The things you can’t see changing in a yoga practice (the yoga of a skin cancer).

In yoga, we feel shifts and changes in our practices; on Monday my balance was great, Tuesday I was shaking like a leaf on one leg, Wednesday my hamstrings were long, Thursday I was stiff as a plank of wood etc. We recognise and accept that we are different each time we come to the mat, we are organic, we are evolving

A sustained, continued practice sees us make great physical leaps, when I first started the floor was so far away in uttanasana (standing forward bend), then it was close, then I found it, then I had to take my arms wide as I could lay my palms flat, my back still rounded out, now my back is reasonably flat and head nearly touches my shins (most days ;)) . The physicality of my practice is continually evolving and often a step forward is proceeded by a step backwards. I’ve noticed this so much more since the birth of my daughter 16 months ago, while my strength and flexibility are probably ‘better’ than before I was pregnant, some asana have escaped me completely, such as padmasana (lotus pose) it’ll be there one day.

Recently, it is the yoga off the mat that has me thinking about change, how yoga changes us. This thought process has come about through a change I recently went through, I had a skin cancer removed. No big deal, except it kind of was- 11 stitches in my face 2 x internal, 9 x external. The face I’ve known for 30 years, the face while not the most perfect, I’m rather fond of. Its the face my soul resides underneath, the face that my two favorite people my husband and daughter know, love and trust.

My face has changed forever and what surprises me is, I’m ok with it. What has this got to do with yoga i hear you ask? My answer, heaps! How I was barely attached to the vanity of it, even now, while it still looks angry and is healing and people stare at it and when strangers ask me what happened, I view their curiosity with compassion. (ok, I’ve had my moments where I’ve been a little attached to the vanity but I love this Ram Dass quote In most of our human relationships, we spend much of our time reassuring each other that our costumes of identity are on straight. My besties and husband had to do a little reassuring)

When I first had it cut out and the stitches were tight and painful, I didn’t wallow, I felt so blessed that the dermatologist had found it, it was removed and that as a person that grew up in harsh Australian desert was having her first spot cut out at 30.

Each day as I rub rosehip oil into the long red and purple healing scar with gratitude I think about how lucky I am to be able to have this scar to encourage my daughter to wear a hat and sunscreen when she plays outside and part of me secretly hopes she will think the scar is pretty cool, maybe even a bit like Harry Potter’s. I have gratitude I have this experience to be more careful outside in the sun, gratitude for the guts to wear fabulous hats. Gratitude that maybe my story will make you mindful of any changes to your skin and your sun exposure.

It is yoga that has taught me to not be so attached to the ‘shell’, yoga that has taught me to be compassionate to find gratitude and accept things and the way they unfold. It is this experience that has had me stop and go, wow I’ve really changed, yoga has changed me.

Thanks, yoga.

Namaste- don’t forget to slip, slop, slap! xxx

Stitches

My Pregnancy and Yoga- the love affair continues.

Pregnancy is a funny time. As each baby and person is unique it is expected that of course our experiences as women during pregnancy will also be individual. My pregnancy has been up and down, the down times I believe have been a result of nutritional deficiencies, particularly vitamin B, which is essential to feel good!

Ustrasana 28.5 weeks

Overall, the best way I can describe pregnancy is a period of ‘ripe-ness’. The body swells and ripens even before the baby is even a baby but a tiny little cluster of cells rapidly multiplying, the breasts take on a heaviness and the hips begin to spread there is a physical ripening. There is also an emotional ripening, my yoga teacher refers to it as a ‘maturation,’ there is a knowingness of what your body needs; rest, foods and what it doesn’t need. I have had a level of intuition about my own needs that I have never had before. Creativity, patience and space have all ripened through my pregnancy so far.

So here I am in my 31st  week of my first pregnancy reflecting on the role of my yoga throughout the past 31 weeks, I have often referred to my knowledge of yoga as my pregnancy toolbox.

To begin with that intuition took over and I stepped back from my practice for the first 15 or so weeks of my pregnancy. In the first trimester our bodies create a ‘nest’ and perfect little environment for a baby to grow. We want to baby to implant and implant well. Often during this early period women are sick and are filled with a heavy tiredness unlike any tiredness felt before. It is time to be inward, restful and eat as well as can be managed; this can be difficult if all you desire is simple carbohydrates and fruit!

