Coco Chanel

I like reading about women who have left their mark in life. One such woman born Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel will forever be remembered by her invention of the "little" black dress as well as for changing the face of fashion. It's funny that when you read a few lines about such a person you immediately get an "idea" about them. However, if you dig a bit deeper that first impression tends to expand itself and you might get a more accurate "idea" about who they were. I say all this because I read one review about Coco in which it made it sound like she had opened a shop in Paris and her career took off from there. Well, not exactly.

After opening her first boutique in Paris, which sold hats (a love of she first developed as a hobby), she was forced to forfeit the property and its content when it went out of business. She later met an influential man who assisted her in setting up a similiar shop with greater success. Of interest, she never married but had affairs with many influential men. She was proposed to by the Duke of Westminister and quoted as saying, "There have been many Duchesses of Westminister. There is only one Chanel." Boy, does this woman have it so right.

And yet this did not stop the Duke of Westminister from having the double C's (her logo) embedded on the posts inside of the city of Westminister (London).

Another interesting fact about her life is that she fabricated several points about her life in order not to be stigmized from having come from a lower-class family. She lied about her birth saying she was born in 1893 and not 1883. She also said her mother died when she was very young and her father left for America to get rich; leaving her to be raised by two old and cold, bitch spinster aunts. She did not use those exact words (I did).

I thought she was really cool until I came across the quote that read, "Any woman who does not wear parfume does not have a future."

Ahhhhhh. No. Sorry, I do not agree. This statement is not to be taken too seriously, however. I am sure she probably said it in passing (re: a'tongue and cheek' remark). Some might argue such as Osho that covering ourselves with fancy parfumes will not bring us into the future, but hinder our progress by remaining focused on externals. Osho (often nick-named as the Sex Guru), had some interesting things to say about the way we spend a lot time working on the outside, but allow the inside to fester. We think if we run more, do yoga, exercise, become thinner or leaner will be become better people....and as a result we might have a brighter future. And yet, the inner work remains undone. This reminds me of Swami Vishu-Devananda who referred to meditation as the 'cleaning of the dirt of the mind.' Cleaning out our pettiness, meanness, judgemental attitudes and various envies. The more parfume you slapped on that the more you'll end up with a very stinky brew.

Coco Chanel is, however, a fascinating woman with a truly savvy entrepreneurial spirit.... for changing the face of fashion and for forcing her competitors to bow to more simple lines and curves after losing many customers to Chanel. She symbolizes a woman's strength of spirit, living life on your own terms and making it happen.

Can we be friends?


The Meaning of a Full or New Moon

The next time you look at the moon do you know which one you are gazing at? Full or a new moon? Many traditions of yoga follow these cycles by either taking days off from the practice or meditating. Why?

Because the body is made up of 70% water, the moon naturally has a strong impact on both the human body and mind. The full and new moon cycles symbolize completion and celebration. In one year there are about 24 to 25 new and full moons. Some of these relate to the Buddha moon of birth, the Mother Earth and the ancient masters, sages and saints. Guru Purnima (a day to honour and give respect to our teachers) is best done just after the moon has risen and with direct contact to the rays of the moon. According to the lunar cycles, the moon also has a large impact on ocean tides.

During a full moon the sun and the moon are in opposition to each another while in the new moon cycle they are in conjunction. These positions create different energies on the earth, which correlate to the cycles of the breath. The full moon relates to the end of the inhalation; the rising of prana (energy). This is the vital life source that rises upward, expands and increases energy both physically and mentally. A characteristic during full moons is that of becoming head strong. Conversely, the new moon relates to the end of the exhalation; the emerging apana (downward energy). This is understood to develop feelings of earthiness, calmness and physical exhaustion.

Honouring these cycles is a way of aligning ourselves to the planetary forces that are always around. They also help us to live and breathe in harmony with nature. In Ashtanga–yoga, the practice is not taken on both new and full moons. In classical hatha-yoga and the Himalyan traidtion meditation is recommended on full moons. This is considered an especially auspicious time as you tune yourself inwardly to the energies beyond materialism and toward the cosmos.

I first learned about new and full moons, and their relationship to the physical practice during the my studies under Pattabi Jois in Mysore. As a beginner, I had no idea what it meant or why. In fact, I showed up for class one morning at 3:30 a.m. and could not figure out why no one else was there. Strangely enough, as well, I had very little problems getting to class that morning. I had been coming from the downtown core of Mysore into the district of Lakshmipuram where Pattabhi Jois first had his shala (school). Every morning was a fiasco to find a rickshaw. And if that was not enough, trying to give directions to a Kannada-speaking driver who never heard of Pattabhi Jois made it more frustrating. This, of course, shattered my illusion that all Indians knew yoga, do yoga and definitely knew of PJ. It was just sort of strange that things went really smoothly from getting to the hotel to the school.

While wondering why no one was around, I sat down on the front steps of the school. By then it was closer to 4 a.m. Being alone and a woman, I started to imagine the worse when I heard ruffling noises. Jumping up and ready to defend myself, I noticed a bull-frog gracefully landing beside me. I had to laugh. For the next few minutes, I watched him/her jump around until I finally decided to leave. It was about a 6 km walk back to the hotel. On my way I vaguely remembered something being said by Sharath (PJ's grandson) about “no practice, you take rest...new moon.”

Well, it all made sense.

The Journey So Far

Life is an adventure and yoga is the greatest one of all. Here I share my love of Yoga, travel, practice and becoming a part-time cook. My life adventures have taken me from growing up in Toronto to living and working in South Korea to studying in India, marriage and finally closing my Yoga school of 15 years.

What I can say so far is that I truly believe that it is necessary in life to let go of one dream in order for another to be born. This might be painful to do so but it is the only way to move forward. We often believe that if our original plan does not succeed it is the recipe for failure. But what if it is the door to something new and great? The horizon is wide and life is not a straight line. This is the way I see it and my journey so far. Having also recently given birth to my first child and at 43, it is another new beginning.


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Heather Morton
is a perennial teacher and devoted student of yoga. Having made 18 extended trips to India she studies with her teachers annually. In 1997 she founded and directed The Yoga Way (TYW), Toronto's only school for 6-week yoga programs and not drop-in classes. For 15 years, TYW was a part of the growing Toronto yoga community and supported many charities by offering karma classes. As a teacher she holds many academic degrees including a BFA (Fine Arts in Theatre) and a Masters of Education. With a published thesis on Yoga for Children in School, her post-graduate work was a 2-year ethnographic project in the Indian school system. Heather has produced 2 dvds, meditation cds, a backbending manual and podcasts. Freedom of the Body DVD is the first of its kind as an instructional practice to the backbends of yoga. Heather has been featured in the Toronto Life magazine, The Globe & Mail, Yoga4Everybody and other on-line sources. She contributes to MindBodyGreen, Hello Yoga in Japan and Elephant Journal. She writes to inspire and share her experiences with others on yoga as a life's practice.
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