Are you ready to grow up?

I think it’s time more of us chose to grow up.

As a culture, we are inundated with information. News media keeps us up to date on all the drama of our times. Our social media news feeds educate us on things we never knew we needed to learn. Podcasts offer a plethora of fantastic and less-than-fantastic conversations. Advertisements bombard us from billboards, magazines, radio, television. On the rare occasion when we’re not being plied with data from external sources, we can find almost anything we want to know with an internet connection and a decent command of Google.

What we seem to lack, however, is mature discernment.

Just because we find it on the internet, an ancient text said something, a “Gold Standard” scientific study proves it or a teacher offers it to us, does not necessarily make the information pertinent to us as individuals. So why do we allow ourselves to be baffled by conflicting stories and studies? Or worse, swallow these things, hook, line and sinker?

The conspiracy theorist in me reckons we have been conditioned out of the ability to think for ourselves to a very large degree. Well-meaning social support services offer us advice on how to raise our children and stay healthy (sometimes based on outdated studies of suspect methods, sponsorship and conclusions). Schools teach children to sit still to learn even though anyone who’s ever watched a child truly engaged with the process of learning, knows they need kinetic energy to support them. Homework conditions them to take work home so they’ll eventually be good employees and creating greater possibility of disrespecting their own boundaries to serve someone else’s agenda. Science is sometimes for sale and subject to manipulation of data. Popular media is controlled by interest groups. And don’t get me started on religion…

For centuries, practices that encouraged our own thinking were deemed dangerous by the powers that be. They were demonised to the extent that “good people” would eschew them in favour of widely approved practices and morality.


My own journey into better discernment has been a lifelong remembering process that has required me to turn inward time and again. It’s been, and continues to be, an ongoing process to learn to trust my own voice, my own bone-deep knowing and at times, to go against the world around me to honour it.

As a child, I was hauled to church, encouraged to accept Jesus as my saviour and taught to worship at the altar of God’s love.

Many things didn’t make sense to my young mind – why did we have to fund raise to send missionaries to “save” people in remote villages across the world? If someone had never heard of Jesus and died, I couldn’t fathom why a “loving God” would condemn them to Hell forever. Why did we have to give a tenth of our income to be part of a community of “unconditional” love and support? What about the poor people with no income? What was the point of arcane rituals that came with no explanation, no internal connection? Why so many rules from the outside?

While I never felt fully at home at the church, I persisted with church attendance and Sunday School teaching (!) until well after my wedding and into my 20’s. Leaving the church was not easy and my father was not happy with me but there came a point where I could do no other.

As a young, impressionable undergraduate, I was indoctrinated into the scientific lineage and taught to worship at the altar of randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled studies.

Again, many things didn’t make sense to me. So many of the studies that met the “Gold Standard” had logic gaps you could drive a truck through. How was a study of 150 undergraduates who were given credit for participating reflective of a whole population, as was often inferred? I was taught to make broad generalisations and to sweep outliers under the proverbial carpet. I became adept at using mathematical models to manipulate the findings of existing studies so that the exact same numbers could be made to show a totally different conclusion. I watched the media further manipulate the results of studies with suspect methodologies to create eye-catching headlines.

While I couldn’t bring myself to delve deeper into this dissonant world of academia by pursuing further study, there was nearly a decade where a huge proportion of my conversations began with the phrase “Studies have shown….”, as a means of establishing the veracity of my point of view.

Finally, as a disillusioned woman on the precipice of my Saturn return, I began investigating Traditional Chinese Medicine, Yoga, Meditation and Poetry – some of the very things deemed “dangerous” by the church elders of my youth and poo-pooed by my colleagues in the science lab.

Suddenly, I felt at home. No one was asking me to go against my internal voice, rather I was being handed tools for remembering the source of my innate wisdom. There was so much that made sense, so many ideas from disparate lineages that converged and ultimately, the encouragement to listen inwardly to test the veracity of what I was being told.

In her poem “Wild Geese”, Mary Oliver eloquently summed up the relief I felt at this homecoming into awareness:


Ultimately we are unique creatures with so many factors at play that no one outside of us can possibly track them all to determine what’s best for us in any context. We abdicate authority in our own lives when we hand over discernment to others. At best, other people, including well-studied experts can only be our guides, offering suggestions for experimentation. We must take responsibility for observing the results of those experiments and making skillful decisions about how we proceed in the current season of our lives.

It’s an ongoing commitment. For example, what you learn about how to manage yourself in the winter in your 30’s might might bear no resemblance to what you need in the summer of your 50’s or the autumn of your 70’s. To truly own our capacity to thrive, we must take nothing for granted and stay wide awake to our lived reality as it evolves.

These days, it’s my mission to help people conduct n=1 studies to learn how they think, feel and respond to something. Everything else is actually irrelevant. Even the frameworks of yoga, meditation and lifestyle techniques that I use are just that – frameworks. They give us a jumping off point for the investigation and ensuing conversation.

