Monthly Archives: July 2010

Holding my Mother

My mother and I were at the same family gathering on the weekend. Which is not a big deal if you come from someone else’s family, but my mom and I only see each other once a year or so. And that’s a huge improvement after two decades of down right difficult, then jaw-clenchingly tense, and now tentatively willing relationship. (There’s a mouthful.)

She looks beautiful. One bionic hip, and two hearing aids (which she’d forgotten at home), but a soft, gentle face and a kind of high, croaky, older woman’s voice. Once planted on the couch, she stayed put. I brought lunch to her while she watched her kids mingle and her grandkids fling themselves around the room with my dog.

She did yoga when I was a kid. That was my introduction to yoga, to meditation, to the whole idea of looking inward as a form of health care. It astounds me, writing this, when I consider how central this looking inward is to everything I believe now. It is the core of my work in health care, in theatre, in parenting, and in all relationships.

My mother doesn’t do yoga any more.  She can’t get down to a floor and has no local chair yoga classes. More than that, she’s lost the oomph it would take to do yoga at home.

When we talk about it, she says, never, never stop doing yoga. It was the best thing ever, she says. People make their own choices. I know this.

And yet, if I had one wish today, it’d be that my mom could still do yoga. Or that somehow, I could do it for her, while holding her closer and closer to this croaky heart of mine, which, I hope, is growing more flexible over time.

Is there anyone you’d love to hold during your practice?

Thanks to yoga for looking inward, to my mom (love, love, love), and to you for the conversation. Continue reading

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Lowering the Bar

This week my home practice happened at 5am one day, 3pm the next, and in spurts throughout the afternoon on another day. Not at all on two days.

Occasionally I feel disappointed in this, wondering whether I’d finally be able to grab the toes of my left foot in triangle pose if I just applied myself with greater consistency, greater diligence, greater drive.
These same feelings come up when I hear friends say things like, “I haven’t missed a day of yoga in 2.7 years. It only takes 27 years to form a good habit. Only 270 days of boot camp and you’ll be a new woman.”  Etc., etc., etc. 

Hearing these things, I slump into a kind of anti-achievement stupor. I have set the bar too high to make the leap and all I want now is a bag of chips and a lousy movie.

Same thing goes for every area of my life. Extraordinary colleagues who make Tony Robbins look like a slacker, volunteers who single-handedly bring clean water to very thin children in very small villages, friends who climb absurdly high mountains in Peru for fun and charity dollars. I know these people, and watching them from the comfortable chair in my living room, I sometimes do a little dance with discouragement.

Here’s my response to discouragement and disappointment when they’re doing a nasty tango with me:

1. Lower the bar. This may not be Tony Robbin’s advice, but it works for me. If an hour of practice feels like too high a climb, do thirty minutes. If thirty minutes feels daunting, do one downward dog. I mean it. One.

2. Adore myself for doing one downward dog, for giving myself one glass of water (the children in the village may come another day), for giving every little bit of love I can to myself and my fellow human beings. A well meaning hello with eye contact can save us all, some days.

3. Dream, dream, dream. Of the hamstrings I will have some day, the peace of mind, the work and workplace I’d love, the people I’d love to play with all day long. I do this because of an absolute conviction that dreaming serves to pull these things toward me.

4. Ask myself what one, small thing I’d love to do right now that would take beautiful care of me. Do that one small thing and forget everything else.

These work for me. My guess is that you have your own wonderful thoughts.  I’d love to hear them.

Thanks to yoga for putting all of this in my face this week, and thanks to you for the conversation.

Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, speaker, and workshop wonderwoman in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her at or on Facebook at Dr. Kristin Shepherd.

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My People

My daughter has been in China.  Hiking, exploring, loving the culture and the food, devastated by the poverty. It was a life-changing adventure. Perfectly timed, too. She’s been doing a Master’s degree. Some day she loves it, some days she’s … Continue reading

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My office was burgled (what a lovely sounding word! It sounds like water pouring over rocks in a cool stream) on Friday, while I was in a back room speaking with someone.

For the first two hours afterward, I thought, oh, this is just like trying to find the toothpaste on my bathroom counter. That substantial amount of cash is here somewhere. I just can’t find it.
When the reality of it sank in, my gut writhed for a few minutes. Until–and this is the yoga part –until I realized this is what is.

