Meet the very inspiring, Olivia Bryant. Yoga teacher, life coach and creator of the yoga, life, relationships, sex and conscious living blog, 'Courageous Yogi'.
I asked her a few questions about life and Yoga.
What made you attend your first Yoga class?
I think i was always a bit of an explorer. I got this from my dad who was an antarctic explorer. I'm more of a pychonaut. I was reading self help books at a young age though i have no idea why. I wanted answers to life's big questions like 'what am I supposed to do with my life?' and 'how can I get over that ex-boyfriend?' (I was 17). I think my questions got bigger the more I explored yoga (thankfully).
Can you describe how you felt in your first class (if you can remember)?
Er...bored! I really didn't understand why I was following a handout of poses and breathing. There wasn't an explanation and everyone seemed VERY serious. It took me a while to step into another yoga studio. The next time I did I was in New York. My friend Camilla Maling called me up and said 'I think we've found a teacher'. This was the now famous Sadie Nardini. Her classes made sense to me. She taught about how to deal with life when it suuuucks, how to perceive life from a higher pov and as a byproduct I began to cultivate a much deeper connection to myself. She started to answer the really big questions in a very practical way.
What advice can you give someone if they want to take their Yoga practice to a deeper level off the Yoga mat?
So many things! Self observation is one of the main things I practice off the mat.
I use self observation to bring unconscious behaviours to the surface so over time I stop repeating the same dumb mistakes! For example, self sabotage is a biggie that I would say everyone deals with ( eg procrastination, fear based action or inaction, negative thinking). So for example you feel scared and tend to avoid asking for the money you feel you deserve....next time you'll pay more attention and notice fear. What are you going to do with that energy? How will you transform it into fuel for personal growth? What is fear teaching you?
Owning up to what we do out loud is a great tool. But it means we have to get good at being vulnerable. The shadow side of everything we most want is great vulnerability. In order to contribute in a big way to life, vulnerability is part and parcel. So if we engage with negative emotion rather than rise above it, we can see it all as a gift and a teacher.
Is tantra all about sex?
No! There are three branches of tantra (and within them many schools). One branch has a more sexual focus and ultimately it's still about spirituality. The philosophical side of Tantra is magical and so relevant for the modern yogi. It's less about detachment, transcendence or simplifying and more about engagement and participation in life. It teaches that everything is the divine expressing itself including you! Even your cup of coffee or glass of wine. It teaches that your connection to universal consciousness is found through your body, through nature and through the whole experience of embodiment including the human traits that don't make us proud. We can know the divine by knowing ourselves.
Totally unrelated random question - what's one of your guilty pleasures you simply cannot give up?
hehe. Well I would say I love wine! But as a Tantrika - I don't feel guilt, I'm just interested in my attachment as it ebbs and flows. When I do feel guilt around pleasure, I wonder about what part of myself I'm not allowing or rejecting instead of just owning up. Gosh, it's all so interesting! Let me also clarify Tantra is not about over indulging, I'm a real moderate by nature. I'm a pleasure seeker. I think if we all leaned into pleasure more often the world would be a more connected place!
You can check out Olivia's blog here: http://www.courageousyogi.com/
Olivia will be presenting a workshop 'Living Yoga in the real world' at Breathe Wellbeing next Saturday 6th July. Check out the flyer below. http://breathewellbeing.com.au/
You can also check Olivia's 'Pleasure Ed' workshop this Sunday at The Yoga Lab http://theyogalab.com.au/
Camilla, from The Yoga Lab in East Brunswick will be hosting Noah for one weekend only! (so hurry up and book)
I'll be heading up to Ubud/Bali (as Melbourne Yogis do in winter - just kidding.. this is my first time ... seriously) on that same weekend. I remember just a few months ago saying to a friend that I planned on following (stalking) him for a few years to learn all I could. Now he'll be in my town, and I won't. Must remember that limb, which one is it? The one that teaches us non attachment?
I recently completed a teacher training with Noah and he opened my mind. He opened my mind to innovative sequencing, he opened my mind to the Bhagavad Gita. He taught me to to be direct and to take charge. He challenged all the Vedanta philosophy I had studied with just one question ...
"What if this is enlightenment, right here, right now?".
So, Melbourne Yogis, Sydney Yogis, AUSSIE Yogis I assure you you won't be disappointed if you attend this event. You'll even end up loving his sweet sounds on the harmonium (or not).
Do you love a good hands on adjustment? Or, have you ever told a Yoga teacher you'de prefer it if they didn't touch you?
Trust is something you earn over time and many of us are placed in quite a vulnerable situation when it comes to our health, fitness and wellbeing.
Have you ever had a new instructor who you didn't know take you deeper into a pose with their 'not so gentle' and 'unfamiliar' hands and thought for a moment, "wait a minute, you don't know my body or my limitations"?
Do we trust in the universe that the teachers standing before us are qualified Yoga teachers who have studied the human body, the poses they are teaching and 'hands on' adjusting?
Then there's the media! Sowing more seeds of distrust. All this talk about Yoga injuries and dodgy Yoga teachers!
Personally, I offer hands on adjustments in my classes. I touch my students all the time. I also tell the student before I do it and I ask them if it's alright. But I know many instructors don't do this.
If I go to a Yoga class (and I do regularly), I don't freely offer my body up to the instructor saying "take it, my body is in your hands". I still have ownership of my body and all of it's crazy physical and mental 'issues'. If I'm feeling vulnerable and don't want to be touched, then I'll say so. But i know it's not that easy for some. For some of us, we sit at the back, don't want to be watched, don't want to be singled out and certainly don't want to be the one that says to the instructor "please don't adjust me today".
