11 Mar 2017 Leave a Comment
So we are in March, the first month of Autumn here in Melbourne. Although mother nature doesn’t always check the calendar so we are experiencing some lingering warm Summer days. Despite this the signs are afoot that Autumn is on its way. One of the first signs I have noticed is the acorns have begun falling form the oak trees in the park. Most people don’t notice this type of thing so much but we have two pet bunnies who absolutely love to nibble on acorns so I am always checking in on when they’re available.
Spring and Autumn are transitional seasons, times for changing, adjusting, adapting in preparation for the more extreme Summer and Winter weather. They offer us the opportunity to take stock, check in with where we are, what we are happy with, what we would like to change. So I’ve decided to share a Autumn meditation on todays post, hope you enjoy it.
Autumn Meditation by Belinda Blackburn
Take some time to get comfortable, sitting with whatever support you need, spine elongated, shoulders relaxed and breath flowing freely. Bring your awareness to your breath and notice how it relates to this time of year, Autumn is a time for storing energy in preparation for Winter when there is less to be found. Many animals gather food stores at this time, we are working with that same method by taking in our breath and feeling the energy flowing in with it being stored away. Stored in the hands, the feet, the arms, the legs. Feel your torso filling with prana, the energy flowing with and beyond your breath, let it rise all the way up through your neck to you face and head, Now your whole body is full of energy, imagine absorbing that energy, storing it away in every cell. So that when a time comes that you need it you can find it here, waiting for you.
As well as storing energy at this time mother nature lets go of excess demands for that energy. Knowing that there will be less available in the shorter, colder, days of winter many trees release their leaves which require a lot of maintenance and can drain them of their energy reserves. In the same way our exhalation gives us the opportunity to reflect on how we are spending our energy, where it is going and whether there are some activities or commitments which are draining our resources. Become aware of what you could let go of, release – perhaps temporarily, perhaps permanently. Think of that release with each exhalation, letting go of expectations and honouring where you are right now in your life and where your energy is best directed to.
Each breath helping us to take in and store energy and let go of the need to waste that energy, each breath helping us to become more efficient, more discerning about where our energy goes. Energy in the forms of physical activities, emotions and thoughts.
After some time allow yourself to gently withdraw from the practice and go into the rest of your day energised and more aware of where that energy is going.
To celebrate and explore these and other aspects of Autumn through yoga, breathwork and light discussion I am running an Autumn Workshop at Harvest Yoga on the 9th of April. We will take a leisurely three hours to practice yoga, meditation, discussion and relaxation as well as sharing a home made morning tea.
Investment only $60, $50 concession, spaces are limited, for bookings contact email@example.com
Enjoy the Autumn colours,
Love and light,
08 Feb 2017 Leave a Comment
My yoga journey began as a mum, although I’d been a bit curious about yoga for quite some time there was never the motivation to seek it out. It was on my “I’ll get there one day” list. Then while taking my son to his toddler gym class I saw fliers for new yoga classes starting at the rec centre, they were on in the morning on Thursdays, which were my husbands day off at the time, so I could actually go. That might sound dramatic but the life of many a mother of young children is very much tied into her children’s routines, activities and needs. Thinking about it even though now my kids are much older my life still pretty much runs around their commitments. It is nowhere near as intense now as it was then though. When I read that flier for yoga I was exhausted, stressed, run down and unable to go anywhere without taking my baby girl with me. She didn’t sleep much, which was familiar as neither did her older brother, but she was very much Mummy’s girl, she’d never settle for anyone else, she screamed at a pitch that pierced your very heart. My maternal instinct was to give her what she needed – the reassurance that I was there and loved her. I felt she really needed this as she’d had a rough start to life, been born 8 weeks early and was in the special care nursery for nearly a month before we were able to take her home. I think she was just making up for lost time, not wanting to be separated from me again.
So, long story short, I was barely functioning, getting by just making it through the day and trying my hardest to provide what my family needed. The problem was I didn’t have the time, energy or opportunity to look after myself which is not sustainable for anybody. Those Thursday morning yoga classes offered me both the opportunity to have a break from the demands of mothering and the gift of yoga, which I sometimes think could have been designed to meet the needs of mothers with babies or young children.
So all these years later, after a long and winding road exploring, studying and eventually teaching yoga, I find myself offering other mothers the same gift of yoga in my mums & bubs classes. These classes are places you can bring your babies to, classes that offer practices tailored to fit into the busy routines of a mother. We work gently yet effectively to tone, stretch and connect with our bodies. We work with the breath to share ways to restore energy, overcome fatigue and bring a sense of calm into the often tumultuous days of parenting.
