Moving into Kindness

For my first few years of practicing yoga I noticed a desire to go further into the poses as my body became more used to the sensations and positions of the postures, I think this is natural for most practitioners but for me soon became a constant search for more in my practice.

I began practicing yoga about 8 years ago and I immediately felt a acceptance from the community of students and instructors. Receiving praise from my teacher was something that I loved to hear, but subconsciously created a complicated environment around the practice of yoga. I remember going further into the posture when my teachers walked past me, I remember letting them adjust me in postures to “help me go deeper”, then after class getting that reaffirming comment from the instructor on the way out the door. “Great job going deeper in Camel Pose today Matthew”!

Although positive on the surface, without the simultaneous teaching of a mindfulness practice, this “going deeper” mentality can be damaging. I recall a specific back bending workshop that I took where the leader of the workshop adjusted me in front of the entire class. In that moment I felt pressured to move deeper into the pose than I normally would be comfortable with. I was also being physically manipulated by the teacher to move my body deeper into the back bend, which I felt I must go along with, so as to not embarrass myself or the instructor. When I achieved what the instructor was trying to get me to do the whole room began to applaud. Nothing hurt in that moment, but the damage that was being done was happening on an entirely different level.

At the time, I think the praise of going deeper in a yoga pose felt better than the yoga pose itself, it was so nice to feel like someone was on my team!

For the first year I continued to practice, thinking that going deeper into the postures was just straight up better, and in those years my ego drove my yoga practice. I practiced relentlessly, somehow thinking that by moving into the furthest expressions of the yoga postures I would unlock some sort of secret power. The secret eventually showed up in the form of a torn hip adductor muscle, pectineus to be exact. I got this injury from pushing my hips deeper and deeper in cobblers pose, thinking that my knees have to touch the ground to get maximum benefit from my practice.

Society often tells us that more is better. The message I see from so many ads is to achieve more. Get a partner, a house, some kids. Get that promotion, get a lot of friends, be liked by your peers. Get more money, a bigger house. Get another promotion, get a new car, get a summer home, a winter holiday. Buy more, do more, be more. The message is everywhere, and the world of yoga is not immune to it.

The practice of yoga became a greedy search for more sensations and I thought that if I was going to spend an entire hour of my day doing yoga, it better well be worth it. Applying this expectation to my practice began to take away the very thing that I fell in love with when I started practicing yoga, the community or as they call it in Sanskrit, the sangha, and the sense of being in the moment. Expectations reduced my ability to be in the moment, I was stuck in an attachment mindset.

Luckily I met someone that changed my yoga practice forever and taught me more about my body than I had ever known before. This teacher is such a gem and taught me so much about bio-mechanics in yoga poses. I am so grateful for her teachings because it shifted the way I do yoga, and the way I teach yoga.

The Buddha talks about attachment and aversion being the two main things that take one away from being present in this moment. It shows up in yoga by wanting to create the same results as the last time one was in the pose, attachment. It shows up by being afraid of feeling something in ones body or mind, aversion.

Going further into yoga poses can be amazing, but so can the subtle sensations of relaxation in the poses, the practice of finding that perfect balance between challenge and ease. The balance between using what you know about your body to practice safely, but also exploring the beginners mind and going somewhere unknown. I think of this as moving into kindness. Offering your body something it didn’t have to strive for, something it didn’t have to reach for, something that was there all along in the quiet space of your heart. Something you don’t have to buy, or try on, or prove to anyone. Nowadays I find myself searching for a different meaning in my yoga practice, one that shows me my subtle side but can surprise me with my subtle strengths as well.

Try it for yourself, start your next yoga practice with the intention of doing the postures with no more than about 25% effort and see what shows up for you. When I practice this way I am able to better feel my needs in the posture, and in the end of class I feel myself drop right into a relaxing savasana because my body didn’t become so amped up.

Then comes stillness. Soak it up.

-Matthew Carter

Gaming and Yoga

I pride myself in being a bit of a fantasy nerd, I love video games of all kinds, and I am really into a collectible card game known as Magic: The Gathering, I’ll refer to it as Magic for short. The passion for video games started back in my childhood when I shared a Super Nintendo (SNES) with my brother and we played Super Mario Bros. until our hands were sore. Following the SNES was a Nintendo GameBoy (I’m proud to say I played Pokémon Blue on release week), an N64, GameCube, family PC, Wii and an Xbox. I have happily sunken over 1000 hours of my life playing Diablo 2, and Baldur’s Gate 1 & 2 on PC, time I should probably have spent doing homework.

