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.
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.
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!
By the way, if you’re a PC gamer, add me on Steam, I am thewarden2002, see you online!
For the last five or six years I have been writing poetry whenever the inspiration strikes. I thought this platform would be a nice way to share some of my poems with all of you. Enjoy!
The island looks alone, surrounded by the darkest blue waters. The mind feels alone, encompassed by an ocean of thought. But, the island is not alone, it remains connected to the earth. Supported, like a birch stand, its fellow trees meters away. Connected.
The mind is not alone, it remains connected to the body. Touch me. Feel my presence. My warmth. I am always here for you. I am beating. I am breathing. I am you.
Island and ocean, mind and body, Seamless.
Fun is a universal language. Fun is infectious but kind. It bubbles up from the put of your belly. It erupts from the tip of your spine.
Laughter is to be cherished. The joy I can see in your face. It bubbles up from the pit of your belly. And you realize…
Everything is already okay. Doubt is something self created. I’m flawed and I’m okay with that. Each moment carries with it an opportunity. To learn from falling down, to embrace your mistakes, to have fun and to laugh, even when you feel small.
Grow deep like tree roots the Earth beneath welcomes you relax now, grow deep.
Reach up like branches the sky above welcomes you reach up now, grow tall.
Think a level deeper, to the space outside of you. Past the deep blue. Through the darkness of the vast unknown. Past asteroids and stars unnamed. Drift past the nebulas and black holes and the vast amounts of space between them and notice how small you really are.
Think a level deeper, to the space inside of you. Past the thin skin. Through the layers of muscle, tissue and bone. Down to each individual cell, each strand of DNA. Past the spinning electrons, the atoms themselves and the vast amounts of space between them and notice how big you really are.
A rock looks to be still from a narrow perspective, but expand your view to that of the rocks entire journey and a new image springs to life.
From the rocks formation into the planets tectonic plates, to being pushed thousand of feet up in the air to form the mountains, to its continuous erosion from glaciers and powerful rivers, and its eventual resting place as a singular grain of sand on a beach or ocean floor. The rock has a fantastic journey!
Where are you on your journey? Take the time to appreciate this chapter of your life, but then notice when it’s time to move on, to explore existing in a different state. To reach for your heels for the first time in camel pose, or to listen to that deep yearning for a longer savasana.
The River of Flow
The flow of a river is much like the flow of the breath. At times the river gets calm and gentle, flowing slowly, softly and with ease.
But the river has the power to build, as does the breath, and shows its power thorough churning eddies, thunderous rapids and glorious waterfalls.
In all of these states there is flow, in every pose there is flow, there is breath.
Every batch of beer is a new brew, a fresh start. Everyday is a new beginning, a fresh start. Every pose is a moment for mindfulness, a fresh start. Every single moment, this second here — and this one now –, each is a fresh start, a moment for opportunity, open mindedness, joy and inclusion.
Patience Under a Tree
Getting to know something takes time. Everyday I could sit under the same tree, and not in a lifetime would I know its whole story.
Can less be more? No electricity, the pipes are empty, the pump is off, the woodstove is inviting. “Do less.” it seems to suggest, “Sit in my warmth. Let me hold you closer.” “I’ve got you.”
I fall fast asleep after the sun sets, both a hostage and guest of the darkness and fire.
I rise as the sun does, at first just a hint of gray creeps through the blinds. The cold from outside continues its steady path inwards. I feel it on my toes.
Thoughts come slower here, where the batteries are dead and the outlets are miles away. Where the water comes from a bucket you dipped into the lake. Put another log on the fire. Stay awhile.
This body so fragile dances upon the earth. Blood Flowing. Pulsing. Contained by but a thin papery exterior. It is pierced. I am spreading. Unconstrained. My blood blends with the dirt beneath the grass. I watch from above. It spills out of me crimson red, darkening from the soil and oxidization.
Where is me?
The boundaries are blurring. To my knees, on my knees. Draining. Sweat builds on my brow. Palms pulse.
Rushing. Slowing. Rushing. Slowing. Slower. Slow. She breaks through my daze with a calm “Hello?”
We rush away. Let me heal. This body so fragile dances upon the earth.
And so we were moved. Seeing all around us. “Journey with us” they pleaded, and so we left our boat decked setting foot to sand and soil. Drawn deeper by that distand call, one that possessed our feet to move. Rhythmically.
And so we were moved. Feeling all around us. “Dance with us!” they encouraged, and so we left the shore, moving inward, setting foot to beat and drum. Driven deeper by our internal rhythm, one that called forth a willingness to move. Artistically.
