Just wanted to share.
I'm taking progesterone medication (fibroids - another story). It's doing it's job, apart from giving me random headaches. The way I deal with these headaches, depends really on what time of the day it is and where I am. If I'm home, I'll walk down into my studio and do some yoga postures, If i'm out and about to teach, I'll take something.
Last night, or should I say this morning, I woke with a headache. I was so tired I couldn't will myself to get up, so I imagined I was getting a massage. I seriously imagined someone's thumbs pressing into my shoulders over and over. I felt their hands massaging my neck, I felt the pressure and the heat. My pain went away. I shit you not, my headache went.
This got me thinking about pain. About different types of pain. I'm not saying to those of you who experience pain "get over it, it's all in your head", because it's real. PAIN IS REAL. But could it be that there are pains which do need medical treatment (either natural or pharmaceuticals, i would never judge you), and pain which simply needs that inner healer in all of us?
In yoga, we try to teach our students how to identify different pains. How to discriminate between pains. There are pains where we've clearly taken a posture too far and we could injure ourselves, and there are pains which are taking us to our edge, which we can breathe through. It's about developing the wisdom to know the difference.
Could we then take this off our mat, into our lives? Last night I didn't need a pain killer. I killed the pain. I literally imagined my pain away! So freaking cool!
Something to think about.
Will I now substitute my massage therapist with an imaginary one? Hells no!
(again, this post is in no way judging anyone who takes medication daily for pain management. I respect you and would never judge you).
I remember seeing a male yoga gang (type thing) and underneath their name it read 'The Uncelebrated Minority' and I laughed and thought, clearly they don't know anything about yoga history.
Women weren't allowed to practice yoga, and then when they were finally welcome in the shala, they weren't welcome to teach. It's only been the last 50 years that women have been recognised as yoga teachers, and more recently as 'worthy' teachers. Still today if you walk into many studios, there's framed pictures of male gurus, including male teachers who have been accused of sexual abuse.
Yes there may be more women who frequent yoga classes these days, but its men who are still worshipped as the gurus.
Let's write the next chapter. Today, and moving forward, I aim to celebrate the women who paved the way for female yogis like Indra Devi, Swami Radha and Geeta Iyengar and also the women who are doing some kick arse things in yoga land today like Sally Kempton, Ana forrest, Tara Judelle, Sarah Powers ... too many to mention.
I now leave this to you, please comment with the women who have inspired you in yoga :)
Happy International Women's Day :)
So you found your perfect yoga home that ticks all the boxes: challenging (but relaxing) classes, nice hipster studio, awesome teachers, cool events, retreats to Bali, herbal tea at reception. Now what? Is this what yoga is?
Did you know that yoga is a way of life? In fact, the asanas (the postures) we practice in a studio are just a small part of yoga. Who we are as a person, how we treat others, how we treat ourselves, how we keep our home, how we contribute to the world and how we impact nature is all part of being a yogi.
The second sutra in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras reads, 'Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodha' which translates roughly to 'Yoga is to slow down (or to stop) the fluctuations of the mind'. This is the goal of yoga. If we achieve this, we achieve self realisation. When the mind becomes calm, and free from thoughts, we can then realise that THERE IS NO SEPERATE SELF.
Which means, WE ARE ONE.
In a nutshell :)
If we are truly living a yoga life we could consider that every single thought, feeling, word and action has a direct impact on the balance of EVERYTHING. We are matter, we are energy and each and every thing is connected. FULL ON!
Volunteering, serving, helping others, being mindful of where our food is from, being mindful of where our clothes are made, acknowledging others, caring for nature, and simply being kind without expecting something in return are all practices of yoga. I reckon this is where the hard work is for many of us, not the handstand.
Yoga is a work in progress. It's a practice. A lifelong practice.
So, now you have realised that you are connected to the stranger over the other side of the world, the fish in the sea, the possum in the tree, the person next door, the flower in your front yard, the chair you are sitting on ...
How do you choose to live?
How will you practice yoga off the mat?
There you have it. Happy Hormones, Focus, Mobility, Youth and Community. Five reasons (of about 500) to start yoga. There are so many levels and styles of yoga these days, it's not hard to find a class to suit you. My advice is, don't search instagram to find your yoga inspiration. Just go to a local class. Go somewhere easy for you to get to first, so it will be easier to commit. If you find the class isn't for you, don't give up on yoga, approach the teacher and ask their advise on a class which is slower, faster, cooler (temperature), more gentle, less spiritual, more traditional etc. A good teacher will happily recommend someone else.