I practiced only light asana/postures with a focus on creating space through the pelvis, my body felt heavy and my regular more rigorous practice fell away in place of sleep and rest. I often went to my ‘yoga toolbox’ as my digestion suffered terribly during the first trimester- progesterone is a powerful hormone! I used asana to relieve gas and bloating, savasana and pranayama to help soothe the anxiety that plagued me early in the first trimester.

Pasvakonasana 29.5 weeks

Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science was a big part of my first trimester, each morning I practiced abhyanga or self massage as another way of dealing with my anxiety. I also lovingly prepared kitchari for myself when my digestion was very congested, and my agni, or digestive flame was very low due to the hard work my body was under.

Kitchari is a mung dahl, rice dish made with low amount of spice and lots of ghee* making it very nutritious and easy to digest. Kitchari is often the only thing eaten during an Ayurvedic cleanse and it is a wonderful thing to eat when you are wanting to give the body extra rest as it is so easily digested.  (If anyone would like my pregnancy kitchari recipe I would be happy to share 🙂

Pregnancy has increased my understanding of the science of Ayurveda deeply, there are other blog posts touching on Ayurveda but the science is built around the three doshas which are constitutions or mind/body types. (a quick google search of dosha or ayurveda will explain more)

Pregnancy is an increased Kapha time for me, the increase in fluid and weight, the love of sleep and food- these are all qualities of Kapha the earthy dosha. I am generally a predominantly Pitta or fire dosha (mind you , this is still present in the heartburn!) I love the slower paced nurturing kapha that has increased in me, the daily kitchen rituals and heavy slumbers. Women often notice an increase in mucous during pregnancy- this is due to the increase in estrogen which stimulates the mucous membranes but also the increase in fluid during the kapha time.  Our dosha is determined by our parents dosha’s at the time of conception and I can’t help but wonder how my husband and I’s constitutions will determine our baby’s.

Sirsasana nearly 28 weeks

Back to the yoga, second trimester the time on the mat was spent learning how to negotiate the new body, not only was my usually pear sized uterus now the size of a small soccer ball, I had 40% more blood! Lots of passive inversions to help with the circulation: viparita karani, adho mukkha svanasana. On the mat I felt relatively awkward, heavy and weak but as the baby grew and put more pressure on my body asana became more important to protect my spine and keep my strength.

Just a note on the second trimester, I was under the misguided impression that at 13 weeks the ‘babymoon’ of the second trimester starts. I didn’t feel like I could get through a day without a nap until week 17! As I said in the beginning pregnancy is such an individual experience some women never get the second trimester energy burst, mine didn’t really show up until the third and some women feel energetic and productive throughout their whole pregnancies.

So where is my practice at now? My practice is at its strongest since I fell pregnant. My teacher says yoga is not a work out, it is a work in, when I long to participate in my nightly kitchen ritual and prepare a delicious meal but can’t summon the energy after a long day on my feet at work, I practice yoga. This is the wonderful thing about practicing in a restorative way- it restores. Or when my feet are swollen or my back aches- I know exactly what to do to ease and soothe. Pregnancy is an uncomfortable time, but not a time for martyrdom I feel I can make myself more comfortable. If I become concerned about my baby’s movements I know lying over the bolster will get it moving. Or if there is a tiny elbow or knee in a less than ideal position I can coax baby to move through asana and creating space.

My pregnancy intuition has led me to the mat, practicing and preparing for my natural birth- deep diaphragmatic breathing (I am breathing for two) harnessing my control over the diaphragm so it can aid me during contractions, hip opening, strengthening the leg muscles that lead up to the perineum as in preparation not only to birth, but to recover. I rarely have to think about which asana to practice my body leads me, although in this lifetime I haven’t given birth, we are ancient bodies that have evolved, my body knows what to do.

It is also a sacred, intimate time with my baby. When I’m inwards focusing in its little nest, when I have two hearts beating inside me, it’s a time that I dedicate fully to baby and me, really the only time I do get to dedicate to baby and me.

Namaste

xxx 

*ghee is a wonderful addition to a pregnancy diet. It is a ‘good fat’ excellent for babies brain development and building tissues. It also aids in constipation, heart burn/reflux and other pregnancy related digestive issues. 

Welcome Winter

 

The change in season always, always throws me into a flurry, usually I’m mourning the sudden ease that comes with getting out of bed in Summer or lamenting that didn’t go to the beach enough once Autumn arrives or get a chance to wear my favourite coat enough come Spring time.

