Sunday, 27 March 2011

but do we have a concern for looking good?

My mother has many sayings of which I quote often. Let me list a few gems, "go out there and make a difference", "you have to have a marketable skill", "manners matter" and of course "showing up is 90% of life". In other words, my mum is always up to something big!

Saturday's Yoga Jam showed me that the message was heard loud and clear in my family. As I've written before, my brother is fighting Cancer and recently underwent surgery. His prognosis is great and certainly the disease doesn't stand a chance with a dude like him. So how does he spend his very first day out of the house after the surgery? At the Yoga Jam. Damn, that's cool. I hear so many people say they will come when they get "better at yoga", or when this happens, or that...not him. He lets nothing stand in the way of showing up, and showing up big. We need to understand deeply that yoga doesn't judge. It's a healing place, a place where we gather together in our differences, on common ground. I'm really not sure what culture was created where people stop participating because they're afraid of being judged? I admit to suffering from the same affliction. Ask me if I join mountain bike groups without any "concern for looking good", I'd likely squirm and come up with an excuse or go into a story about my inability to keep up. We are all the same on some level when faced with a fear. Can we learn from my brother? Can we up our game in honour of those who do it anyway? I'll join a mountain bike group if you come to Yoga! Deal?

Now back to the Yoga Jam. I have started on this path of offering different teachers each month and it never ceases to amaze me how the flavour changes each time. We went from a dance party to the Black Eyed Peas and practicing the "Lady Gagasana" posture with Will Blunderfield and Lara Kozan to a sweet, gentle, compassionate afternoon with Tanya Di Valentino and Colleen Felgate. All the more enhanced by the beautiful acoustic guitar by Polek and a live painting show by Kris Kupskay. The teachers brought the Yin and Yang of their very different personalities to us through their unique styles. It's amazing what manifests since I had been feeling the need for some soul nourishment with all that's happening in our world. It's damn scary out there. We may not admit it, but we're ungrounded. With disease and disaster abound I maintain that the very best place to go is to the mat. Through breath, meditation and asana we can stay present which is all we have. That's what Tanya and Colleen brought us.

It warmed my heart to see families coming together. Four members of my family, Sylvie Paré with both her daughter and mother, baby Bodhi plus 3 members of the Elmas family, Sarinda and her daughter, cousins, and friends who are like family all joint palms in a simple honouring of coming together just as we are. We can drop the concern for looking good and be up to something bigger. Let's all make a pact, the next time we say no to something, can we ask "what's standing in my way of showing up?" Trust me, when you show up it lights up my life. I love having you - all of you.
Wednesday, 23 March 2011

What's Cancer got to do with it?

I just spent the weekend in the midst of 80 or so soul seeking women (and a few men) at the Seane Corn workshop at Semperviva in Vancouver. The topic revolved around what Vinyasa Yoga is all about, the types of people most attracted to it (ie me and all fiery type A's), how best to teach it and what it tends to reveal. What I loved about the weekend is that Seane seemed to recognize that the topic didn't have far to go with us. She seemed to see that we were all searching for some deeper truths about ourselves beyond the fact that we're sweat mongers. The workshop evolved into work around our energy centres or Chakras as we moved deeper into postures that challenged our deepest layers of tension. Now we're talking my body said. Let's get into the nitty gritty. While in these deep and juicy postures she challenged us to ask ourselves big questions. What are our patterns, what are our blocks, in what way do we limit ourselves, how do we hold on to what we believe to be true? All I could think about was my brother's battle with Cancer.

So what does Cancer have to do with it? I know that since I was told that I have an 80% chance of developing the disease I have been scared, stressed and sad. I went to the mat and worked it out. What does a percentage really mean? What is Cancer anyway? All I can begin to understand in me is what is happening now, today and appreciate that I will never know the whole truth about anything. Down dogging, chattarungaing, lunging, creating heat in my muscles and freedom in my joints, that's the truth.

