the years are short but the days are long. At ten months Baby F astounds me. She knows her home, her toys, the best vents to bang on, where the baby monitor is kept (favourite thing to throw across the floor). I let her because I secretly want it to break, its random beeping for no apparent reason one of the most elusive and frustrating mysteries of these past ten months.

The greatest mystery of these past ten months though, remains: what does the future hold for me? Unsolved.

Seeking strength and wisdom now and always. To lead a life I can look back on with pride and joy. And that I can embrace and exalt in along the way.

Inhale. Young hearts. Exhale. Run free.

 

Cycling in the rain

I forgot how unpleasant it is to bike in the rain without a back fender.

That slice of Scot somewhere in my blood has left me with a solid attitude of making-do. As if using money and modern convenience to solve a problem is somehow too bourgeois.

Since taking the Quistic masterclass on personality type, I’m obsessed with typing everyone I know (type yourself here for free). When I’m feeding baby F, I go through the people I know and search for type patterns. For example, every member of my and J’s family is an I for introvert. Except for big old extroverted me.

It explains so much about my adolescent “behavioural issues” – convinced my parents didn’t love me when in fact they just didn’t ever feel like talking.

I get it now. Mind and heart open.

In British Columbia they have a problem with exotic birds finding good homes. This former nurse found her calling helping these birds and their adoptive humans find peace in their relationships. The birds are anxious, often bought and returned more than once by well-meaning but ignorant animal lovers. She implements simple systems rewarding good bird behaviour. When the birds scream in their cages the people leave the room. When the birds are quiet the people come back.

It works because the birds just want to be close to the people.

Social creatures, comforted by the presence of warm blood nearby. By a face and a voice and a beating heart. By the possibility of connection.

In choir we are working on this glorious piece. The first line ends with a tone cluster – notes sung together that don’t conventionally match. As singers our job is to find the heart of the dissonance and lean into it, often fighting against our instincts in order to do it correctly. But when we lock into it, it feels so right.

Only after the darkest hour, does the light emerge.

Our conductor asked us to sing those notes as if we were removing the lid from a canister containing pure light.

Un-cage-ing something unexpected, bursting forth.

This week one of my favourite podcast hosts Jonathan Fields published a manifesto. As a mother, as a carer, this jumped out: Self-care is the beating heart of other care.

That’s why this week’s yoga is about self care. Picture self massage, guided meditation and opening the heart chakra. Imagine a light shining out of your heart right now – bursting through your rib cage. Your heart cage. Are you sitting a little taller, making a little more space for it? You see, my personality type is all about inspiring people. I’m programmed to cultivate light. You know, me and Oprah (actually).  

In the coffee shop where I’m sitting all the men pick up the barista. So far they’ve talked about snowboarding, Toronto’s dashed baseball dreams, astronomy, California. The Adele concert. Butter croissants. Halloween costumes. I’ve been here for a while.

It’s time to bike home now and get back to baby F. Her hedgehog hair that looks like baby bird feathers. Born jet black and inexplicably lightening by the day, to wheat, butter or strawberry depending on the light. I love her so much. I’m the parrot that just wants to stay close.

Making do as I am with no fender in the rain, I’ll count on that ethereal light coming from inside my rib cage to carry me through all that splatter. A canister containing pure light.

It’s worth so much more than new bike parts anyways.

Personality paradox and another reason to practice yoga

I have this friend who likes to repel down waterfalls. Or underwater. Or something. She has an adventurous spirit.

When you take the Quistic test to find your Myers-Briggs personality type (it’s free here), it asks you to agree or disagree with this statement: “a sense of adventure is close to my heart”.

As a Myers-Briggs enthusiast, I’ve taken the test more than once. I guess I like tests. I go back and forth on some of the questions, but historically not this one: a sense of adventure is close to my heart.

Until now. Because, what is an adventure?

Right now I’m watching my four month old inch off her playmat using exclusively leg and core strength – a little escape artist. A future yogi. An adventure I am at the very centre of.

This week the soundtrack for my walks with baby F became this unexpectedly inspirational podcast from Good Life Project. In this roundtable episode they talk about personality paradoxes – like when you’re really organized about some things but a complete mess about others. Or you’re intensely introverted but sometimes come alive when you’re the centre of attention.

This is one of those mental loops a lot of us get caught in: the desire to define ourselves, to discover our truth.