As the seasons shift it honestly feels as though I may never swim again, ridiculous, I know, especially as my husband and I will be escaping to India during winter’s coldest part this year!  Come September, the anxiety of not being able to wear boots and a skirt (one of my favourite things) will soon come. 

It shouldn’t be like this, a change in season like all changes offers us a fresh start, a new beginning, renewal and a chance to live a different life for a while. This post is part celebration of Winter time’s glory, part survival guide from a Yoga and Ayurveda perspective. 

Food and Drink

My little habits change with the seasons in summer I love to drink water with torn mint leaves in it for its cooling and refreshing properties in winter this is swapped for warm water with a knob of fresh ginger for its cleansing and warming properties.

Ginger is imperative in winter, not only will you need it for endless cups of chai but, I like to use fresh ginger for all day hydration, a 20 cent sized piece in a mug with hot water, if you prefer dried ginger (bought as loose ginger tea if you are unsure of what I mean) is also good, much stronger in flavour and therefore warming and if you know which mind/body constitution you are in Ayurveda and are Pitta (fire) dosha, I would stick to the fresh stuff and reuse the same piece of ginger it becomes weaker the more you use it.

 If you feel you are fighting off a cold or flu try drawing a bath and adding 1/3 cup of dried ginger and 1/3 cup of baking soda and take a soak, watch your eyes though! 

Avoid cold drinks, drink even plain water warm (this helps remove more toxins from your system) and use warming spices such as cinnamon (perfect on porridge) cloves, turmeric and black pepper. Eat warming, slightly spicy foods such as curries and soups, we need more food in winter than we do in Summer, so try eating a larger than normal lunch and keep the evening meal the same size for better night time rest. 

I know we always say not to eat 2 to 3 hours before a yoga practice, you may find that in winter you need some nuts or dried fruit closer to your practice. (or even a cup of hot cacao or sweet milky, chai, unless you are Kapha (water) dosha as dairy is mucous producing and in winter we are trying to minimise mucous in Kapha.

Prepare meals mindfully, I particularly love meals in winter that take all day to cook such as slow cooked soups and curries that fill the house with warmth and delicious smells. Have a go at making chai- it is beautiful to look at and there is nothing quite like homemade chai!

Mornings

Sleep in a little later, in Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science, it is said in winter to not rise before 7am. Winter is a time to be more withdrawn from the outside world, sleeping in is totally fine, I generally find that while in Summer it is easy to get up and practice yoga, I prefer to practice later in the day, usually after work. There is less chance of injury then, too much movement on freezing mornings can be dangerous for the body, a later afternoon or  evening practice can also be quite a nice way of flaming the digestive fire before the evening meal and warming up before winding down for the day.

If you a prone to stiff joints and for all round health, massage warm sesame oil all over your body in the mornings. Sesame Oil is known as the “king” of oils due to the levels of antioxidants present. I cover myself in sesame oil each day and leave it on but you can massage it in and leave for 20 or so minutes before showering. It is warming, grounding and fabulous for those sore parts. 

*with all oils always by cold pressed, organic oils not just sesame oil from the supermarket any health food store should be able to help. 

Yoga/Pranayama

I like to start winter practices with Surya Namaskar (sun salutes) or another type of vinyasa (flow) creating heat and opening up the heart, 6 x repetitions each side. While in Summer I would favour longer holdings and more cooling asana in winter I practice much more dynamically and leave time for a long savasana under a thick yoga blanket, make sure you rug up as it’s always surprising how fast and how much we cool down with the stillness of savasana. (any blanket is of course fine but the blankets found at most yoga schools are really snuggly available at yoga prop stores or  a little tip- camping stores). 

Practicing pranayama which builds heat and gets rid of mucous and toxins on the lungs is ideal in winter, practices such as Bhastrika or Kapalabhati creates energy as well as detoxifying the respiratory system especially if you know you are prone to coughs, colds and other Kapha disorders.  

Enjoy the opportunity to spend long days in front of the fire, relish in the cups of tea and wear skirts and boots as much as you can before the swimming season hits!

 

With warmth, Namaste xxx 

The Hard and Soft of Yoga

Many of my great teachers have told me that if you have a connection to yoga in your current life, you were probably a yogi in a former life and are simply continuing on your journey. I was certainly a yogini in a former life but there are some parts of my yogic journey I haven’t quite reconciled with yet and who knows for how many life times I have carried them given their depth. This is a difficult post and one of honesty and confusion. 

