Monthly Archives: May 2010

Toned Arms for Summer Fun

A wonderful fellow Tools for Schools blogger and friend, Leslie Scott was asking on twitter ways she can tone her arms without always going to the gym and using free weights.  As I am sure many of us can relate working full time jobs, being full-time parents, partners and moving through life at what seems a break necking speed sometimes can be overwhelming. Through in trying to find time to exercise, incorporate proper nutrition and actually finish a load of laundry without it sitting in the washing machine soaking wet for days may seem daunting. 

I am here to show you ways you can get to die for toned arms, halter top ready, for the summer months. These yoga postures can be done in your living room during tv commercials, while at the park and the kids are running around, after a morning run, or any other time you happen to have a spare moment to breathe 😉

Yoga Journal ( provides great movement descriptions and pictures online. I recommend that you bookmark them for the next time you are looking for a quick stretch or movement to work a specific area of the body. You can use their sequence page to create sequences of movements and then print it off to add to your workout routine!

Below are my top 6 recommended movements to tone your arms as you prepare to put away the sweaters and embrace the summer weather.  Hold each movement for as long as you are comfortable doing so, but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. Most of the time it is our mind, not our body,  that tells us it has had enough of a certain movement because change and challenge can be hard mentally. Not only do these movements tone the arms, they also have many other benefits such as challenging the core (abdominals and back muscles).

1.  Dolphin Plank

2. Plank Pose

3. Side Plank Pose

4. Four-Limbed Staff Pose

5. Dolphin Pose

6. Upward Plank Pose

Once you become comfortable completing each movement on its owns then play with the movements flowing from one to another. An example of a flowing sequence may be moving from plank to side plank right side, back to plank and then side plank left side, plank, rolling over to upward plank pose, back to plank and four limbed staff pose 🙂

Remember to take time each day to breathe, and of course to tone your arms up for summer!



Yummy Yin Yoga

Tired of running through your days from the moment you wake up to the moment you finally get to lay in your bed late in the evening? Finding it a challenge to nurture your body and let go of any mental, emotional and physical sensations which may be arising within your body? Are you an avid participant in many yang activities such as running, group fitness classes, running after your toddler, and rushing through most of your daily activities? If you answered yes to any of the above then your mind, body and spirit will THANK YOU for taking time out for yin yoga.
Yin yoga incorporates yoga postures held for long periods of time in a relaxed manner that stretches the deep connective tissues within the body. This is unlike many yang forms of yoga (power, ashtanga, etc.) that is muscular movement in nature, bringing forth strength and power.  Yin yoga is always practiced with the muscles in a relaxed manner enabling the connective tissue to gradually release stress and tension over time.  While practicing yin yoga the student begins to tune into sensations which are arising in the body and to release any thoughts which may be holding you back in each movement. The more one learns to let go physically, emotionally and mentally in a posture the more stress and tension will begin to melt away.  Each posture in a yin class is held for approximately 3-5 minutes in length in a very relaxed manner, remembering to always respect your body and moving into each posture only as far as the body wishes to that day. Yin yoga is as much a mental practice as it is physical.  Remaining in a posture for 3-5  minutes can be quite challenging for most of us who spend our days moving from one activity to the next.  Taking a mental and physical time-out may seem foreign to some, which brings forth fidgeting and movement while relaxing in a yin posture.  The mind is then challenged to become still as you let go of any thoughts and relax the body fully into the posture.

I look forward to seeing you at one of our Yin Yoga classes soon. What are you waiting for? Relax, restore and relieve the mind, body and spirit of any tension and stress.

Your Soul Matters, Oh Yes It Does!

I would like to welcome Sue Fay from Soul Matters, our Friday Entrepreneurial Feature.  Soul Matters is located in Old Ottawa South at Bank & Sunnyside. I invite you to visit this true gem of a store the next time you are in the area. There is a wonderful array of children & adult books, teas, incense, gems, music & much more! A great compliment to the wellness therapies and events they offer.

The philosophy of Soul Matters is to encourage “wellness from within”.  We are here to help “awaken the senses, soothe the spirit, inspire the soul and educate the heart”.

Soul Matters is more than a boutique, it is a place of community that offers its customers the opportunity to either begin or continue on their journey of self- awakening and inner happiness. As we journey within, it is also important to look outside ourselves and become more aware of our local, national and global effect. With this in mind, we offer products that are eco-conscious and fair trade. Our collection ranges from tree-free greeting cards, fair trade wisdom banners and Numi tea to Respecterre bamboo clothing, crystal healing jewellery and Zen Alarm Clocks.   We carry  product lines that are handmade here in Canada as well as imports from fair trade companies around the world.

