Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A New Starter

I have started the year calmly excited to be taking on new challenges with vision and discipline. 

This of course is what we all want especially in moments of clarity and motivation, but with so many distractions it becomes easy to lose touch with the journey of our true Self, lost in the drama that surrounds us. With yoga we come back each time with our Sadhana(daily practice) to the natural and still state for which each of us was designed. This year I am calmly excited to be sharing yoga with others. Other teachers, other students and in all encounters in professional and personal life. 

With the advent of starting to teach yoga, I have created this new space to inspire and energise myself in the journey of Yoga. While I'll keep my old blog up for now, this new space will be a blank canvas of sorts for the years to come. 

Shanti (peace)

Santosha Yoga

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Yoga for everyone

Some people say they are not flexible enough to do Yoga. Yoga is for these people because it builds flexibility. Some people say they are too busy for meditation. Meditation is good for these people too because it calms and relaxes a frantic mind. I believe Yoga is for everyone, even the queen, children and really busy people. Join us on Sunday to celebrate the peace, understanding and flexibility which yoga brings ourselves and the world around us. 

Please call to book in.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Calming the Mind

The practice of Yoga and meditation teaches us to calm the thoughts of the mind so that we can achieve peace and clarity. It does not force this calm by some trick or magic. The practice of yoga naturally brings out awareness to the present moment, to our body and to our minds activity.
The mind is rooted in physical reality. For this reason it is susceptible to all kinds of turmoil and disruption. The food we eat, the state of our health, the pace of our lives all impact on the quality of our thoughts. 
We have a choice, however, to be taken on the roller coaster if each thought or collection of thoughts, or we can rise above with the realisation that we are more than our thoughts. We are the observer of our thoughts too. We can watch them as they come and go just like they always do. We can take a step back, bring our awareness to the breath becoming witness to our thoughts without belonging to them or letting them define us. Through yoga we cultivate and strengthen our awareness of the activity of our minds. When we strengthen this ability, we don't need to control our minds activity. We don't need to "calm down" or "think positive" or "look on the bright side". When we rise above the attachment to our thoughts we know that each thought can pass and we, the observer, rooted in stillness will continue to watch and practice preace.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Surya Namaskara - Sun Salutations

"Suryatma Jagatastasthukhascha,"

The sun is the soul of all that moves and also of all that is stable.
Surya Namaskara is a sequence of Asanas(yogic postures) that has a powerful influence on the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of those who practice it as part of their daily Sadhana.
Consisting of 12 poses it is completed as a fluid sequence which takes the body through various forward and backward bends as well as two partial inversions. Whilst these asana(physical postures) can be practiced individually, Surya Namaskara brings them all together into a dynamic and energising practice. 
There are 12 positions in the sequence and a rhythmic flow will develop with confidence and regular practice. It is said to be a very complete and rounded sequence of Yoga, activating and stimulating the mind, the body and its various energy centres(Chakras) and channels(Nadis). I have found that a regular practice brings me greater balance, confidence and energy. Over time it has opened and lifted my upper body posture.
My children find it amusing to watch and can't help themselves but to climb through and around me when I practice it in front of them.
When recently recovering from an injury, it was this aspect of my Yoga practice I missed the most.
Recommended for beginners who have tested their flexibility through some practice of Yoga, Surya Namaskara is practiced facing east, with the deliberate cultivation of a sense of reverence for the Sun and all that it gives us as individuals and as a planetary species. All life on earth is dependent on the activity and energetic action of the sun.

When we maintain Sun Salutations in our regular practice, we energise our bodies and cultivate a balanced state of consciousness and invite illumination.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Two Weeks In

I am two weeks in to my Yoga teacher training. The work is challenging and very stimulating. The learning is experiential and the practical and reflective elements of the program synthesise well with the theoretical and historical.

