Iam Yoga Stretching Out in Toronto – Part 2

Part 2 of my Iam Yoga interview

Tell me more about the Blu Matter project.

My brother Michael died by suicide in August of 2012 and although he was never diagnosed or in treatment, it was fairly obvious when we look back at the last 3 years of his life especially – that he was likely Bipolar.  Blu Matter came about because I could not understand how  as his family and friends and co-workers – we didn’t see the signs and that he obviously made the choice to end his life because he felt a significant lack of hope and ultimately must have assumed he would always feel that bad.

Why BMP was ultimately founded …..

On Blu Matter – after my brother died by suicide I struggled with depression,anxiety and later on PTSD, and still do now to a certain extent.  I had taken about 2 months off from teaching and managing the studio trying to integrate the trauma and manage the panic attacks and grief that followed. When I went back to the studio people would ask me how I was doing. The easiest answer would have been ‘I’m fine’. Except those words felt wrong coming out of my mouth, I was not fine. I was having trouble getting out of bed some days. I was having anxiety about teaching and engaging with people. I was crying nearly every day at some point as well. I decided to answer very simply but also very honestly. The inspiration for BluMatter came out of those days and the conversations that followed because I realized the more I answered with “today is really hard actually” or “today is better” or today I am dealing with anxiety” etc… the more people (some I didn’t even know well) started to pull me aside to say that they too were living with depression, or mood disorders or anxiety and that hearing someone admit it out loud, admit to the struggle of it, made them feel less alone.  This is when I realized we have to do this on a larger scale and we have to share stories of hope and recovery so experiencing these things is not also something you have to feel shameful about or live with alone.  That is how we can best honour the memory of my little brother and everyone else who is touched by mental health issues.

The fundamental pillars of our vision are centred around Education, Community and Mindfulness – we need all three of these pillars to be present if we are going to address mental health and rehabilitation from a holistic social perspective.  The core values of Blu Matter are based on these realizations – because they hold true across the board when it comes to suicide and depression.  Educating ourselves not only around the stats we already know but creating a clear path to information in neuroplasticity and the neurobiology of mindfulness is where we can really create hope for change and recovery. All of our social media and group events are based on bringing this information to our participants and the community. Community is the next step – we hold monthly meetings and feature speakers and topics that focus on helping people to feel less alone and burdened by what they are struggling with. Mindfulness is obviously our core value – the more we understand about how mindfulness can literally have an impact on the wiring of our brains the more power and control we can exert over our own mental health landscape.

Blu Matter Project was established because we believe there is an opportunity to create an organization that can curate the overwhelming amount of information out there around mindfulness and mental health while still acknowledging that therapy and medication are and can be part of the process to recovery for individuals living with the experience of depression, anxiety, mood disorders and trauma.

When we educate around Mindfulness (Yoga, Meditation, Breath Work, Somatic Therapies) we focus on the scientific support and explanations that exist around how and why they work as treatments for mental health issues to help reduce stigma.

Community is a huge part of how we can help create a compassionate dialogue that will ultimately make people comfortable in seeking support and treatment.

Mental Health occurs on a continuum and we will all experience depression, anxiety, mood imbalance/disorders as well as traumatic events in our lives – the goal of Blu Matter is to make it clear that you have a community of people around you who understand that what you are experiencing is just that, an experience and it does not define you. When we approach mental health that way we can approach treatment from multiple angles.

Does this mean that IAM yoga instructors will be more sensitive and/or will there be classes specifically for people with mental illness?

Yes – Blu Matter Project runs a Teacher Training Program – it’s a program designed to introduce Yoga Teachers and students to a particular way of instructing yoga classes that are trauma safe and trigger free. For example telling someone who is experiencing trauma of any sort that they should ‘open their hearts’ or ‘be vulnerable’ is very triggering language. A lot of therapists and doctors are increasingly telling their patients to go and taje a yoga class… it’s not always that simple. For example if you are in a manic state doing a power flow level three hot yoga class is actually contradicative. Another example is that if you are experiencing a powerful episode of depression seated, silent meditation can also be contradicative because the  mind is already turning in on itself and increased rumination is not the best way to create a mental balance and stabilized nervous system.

Are there new elements we can look forward to in 2015? (New classes, workshops, amenities, etc) Blu Matter is launching Somatic Classes at Iam Yoga and Yoga Space in the new year (these are trauma friendly classes – so that you if you are experiencing any mental health issues you don’t need to further compound your anxiety by labelling yourself – these classes are suitable for anyone and safe for those living w MHI.  We also offer Neuro Yoga classes – the focus of these classes is to use specific Pranayama (breathing exercises) and Asana (movement based yoga sequences) to fully oxygenate the brain and the rest of the body alongside specific instruction that will help students learn to control their nervous systems and subsequently manage symptoms of anxiety that often go hand in hand with depression and bipolar.

Anything else you’d like our readers to know about IAM Yoga?

THIS is what the name Iam Yoga means….

A lot of people think that the studio is named after me, as in “I Am Yoga” or “You Are Yoga” and while these are great explanations they aren’t the whole story. The word “Iam” is a Latin word and means ‘mindful’ and or ‘present’ and is also the root of the English statement “I am”. It’s not Sanskrit and its also not an overly feminine sounding name, this was actually very important as we actively try to appeal to men as well as women at Iam Yoga – the yoga world is already so feminine I wanted to create a brand or business name that wasn’t elitist or exclusionary in any way.  A big part of our success as a studio has everything to do with making yoga, both its practice and philosophy, accessible rather than esoteric. We like to break the rules because sometimes that’s when you really see which ones need to be rewritten entirely

For more info on Iam Yoga or to see class schedule visit www.iamyoga.ca.

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Emer Schlosser

Emer Schlosser

Contributor at Addicted
Emer Schlosser is a Torontonian, cinephile, writer, editor, and lover of food.
Emer Schlosser
Emer Schlosser

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