Yoga: Opening from the inside out

I recently attending a session on Yoga and Body Image presented by Janet Lowndes and Sarah Harry, community partners for the Yoga and Body Image Coalition. I have always taught yoga from the perspective of connecting inwardly (thanks to my wonderful teachers), and this presentation affirmed the importance of this approach. When we consider body image in terms of a yoga practice, this may include body weight, shape, gender, age, flexibility and strength. For many, the way we view ourselves will stop us from ever entering a yoga class.

I love this quote from Rachel Brathen, a New York times best seller, motivational speaker and international yoga teacher.

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Yoga should be a practice that invites us to look inwardly, connecting with how we feel rather than how we look. “What’s happening inside my body”? There are many benefits to developing this interoceptive awareness: self compassion, a positive mental outlook, emotional coping, attention to self care and wellbeing.

In yoga, the process of turning our attention inwardly is called pratyahara. We naturally explore pratyahara in relaxation and meditation, but do we turn our attention inwards as part of our physical practice too. Do we listen to the constant messages from our body (whether to deepen or relax into a pose), are we guided by the quality of our breath and a steadiness of mind?

Here are some ways to bring more inner reflection and peace into our practice.

  1. Radical Acceptance – seeing things clearly as they are, in a way that is self-compassionate and non-judging. “I am already enough”.
  2. Meditate.
    • Learn to be at peace with ourselves and the world around us.
    • Discover we are more than our thoughts, emotions and life experiences.
    • Learn to respond, rather than react to life.
  3. Learning to listen to our bodies rather than fighting against them. Be kind and gentle with yourself.
  4. LOVE YOUR BODY. Love it, nurture it, respect it, be kind to it, be grateful for it, celebrate it’s strengths, and befriend it.

For more details on the wonderful work Janet is doing in terms of  Yoga and Body Image, visit her website www.mindbodywell.com.au 

Peace is This Moment without Judgement

At times when we are challenged to find peace within ourselves, with others and the world we live in, I choose to turn towards beauty, nature and the wisdom of others.

Enjoy this beautiful poem by Dorothy Hunt.

Peace is This Moment Without Judgment

Do you think peace requires an end to war?
Or tigers eating only vegetables?
Does peace require an absence from
your boss, your spouse, yourself? …
Do you think peace will come some other place than here?
Some other time than Now?
In some other heart than yours?

Peace is this moment without judgment.
That is all. This moment in the Heart-space
where everything that is is welcome.
Peace is this moment without thinking
that it should be some other way,
that you should feel some other thing,
that your life should unfold according to your plans.

Peace is this moment without judgment,
this moment in the heart-space where
everything that is is welcome.

 

Beads of Light

chakras i am

I love working with the chakra colours. In this relaxation/meditation, I have weaved the colours and an affirmation associated with the 7 main chakras into a creative visualisation. You could practice this in savasana (lying on the floor) or seated upright. Ensure your body is supported and comfortable to allow for a deeper experience to unfold. When we support our body in meditation, our energy and attention is drawn away from the physical layer, opening to higher levels of consciousness and a spacious enquiry.

You may choose to rest in stillness and silence after the guided relaxation, allowing your attention to open to all that is inside and around you. Let your focus be relaxed and open, aware of everything but nothing specific. As your attention is drawn to and lingers on a specific thought, sensation, emotion, sound, memory or image, open your attention out – be expansive and spacious.

As the energy of Spring draws us out into the world with new projects, time in the garden, clearing out cupboards and drawers and generally being more active, remember to also cultivate the inner “garden” through relaxation, meditation and other mindfulness practices.

Out of Hibernation

Wow! I cannot believe it’s been almost 3 months since my last post. It wasn’t intentional but it seems I have been in hibernation.  I did recently celebrate my 50th birthday (no grey hairs yet) and have just returned from a beautiful relaxing retreat in Fiji, so I have also been a little preoccupied.

hibernation2I was fortunate to attend a 7 day silent retreat with my spiritual teacher, Richard Miller on 20 April and it has profoundly changed my life. As part of moving deep within and letting go of the busyness, I found that my priorities changed. I live more in the moment, allowing myself to be guided by what brings me happiness and peace. Even the mundane tasks can be pleasant and satisfying if done with awareness and purpose. I take more time in the “in between” moments; after a job is done, when I arrive somewhere in my car – time to pause, breathe and simply be in the moment. I have found that when I make space for myself, I create more space in my day. How cool is that?