Taking ownership of the investigation of ourselves, what the yogis called svadhyaya, and the decision making at the very deepest level of our lives is not for the faint of heart. Make no mistake, the challenge can be immense and it is tempting to hand back authority when the going gets rough. But the potential payoff is incredible – developing the skill of discernment opens up vistas of possibility in every sphere of our lives, including how we can serve the people around us and our planet.

Now that’s what I call being a grown up.


If you’d like to join me for a journey into remembering how to discern subtleties for yourself, let’s have a conversation about how we could do that and what tools we could use. There are options – from in-person private sessions, to group processes, to distance learning and incorporating techniques that range from yoga to meditation to lifestyle habits to deciphering scientific findings as well as many other things. 

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Private Practice

Me&my favourite teacher
Me&my favourite teacher

The tools of a variety of yoga traditions have catalysed ongoing and often intense transformation in my life, the latest of which is my transition from yoga studio owner into freelance teacher and full-time mother. The crucible of my yoga and meditation practices has held strong as the facades and personas with which I identified for a lifetime have been subtly and not-so-subtly stripped away. Authenticity has pursued me relentlessly ever since the first time I stepped onto a mat.

Teaching yoga has been my full time occupation since 2005. I have developed a skill and a feeling for guiding yoga students as safely as possible towards their own greater experience of authenticity. In my opinion, yoga is not one size fits all. Through study with many great teachers, I’ve gathered a diverse set of tools so that I can accommodate a broad range of students.

Lately, I’ve found my best offering is done in private sessions and small groups of sincere students. While it’s really fun to be part of big public classes, there comes a point in every person’s practice where dedicated teaching is optimal for navigating your personal path.

For some, it’s right at the commencement of their yoga journey. I love working with beginners who want to lay a firm foundation before heading out into the wide world of yoga to explore the smorgasbord of experiences.

For others, it’s following injury or during illness. I’ve worked with many students through a variety of situations for which a big class setting would not serve their needs at that time. Whether it’s breast cancer, a sore knee, a broken heart or anything else, the yoga practice can be adapted to support you on tricky parts of your journey.

Dedicated yoga students come to me for fine tuning their practice or exploring more subtle dimensions than they felt they could on their own. Alignment, anatomy, physiology and neuropsychology are all areas I’ve studied intensely and I love to share what I’ve learned with those who are interested.

I also love working with new teachers from lots of different traditions to help them find their voice and to navigate the early days of teaching. It can be overwhelming to finish teacher training, often in a cocooned and safe environment, only to head out into your community as a “teacher” without a clue of what to do next or anyone to hold your hand. After a decade of teaching and almost that long owning/running yoga studios, offering mentorship to a select few teachers is an honor and a privilege for me.

So if you’ve reached a point in your yoga journey where you think you’d benefit from one-to-one sessions, please get in touch via email kelly@kellyfisheryoga.com. I’d be delighted to work with you in person or via Skype if the situation suits.

Namaste,

K

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Power walking prowess

Wellington's Stunning Oriental Bay
Wellington's Stunning Oriental Bay

I think I have reached a new level of yoga geekdom. This morning while I was out on my “power” walk around Wellington’s stunning Oriental Bay, I had a breakthrough due in no small part to the loops of Anusara yoga.

In recent years, my tendency to be a speed demon has abated somewhat. As much as there are times when blasting around town is tempting and necessary, by and large I find myself much slower than I used to be. I’ve turned into more of a plodder than a power walker, truth be told. This is not great when you want to get your blood zooming around and bring a rosy flush of life to your face.

This morning within seconds of deciding to pick up the pace a bit, I realised why I’m reluctant to walk too fast these days. It’s not laziness, old age, the shoes that I’m wearing or the type of walking surface I happen to be on. It’s because when I try to achieve greater speed, I automatically go into hyper-extension mode. A-HA! Continue reading “Power walking prowess”

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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?”

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Embody Your Purpose – Yoga in Action

Marianne, Nick and Kelly
Marianne, Nick and Kelly

I am so excited to announce the new course dates for Yoga in Action: Off the Mat. Every Sunday in November, Marianne Elliott, Nick Potter and I will be running workshops to help you find ways to”Embody Your Purpose”.

Yoga in Action trainings use the power of yoga to help you become more effective and sustainable leaders in your community. We use the tools of yoga to embody your purpose through self-exploration and transformation, the development of communication and leadership skills, all the way to planning and taking action.

Get in touch to find out more!!

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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”

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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”

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Breathing meditation for Chakra Balance

Breathing meditationSince I’m away, I thought I’d offer you a breathing meditation practice you might recognise from one of my classes if you’ve come along recently. This practice is tremendously balancing and helps me to remember my connection to the rest of the world and encourages me to carefully cultivate the kind of influence I would like to have on the people around me. It has evolved from my own practice, taking influence not only from the Yoga tradition but also another form of eastern wisdom, the Japanese Jiu Jitsu form – Seishinkan. The philosophy and breath form are from the Yoga Perspective while the movement pattern is based on a Jiu Jitsu warm up.