I have been challenged and grown like no other time in my life. Contributing to this is the daily journalling. It brings opportunities to track and commit to resolutions and reflections to critical moments or challenges. I have learnt a lot about the fuels to my negative reactions at home and work. I am discovering connections within my own mental and emotional world that are astounding. The world around me is changing as a result of my internal world changing. It is exciting and inspiring. So far i have kept up well with my homework and my 5:00am starts for Asana are getting less of a drag. In fact I am sure I would miss one if it were not there for a day.

I have begun to think about how the practice of Yogasana influences so many other aspects of the mind, body and emotional state. It is incredible how interconnected it all is and how powerful the practice of Yoga is in drawing it all together to sing harmoniously.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Eating Well

I recently blogged about paying attention to what I eat and when. I was investigating the link between the food I would eat at the weekend and the way I felt on a Monday morning. I said I'd post on how my experiment went and I didn't follow through. So readers, here it is, the results from my experiment to change the way I eat.

First up I did not follow the experiment very well. Of course the results will not have validity, reliability, integrity or any other of the rigours of science.

This is no surprise to me. I regularly break the rules. As it was I would try to eat well at the weekend and take stock of how I felt come Monday. Was there a link between my attitude of excess that impacted on my emotional and energy state?

Leaving the experiment behind after the first weekend, I have gradually cultivated a deeper understanding of how food interacts with my body in general. I recently took a holiday from work and took a fast and cleanse in the days leading up to it. incidentally it is almost 3 years since I did the same thing around the time that I first discovered Yoga.

This time I cut out sugar and all gluten. I reduced my meat intake during the cleanse but I have since increased this. The first day and a half of the fast were difficult but on day 2 I was overcome with a tremendous sense of energy and power reminding me how food is not the only sustainer of the body. Adjusting back to food, I took my time and started with bland and simple things, moving on to fruits and vegetables before introducing complex foods. After some period of withdrawal and the usual detox side effects, which are quite uncomfortable, I was able see the results of my change, with increased energy and a greater clarity of thought. More stability in my emotional state across days.

I have since kept this up and had made some observations about what made it work:

  • My change came about from a place of deep care for myself as body and mind.
  • I took care to observe and record the changes that were occurring in my body both positive and negative.
  • I began to share my insights, observations and learnings with others around me, even inspiring others to take this on.
  • I took an interest in what others were doing for themselves in becoming healthier(turns out there were many in my circle that were trying the same things)
Have you ever made a positive change and surprised yourself?
What helped you make the change?
What else in your life could this be applied to?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Yoga of Work

This week is my second week back from some time off work over Christmas. It was a good break with a whole lot of gardening and plenty of time with my two children. I was able to do some reflecting on how my mind and body have been in the later half of the year, most especially at and during work hours. I was able to make an affirmation about this:

"I do the work I love"

This was a powerful statement and I was drawn to it. It has been interesting to cast my attention at work and how I can practice more mindful work and how the tools and practices of Yoga can make work a happier, less worrisome and intense place to be. With a few small changes to our attitude we can notice the promise of greater things to come for ourselves at work. Work can be frought with battles and threats despite our best attempts to create balanced and healthy workplaces. Many of us regularly manage difficult and sensitive situations through our chosen professions. It can be tiring and saddening if we are not on guard from this limiting view. There is another more productive way to view it all however, and those who are able to engage this gear, are the most blessed. Their work is challenging and rewarding. The challenge of work is an achievable one that fills us with a sense of purpose.

I had forgotten how enjoyable work has always been for me. With just some small changes to the way I react to situations and problems or to how I give priority, I was given a glimpse of something I once had that made me love my work.

I look forward to having this affirmation for a very long time, regardless of the work I'll be doing.

"I do the work I love"

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Affirming Your World

I recently got to thinking about affirmations and how they work. After reading the book by Donald Walsch, Conversations With God I have considered how the way we think about the world around us has a direct link to how the world around us shows up.

