Life in Glimpses by Corrina Austin

I started school when I was five years old and finished high school when I was eighteen. I went to university for four years. Teaching is my present profession. So, with the exception of a few years off with my kids when they were small, I have been in school in some capacity during most of the Septembers of my life.

Since becoming an adult, I have sometimes found myself lamenting “missing” September. For teachers, September is probably the busiest, craziest, most hectic month of the school year: new routines to establish with the students, timetables to iron out, long-range plans to hand in, parents to call, letters to write, meetings to attend, units to plan….the whole month goes by in a speed-warp. When you are a parent as well as a teacher, home-time is consumed with school start-up as well. I often found it a little sad, because September seemed to be such an incredibly lovely month…

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Life in Glimpses by Corrina Austin

With the topic of bullying all over the media, I think it is timely to share my own bullying story. I hesitated to do it before, for a few reasons. One of those reasons includes my desire to shield my family from feeling that I am casting any blame their way. Another reason is that I am “missing” a lot from my memory banks from that time in my life. Undoubtedly, this is probably the mind’s method of self-defense.

My story isn’t as harrowing as many. But those events of  the 1970-71 school year when I was in Grade Four have had an impact on my life.

We had just moved into town. I had attended two schools before and had good experiences there, for the most part. Certainly, nothing traumatic transpired in my first three years of school. Now that we were in town, my parents made the decision to send me and my two younger siblings to…

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Life in Glimpses by Corrina Austin

 

 

My mother used to make sugar cookies. If she could get them out of the oven on time, they were these melty, sweet, buttery things. Most often, they were as black as hockey pucks on the bottom. The oven wasn’t very good, and she would often get busy doing other things and forget to take them out. My brother and sister and I would pinch large clumps of dough out of the bowl when she was mixing them up. Cookie dough…why is it always better than the actual cookie? My mother lost the recipe for her sugar cookies, and I’ve tried many recipes over the years, trying to duplicate it. But, as of right now, the search is still on.

Mom did not like to cook or bake. It wasn’t her thing. She’d rather empty the china cabinet and clean it all out, or dig a garden. I…

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Life in Glimpses by Corrina Austin

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Two nights after the horror of Newtown, Connecticut, I lay tossing and turning in bed. It was 3:30 a.m., and my brain was dizzy from my mental journey through every classroom in my school. In my mind, I was running around every one of those rooms, trying to figure out where I would hide the kids if I heard gunfire.

As a teacher, this has hit home. Hard. As unimaginable as the horror is, unfortunately, I can imagine it any way. I am sure all teachers can. The frightened faces of small children, looking to you as their protector, their trusted saviour–the one who is going to make everything all right. In the face of such monstrous evil, it is just not always possible to make everything all right. 27 victims silenced forever can attest to that hard reality.

As a mother, it hasn’t just hit home–it’s slammed me in the gut…

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The Hot Yogini

yoga

As the past month has unfolded, I have found myself drawn to the practice of hot yoga. A friend purchased a two-week trial for herself, and her enthusiasm for the experience inspired me to give it a try, too.

My experience with yoga up until a month ago was laughably limited. I knew a few basic poses from using the Wii Fit—Half-Moon, Spinal Twist, Warrior 2, Sun Salutation, Bridge, Down Dog, Cobra, Tree and Chair. Doing some of these poses informally helped me to stretch out a bit, and to get some unaligned parts to shift into position—even clunk, in the case of my hips. And this very rudimentary knowledge was helpful as I recently began to practice yoga in a more holistic sense. I have discovered that, while the poses are certainly important, they are only part of the experience.