BACKGROUND

There are seven energetic centres along the spine that, within the Yoga tradition, we call chakras. In Western medicine, these energetic centres correspond with massive crossing points of nerves, the communication channels within your nervous system. In yogic theory, it is thought that you can have an excess or a deficiency of energy in any of these centres which will affect your way of being in the world. There are many techniques of balancing the various energies in the body, but from my experience, pranayama is among the most effective.

Beginning just above the pelvic floor, we find Muladhara chakra (root chakra). This centre is said to govern your sense of foundation in the world – your family, your home, your finances. A little further up, just in front of the sacrum is Svadisthana chakra(sacral chakra) which is your emotional, creative, sexual centre, governing the gifts you have to offer to the world. Next between the navel and the sternum is Manipura chakra (solar plexus chakra), your personal power centre which influences the way you assert yourself in the world. Then at the level of the chest is Anahata chakra (heart chakra) and this is the turning point in the chakra system. It’s your connection with the outside world – how you manifest all of the things you generate in the lower chakras in relationship to other people.

In the first phase of the practice (described below), I spend a few rounds of breath drawing energy from the root to the heart, smoothing the breath, regulating my own energy. After some time, I move up the chakras to the final 3 which have more to do with your relationships to the outside world and to spirit.

At the level of the throat, Visshuda chakra (throat chakra) governs the way you communicate with others. At eyebrow center, Ajna chakra (third eye chakra) is your connection with your intuition and the vast amount of wisdom that is available to you from the universe if you are open to it. Finally at the top of your head and just beyond is Saharara chakra (crown chakra) which connects you to Source. (Universal Energy, God, Spirit, Divine or however you see it).

In the second phase of the practice, after I’ve spent some time generating energy for myself, I consciously choose the kind of energy I would like to send out. Energy must be exchanged to be sustained. You can’t horde the energy you generate for yourself and expect to nourished by it. Yes, first you generate energy for yourself but in order for it to live, to breathe and to be manifested the way that is most life-affirming, it must be shared. It must be perpetuated. To create abundant energy, you must share what you have and in a timely fashion. Energy that is hidden is wasted.

THE PRACTICE

This breathing meditation can be done from seated or standing. If you’re sitting, take your time to establish a good, steady seat, grounding through your sit bones and inner thighs while extending tall through the spine. If you’re standing, have your feet hip distance apart and second toes parallel. Ground through the four corners of your feet and lift tall through the spine. With your eyes closed, let your awareness come to your breath. Gently begin to lengthen and deepen it, using the ujjayii technique if you wish.

Check out the video for visual instructions of the first two phases of the breath

PHASE ONE: Nourishing yourself

Once you’ve got a sense of breathing fully and deeply, begin first phase of the moving meditation, which helps to balance and harmonise your first three chakras.

Interlace your hands and let your arms hang straight down in front of you, palms facing up just in front of muladhara chakra. Inhale to a count of three and as you do so, draw your hands up to the level of anahata chakra (chest-height). In the pause between the inhale and the exhale, flip your hands to have the palms facing down. Then exhale to a count of three and, keeping your hands interlaced, release your arms to hanging in front of you again. In the pause before the inhale, flip your hands to face up again. Repeat this for 10 cycles of breath or two to five minutes, as you like. You might like to visualise your spinal column being filled with light from the base of your spine to the level of your heart as you inhale. See that light getting brighter and brighter with each inhalation. Feel that you are offering nourishing energy to yourself and attracting more of the same with every breath.

PHASE TWO: Offering your energy

When you are ready to move to the next phase of the breath, extend the inhalations and exhalations to a count of six. Beginning with the hands interlaced, palms facing up in front of the base of the spine (as before), inhale to a count of three and draw the hands up to the level of the heart. Continue counting and flip your palms to face up (signifying the transition from internal to external) and extend your arms straight, palms reaching past sahasrara (crown of your head) facing the ceiling. In the pause before the exhale, release your hands and face the palms forward. As you exhale for a count of six, radiate your arms wide and scribe a semi-circle with them until your hands are hanging by your hips. In the pause before the inhale, interlace your hands again, palms up in front of the base of the spine. Continue with this breath for 10 cycles or two to five minutes. As you inhale, visualise drawing light up your spinal column from the base all the way past the crown and then as you exhale, visualise radiating that light out through your fingertips, surrounding yourself with white light. Consider what type of energy you would like to be radiating and consciously send it out along with the light.

OPTIONAL PHASE THREE: Balancing internal generation with external radiation

As a reminder that it’s important to balance the energy you offer out to the world with the energy you direct to your own self-care, it’s nice to combine phase one and two of this practice for a few cycles of breath or even a few minutes. Begin with a three count breath as described in phase one, lifting the hands to heart height as you inhale and exhaling to take the hands back down. Let the next breath be a six count breath as described in phase two, lifting the hands all the way up to over head as you inhale and radiating them outward as you exhale.

When you’ve finished your practice, it’s nice to stand, sit or lie quietly for a few moments, absorbing the experience of this meditation.

~article by Kelly Fisher

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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

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