The podcast opened up the (totally obvious) option of having a paradoxical personality – being, embracing and using both sides of a given paradox. Accepting the paradox as a theme, rather than trying to pick one side or the other.

The theme of adventure, wild and tame at different turns.

The theme of self-discovery, admitting to an affinity for personality tests while also acknowledging we can’t be defined. And that we evolve. The right to change your answer on a test you’ve done more than once.

Yoga last week was all core and twists. I was ahead of the game since I play airplane baby every day. It was an adventurous practice – finding the limits of a core that’s conquered pregnancy, and gently pushing against them. It wasn’t about holding back or pushing hard though  – it was about the paradox – the theme of effort. Giving and absorbing it. And accepting the result in all its complex glory.

Every yoga posture has an element of opposing forces. Each one is a path to self-discovery. Another reason to practice yoga for today’s wild and tame alike.

 

 

Sanctuary

It’s Christmas. It’s the last quiet Christmas morning for a while, since as of March 2016 we – we who were blithely two – we will be three. And one of the three will be small and scrunchy, adorable, but probably loud and demanding too. Teetering on the edge of that produces weird sensations.

Being pregnant is a hormonal experience. So far I haven’t been experiencing wild mood changes, picking fights, ending friendships dramatically, etc. What I have experienced is that any time I think about no longer being two with J, I tear up. Tears actually come into my eyes. Am I excited about being a parent or what?

I am, actually, I’m just getting to know myself better. The challenges in life bring your jagged edges into the light. You’re stretching (well, some of us are literally stretching too). But for all of us, when we get stretched in the figurative sense, some places where we have work to do tend to show.

The end of the year is an introspective time for many people. Even though the year has a week yet to live out, since I plan on spending it in my pyjamas/loungewear/bathtub/kitchen/bed recouperating from the year (old life) gone by and resting up for the year (new life) ahead, I’m thinking Christmas is as good a time as any to let go of the past, reflect and plan for the future. Christmas morning this year – quiet, if balmy in Toronto (record temperatures yesterday), peaceful – this is a New Day if ever I met one.

I have been raving about my prenatal yoga teacher because she is so knowledgeable. She taught us how to lie down and get up again without putting our (weakened, literally stretched) abdominal muscles at risk of separating (it can happen). She incorporates kegels into the class(!), and modified pushups, both of which I’m grateful for. There’s a but. I miss pushing myself physically. I miss feeling limitless physically and I miss the spiritual in yoga class. Life creation should be a spiritual time, no? Not finding that in yoga class.

I am finding that in the shower, where I’ve started singing this song from my summer camp days:

O Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. And with thanksgiving I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.

I sing it over and over and I recognize my body as a sanctuary, and the baby is inside, growing in time with the vibrations.

Yesterday we had a debate about the spiritual life of our child. Not an easy subject. So much is wrapped up in it – culture, religion, family expectation, moral code, Sunday morning. And then we sat down together, because the extended family dinner we were going to go to got cancelled, and we ate eggs and we watched three documentaries in a row. The last being The Secret. And it said a lot of things, my word for many of which is “bogus,” but it also said this:

When you drive at night, you can only see 200 ft in front of you. You trust that the road ahead exists, and you keep on driving, and you cover miles of road, 200 ft at a time. 

And that is a message I need to hear as 2016 beckons. I doubt I’m the only one.  I’m going to take this one month at a time, which means no decisions are needed right now on baptism, let alone religious upbringing, and healthy right now doesn’t mean doing 100 sun salutations, it means getting enough water and vegetables and walking in nature whenever I can. And if yoga right now isn’t spiritual, then my hypnobirthing class might be, and if not, then my showers definitely can be. Each 200 ft of road brings a sweet change, and it’s our privilege to rise to the occasion. Otherwise why bother with the drive?

 

 

Why fear is good

Do you notice that the holidays make regular things feel different? A regular lunch date becomes a festive lunch date. Work slows down and you can make it to a 4:30 yoga class on a Friday afternoon. This week was power yoga. The class opened with a question:

Does everyone go upside down?

Well, does everyone?

Most people in the class nodded casually. I think I mumbled “I can but I usually don’t”. Whatever self-conscious not-exactly-the-truth that was. When it came time for the upside down part, it was fairly tame. Stand by the wall and kick your legs up to the wall so you’re standing on your hands, facing away from the wall. Looks extremely easy. But isn’t, once you factor in the fear.

Fear of being uspide down, falling on your face (literally), breaking your neck, dislocating a shoulder, elbow or wrist. Fear of looking stupid.