A unique feature of Soul Matters is the team of healing practitioners who visit our boutique to offer services such as Personal Life Coaching, Registered Massage Therapy, Medical Massage, CranioSacral Therapy, Reflexology, Nutritional Counselling, Reiki, Clairvoyance and Mediumship, Energy Healing, Intuitive Counseling and Mentorship. 

At Soul Matters we also have monthly workshops and seminars that help educate, and inspire the community to learn new skills or challenge old habits on their journey.  We also have Soul Circle Café run by Diane Merpaw, which brings together a community of like-minded individuals which opens up a forum for them to be able to discuss relevant issues in what is considered to be the “New Age”.  We can discuss the latest book on Metaphysics, Health & Wellness or have a guest speaker – it is all designed around being interactive to generate participation and learning.  Soul Matters continues to lead and offer unique and alternative solutions to all levels of the communities health and wellness, regardless of age.  If you are making in a decision making process of how to choose the direction in your life, Soul Matters is there to either offer guidance, support or resources.

Please feel free to visit our website at which has our calendar of events or drop in at 1093 Bank St. (corner of Bank & Sunnyside), Ottawa, Ontario K1S 3X4

Joyful Pregnancy with Prenatal Yoga

Bringing another life into the world is a miracle and a life long connection of love, nurturing and a bond stronger than anything else in this world. Creating a foundation of a healthy mind, body and spirit will pay forward to your little one as they continue to grow and thrive within your uterus. Practicing yoga throughout your pregnancy enables the mother to focus on their pregnancy, turning their senses internally and becoming more aware of what is happening within their own body…the miracle of life. The pregnant mother becomes more aware of how she is feeling mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually and is able to modify her lifestyle as her body asks her to.

As another life force is growing inside the pregnant mother she becomes more fatigued, at times feeling absolute exhaustion. By setting aside time for a daily yoga practice, whether 10 minutes or 60, the mother becomes aware of when she needs to rest, revitalize and regenerate. There are also specific yoga movements and breathing techniques that can increase the pregnant mothers energy and stamina. As your loved one grows inside your uterus your centre of balance begins to shift which in turn compromises your postures. Some muscles begin to become over worked and others not worked enough, causing stiffness, soreness and energy blocks. Yoga will assist you in releasing any muscle soreness, regaining a more powerful posture. When you create a balance within your body, the circulation is greatly improved and the body is invited to relax.

Developing, or continuing with your current yoga practice, will empower you throughout the birthing process. Utilizing breath awareness and control, developing awareness within your body will assist with labour coping strategies, creating a still mind while you ride the wave of each contraction and becoming comfortable in finding birthing positions that work for you throughout your birthing experience. Join in our Prenatal yoga classes in Ottawa, Canada or practice the postures below from home.

3 Part Breathe Sit in a comfortable cross legged position. Lengthen your spine, stacking vertebrae ontop of vertebrae. Lengthen your neck, open your chest, float your shoulders down your back and press the crown of your head towards the sky. Begin to inhale and exhale through your nose in a relaxed manner. As you inhale, through your nose, invite the breath to travel to your belly as it surrounds your baby, then fill your ribs and intercostal muscles and finally your chest. With each exhalation, through the nose, the air in the chest leaves the body first, then the ribs and finally the belly. Continue with your 3 part breathe inviting relaxation and calmness to surround yourself and your growing baby.


Move into a table top position, with your shoulders in line with your wrists and hips in line with knees. Spread your fingers apart to create a strong base of support. Inhale through the nose as your belly moves towards the floor and your head and tail bone lift. Exhale through the nose, rounding through your spine, gazing towards your knees or your growing baby.

Cow Face (Gomukhasana)

Sit with your legs extended out in front of you. Bend your right leg and cross your right leg over your left, stacking your knees one on top of each other. Place your right foot close to your left hip. Bend your left leg (which is on the bottom) and place your left foot towards your right hip. Lengthen tall through the spine, opening your hips and grounding your sit bones into the earth.

Bound Angle (Baddha Konasana)

Sitting with lengthend spine, open chest, relaxed shoulders, and long neck, bend your knees as they gently fall towards the earth and the soles of your feet come together. Open up the inner thighs and hips, bringing relaxation and calmness to your body as you visualize the birth of your baby.

Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend (Upavistha Konasana)

With your sit bones grounded into the earth and spine and neck lengthened, chest open, open your legs to a comfortable position as you feel a light stretching and opening of the inner thights. You may wish to place your hands behind your body or in front to assist in supporting the spine and maintaining its length. If this feels comfortable begin to forward fold from the hips, leading with your heart first. Only forward fold as far as you feel comfortable. Respect your body and the wishes of your baby.