And so we were moved. Joining all together. We held hands, blending, moving ’round the fire with vigor. The stars above pulling at our attention, slowing our pace.
We synchronize with softness. Floating foot from soil to sky, and from sky to stars. And so we were moved.
Tamed Ground, Wild Edges
Looking out over tamed ground with wild edges. Popcorn sky of clouds casting their shadows upon prairie fields and coulis below.
The wide and powerful river of Peace, cutting deep down through the fertile soil.
We walk trails through canola broken by black bear, past saskatoon berry and chokecherry lunch. Matted grass where she laid down to rest.
The city isn’t calling anymore, I can’t even feel its pull. I could lay down in the grass and fall asleep. Here.
How can somewhere I’ve never been feel so familiar? Is it the prairie air? The taste of the dill in the borscht? Longing for an open field with blowing grass, for hands in soil. I can imagine the crunching of snow beneath my boots.
I feel a calling to this place as I look out over the tamed ground with wild edges.
Looking for that new yoga playlist? Well, look no further, here’s 21 of them!
At some point yoga got epic. I this point was when almost every teacher in the world started playing DJ Drez’s Nectar Drop in literally every yoga playlist. I won’t lie, that song is awesome, but at this point I just can’t handle any more nectar, sorry Drez. It was at this point I began creating a multitude of yoga playlists to fit all sorts of different class styles, themes, intentions, and moods and now I would love to share a number of them with you.
With the amount of verbal instructions a yoga practice has for the practitioners to focus on playlists can become distracting when they have too many lyrics in them, so most of my playlists are instrumental, meaning they don’t contain any lyrics at all.
This is a continuation of my gardening journey, so if you haven’t read my first post titled “Yoga. Like a Garden.“, do that first!
Last, I left you with our plans of ploughing the cleared land with the help of Robin and Maylene, collecting what felt like way too much cardboard (which was actually not nearly enough in the end), and getting our water retention system installed!
On October 31st, Emily and I woke up early, as excited about the plans we had made with Robin and Maylene to plough the land as some of the little kids out there must have been for the evening’s upcoming candy booty! We made steel cut oats for breakfast with canned saskatoon berries and peaches, topped with homemade yogurt and cinnamon. Yum. After breakfast we headed down to the local Farmer’s Market to buy some things for our lunch. We walked right to the Loveland Acres stand where Robin and Maylene stood looking quite bundled and cozy in their plaid fleece jackets. We chatted for a bit then bought some really nice produce from them including a bunch of beets, celeriac root, and leeks. Maylene also threw in some winter radishes for free, they had and amazing taste and a lovely red and white colour inside. We also bought some apple strudel and sourdough bread from Inspired Breads, a local bakery.
We ran home with our market booty and quickly chopped up the leeks, celeriac root, and a butternut squash we already had at home. We placed it all into our pressure cooker for 20 minutes with some chicken stock, pureed and seasoned it, and there you have it, fresh soup from the market!
The plan was to meet Robin and Maylene up at Sue’s house at around 12:30, so we packed up the pressure cooker with the hot soup still inside, bagged up the bread and apple strudels, then we hopped in our truck and scooted on over. They were there when we arrived, ready to unload their small tractor and plough attachment. This thing may look like a rototiller but it is indeed just a very small tractor. It’s got some serious power and when they hooked up the Ground Blaster attachment I couldn’t help but crack a huge smile! The best part is that this thing all fit in the back of their truck, so convenient, though it did take all four of us to lift the machine down!
Since Maylene and Robin had a long morning working the Farmer’s Market, we set up a table outside for lunch before we began working for the afternoon. Emily’s aunt made a pot of tea, and the five of us all sat outside in the Saturday sunlight and enjoyed our soup and fresh bread, with apple strudels for dessert!
Now came the work, Robin and I walked down to the plot of land and I pointed out where the edges of our garden plot would be. He started up the machine then ran a strip down the very middle of the plot, he then began making lines running the machine back and forth on either side of that initial middle line, a smart technique. As Robin ran the machine, Maylene, Emily and I followed him round and round picking up rocks as they got unearthed by the Ground Blaster. I could see how hard it was to run the machine, it definitely took some upper body strength to control it as it hit the larger rocks and roots.
It took us a few hours to get the entire area ploughed, the afternoon sunlight was beginning to dim and our bodies were growing tired. This part of the process had come to an end!