It is exactly like my hamstrings. They are short. No whining about that helps. No gnashing of teeth, no “why did this happen to me”, no “I should have done this or that”. My hamstrings are short. The money is gone. Can’t do much about it.

Except. Except that I can look at the situation gently, and positively, and with a lot of love for myself. I can soothe my gut by contemplating the good things that might come from this. I can dwell on how lucky I am to be safe, happy, and engaged in work that will never land me in jail where the food is bad and my yoga props might be confiscated. A sense of humor comes back to me.

Which, strangely, helps me wish my burglar friend well. For him (it turns out I met him before, which is why I know he is a him), I wish peace, well being, a relaxed gut, and good life choices ahead. In fact, I’ll go all out and say I wish long hamstrings for him. Somehow I know my own flexibility on this point will help both of us.

Here’s what yoga is teaching me:

What is, is.
I do better when I let go.
Looking at everything with peace and love makes it all better.

It turns a burglary into water pouring over rocks in a cool stream. How cool is that? Has yoga done this to you, too?

Thanks to yoga for the alchemy in this, and thanks to you for the conversation.

Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, speaker, and workshop wonderwoman in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her at or on Facebook at Dr. Kristin Shepherd.

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Yoga Here and Yoga There

Summer is busy. This week, my lovely man did a yoga session on a sheet of plywood covered by a raincoat. He said it was great.

I have done handstands in my office, downward dogs on an enormous rock by the lake, and side planks at the public library while waiting for a meeting to begin. I sneak yoga while waiting for my car to be repaired.

And I would do it in the park
and I would do it in the dark
and I would do it on a rock
and I would do it on a dock

Yesterday I hung in a forward bend at the grocery store while looking at cans of tuna on the bottom shelf. No one said a word. I was there for ages.

Where will yoga show up next?  Where is your favorite place to sneak it in to your day?

Thanks to yoga for being so delicious that we want to sneak it here and there, we want to sneak it everywhere, and thanks to you for the conversation.

Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, speaker, and workshop wonderwoman in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her at or on Facebook at Dr. Kristin Shepherd.

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Home Practice or Studio?

This morning, I talked with my lovely man about all of your comments on home practice vs. yoga classes.

We love both, but he feels pretty strongly about his class last night. He’s been working like a Tasmanian Devil this week and found it beautiful to go to his yin yoga class, during which they are now holding some of their poses for 15 minutes. (Holy moly! Might as well ask me to fly across the Atlantic. Without a plane, I mean.)
“What about my face?” he asks. “How could I remember to relax my jaw without prompting?  And my eyes, how do I let those go? Oh, and my throat, I love it when she reminds me to relax my throat. And Savasana is so good when someone else is in charge.”
This is the reason I’m going to class at lunch today. There is something wonderful and easy about receiving the practice. Yes, I’m doing the work, and making all the personal choices about how much, how far, how strenuous or not. But, oh, how lovely it is, sometimes, to have my mind settled into each moment of each asana, rather than wondering what I’ll do next, jeez, there’s the dog at the door wanting a walk, woops, that’s my dad on the phone, and all of that.
It’s as though, in class, they take me by the hand and just walk me down a path through the woods. I don’t have to choose the path or check my directions or wonder what’s ahead.  
Just hold the hand and walk.
That sounds good to me today. How about you?
Thanks to yoga for being so many things to so many people, and thanks to you for the conversation.

Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, speaker, and workshop wonderwoman in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her at or on Facebook at Dr. Kristin Shepherd.

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Questions for Yogi Experts


1.Do your hamstrings become close to the same length at any point?
2. Have you found clothes that contain your gut while doing Downward Dog? (Perhaps you don’t have a gut anymore.)
3. How long did it take you to get the bandha thing going?
4. (This is directly related to #3) Can you lift your bum and legs off the ground when doing Uttitha Padmasana? How long did it take you to learn that?  (Are your arms disproportionately long by any chance?)
5. Has anyone ever snapped a hip in two doing Pigeon Pose?  
6. Do you like yourself more, now, than you did before starting yoga? (I do, for the most part. Something to do with the daily determination to be kind to myself, I suspect.)
7. Do you fantasize about teaching yoga? Classes at sunrise? In temples? In India? (If you currently teach yoga in temples in India, do you fantasize about teaching yoga at sunset in Machu Picchu?) I do. I have long, flowing hair and long, flowing hamstrings in these fantasies.
8. Does yoga elbow its way into all of your conversations? (For example, your dentist says you need to replace a crown. You say, that reminds me of forward bends in class today. Your dentist doesn’t understand.)  Most of the people in my life hope this wears off at some point. 
9.  Do you still love it?  As much as you did when you were new?