And while I watch my brother (who by the way is my absolute hero, idol, love and light) struggle, fight, laugh, cry his way through this affliction I can only stand by and support him on his path. It would never serve him for me to take it on or make it about me. Yes, I can question what is it about Cancer in my world, with my mother having it twice, my sweet dog dying of it and my super hero brother getting it at such a young age. I don't get it. I guess that's the point. That's what I have to breathe into. Suddenly I understand that my true path is in releasing the tension around "trying to understand", or trying to find meaning in everything. The effort around being victimized, being fearful, being paranoid only lands me deeper into a rigid life. I'm up to bigger things than that.

While asking some bigger questions about what areas in our lives are blocked or dull it's so important to remember to keep living BIG. To appreciate that every obstacle in our path diverts us onto something bigger and better. Live big, love bigger and light up the path ahead. I do this in honour of my amazing mother who revolutionized her life and mine because of Cancer. I do this in honour of my brother who can find humour in the darkest moments.

I can say in all honesty without any kind of self promotion, the Yoga Jam has been the purest venue for open hearted grace. A place of healing, celebration and joy surrounded by our community. Yoga relieves the tension on a broad scale. This is what the world needs. This is what we need to fight Cancer.
Friday, 18 March 2011

Being up to something big

I wanted to share what "being up to something big" means to me. My teacher Baron Baptiste said it during my bootcamp teacher training, in fact he said "you'd BETTER be up to something big". Truthfully I thought he was talking to everyone else but me. I sat nicely in my chair, compliant and ready to work hard, but be up to something big? Nah, that was for the great ones in the room.

I've been guided by the concept that I'm a generalist, good at a few things but nothing great. I have believed that I'm a bit flawed, a little tightly wound, with an ability to be vulnerable and exposed. I had held on tightly to the fear of not being loved and that being left and rejected was something to expect.  Baron would also say "we all got rained on" meaning stuff happens and we make it mean something, not just me, everyone. That quickly took me out of victim mode and got me to work. During a meditation I experienced clarity in knowing that the pivotal moment in the development of my emotional identity was my mother getting cancer when I was 11. She was very sick and I was afraid she would leave me. I got scared, and I got angry.

Coming to my mat and in particular delving deeply into the practice of self knowledge I realized this critical piece in the jigsaw of my consciousness. I know I owe my mum (who is a fighter, alive, well and continually making a difference) a conversation and certainly an apology for pushing her away as a preemptive cautionary move, but I'll start here. Had I considered what she went through? Had I considered who I was being? This is what Yoga does for me. Brings me to this place of knowledge in myself. Now it's about clearing up the wreckage.

Self knowledge and certainly "ah-ha" moments create a clearing - much like loosening a tight hamstring can create space for ease of movement. With this kind of clearing I ask myself, "now what!?" Am I able to be up to something big? Can I see who I've been and find a new way? Hell ya.

The Yoga Jam is my way of stepping up to contribute to a cause, my mission to light a spark for the love of yoga here and far. This is why the Africa Yoga Project touches my soul and I can clearly get behind their cause. I feel so much exhilaration with the possibilities of what Yoga can open up to me that I want EVERYONE to experience the same. And with the clarity of a cause I seem to be moving out of my own way. Huh. The clearing is happening and I'm up to something big! Connect people to the gift of Yoga and share it with the world.

Could we all use a little clearing, a little less tension a little more flexibility? Taking a big breath I settle into the pose of my life, palms open, chest broad, neck long and ready to lean into the discomforts that may come. I'm up to something big.
Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Yoga Jam features serious talent

It all started organically at the first Yoga Jam when Cole Manson and Magda Regdos got up and began a Capoeira Demonstration with singing and drumming. Cole is magnetic with his energy and bright smile, not to mention some pretty sweet moves! Cole, Magda and their team got the crowd clapping and grooving to their dance. Their contribution to the event disarmed any anticipation, any barriers, any trepidation. They put themselves OUT THERE! I loved it and it sparked the idea to feature other talent at each Yoga Jam.

One talent that is always present is a professional photographer. They slyly move around capturing blissful moments, moments that create memories. I am very grateful to the photographers who have donated so much more than their time and expertise - they donated their creative expression.

Huge thank you to:

Jordan Junck
Bonny Makarewicz
Todd Lawson
Robin O'Neill
Dagan Beach- check this out
and this month will feature Crystal Brown

Seek them out - their talent speaks for them. This is what the Yoga Jam is about - bringing people together to light a spark!