I started playing Magic cards when I moved into a home on Furby St. in Winnipeg. The house had 5 other amazing young adults living there, filling the walls with laughter, parties, cannabis smoke, and the most epic game nights where I was introduced to Magic cards by my roommate, and fellow wizard, Justin. My introductory purchase to the world of Magic: The Gathering was a pre-constructed deck sold in stores called Entangling Webs (each player uses their own pre-made or home constructed 60 or 100 card deck to play the game). I won’t lie, this pre-constructed deck sucked, but it got me thirsty for more. All of that time I spent gaming in my childhood expanded my mind to the possibilities of combos, synergy, strategy, and the overall nerdiness required to sit down at a table of fellow spell slingers.

I worked for CN Rail for a short time and ended up with more money than a 20 year old boy should have, so I spend a lot of it on Magic cards, my collection grew and grew, and then grew some more, eventually topping out at thirty 60 card decks and ten 100 card decks. I really love the deck building aspect of the game, it’s creative, messy yet organizational, full of fantasy and things otherworldly, and best of all it brings people together from all different walks of life, just like yoga does. Nobody cared where you were from, or what clothes you wore, they just wanted to see your creations shine!

Our play group would get together to play every Tuesday, but also on other days to build decks and trade cards with each other. We would encourage each others decks to rise to their fullest potential, helping by suggesting cards and strategies to use to help focus their win condition. Three of the six people eventually moved out of Furby house and found another house nearby in Winnipeg on Lenore St. where the Magic nights grew to an even larger level yet. The basement of our house was perfect for us all to hang out and play cards late into the night, and we did so regularly.

I have incredibly fond memories of those years in Lenore house, the house had an open door, anyone was welcome at basically anytime. Those years were also when I started practicing yoga and playing music in yoga classes (I wrote a whole blog article about my musical past, you can read it here: How Music Brought me to Yoga). I have these warm memories of falling in love with the practice of yoga and then coming home to a full house of my best friends playing my favorite game in the whole world. I am getting teary eyed just thinking about it as I write this, nostalgia can be so powerful.

Gary Gach on Drums, Matthew Carter playing guitar.

I recall driving home after hot yoga, perhaps a bit chaotically, just to try and get back to those card games that were happening in my basement, but more than anything just to see my buddies.

These days I have my hands on my Nintendo Switch, my gaming PC and yup, still my Magic cards. My buddies and I play online using our physical cards over a live streamed video. Here are a few photos of my setup, it’s not pretty, but it definitely gets the job done! I use an old cellphone of mine and an app called DroidCam that turns the phone into a wireless webcam and pairs it with your computer, the phone is then held to my microphone stand using good old elastic bands!

The creators of the card game have also developed a really intuitive website called SpellTable in which you can livestream online card games with anyone in the world, and click on their cards on your screen to highlight them to read them easier. It’s quite amazing. So even though I live in BC, and most of my Magic playing friends still live back in Manitoba we can still stay in touch, help each other build new decks, and support one another with our friendship.

Yoga has been a gift throughout all of these nerdy hobbies of mine, most of which involve sitting sedentarily in front of a screen or card table for hours at a time. My body often feels quite crunched up and tight after gaming for long periods, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, I enjoy becoming fully immersed in the experience. Yoga uncrunches, untightens, and brings some strength and balance to my body, plus the poses are named after mythical heroes and gods! Take Warrior 1, 2 & 3 for example, also called Virabhadrasana 1, 2 & 3, named after Shiva’s form Virabhadra, how cool is that!

Warrior 2, or Virabhadrasana 2.

By the way, if you’re a PC gamer, add me on Steam, I am thewarden2002, see you online!

Matthew Carter Yoga & Fitness

Founded in 2020 by Matthew Carter.

Questions about the yoga classes Matthew offers?

Student Testimonials

Don’t take Matthew’s word for it, here are some student testimonials
from people that have taken his yoga classes.

