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Reflections from 2023

A raven perched on a cedar tree in Cypress Mountain Resort on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish people including the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. Ravens often represent ancient wisdom, intelligence and transformation.

“If happiness is a skill, then sadness is, too. Perhaps through all those years at school, or perhaps through other terrors, we are taught to ignore sadness, to stuff it down into our satchels and pretend it isn’t there. As adults, we often have to learn to hear the clarity of its call. That is wintering. It is the active acceptance of sadness. It is the practice of allowing ourselves to feel it as a need. It is the courage to stare down the worst parts of our experience and to commit to healing them the best we can. Wintering is a moment of intuition, our true needs felt keenly as a knife.”

Katherine May, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times

Despite my best intentions, instead of sharing this in time for the marking of the Gregorian New Year, I decided to honour the few moments of quietude and reflection I stole from the holiday calendar of social engagements and expectations that - even with my 36 years of experience - never seem to feel easeful for my neurodivergent self.


This past year was one of the most difficult yet remarkable years of my life so far. Steeped in grief, fear, enjoyment, enthusiasm and alignment, the year could be understood as bookended by opposite forces. I do not perceive the value of sharing the specifics of what made this year so-called ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ but rather wanted to communicate the biggest lesson I learned in hopes it may be of service to you during times of reflection.


The volatility of the year’s experiences left me to embody one feeling or emotion at a time or holding multiple at once in varying quantities often leaving me with a sense of contradiction and discord. For many months, I tried so hard to fix what was wrong and, when I couldn’t do that, I resisted my reality falling into a narrative of falsified victimhood. I often felt like I shouldn’t celebrate this or that because joyousness was misunderstood as dishonest in light of the difficulties I faced.


During an emotional meeting with one of my care providers after months of struggling, I was advised that sometimes, the best thing you can do to care for yourself is to let go of the seemingly unrelenting need to control and find acceptance. As someone who personally and professionally always was the person who needed to find solutions, this was simpler said then done.


Eventually, fate would lead me to have a conversation with one of my teachers, Rebekkah Walker, who recommended, ‘Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times’ by Katherine May. This book resonated with me on so many levels – from my belaboured existence in ‘hustle culture’ to more present occurrences which forced me away from my constant to-do list and fiery asana practice.

So, in spite of the summer heat, I wintered as Katherine May would put it. Night after night, I returned to my practice and within this disciplined routine, I found the softness that I suspect I had always needed. I learned compassion, I learned acceptance and I learned to detach myself from misaligned stories that turn pain into suffering.


In Christopher D. Wallis’s Tantra Illuminated: The Philosophy, History, and Practice of a Timeless Tradition, in an excerpt discussing Śiva, the masculine energy which, in union with Shakti, the feminine energy, create and sustain the universe*, states:


“Śiva means blessing, so when the scriptures say that the world is Śiva, they mean both that it is divine and that it is a blessing. It is in this sense that we can say that reality is intrinsically auspicious, that reality is intrinsically good – not in the sense of good versus bad, rather in the deeper sense that anything can be for a blessing, and every experience offers itself to you as a guru, teaching you something about the deeper pattern.”


What I learned this year was that consistent, compassionate, non-hurried self-study (svādhyāya) is necessary to detach from false narratives that lead to suffering. What I had labelled 'negative' experiences was simply an oversimplification or misinterpretation of my experience. 'Opposites' whether that is Śiva/Shakti, good/bad, light/dark, yin/yang cannot exist without the other and when we resist sitting with what we deem 'bad,' we are disharmonious. Each of us embodies these qualities and it is the honouring of each 'side of the coin' that allows us to live well. This year, I learned so much but most profound was the ability to bear witness and to honour this concept of non-duality.

*The philosophy and cosmology of Śiva and Shakti is much more nuanced than I have explained here. To learn more, please see the resources below.

References and Resources

May, Katherine. 'Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times.' 2020.

Wallis, Christopher D. 'Tantra Illuminated: The Philosophy, History, and Practice of a Timeless Tradition.' Second Edition, 2013.

Doyle, Artemis Emily and English, Bhairav Thomas. 'The Power of Tantra Meditation: 50 Meditations for Energy, Awareness, and Connection.' 2021. 'Myth and Folklore: The Symbology and Meaning of Ravens.'

If you missed this months Therapeutic Yoga for Rock Climbers here is a tidbit of what was offered in this shoulder-centric class!

82% of injuries in rock climbers were reported as overuse injuries with 63% being upper body injuries. Although finger injuries slid into the number 1 slot, shoulder injuries such as SLAP Lesions, Rotator Cuff Tears made up 19% of these injuries. (1)

Now, being the curious person I am, I wondering why our shoulders are so susceptible to injury when it feels like climbing is in our DNA; starting with climbing up the stairs, then trees and playgrounds and then that big old rock in Squamish BC.

How and why are we more likely to tear our Rotator Cuff when our distant relatives easily swing from branch to branch?

