Leaving for India

In preparing to leave for India there is always a long "to-do" list. Some people have often asked me how do you pack for 2-3 months. I think the only way you can: selectively. Far beyond the usual stuff, however, of visas, medical insurance, immunization shots, airline tickets and packing my bag, this year also included packing The Yoga Way.

The Yoga Way had made its home in a beautiful studio located in a 150 year old building in Toronto. I started the school in 1997 and with 4 students. At the time, there was no gas fireplace, separate entrance, chocolate-maroon coloured office, sunshine yellow bathroom or a personlized shower that doubled as a change room. My office sat at the back of the practice room. I still recall the time a student was sitting behind the desk! I guess it was considered public domain and anyone could sit there.

It was a humble beginning with the school starting off in a space once used for offices. The carpets showed their wear and the walls needed a fresh coat of paint. In 2003, The Yoga Way was renovated to suit exactly the needs of the school. The entrance to the school was no longer a part of the main building, a tiled hallway was added and the office was separated from the practice room.

Now after 12 years of teaching, practice, travel and running the school, there was no doubt a fair amount of stuff I had accumulated. The purge that begins with all moves ended with 15 boxes that now encase the life and times of The Yoga Way. It's funny to think of it this way.

Although The Yoga Way will begin its new home in the coach-house (just a walk across the parking lot on the same premises), I had grown very attached to the place. I think some of my students even felt the same way when they wanted to come for their "last" class. I like to think of this as a new beginning and not a sad ending. I also like to think there was some decent teaching taking place, some good practice and valuable times spent there. In many ways it had become my home with practice starting and ending each day.

All paths speak of non-clinging and the practice of detachment. When presented with a real life situation it is not difficult to see how easy it is to cling and to possess. It also seems natural that we become attached to a place we call "ours". There is a certain pain in moving out (although I feel packing was probably more painful). However, if we are to become more whole and balanced then there will be lessons both in being attached and becoming unattached.

Tour d'Europe

First things first: Europe. On my way to India this year, I have been travelling to Germany, France, Swizterland and Holland. By car, plane, taxi and bicycle, it has been an enjoyable yet sometimes arduous journey. The only thing left out was by boat!

Keeping up with practice while on the road is a 'required' effort. But it only confirms that one can indeed practice just about any where, under any condition and circumstance. I have generally found that practising in 'strange' places creates a new awareness about practice. This is not only in terms of oneself, but the environment. You also start to appreciate why practice in the morning is best; you will probably never get around to it otherwise. And you learn early that just because there is enough space for the mat in the hotel room does not mean there is enough for you! Some asanas tend to spill over the parameters. Rearranging the furniture (or more actually described as getting rid of it) is first on my list. The hotel staff usually appear baffled when I no longer want the television, the coffee table, the lounge chaheirs, the floor lamp or the stool. What's left is the bed and (only if there is room) the writing desk.

In the first pada (chapter) of the Yoga Sutras it states, "Success is immediate where effort is intense" (1:21). For the sake of argument, let's argee that the word 'success' is referring to simply keeping up a daily practice; not how elite or un-elite the practice is. While travelling the effort to continue with practice requires intense measures in staying focused. There are a lot of distractions with places to go, people to see and things to do. However, bringing yoga off the mat and into the world can prove to be a means in practising in the "now".

Here's a few examples:
~ Teaching others to rotate their shoulders while standing in queue.
~ Practising pranayama (i.e., exercises using the breath) on the plane.
~ Using the moola bandha (i.e., anus lock) to lift upward from the car seat.
~ Twisting your spine sideways in a chair with a long exhalation.

The Journey So Far

Life is an adventure and yoga is the greatest one of all. Here I share my love of Yoga, travel, practice and becoming a part-time cook. My life adventures have taken me from growing up in Toronto to living and working in South Korea to studying in India, marriage and finally closing my Yoga school of 15 years.

What I can say so far is that I truly believe that it is necessary in life to let go of one dream in order for another to be born. This might be painful to do so but it is the only way to move forward. We often believe that if our original plan does not succeed it is the recipe for failure. But what if it is the door to something new and great? The horizon is wide and life is not a straight line. This is the way I see it and my journey so far. Having also recently given birth to my first child and at 43, it is another new beginning.


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Heather Morton
is a perennial teacher and devoted student of yoga. Having made 18 extended trips to India she studies with her teachers annually. In 1997 she founded and directed The Yoga Way (TYW), Toronto's only school for 6-week yoga programs and not drop-in classes. For 15 years, TYW was a part of the growing Toronto yoga community and supported many charities by offering karma classes. As a teacher she holds many academic degrees including a BFA (Fine Arts in Theatre) and a Masters of Education. With a published thesis on Yoga for Children in School, her post-graduate work was a 2-year ethnographic project in the Indian school system. Heather has produced 2 dvds, meditation cds, a backbending manual and podcasts. Freedom of the Body DVD is the first of its kind as an instructional practice to the backbends of yoga. Heather has been featured in the Toronto Life magazine, The Globe & Mail, Yoga4Everybody and other on-line sources. She contributes to MindBodyGreen, Hello Yoga in Japan and Elephant Journal. She writes to inspire and share her experiences with others on yoga as a life's practice.
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