Toronto’s Chrys Muszka: Yoga, Ego, Astrology, Energy and Nature
All Images from chrysyoga.com
Inspiring an appreciation or new consideration for nature, even when there’s an ice storm in April, is just one of the many elements Chrys Muszka brings to his yoga classes. In fact, Chrys’ love of nature can inspire the biggest urbanite among us to tinker with the idea of spending a long weekend out in the Algonquin backcountry on one of his specially designed, unique camping yoga retreats.
For those who are looking to connect with the spiritual side of the yoga practice, Chrys offers a strong insight on finding an inner calm along with a new, positive perspective on a daily negative, which can be as simple as a rainy day. As active students in Chrys’ classes at Mimico’s Alive Yoga, members of the AOL team have found a grounding presence, a spiritual inspiration and a uniquely insightful way of looking to the inside and how it relates to the external factors that can bring us unnecessary discomfort, or unease. Life feels more beautiful after a session with Chrys.
We sat down with this highly grounded yet super spiritual individual to get a sense of what it exactly is that makes his classes feel so unique and inspired, and chatted about his ego-facing experience of starting yoga, nature, astrology, energy and more. If you are intrigued to take a class with Chrys and discover how you can implement some routine insightful sessions into your daily life (and we highly encourage it) check out his weekly teaching schedule here.
YOGA AND THE EGO
You found yoga at a very young age. Can you tell us a bit about that experience? Was it
an “ah ha” moment?
I grew up in a family that was always more arts oriented. My sister started practicing at 15 or 16, and I had previously done kung fu and some dance throughout my childhood, so coming to yoga at first was more on the physical sense. I had developed scoliosis and some other injuries so my chiropractor recommended going to yoga, knowing I was so body-oriented.
My first class was a rough one, just like when you start any new physical class, not knowing the instructions. You fall over a lot and your ego is challenged, especially as a 14 year old coming from a dance, ballet, kung fo background. You think you can do it and then you stumble.
My family was very open from a spiritual perspective and I had a handful of friends that were open to yoga and spirituality, whose parents were artists or musicians (I went to an arts high school) and so there was this development that started happening. I found yoga at such a young age and connected to it.
At the same time, I was going to camp and then eventually became a staff member; you know you’re going into the forest, you’re going into nature, you’re practicing yoga or meditation and paddling your canoe, waking up with the sunrise; you’re finding more of that kind of silence, and connection to things rather than being in front of your game console or screen
You’ve turned this into a social thing too – you have meditation groups.
I’m starting to develop it into that. In your friendships you become that point person. People enjoy coming to hang out with me because I’m never putting pressure on them to do or be something, to look a certain way. It’s more like let’s go see a movie, hang out in the park or come over for dinner. There’s never any stress – I’m never complaining and demanding or taking over time, so I feel in that social sense, people find a lot of reprieve with me, that they can just hang out; it’s just Chyrs! You’re (we/I) are always seeking that in life.
Rather than dedicating life to being a serious yoga practitioner & teaching, it’s nice if you’re not in it for the money or the growth. Part of it is to wake up on a day, meditate and do something for yourself, and you know, make a little bit of money 😉 cause money makes the world go round!
You have to afford anything you do, of course. It gets you to tune into other things, and then other people respond to that. Then you build your community.
In the first paragraph in your bio on your website, you mention that you are guided by
your “Scorpio heart”. What is the significance of astrology to you?
I think astrology, its purpose for me now, after having been into it for so many years, is that it’s a great pseudo psychology, you can find accessible information of our archetypes.
Astrology is all meant to be taken subjectively so you can understand yourself more, be more aware. In yoga, the highest work is trying to find awareness of yourself and observe yourself, how you’re flowing and how you’re moving.
With astrology, you can sometimes be made aware of the negative traits to your sign or astrological notions of the time you were born for example, but if you just sit, pause and be mindful of these traits, it can be observed not as a negative quality, but more of a personal or emotional tendency to be aware of.
Awareness isn’t always pretty. It’s letting yourself know good and bad and how to balance – that’s always going to be life. You can’t be high and mighty and perfect. You’re still going to have your moments, you’re still going to have your tendencies and patterns. But that’s what I think is so great about astrology. If you read, and get sign oriented, and see certain patterns and you grow or understand yourself, it can give you a little bit of understanding rather than having to sit with someone tell you what’s going on in your life.
From a male perspective, do you think that men can often find the “wellness” space
intimidating even though it is just as applicable to them? How can they overcome that?
It’s always funny when we bring up these lines of masculinity and we even use the word intimidating because some equate the idea of being a man as not being intimidated by anything. But all of sudden we bring up the words ‘feelings’ or the ‘moon’ and people are reading something into it that’s self-analytical.
There are always layers or covers with masculinity. It’s about putting in the work of breaking down these rules of masculinity and realizing you can do and be into different things, and that doesn’t mean that you’re emasculate, and doesn’t need to bring up the certain fear for you to have to question your sexuality.
And if you already are (questioning your sexuality) then you have to deal with that – it’s 2018, we all have our story, but that aspect of breaking down and through past perspectives can be tough.
Women tend to be open to the moon or that spiritual speak that connects you inwards and men may also find it interesting and intriguing, but don’t share that with other men, so that’s’ the barrier – it’s within themselves.
How does that relate to the practice of yoga?