Happy OMing (yes ... I know that's extremely daggy!)
It takes a long time (sometimes years) to understand that the 'movement and stretches' which we know as asana in a yoga class are simply tools. And yoga provides us with many tools, including asana, mantra, meditation, kriya and pranayama which help us reach the goal of yoga, self awareness.
Pranayama is the formal practice of controlling the breath, and is the link between the physical and mental disciplines of yoga. Asana will help develop your body, and pranayama will help develop your mind.
Unfortunately pranayama isn't practiced much these days in yoga classes in the west. I think this is due to the following:
These reasons, in my opinion, are such a shame. Pranayama can offer us so much. The majority of us breathe incorrectly, which has a direct link to our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Here are some reasons why we should all be taking 5 minutes a day to practice pranayama.
There are so many more benefits of pranayama. Honestly, if you go to a class which doesn't include pranayama, well that's a bummer if you ask me, but check out some techniques on youtube. I strongly advise you to practice Nadi Shodana or Anuloma Viloma (alternate nostril breathing) for learning to control the breath, and calming the mind, Kapalabhati (shining skull breath) for energy and vitality and also simple Sama Vritti or Vishama Vritti (even or uneven breathing) for a quick 5 minute destress.
Happy breathing :)
(image insert is my teacher training trainees studying pranayama in Colllingwood, Victoria 2017).
This is a question we are asked all the time, which surprises me as I had never even considered yoga as exercise. But of course it is. It's in every gym, and loads of people practice it purely for the physical benefits. And that's okay with me :)
What many yoga students in the west don't understand is, yoga is actually a school of thought, with its main goal being self awareness. The practitioner can achieve this goal through many paths of yoga, including asana (the physical postures), meditation, chanting, prayer. Not all yogis downward dog.
So I suppose when it comes to weight-loss, it depends on what path of yoga you are practicing. I believe that If you are usually inactive, and you begin practicing asana (the physical postures), then simply because you are moving you may lose weight, but generally, yoga is not considered a 'fat burning' form of exercise.
For cardiovascular training or fat burning, you would need your heart rate to be up at a moderate to high intensity for the majority of the class, so you could potentially lose weight if you practice asana 4-5 times per week at a high intensity (Ashtanga, Power Vinyasa etc) together with mindful eating.
Also, when we practice asana, and other paths of yoga like meditation and breathing exercises, we are decreasing our stress levels, and when we commit to a yoga practice, we tend to make better choices in our diet and our lifestyle. So yoga can indirectly help.
So my answer to this question is, educate yourself as to what weight loss actually is physiologically, then decide whether you want yoga to be that path. Personally, I want yoga to be my path of self study. My practice of non-attachment to ego, and everything I identify with. I respect the ancient art of yoga and the fact that it's an internal practice. Yoga is my personal journey of self awareness. Yoga is surrendering. Yoga is my state of mind.
For cardiovascular exercise, I box and jog :)
If you are like me, you may be getting a little frustrated over seeing products with words like ‘natural’, ‘organic’, ‘botanic’ or even ‘no chemicals’ written on them, only to find when you look at the ingredients on the back, there’s still a whole lot of stuff which should maybe stay in the lab instead of applied to the body, face or hair.
What’s worse, as I get older, it’s becoming much harder for me to even read the back of these products. Intentional? Possibly.
I’m over it.
I’m on a journey to find some homemade recipes and remedies so I know exactly what’s in everything I use. Hopefully it will help me save some cash too. Very exciting!
Let’s start with something I’ve been trying (half arsed) for about 25 years, chemical free deodorant or antiperspirant.
So why swap your supermarket bought deodorant to a chemical free deodorant? Most of the store bought products contain heaps of carcinogens, hormone disruptors and toxins including: Silica (bad for skin and could cause cancer), Parabens (linked to breast cancer), Aluminium (blocks sweat ducts which prevents sweating … which isn’t a good thing because the body sweats for a reason … AND linked to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s), Triclosan (skin irritant - actually a pesticide!), Propylene Glycol (linked to kidney and liver damage) … and seriously the list goes on!
I have many questions. Why haven’t these products been banned? Are we ignoring this research due to the fear of having body odour? Why have I waited so long to do this? To be honest, I’ve never tried making it myself but just tried randoms from the health shop, which didn’t work because I probably didn’t give them a chance. This time though, I’m committed.
Who better to turn to for advice than Melbourne based yoga teacher, holistic health coach (and friend), Sasha Layton. This lady is a pro at all things natural. She makes heaps of her own products and swears on this deodorant.