In the meantime I have created a Yoga Jam Events page on Facebook where I will post all of the photography from the events. Enjoy a few selections from past events!  Erin

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Yoga Jam, something to talk about

Looking back at all the 6 Yoga Jam Events since September, each one has been so unique offering each of us something to talk about! Each one has given different teachers an opportunity to have their voices heard and to move us in their own specialized way. The energy they bring to us is a reflection of their own authenticity and love of what they do.

And talk about authentic...the last Yoga Jam was on a whole other level! Those who were there are collectively nodding and smiling.

I had always wanted to bring in a live musical performance to the Yoga Jam, and Will Blunderfield was on my radar. I thought if I could combine him with the uber powerful and bright Lara Kozan, the founder of YYoga I would have something diabolical. Lara had trained and traveled with Baron Baptiste which connected us to our love for the Africa Yoga Project. When I asked her to leave her young daughter and husband behind, set aside her hugely busy work life and intense teaching schedule to teach for free...all I got was a flash of bright white teeth and a sparkling YES. Synergy then came into play with her contacting Will to come and co-teach and sing! Will was quick to jump in with his effervescent and big yes. I don't know if I have ever been in the presence of such an open, caring, daring, loving and truly inspiring person. Every person in the room was deeply moved by his talent, passion and love.

Will and Lara began the Yoga Jam in a traditional way, all of us sitting, eyes closed, ready to be guided. Will spoke of starting with a chant, a chant that dates back to the early 1990's... Our ears perked up. He begins, "it goes something like this...ohhhh oh, living on a prayer, take my hand we'll make it I swear, ooooooooooh oh living on a prayer!" Really? Bon Jovi? Ok I'm a girl who is a total sucker for Bon Jovi, but singing that song to start a Yoga class...well right on, why not! I look around the room and the participants are either smiling hugely or crying. Beautiful.

The rest of the class Will put on a concert. His heartfelt songs and masterful voice carried us all through the most inspiring and joy filled yoga experience I have ever experienced! Lara lit up the room with her powerful teaching style accompanied by her lighting bright smile. Fearlessly, Lara and Will broke all the boundaries of what we conceive a Yoga class to be. I love that. They rocked us, moved us, made us dance, laugh, hug and cry. My dear friend Sue Elmas looked at me while we were all standing holding hands singing "Imagine" and said "oh ohhh" then the flood gates opened - tears covered up her sweat. Ahhh the release, the unabashed ability to let go. And why not! We were amongst our supportive and loving community nurtured and fostered by Lara and Will's confidence in us, their desire to bring more out of us. It paid off.

Joanna Berringer said to me after "I couldn't just go home after that, I had to go out and do something AWESOME!" Yeah we created stories. We are forever imprinted with the zest and zeal of the BIG love that came out of that event. Dave Halliwell said "that was the most love I've ever felt at one time!"

Ok now check this out, Dagan Beach creatively put together a time lapse of the event. It's perfect.

That was the last Yoga Jam, what stories will we create at the next one? It's all about what's possible when we come together. Our teachers Tanya Di Valentino, soulful, sweet and rich in knowledge and Colleen Felgate, powerful, strong, bright and thorough. Sweet and spicy. They are being accompanied by Rya who will be assisting and Polek will be plucking our heartstings with his soul-full guitar! See you all on Saturday March 26th. Yeah!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Finding your teacher

Ok pinch me...I'm a teacher! I always wanted to teach but being a less than average student I thought my chances were dismal. I love watching people light up as they learn something new, break barriers, move through difficulties, it inspires me. I've experienced it with my teachers and for that I've been so grateful.

I guess I didn't know what I was in for when I took my first yoga class with Julia McCabe. I remember walking away thinking "ok that was SOMETHING". I had practiced yoga on and off for years and have always loved it, but once my teacher's voice pierced through my mundane and mediocre approach I was hooked. I haven't looked back since. Finding my teacher saved me. Saved my relationships and set me on a path to living in my truest and deepest sense of myself. I know my friends and family are out there nodding. Julia spoke my language. She unknowingly pushed me past my deeply rooted acceptance of being less-than. Once past that point I've been unstoppable. Yes, I can say that.