They are amongst my favourite classes to teach as I remember all too clearly how helpful yoga was in my early parenting days. Plus I sometimes get to have a cuddle with the beautiful babies!
I teach alternating 5 week Mums & Bubs Yoga Courses and Baby Massage Courses on Thursdays, 10:30-11:30am at Harvest Yoga in Kensington, where I also offer private Baby Massage tuition to parents. 5 week blocks cost only $110, for bookings please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The next courses are as follows:
Mums & Bubs Yoga 02/03/17 – 30/03/17
Baby Massage 06/04/17 – 04/05/17
I’ll finish with the news that my daughter did eventually let me out of her sight and is now an amazing, confident, independent, responsible 15 year old who continues to amaze me with her insightful and caring personality. She does still sometimes cling to me when we have a cuddle and not let me go though, and she’s much stronger now!
Love and light,
10 Jan 2017 Leave a Comment
Loving spending time relaxing in the Summer heat, though when it gets too intense it’s not so much relaxing as sweating it out! We’ve got the gift of some less extreme Summer warmth this week which is lovely in the lead up to my Beat the Heat Summer workshop coming up on Sunday 15th January, 10am-1pm at Harvest Yoga in Kensington.
I love exploring the seasons and how they affect me mood, energy levels, yoga practice and outlook on life in general. Summer is a time of things coming to fruition and taking time to enjoy the fruits of your labours. Less busy than Spring with all of its planting and planning and new beginnings, a time of plenty and abundance.
We will be exploring these aspects of Summer as well as yoga practices and methods to help maintain equilibrium on those hot Summer days, meditation practices to revel in the abundance surrounding us and a shared morning tea of fresh fruits and yummy treats.
If you’d like to join us the cost is only $75, bookings can be made by emailing Rick at email@example.com. Spaces are limited so book as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
In the meantime, if you are unable to make it or would like a practice to tide you through until Sunday try the following simple cooling breath when you feel a bit hot and bothered…
You will need a drinking straw, I prefer the wider paper straws however if you only have plastic ones they work as well. Place the straw between your lips as you would to take a drink but instead of drinking, inhale slowly and deeply through the straw. Exhale through the nostrils, comfortably slowly and deeply as well.
This is an easy accessible variation of sitali pranayama, it works like evaporative cooling – by funnelling the air over your tongue slowly it is cooled through the moisture in your mouth and brings that coolness with it into your body. As the straw also slows the breath you also tend to slow down physically, mentally and emotionally leaving you feeling calmer all over.
Hope you enjoy the practice,
Love and light,
02 Jan 2017 1 Comment
Hello to all of my subscribers,
It has been a while between posts, I hope you haven’t been missing me too much. I can tell you that I’ve missed writing here. I find it very cathartic, healing and valuable for me as often I write posts relevasnt to what’s going on in my life – my students, teaching, family and personal life. I’m not very big on sharing personal stuff – I need to process this myself before I feel ready to share it with others and when the time comes that I’m ready to talk about it I prefer to do so with a friend or family member rather than a public forum like my blog or Facebook.
So lets just say the past few months have been busy personally leaving me not as much time as I’d like to post. These things are ongoing and though a part of me thought perhaps I should wait until I had more time and everything settled down, another part of me – the wiser part I think, reasoned that waiting for the perfect time might mean I never post again. There will always be something going on, changes to adjust to, people around me needing or offering support, kids growing and developing new needs.
In 2017 I might find myself with more time or I might not. Right here today I do have time so right here today I am posting…
Every New Year it is a good time to make resolutions, promises to yourself and others, positive changes to your lifestyle, attitude and habits. My golden rule when doing this is not to get carried away – it might feel great to write a long list of ideals about how your life in the year ahead will be but I always need to remind myself to keep it reasonable and achievable. Otherwise I set myself up for not reaching those goals and feeling bad about myself.
So to finish my first post for the year I would like to wish all of my readers a year of growth, healing and evolution. Last year was definitely that for me, the term “Happy New Year” is most often wished upon us however happiness only teaches us so much, we actually learn and develop more through the challenges we face and the difficult times we get through. Whatever this new year has in store for us all – may we recognise the opportunities it offers when they come our way, may we enjoy the ride – both the ups and the downs, may we find happiness while also fully embracing sorrow, anger, fear and any other emotions that come our way, may we be healthy and accepting and content.
Love and light,
20 Sep 2016 Leave a Comment
I shared some wonderful yoga practices on the weekend in my Spring into Action workshop. It was a lovely group and we all really enjoyed being able to immerse ourselves in 3 hours of yoga rather than a shorter class which often goes by so quickly that it sometimes feels like you are just getting into the practice and it is over. Not that I have anything against classes, they are the best way to fit in a regular practice, it was just nice to be able to spend more time in everything we did and explore some practices that don’t often make it into classes such as meditation and chanting.