The next step was coming back to form the raised garden beds, plant some garlic and lay out what we thought would be too much cardboard, but turned out to be not nearly enough.
You can follow my teaching journey online and buy passes or subscriptions to my content, this is all on my website at www.matthewcarteryoga.com.
I’ve heard before that a good story should start from the beginning, but the beginning is somewhere that always seems to change from the perspective of the present. I will attempt to paint a clear picture of my path and journey to yoga but as the brain is ever changing, the way this story comes out over these next few days of writing will be a product of my present state. It’s always interesting to look back deeper and deeper with a focus in mind. Where did I come from? How did I get here? How have I changed? What is there inside of me that feels constant through the change? Where am I going?
If I were to take you back to the very start you would see a young prairie boy growing up in a loving home with a lot of privilege, a lot of allergies, and a clear passion for music. My parents encouraged me to pursue my passions and let me quit the things I did not feel connected to. I tried hockey, hated it, sorry Canada. Tried soccer, hated it, sorry everyone else. I strongly disliked gym class as a kid and it seemed that I was on a fairly sedentary path with my fitness levels as a youth. Sports didn’t make much sense to me and as a very emotionally driven male I found myself always getting picked last, sitting on the sidelines, and feeling too feminine to ever join my increasingly masculine peers. Music however was something that did make sense to me and I gravitated towards it in all my spare time. It started with a program in Manitoba called “Music for Young Children”, making shakers with rice and toilet paper tubes, this evolved into taking piano lessons, and eventually bass lessons. During high school I was involved in literally every music program available, and we were fortunate to have it all at our school. Concert band (percussion), wind ensemble (percussion/string bass), junior jazz band (bass), senior jazz band (bass), choral jazz (bass), and musical theater (bass). I did it all and I truly loved it. My music teacher sent me to train under one of the best bass player in Winnipeg at the time, who played with the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestras, which I am forever grateful for. I had planned on going to university for jazz music after high school but I decided to go travelling to South East Asia instead. During my stay in Thailand I started two bands, one covering Red Hot Chili Peppers and some other funk stuff, and one doing old blues tunes. I also played a nightly acoustic set at one of the more chill bars in town, and hosted an open mic at another once a week. When I returned nearly a year later I had my eyes opened to the world of music outside of my little town of Oakbank, Manitoba.
I no longer had the desire to take professional training in music and decided instead to spend of my some money recording my very first studio album with songs I had written on my travels. During my evolving career as an independent musician I always had a part or full-time job as music never quite paid the bills. Music did however repay me in love, passion, and a lot of great relationships. At this point I still hadn’t tried yoga, but stay with me here, we’re almost there now. Gig’s in Winnipeg started feeling redundant, boring, like I was wallpaper to people’s experiences while eating or drinking rather than something that truly mattered to their experience. I played on TV, in bars, restaurants, coffee shops, theaters, festivals, and busked in front of anywhere that would let me. When it all started becoming a grind I looked on Manitoba Music’s website and noticed a post for a gig in a yoga class at Moksha (now Modo) Yoga Kildonan.
This seemed like something completely different and I jumped on it. There was no payment, but instead a trade for one free month of yoga at their studio which seemed scary to me, but interesting. I went down to the yoga studio with my very nice acoustic guitar and thought “I should also toss my hand drums and a didgeridoo in the trunk of the car as well, just to be safe.” When I arrived at Moksha I saw that it was hot yoga and the room was ridiculously hot. I decided there was no way I was bringing my Gibson guitar in there to risk it warping in the humidity and heat. Luckily I had those djembes and the didgeridoo in the trunk of the car, so I played those. It worked perfectly, I loved it, and better yet the students and studio loved it too.
Something inside of me screamed out, as if finally having found something truly special, something that I figured would become a strong part of my life in some way or another. Now for the hard part, the unfamiliar part. Me doing yoga. Based on my past physical exercise history I was pretty much freaked right out to try yoga. Somewhere deep down I had this sneaking suspicion that I just might like this thing centered in breath awareness, silence and space for the mind, and individuality which is so similar to music.