Firstly, this is by no means a post bashing yoga or any of the teachers I’ve had, yoga is quite simply my love and passion and I believe in the science of yoga with my whole heart. As I have previously written yoga has had a profound effect on my life and although, I have always been quite interested in health and well-being various stints of vegetarianism and a slight herbal tea obsession. Yoga was a natural progression from my love of dance although, I understand they are fundamentally different, dancers are often used to being ‘in’ their bodies, I found a sense of familiarity with my classical dance training and this is possibly the root of where my practices of self-loathing began.

My life was quickly revolutionised by yoga, I was aware of my health, mind and body. To begin with I cried a lot with yoga; during class, after class, practicing at home I know that the crying yogi isn’t an unusual phenomenon especially someone like me who naturally sensitive and empathetic- I cry often anyway. (my mother says she will title her memoir I had a daughter who wept) 

Here in lies the problem; yogi’s are held in such high regard- disciplined, calm, navigating and negotiating problems with a rational poise and ease or not having any attachment to the problem to begin with. Right? So when I’m melting down, screaming at my husband or reaching for a bottle of wine at the end of a hard day am I still a yogi? When I don’t have the discipline to roll out my mat two days in a row? Or feel as though I would trade my first born for some hot chips? Often, I find I berate myself planting seeds of hate of how I think I should be behaving, eating, speaking, practicing yoga and dealing with problems.

Awareness and mindfulness are one thing, self destruction is something completely different and I feel that my evolution is teetering on the edge of self-destruction.  I spoke of my sensitivity, yoga makes us more sensitive not only on a physical level, but, we tune into our bodies, mind and energies with a different clarity. I have read articles on how yoga isn’t for everyone as it increases this sensitivity (although, I’d still say yoga is for everyone 🙂 ) . 

These seeds of hate increasingly, make me lose the ability to see the times I roll out my mat, the wonderful nourishing things I do for my body and mind everyday. I often hear my friends saying horrible things about themselves and I wince at the harshness. I often say “would you speak to a child like that?” or “would you say that to Buddha?” But, my internal dialogue spits harshness and hatefulness in varying degrees to me everyday.

My yoga practice allows me to identify with the child inside me and hate it at the same time and then judge myself for doing it. The hard and soft of yoga. Yoga teaches us to not judge, yet i have become an extremist at self-judgement, the scariest part is I have become so good at explaining, or even ‘preaching’ a message of the importance of self-love and acceptance to others. 

Lately, I have had a few headaches which is very uncommon for me and pain in my left jaw joint, it is sensitive to the touch and substantially worse when I’m self-loathing. This is tension caused through the hate I feel about myself I hold my mouth hard, often biting the inside of my mouth until it bleeds and then I get angry at myself for doing it!

This is a physical response and a great example of how negativity impacts us physically. A bad thought is not dissimilar to slapping yourself in the face or periodically holding your finger over a naked flame. While physical self- harm seems outrageous to me, it is exactly what I am practicing and it certainly has no place in my yoga practice or life. 

So how do I fix this? Practice self-love? 

Sounds easier than I think it is but, today I start. I start celebrating the small stuff and letting go of my own harsh expectations. I will begin melting the hate and finding the love. If you identify with anything I have written I urge you to do the same thing. 

 

With namaste and love

xxxxx

 

 

Skin Deep…

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I love that being healthy is becoming trendy, I hate seeing people all over social media longing for ‘thigh gaps’ ‘box gaps’ and bony collar bones. Sure, we have been conditioned to think that super skinny is the epitome of beauty but to be honest, I think that the epitome of beauty is health. I see so many shapes and sizes in yoga classes and the thing is, I think everyone is beautiful. Big bellies are lovely, bony hips are gorgeous, wrinkles are sweet, pimples nice because they are but also because when I see people doing yoga they are doing something wonderful for themselves and I think think health and self care is really sexy!

If you ever see someone after a yoga class they are positively radiant. My husband met me for a date after class last night and exclaimed how beautiful I looked. It had been an incredibly humid day I had hair to rival Diana Ross, I was sweaty, stinky and lacking my usual face of make up- but I had my yoga glow. 

Which had me thinking about beauty last night or more so commercial beauty products, in our Western culture we spend so much time cleaning and grooming our exterior, how often do you think about how clean your insides are? We use lotions, creams, make up, things to mask our scent, I admit 100%, this includes me too. Do you ever think about what these products are made of, or what happens when you put them on your skin? We know that our skin is our largest organ, everything we put on our skin is absorbed into our bodies- what happens then? 