In basic terms our thoughts about the world create the world around us. This is fundamental to how we have got where we are and how we continue to get more of what we've had before. Relationships, experiences and dramas, tragic or positive. These things turn up again and again even when we think we have learned our lesson. The thought patterns are still the same. For some this is understood as energy radiating out from within us and attracting the stuff of our minds and of course the stuff of our bodies and spirit selves.

It makes sense then that many religions and Yoga practice advocate for a healthy body and mind both in nutrition and in conditioning. Many non-western understandings of the self do not distinguish between the self as body and the self as mind or spirit. They are intimately linked to each other and they sing the same song, whether thats the divine song expressing the higher self or a sad song filled with regret, cruelty or threat.

Our posture can impact on our expression to the world and our communication with others.  Through our body language and even more subtly through vibrations of energy we create messages about how the world is, how the world should be and how we should look and be within that world. The configuration we find our minds and bodies in has an impact on the kinds of gifts or curses our world presents.

This has been a revelation for me over the weeks. A revelation that settled down from an intellectual understanding to more of an experiential one. I am beginning to experience the power of this in my life and while of course the hope for a fantastic and even divine life is there, also dawning is a realisation that the negative patterns that have existed over time can be a challenging to overcome.

Have you stopped to think lately what wonders you are creating for yourself and your life? Are there ways in which you can better express the life you were meant to live?

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Time for Kirtan

This week I participated in a Kirtan at my local Yoga school. It was the end of year occasion which also celebrated the time and effort of graduating Yoga teachers this year. It was of course a special celebration for all who gathered together. Kirtan is a traditional form of call and response chanting that invokes aspects of our higher selves by chanting and calling forth the names and presence of Hindu deities. Even if you have no particular faith or if you choose to express your belief in a higher power through another god, or no god at all, there is something to experience and take away from a Kirtan. It is a special nourishing and uplifting practice that will enhance your experience of Yoga in new ways. You can find out more about Kirtan on the web but you may also be lucky enough have a local yoga school or meditation centre where you can ask about or try out a Kirtan.

I started going to Kirtan about a year and a half ago, first on my own, then with my first child and later in a role as kirtankara, who leads the singing. When I first began, it seemed a lot like the experience of playing or enjoying music together with others. I enjoyed the rhythm and the sense of being in harmony with others expressing the same song. It was uplifting and connecting, and of course it had a most joyous aspect to it, leaving me feeling more confident and with clearer voice.

It has become more devotional as I continued the practice with a growing sense of Kirtan as an act of singing Gods name and at the same time cultivating or invoking the presence of God within the room and within the heart centre. There are of course other benefits to the chanting itself which have to do with the vibrational energy of the ancient sanskrit words. This has nothing to do with any particular god.

It is a chance to let go, to truly experience that which we hold as our higher self and the higher selves of countless other beings both in the room and across the universe. This is a very important practice and awareness right now in our world and I am fortunate to have the chance to join in the singing.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Kid Yoga

I took my first Yoga class this week. I wasn't nervous at all. In fact the participants were easily known to me and they followed my every instruction all the way through.

My son who is 3 and his little Sister 1.8-ish gathered in my studio to draw and watch me make music. They also like playing with the stones that are in my meditation area. I have to teach them both to be respectful but I also remember that it is good for them to learn about them and Ganesha and Buddha. After they had had enough, and singled this with some over the top rough and tumble, I switched the music from King Tubby to something that would grab their attention and called class.

Both followed my lead and stood with hands close at their side. We went through various poses and I called their attention to the breath for the first time. The youngest mostly liked to crawl on her belly but the older one followed through very well. I kept going and we even did some Bastrika and a 3 breath eyes closed meditation. We even threw in an OM and they both said they would come back next time.

It was great fun and it definitely got us onto the same page for the visit Granny and Grandpa's house.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Refreshing Tired Spaces

The weekend was busy for me. I overcommitted and under-slept. As a result I crashed in a heap at about 2:30 on a Monday afternoon, right in the middle of a meeting. There was no hope for the rest of the afternoon, but I managed turn this one around with a restful day following. I dedicated some of the day to cleaning and preparing my practice space at home.

