Black fly warrior

True warriors can stand a few bugs.

True warriors can stand a few bugs.

After a fretful night of waking up every hour because I was afraid my alarm wouldn’t go off, I rolled out of bed at 5:17 a.m. by using this mantra: “Put your feet on the floor! Feet on the floor!”

My early morning routines had all but evaporated until that point. What got me out of bed last Tuesday at that insane time? Early morning yoga in Britannia Park.

What better way to reconnect with yoga practice than being outside in the gentle heat of an early morning sun in one of Ottawa’s most beautiful waterfront parks?

That fact that Sylvie Gouin was teaching the Tuesday morning class was another compelling reason. Sylvie has a melodious voice and a quiet joy that she brings to each class. One of her former students, Martha Judd is my main yoga instructor these days and I adore her especially. But I digress.

I talked my friend Susan into going. I think she forgot about it because after I registered, I called her and said, “I’ll meet you at your place at 5:45 a.m. Yoga starts at six. And you owe me a hundred bucks.”


“You’re welcome,” I said.

When I do these classes, and when my alarm goes off at such an inhumane hour, I think the most valuable lesson in all of this is the importance of practicing yoga and meditation in ideal and non-ideal conditions:

  • Sun salutations on the green expanse of lawn overlooking the premiere wind surfing beach in Ottawa - ideal
  • The occasional red ant crawling up my leg during tree pose – non-ideal
  • Reaching for the sky while hearing hoarse trills of red wing blackbirds – ideal
  • Black flies swarming around my face – non-ideal
  • Tuning into the soft rustle of wind through the pines and the joy of knowing that breeze will blow those motherfucking flies away from me – ideal
  • Trying to balance one legged on the lumpy ground in a wobbly approximation of Warrior C – non-ideal
  • The feeling of accomplishment from getting a good stretch in before much of the city starts moving – ideal
  • Feeling the gentle tickle of a tiny bug journeying across my forehead while I’m in savasana – non-ideal

Often when my life circumstances are less than ideal, I drop the things that make me resilient, specifically meditation and exercise. These classes have me thinking a lot about that. Taking deep breaths without inhaling black flies is good practice for breathing through stressful times.

I recently read an article about the immense challenges faced by Jarvis Jay Masters on death row and what he has to overcome to practice meditation and non-violence in one of the most violent and dehumanizing places on earth. He persists because the practice brings him peace and saves his sanity.

It’s a reminder for me that even when I feel plagued by annoyances or held in the grip of sadness it’s still possible to find peace and beauty. If these things can be found in a prison cell, they can certainly be found at the beach. I’m so lucky and grateful to be here. And so, I keep going.


  1. I notice that Susan hasn’t commented yet to say how awesome the experience was. And now you’ve probably returned from another session because it’s Tuesday again. To take a deep breath without inhaling black flies, do you grit your teeth? So whenever I’m gritting my teeth, I can say I’m practicing outdoor yogic breathing?

  2. Today there were hardly any flies. I didn’t have to wipe blood and squished mosquitoes off of my mat. The temperature was perfect and the whole experience was awesome. I love it, for real. The fresh air, the water and the birds singing. Patti thinks she got bird poo on her forehead. That may have been the best part.

  3. HA HA ha, also Wah, I love you guys. I hate early mornings. I love the idea of yoga on the beach as the sun comes up. Maybe I should put it on my bucket list. To do just once.

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