As it turns out, 'humans and chimps have similar structure at the shoulder joint, but the space where the chimp’s upper arm connects to the shoulder blade is tilted upward, allowing the chimp to raise its arms overhead to reach tree branches with little muscular effort.' (2)

'This image shows differences in the position of the shoulder between chimpanzees (left) and humans (right). These differences can be seen in both the muscular anatomy and in the bony anatomy of the scapula (shoulder blade). (Image credit: Brian Roach/Neil Roach)' (3)

What is important here is that we humans require muscular engagement to reach above our heads and hold onto things. We engage muscles that support the integrity of the shoulder joint.

In the article, 'The Role of the Scapula' by Russ Paine and Michael L. Voight, they talk about the important role that the scapularthoracic joint has in the health of our glenohumeral joint and the rotator cuff that holds and protects it - the glenohumeral joint is where you'd likely point to if I asked you to locate your shoulder. Paine and Voight state that:

1. 'The scapula [provide] a stable base from which glenohumeral mobility occurs.'

2. 'Stability of the scapularthoracic joint depends on coordinated activity of the surrounding musculature.'

3. 'The scapular muscles must dynamically position the glenoid so that efficient glenohumeral movement can occur.' (4)

If the scapularthoracic joint is not functioning well the glenohumeral joint will likely be impacted.

In many of the climbers I have worked with (including myself), the muscles of the upper back tends to be tight, impacting the movement of the scapularthoracic joint and thus impacting the health of the glenohumeral joint.

Now, what can we do about it? In the last Therapeutic Yoga for Rock Climbers class I introduced some Yin Yoga poses targeting the joints of the shoulder. Yin Yoga is a practice that specifically stresses (in a good way) the connective tissue by holding a pose for an extended period of time with no muscular engagement. In Bernie Clark's Complete Guide to Yin Yoga he outlines some of the physical benefits of Yin Yoga including:

  • Improving range of motion and flexibility

  • Reducing adhesions, which restrict movement between the sliding surfaces of our muscles (notably important for that scapularthoracic joint!)

  • Stimulating the growth of fibroblasts, which are the cells responsible for creating collagen, elastin, and the water-loving molecules that hydrate our tissues and joints

  • Making our ligaments thicker and stronger through collagen production

  • Stimulating chondrocytes and osteoblasts, which create cartilage and bone, helping to reduce degeneration of these tissues (5)

There are many other physical, mental and energetic benefits of Yin Yoga but for this discussion, these are the ones I will focus on.

By integrating Yin Yoga poses into your routine, along with dynamic scapular movement, you may be able to improve the health of the joints of your shoulder girdle by improving movement and strengthening connective tissue!

Here are three yin yoga postures we explored in the last class that you can try in your routine for your optimizing your shoulder health!

Cow Face Arms

Target Area: Tricep of upper arm and rotator cuff of lower arm

Find a comfortable sit and inhale as you lengthen your spine. Stretch your arms out to the side level with your shoulders, palms faced forwards. Internally rotate your right shoulder so that your palm faces backward and your thumb is pointing down. Bring your right hand behind you near your scapula.

With your left arm, bring it straight above your head and bend at the elbow, finding your right finger tips behind you. If your fingers do not touch, you can use a strap, leash, tie or sock. Breath.

After a few minutes, switch sides.

Eagle Arms

Target Area: Upper back (trapezius, rhomboids)

In a comfortable seat, bring your arms in front of you and place your right elbow on top of your left. Bending at your elbow, wrap your forearms together and bring your palms together. Try to elevate your elbows level with floor. You may choose to explore folding forward.

An alternative pose to get into this area is to give yourself a big hug and fold forward.

After a few minutes, switch sides.

Broken Wing

Target Area: Pectoral and/or Bicep

Lying down on your belly, bring your arms out to your sides with your palms faced down level with your shoulder. From here, begin to roll onto your right hip and turn your torso and pelvis to face the left. Perhaps, bring your left foot behind you.

You may choose to continue to find a slight engagement in your right hand here and explore moving your hand further up or down. After a few minutes, switch sides.

When practicing Yin Yoga, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Find the first point of sensation (not the biggest sensation)

  • Hold for a period of time

  • If you feel any discomfort, ease off or maybe explore a different shape

  • Be mindful that this is not something to do with a shoulder injury or before climbing

Now, remember that every body is different so these may not work for you and that is okay! Stay curious!

If you have something that you want support with that will help you reach your climbing goals, contact me or join our next Therapeutic Yoga for Rock Climbers by checking out our Studio Schedule!

References + Resources

(2) 'Human Shoulders Evolved to Throw Some Better Than Others' - Natalie Jacewicz (Mercury News, 2016)

(3) 'The Evolution of High-Speed Throwing' - Neil Thomas Roach (Harvard University)

Picture Credit: Roach, N.T., Venkadesan, M., Rainbow, M.J., Lieberman, D.E. 2013. Elastic energy storage in the shoulder and the evolution of high-speed throwing in Homo. Nature. 498. 483-486.