“After a yoga class with Matthew my soul feels brighter and I feel calmer.   Along with the clear and concise instructions (and excellent audio quality) Matthew provides little nuggets of wisdom throughout the class.  Occasionally there is some humour!   It’s those qualities which makes Matthew stand out as one of the best teachers I’ve had the opportunity to learn from. Thanks so much for being an incredible teacher!”
-Carol, Monthly Subscriber 

“The recorded classes work great for my life. I love having all choices of yoga styles throughout the week that I can practice when the time works for my schedule. Sometimes I Flow at 5am or take in a Nidra session at night before bed. Matthew’s cues are spot on with reminders for breath and tons of helpful hints along the way. Thanks for your awesome energy and for creating this online studio! It’s great to be back to practice- my body and mind say THANK-YOU! Namaste,”
-Kathryn, Monthly Subscriber

“Matthew is the bee’s knees! The thing I love most about practicing with Matthew Carter Yoga is that Matt doesn’t just teach his students how to do a pose, but also why we are doing the pose. He makes sure to explain where you should be feeling sensation during a pose and how small adjustments can make to get even more from that pose. He’s the perfect teacher for someone of any experience-level. And he’s very responsive to requests!”
– Hannah, Monthly Subscriber

“I absolutely love Matthew’s online yoga practice!!! I became a student of Matthew’s virtually in November and it was the best decision. I decided to sign up because my work had been temporarily shut down for the covid-19 closure. I was so happy that I did that because his classes are so amazing. I feel like I’m reducing my stress daily, increasing my flexibility and improving my practice. I love the variety in classes available as well as just the live music! I also really appreciate the fact that you can do these classes on your own schedule you’re welcome to join the live classes but you can also just play the recorded classes when it’s convenient for you. This is all around an amazing subscription I would highly recommend! ♥️ “
– Leanne from Winnipeg MB, Monthly Subscriber.

“I love Matt’s yoga classes! He puts so much effort in every single one of his classes and his instructions are precise, clear and compassionate. I feel I’ve progressed so much under his instruction and as a bonus he serenades us with live music! “
-Heather, Monthly Subscriber

“Have been enjoying your (Matthew’s) yoga classes very much! I like that you explain each pose and take your time doing a pose. You also give options to change up a pose if I feel a certain pose doesn’t feel “right” for me.
Thanks again! Look forward to the next class. Sincerely,”
-Anita from the USA, Monthly Subscriber

“In my experience, it is a rare thing for a yoga instructor to guide a class with suggested prompts so that I actually get a clear picture as to how I can get the very most out of a particular pose. Matthew is above and beyond when it comes to clarity and direction! Matt’s clear guiding, his soothing voice and gentle spirit truly make for an unforgettable yoga class each time I come to my mat.”
-Sheri, Monthly Subscriber

“I really enjoyed the 4 weeks of Yoga Nidra. While on occasion I do Yoga Nidra I did not know about all the different Kosha levels. This was a great learning experience and when I do practice Yoga Nidra [in the future] it will probably have more meaning. I also really appreciated the journaling prompts.”
– Carol, Nidra Student

“I have enjoyed your Get to Know Nidra series very much. I have enjoyed the practice, and gained some meaningful insight, that is making a difference in how I carry myself through a very demanding and perplexing time in my life. For my Sankalpa, I have been focusing on “capacity,” and coming to understand that mindfulness and self-care can guide me to work within my real capacity, to be more effective, and more joyful. Thank you so much for offering a path to discover this, and for making me welcome.”
– Sue, Monthly Subscriber

“Matthew’s class was awesome! Instruction was so helpful, learning why the muscles were doing what they were doing helped me understand my yoga practice. Amazing. Empowering.”
– Idris, Yoga Student

“I love it so much, Matthew! Your voice is like melting butter and I feel soooooo relaxed. Thank you a million times over.”
– Ted, Yoga Nidra student

“It was our pleasure to participate in the series. It went so quickly. Thank you for offering a sharing time at the end. It gave me a sense of community and a chance to know other classmates. I still light up my candle when I wash my dishes. It makes this chore more enjoyable. I think I need to make more candles now … 🙂 Thank you for introducing Nidra yoga to us. I still struggle staying focused, and trying not to jump between the presence and wandering off mind in the Nidra practice but I appreciate every little pieces, journaling and homework in the practice. I realize all these are helping me, and giving me a chance to think or search myself in different view. Peter enjoyed the class and it is a few activities that he can do without worrying. He is getting better from his vertigo but cannot work.”
– Jammy, Yoga Nidra Student