I showed up to my first class to be taught by Keith Macpherson, also a local musician and apparently yoga teacher at Moksha too! I was instantly in love with this new exercise, and probably Keith too. The movements felt good, there was no competitive nature, and best of all I felt an acceptance for who I was discovering in myself. It felt like a living, breathing musical movement. Like the yoga sequence was the score of music and my body an instrument expressing it’s sound in the most comfortable and natural way. Everything we were doing seemed primal to me, almost as if I had done it a thousand times before. After the class I walked out of the yoga room blissed out, took the best and perhaps most needed shower of my life and then came out to the lobby. Keith was sitting there cross legged on the bench when I came out, rose slowly from his seat and opened up his arms to give me a big hug. He told me after this first class that he thought I would become a yoga teacher one day, which I laughed at and quickly brushed aside. I think back now and it’s apparent to me that Keith’s suggestion was the seed of something bigger for me, something I needed to hear and digest over a good deal of time. I left the studio feeling high on life, a feeling I had often looked for elsewhere. What was this place with sweaty men hugging each other, acceptance of one’s body, and respect of individuality?
I continued to explore my yoga practice over the month I had traded for. I kept a consistent practice for the first 30 days. After this I gladly continued the trade with Moksha Kildonan of music for yoga. I was to play once per month in exchange for all the yoga I could do. I then decided to try for 60 days straight, after 60 I tried 100, then 200. When I reached 222 I decided it was silly to continue counting something I clearly would be continuing. There was no longer pushing needed for yoga, no counting the days anymore, it has always been a pleasure to spend an hour with my breath, body, and community. Once I had been practicing for nearly a year I decided to apply to take Moksha/Modo Yoga teachers training. The little seed that had been planted had been fed quite a lot of yoga, a lot of breath, and a whole lot of water. So it grew big. The training was everything I expected it to be as far as long days and lots of yoga but it also held moments I could not have imagined. I found myself finally accepting my tears, my pains, my joys, finally accepting myself for who I am.
I returned from the teachers training, which was held in the beautiful BC Okanagan Valley, and headed back to my home in Winnipeg Manitoba. I returned with a new respect for myself and I decided it was time to make a big change in my life. Something for me. I began applying for job postings at Moksha studios in Canada while continuing my full-time job as a sous chef. During my two months back home Moksha Kildonan was amazing at offering support for my beginnings as a teacher, but I could see that a full-time teaching position was not really available for me there at the time.
After my first practice teach class at the studio I drove back home and sat in my front living room, the August sunlight filtering through the cracked windowpane which was held together with duct tape, my roommates laughter trickling up the stairs from the basement, my cat welcoming me home with his little meows and ankle rubs. I remember it all in such vivid detail. I pulled out a piece of paper to record my feelings post-class. Pure joy is what came out, along with tears. The tears came with a confidence and a wonderfully sweet warmth. I wanted these tears, and I felt like I wanted to show them to the whole world as if to scream “Hello world, LOOK! Look and see that tears can be joyous too!”. I fell in love with everything that was happening in my life, I was beyond excited to be starting this wonderful journey of teaching.
My job at the restaurant was also really amazing and supportive during this whole transition in my life, they let me take an entire month off of work to take training only to return and work there while searching for a full-time teaching position. They gave me shifts off to let me get to my practice teaching classes, thank you all so much people at Centro Caboto Center. If you are in a job that allows you this kind of freedom I would highly suggest making a plan for positive changes in your life while you have that support and incoming pay.
I only applied at two Moksha studios, both in BC which I had fallen back in love with during my stay in the Okanagan. When Moksha Yoga Burnaby got back to me with a job offer for me to relocate for a full-time teaching position at their studio I burst out into my newly accepted tears. Oh wow I remember those tears flowing, fast and steady, warm joyful tears, similar to the ones I explained earlier surrounding my first practice teaching experience. They continued to flow out of me for hours that evening, from a place of gratitude and joy. These are the tears that tell you that you are on the right path, this is where you should be going, GO!!!
Once I had sent my two applications out to the BC studios and I started selling my possessions in preparation for moving to the job that I had not yet received. Ambitious perhaps, foolish perhaps, but very freeing. I knew that one way or another I would end up teaching yoga full-time somewhere so I best prepare for that transition. I started purging everything that I didn’t see myself using regularly, or deriving true joy from. I ended up selling two thousand dollars worth of my possessions online which ended up being a crucial step, as this was the money I would use to get settled in the harsh financial climate of BC’s lower mainland.
I left Winnipeg on a foggy September morning with a cup of coffee, my cat companion Sampson, and once again those wonderful warm tears of excitement, joy, sadness of leaving, and missing my family already. I arrived in BC to stay with a friend but soon I moved into a place with 3 others living in it ,and I will be honest with you, it sucked. They were nothing like my chilled out Winnipeg roomies, and I felt pretty alone in this new big city. My rose colored yoga glasses helped a bit, but at one point I had a negative balance in my bank account, I was in a hostile living environment, and was literally running out of food to eat. I was still waiting for my first paycheck from the yoga studio and the remainder of my money was tied up in rent and my damage deposit. Luckily I was helped out by my ever generous parents who sent me food money. Thanks Mom and Dad, I was pretty hungry! I only ended up staying at this house for two months as I saved my first few paychecks, then applied for a new place and got my stressed out ass out of there.
