Simple Reminder

Yogis on Mats
Yogis on Mats (novel concept)

Just a gentle reminder that the tools and practices of yoga – of any style of yoga – are so much bigger than any one person or persona. There has been so much noise in the media; first about the poorly performed asana and related injuries, then about a supposedly sexually provacative yoga video, then about highly visible yoga leader’s behaviour that I think the whole point of yoga is largely being missed by the mainstream. Focusing on the drama means we miss out on the real value of a sincere yoga practice. As yogis, we must come back to the reason why we practice rather than allowing the chorus of external voices dissuade us from our own path or to create doubt and disharmony.

From my persepective, a yoga practice is ultimately meant to help us to a greater sense of self-trust and self-reliance so that we can weather any challenge we meet. The practice of yoga does not demand that we pledge allegiance or abdicate our own authority to any person or system. As we deepen into the practice, we can see the fruits of the practice in a great many ways – not the least of which is that we consult others less about what is good for us and trust ourselves more.

That path of yoga points us back inward to the source of our own strength. Yoga is not about any one person or method or lineage. We are moving from an era where we abdicate our personal autonomy to some external “leader” or organisation to an era of heart-centered collaboration. Heart-centered collaboration isn’t reliant on a brand or a single person. It is about getting so close to ourselves that we can get close to other people and be of service without fear. To trust that if we get hurt, we can handle it, we can re-group and go on.

I think that yoga teachers are all just guides. They are not moral compasses. For me, I do my best to point each student inward, into more direct contact with their own experience. At the end of the day, it’s really not about me. Ultimately, it’s about the student and their deepening relationship with themselves. I’m merely a guidepost on their path.

I’m on my own path too. I seek out individuals and situations that help me raise my vibration, rather than lower it. In the current climate of media maelstrom, getting on the mat, rather than on the internet to read more controversy, is a way we can move forward as individuals and as a community in the highest way.

“We are all just walking each other home”  ~Ram Dass

On Courage

Inaugural Off the Mat crew, Sydney

Often, I will teach a class with a theme on courage and the way that yoga prepares us to hold enough space for ourselves so that face up to the tough stuff in our lives, even when we want to run away. When we have sensitivity and courage, we can be of great service to the people in our lives. This past weekend, I was going to teach such a class again. But I was about to learn a deeper level of the very lesson I was there to teach. Continue reading “On Courage”

What’s the big idea? (or meltdown emergency care)

Have you ever had a meltdown? You know, when a fear or anxiety takes over and you just get caught in a little rut. You may rant and rave or cry or just shut down entirely…Did you know that when you focus on negative things for just 30 seconds, the neurochemical response in your nervous system is actually more than your body-mind can handle? Studies have shown that it literally begins to damage cells in the limbic system part of your brain responsible for processing emotion. Which makes you less resilient over the long haul. Youch.

Now when you’re living right on the edge of your comfort zone, meltdowns can happen. They are a wake up call. It means you’ve lost connection with yourself. The practice of yoga can be a means of reconnecting with yourself, with what is most important to you. Consider for a moment, what gets you out of bed in the morning. What drives you? What is your deepest value? See if you can connect with one word. The word form can literally start to shift the patterning of the cells.

Recent studies have also shown when you meditate on what the researchers have called “a big idea” for a few minutes every day consistently, your brain literally gets shifted. In the moment of meditation, the activity in your parietal lobe (your sense of your individual self, small self) goes down as more dendrites are formed, connecting frontal lobe (planner), through thalamus (reality perceiver) to the centers of the brain that help you to manifest big ideas in the world. After just 8 weeks of this, the thalamus is reshaped by 10%. So literally, your perception of reality is changed forever. Which means your capacity to manifest is changed forever.

A yoga practice can be a moving form of meditation. So if you take your one word from earlier with you into and throughout the practice, you can literally start to re-pattern your brain for the better. Which, if you’re anything like I’ve been over the last little while, will be helpful for undoing any damage a meltdown may have caused.