I pursued teacher training with a man who unabashedly, relentlessly, compassionately demanded that I be powerful. Baron Baptiste is the teacher who told me that "the train is leaving, are you on, or are you off?" I'M ON!!! I'M ON!! He asks me to "be up to something big" to "to live life as a 10, and show up as a 20" and especially to "be about others". Baron pierced through another layer - a deep one, one that I had carefully protected and kept alive since I was 11. I am forever changed, elevated, up to something big because of him and his teachings.

I have two teachers. I'm lucky. Who is your teacher? I believe we all need someone to follow, someone who can lead us to live in the fullest expression of ourselves, no matter what that expression may be. 

The Yoga Jam is about featuring different teachers each month in order to let their voices be heard, for the people in our community to have an opportunity to find their teacher. Trust me, I admit I would like nothing more than a HUGE line up at my studio doors, I'm a Leo after all! I so cherish each and every student that comes through my doors and I know that I have something to offer them. I believe in what I teach because I am also a student.

There is a teacher for each of us, can we each be open to letting a voice pierce us. Inspire us. Move us. Who is your teacher?

These are the teachers who have graciously and generously come out to share all that they are and all that they believe in:
Christina Tottle
Julia McCabe
Kristen Campbell
Janet Corvino
Jessica Kammell
Peter Elmas
Clara Roberts-Oss
Reno Muenz
Andrew Barclay
Will Blunderfield
Lara Kozan
me, Erin Anderson
and this month Tanya Di Valentino and Colleen Felgate!

December's Yoga Jam featured new Yoga Teachers from Julia McCabe's training including Kim Slater, Isa Mills, Laura Balsor, Katie Svenson and Ash Carter.

And each Yoga Jam features an assistant who lovingly uses their hands to guide you deeper into a posture. This is a very special treat and has been offered by Erin Stephens, Janet Corvino, Lisa Donnovan, Kim Slater and Isa Mills.

If you are a teacher and would like to teach at a Yoga Jam please contact me at

In gratitude,
Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Yoga Jam leading the change

Where does the money go?

I was asked a very good question today - where exactly does the money go that is donated at the Yoga Jam events? Now before I go into the laundry list of amazing efforts AYP is up to, I do feel strongly that the Yoga Jam is so much more than a fundraiser. I have seen how our community shows up for the event with an open heart and open mind. Yes, it's powerful to practice "for someone else" and how the ego drops. Yes, it's amazing to feel the win win of being moved through an inspiring yoga class while donating to a cause. Yes, it's an amazing opportunity to highlight different styles of yoga, hear different voices and perhaps find your teacher. But really what I see right here, right now is the coming together of our community. The stories that are being told, the wonder of yoga at work, that's good stuff.

The money donated to AYP gets used in several initiatives which include:

$40/month sponsors a teacher's salary at the primary school in the Masai village

$800 buys books for class for one year

$50 buys a goat for a family

$200 buys a cow for a family or community

$600/year with a 4-year commitment pays for a child in secondary school in partnership with Kenya Education Fund.

$40 pays for the translation into sign language for our Deaf Yoga Program

$10 buys a yoga mat

$50 Food Programme feeds 60 kids after a yoga class

$5 provides fresh drinking water to an entire class

$40 pays for a school uniform for a child

$5 buys yoga clothes a woman with special needs

The money also goes towards sponsorship of an AYP Teacher for Yoga training in North America. They then bring back their skills to teach in their own communities.

Pretty amazing how far our dollar goes especially since the average income for those living in the slums of Nairobi is $2 per day.

So from the bottom of my heart - thank you. Thank you for not only showing up so brightly to such a fun community event but for making a difference to those who really need it. I'd love to see the Yoga Jam grow, evolve, reach out. I'm open to suggestions and I hold it out there that this is your event. The event is only as special as those who come to it. I'm inspired!

See you soon!
Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Yoga Jam elevates spirit!