Drawing on a focus from this term's class; Sauca, I gave the room I practice in a good clean and reset the small meditation space I had created some time ago but neglected somewhat since.

Later I did some searching around for articles on this and came up with following:

  1. Altar your Yoga Space
  2. Ideas for a Sacred Space
  3. How to Create a Sacred Space

There is not too much I would like to add to my small area, however I hope to come across some ideas in the coming weeks. Here is a list of what I have:

Ganesha Statue
Some stones of various sorts
A musical frog, who I call Grena
Sometimes a Candle
Sometimes some incense
Table Cloth that needs some work

I have had fun doing this and it has helped me to gain a better perspective on things in addition to refreshing my practice.

When last did you refresh your practice or perhaps your outlook in this way? Were you overdue or is it a routine you have well embedded?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Satya and the Creation of Harmony

I've been thinking this week about the Yama of Satya or truthfulness. This topic was introduced by my teacher during Monday's class and I was gifted a good read here which expanded on Satya as a powerful principle that has great harmonising effect on the world around us. It got me to thinking and growing more aware during practice of how we all have a role in creating harmony in the world and that our impact is greater than we often think. 
When we express truth and speak with restraint and for the benefit of other humans, we can exert a powerful effect on others and inspire them to do the same. This benefits us all and as a community we experience growth.

We can underestimate of forget how we influence and change the world beyond the sphere of our physical influence or close relations. Our media and the structures of our society keep us thinking we are here to consume products and produce work, but actually there is more to it than that. Isn't there?


(image courtesy)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Commitment to Practice and Transformation

I recently chose to enrol in teacher training which begins in the new year. I am privileged to be under the instruction of a fantastic and well respected local teacher, however the thought of managing the commitment is somewhat daunting to say the least.
This afternoon as I completed the enrolment form, I paused at the section saying "why do you want to become a yoga teacher?".
Surely I had thought of this. After all I had laid the groundwork for getting on with a year's worth of intensive training. I had to know why I was doing what I was about to do. What had brought me to commit my resources, my own and family's time. The answer was not so easy to come by. I love Yoga and I have experienced its benefits, but why this and why now?

  • I had to do something and this felt right
  • I was doing it for the learning opportunity itself. 
  • I feel drawn to my teacher and drawn to the journey that this course of study and practice would bring.
  • I want to teach Yoga, but actually more so I want to help build a wider commitment to the practice of Yoga in my local and global community. In addition to the teaching of Yoga, is the transformative learning Yoga facilitates that expands out from ourselves and into the world, if we are brave enough to express it.
Tomorrow I hand in my form and prepare for the Journey ahead, a little scared yes, but excited and inspired by the possibilities that await.

I am so grateful to Elizabeth at Joy Through Yoga, for her last couple of posts including Personal Growth and Path To Inner Voice, which have come to me today with such synchronicity. Thank You Elizabeth.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Yoga for Young People

A friend of mine is looking at how yoga can be introduced to young people in schools. It got me thinking and looking into how others have gone about doing this either individually or as part of an organisation. I stumbled on an interesting project in San Francisco where just that kind of work is going on.

At RISE, instructors join with schools and their students to deliver activities that build resilience, self esteem life skills and non destructive coping mechanisms through the practice of Yoga. It seems like a great project with a dedicated staff of teachers who aim to "empower adolescents to be agents of change in the world" through a curriculum that aims to re-engage students.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Refreshing your Practice

My teachers often remind me to properly prepare for each Asana. To not rush into them but to move mindfully into the next practice. This morning I reflected on this as I practiced. I also considered how this approach can sometimes help us revitalise our practice when we are losing the interest and intensity we hope to have in our practice.