“First off, thank you so much for the incredible opportunity and experience. I’ve always had trouble meditating and journaling because I somehow felt disingenuous, as if I was doing those activities because I thought it was the “right” thing to do but not actually feeling like that. After the sessions though, meditation is still difficult, but journaling has come a lot easier. Maybe it was the prompts, or maybe it was the setting, but I was finally able to write with less judgement and overthinking. It has been nothing short of enlightening as I flip through the pages. I’m really excited and hope to keep that mentality up as I continue to journal more. It feels so refreshing to have thoughts pour out and then reading them and feeling like I’m meeting myself–truly myself–for the first time. And the best part is that, in that process, I’m also recreating myself with the activities/words you brought up in the sessions about the dangers of believing in these false narratives we create and realizing that we just feel emotions. My emotions have always consumed me and led me down dark and confusing paths, so it’s liberating to take control again!”
– Christina, Get To Know Nidra Student

Join Matthew in a yoga class today, monthly passes are available on the home page by clicking the “Subscribe” button.

Falling in Love with Yoga. Again.

When I first discovered yoga I fell head over heels in love with it. I came to my yoga mat almost religiously and ended up practicing 222 days straight from the first day I stepped into the yoga studio. I really needed this dedicated practice in my life at the time, it gave me a reason to wake up in the morning before working an 8 hour shift as the Sous Chef at Centro Caboto Center in Winnipeg, MB. I vividly remember the cold early mornings waking up at 4:30 a.m. to catch the six o’clock class at Moksha (now Modo) Yoga Kildonan. I would often laugh or cry on my drive to or from class as I listened to my morning music, feeling the power of the emotional part of my body so early in the day. There was a certain magic about that time of the day, and a sense of wonderment came with waking up so early to dedicate an hour to my body and mind. This was something I’d never done in my life. Seeing the other students arrive on their yoga mats was definitely a part of it, knowing that I wasn’t alone in my discovery of yoga, that there are others who know of this special time of the day.

Leaving Winnipeg and the folks at Moksha Yoga Kildonan. Arriving in Burnaby and finding my new home.

I ended up taking my teachers training at the end of my first year of practice which allowed me to begin the pursuit of a job in the area I was so passionate about. Yoga. I moved to Burnaby, BC for a job a Modo Yoga Burnaby and continued to teach there for six years! That will always hold a special place in my heart, it is what enabled me to become the teacher I am today and have to confidence to lead workshops like Get To Know Nidra.

Photographs from my teachers training in Kelowna, 2014.

Modo Yoga Burnaby unfortunately closed in 2020 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. This left me feeling very lost, concerned for my own financial stability, and quite frankly heartbroken to lose contact with the community I had grown so close with over the last six years of my life. I tried to practice alone in my room, but found it challenging to keep focus on my yoga practice. I felt like I really needed the communal aspect of the yoga practice, the Sangha. MY Sangha. I fell off my mat for a few months and poured myself into… farming of all things. I believe what started as a dream ended as a distraction. Distraction from the loss I was feeling due to the closure of my home yoga studio in Burnaby. For about five months from the time the studio closed I practiced yoga maybe five times, and very noncommittally I might add. This was at a time that I probably needed the practice of being in my body more than I ever had. I was stressing my physical body daily by working hard on the farm, milking cows, taking care of chickens, and doing constant manual labor in the massive gardens on the farm. Why didn’t I come to my yoga mat more often to practice? Well I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back upon it now I can see that I was so heartbroken at the loss of my community. Yoga simply reminded me of what I had so recently lost. I guess had found a distraction, for the time.

Farm distractions, albeit cute ones.

Who knows, maybe I could have totally lost my yoga practice by letting it go for so long, but that’s not what happened. I eventually hit a low place in my emotional state, so low that I spent most of my days crying in my spare time and unfortunately fighting with my amazingly supportive and loving partner. I had ran from my emotions for long enough and I finally decided to confront them. I unrolled my yoga mat on the kitchen floor of a house that was so full of boxes I could barely move (a different story), laid down in savasana and began my first yoga practice in quite some time. It was really nice to practice again with intention behind my movement, to feel a connection to something I knew was healing for me.

So here I am again on my yoga mat falling in love with yoga again. Hitting the restart button with a beginners mind. Still searching for a community to be a part of, even if it is via Zoom 😉

Join me Here!

I can’t wait to see you in class sometime soon and get to know you and your yoga practice.

-Matthew Carter

Matthew Carter Yoga & Fitness

Founded in 2020 by Matthew Carter.

Questions about the yoga classes Matthew offers?