That first living situation was really bad, I was so stressed out that I ended up getting heart palpitations, and crying those not so warm tears almost nightly. One thing that really helped me get through these tough months was being graced with free studio time at Greenhouse Studios in Vancouver. I was able to record an entire album in one day with the help of Jordan Leganchuk behind the soundboard. The album consists of songs inspired by my experience at Moksha teachers training and you can listen to it here. I really stand behind that album because it takes from all aspects of my life, my history in piano as a young child, times playing percussion in band class, and my love of songwriting and yoga.
Things took a more positive turn over the next year as I settled into a basement suite about 10 blocks from my new studio, sold my car and bought a bike, and started playing music classes at the yoga studio in Burnaby. Over the last two years we have explored a lot of awesome musical ideas inside the studio. I was able to develop connections and offer classes with other musicians, I offered a sound healing style of music to accompany one of the weekly yin classes, I offered a hand drumming to accompany flow and Moksha classes, and I was given so much inspiration to put into lyrics for many new songs. During this year of growth I also began developing the most important relationship in my life with my partner Emily. Emily has shown me a deep and unending love, shown me what acceptance means, and how to stand strong in the face of oppression and adversity. Our yoga practice is an amazing gift for our relationship, we have a common ground of understanding, a safe place to go when feeling a need for connection with oneself, and we share an ever evolving passion and thirst for knowledge. With this first year came some hard times too as I worked to find balance in the way I taught. I received what seemed to me like a ridiculous amount of feedback in that first year. Feedback was hard for me, I felt a resistance to changing the way I taught even though I knew very little about teaching at the time. Emily helped me through this first year more than I can express.
Resistance to feedback slowed and changed over time and now I find receiving feedback to be one of the best parts about teaching yoga, it helps me see it all from a new perspective. As one of my favorite thinkers Terence McKenna said “if you’re a true believer, in other words you have some pre-packed philosophy, you are going to miss a great deal”. I don’t want to have it all figured out, where’s the fun in that? I want to be shocked and in awe and the marvels of my body. I want to feel the imperfection of my balance. I want to feel a short breath so that I can feel a big one. I want to love poses I hated and hate poses I loved. I want to miss nothing and feel everything yoga has to offer. Every single step has brought me here, every musical note played, every difficult job, every belief and doubt, every tear warm or cold. I am thankful to have shared any bit of my story with you so far and am excited to continue exploring our stories together. Are you with me?
Join me in a yoga class where I play live music and teach you yoga at the same time, held on Sunday mornings at 10am! Buy your pass here: www.matthewcarteryoga.com
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.
My partner Emily and I recently moved to Salmon Arm, BC in the pursuit of a place to grow our own garden. While bunking at Emily’s aunts place we were offered the use of a lovely piece of land from her landlord Sue. Sue owns about an acre in the Salmon Arm area where she and Barb (Emily’s Aunt) live and Sue just happens to be a Master Organic Gardener! At the end of August 2020 Sue hired an excavator to come to her property to begin the initial work of clearing the bush off of a large section of her land. For 3 days the excavator dug up small trees, brush, rocks and some small boulders. I watched as it happened imagining the months of grueling work that would take to do by hand. Think of all the people in the world that still have no choice but to work the soil to ensure they can make it through the harsh seasons to come. Hands sore from swinging the mattock through the dense soil and using it to cut through the tangle of roots. Moving massive rocks by hand or with tree trunks as giant levers. If one was lucky enough perhaps even using animals yoked to their ploughs to turn the soil. I’ll bet their bodies were sore from the work, but I also know from experience that hard work can make the body more resilient, if you do it correctly.
I had never felt as strong as I did after those months I spent on the farm, it uses your whole body. But it also can leave you quite sore from all of the stooping low to sow the seeds, then stooping low again to weed around them by hand to protect their gentle structures from the fast moving weeds. Then doing this week after week. I happen to be lucky enough to not have to rely entirely on my garden to stay alive, that being said, I still hope things work out in the most magnificent of ways, because I really like pesto ;).