Special thanks to Tara Judelle for the link to the TEDx talk and the inspiration for taking this into practice. Watch more about the research behind this article here: What’s your big idea?

Adapt or Attack?

I watched the most amazing marine biology video that someone posted to facebook the other day. I have to admit that I’m not one to watch every single thing that appears in my facebook feed or I’d never get anything else done! The comment associated with this video, however, said that the footage contained had actually made a marine biologist scream. That compelled me to click. Marine biologists don’t seem like an over-excitable lot so this had to be good!

And it was. The video started with a shot of a sea bush, flowing in the water and as the camera got closer to the bush, all of a sudden, a huge patch of it turned white and an eyeball appeared.  It was an octopus that had camouflaged itself into the sea bush as a means of hiding from the marine biologist that had been following him for an hour. Only when the camera got too close for comfort did the octopus go into startle mode, shoot ink at the guy and flee the scene. Continue reading “Adapt or Attack?”

Barefoot bliss

Yoga doesn’t always happen on a yoga mat. Sometimes a yoga mat can get in the way of a decent yoga practice. Bear with me while I digress somewhat.

One of my favourite things to do is to walk barefoot in the woods. Although I loved it as a child, I was only reminded of it recently by my Osteopath. He suggested that I walk barefoot over uneven, natural surfaces to help my body use deep, intrinsic postural muscles and in so doing, unwind some tricky internal knots that he normally sorts out when he works his magic. While my hips and back feel absolutely fantastic after a barefoot traipse through the trails, that result pales in comparison to the state of my heart and mind. Continue reading “Barefoot bliss”

Is your practice serving you?

Kelly Fisher
How do you feel?

How does your yoga practice make you feel? Most days, at the end of it, do you feel more in tune with yourself? Do you feel easier in your own body? Do you feel freer in your mind and more open in your heart? Do you feel more yourself and less your persona?

Even if it’s just a little, or only subtle, when you finish a practice and feel better than when you began, you can be sure that you’ve contributed to improving your wellbeing on many levels. The flow on effect of that healing will begin to positively impact upon everything you do, every relationship that you have and every choice you make.

If, on the other hand, you end up feeling depleted, wound up, twitchy and frustrated perhaps it’s time to examine the kind of practice that you’re doing (one size most certainly does not fit all) or the way in which you’re approaching your practice. Practicing yoga helps you to cultivate a deep knowledge of yourself and in order to derive the benefits of this practice, it must be approached with a deep respect for yourself. If your practice isn’t serving you, do something about it!

The best place to start is to examine your attitude and motivation. Why are you practicing yoga? What do you hope to experience or receive from the practice? Taking that into account, how will you approach your practice?

When you begin from a place of self-respect and care, invariably you are able to develop more sensitivity, more receptivity and greater self-harmony. And in my opinion, that’s the whole point really. It doesn’t matter exactly what kind of practice you’re doing, it matters how it serves you. When you’re practicing with the goal of taking care of yourself, you will know if a certain kind of practice is helping you or not.

I practice yoga to reconnect with the deep innate wellspring of truth, consciousness and bliss. When I take the time to connect with that part of myself, I notice everything changes. When I first started practicing, it was only subtle. Little by little though, as I collected these moments of time spent in remembrance of and connection with myself, it began to have a flow in effect to the rest of my life. Every day I become more authentic, more empowered, freer to be exactly who I am, how I am and through natural extension of that, I feel like I’m able to be of far greater service to the world around me.

How is your practice improving your life?

Clearing Out

The part of purging that I’ve never heard anyone talk about is the re-experiencing that happens in the final letting go. I myself have never really gone through the grief associated with letting go until recently because grieving has always seemed terrifying to me. I got quite skilled at skipping through the mourning period and just moving on. Through the practice of yoga, I am becoming braver and more willing to feel each emotion fully. I am learning that the self-compassion I’ve developed through my yoga practice is the key to allowing the grief to move through me so that I can truly move on.