I am writing this post to share some of the information that I have come across about commercial beauty and personal care products and three of the biggest nasties.

There is so much information about diet and nutrition out there but these creams, make up etc. too go into our bodies too if you had to eat your deodorant I’d bet you’d like to know what it was made from. This post I hope, is a thought provoker for you if these are things you hadn’t really considered. I am what i consider a girly girl in that I like to wear make up and so on and I’ve learnt there is a safer way to do this that is just as luxurious. 

First nasty up, parabens, parabens are a group of chemicals that are mainly found in cosmetics and personal care products such as shampoo, creams, lotions, face wash, shower gels, soaps etc. They exist to extend the shelf life of these products and stop the growth of microbes it is important to understand what happens when these are absorbed  through our skin into our bodies. The greatest concern with Parabens is they mimic the hormone estrogen leading to hormonal disruption, fertility issues, immune dysfunction, skin irritation but worse and most distinctly, breast cancer. In fact, a 2004 UK study found traces of five different parabens in breast cancer tumors in 19 out of 20 women studied.(Darbre PD, Aljarrah A, Miller WR, Coldham NG, Sauer MJ, Pope GS (2004). Concentrations of parabens in human breast tumors. Journal of Applied Toxicology 24:5-13.) 

Meaning that Parabens are absorbed into the skin where they stay and become toxic, scary right? Even more scary Parabens are found in just about every adult urine sample in the Western world. There is lots of information on parabens on the internet but looking at your personal care products ingredients; you can see them listed they end in ‘paraben’ for example; methylparaben, proplyparaben etc. 

There are many different products available that are completely paraben free, as i don’t have a lot of money to spend on cosmetics I use an inexpensive brand available at health food shops and some chemists called Nature’s Quest a face wash or moisturiser are around $10 each and to give myself a feeling of luxury I mix a couple drops of cold pressed coconut oil to my face wash and a couple of drops of rose hip oil to my moisturiser. Using a cold pressed oil as body lotion is an excellent way to go and a wonderful way for your body to absorb the nutrition in the oils my favourites are; coconut, almond and the King of oils sesame, be sure they are cold pressed otherwise they run the risk of being rancid and they lack nutrition. We all use toothpaste, parabens and other nasties are often found in toothpaste a good herbal, mineral and flouride free toothpaste is the way to go, I like Red Seal herbal and mineral toothpaste. There is an ongoing debate whether flouride is necessary in dental hygiene, what we know is flouride is a by product of aluminium, iron and copper. Flouride assists the body in the absorption of aluminium, which can be incredibly detrimental to our health, aluminium is what is found in the brain of Alzheimers patients. Excessive flouride has a detrimental effect on our musculoskeletal and nervous system. Various studies have linked flouride to 10,000 cancer deaths each year. Flouride is necessary for strong teeth, yes, but it is also naturally occurring in small amounts in plants, animals and natural water sources and it is thought we receive enough through our diet for dental health.  Deodorant is also rife with parabens and aluminium as we put deodorant so close to our breast tissue and lymph glands I like to err on the side of caution when it comes to my pits and use an aluminium, paraben free one. There are strong links with aluminium and prostate cancer too, so men be warned, it’s not just breast cancer!

I know not strictly about yoga but it is the self love that yoga has given me that has made me interested in all areas of my health and well being. Before I began yoga I was familiar with words such as parabens, flouride and aluminium but I didn’t care to know. Our planet and lifestyles can be incredibly toxic, if you can implement easy changes that can have a profound effect on your future…..why not?

As always, please feel free to email me at lotushealth@me.com if you have any questions, if I don’t know the answer, i’ll try to find out for you!

 

Namaste

xxxx

 

Home Practice: Part 1

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Recently some friends have been asking me for suggestions for doing yoga at home- how to sequence asana and what makes a pretty solid practice. So I thought I would share some of what I know, on the advice of my best friend, Brooke :). I think attending regular classes for at least the first year of your practice is imperative and checking back with a teacher frequently is also very important. It is so easy to form bad habits and much harder to correct them, bad habits can also result in injury or muscle imbalances. I also think that the best yoga resourse is BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga which includes weekly practices and detailed intstruction on how to perform asana correctly. It is considered the yoga bible 🙂 

Some Notes

Do not perform inversions when menstruating, the consensus is still out on whether practicing inversions during menstruation can result in polycystic ovaries syndrome or endometriosis but it is a long held belief that it does. For some women menstruation can be a time of low energy and its important to listen and honor your body’s messages. Menstruation is considered apana vayu one of the five vital forces, apana vayu is considered downward and outward energy and it is thought that inversions contradict this flow of energy in the body. You may also feel that backbends or twists disturb your period so be curious about your body and listen to its responses. A dynamic practice leading up to and post your period is highly recommended and beneficial.

