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

12 Poses of Christmas

Hey folks, today’s blog post is short and simple. I want to let you know about a series I a currently running on Instagram called, you guessed it, The 12 Poses of Christmas!

Here are the links to the first 5 days, follow me on Instagram to watch the series progress.

Day 1 – Tree Pose
Day 2 – Prayer Twist
Day 3 – Standing Back Bend
Day 4 – Runner’s Lunge
Day 5 – Dancer’s Pose

Matthew Carter Yoga & Fitness

Founded in 2020 by Matthew Carter.

Questions about the yoga classes Matthew offers?

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?