I’m moving house at the end of this week and preparing for that move has crystallised this realisation. Given that I’m headed to a smaller place, I’ve been combing through my possessions, culling rather extensively. I’m not a hoarder by any stretch at all. When I moved to New Zealand (for the second time) six years ago, I only brought suitcases with me. Enduring two overseas moves has taught me that most “stuff” is more trouble than it’s worth to me.

Theoretically this downsizing shouldn’t be laborious. The problem is that I feel I’ve only kept things that are meaningful or useful. It is therefore emotional and exhausting, trying to decide what goes and what stays. A lot has happened in the last six years of my life, much of which I’ve not completely processed. A shortlist includes: Continue reading “Clearing Out”

Fluid potential

pigeonIn honour of spring and inspired by a conversation with Auckland yogini Karla Brodie, as well as my study of tantric philosophy, I am reconnecting with my own internal experience of potentiality. I am delving deeper into the idea of connecting with my natural inner buoyancy as a way to allow the poses to emerge from the inside out, to breathe, to live, to be animated with my unique expression of prana – life force. Consciously tapping into the water element in my body has been crucial to that exploration.

Water is a powerful element. It changes form, depending on the temperature of its surroundings, without changing its composition. It changes attitudes – from calm and gentle to wild and raging and everything in between. It gets into small spaces, cleans them out and opens up more room for itself and other things to flow. It patiently rubs up against rock over centuries to create entirely new forms. It blasts through barriers to destroy existing formations in a heartbeat. Water can soothe and it can destroy. It is responsive and potent.

Being that adult humans are comprised of about 70-90% water, the ability to connect with our fluid nature helps us connect with the life force and the resilience that are our birthright. Within many studies of ancient and modern philosophies, water is seen as the element that nourishes, purifies and heals. Water carries nutrients, vibration and subtle information to every cell of our bodies. We can cultivate healing in our bodies by opening to the wave movement that already exists internally. The modern science of quantum physics and the ancient art of yoga both tell us that wave motion is the underlying movement of all creation. Our entire being experiences more ease when we step into the flow of wave motion, rather than resisting it with rigidity and overemphasis on outer form.

In my practice, I’ve been experiencing a remembrance of the power available to me when I balance creating the structure of a posture with allowing my body to express itself from the inside out. There is the potential to channel so much energy, and thereby tap into so much potential, by creating good physical alignment. The power, however, seems to be subdued if I become overly concerned with the outer form and alignment of a pose. There is no authenticity or life visible when I rigidly perform perfect postures. In contrast, when I use what I know about alignment to set my foundation intelligently and then allow myself to experience that internal current of fluidity, the pose becomes a joyous expression of who I am and how I am at a given moment. It becomes a jubilant flow of breath and body that nourishes my muscles, joints and organs and also buoys my spirit and soothes my mind.

In my life, although I’ve still got quite a lot to learn, I’ve been experiencing a greater ease in my internal response to challenging situations by consciously cultivating this self-liquefaction. When I am clear on my boundaries and needs, the potential to be happy, safe and effective is increased. I thwart myself and my relationships with others, however, if I become too unyielding or demanding. In contrast, when I know my needs and limits but stay open to possibilities, my heart and mind stay more buoyant and responsive. I become a surfer of life’s waves, rather than a victim of them.

In my classes this week, we will be reconnecting more consciously with this fluid element, inviting more ease in the organs and joints. The hips and lower back will derive particular benefit from this type of practice. The water element is associated with the sacral chakra. The sacral chakra governs these areas of our bodies as well as our emotions and our sexuality. Learning to flow on the yoga mat can free up all sorts of possibilities in the relationships in our lives as well as in our bodies.

This spring, I invite you to explore your own potential by reconnecting with the flow of your body, breath and mind. Whether you do that on a yoga mat, on the dance floor or in the ocean, you will experience the joy that comes with riding the waves. I hope to see you in the flow soon!