Some men are afraid of it, or the ideas others will associate them with if they practice, so they don’t do it. Which is funny, because you go to India and yoga is super male dominated, and much more aggressive. The West brought over the commodification of the practice, but also brought in some heart elements, which made yoga more of this mixing pot where the market became largely women, so that’s how this whole image of women in yoga took over.
It’s so funny, because so much of what we come to see and what we find to be popular culture in yoga in Canada is not even Canadian popular culture, it’s from outlets like the Yoga Journal which is not about Canadian Yogis. It’s about American yoga so all of a sudden everything we come to know about yoga industries, is American
In terms of energy and healing, your bring a lot of healing energy to your classes. How much does Reiki play a part in how you instruct, and to that extent, are you able to feel when certain students’ energy in your class are completely off or out of alignment and how does that reflect back to you as an instructor?
How the principles of Reiki have developed in the last 100 years mirrors some deeper principles of the yoga practice. So the practices merge, bringing an overall connection to a greater energy that’s intrinsically good.
With Reiki it allows us to tune in to being present. When we think about the big giant universe, we don’t think about a big daunting, out of control thing and I’m just this little tiny ant that can get smushed. That’s so negative! We think of this big free space that we live in. In Sanskrit we call it ‘pure free forever’.
So Reiki is becoming a tunnel to channel energy from one human to another human, because it needs a kind of connection, a bridge.
Energy reception is something that we humans get from just our natural sensitivities. I think everyone has it. For example, we all of a sudden get into a busy subway and we all tense up. Then we go into our own world and then we’re more tense in our own world, not even realizing that we just got tense because there are 100 people on this train and it’s 4 o’clock and everyone is exhausted.
And so, walking in the yoga room I can always, being in that sensitivity of energy awareness, get that vibe of oh, is it kind of a tougher class, are people coming in with a tougher energy? Like on a grey day, you can sometimes feel the energy is low. So being energy receptive can get you to be energy sensitive.
How does energy receptiveness help you teach?
Energy receptiveness allows me to find the intuitive guide to move through by seeing what’s going on in the room rather than pushing an agenda. I’m never making yoga just a workout. I think that what a big approach is, for me and a handful of other yoga teachers, is how to bring the challenge, while still tune into that ease, the oneness, the higher side of the philosophy of yoga.
Even when it’s a “Power” class, it can still be powerful in the little slow moves, or if you move a little more mindful and then it becomes a whole way of thinking of how to actually be powerful in life.
I think that’s where hugely, getting into reiki has helped me as a teacher, a facilitator, in building that intuitive sense.
That intuitive response helps in my camping retreats because you’re in the forest, you’re in the woods, it’s raining, it’s a hard day, someone’s hurt or you’re just hanging out and relaxing; make sure the conversations don’t steer in a negative way because it’s the sunset and it’s beautiful, and that’s why we’re here. Intuition helps in that sense too.
YOGA AND NATURE
So talking about your retreats – some may have personal resistance to the idea of the uncomfortable, being out in the woods for 3 days with people who you may not know well for example.
What do you think people’s biggest challenges are when working to obtain a spiritual connection specifically with nature – do you see resistance responses from participants? Do you find that’s common and how would you overcome that resistance or do you have any advice for someone who does want to do something like this?
When it comes to something like camping, where its perceived out of our comfort zone because we live a very kind of structured life, especially in city life but even if you live in small town, you’re in your home, you lock your doors. When it comes to camping we may think “I’m in the wilderness, I’m away and sleeping on the floor in this little nylon tent” and our mind turns to fear. Once we let that seed of fear in, it’s always so hard to break it, or that fear of the discomfort. The thing is with camping, we as humans did it before; it’s how we got here.
The retreats are a relatively small period of time, and you’re going to bring yourself in some way, shape or form to the edge of discomfort.
The last retreat I did, I left my dry shoes in the car, but I was the retreat leader, so immediately i knew I couldn’t show that this was a bother, so now I’m here for 4 days with these people and you can think it’s the worst.
It was actually even kind of a wet trip and it wasn’t the worst! I had extra socks and other things, and it all worked out! In every way it actually teaches you how to handle challenge. People don’t think of a retreat, or yoga even as something that brings us to an edge, but it is in an edge because that’s where we understand ourselves. That’s where we can see fight or flight. If we never start to get to a challenge, we never know what we can do.
That’s where the retreats really came from, it’s something that was different then just going away a kind of created, privileged experience. Most of the yoga & physical stuff is actually the paddling, portaging, hiking, the sleeping on the floor, waking up and dealing with cold nights, cooking all your food on the campfire, wanting to check your phone but there’s no reception. Then you remind yourself, it’s only 3 more days, 2 more days. You go on the challenge of this trip but every moment you’re on it, if you realize that every minute you’re one step closer to getting out, and then you realize that complaining about these things out here is not going to help you!
Then at home, on wet rainy day when you have to go to work, it’s actually better, then when you’re camping on a wet rainy day. It brings you into this perspective and opens you up, which is why I like going back (into the city), because it’s like a check in, that’s why when I travel I’d rather backpack and stay somewhere that’s a little more rustic and a little bit more social because I feel like I learn more, I experience more.
It’s how we grow and how we learn. We choose when we want to confront a wall or discomfort, but that’s how we grow, getting to that edge. That’s what the retreats were born out; what they are for. How to give something a little bit different, that keeps people at an edge and still offers yoga. When you meditate in nature it’s beautiful, it’s those quiet moments, you see a great blue heron fly across or a beaver, all the magical stuff that happens when you are in nature! It’s part of being there (unless you get to a secluded cabin, that would be great too!)