Well, we thought there was no easy answer but maybe there is. Introducing the 'Yoga Flip Chip'. This chip (made of organic bamboo I assume) is placed on your mat and on one side it says 'assist' and on the other it says 'yoga your way'. It even comes in a cute little pouch.
Are we taking things too far? Can't an instructor simply start the class with "raise you hand if there's anything you need me to know, for example pregnancy, injury or no hands on adjustments for you today and I'll come and chat to you about it"?
Is this chip taking the responsibility away from our wonderful Yoga instructors or is it making life easier for us all?
YogaHour and Penchant for Practice.
Darren Rhodes is the founder of YogaHour and the author and model of the Yoga Resource Practice Manual eBook featuring (the very famous) photographs of Darren in 400 yoga poses with instructions. He's also recently been named one of Yoga Journal’s '21 Talented Young Teachers Shaping the Future of Yoga.'
I, like many, have been inspired by him whilst participating in his class on YogaGlo. It seems he grew up with Yoga around him (his mum is a Yoga teacher and dad a meditator/scholar) and it shows.
Oh and one more thing ... HE"S COMING TO SYDNEY!!
I want to sit in his presence and pick his brain. I'll be the nerdy 'pitta' Yogi sitting in the front row enthusiastically writing in my notebook, nodding at EVERYTHING he says. I must get there 3 hours early so I can lie down my mat and claim my spot, I know I will. Sigh.
So he'll be at Preshana Yoga teaching a number of workshops , classes and teacher trainings between September 6th - 15th.
Check out the schedule here:
I love it the way Preshana Yoga give you so many payment options. You can't make the afternoon? then just pay for the morning. You can't make the 2nd weekend? Then just pay for the 1st. But be quick to book .. cos I'm confident it will sell out!
See you in the front row :)
Yay! I've waited for a Sivananda Centre to open in Australia for the past 10 years! The very popular international Yoga organisation opened it's doors in South Melbourne just a few months ago and are offering Classical Hatha (in the Sivananda style) Yoga classes, cooking courses, retreats, meditation courses ... and the list goes on.
Sivananda Yoga has been around for a very long time. It's one of the oldest Hatha Yoga Schools and was one of the first to offer Yoga teacher training courses in the west. This is a guru focused organisation. Two gurus actually. The first, being the 'Grandfather Guru' of many Yoga styles around today, Swami Sivananda, who was a Yoga teacher, Vedanta teacher and Hindu Spiritual teacher. His vision was to take Yoga to the west so, in the 1950's he instructed his disciple, Swami Vishnu Devananda (and many others like him) to leave India and spread the word.
This is when the Sivananda Yoga Ventanta centres were born.
The Hatha Yoga class consists of a chant to begin, 2 pranayama exercises, a vigorous sun salutation warm up, 12 main postures (with their variations depending on level of class), a long savasana and final chant.
Expect to do the same sequence every time.
Although quite a social centre, the Sivananda centres are certainly not a hip, trendy, power, sweat kind of Yoga centre so leave your ego and stylish Yoga clothes outside the door. They are serious about all paths of Yoga and encourage everyone to live by 5 basic principles:
1. Proper exercise - Asana (postures)
2. Proper breathing - Pranayama (breathing exercises)
3. Proper relaxation - Savasana (corps pose)
4. Proper diet - Vegetarianism (Ahimsa - non violence)
5. Positive thinking and meditation - Study of Vedanta and Meditation
So if you're after traditional and classical - this is certainly a centre worth trying.
Check out the link to the organisation here: http://www.sivananda.org/
Check out the Melbourne centre details on my 'Yoga Centres we love' page. /yoga-studios-we-love.html
Meet Natasja Tokyo Electric Fox. Yoga teacher, Chinese doctor and co-founder of charity organisation Traditional Healthcare.
I asked her a few questions about Yoga and her Yoga practice.
Why do you practice Yoga?
Practicing asana releases tension from my body, it increases my awareness of my muscles and bones and my breathing patterns. It also brings focus to my mental and physical patterns. Awareness of these patterns then help shine a light on the mechanisms that lie behind my behavior and mood. After practicing asana, pranayama and pratyahara I find that my mind is calmer and I'm able to concentrate on my day to day activities without rapid thoughts or random emotions. In other words it brings me into the present.
What's your favourite Yoga pose and why?
My favorite yoga pose is adho mukha Vrksasana, (free stand hand stand) as it challenges my concentration, proprioception. It keeps me very present.
What's the main thing you struggle with in your own Yoga practice? How do you deal with this?
The main thing I struggle with is one of the Yamas called Aparigraha, the desire to acquire beautiful things. I love beautiful things whether it be plants, art, shoes, quilts, scarves, books, sculptures, jewelery etc ....I love being surrounded by beautiful things, the more the better, this is not very yogic. When I lose a possession I love, this Yama helps me deal with it quickly and get over it. I have this yama above my bed to remind me to not gather more things!
What's the best piece of advise you could give a complete beginner?
The best piece of advise I can give a beginner is to love your practice like a precious gem, find a competent teacher, read the Heart of Yoga by TKV Desikichar, take the teachings of yoga into your everyday life, learn about the limbs of yoga and not just the physical part of the practice, do not get caught up in the 'flexibility trap' its meaningless and can be dangerous on your joints.
Random (unrelated to yoga) question - What is your favourite song of ALL TIME and who sings it?
My favorite song of all time changes all the time. It swings between songs from these genres mostly: contemporary classical, minimal electronic, jazz, funk and could keep going but randomly Tears for Fears are doing it for me right now..'Everybody wants to rule the world', brings back really sweet childhood memories of chasing the ice-cream van in the Dandenong ranges in my older cousin's car.
The Yoga Social Team