Meditation has been part of my mornings now for just over 12 months and it really has made a difference to how I see, experience and meet each moment. I am more content than I have ever been and feel deeply connected to all of life.

With the days getting a little warmer and the wattle and blossoms beckoning, I feel a gentle pull to look outward again, to become more active, start planning and looking forward.

I would love to share with you a beautiful sequence called the Goddess Vinyasa. It’s beautifully warming, opening the upper body while strengthening the lower body. The combination of stability, movement and breath is wonderfully uplifting. You will feel great afterwards! Thanks to my friend Gina for the inspiration and recording below. As we approach Spring and the warmer weather, this would be lovely outdoors.

Goddess Vinyasa

With love,

G

‘Mind Wanting More’ by Holly Hughes

eagle, water, sunOnly a beige slat of sun above the horizon, like a shade pulled not quite down. Otherwise, clouds.

Sea rippled here and there. Birds reluctant to fly.

The mind wants a shaft of sun to stir the grey porridge of clouds, an osprey to stitch sea to sky with its barred wings, some dramatic music: a symphony, perhaps a Chinese gong.

But the mind always wants more than it has—
one more bright day of sun, one more clear night in bed with the moon;
one more hour to get the words right; one more chance for the heart in hiding to emerge from its thicket
in dried grasses—as if this quiet day with its tentative light weren’t enough,
as if joy weren’t strewn all around.

Let it Go ~ a poem by Danna Faulds

As we move deeper into Autumn, I am finding a quieter place within even as the jobs continue to pile up. I recently attending a VCE evening (my son Zach has commenced year 11) discussing study skills. “The children”, said one of teachers, “can become overwhelmed with the enormity of the year, with homework and exams and the pressure of being expected to know their chosen path in life at the age of 17”. The advice given was for the children to focus on one day at a time; consider what needs to be done today, what can I realistically achieve today, just today. Essentially, this is a practice in mindfulness and presence, of being in the moment, the only point in time we can reletting goally have any influence over. What this means then is to Let Go of the future, the unknown, that which we cannot control. There is nothing new here, however reminders are often timely and helpful.

As we see the leaves around us change and fall, this reminder of Letting Go is ever present. Please enjoy this wonderful poem by Danna Faulds.

Let go of the ways you thought life would unfold: the holding of plans or dreams or expectations – Let it all go.

Save your strength to swim with the tide. The choice to fight what is here before you now will only result in struggle, fear,

and desperate attempts to flee from the very energy you long for. Let go.

Let it all go and flow with grace that washes through your days whether you received it gently or with all your quills raised to defend against invaders.

Take this on faith; the mind may never find the explanations that it seeks, but you move forward nonetheless.

Let go, and the wave’s crest will carry you to unknown shores, beyond your wildest dreams or destinations. Let it all go and find the place of rest and peace and certain transformation.

Busyness robs us of the gift right in front of us

It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life. Rushing from one thing to the next, racing through life and feeling there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. I find myself at times saying “I’m super busy!”, as if being busy is a good thing; I’m being productive and contributing to life. What I am being is stressed, tired and disconnected.

“Busyness robs us of the gift right in front of us.”

One of the great things about being a yoga teacher is I practice and teach presence and mindfulness almost every day. When you practice doing just one thing at a time (such as breath awareness), you sharpen your ability to focus, pay attention and concentrate. When we practice one-pointedness, we are developing our ability to remain with a task for as long as it is necessary to accomplish a particular  goal. If we are to succeed in any endeavour, be it bringing an end to insomnia, anxiety, busyness, accomplishing a job at home or work, or awakening to our True Nature, the mind needs to possess the ability to remain one-pointed for as long as is necessary to accomplish our goal. The more you practice these skills, the easier they become and before you know it, you are more mindful in other aspects of your life. So when you become busy or rushed, you notice you are busy and when you notice you are busy you have an opportunity to make a choice. You can stay busy (and at times this is necessary and appropriate) or change your behaviour. We can choose also to be calm busy or chaos busy.

When we change our behaviour, the outcomes and consequences of our actions change too. I know this sounds simple and it is. The hardest part is noticing; being present enough to ask ourselves, “Is this behaviour or choice bringing me closer to contentment, happiness and peace or further from it?”

 

Tips for practising presence / mindfulness at home.

1. Do one thing at a time.one-pointedness

2. Eat slowly and mindfully (away from TV’s, computers and smart phones)

3. Focus on what can be done today. Think about tomorrow, tomorrow.

4. Plan your day before it begins. Ideally the night before or early morning.