Spring was certainly in the air despite it being a rainy morning as we were visited by some lovely parrots, playing in the elm trees outside Harvest Yoga and squawking loudly. We paused in our practice to admire their colours and antics, hopping from branch to branch and swinging on the smaller twigs.
Something else we all enjoyed was morning tea together and the recipes were requested so I am sharing them here with a wider audience. I like making these sweet treats for workshops as they cater to a lot of the more common food allergies and intolerances as well as being very easy to make and absolutely delicious! Talk about ticking all of my boxes.
I hope you enjoy these and sharing them with friends as much as I do…
Julie’s Currant Cake
I got this recipe from a fellow Volunteer Breastfeeding Counsellor when I worked for the Australian Breastfeeding Association, she used to bring it to our meetings and it was always popular. It is sugar free and vegan (unless you spread it with butter but you can use a vegan alternative or have it without, it is still delicious) and very easy though it does need overnight soaking so you need to plan ahead a little.
1 cup currants
1 teabag, plain black tea is fine but I like to use different herbal flavours as well, I used cranberry and pomegranate for the workshop cake
1 cup boiling water
1 cup self raising flour
Place the currants and teabag in a bowl, pour over the boiling water and leave overnight. The next day sift the flour over the top and stir it through. Pour into a non stick or greased loaf pan and bake for 40 minutes at 180C.
It’s that easy, it is a very moist and yummy on its own or spread with butter.
Chocolate Fudge Balls
This recipe came from a fellow yoga teacher, Anahata, whom I did my prenatal training with. It is gluten free, sugar free and easy though the rolling into balls can be time consuming.
45gm cocoa or raw cacao powder
120 gm raw cashews or other nuts – I often cheat and use ground hazelnuts or almonds to save time
260 gm dates, I chop them up first or my food processor struggles with their dense stickiness but if you have a more powerful food processor than me you might not need to.
1 tsp coconut oil (this wasn’t in the recipe as given to me but I find it makes rolling them into balls a lot easier as the mixture is less crumbly)
Desiccated coconut (optional)
Grind cashews or other into fine powder using a nut grinder. Place the cashews, cocoa powder and dates into a food processor and blend well. The mixture will be very thick and dry – don’t add water or it will be too sticky. Roll into balls (small as these are rich) and roll in desiccated coconut. These are delicious!
Hope you enjoy these as much as we did at the workshop.
Love and light,
23 Aug 2016 Leave a Comment
Spring is bursting forth around me even though technically it is still winter. I feel the spring energy stirring deep within the earth and awakening the plants, the animals and the people. Days gradually lengthen, temperatures gradually rise and moods generally lift.
In my little corner of the world our blue tongue lizard has gone for a walk – the first since winter descended and sent him into semi-hibernation. The beginnings of leaves are forming on the branches of my goji berry bush and blossoms have broken out on the cherry trees up and down our little street.
I feel much like Ben, the blue tongue lizard, at this time of year, like I’ve been just managing to get things done with the slower, cooler winter energy and now I want to jump and run and stretch out all of the stagnation that has set in. Shake off those winter blues and playfully engage with the warmer springtime energy. Burst forth like the blossoms and new leaves, sing like the birds, engage with the new beginnings all around me.
Spring is a great time to try something new, to go along to your first yoga class, or if you are already regularly practicing to attend a different type of class, explore new practices, new ways of doing familiar poses, new places to practice. You might like to book into a yoga retreat or workshop to immerse yourself in yoga for a longer time than a class offers. The possibilities are endless.
In my teaching things are getting busier as well…we are about to begin a new 5 week block of Mums & Bubs yoga, I am busily planning for my Spring into Action workshop on September 18th at Harvest Yoga and looking forward to my Release Stress, Embrace Rest retreat at the end of September.
I hope to see you in class or at one of these upcoming events, may your Springtime energy take you to amazing new places and experiences.
Love and light,
11 Jul 2016 Leave a Comment
Staying warm on these chilly days can be tricky, luckily as often is the case, yoga has solutions. I thought I’d share a couple of my favourite winter warming practices to help you stay snug during the chilly winter months…
For one Melbourne winter I taught yoga classes in a very cold and draughty hall, the wind would howl outside and sneak in and we would all begin the class shivering. It was challenging but a great opportunity for my students and myself to explore the warming practices yoga offers, these are a couple of my favourites – some not strictly yoga but that all depends on your definition of yoga.