Downward Facing (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

From a table top position curl your toes under so they come in contact with the earth and lift your hips up and back. As your lovely baby belly continues to grow you will find you have the need to widen your stance by walking your feet out to the sides of your mat as your hips become more open. Press your heels towards the earth, lengthen through the back of your legs, lengthen through your spine, lengthen your arms and spread your fingers with hands firmly planted into the earth.

Garland (Malasana)n

Come into a squatting position, placing your hands on the floor to support yourself should you wish to. Open up your inner thighs, with your feet and knees facing out on a diagnol. If you are comfortable with your hands off the floor you may press your elbows into your inner thighs and place the palms of your hands together.

Eagle Arms

Stretch your arms out in front of you, shoulder width apart, palms facing each other. Cross your arms, right over top of the left, as your scapula widens and you feel your shoulder blades widen apart. Place right elbow direcftly over top of your left and bend your arms moving the back of your hands towards each other.

Stretch your arms straight forward, parallel to the floor, and spread your scapulas wide across the back of your torso. Cross the arms in front of your torso so that the right arm is above the left, then bend your elbows. Snug the right elbow into the crook of the left, and raise the forearms perpendicular to the floor. The backs of your hands should be facing each other. Gently turn your forearms so the palms of your hands press into each other.

Cow Face Arms

Rest in a comfortable seated position. Sit with a lengthened spine, inhaling and exhaling fully, complelely and slowly through your nose. Reach your left arm towards the sky, then bending from the elbow walk your fingers slowly down your back as your elbow points towards the sky. Ensure the shoulder is relaxed here and drawn away from your ear. Take your right arm, bending your elbow, place the back of your hand on your lower back. Slowly begin to walk your left hand down your back and right hand up your back as they move towards each other. Stay open in your chest, heart shining, and the front of your shoulders open.

Mountain (Tadasana)

Stand tall, grounding your feet into the earth as you lift up through your arches. Legs are long, hips are square and facing forward. Spine is tall and lengthened, with vertebrae stacked on top of vertebrae. Open your chest proud, letting your heart shine and melt your shoulders down your back away from your ears. Neck is long and the crown of your head is pressing towards the sky. Close your eyes here, inhaling and exhaling through the nose fully and completely. Send warm and loving thoughts and wishes to your growing child as they are nurtured within your body.

3 Part Breathe with Pelvic Relaxation (for use when very close to birthdate)

Sit in a comfortable cross legged position. Lengthen your spine, stacking vertebrae ontop of vertebrae. Lengthen your neck, open your chest, float your shoulders down your back and press the crown of your head towards the sky. Begin to inhale and exhale through your nose in a relaxed manner. Visualize your pelvic floor relaxing and physically feel your pelvic floor floating towards the earth, relaxed. As you inhale, through your nose, invite the breath to travel to your belly as it surrounds your baby, then fill your ribs and intercostal muscles and finally your chest. With each exhalation, through the nose, the air in the chest leaves the body first, then the ribs and finally the belly. Continue with your 3 part breathe inviting relaxation and calmness to surround yourself and your growing baby while relaxing your pelvic floor and the surrounding muscles. When your babies birthdate approaches practicing to relax your pelvic floor will assist in the birthing process of your bundle of joy.

Spend time each day to celebrate your pregnancy and the bundle of joy that is growing inside your body. The bond between a mother and child may change throughout the years but its strength will always remain the same.

The Cracked Pot

This story is an excerpt from The Treasure In Your Heart: Yoga & Stories for Peaceful Children (Mystic Yoga Studio, 2008).  This article came from Yoga Journal. I highly recommend you visit their site for great information on expanding your yoga practice and lifestyle.

Sydney Solis informed Yoga Journal she tells this Hindu tale to teach kids to honor and imperfection.

Every day, a farmer carried two pots to the river to fetch water.  Each pot hung on the end of a pole across his shoulders. The pot on his right side was new and perfect. The pot on his left side was older and had a crack in its side.

The new pot brought back all the water the farmer put into it. But the cracked pot leaked out water in a little trail. This went on day after day for two years. The little cracked pot felt terrible. “I am so ashamed of my imperfection!” One day, it spoke to the farmer: “I must apologize. I only deliver half my load because I leak out water all the way back to your house. You should just get ride of me!”

The farmer said, “Do not despair. Look behind you. Do you not see those beautiful flowers along the path? Those are on the left side where I carry you. I knew about your special feature so I planted flower seeds, and you have watered those sees as I walked home. Thanks to you, I have fresh flowers on my table. Thank you, little cracked pot. You are very special.”

Purposeful Walking! Nordic Walking is For All

As part of our new Friday Entrepreneurial Feature I would like to introduce Anna Ekstrandh from Outstride. Anna is a leading fitness professional in the world of nordic walking. I highly recommend you check out one of Anna’s classes in the Ottawa area. Read on to learn about the benefits of nordic walking and how using a simple piece of equipment such as poles can increase your workout efficiency.

