Christine Russell is the co-founder of 889 Yoga in Toronto and was fresh from a week-long retreat led by spiritual guru Gabrielle Bernstein when we had a chance to talk about her life as a mom. With her mind and spirit cracked open from her week of self-discovery, Christine is fearless and frank about what’s in her heart for herself and the community of mamas she’s come to know since having her own girls, Waverley, 2-years old, and Winslowe, 9 months old. As the nature of her retreat suggests, this mom is a yogi with business prowess. Her studio and shop, which she opened with her sister Emily over 10 years ago, is a homegrown success story that’s equal parts spiritual journey and the result of her business acumen. A graduate of the Richard Ivey School of Business and from the M.I.T/Entrepreneurs Organization Masters of Entrepreneurship, she’s in the moment but also has her eye on the future. New additions to her repertoire is representing doTERRA essential oils and stay tuned to an online community elevating moms to make subtle daily changes that add up to quantum shifts in their lives.
“Just because I’m a yogi doesn’t mean I’m always relaxed and zen. Like every mom, I have those moments when I feel totally crazy, like a multi-tasking maniac, and just straight-up tired. And I’m not embarrassed to admit that. It’s human. It’s part of being a mom and I’m not perfect. I really believe we have to come together as mothers and abandon perfection and abandon perceiving others as more perfect than you. As moms, often we feel like we’re not good enough or there’s never enough time, or when I just finish this or do that, then I will feel like this or look like that. There’s this notion that there’s this perfect place we’ll all arrive at ‘someday’ when, in actuality, all we have to do is start feeling good and loving ourselves today.
I love looking at other moms’ Instagram feeds that are beautifully curated. I appreciate them artistically, it’s quite literally art, but we also have got to get real and know what we see on Pinterest and Instagram are most often edited moments, not everyday life. Listen, I’m not posting an insta-story of my two-year old having a freak-out either but I think sharing our stories authentically with each other, instead of hiding behind our own wounds and the appearance of perfection, is where we need to journey together as mamas. Sharing with not only our friends but women at large is what will help us to channel our power and rise together as women.
I’m going to begin by sharing one of my stories. Before the birth of my first little one, I had two miscarriages. It was such a deep loss and I grieved them both so hard. I was lying down beside my husband at my 12-week ultrasound, when suddenly a different doctor came back in the room and said, ‘I have news you’re not going to want to hear: Your baby doesn’t have a heartbeat.’ I was shattered. After I went through the physical loss that followed, I began to process what had happened and so many thoughts crept into my head: Is my body going to make a baby? Is there something wrong with me? What did I do wrong? I felt so alone and I felt so much shame and fear. I kept my fears so close; I think it’s because we’re conditioned to believe our bodies are supposed to behave a certain way and when it doesn’t, we’ve done something wrong somehow.
At the time I could only think of two women in my life who I knew had miscarriages and I reached out to them to talk. I also created my own ritual with my husband to say goodbye and over time I recovered. Slowly I started telling my story and met so many other women who experienced this deep loss. Through this connection I realized everything I was thinking and feeling was normal. I think acceptance and surrender is what helped me let go of the sadness and heartache.
“We all have days that aren’t perfect in our lives and it’s in how we handle and process them that we’re able to heal….with daily practice, including yoga, meditation, and prayer, I worked through a lot of my anxieties and have had huge internal shifts.”
We all have days that aren’t perfect in our lives and it’s in how we handle and process them that we’re able to heal. I woke up for the first seven years of my business with a knot the size of a ball of yarn in my belly every day. With daily practice, including yoga, meditation, and prayer, I worked through a lot of my anxieties and have had huge shifts. But it takes work and a commitment to a daily practice. I really believe a day-to-day practice for moms is essential to thriving and feeling good.
I commit to a 10- to 20-minute daily ritual, whether I feel on top of the world or like the ship is sinking. It usually includes some combination of a few exercises: A short breathing exercise, moving my body through some yoga poses, seated meditation, prayer, essential oils and journaling. If I’m feeling really anxious or just ‘off’, I get some essential oil going in my diffuser and do ‘breath of fire’ which includes rapid inhales and exhales while pumping my abdomen and it releases whatever tension is built up. Yoga is also an incredible way to remove blocks in the body. Different events and stressors in our life often end up manifesting as physical symptoms and yoga helps you reorganize that energy and help it flow harmoniously again.
I like downward dog to release my lower back. I also love lying on my back over a bolster (cushion) with my arms and my heart open to the sky. When energy moves freely in the spine, it will wake up the body’s prana (life force) and always leaves me feeling re-energized. This is especially great for working moms as the combo of holding our babies, driving and slumped at our computers has us hunched over a lot. Opening the spine and the heart reverses this pattern and five minutes in this pose can make a huge shift in the way you feel.