I know all the technical cues for a handstand against the wall – knit your ribs together and stay integrated through the core, don’t arch your back, power through the arms, shoulder blades low on your back, feet strong not floppy. I promise I could teach you how to do it.

And there I was, repeating the initial jump toward the wall, never allowing my feet to meet the wall, never allowing myself to go that far upside down. The pose should take one jump, maybe two, and then you’re in position and you explore being there. I was like a broken record, repeating that first step, the jump, poorly, again and again.

Exhausted and breathless.

Do people online even understand the broken record analogy anymore?

Right.

At my festive lunch my friend and former colleague caught me talking about sticking around in my job longer than I otherwise might, because I want to start a family and it makes sense not to double challenge myself.

“Lean in,” he said, knowingly.

Two small words. But thanks to Cheryl Sandberg, those words mean something to professional women.

If life is a series of habits, then developing a habit of leaning in will result in a richer life. And in yoga on Friday I decidedly leaned out. I was fearful and wasted energy in all the wrong places.

All I know about the question of balancing career and family, and leaning in to the workplace versus leaning in at home, is that everyone has a right answer that’s different. And the best way to figure out the right answer for you is to follow your gut. And you might not have a gut direction on the matter until you are faced with a board meeting and a doctor’s appointment, at the same time. Right now I don’t know where I stand. But maybe in that future moment, I will.

Every day we are making decisions that are shaping our lives. Making them all in advance would be like reading the last page of a book first. Or starting your career with your dream job. Or doing the perfect handstand before you had mastered the jump. Or the fear.

Sandberg’s point is that you should give yourself a chance to follow your gut when the time comes, rather than taking yourself out of the game too early.

My point is that you should make decisions that feel right everyday and see how things unfold, rather than committing to a rigid long term plan.

Every day yoga reminds me of what I’m working towards – openness, flexibility, strength, peace.

Fear is a tangible input. If it scares you in a good way, you should probably keep doing it. 

For now, it’s the holidays, which means it’s time for family and probably some yoga. And reflection on the year past. And desires for the year ahead, including more leaning in and maybe, finally, getting upside down on the mat. And then off the mat. By acknowledging the fear and using it as something to overcome.

I didn’t go to Washington

I didn’t go to yoga. Instead I listened to one of my favourite Sarah Harmer tunes – I didn’t go to Washington – and wrote this.

I didn’t go to Washington, instead I swept the floor.

Her sad-beautiful songs are the best of their kind. My practice is craving evolution, asking for something new. Instead of stretching on the mat, I’m stretching here, at my writing table.

The only things I’ve ever done you can’t see anymore.

The last few days have been collecting days. Reading about balancing work and life, about entrepreneurship and confidence. I started an audio book called Confidence but in the first two minutes the same simple idea was just repeated in a slightly different way over and over again. I got it the first time. This is my beef with business literature. No one in business actually wants to read a book. Give us an infographic. Besides, everything has been said.

I knew there would be magic but I turned at the last chance.

Last night the Red Tent was on television. I read the book a few years back, but had forgotten how directly it was linked to the Old Testament story of Joseph and his dreams and his brothers. And on Friday I had a lunch with an old friend who is studying divinity. She has to read the whole bible and then answer 100 multiple questions about it. Dates, lineage, geography, everything. It fascinates me that people are studying the bible and entering the ministry in 2014. In the same year that we are commercializing Google glass and discovering gravitational waves in the space-time fabric, the University of Toronto still has five different places where you can study theology. Sick Kids hospital currently employs eight religious leaders in its chaplaincy – Catholic, Presbyterian, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, whatever you are looking for. Meanwhile churches, which used to mark the very core of the community, are being sold off by the dozens and developed into high end loft apartments. How can religion be dead and alive at the same time?

These idle hands are staying scared of making any plans.

I think about prayer. Is it intention setting or is it curling up to a patient parent to get things off our chests? I think about sacraments – like baptism and communion. My friends who were brought up in The Faith (whatever it might be) are getting married by state qualified officiants in restaurants and vineyards, holding blessing ceremonies for their babies in their living rooms.

I have some opinionated relatives when it comes to this type of evolution. A few weeks back one said this:

“How is the child to know what they are and where they came from if you don’t pass it forward to them? You pass on the  traditions so they have something to build on.”