Sasha's homemade Deodorant.
½ cup organic Extra Virgin coconut oil
(ideally room temperature so it’s soft)
¼ cup (or less if sensitive to it) of aluminium free Bicarb Soda
3 Tablespoons arrowroot flour
3 Tablespoons Cornflour
5 drops of pure therapy grade essential oil, like Young Living or Doterra (I use 2 3 drops Lavender and 2 drops Lemon)
**Make sure coconut oil is soft or slightly melted, mix in a bowl with dry ingredients, add essential oil/s at the end & mix well. Transfer into a mason style jar. If the mixture is runny, you may want to stick the jar in the fridge for 20mins or so. To use just take about a 5 cent piece amount on your fingers & rub into your armpits!!
I’ve made a batch, I’ve starting wearing it, so far so good. I’m sweating (it’s Adelaide summer), and I just sniffed my pits and surprisingly they don’t smell at all.
The good news about this also is now you've bought the products, they last for ages. This recipe requires just a few drops of the oil, and you can use them for many of our recipes to come. So although you feel like this isn't going to save you money at the start, it will certainly save you heaps of cash in the long run.
Sasha is a Melbourne based holistic health coach and you can find her on her website here: http://sashayogalife.com.au and facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SashaYogaLife/
I must also mention the amazing family owned store, The Honey Shop, in Adelaide’s Central Market. This is where I have purchased my therapy grade essential oils and where I choose to purchase whatever I can. http://www.thehoneyshoppe.com.au/index.php and facebook:
Give it a go, and feel free to comment with your own suggestions or results.
By Polly Wilson
Does your mind race with incessant thoughts at 4 in the morning until you start to feel like you are going bat-sh*t crazy? Join the (very frazzled) club! According to sleephealthfoundation.org.au, around 1 in 3 Australians suffer from at least a mild form of insomnia.
For many, this relates to chronic worry, anxiety, or stress. For some, demands of work and busy life makes it feel almost impossible to switch off come evening time. For others, it could be a low level anxiety that is always bubbling away under the surface that the body and mind have forgotten how to relax and let go.
Many of us are in a constant state of fight-or-flight. Our poor adrenals. Ouch.
This has been my personal journey with Yoga. 12 years ago, I didn’t even feel relaxed in Savasana! My first few classes I snuck out before I was forced into stillness (and I know from teaching now I am not alone with this experience) Wow the difference in me now though - Savasana is without a doubt my favourite pose.
You guys, this Yoga thing really works.. I think it might catch on! ;)
The therapeutic sequence below is my go to if I need to wind down before bed and meditation, or if I just can’t get to sleep (I’ll hop out of bed and practice in my PJ’s!). It helps to soothe my nervous system, slow down my breath and thoughts, and brings me back to ‘self’.
Left Nostril Breath
You might be familiar with Nadi Shodana or alternate nostril breathing which is often practiced in a Hatha Yoga class. We naturally alternate breathing dominantly through one nostril and then the other periodically throughout the day. The issue is, when we are constantly on the go in body or mind, we stay right nostril dominant which keeps us in the sympathetic nervous system. So, by only breathing in and out through the left nostril, we help to reactivate the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest response)
Start in Sukhasana or a comfortable seated position of your choice (you can even use the wall to support your back), take a moment to consciously scan your body and relax any parts that feel like you are holding, shoulders, jaw, hips.
- Take your right hand to your nose, close off the right nostril with your thumb and breathe slowly (but not forced) in and out of the left nostril. I like to give the mind an extra layer to focus on by using the mantra So Ham. Hear the sound So on the inhale and Ham on the exhale.
Practice for 5 - 10 minutes, allowing yourself time with eyes closed after the practice by breathing through both nostrils with natural breath.
Seated Bidalasna (Cat/Cow)
Stress and over-thinking can create tension in the upper back and neck. This seated version of cat/cow pose helps to relieve tension along the spine including the neck. The rhythmic motion linking the breath with slow movement can also help to soothe.
-From Sukhasana with each inhale tilt the pelvis forward as the spine arches, with each exhale, rock back onto the tailbone and round the spine as you bring your chin to your chest.
Repeat for ten or so breaths linking the breath with the movement (you may even choose to use the So Ham mantra)
You can either take this pose seated as I am in the photo, or take Supta Buddha Konasana lying on your back or lying over a bolster.
For the seated version:
- Bring the soles of the feet together and take a moment to feel the sit bones and hips weighted on the floor. Either stay upright or hinge forward from the hip crease until you simply feel the first point of resistance.