 Have you also noticed more and more people around the city walking with poles?  Are you intrigued? So was I a few years ago. Everyone in my family, back home in Sweden, was training by walking with poles. I got my sister to take me for a short walk around the block and I was hooked right away. I came back to Ottawa, found an instructor course in Vermont and got certified. The rest is history! 

If you are a walker that have found that you are not getting as much out of your walks anymore or a frustrated runner, with injuries coming and going, then Nordic Walking might just be for you. 

By adding poles to your workout, you are all of a sudden using your entire body to propel yourself, while when running and walking, you are only using your legs. Add the poles to the equation and you will train your upper body muscles, work on core and posture, burn more calories and also remove sharp impact from your joints. This is truly a full body workout! 

Ottawa is such a wonderful place for outdoor exercise. It is really invigorating to get out of the house, get in tune with the seasons, enjoy fresh air, build up your vitamin D stores, all while getting a good workout. And at the same time as Nordic Walking can be a great workout, it can also be very contemplative. The upper body movement creates a wonderful rhythm, which can be the foundation for a very meditative walk. 

All you need to Nordic Walk is a good pair of shoes and a specific pair of poles. I strongly recommend a fixed length pole with a strap, which is what the original Nordic Walkers in Europe are using. In addition to that an introductory class with a certified instructor will get you going. Nordic Walking isn’t rocket science, but in order to gain all the amazing benefits I always recommend walking with an instructor. 

Weekly classes and introductory workshops are available at many community centres around the city. You can find me at Dovercourt, Old Ottawa South, the Glebe (GNAG) and Pinecrest recreation centre. As a National Coach for a world wide association I also provide personal training and instructors courses. If you are looking for poles, I have extensive experience of fitting poles for different body types and needs. Outstride also carries a full line of poles in all sizes. 

Anna Ekstrandh

INWA National Coach

Outstride's Enthusiastic Nordic Walkers

The Lorax

I regularly incorporate books into our Little Lotus preschool & school age classes. It is a wonderful way to share powerful messages in a fun way that captures the attention of all.  I am absolutely in love with the book The Lorax by Dr. Seuss.  First published in the early 1970’s I find most parents of my students are familiar with this book and some families already have it in their repertoire of reading. If this book is not a part of your current family library I highly recommend that you consider its addition a valuable resource.

The book details what happens to the environment when the Oncler, who was fond of the great Truffala trees, decided to set up shop and begin production of turning the truffala trees into thneeds “something everyone needs”, a garmet of some sort.  The Lorax arrives, to speak for the trees, to stop the production of thneeds and help protect the environment. You see the trees produce wonderful fruits that feed the surrounding animals (Bar-ba-loots), and the pond where the Humming Fish swim is now being polluted due to the high production of the truffula trees to thneeds. There is no place for the fish to swim as their water becomes brown and murky and the swomee swans need to leave what was once a clean and safe place to live.  In the end, due to the Oncler’s greediness, there are no trees left. However, one last little Truffula seed is found, which is thrown out to you the reader, to plant the seed, take care of its growth and nurture it grow.  Basically, the seed is thrown to the reader to make the decision of what they will do with the one last seed that is left. Will you take care of it? nurture it and invite the re-growth of the Truffala trees and bring back all the wonderful creatures that once lived there?

This book always brings forth a great conversation, no matter the age-group, on protecting our environment, what happens when pollution occurs, how we can protect the earth and create an everlasting environment that can be enjoyed for generations to come.

Here are some questions you may wish to engage your child in:

1. How did you like the Truffula tree and the pond where the Humming Fish swam at the start of the book. (You  may wish to sort back through to show the picture again of the bountiful trees and fresh blue water)

2. What happened to the trees and the pond when the Oncler began a large production of making thneeds?

3.  Where would you prefer to live (where the Truffula trees are still in tact & Bar-ba-loots enjoy the bountiful fruit, or where the trees have all been cut and the brown murky water pond)  and why?

4. How can we, as a family, help in protecting the earth and our environment? What can we do if we find garbage at the park when we go for a play? Why do we compost or recycle and do you like doing these things to help the earth stay healthy?

5. Consider planting a tree or plant with your family and nurture it to growth together.  Would your child like to do this and what responsibilities would they like to take on to make sure it thrives? will they aid in the actual planting? daily watering? ensuring it gets enough sunlight?

What are you doing already as a family to nurture our wonderful Mother Nature and make sure there is a thriving environment for our future generations? Please share so we can learn from each other and work towards a cleaner and safer Planet Earth 🙂