Home is Where the Mat Is

My family and I spent the holiday season back in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, which was our home as a family for 13 years and is my husband’s hometown.

Every time I’m there, it’s strange in that it’s a version of home.

It’s one of the homes of my life.

“Home” is an important word in Newfoundland. People who grew up there are “from home” and people who are not are called “Come From Away” or “CFA.” There’s even a Broadway musical called “Come From Away” playing in NYC right now, based on how the people of Gander, Newfoundland welcomed the CFAs on planes grounded there on 9/11.

So the word “home” holds a lot of meaning there.

When I walk in the door to visit some friends or family, they say, “Oh, welcome home!” or “How long are you home for?” And then they quickly backpedal, remembering that I’m not really a Newfoundlander and then we have a little discussion about how it IS a home for me and it’s so great to see you, and “how is California?” and so on.

On this trip, I started thinking about what HOME means to me.

Now we live in Santa Cruz, California and we are feeling more and more at home here. And at the same time, I’ve left so many pieces of myself back in St. John’s, that I feel split between places and my roots are in neither.

I’m like a vine that has spread across the US through my childhood then into Bermuda (where I met my husband), and up to Canada and now back to the US. My children are like this too: born in Canada and raised there for most of their life so far, but now establishing new lives in a new place.

It’s hard to feel settled when you move around so much. And this is really important to me, to feel settled and rooted and grounded.

The actual physical place doesn’t give me much of that feeling of home, but my activities do. And more pinpointed physical spaces do give me the sense of home. In St. John’s, we stayed with family in the West End of town for the first part of the trip, and it wasn’t until we moved over to the East End that I felt home at home again.

And it’s not that I really PREFER the East End, it’s just that this is where my LIFE was that we created when we lived there.

As I drove past my old neighborhood in St. John’s, I was transported back in time to my old life. Doing errands by myself or with my family, driving past the school, the grocery store, the place where the kids took music lessons. Going over to friends’ houses and finding that I remembered how to get there somehow.

The ROUTINE of it all. Something about that ritual of what is familiar and where I had my daily roots.

“No matter what, no matter where, it’s always home, if love is there.” – Unknown

My mom had a little sign with this quote on it displayed front and center in all of our homes (as I said, we moved around a lot through my childhood).

Love is the best part about visiting a place where you used to live: reconnecting with people from the heart.

It is true that Newfoundlanders are the most welcoming and loving bunch. The outpouring of love and support form this community is incredible and a little bit uncommon.

Friends in St. John's, Newfoundland

The ritual of work also made me feel at home. I taught one class back at Nova Yoga with the awesome yogis there that I love so much. And I also taught several private yoga sessions around town, and having that sense of work and purpose and just going about my day outside the hustle and bustle of the holidays felt amazingly grounding.

To be back teaching at Nova Yoga was unbelievably wonderful. It’s the place where I come to practice when I’m in St. John’s.

It was awesome to go home to my home studio, where I first started teaching several years ago. I had to remember, “okay, how do I turn on the lights? the computer? how do I sign people in? how do I work with this from a logistical standpoint?”

And it all came back, like riding a bicycle. Plugging in my music, turning on that soothing red globe light in the corner and the fan.

All the little things. Like I’d never left.

Nova Yoga Class with Robin Penney December 2017

It was really cool to have so many people there at my class on that Saturday at Nova, and to enjoy watching everyone’s practice.

And it was fun to share a little taste of what I’ve been learning about in the past 6 months, which is quite different from what I had been teaching before. (The sequence and a snippet of the practice I taught are below, and there will be a full class available soon on my online class library, so stay tuned!)

The theme of the class was “Curiosity” – opening yourself up to your own experience.

To try different things, put the body in different positions, and to challenge yourself in new ways.

It was sweaty and great and full of heartfelt dedication.

Just as it always is as Nova Yoga.

Home.

When I feel that connection and that love with other people, with our friends and our family, with students from Nova, with our old neighborhood gang — that’s home.

That’s yoga: to yoke together.

And just as there is yoking of one to another, there is that same sense of home within mySELF.

I don’t think I’m alone in the feeling of coming home to myself on the yoga mat. Coming into that first Child’s Pose of the practice always feels like home to me. It’s reassuring, comfortable, and safe. A place where I can breathe and relax and get recharged before heading out on the next journey.

My mat has been my home for a long time.

I’ve traveled with it everywhere. In many hotel rooms, across the world to retreat centers, from studio to studio, from home to home, in Airbnbs and hotels and on outdoor patios and balconies, on pool decks and beaches.

And it’s been key. The mat is one little symbol of home.

Yoga Mat Around the World

It’s really just me connecting into my own breath and my own body, and just feeling into my experience and taking some time for myself.