Sequencing, is very important you can’t forward bend of twist until you have sufficiently lengthened the spine . Generally speaking a good way to sequence poses is a small warm up, standing poses, inversions, backbends, twists and then forward bends. Always seal your practice with savasana and paying gratitude to yourself for making an investment in your health and wellbeing. 

I like to work with the lunar cycle as the moon has a powerful effect on our energy levels and moods. During full moon week my practice has an emphasis of on backbends and twists, during the waning moon it is forward bends, new moon inversions and waxing moon is standing pose week. In saying this it is important to have a well rounded daily practice that incorporates elements from the above list. 

Practice

I have heard lots of people say they practice Sun Salutations or Surya Namaskar (see image below) on a daily basis but nothing else. This is great and 2 x rounds of Surya Namaskar can be a great warm up but too much Surya Namaskar can really overwork the shoulders and under work the legs, so I would advise to add a few standing poses- you even build in some standing poses into the vinyasa or flow of postures. For a home practice I do believe it is a great start, it is easy and intuitive to move with the breath and can easily be adapted for those that require it. 

When you come to step 5. the lunge you could easily come into virbhadrasana 2 (warrior 2) and trikonasana (triange pose) and the same on the second side.

Virabhadrasana 2. see the torso remains over the hips and the knee moves more to the little toe edge side of the foot so you don’t roll in on your ankles.
Trikonasana, fore most people coming to the shin with a light horse shoe grip is better then straining to come to the floor. See the back heel is in line with the front foot instep. Feel you rotate the lower ribs around to make your torso more parallel to the ceiling. If it troubles your neck to look up, simply look forward or down.

In the morning it is best to practice dynamic energetic poses to wake up the body and light the fire in your belly. While if you find yourself practicing in the evening make it a more passive practice and always try to not eat for two hours before a practice. On recommendation from my yogi friend Dominique some almonds, seeds and dried fruit is a great little energy booster if you think you may pass out during your practice! Especially in winter be mindful that you have enough energy. Everyday at some point I practice supta padangusthasana, I find it lengthens and stabalises the lower back and can be a great way to really evaluate how the body feels on a daily basis. 

Supta Padangusthasana. You can easily use a belt or dressing gown belt as a strap. Starting with both feet to the wall can be a great assistance, don’t forget about the down leg, its your foundation. Don’t let the down hip lift when taking the leg out to the side think about anchoring through the down hip and buttocks.

This is a good start, but a well rounded practice involves additional hip openers, abdominal work, deeper back and forward bends, but I think this a is a good start to taking your practice home. spending some time lying out on your mat to begin with watching your breath is a nice addition. Remembering that yoga isn’t just physical postures and if you wanted to take your practice to the next level BKS Iyengar’s Light on Pranayama is a great introduction to breathing exercises. Our breath is a wonderful tool and can have profound effects on our health and wellbeing. 

I’ll continue to post suggestions for your home practice, but remember some days simple legs up the wall may be all you need. Happy yoga-ing but remember yoga is devotional practice so always come to the mat practicing ahimsa or non-violence, you are your greatest teacher. 

Namaste xxx

 

Finding the routine

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This can be a really hard time of the year to get back into the swing of things. Often 6 weeks into the the new year, the resolutions we made in the fresh excitement of New Years have fallen down the wayside or perhaps you are like me and are trying to find a steady routine so you can really capitalise on those resolutions!

I have felt as though I have been neglecting my yoga practice until I began re-reading Judith Lassater’s fabulous book, Living Your Yoga. I get so caught up in my own ego thinking I need a solid yoga practice of 1.5 hours a day…(shesh, I should be so lucky to find that hour and a half!) In her book Judith writes of her judgement of a coworker who says she meditates for 5 minutes a day and goes on to explain that its the quality and intention of the practice not the time you set. In fact in the book there are activities for spiritual growth and they are for short spaces of time 5 or ten minutes. 