~Kelly Fisher

Earthquake Integration

Split in the earthThank you all so much for your care and concern about me in the days following the Christchurch earthquake. As many of you know, I was in Christchurch for a workshop with Noah Maze when the earthquake struck.

In the week since I’ve been home, I’ve received such an outpouring of love and support that I feel truly humbled and abundantly grateful for my yoga community. Although I wasn’t adversely affected by the earthquake, I have been very simply, yet profoundly impacted by it. The experience helped me to experience an even greater authentic and embodied integration of the lessons yoga has been teaching me for years.

When the earth shook me awake in the early hours of the morning, my instant fear reaction was followed almost immediately by a rush of relaxation and ease. Continue reading “Earthquake Integration”

Set your foundation, Flow with ease

Grounded GoddessIdeally, the very first thing we do in a yoga posture (asana) is set the foundation. We place our feet and/or our hands in a very particular way, with great intention and keen attentiveness to detail. We position our feet and hands carefully because the way the rest of the asana unfolds will be directly affected by the placement of the parts of us that are touching the ground.

Then, before we build the rest of the asana, we soften a little. When the foundation is strong and sure, we are able to breathe freely. Almost instinctively, we pause and we are able to open to the possibility of how the next few moments might unfold. From the clear physical foundation, with openness to the present moment, we then build the rest of the posture.

When we practice in this way, there is an internal surrender that can occur. The strength and support of our foundation sends subtle cues to our entire system so that some layers of tension can dissolve, muscles can release and space can open up.

Once a strong foundation is set and that openness occurs, it is tremendously satisfying and liberating to flow, either within a posture or between postures, taking just as much care to ensure that each foundation is clear so that we can fully experience freedom. With that freedom comes ease, not only in the body but also in the mind. We feel light and capable and discover that we are able to open more than we thought possible.

Practicing this way is a very different experience from casually moving into an asana without consideration for the foundation and quickly moving between postures before the first posture is fully expressed by the body. In my experience, when I move quickly without taking care with my foundation, I begin to gather internal tension, with deep internal muscles trying to compensate for the work that the larger muscles are meant to be doing. Beyond the physical, I notice I also begin to feel anxious or agitated.

Similarly in daily life off the mat, I notice that if I set my foundations wisely, I can soften and open to the possibility of what a given day or a given situation may hold. When I have my feet on the ground figuratively, I am far more able to go with the flow of life. If I neglect to take care of myself, everything else in my life suffers – I become tense, situations seem impossible, other people’s shortcomings become unbearable, I worry more, I demand more, I sleep less, I give less, I live less and I achieve less.

Consider the things that help you to set your foundation. A regular yoga practice is invaluable to creating internal steadiness. What else helps you to put your feet on the ground? What connects you to your innate wellbeing and joy? What food, drink and company make you feel healthy and whole? What activities light you up inside? What do you absolutely need to feel fully like the very best expression of yourself? THESE are the things you need to make sure you get. They aren’t luxuries. They are necessities. The world NEEDS you to come fully alive every single day.

I would encourage you to spend a few minutes in reflection and write down your answers to the questions above. Choose three non-negotiable things that you need to do to “set your foundation”, whether they be daily or weekly things. Then make setting your foundation a priority for at least three weeks (that’s how long it takes to form a habit). Notice how your life unfolds differently when you’ve got the internal softness that’s possible when you’ve properly set your foundation.

In my experience, the way that you take care of yourself has a direct impact on everything and everyone else in your life. When you’ve got the strength and surety that comes from setting your foundation, you can be open and responsive in your body and your mind instead of tense and contracted. Because of this, you are able to offer more kindness and be of greater service to every single person around you and to the world in general. You can go with the flow and live more fully.

~Kelly Fisher

**To learn more about ways to create sustainable ways to be of service to the world, check out the “Yoga in Action” courses that I run!