He went on to say what’s to stop them from becoming violent extremists in the absence of exposure to the proper traditions. It’s a stretch, but he raises an interesting point. Besides, are we really doing our society a favour by secularizing so profoundly? No one will turn to their I Phone in a time of crisis, but we humans have long been known to Turn to Faith. Now we have therapists. But introducing your kid to God is free.

The fire needed tending and the windows are so wide.

It’s the holiday season and we’re overly programmed with social activities. As a borderline Extrovert/Introvert on the Myers Briggs scale, I find this time of year challenging – I can’t imagine what extreme Introverts must go through. At these holiday parties, most recently over lychee martinis but sometimes an old fashioned or a glass of wine, I keep finding myself in discussions about work. People ask me, how is work?

For context, if I was wearing an outfit that represented my life, from 2008-2013 work would have been a hooded, floor length robe. I was wearing a pretty monochromatic life outfit. Family was perhaps a hat, but it fell off a lot. As I work my way along this road I’m on, work is becoming a dress, and I have a big fuzzy cardigan that is family. And a warm cowl that is singing and fanciful stockings that are yoga and fabulous boots that are this blog.

Images like that really warm up this cold Toronto winter weather!

I find myself fumbling with my answer to ‘how is work’. How is work? Depends on the day. Maybe I’m answering too honestly, with my long spiel about career growth and transitions and the value of change and the intricacies of global companies and the politics of promotion.

Sometimes I feel I’m in the world when I’m looking from inside.

But I realized today, again, between all that reading and all those conversations and all those martinis and winter clothes and biblical considerations, that there is not one answer. To anything. It is whatever it is to you, in that moment. So books are lessons and black holes are God’s lassos and weddings are beautiful whether they are in cathedrals or on cottage verandahs. Yoga can sometimes bore you but you keep practicing like it’s fanciful stockings you can’t wait to put on. That’s why they call it practicing. And family is not perfect but you keep calling, keep supporting, keep treasuring, keep pulling on your cardigan. And work is what it is. It’s constantly changing.

Old lessons and new habits

This week I was back at the dentist. The dentist is like a refueling station in modern life: a regular touchpoint for self reflection. Last time I was all anxious core tightening and afraid of those spiky instruments. This time I was calm and trusting, softer almost. More mature. Evolving.

Yoga this week was about finding awe. AWE. That’s “awareness of the whole entity” as well as just plain old “awe”. Go deep, and then step back. Last dentist visit I went deep (into fear and anxiety). This dentist visit I stepped back.

I’m back on candy crush. After completely putting it down at level 90 something, I absently picked it up and now I look forward to choir day because I can play it on the subway. The subway trip has never gone faster. Now I’m on level 105 and I’m playing every night before I go to bed. So. many. better. things. to. do. than. that. I’ve gone deep. I need to step back.

Last week my choir participated in a festival with Choirs Ontario. All I want to do now is consume gorgeous choral music. And sing in more choirs. And wear casual clothing every day. Which was pretty much my life in 2004, when I didn’t like my life very much. Figure that one out.

I was reading about failure this week. And how we have to do it to succeed. I know this. But failure hurts. It’s bad for egos, which is probably good for the world.

At the choir festival I saw an old teacher of mine who conducted my high school choir. We had a nice chat, like two grownups because that’s what we are. In high school I was a music nerd and also a delinquent. It was a busy time. We had a half day off class one afternoon and my teacher told the choir that we would be rehearsing and that if we didn’t attend rehearsal we would not be allowed to perform in the concert. I loved performing in concerts. But apparently that day I loved skipping choir rehearsal more. Afterward, I thought he might make an exception for me, but he didn’t. He was disappointed. I remember when he told me he looked so tired, like he was an old man even though he wasn’t. When I saw him last weekend I thought about that and how that was a good lesson for me. It made me think differently about making choices.

For the most part, I like to follow rules. When I think back to that time in high school when I broke so many rules, almost all of them really, I wonder if I overdid it. Did I scare myself back in between the lines, to a forever of timidness? Or maybe that was an exploration – a full, deep exploration that landed with an educated decision to conduct myself as I do today – with measured risks. And a view to possibilities as well as consequences.

It’s funny. At our next choir rehearsal my current conductor went out of her way to say what a great opportunity my high school had been. My old choir is excellent, world class actually, under that same teacher who taught me that life is about choices. And that I’m not above the rules. At first I was defensive about it. I thought:

What do you mean by that? Did I not take enough advantage of the opportunity??

(Because I’d been thinking about that experience skipping out on rehearsal).