Yesterday, after a long Monday at work I wanted to crawl home and hide from everything Monday related but I didn’t. I ducked into my yoga school before the evening class and had a beautiful solid 20 minute practice. It was only 20 minutes but that’s all I had. My practice did everything I had hoped; i had sweat, i felt lighter and longer and my mind was quieter. What happened next was amazing, I was content, I was happy with the practice and I let it go i didn’t nit pick about the sequence what I should have done first what could have been a better finishing pose etc. and when I got home I had the desire to clean my house, so I did unheard of for a Monday night, I know!

I’m learning that a routine doesn’t have to be set in stone and it certainly doesn’t have to have a set time limit. It should always be quality over quantity- thanks Judith Lassater! 

I think it is BKS Iyengar who said “we must cultivate what we want to grow” so find 10 minutes set your intention and  then let it go. 

 

Namaste xxx

The magic of a Sunday

ImageSunday is one day of the week when wonderful things happen, yesterday was one of those days (till I got sick). In the morning Tom finally decided he was ready to do some yoga but we are still negotiating how exactly that is going to work. I go into most physical activities with an element of steely determination, this is not necessarily a good thing, I’m constantly looking for a softness in my practice and years of practicing without that softness and overworking requires retraining of my brain and body, healing of hardened muscles and allowing flexibility. My initial response to his  pained ‘facial yoga’ and lack of flexibility is that its laziness and a personal insult. I know I sound incredibly uncompassionate, but I’m not, with all physical exertion there are sensations of discomfort, even pain and these feelings tell us things are normal and theses parts of the body could do with a bit of one on one attention. In most circumstances if you listen to your body, it will tell you when things are not right, when you are using too much force, when you are going beyond your boundaries and range of motion. To increase strength and flexibility there will be some discomfort and the more you do it the easier it becomes. Part of the discipline that comes with a yoga practice is acknowledging, things will hurt, but there is a glimpse of freedom next time you do it.

Anyway, we still had a lovely time and I felt so strong in my inversions, Tom confessed to me this morning that he had felt really nice after yoga 🙂

All morning I had something on my mind, I had very long hair and I loved my long hair, lately it was getting me down a little. At my last trip to the hairdressers she had mentioned a program called Beautiful Lengths where you could donate a minimum of 20cm ponytail to be made into real human hair wigs for those undergoing cancer treatment. At the time, though impressed with the program, I was too vain to part with my ponytail. Although, on the magical Sunday morning, I woke up pretty sure I would chop off my ponytail at some point throughout the day.

I washed my hair, and looked at how long it was wet in the mirror, doing my best Brooke Shields Blue Lagoon impression. The morning came and went; yoga, then brunch, reading, a movie, all the while I twirled my hair and contemplated parting with it. I thought about how long I had been growing it and how, I was almost defined by it in lots of ways. In the late afternoon Tom had to go out. Before Tom left he suggested to perhaps wait and get a hairdresser to cut it off, I but I really wanted to do it myself. I tied my hair into a low pony and awkwardly measured the 20cm minimum and began hacking away. I say hacking because my scissors were rubbish and half way through I had to switch to my good embroidery scissors. (This was a very pensive moment when I wasn’t sure if I could actually finish the job, I was having heart palpitations looking for scissors stopping in front of every mirror in the house to assess the hacked at messy half a ponytail!)

Eventually I got through and smiled at my ponytail, my measuring hadn’t been great I had actually cut off 25cm, but i still have plenty. I thought about how attached i had been to such impermanent part of my body. I’m certainly not attached to the hair I pull from the drain or have to unravel from the vacuum cleaner head, it is always growing!

Attachment is a key issue in my life and I am trying to live more simply and learn to ‘unattach’ myself from thoughts, things and behaviors and I think starting with my ponytail was a good beginning.

ImageI can remember so many magical things that have happened on Sundays. Sundays come with a sense of impermanence and can teach us a lot about attachment- throughout my teens I never enjoyed Sunday’s because I kept thinking that Monday was just around the corner. Now they are my most favourite day. Tom and I said we loved each other for the first time on a drizzly Sunday morning, Sundays are for swimming and lounging around, they are for watching Soccer matches at friends houses, afternoon beers, and morning yoga classes and always a special breakfast or brunch.

Namaste

xxxx

Yoga Intensive- the rest of the week….