 From adversity comes opportunity, this is my touchstone these days. With the news of someone I love dearly being diagnosed with cancer, I find myself spinning and stagnant, worried about the adversity he's facing. I need inspiration. One call to my friend Julie and poof! Opportunity! She suggested I start a blog about the Yoga Jam events I've been running since September. The events inspire so much love and healing, now that's something to talk about! Ok I have a project.

The Yoga Jam events started very organically with a spark of an idea shared with some very inspiring people at lululemon. I wanted to raise some money for the Africa Yoga Project based on my experience at Baron Baptiste's teacher training. At this week long uber-intense personally transformative training I met Moses and Catherine who came from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. I heard their stories first hand and my world shifted. Yes, I've traveled to 3rd world countries, I've seen hardship, I've always wanted to help but ended up feeling insignificant and kind of numb. Hearing how Moses and Catherine are now reaching out to their community of impoverished, malnourished, degraded and hopeless living in the slums of Nairobi, I saw intention into action. Do they need to be the most educated, most bendy, most stylie yogies in order to touch a soul? No on your life. They actively find the most unlikely places to teach - the alleyways, the dark dusty rooms, the prisons, the desert and they move people. For some who's lives have been devastated by war, hate, AIDS, tribalism and poverty simply taking a big breath is a gift. We can all tap into how stress affects our bodies, but can we to the degree that some drastically less fortunate than us can? I can't. But I certainly can do what I can to help bring some support to them. And while I'm at it, can I bring joy to you? Can I start right here in my own community? Can we collectively take one big breath? YES!

The Yoga Jam is about bringing people together and seeing what's possible. It's about elevating spirit, cultivating community and generating abundance. Held in Whistler's Squamish Lil'Wat Cultural Centre, the first event brought 6 teachers, 1 DJ, 1 pro photographer, 65 participants and raised $2000 for the Africa Yoga Project. People were lit up! So it was decided, once a month we'll create something new by bringing different teachers, featuring local talent, playing music, sing, dance and hug. So far we've had 6 Yoga Jam events and each one has been unique and dazzling. Teachers from Saskatoon (Andrew Barclay), Vancouver (Peter Elmas, Reno Muenz, Clara Roberts-Oss, Lara Kozan and Will Blunderfield) and Whistler (Julia McCabe, Kristin Campbell, Jessica Kamell, Janet Corvino, Christina Tottle, and me). This month (March 26) local teachers Tanya Di Valentino and Colleen Felgate will bring their sweet and spicy flavour to the event. I can't wait to see what they create together. As very different people who respect each other enormously, their different teaching styles will bring out the yin and yang of yoga.

My intention with this blog is to write about the events, share images and stories, and continue in the mission to elevate, cultivate and generate! This is my opportunity to share some of the stories that come from the planning of the event, what was created during the event and what we have been able to achieve with the donations from the event. The interest in this event goes far beyond our amazing little playground called Whistler. Other yogis who have an interest in either connecting with their communities or in raising funds are seeing the Yoga Jam as a successful event and would like to emulate this format. It's amazing to me how far the vibrations of love (saccharin?) have reached. The money raised is going to help with education, school construction, community outreach and much more, but it's the energetic outpouring of a loving gathering that's really making an impact. It's what it's all about. Dave from Früv said at the end of last month's Yoga Jam "That's the most love I've felt at one time...ever!"

So join the love Saturday March 26th at Whistler's Squamish Lil'Wat Cultural Centre ( for an all ages, all levels really fun yoga event. If you've been putting off getting back into yoga this is the event that will light the spark in you. If you are a first timer, stiff, super bendy, shy, extroverted, type a, type z, there is something for everyone at this event.

See you at the Yoga Jam and stay posted for more updates, photos and stories!

Erin Anderson

About Me

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My name is Erin Anderson, I'm in love with yoga. I found out how to love deeper, live lighter and reach further through yoga. I'm passionate about sharing just that. In order to do that, I created The Yoga Jam Events as a means to elevate spirit, cultivate community and generate abundance. Coming together in play, breath and movement we can make real impact in the world, starting in Kenya with a possibility that knows no bounds. Each Yoga Jam Event donates proceeds to the Africa Yoga Project This blog is dedicated to what I've learned along the way.
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