(4) 'The Role of the Scapula' - Russ Paine, PT1 and Michael L. Voight, PT, DHSc, OCS, SCS, ATC, FPAPTA2 (Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2013 Oct; 8(5): 617–629)

(5) The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga: The Philosophy and Practice of Yin Yoga - Bernie Clark (2012)

Kindly note that I am not a licensed physician or another licensed healthcare provider. This information is not intended as medical advise and it is your responsibility to assess if you are able to practice any yoga or to check with your primary care physician and/or physiotherapist.

Befriending all of Creation as an Outdoor Enthusiast

Reframing the lands we play on to begin to mend our relationship with Indigenous peoples

The mountains have always held a special place in my heart; a place where I feel aligned with myself and the world around me. However, recently, I have been thinking a lot about my relationship to these places in conjunction with the Indigenous communities who's stolen land we play on.

A View of a Glacier Lake near Marriott Basin
A Quiet Glacier Lake near Marriott Basin | St̓át̓imc Tmicw (St’at’imc) and Lil’wat Territory

An article I stumbled on by Patrick Lucas states:

'Throughout British Columbia and across Canada, recreation and adventure sports have supported and benefited from colonialism and the erasure of Indigenous peoples from the land.’

As someone who regularly plays on these lands, this sentence stirred something I already knew at my core but perhaps was too scared to look at.

For the last couple of years, I have been researching about the areas I visit and have found it difficult to find information about their Indigenous names and histories. Perhaps this is in part due to various views of sharing this information amongst Indigenous communities with outsiders or that Indigenous language was historically oral but I suspect it is largely due to colonial erasure.

Although I use the Native Land app to acknowledge the stolen territories of the places I visit, this practice has begun to feel too small and at times even empty. Studying under Charlotte Townsend-Gault at the University of British Columbia, I repeatedly learned the power that language has in colonization. Changing the names of places and people works to obscure rights to land and systematically dismantle Indigenous culture. Not surprisingly, research into Indigenous names of places or peaks I visited has largely been unsuccessful.

Last weekend, in another attempt to better acquaint myself to the place, I took photos of every flower, shrub, tree, mushroom, moss and lichen I found to identify them when I returned home. I was inspired by Robin Wall Kimmerer, an Environmental Biologist and member of the Potawatomi Nation, who states:

’Names are the way we humans build relationships, not only with each other but with the living world. I’m trying to imagine what it would be like going through life not knowing the names of the plants and animals around you…I think it would be a little scary and disorienting - like being lost in a foreign city where you can’t read the street signs. Philosophers call this state of isolation and disconnection ‘species loneliness’ - a deep, unnamed sadness stemming from estrangement from the rest of Creation, from the loss of relationship.’

This idea of befriending ‘the rest of Creation’ resonated with me. I am so grateful for my time in nature but I am simultaneously aware of the impact the recreation industry is having on these landscapes. From arriving to a trail via a road surrounded by a graveyard that was once a forest to braiding trails resulting in crushed flora to human waste improperly disposed of around campsites, there are reminders of our impact everywhere. We tend to move quickly through these spaces, looking for the most Instagrammable spot and Strava-ing our outings to upload our ascent times and elevation gains in hopes of getting that ‘King/Queen of the Mountain’ reward (a painfully ironic concurrence). We use words like ‘conquer’ and ‘bag’ when it comes to getting to the tallest point further engraining the capitalist idea of landscape as economical resource rather than a place gifted to us by Mother Earth.

These seemingly small gestures risk minimizing our experiences in these places to mere escapism from our everyday lives and make them devoid of the reciprocity that builds relationships between people and place, but more importantly, amongst community.

Back at home, excited at the prospect of matching names to flora, I again found myself sitting with the realization of how deep colonization runs. In retrospect, it’s obvious, but because I was not yet thinking about matching these plants with their Indigenous names, I am again confronted with Latin and attributions to Europeans such as ‘Tolmie’s Saxifrage.’ Again, I am face to face with the uncomfortable reality that these spaces and my activities are part of a system of oppression.

Kimmerer states Indigenous elders recalling that ‘the problem with these new people is that they do not have both feet on the shore. One is still on the boat. They don’t seem to know if they are staying or going.’ By starting to deeply understand these spaces we recreate on perhaps we can begin to mend our relationship with the earth and those who have cared for her since time immemorial. This past weekend as I stepped stone to stone through an alpine meadow, I notice I am moving more carefully. With intention, I move slower as if to have the time to intimately take in my surroundings. I am reminded of the spirituality I find in these sacred places and hope that others will begin to tread softer and slow enough to listen.

Tolmie's Saxifrage

'Saxifrage' comes from the Latin saxum (rock) and frangere (to break) and William Fraser Tolmie (1812-86) was the Hudson's Bay Company physician at Fort Vancouver in 1832 and a botanical collector in Northwestern North America (Plants of Coastal British Columbia, Pojar & Mackinnon, 1994)


Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, Robin Wall Kimmerer, 2013

Plants of Coastal British Columbia, Pojar & Mackinnon, 1994

Also Inspired By:

Rooted: Life at the Crossroads of Science, Nature and Spirit, Lyanda Lynn Haupt, 2021

Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest, Suzanne Simard, 2021

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