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 firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be delighted to work with you in person or via Skype if the situation suits.
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?
As creatures of the natural world, we are surrounded by, subject to and even composed of five basic elements. These elements are recognised by many schools of philosophy and are referred to by various names. Within the philosophical schools from which yoga as I teach it arose, the elements are known as Mahabhutas. The Mahabhutas are Earth (Prithivi), Water (Apas), Fire (Agni), Air (Vayu) and Space or Ether (Akasha).
As we deepen into yoga practice, we become increasingly aware of the power and influence that aligning with these natural elements can yield, both on the yoga mat as well as in our daily lives. Yoga practice can help us more fully understand these elements as they affect us physically, mentally and spiritually.
The Earth element (Prithivi). Earth is the very ground upon which we live. The particles of energy in Earth are tightly packed and vibrate at a low frequency, thus we experience earth as dense, solid and heavy. Within our own bodies, the Earth element is experienced as the solid cellular structures of our bones and organs. Our sense of smell is associated with Earth. Within our minds, Prithivi brings qualities of steadfast commitment, patience and humility. Spiritually, our Earth experiences will relate to annamaya kosha, or the physical body. The chakra associated with Earth is the Root Chakra (Mooladhara). Continue reading “Yoga and the Elements”
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”
In 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!
Anybody I’ve spoken with about my first experience of Vinyasa Flow Yoga will have heard me use phrases like ‘inspiring’, ‘amazing’, ‘life-changing’ and various other effusive terms to describe it. It came during a teacher training with a teacher called Shiva Rea in Venice Beach, California. Continue reading “Vinyasa Flow Yoga”