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”

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”

Top Five Things I learned from Noah and the Earthquake

Noah maze workshopThis past weekend, I was fortunate enough to have been part of an Anusara workshop led by the incomparable Noah Maze. Noah’s gift for recounting the stories that make up yogic lore brings those ancient tales alive and makes them so relevant to our modern lives.

After the first night’s session, overnight there was a magnitude 7.1 earthquake in the city of Christchurch, where the workshop was being held. Luckily, because the quake happened in the middle of the night, no lives were lost and there were only two serious injuries reported. It certainly did give us all a moment to pause. In the pause I felt immense awe for the power of nature and abundant gratitude to have been witness but not adversely affected.

So many stories will be coming out the weekend for ages to come, but I’ thought I’d offer my initial impressions of the things I took away from that weekend here Continue reading “Top Five Things I learned from Noah and the Earthquake”

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!

Going Home

The practice of yoga conditions us for life and helps us to tolerate and integrate the challenging experiences that we encounter in our lives. Elena Brower, a teacher I admire greatly, often says something like, “We accumulate moments of healing in the time spent on our mats”.

As someone who has had a consistent daily practice for years, I can attest to the truth of her words. As often happens however, when something beautiful is perpetually right in front of you, I lost a little of my reverence for the nourishment provided by my practice. It took missing out on that practice for a few days during my recent trip to North America to help me to regain my gratitude for the healing power of yoga. Continue reading “Going Home”

Mantra for Intuition

StatuesAuspiciously enough, the monthly bhakti yoga and kirtan evening held at Yoga Unlimited fell on Guru Purnima in July. Simply put, Guru Purnima is a time to honour your teachers, both those that surround you as well as the teacher inside you. It is a fantastic day for introspective, meditative practice and so the practice of chanting was powerful indeed!

On this particular evening, two very different renditions of the Gayatri Mantra were practiced. The Gayatri is a personal favourite of mine and it is well-known in yoga circles. I’ve heard it sung in very different ways – from quick and staccato to slow and lilting. The words are as follows:

Om Bhur Bhuva Svaha
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi
Dhi Yo Yonah Prachodayat Om

Over the years, I’ve heard many translations and meanings of this chant. Quite often, appreciation of the sun features prominently and this being the case, I always had some idea that the Gayatri was a heating mantra.

On this particular evening however, I was to have my perception and appreciation of the Gayatri altered forever. At the beginning of the session, my dear friend Satyananda yoga teacher Tyag, explained that we would be chanting the Gayatri for inner wisdom and peace. He went on to say that the Gayatri is a cooling mantra for the mind, activating Ida nadi – the feminine aspect of ourselves. As such, the Gayatri is a powerful tool for awakening our intuition.

A-ha! I had never heard it explained this way before but it made perfect sense. Being a huge fan of intuition and always seeking to sharpen that particular skill set, I felt as though a piece of the puzzle had finally fallen into place for me. As I mentioned, the Gayatri has always been a personal favourite of mine but I could never remember the meaning of it very well because the ones I had understood didn’t resonate fully.

That evening two renditions were chanted. Near the beginning of the session, Tyag led us through 54 repetitions of a quick, staccato rendition. Normally I would find that style of mantra agitating and confusing but on this particular occasion, with my awareness firmly fixed on Ajna chakra (seat of our intuitive powers), I felt a calm descend upon me. In the silence that followed the chanting, I felt steady and peaceful, yet bright and alert.

Then, at the end of the session after two kirtans had been sung, Billy McGrath led us through the Gayatri to the tune of an original lilting melody, complete with guitar, drum and violin accompaniment. It was like slipping into a warm bath and my attention merged with Ajna chakra effortlessly. When the rounds were over, meditation was as natural as breathing.

The next time your brain is busy and you’re having trouble hearing your own wisdom voice, stop for a few minutes and chant the Gayatri with your awareness fixed at Ajna. Experiment with tempo and rhythm and find a pace that works for you. If you’ve never heard the Gayatri Mantra, it can help to hear someone else sing it first. There are many recorded variations available online. Find one that you love and learn it by heart. It’ll be an immensely valuable tool for whenever you need clarity of mind and connection with your intuition.

~article by Kelly Fisher

Trust Your Intuition

We are all born with fantastic intuition. As we grow older and more trained by the world, we become increasingly rational and logical. This transformation from soft, intuitive beings to solid, analytical ones is highly adaptive for the world in which we live. In order to achieve our society’s measure of success, there seems to be a collective agreement that we must deny some aspects of our natural, instinctive selves. Yet when we cultivate only the intellect and repeatedly deny or dishonour our deepest feelings, a sense of low level anxiety and dissatisfaction develops. Something within us knows we have taken a wrong turn. Continue reading “Trust Your Intuition”