- The bum shuffle – this is a great core workout guaranteed to get the blood pumping and warm up the whole body. Begin in dandasana, sitting on the floor with both legs straight out in front of you. Toes up to the ceiling and some space out in front. Then simply shuffle forwards, one butt cheek at a time, when you run out of room go into reverse and shuffle back again. To add intensity you can hold your arms out in front and push each arm forwards with the leg on that side. Heads up that the back and forth motion can cause the occasional wardrobe malfunction so be prepared to rearrange things but this is a fun and fast warming and energising practice.
- The train breath – this is a variation of Bhastrika, the bellows breath which is done by breathing very short, fast in and out breaths through the nose. Like bellows pumping up a fire this breath warms you up from the inside out. The train variation adds some arm movements, like choo choo train arms, you keep the elbows in at your sides ands move your hands forwards, down, back and up in a circular motion timing it so they come back into the sides on the out breath, knocking the breath out of the ribs. Only do 10-15 breaths before you stop at a station for a few long deep breaths, usually 3 rounds of 10 breaths is enough to warm me up and, as always, if you feel at all uncomfortable at any time release the practice.
- Marching – a great way to move around the house or practice on the spot marching gives you a good warm up and cardio work out. Optional swinging arms add more warmth and the higher the knees go the stronger it is so adjust to suit your body and energy levels. You can also play with the pace, speeding up or slowing down to suit your needs.
Have fun with these.
Love and light,
26 May 2016 Leave a Comment
We are creatures of habit, most of us anyway. We have ways that we tend to like things and a pretty clearly defined comfort zone which holds all of our habits in place.
This can be a great thing in regards to healthy habits like a regular yoga class or meditation practice, or a not so great thing when it comes to unhelpful habits. The tricky thing is to try to put in the habits we want in our lives and changes those that don’t really do us any favours.
One of my teachers, Leigh Blashki, once described habits to me in the following way – think of a nice new dirt road, nice clean surface, freshly graded. When the first vehicle drives down that road it leaves a set of tracks. If another vehicle follows in the same tracks they become more clearly defined, the next car to travel on the road is likely to follow in those easily defined areas and so on. Eventually ruts will form which steer the cars automatically into that path, it gets harder to drive on any other part of the road. In this way when we repeat a behaviour two or three times we are inviting it to become a habit. So the first step towards creating healthy habits is to practice them, once or twice a week. If we do this and commit to making the effort for a month or so it is likely to develop into a habit and become a permanent part of our life.
As for breaking out to those less desirable habits the first thing to do is be prepared for a bit of a bumpy ride and have realistic expectations. Knowing how easy it is for those vehicles to slip back into the well worn path and how much more effort and navigation is required to get out of them again can be very helpful. Don’t be too hard on yourself if there is the occasional setback and don’t try to break a habit during a time in your life which you know is already challenging for any reason.
I have found for myself that being able to replace a habit I want to break with a new one that I’d like to embrace is a good method. That way whenever I am tempted to go back into those unhelpful behaviours I make a bit of a bargain with myself, I will do that after I have done this, the new habit I’m bringing in. This reinforces the more positive behaviour and usually by the time I’m finished I don’t really want the other behaviour anyway!
Love and light,
31 Mar 2016 Leave a Comment
One of my favourite areas to work with in my own practice is my shoulders. They tend to be the first place that I feel tension and I have learnt over the years to be aware of that. When my shoulders are a bit tight it is my bodies way of telling me I’m doing too much. I use this as an opportunity to pause and take stock of what is causing the tension, reassess my priorities and hopefully rearrange things so I can avoid it escalating.
Sometimes in life however it isn’t easy or possible to just let go, things need to be done, unexpected challenges can arise and everything can seem like a priority. To get through those challenging times it is helpful to remain aware of what is happening and the effects it is having on our bodies and minds. If we do this and take a little time each day to release the tension that can build up it means we are much better equipped to tackle all of those other tasks without risk of burning out.
The Circle of Joy series is one of my favourite practices for times like this, it is short so can easily fit into a busy day, doesn’t require warming up so can be done anytime and never fails to release tension through my shoulders and arms as well as calming my mind. The flowing movements with the breath allow it to become a moving meditation which is easy to fit into 5 minutes
I first experienced this practice during my teacher training when the lovely Fiona Hyde from Williamstown Yoga shared it with me. Since then I have come across a few other versions and played with it a lot so it may well have evolved from what Fiona shared with me. I am including it here with a few options which I’ve developed over the years. This sequence can be practiced seated or standing, you will need room around you – about your arms length out in front, behind and to the sides. Hope you enjoy it…
- Start with hand together in Namaskar Mudra, palms together in the heartspace. Inhale fully here.