My first yoga class could easily have been a deterrent to my future as a yogini. Tru Hot Yoga offers a variety of classes, ranging from beginner to advanced, and all sorts of things in between. I had no idea which was what. That first night, I unrolled my mat on the floor and lay down on it, relaxing before the class. The lighting was dim. Strange, semi-melodic music was playing—chimes and gongs and sitars, occasional unintelligible words. The thick, moist heat rose from the floor, rolled off the walls, and seeped down out of the ceiling. I hadn’t even moved yet, and sweat was trickling off my forehead. My lungs were protesting as I inhaled air that was one step removed from a liquid. It was like trying to breathe while jogging through a rain-forest at noon on the hottest day of the year. After laying there in silence for ten or fifteen minutes with all the other participants, the instructor arrived, and welcomed us to Flow Class. After getting us started on our breathing, the work began.

After a short interval, I suddenly realized what “flow” entailed. Up and down, sideways and upside down, with not much pausing between. Flowing is fluid movement. Add the constant stream of perspiration, and “flow” becomes a double entendre.

Yoga instructors always precede their instruction with a gentle reminder that yoga is a personal experience. If your body needs to rest or hydrate or modify a pose, that is all perfectly acceptable. Yoga is not a competition or an opportunity for judgement by others. It’s all about you. But, this was my first class. I was wearing an old tank top and a pair of faded yoga pants, and I hadn’t realized that my loose hair was going to drip from every strand and stick to my eyelids. Through the dripping tangle of my bangs, I saw many young women, all with perfect butts, clad in their Lulu Lemon yoga wear, their hair bound in demure ponytails, pretzel-ing themselves into impossible positions while their skin shimmered in a delicate sheen of moisture. I was a troll stumbling through a garden of fairies. I resolved to flow, or die. It wasn’t pretty. By the time I was in my tenth Down Dog, my sweat hitting the mat was like the sound of a steady rainfall, and my tank top was drenched through. I am well-beyond the phase in my life where a tight wet shirt is recommended. The wall-length mirror was definitely not my friend. Every time my head was in a downward position, sweat ran into my nose and ear canals. Even in the semi-darkness, my face was blazing red.

An hour later, the flowing came to an end. I melted like Frosty in the greenhouse into a puddle on my mat, in a dripping shavasana (resting pose). Another word for shavasana is “corpse” and that seemed far more apt in my case. The instructor told us that if we would like a cold peppermint towel, we could signify so by lying an arm across our stomachs. I could barely lift my arm off the mat, but that word “cold” inspired one last vestige of strength. My arm flopped like a fish and landed on my heaving stomach. A few minutes later, a cold wet towel was laid over my forehead, its edges pressed for a moment into my temples. The cool scent of peppermint wafted into my nostrils. The cold sensation sent me into a kind of delirious ecstasy. My breathing slowed, my muscles loosened, and I sank into the floor. My skin was as soft as butter.

I wondered how I would find the strength to roll up my mat and walk out of that room, but some how, this task was accomplished. My legs were like rubber, but they managed to keep me upright. On my way to the change room, I heard some of the other women remark that the Flow class was the most challenging one.

The realization that there were less intense classes available made it possible for me to find my way into the hot room again. I’ve gone almost daily for the last four weeks. My body sits and stands straighter. My breath comes easier. I sleep better. I drink more water. I get into bed and realize that the familiar aches and pains haven’t crawled under the blankets with me.

After a few classes, I found myself going more deeply inward. I wasn’t looking around any longer, comparing myself to others. The boundaries of my mat during class have become my immediate world—the sound of my own breath, the stretch of my muscles, the release of my tension, the gurgle of my water bottle as I drink. Each class and each instructor brings something new to the experience—sometimes, the permission for the voice to sigh loudly, other times the opportunity to laugh. I’ve learned to listen to my body—when to draw back, when to press forward a little. To smile through discomfort. To drop into Child’s Pose when my body demands a break. There have even been a few times when I’ve looked at myself in the mirror and recognized beauty in my pose. “Mirror” and “beauty” are not two words that have found their way into the same sentence for me in a very long time.

I think the best part of yoga in my own practice is the break from my brain. For an hour, I can quiet the chatter, silence the inner nagging and confrontations, and sink away from the demands of my insistent mind. It can all just shut up for sixty minutes. It’s just the stretch and the balance and the breath.

And lots and lots of sweat.

Namaste.