  • Taking time to note the breathe whilst before entering into a stretch or starting a dynamic pose.
  •  Breathing into the stretch as we are at full extension
  • Focusing our attention on the breath, as natural, as timed with the movement, as movement or,
  • Using a breathing technique such as Ujjayi 
It is unrealistic to think that we can maintain the bliss and intensity of a class or a special retreat 100% of the time, however there are useful and necessary ways of revitalising ourselves and our practice so that we maintain growth and development in our journey. I am feeling my way through a few ways of doing this at the moment. Tell me about some of your ideas by leaving a comment message.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Just Putting It Out There

I have been thinking about how the universe can provide if we ask of it. I wrote in my last post about the power of regular practice to engage and connect you with the world outside, the universe etc.

Forming connections, finding synchronicity, uniting with others on a similar journey through chance encounters, or growing close with them, is something I attribute to the effects of the practice of Yoga. Of course there are other pathways to this.

I have a growing sense right now of the universe as a great provider of abundance, if we are attuned to receiving it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

2 Reasons why I Started Yoga and 5 Reasons Why I Keep Doing it

Reasons I started Yoga

(before trying it)

1. Stress: I started yoga because of stress. It was a last resort on a downward spiral that was heading for a disaster. The pressures of work were not great. The pressures of home life were somewhat bad but not overwhelming. All in all, the reaction my body had taken to the outside world was disproportionate to the threat posed. Something had to be done.

(after my first class)
2. Connection to Body: The first thing that struck me about yoga was how it put me in touch with my body. I had practiced buddhist meditation without great rigour for years before that and had experimented to good effect with guided meditation. I was struck and motivated however with the connection that practice gave me to my body and how this was missing from my everyday existence.

Reasons I Keep Doing It

1. Breathing: The deep slow breathing that accompanies the practice and an effect of the practice is one of the major motivators for me to continue with my yoga. There is such a close link between the pace, rhythm and depth of my breathing and the degree to which I am either stressed and frayed or relaxed and in growth. 

2. Inner World: Yoga connects me to my inner world. This effect has emerged steadily since I began practicing in ernest about a year ago. I must be cautious to maintain my meditation practice through this, because the effect can be disruptive and chaotic if I am not careful but on the whole it is a journey I look forward to continuing. 

3. Outer World: Yoga connects me to the outer world. This effect is true both of the natural world and of the human world, where connections start to seem possible that were not possible or visible before.

If you can think of some of your own reasons for either starting yoga or keeping up, please let me know by posting a comment below.

Illustrating Yoga

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Why I do Yoga Outdoors

Here are some reasons to do yoga outdoors when you get a chance. This follows a great day where I live. The sunshine and warmth gave me a chance to catch my daily practice on the back deck with a couple of sleeping kids.

1. There is more noise but it sounds better. 
Don't let the silence of a serene looking photo or the gentle music of a documentary clip deceive you. Yoga outdoors is pretty noisy, but even the sound of a neighbour felling a tree can be somehow ambient enough to sit in the distance alongside the birds, planes, kids, cows and wind. This kind of noise beat indoor interruptions like TV, radio, conversation and of course the sound of an email or text message coming through.

2. It reminds you what you are really a part of.
Doing yoga outdoors can help remind us of our connection to the earth.  Being more in contact with the sounds, textures and sensations of the outside world can give us a strong enough reminder that we are not somehow aliens landing on a hostile world that needs shunning and walling out. We are intimately linked to everything around us and depend heavily on the balance of nature for our survival.

3. The fresh air
The air outdoors is better for us than indoor air according to the EPA. Even in urban and enclosed environments, the majority of contaminants and and pollutants is indoors. The increased movement of outdoor air also keeps it... you guessed it...fresher.

4. It just feels right
There is somehow a sense that being outdoors is the way that Yoga is meant to be practiced. After doing it, and feeling the effects above, there is a sense that this how it is meant to be.

Let me know your favourite spot to practice Yoga outdoors. Feel free to share your reasons too.