- This pose can be more restorative by folding over a bolster, and you could also place pillows or even yoga blocks under the knees for extra support.
At least ten breaths. Count your breathe or use the mantra for that extra layer for the mind to focus on. When the mind wanders of just come back to the breath without stressing about it :)
This version is less about lengthening the hamstrings and more about the therapeutic benefits of calming and soothing the nervous system as you turn inwards.
- Hinge from the hip crease as you fold forward with length in the front and back body.
- You can have your legs straight out in front of you, or you may like to bend your knees a little (like I’m doing in the photo) and place a rolled up blanket or pillow for support so you can really allow the inward turning.
At least 10 breaths. Try and avoiding pushing here, this isn’t the time to find your ‘edge’ in the pose.
Long known as one of the most beneficial restorative poses to activate our parasympathetic nervous system.
- Slide in towards the wall with one hip and gently swing around so your legs are supported by the wall. If you don’t have a clear wall, you can use a bolster to elevate your hips.
- Allow your arms to rest wherever is comfy on your belly, or beside the body.
Take as long as you like in this pose (you may even drift off here), if the hamstrings start to talk to you, just bend the knees a little. You may like a gentle twist or to hug your knees into your chest before...
Climbing into your bed for Savasana
If your mind still feels a little busy you may like to try either a guided meditation or Yoga Nidra recording on your phone and play it through your headphones. Check out
http://www.yoganidranetwork.org/downloads for free Nidra downloads.
Finally, Be kind to yourself, practice self compassion and acceptance in the moment. Allow. Be.
And if all else fails there’s always netflix? (just kidding!)
Spring is a perfect time to commence a meditation practice.
I often hear people say they can’t meditate because their mind is so busy. This is precisely why we meditate, to slow down the batty mind and give ourselves a wee bit of peace and quiet.
Easier said than done I know!
Below are a few simple things we can do, to help find the stillness we all deserve. And remember, we never fail at meditation, we only experience.
Give it a go. Meditation isn’t an easy practice, but it’s a natural practice. We all have it in us and we all have the potential. Whether we are ready to commit is another story. Hopefully these little tips will have you less ‘fearful’ of the journey so you can be levitating in no time!
By Polly Wilson
At the start of this year I moved into a beautiful place north of Sydney on an estuary of the Hawkesbury river. Surrounded by nature with only about 60 houses, and a half an hour drive from the closest shops the solitude and space really spoke to us.
Being so close to Sydney we weren’t expecting how difficult it would be to get the usual mod cons installed we now take for granted - no mobile signal, no TV signal, and recently no internet at all.
Just a good old fashioned landline. Hello 1990’s!
What was even more surprising was my unconscious addiction to my phone and internet..
According to the business insider, the average person touches their phone 2,617 times a day. MIND BLOWING!
As a society we’ve become addicted to instant gratification and answers.
I’m not sure I’ve ever been quite at that statistic but what I observed was the desire to google the most ridiculous things.. ‘What to do with the bottom arm whilst being big spoon’, ‘Do slave monkeys pick coconuts’, ‘How old is The Fonze’ (just a selection from the last couple of days!) It’s not like the world will stop turning if I don’t find those out stat..
But the four most important things I’ve learned not having any internet?
#1. I think I don’t have much time - but I do. We are obsessed with being busy, but is also this instantaneous communication and feedback really just distracting? Without the internet at home, my internet time has been limited to 2- 3 hours at the library during the day for work and personal time after teaching Yoga. So, I’ve found at home myself and my husband have played board games, walked in nature, read books and practiced guided meditations together.
#2. My meditations were deeper. In a half an hour meditation it would normally take me 15 minutes for my mind to settle. I found I dropped into stillness much quicker both morning and evening.
#3. My Yoga practice was more spacious. Similar to the above, I got into the flow of my practice easier. With no messages coming up on my phone in the morning, no distractions and a longer more spacious practice.
#4. I slept better (and consequently felt more energetic during the day) It usually takes me half an hour or so to drift off. That ‘blue screen’ is definitely a thing. Less monkey mind and more sleepy baby!
Will I give it up? Nah…it’s so much more convenient with the internet and to have that flexibility to work or study at home, book flights and events and Skype-ing international friends. We will be back on the internet next week - will try to find the willpower to turn the wifi off by dinner time though.
I’ll try it and let you know how I go….
One final thing…
The Fonze is 71 years old ;)
The Yoga Social Team