Meditation is also really key for me. Just a short meditation practice can drop your cortisol, which is your stress hormone, reprogram your brain and get you back into your body. With a drop of essential oil, I get on my meditation cushion and tap each pad of my finger with my thumbs while saying, ‘Peace Begins With Me.’ It’s a beautiful way to remind myself that finding serenity is an inside job. I literally feel my central nervous system slow down and it gives me time to reconnect with myself. Getting Zen isn’t about waiting to go to a retreat or taking a trip to Bali. It’s about starting a practice today and not being afraid to tune into yourself. I think it’s the best thing you can do to honour and harness your power as a mother, as a boss and as a wife and partner. ”
HOME TOUR A light and white palette keeps this family home cosy and calm
“I absolutely love white for everything! My entire home and yoga studio are decorated in white. Colours have an effect on your subconscious and white makes me feel peaceful and connected. White attracts light and it also deflects negativity. I feel so alive and fresh in a white space. And I don’t mind inevitable little fingerprints. I sort of love them.” P.S. The feature wall behind the bed is actually a rug from Red Carpet & Rug. Love that idea.
A meditation corner in the bedroom is mommy’s zone. The master bedroom is a third floor addition to a house that she’s lived in for over 9 years. “We finished renovating just a couple of weeks before my first was born. It was nerve-wracking.”
A closer look at her altar reveals all natural soothing aids from mama earth. “Amethyst quartz is a meditative and calming stone. It enhances intuition and spirituality. Citrine quartz is for abundance and it also clears negative energy.”
“California is a special place for me. That’s where I met my husband, that’s where we were engaged and that’s also where we got pregnant with Waverley. When she was born, he bought this work shot in Malibu from artist and photographer Christine Flynn for me.” FYI: Christine is a Love, Emoem mom. Read her story about changing careers and becoming a full-time artist here.
The living room embraces Christine’s love of white and gives your senses a warm hug. What you don’t see? The girls’ toys and craft corner but trust it exists. “I’ve surrendered the living room and the kitchen to the kids. If the rest of the house is in disarray, that’s okay because I try to keep our treehouse [what she affectionately calls the master suite] as our sanctuary.” Couch, Elte; blanket and rug, CB2; and plant and pot, Old Faithful Shop.
The colour white offers up a sense of clarity and terrariums in the master bathroom feature succulents from Crown Flora and are planted alongside quartz crystals to help clear the metaphysical air.
The showpiece in the foyer is a vintage mirror that belonged to her grandmother (along with her husband’s longboards which he still uses regularly).
Waverley’s bedroom door is adorned with pompoms made by her baby shower guests. “My friend [and jewellery designer] Jenny Bird came up with the idea. It’s such a lovely reminder of a special day.”
Both girls’ rooms share a serene palette and are accessorized with gifts and reminders from friends and family.
MY FAVOURITE THINGS
“I use the doTERRA Verage skincare line. I’m loving that it is 100% plant technology derived from essential oils and there’s no synthetic crap! The plant combination is divine: It fuses the essential oils of basil, the oil of renewal; melaleuca, the oil of boundaries; and wild orange, the oil of abundance. I also chose it because it’s rated below 2 on the Skin Deep rating system which deems it exceptionally clean skincare!”
A custom made dream catcher is from Electric Love NYC. Hanging at the base of the bed, it’s a two-in-one design that catches both her dreams and her husband’s. Embedded with 4 clear quartz crystals, it helps encourage a clear mind, heart and spirit.
Outtakes from a recent photo shoot with LA-based photographer Emily Ulmer who visits Toronto regularly for shoots with local families. “She is really loving and casual and her doc-style photos are so real. We loved sharing the intimacy of our home and our family with her.”
Christine’s glimmering must-haves are as chic as her home. The Rock & Raw pendant with crystal quartz is a gift from her sister (who wears one too) and to match her wedding band, she had another ring set with her grandmother’s sapphires.
“I journal a couple times a week after I meditate. I write down any thoughts that arise and it helps me gain perspective on whatever challenges or stresses I am facing.” She often turns to A Woman’s Book of Meditation to inspire her practices. “I open it up and trust I will land on the page and practice that I need most that day.”
Her selection of cookbooks fuel her diet which is about balancing her vibrations and staying healthy. “When I was younger, I made food choices because of my vanity, now I make them to feed my soul. For example, I avoid sugar and gluten because they don’t make me feel good; they interfere with my connection to spirit and my best self.” Also on her must-read list is the just-released Joyous Detox by Joyous Health to which Christine was a contributor.