But now I see that all she meant was: it was a great opportunity. And it was, in music and in life, one that I took full of advantage of.

Go deep and take a step back.

Is this what being in AWE – Aware of the Whole Entity – feels like?

I think yes.

Not long ago I was reading tips by management gurus. Many talked about maintaining lists of things you want to start doing, things you want to keep doing and things you want to stop doing. In that spirit, today I will start seeing the positive in my high school memories, even the ones that felt like failures. I will keep singing in choir and going to the dentist and being in AWE. And I will stop playing candy crush. Except occasionally on the subway:)

Embracing yourself and other people

The invitation on the mat this week was Surrender. It was about going with the current rather than against it, and letting go of the brain chatter along the way.

Hunter S. Thompson didn’t talk about Surrender in his now-internet-famous letter about the meaning of life. He did talk about letting go of the tangible long goals we find so much comfort in and instead work toward one simple goal. He says: “So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.”

Yesterday I watched a movie in the bath. This is one my favourite things to do on the weekend. It was The Boy In the Striped Pajamas and while the film was beautiful, the story was numbingly tragic. I won’t get into what happens, just watch it. Watch it if you want to think and possibly cry.

In it one of the characters, who is eight, admits to his elderly tutor that he likes adventure books better than history books. And his tutor says that is was time he stopped reading stories and started reading fact.

I thought of myself at that moment, in my bathtub, as adult as I will ever be, consuming fiction such as this movie. Certainly I know people who only read non fiction, who only watch documentaries, or nothing at all. But stories are a window to fact, and a perspective on reality. This one was full of jarring World War II history, made particularly poignant on the eve of Remembrance Day.

Among other things, it made me think about the subtle views we hold about people who are different from us. The movie shows an extreme manifestation of this fear and hatred of different-ness, but in our world we are quick to judge each other, and quick to lump people together. It’s a survival tactic, but from my seat in today’s world, it’s not needed.

In the Human Resources field, the concept of Diversity has given way to the concept of Inclusion. This reframes the conversation to emphasize our similarities, rather than our differences. Rather than filling quotas (still a hotly debated topic in business), we can hire the best people with the knowledge that all will be included.

Back to yoga, I spent a lot of the Surrender class surrendering in Child’s Pose. Surrendering to a long week, surrendering to a low energy day, surrendering to a hip opener and that peaceful, grounded feeling of rooting your feet, knees, and forehead into the earth.

Hunter S. Thompson inspired me not to worry so much about the tangible goals and to think more about becoming more of myself. Today that means spending time in my warm apartment with my needlepoint, probably listening to public radio and feeling cozy. Tomorrow it will mean putting on a pencil skirt and delivering on a project that will bring one of my company’s policies up to current standards. Then coming home to make pasta with homemade sausages.

This is the life I’m creating. May all who read this find equal joy in their Sundays and Mondays.

Doing the hard things

In the early days of my yoga life I had a teacher who said this: the postures that are toughest for you now will be your favourite postures in the future. For paschimotanasana, she was right. For dancer’s pose, I’m still waiting. But her philosophy was right: working at hard things leads to satisfaction. Starting out low means you have more room to rise.

It’s the same reason that my spin class yesterday – which featured a new teacher who used revolutions per minute instead of just Miley Cyrus tunes to get us moving – was my best yet. My expectations plummeted when I saw the technical notes (really? yes.) on the whiteboard (really? yes.), but I worked harder than ever before in a spin class, and at the end I had the endorphins to match.

Another reason I believe in the rule of low start, long rise is my current favourite yoga teacher, whose classes I used to Literally Despise, and whose classes I now work my whole weekly schedule around. She’s tough. And it’s amazing.

I was in her class this past week and the theme was dedication – intentionally directing your energy towards something. On purpose. Repeatedly. And as an example she described her own practice: 6 days a week, 6-8am practice, one on one with her guru.

Wow. All I could think was: yes, she’s a yogi.

And the next moment: Am I?

Ten years after my first class in London Ontario (Moksha’s first studio actually, fresh paint smell still in the air) my yoga practice is many things. It’s body strengthening, mind balancing. It’s leaving the workday behind and going inward. It’s different amounts of pushing and releasing on different days. It’s the richest it’s been in the last five years, which is something I’m grateful for. Best of all, it’s still evolving.

Another teacher back in London called yoga a lifelong practice. I remember those early days like a new obsession: always pushing, always reaching the edge. Ten years on there is more wisdom in my practice. I cherish the years of warrior in my bones. Those warriors are always with me.