After the excavator had finished up with the required work we began to move onto the land by foot to remove as much of the leftover sticks and rocks as we could. About a month later we returned to the location to clip down any plants that had started to grow, and then the next step was to get the soil turned using a plough. We think this will help to halt the growth of the roots and shoots from the old brush potentially growing back over the winter and spring months. Removing the unwanted materials from the area felt necessary to be able to nurture the new growth that we intended on bringing it next spring. This is so similar to the times I have found myself on my yoga mat, needing to do a little bit of personal weeding. In life there are times where you need to clear out the old and make room for the new, just like Rumi says in a line one of my favorite poems titled The Guest House, “they may be clearing you out for some new delight.” I imagined the land screamed out wondering, ‘who is this “unexpected visitor”?’ I long to tell it of what we have in store for it, or perhaps the land longs to tell us of what it has in store for us.
After cleaning up the area of debris we staked out the perimeter of the garden which was to be 40 ft by 60 ft. The resulting rectangle was… almost a rectangle, close enough. Straight lines are boring anyways;). The stakes, however, did provide a helpful visual of just how large our intended garden area is going to be next spring.
One of the things with a large garden is that you need a large amount of water to keep your plants from withering during the hot times of the year, and with the potential of the water restrictions that are often placed on this area, we just couldn’t risk that happening. We decided to install a water collection and retention system by using an massive up-cycled plastic drum that was previously used to hold coconut oil on an industrial scale. It’s hard to tell in the pictures below, but this thing is massive! After picking up the plastic drum from a local salvager I washed it extremely using a pressure washer and soapy water. This step was absolutely disgusting, I won’t shy around it. The smell of the old rancid oil in the drum…. gag. Once washed out and squeaky clean, we plopped it down on four cinder blocks beside Sue’s house. Previously, I had leveled off a 5×5 ft spot on the hill just about the garden, work that I truly love doing. Leveling dirt is so satisfying! Next Sue hired someone to rig up one of her eavestroughs to the top of the drum and voila, gravity fed water retention system installed! Sometimes our yoga practice can be like this for our lives, helping to build a container to hold some of the goodness of life, a container you can draw from when you’re feeling dry, when times are tough.
During the whole month of October I had used some of my time each week to jump into the cardboard dumpster at the local Fold Parts Department and load it all into our pickup truck, Goldie (featured in the background of one of the photos above!). We were gathering cardboard for a technique known as lasagna gardening, a layering technique used to build a healthy base for you garden. Once I had gone through the process of gathering all of the cardboard Emily and I drove it up to Sue’s place and unloaded it. The only step that remained was to remove all of the plastic tape and sticker labels on the cardboard, because who wants that in their organic garden lasagna! Stickers taste gross, just ask Charlie.
The next part of the story requires a little bit of context. When my partner and I first moved to Salmon Arm, BC we attended a meeting in late August held by the Young Agrarians where we met an amazingly generous and unique couple who were running a small first year farm they call Loveland Acres. Maylene and Robin toured the group through their farm on what the Young Agrarians call a Land Social. Attendees were shown the greenhouse, the movable caterpillar greenhouse, their irrigation system, general farm operations and layout. After the tour we were invited to ask any questions we had, then we were served an amazing locally catered dinner by the representative from the Young Agrarians. This whole event was totally free, they only want to spread the awareness of farming, land sharing, and community development on a grassroots level. After meeting Maylene and Robin we began seeing them around town at the farmers markets where my partner was selling her soap from her business One Batch Soap. We began talking a bit more and eventually we worked up the courage to ask Maylene and Robin to help us turn the soil we had just finished prepping. They agreed and are we have now planned to have them come down to Sue’s land with their tractor during the first week of November of 2020 to plough through our freshly prepared land. That’s Robin and Maylene in the photos below!
This garden is requiring community to be completed. Without Sue, Barb, the Young Agrarians, Maylene & Robin, the Ford Parts Department ;), Emily & I all working together, it would never be happening. This is how I often feel about the practice of Yoga, it really helps to have a community of people beside you as you move through your practice. Sure you can do it alone but to know that someone else is there alongside you, breathing with you, dedicated to the time on their mat is powerful. Though they are not next to you they are still with you, perhaps having a hard time in Warrior 2, or an emotional time in Pigeon Pose, or anything else they may feel, this is community. It makes us more compassionate humans to share space with and commune with others, and yoga is a great way of doing just that, even if it does have to be via Zoom these days due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn from everyone who is a part of this garden project, it is teaching me so much and giving me the opportunity to see how mindfulness can come into every aspect of life. More garden posts sure to come in the spring!
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 😉