ImageThe thing about yoga for many people and certainly for myself, it increases your sensitivity, five of the seven mornings of the intensive I cried. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, my tears often caught me by surprise as i felt the spontaneous warm drops spring from my eyes. Often I was trying to send the energy I was creating in my practice to a friend in need and other times I was releasing (or they were tears of petulance because I didn’t want the intensive to end!!). Yoga has brought about such an awareness of my emotional self and who I am, my body and the space around me- but unfortunately this awareness doesn’t come with an instruction manual and it can be difficult when you are looking at exactly who you are and unsure of whether you like it. Luckily yoga is also a vehicle for change and learning acceptance and the art of compassion can all come about through a practice. 

Each morning i was so surprised at how easy it was to wake up, get up and greet the freshness of each day. In Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science, it is optimal to rise before the sun and the first thing that you ingest for the day has a profound effect of how you feel for the remainder of the day- this week rather that a black coffee being the first thing i ingested I had lukewarm water with chlorophyll, and I think that this indeed had a profound effect on how I felt. My digestion has felt quieter, I have eaten and slept less but had more energy, I think being gluten free has helped in this too. I noticed in my inversions there is a lightness, rather than using brute strength and feeling somewhat like a baby elephant I was able to float up. (for the first time I could get into Pincha Mayurasana/forearm balance it felt releasing, I felt strong…and yes, I made my husband take a photograph of it!) 

Of the intensive the actual classes, the asana and the sequences felt timeless, the mornings have felt so magical and so right but then working the 5 working days of the week have been difficult. Possibly this is something that I realised about the intensive, there are factors in my life that make me quite unhappy. 

Another thing I realised about myself during this week is the way i habitually hold my diaphragm and upper abdominals and the toll this is taking on my physical, energetic and emotional body. I am now constantly reminding myself to relax. (a trip to the physio last night confirmed my suspicions of the problems this was causing.)  

It’s true that I didn’t want the intensive to end, but it has taught be so much about how wonderful discipline can be, while I usually practice yoga daily, some of that is rolling around on the mat, it is never practiced at the same time and my home practice has never had such a quietening effect of my whole body. I realise how valuable this mental quietness is and how wonderful my body feels, how sparkly my eyes are and how much more care I have for myself. I am determined to find much more ritual in my home practice, I am determined to be up before the sun, most of the week 😉 

 

With all of my heart I would like to thank my wonderful teacher, Wendy. 

Namaste. 

xxxx

Day 1 Yoga Intensive

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I was so excited to get back on the mat this morning, I couldn’t sleep last night! I finished work at 9pm last night and raced home showered and painted my toes bright orange (my favourite colour, does anyone else like to have nicely painted toes when they are doing yoga??!!) before oiling myself in sesame oil and hopping into bed. I kept waking up worried I’d missed my 4:30am alarm. The Yoga Intensive runs for 7 days, 6:30am classes, it runs each new year and is a chance to set an intention for the new year through a series of early morning classes.

When it was time to get up I sprung out of bed, here in Adelaide it was 45C degrees yesterday(113F) we are smack bang in the middle of a heatwave, my house was hot (my poor cats can manage a few steps before having to lie on the cool floorboards!) I opened the windows and let the dawn cool breeze inside the house- it was so lovely. I kissed my husband a sleepy kiss goodbye and set off at 5:30am. The world was cool and the birds good morning chatter warmed my heart- they sounded so animated and happy and it really seemed like they had so much to catch up on after their sleep! The world was covered in a cool blue shadow, the roads quiet and there is something really nice about being awake when all around you sleeps. I had found yoga before getting to yoga 🙂

I feel so inspired at the moment by my own health, I am trialing a Gluten Free diet to see if it improves my costchondritis (inflammation of the rib cartilage) as well as a course of pro-biotics and the best thing ever liquid chlorophyll! (Chlorophyll is what give green leafy’s their green and it is so easy to add a couple of teaspoons to a juice or mineral water or just have it straight to boost the nutrients in your diet, there is some really interesting research out there into the treatment and prevention of cancer with chlorophyll)

I can really feel a connection between what I eat and the chatter in my mind, by the time I got to yoga and laid down for pranayama, I was there I was in my body and it was so wonderful. The first asana we did were repetitions of adho mukha virasana and adho mukha svanasana, it felt so wonderful to be in my body the sun rising as I moved.

 

I can’t wait for tomorrow.

Namaste xxx