As 2018 begins, there are a many game-changing learning that I’m incorporating into my practice and my teaching, and I’m so excited to share all of these learnings going forward. Mostly, this new stuff has to do with the impact of biomechanics and exercise science on the practice of yoga, and how we can better use the physical asana practice to EXPAND both strength and mobility is a whole new way!! I’m geeking out on it in a big way. More to come!

And, as much as things are shifting, it’s all within a framework of yoga that is built and a ritual that I love. That feeling of home: predictability, a place that is open for playtime, where I can be myself, where I don’t have to put up facades and pretend, where I can just relax and rejuvenate, and open up with curiosity to my own experience.

Sequence: Full Body Activation Flow

This all-levels class has several new ways of approaching traditional yoga postures that will challenge your body and mind in a whole new way within YOUR ranges of motion and sense of strength, and I’m super excited about it!! So get ready to GET CURIOUS, open yourself up to a new experience, and let go of what things are “supposed” to look and feel like! Enjoy!

Warm Up (feel breath, engage hamstrings!)

Reclined Sun Salutations – adding hamstring activation in Bridge Pose on the last round by placing feet further from hips until feel hamstrings engage

Supta Padagusthasana 1 variation  – hips elevated on block, 1 knee in, other leg hovered above floor –> lift bottom leg up just enough to engage hip flexor muscles, hold for 3 breaths

{Rock up to Sukhasana}

Upper Back Circles with hands behind head (3x in each direction)

Vadrasana with arms hugged around, drop head. Option to lift knees to stretch fronts of ankles

Tabletop with Spinal Undulation –> Downdog to Plank (3x) with feet and hands at different widths (hip-distance, wide, and together) –> Walk to Uttanasana –> Hinge up to Tadasana

{OM}

Spinal Roll Down with block between thighs (3x)

Surya Namaskar A (3x) with weight in heels to engage hamstrings on roll up/hinge up (you choose how to come up based on how low back feels. Hinging is usually recommended if there is an acute back issue, but rolling up can put a gentle load on the back muscles, which is GOOD work to do. Stay pain free!)

Round 1 Flow: 

Step left foot back to Anjaneyasana –> rock back to Ardha Hanumanasana (FEEL, get curious about your experience) –> Block under left hand, dig front heel down and twist to right for Twisted Ardha Hanumanasana –> Option to float left hand for Upright Twisted Ardha Hanumanasana

Twisted Ardha Hanumanasana

–> {release twist back to Lunge} –> Downdog –> Plank, cross ankles, squeeze in –> Bend elbows 1″ –> Press up to Plank –> Uncross ankles and lower to belly with control –> Shalabasana Arm Lifts (3x) –> press back to Downdog –> Step right leg forward to Lunge, back knee lifted –> tilt forward and hover hands next to hips for Floating High Lunge –> Rise all the way up to High Lunge –> Step back foot forward to Utktasana, backing knees up so they are right over ankles, get curious about what your body has to do to make this happen –> stand up, Tadasana

{Flow on second side}

Hamstring Activation in Baby Dancer (hold foot with hand for quad stretch, then keep heel in as close to seat as possible as you release the hand…it’s hard!! Hold for 5 full breaths) –> Knee to chest, and then extend leg slowly (Watch the 1-minute video here.)

Hamstring Activation in Baby Dancer

Bound Tadasana (interlace hands behind waist) –> Add shoulder activation by releasing fingers but trying to keep hands as close together behind you as possible

Round 2 Flow: 

After Upright Twisted Ardha Hanumanasana –> walk to Lunge, and then walk hands to middle of mat, parallel feet for Prasarita Padottonasanahugs heels toward each other to engage backs of legs, then bring more weight into heels. Exhale, hands to hips. Inhale, press into heels to use hamstrings as rise up –> spin heels in, toes out for Goddess Pose with breathwork (inhale, arms wide like the lungs filing up with breath, exhale, palms together 5x) –> Open front foot for Warrior 2 –> step back to Downdog –> move through Vinyasa with Plank, crossed ankle pushup and then stop on belly –> bend knees and place block between feet (this is tricky…do your best!) –> {1st side: Shalabasana Thigh Lifts with Block Between Feet (3x), option to extend legs and lift legs a little higher on last lift} –> {2nd side: Danurasana, remembering work of arms lifting up behind with shoulder activation and hamstring activation from thigh lifts to use the whole back side of the body in a new way} –> Downdog –> Downdog Split, right leg high –> Step to Lunge, back knee up –> Floating High Lunge –> High Lunge, hands behind head and drop front ribs down, lean head back –> Utkatasana, knees over ankles

Malasana, FEEL

Core Roll Down, keep big toes rooted and go to a place where you don’t want to be…take 5 counts to lower

Bridge with hamstring activation, option to lift up into Urdhva Danurasana

Windshield Wiper knees from side to side and RELEASE

Savasana

 

Enjoy!!

{Coming Up Next: How I’m Setting Up Home and Practice for a Calm & Connected 2018}

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