That last one is the one that matters to me most. I’d love to hear that it’s possible to love this for the rest of my life.

Thanks to yoga for inspiring questions, and thanks to you for the conversation.

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Champion Yogis

tra1669.jpgI think yoga is a sport, just like the World Cup. Hear me out.

Tuesday was one of those days. I love yoga, love my home practice, love class, but there are some days, some weeks, even, when it all goes off the rails.
This is one of those weeks. I’ve been in hotels two weekends in a row, I’ve seen my share of drive-through windows over those weekends, and my hotel practice has been less thorough than my home practice. I’ve been away so much that my dog rolls her eyes when I come home.

The result is that my body and spirit are tired, chunky, and unsociable.  

It took Olympian determination to get myself to yoga class on Tuesday. It was touch-and-go all morning. I kept thinking, “I can go home for a break, I can eat, I can read, I can get some work done, I can sit here and stare out the window for an hour.” Most of these options looked much more appealing than going to class.

(It’s possible some of you never feel this way. I am determined to like you anyway.)

By the grace of Whatever, I get changed, get in my car, and drive to the studio. I lie down, and almost immediately I could cry, I am so happy. Class starts. My left hamstrings have shrunk considerably over the weekend, somehow, I have NO balance, my thighs and rear end burst at the inadequate seams of my formerly roomy yoga pants, and still there is no place I’d rather be.

This is where the World Cup comes in.  

When we go to class on these days, I think our teachers should welcome us at the door with big, glossy medals.

“Would you like a medal today?” 
“Yes,” I’d say.
“Bronze, silver or gold?”
“Are you joking? Do you have any idea how far I’ve come today?The French fries and pizza I have overcome, the hotel coffee, the hours in the car, the dog’s face, and lethargy the size of an oil spill? Give me the gold, absolutely. I am the champion of the world today.”

There are days when we should all have medals around our necks.

Thanks to yoga for making me show up, and thanks to you for the conversation.

Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, writer, and workshop wonderwoman in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her at or on Facebook at Dr. KristinShepherd.

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Time In, Not Anaesthetized Time Out

A woman came into my clinic this week and shook me up. She’d just returned from a two week retreat/course/mini-sabbatical. It was two weeks of being fed well and looked after while going through some self-discovery process. The kind of … Continue reading

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An Earth Moving Experience

aa050850.jpgTwo fantastic things occurred over the last 24 hours.

1. We experienced an earthquake yesterday. Very exciting. It lasted 26 seconds. The dog growled for a few seconds, and the antennae on the TV shook for a full minute. In fact, the quake shook much of the province, which was wonderful, because it led to phone calls with my mother in Ottawa and my sister in Toronto. It’s the kind of thing everyone wants to talk about. 

2. I tried naked yoga this morning. My goal was to last longer than 26 seconds. There is no doubt I was shaken more by the naked yoga than the quake.

If you haven’t tried it, if your dad is British, say, and you’re uneasy in short sleeves, if you wear flannel clown pants to bed every night and peel your socks off during the middle of the night as you become unbearably hot–if you do all of that–well, we can talk. (If this isn’t you and you’re the type who goes naked to the movies, you have no idea what I’m talking about. In my next life I’ll be just like you.)

The first 26 seconds are spent dismayed by the complex surface of my thighs, which look as though they have undergone several earthquakes of their own.

Then I forget about them, perhaps because it is hotter this morning than it’s been all summer, and as humid as cottage cheese. My first forward bend makes me sweat.

I make it to 40 minutes, naked. I put my clown pants back on for seated postures, to avoid rug burn, I say to myself. I conclude that this naked thing is no big deal.

And then something unexpected happens.

I move off the rug and onto the wood floor for Savasana. And, oh, oh, oh, the floor is as cool as ice cream on my poached back, so cool that I take my clown pants off again for the last couple of minutes. I press my low back into the floor and when I relax it makes a deep, suction-y, rumbling, farting sound that is the best thing I have EVER heard during my practice. 

A soft, funny earthquake of my very own.

I am CERTAIN you have things to teach me about your naked (or not) home practice. My ears are quaking.

Thanks to earthquakes, to cool floors, and to you for the conversation.

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