I must be honest and say when I heard recent news about the partial lifting of restrictions in Victoria, the previously soft and relaxed feeling in my belly immediately tightened. Personally I have loved this time in isolation. Yes, I have really missed my family, close friends and participating in my weekly Zumba and bootcamp sessions but I have thoroughly enjoyed the change of pace. It’s given me an opportunity to think about how I want to be in the world and using this clarity to make decisions in moving forward.
So back to the uneasy feeling in my belly. I know that stability is important to me and having made the necessary adjustments due to COVID, there is once again uncertainty in many areas of my life. Will people want to return to group classes? Do I? Will there still be an interest in online classes in 2 months time?
These last few months of imposed slowing down, with time to take stock and turn inwardly, is a rhythm we find in nature through autumn and winter. And now there is an external pull to move back into socialising, activity, mobilising and all the effort and energy that brings: the inevitable busyness of it all. I am being pulled in opposites directions simultaneously, no wonder I feel out of sorts!
So I’m being gentle with myself. Enjoying the luxury of morning walks with my husband Andrew and our dogs Bindi and Harry, meditations by the wood fire with my virtual yoga community, no travelling to or from my beloved yoga classes and not taking a shower until mid afternoon some days because I’m comfortable and warm and don’t need to be anywhere but here. This time shared with Andrew and my two adults sons, Aidan and Zach (as they are all out of work) has been such a blessing. We have planted vegetables, cut back trees, mulched, finished jigsaw puzzles, played games and enjoyed meals together.
My wish is for everyone to take from this the gifts that have nourished you most. Remember what’s important and continue to give the most precious of gifts to yourself and others; your time, love and attention.
It’s wonderful as a yoga teacher and yoga therapist, when emerging research supports what I know and feel to be true for my body and mind.
There are different ways of learning and individually you many notice you respond better to one way over the other. I tend to learn best somatically, through doing and experiencing in my body. We can also learn visually and through listening. I digress, a little. We learn by taking in and then “trying on” the new knowledge. In this way we have a first hand experience to reflect on.
Emerging research on the vagus nerve, a major nerve in the parasympathetic nervous system, sheds light on how people can tune in to their nervous systems and find ways back to a “rest and digest” state amidst chronic stress. This research suggests actions involving parts of the body connected to the ventral vagus nerve— including deep breaths, humming, or even social cues like smiling or making eye contact with someone — send messages to the brain that it’s OK to relax.
Activating the ventral vagus nerve also activates the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that deals with logic. Calming yourself allows you to think clearly and process your difficult circumstances — which will further resolve stress.
Simple Steps to Reduce Stress (this is the doing part)…..
- Pay attention to your body’s sensations. Notice your body’s baseline physical state when you’re calm so you can notice how stress changes your body and respond accordingly.
- Focussed breathing, especially lengthening the exhalation promotes the rest and digest response.
- Connecting to life through your five senses. Going outside, listening to birds, and smelling a flower are all simple “grounding” activities, which can help activate the ventral vagus nerve.
- Smile. Make eye contact with someone on your walk, at the shops or in the mirror signals our nervous system that we are safe and it’s Ok to relax.
See full article for more details….https://elemental.medium.com/if-there-was-ever-a-time-to-activate-your-vagus-nerve-it-is-now-2227e8c6885b
I am offering weekly iRest Yoga Nidra classes which are wonderful way to get familiar with how your body feels at rest and to notice the areas you tend to hold tension. These classes are currently free.
To register your interest to join (live via zoom or as a recording), email firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is a simple breathing practice that focuses on gently extending the exhalation. Try it every day for a week and see if you notice any changes in how you meet each day.
What would it feel like to welcome ALL of you into your practice? Not just the parts of your body that work well, not just the positive thoughts and emotions. To truly allow everything to BE as it is! The busy mind, sore lower back, general stiffness and tiredness. What would happen if you met these parts of yourself with acceptance not resistance? Is it possible to notice a feeling of discomfort, a thought of “I wish I was stronger, more flexible”, with openness and curiosity? Perhaps when we let go of struggling with what is, we make space for a different outcome, a new way of being with ourselves.
When we fight or resist our experience, we bring more heat/energy to the circumstance.
As psychologist Kristin Neff puts it, “Suffering equals pain times resistance.”
The amount we suffer in life is the product of the pain itself, multiplied by the amount we resist it.
Suffering = Pain * Resistance.