- On the exhalation interlock your fingers and open your palms out in front at chest height, lengthening the arms without locking the elbows.
- Inhale and float the hands up above the head, palms still facing away from you.
- Exhale and separate your hands, taking them out to the sides and behind your back where the palms come together again.
- Inhale and once again interlock your fingers and lift your arms, opening through the chest and collarbone.
- Exhale and fold into a forward bend, continuing to lift the arms behind you. If you are standing keep your knees soft as you fold forwards.
- Inhale to come back upright from the forward bend.
- Exhale to relax and release your arms and hands and bring them back to Namaskar Mudra in the heartspace.
That is the whole sequence, here are a few notes on how to practice it and adapt if needed for yourself.
- I usually practice at least four rounds of this sequence but even just one or two can help soften the whole shoulder region.
- I have given the instructions to flow with the breath but it can also be very nice to pause in each stage for a breath or three, or if you have a favourite part of the sequence to stop there for a few breaths then resume the flow for the rest of the practice.
- If you can remember it is helpful to swap the interlock of your fingers each round that you do. This might feel strange but will become less so with practice.
- If your shoulders are very tight or you are working with or recovering from an injury instead of joining the hands behind your back you can keep them shoulder distance apart and lengthen them up and away so you still get that lovely feeling of opening through the chest without causing any discomfort.
- For my prenatal students I often leave out the forward bend, if you have lower back issues you might like to do the same or just keep it very gentle.
Hope you enjoy this sequence as much as I do. It is one that I will be sharing at my next yoga retreat Mother Nature, Mother Nurture on May 6th, 7th and 8th at Clearview Retreat.
Love and light,
09 Mar 2016 Leave a Comment
Today’s post is for my pregnant students… some helpful hints for your yoga practice during pregnancy.
One of the best things yoga offers pregnant women is the opportunity to really tune in to their body and their baby, to move in ways that support the growing baby and changing body. To notice how you are feeling, what your energy levels are like, working at a pace and depth in your practice that honours each stage.
There are so many beneficial practices that it is hard to choose which ones to include in a post so instead I am listing some general guidelines which can be applied to all yoga practices.
- Never forget to breathe, during pregnancy you need to breathe both for you and your baby, so just keep that breath flowing and work in your physical practice at a level that feels comfortable and allows you to breathe easily and freely. Some pranayama practices such as belly breathing and ujjayi can be really useful however don’t underestimate the power of simple breath awareness, tuning in and remaining conscious or the coming and going of your breath can be relaxing, energising and very calming.
- To be gentle or not to be gentle… many people treat pregnant women like they are fragile or unwell. In fact pregnancy is a normal life process so as long as you stick to a few general rules there is no reason why you can’t work strongly, in fact building up strength and endurance during pregnancy helps women to get through labour with less interventions. Those general rules are to keep open space in front for growing babies, legs a little wider during forward bends, no closed twists or strong backbends and if anything doesn’t feel right or creates discomfort then come out of it and let it go. Also to work at a pace and a place that feels comfortable for you on the day, a rule for all of my yoga classes – not just pregnancy yoga!
- Pelvic floor work is very important to support the increasing weight of your baby and placenta and to aid in recovery post birth. Your pelvic floor supports all of the abdominal organs and regulates the flow when you go to the toilet – those are the muscles you use to hold on and release urine. Keeping it gently active during standing poses and working with it in a variety of ways to build up both strength and stamina means that you are less likely to have issues after baby arrives.
- Attend pregnancy yoga classes. While I do allow pregnant students into my regular classes as I am a qualified prenatal teacher I really enjoy teaching specific pregnancy yoga classes where each practice is selected for the benefits it offers to pregnant women. We work on practices that strengthen and relax, work with the pelvic floor, ease some of the discomforts that can occur during pregnancy, prepare for labour and babies arrival and share each others experiences. Being a part of that journey is a privilege for me and the community that is created amongst the students has built some enduring friendships over the years.
- Have fun, enjoy the miracle that is occurring within you. Take time, either in a prenatal yoga class or at home to stop and tune in to your baby, whether they are still very tiny and not yet showing or running out of room and wriggling around. Talk to them, sing to them, tell them everything you are feeling and thinking and hoping. Keep a journal and write down what you experience, you will look back on it in years to come with a smile as you try to remember what life was like before your baby was born.
I wish you all the best for pregnancy, birth and beyond. My prenatal classes run at Harvest Yoga in Kensington on Wednesday evenings, 6-7:15pm. To book or enquire go to www.harvestyoga.com.au.
Love and light,