In business and careers, we usually hear this: Focus on your strengths, forget your weaknesses. In other words, don’t spend energy bringing an “improvement area” up to mediocre, when you could be bringing an area of strength up to exceptional.

But outside of business, and outside of career, there is something to be said for starting from the bottom and coming up to good enough. Sometimes we misjudge our strengths and weaknesses, and ignoring something because we perceive it as a weakness could mean missing out on limitless development, learning and joy. Nailing down one’s strengths and weaknesses is a lifelong practice too.

Most people accept blind spots in business and even in careers. But as humans, we want to be well rounded. We want to be balanced. And sometimes that means continuing to do hard things over and over again, whether or not they are a strength today. The media tells us that we’re obsessed with instant gratification, but in reality, we love the journey, even when the end goal is, simply, change. When we start low, we have more room to rise. And I look forward to the day – when I’m 40, 50 or maybe 70, when all of a sudden it dawns on me: that I love dancers pose.

Chest Openers for Early Fall

It’s starting to look like Fall.  A few leaves here and there, a different kind of light. In Toronto the seasons change so quickly it’s easy to miss it. I love the shoulder seasons because I love evolution. I like to take my change at a constant, subtle pace. Like a maple tree.

Life doesn’t work like that. Yesterday we put an offer on a home. This is not a gradual change. I didn’t know that when you sign the offer, it means you’re good for it. You don’t sign something else later that says you really mean it this time. If the offer is accepted, it’s final. On closing date, you better hand over the full purchase price or else you’ll be hearing from the seller’s lawyer.

After the stress of the offer and a long day of spreadsheet math, today was a day for chest openers. Your chest can hold a lot of stress, through your back, neck and shoulders. There’s a reason they call it a weight on your shoulders. There’s a physical reality to that feeling of mental burden. When I’m doing chest openers, I’m looking for three things:

1. A lifting, not a crunching. Similar to back bending, you want to focus on lifting your sternum, not crunching your spine. You want to imagine a cord attached to the centre of your chest that is suspending you from the sky.

Yoga should create space without creating tension.

2. An engaged core. I’m big on core engagement. I engage my core a lot – walking around, sitting on the streetcar, in pretty much every active yoga posture. When your opening up the front of your body, you want to make sure to engage through the core in order to protect your back from over-extending.

3. A feeling of lightness and freedom. Your chest houses your heart. And your heart is responsible for pumping blood through your body. It’s really the heart of the matter, the matter being your alive-ness, your vitality.

How we repeatedly hold our bodies explains a lot about how we feel about ourselves and the world. Your shoulders and arms are in a great location to protect your body and especially your heart and other organs, and often we hold them close to us, even hunched forward. By continuously hunching in a protective way, you are allowing your body to tell your brain that you are uncomfortable, and that the world is not safe.

When you open your chest your body tells your brain that you are comfortable, weightless and free.

Here are my favourite chest openers, and they’re simple:

1. Standing back bend, hands on lower back.

Here’s how:

Stand up straight, feet hip width apart, weight distributed evenly through both feet.

Place palms on lower back, with fingers pointing down. Press hands into lower back, releasing shoulders.

Engage core. Lift your chest toward the ceiling and allow your head to gently roll back. Look at the top of the opposite wall or the ceiling.

Relax and breathe into your chest. 10 inhales and exhales.

2. Fish.

Here’s how:

Lie on your back and snuggle your straight arms in close to your body, palms down.

Point your toes and engage your core as you lift your chest toward the sky, bending your elbows.

Take the weight of your upper body in your elbows and allow your head to gently roll back.

You may place the top of your head on the floor, but keep all of your weight in your elbows (not your head).

Relax and breathe into your chest. 10 inhales and exhales.

You can alternate these great chest openers as many times as you like. I like to use mantras in my practice. Something like this:

“I am safe and comfortable to be me. I am light and free.” Say this to yourself with every exhale.

By the way, the part about being safe also lines up with Louise Hay’s suggested mantra for healing skin problems (for anyone out there on that journey with me).

Getting back to the house, we didn’t get it. Someone else put in an offer for 30% over the asking price. Welcome to Toronto real estate. If you want an unvarnished negative opinion, read this blog.

If you’re looking for a more balanced view, do the chest openers. They’re good for your heart, your body, your mind and your evolution. And they’re good for Fall.