Letting go of resistance doesn’t mean resigning to it. It’s about accepting that not everything is in your control. In fact, very little is.
So…the next time you find yourself on your mat—notice areas of resistance, whether physical discomfort, mental agitation or life not going as you hoped—explore the practice of acceptance.
- Notice when something painful or uncomfortable arises.
- Observe thoughts of resistance as they arise (e.g. “This shouldn’t be happening!” / “Why me?!”) and let them pass by.
- Come back to your centre by accepting the circumstance as it is. Be fully open to what is here, now.
- Bring attention to the physical sensations of the experience. Notice that they’re temporary and will pass.
- Continue the practice as life continues to change. Whenever you find yourself holding onto some resistant thought, let it go.
Reference: https://mindfulambition.net/suffering-pain-resistance/ by Kristin Neff
This meditation was inspired by a beautiful visualisation I experienced at a workshop a few years ago with friend and colleague Ingrid Jolley.
Here we acknowledge the ever changing circumstances around us, while connecting to a place within that is always at ease, peaceful and stable.
Give yourself the gift of time and attention.
At this time of the year, we are encouraged to consider New Year’s resolutions. While I think this is helpful, without reflecting on the year passed, we may find it difficult to feel into what most calls us forward.
Ideally find the space and time for reflection, to journal and feel into what’s true for you; what is going to move you towards your passion or heart felt longing and what takes you away from it.
You may find it beneficial to go for a walk, spend time in nature, practice yoga or meditate. Find something that helps create a container of quietness for reflection and intention setting.
Intentions come from the heart – they arise from the values that are most important to you. An intention is connected to your life’s purpose, and is a specific way of expressing it at a given time in your life.
Allow yourself lots of time to reflect and write on the following questions:
1) What am I celebrating? What am I grateful for? What has been wonderful and magical about this past year?
2) What is one aspect about myself that I have especially loved this year? What am I proud of?
3) What would I have done differently this year?
4) What do I want to let go of?
5) What do I want to call in for the new year?
This post has been inspired by https://maiaduerr.com/how-to-do-a-reflection-and-intention-process-for-the-end-of-the-year/
Retreat comes from the Latin verb “to pull back.”
So a retreat is a place where you pull back from the world.
Here are 10 reasons why retreats are important. They help you…
1. Pull Back
You withdraw from your regular life, pulling in all the energy that’s otherwise fanned out and thinned out in multiple directions.
You gather your forces to focus them on something you love.
From this place, you get a new perspective, you regroup and re-energize. You find inspiration.
Then you put inspiration into action. You bring that thing you love to fruition.
2. Become Spacious
You step out of your structured scheduled day-to-day and step into space and time.
Time on retreat is different, fluid. There’s no need to rush!
You find a space where you can give yourself time to connect with flow, genius and inspiration.
3. Get Inspired
Inspiration, translates as “to breathe into.”
So, you breathe life into your life.
Inspiration is a frame of mind that can come from a change of landscape and outlook.
We’re all creative. Creativity and inspiration happen when you take the time away from your day job to remember your day dream.
When you’re on a yoga retreat, you get to listen.
Why? Because there’s no kids, TV, co-workers. Time away from mobile devices is encouraged.
What do you hear? The sound of birds, the wind and life around you and maybe, just maybe, an inner calling and the quiet inside your heart.
Everyone needs to unplug, unload, clean out and empty their mental desktop.
You will leave a retreat lightened, clearer, recharged, refreshed, and more present.
This new perspective can guide you to make changes in your life that you know you need to make.
6. Lose the Fear
Retreat is a safe space, literally and figuratively.
An opportunity to really let go.
7. Remember Who You Are
Society wants you to be the mother, father, sister, wife, husband, friend, lover.
On retreat you can drop all the roles.
You can just be the exquisite and unique expression of life that you are!
8. Find Your People
It feels wonderful to be with people who get you. Sometimes your friends and family don’t really understand your love of yoga.
On retreat you have an opportunity to dive deep into your practice and to share this experience with like-minded people.
9. Help Others
When you take some space/time, those around you (your partner, children, co-workers) gets space/time too.
This brings appreciation.
They realise what it’s like when you’re not around, to work, clean, cook and love them.
Without you taking up your usual spot, people shift positions to fill that space.
Life takes on a new shape.
Life may be different when you return and you are free to take up a new space in it. This is growth.
People may see a new you, and they see that they’re new, too.
People are motivated to make more positive change.
10. Establish a Routine/Practice
Establishing a new routine, practice or mindset is easier to get started on retreat. These changes may then naturally flow into your life
Retreats are important because people leave retreats rested, happier and clearer.
Who doesn’t want some of that?
Inspired by this blog post…https://www.theodysseyonline.com/11-reasons-need-retreat
Life for all of us, has its ups and downs; it’s the transient nature of life within and around us. Most circumstances cannot be controlled, however with practice we can learn to be more at peace with life as it unfolds.
More recently, my meditation practice has moved from a more structured sitting, to a practice that moves with me – Mindfulness in action.
At first I was concerned at my resistance to sit each morning, then became curious; Is there something else that is calling my attention? I feel blessed that sitting quietly and observing what comes and goes, comes pretty easily to me, however I feel now that my practice is to find this same level of ease as I navigate each and every moment. Erich Shiffmann in his excellent book ‘Yoga. The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness’ talks about levels of stillness. The first level of stillness involves learning to relax, become centred and meditate. This technique involves being still, deliberately pausing and being still and centred in the moment you are presently in. “When you are able to relax and quietly suspend all your firmly held false ideas and limiting beliefs about who and what you are, only what is true will remain”, Erich says. “This is like polishing a mirror – removing the grime – and seeing yourself clearing for the very first time”.
The second level of stillness involves living your life with this new understanding of who you really are: in other words, meditation in action. This involves continually letting go of the judgements, evaluations and opinions about yourself, others and the world around you throughout the day. It’s about meeting each moment with a beginners mind, being open and curious. “This means, essentially, letting go of pretence and self-critical judgement and allowing self acceptance – letting yourself be who you truly are”. ……”By staying centred in your peace in the midst of daily life, you will validate your new perspective of yourself and gradually become fully convinced”.
Curious to explore Meditation with me further? iRest Yoga Nidra Meditation
In practice, I find patience and peace.
I have found since returning from my Camino pilgrimage last September/October, that what I crave most, are those delicious moments in between. (Stop now, close your eyes and take 3 slow, steady and smooth breaths). It’s so easy to get caught up in the doing; racing from one thing to the next that we forget to stop and breathe and simply Be.
When we stop, even for just a few moments, we have a sense of completion and there’s a feeling of coming back to our centre. This space helps determine what happens next, and this decision tends to come from a wiser, more grounded place. We learn to respond harmoniously and appropriately rather than react to life.
So take some time in between your activities to pause and find a moment for yourself; enjoy a cup of tea or simply look out into the garden or up into the glorious sky.
All we need, to get out of our busy head and into our body is always available if we choose to turn our attention towards it.
Tasting Mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn
“Have you ever had the experience of stopping so completely,
of being in your body so completely,
of being in your life so completely,
that what you knew and what you didn’t know,
that what had been and what was yet to come,
and the way things are right now
no longer held even the slightest hint of anxiety or discord?
It would be a moment of complete presence, beyond striving, beyond mere acceptance,
beyond the desire to escape or fix anything or plunge ahead,
a moment of pure being, no longer in time,
a moment of pure seeing, pure feeling,
a moment in which life simply is,
and that “is-ness” grabs you by all your senses,
all your memories, by your very genes,
by your loves, and
welcomes you home.”
For those who attend my regular yoga classes, you will know that my favourite poet is Danna Faulds. Her words so often marry beautifully with my intention or theme for the week’s teachings. For me, richness of experience is deepened when the many aspects or layers of who I am are touched in the practice. Movement and breath liberate held tension and energy in the body, which gives rise to feelings and emotions. When we give space for these feelings and emotions to be met and accepted as they are (without trying to fix or change anything) new levels of freedom become available to us. Listening to poetry as part of a yoga class, gives us space to simply BE, to rest quietly and listen. As the words meet us, something awakens, stirs and moves through the body and mind. This is my experience…..may it also be yours. X
Whatever Doesn’t Serve by Danna Faulds
What weight can you put down right now, willingly relinquishing the pointed quills of guilt or judgement?
What burden of the heart can lift, what dark corner can be lit, the candle flickering at first, then burning bright?
With the next breath, let it go, that old story you’ve told yourself a million times.
Whatever doesn’t serve you on this path of truth, leave it behind.
Offer this one gift: the simple sacrifice that in the giving sets you free to fully live.