Yoga Foundations

As many of my readers know we are renovating our family home by adding a second storey. This may not in any way seem relevant to my yoga practice or teaching but through yoga tinted glasses everything is relevant to yoga.

 

We have been undergoing these renovations for years now and are at the exciting part of the journey where we can see our destination on the horizon, we haven’t yet moved upstairs but we do now have stairs and a roof and walls! I still very clearly remember the early days when we were putting in foundations and trying to imagine what it would end up like, since then the plans have evolved and a few changes have been made for various reasons.

It was very challenging in those early days, we were working so hard, digging huge holes, (often in very inconvenient places like in the main entrance to our home and besides the kitchen doorway), deconstructing in order to rebuild and improve it often seemed like we were going backwards. All of that was important though, to lay the strong foundations  needed to extend our house and reach the exciting stage we are now at.

In much the same way beginners to yoga can find it challenging, hard to imagine the postures and practices coming easily or smoothly, yoga can feel strange and unfamiliar as I very clearly remember from my own days as a beginner.  As with building a home, building a solid foundation to your yoga practice is important to allow you to fully explore and experience all that yoga has to offer. Even those with more experience can struggle with some postures or practices, for no obvious reason some things just don’t come as easily as others.

One of the many beautiful vistas from Clearview retreat.

One of the many beautiful vistas from Clearview retreat.

My upcoming Yoga Foundation retreat at Clearview Retreat on the 9th-11th of October is designed to delve into to the foundations of yoga, for beginners and experienced students alike. We will share some information about this thing called yoga, where and how and why it evolved, a breakdown of the thousands of postures and practices into some basic tools and methods which can be applied to all of them. Establishing a strong foundation not only of knowledge but also of awareness which can then allow your yoga practice to grow and extend.

The retreat runs from 7pm Friday evening until 3pm Sunday, price includes delicious home cooked vegetarian food, accommodation, yoga and guided walks. $375-$415 depending on accommodation chosen. Numbers are strictly limited so book early by contacting Jocelyn on 5797 0229 or via email diversity@diversity.org.au.

I am looking forward to returning to Clearview in the Springtime, one of my favorite times of the year. I’d love to see you there!

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

 

 

Solitude

I am writing this while I am alone in the house, this hasn’t happened for quite some weeks due to the school holidays. I love the opportunity the holidays give our family to spend time together but am also enjoying this time, after a few weeks without it, just me, myself and I. There is much busyness and activity with the whole family home (hence the break in my posts!) which means that regular routines are non existent. We slept in and stayed up later, we watched movies on weeknights, we went out and about and we lounged around in our pajamas, we celebrated my son’s 11th birthday with pancakes, pancakes and more pancakes (guess what his favorite food is?) and we worked on the renovations. I think it is wonderful to let go of our routines for the holidays however, without them, it would be very difficult manage our everyday non holiday times so they are welcomed back this week with open arms.

The house is quiet, the dog is asleep after his morning walk, there is no one telling me they are hungry or want to go here or there, no sounds of trampoline jumping or table tennis balls bouncing, no voices or television or playstation games. Just me and the peace and quiet surrounding me. It is nice.

At a recent dinner with some of my students our conversation touched on the differences between living with family or by yourself. There are pros and cons to both and I don’t think it is possible to say one is better than the other. Living by yourself gives you the opportunity to do exactly what you want, when you want it, to enjoy solitude and quiet, play your favorite music or watch your favorite movies. Living with a partner, housemate or family gives you engaging conversation and company and someone to share the chores with. I think that whatever your living arrangements are it is helpful to enjoy the benefits of what you have and to seek out the opposite. As I am relishing the quiet house and some alone time, friends who live alone might be enjoying having visitors or going out socially. Like so many things in life, it is all about balance.

Hope you can find some time this week to enjoy either your own company or that of your family and friends or, even better, a bit of both!

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

Back in the swing of things

Oh how sweet and restful was my end of year break. Reminding me of the importance of slowing down, resting and recuperating from the busyness that is always present in life. Now I am back on the swing after hopping off for a while, ready for the rise and fall, the ups and downs, the constant, ever changing yet always there, flow of life.

I very clearly remember the pleasure I felt swinging as a child and I still love to hop on a swing at playgrounds though now my kids are older I don’t get the opportunity as often. The rushing forwards, wind in your hair, rising above gravity, legs stretched and reaching for the sky. The apex of your swing, the high point which lasts for less than a second but seems like longer, gazing up at the heavens above. The return, knees bent, wind behind you now, freefalling then rising backwards to find the opposite apex where you are looking down at the earth below.

I love to swing with my eyes closed, just feeling the sensations of gravity changing as I move with, then against, then with it again. I love the earth and sky swapping their relationship to me yet always present. I like to take the idea of swinging through life, knowing that things are ever changing, there are highs and lows but neither last forever and the more energy I put into making things happen the further I will go.

I find myself now feeling energised and enthused, inspired and motivated and oh so ready to swing into the year to come.

My teaching has resumed gradually rather than all at once which feels like a wonderful way to ease myself back into it. Harvest Yoga classes including beginners, prenatal and kids classes are back in full swing, my workplace class will be beginning again shortly and my Thursday night class venue will hopefully be up and running in a brand new venue by the end of this month.

My first yoga retreat for the year, Celebrating Womens Wisdom, at Clearview is only a couple of weekends away from the 20th-22nd February and I am thoroughly enjoying putting the final touches on my planning.

The break has not been all lounging and leisure, we have made steady progress on our home renovations including the monumental, life changing, addition of our staircase (Yay, no more ladders!). I’ve also had lots of family fun hosting our extended family Christmas celebration and spending time out and about and just hanging around at home with Richard and the kids.

May your 2015 swing take you higher than ever before!

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

Changes and evolution

There have been a few changes in my life lately, some things winding up, others beginning to grow and spread. Change is sometimes welcomed and others resisted but always there in our lives. Whether it is a renovation development or set back, a relationship changing, a career related change or something else it is usual for something to be changing all of the time.

I find the best way to cope with change is by seeing it as a form of evolution. Even if it seems like we are sometimes going backwards changes help us to become more adaptable, more flexible, to learn from the tough times and enjoy the easy ones knowing that they may not last.

Change in our yoga practice is always interesting. Often the changes brought about by regular practice happen very slowly and they can be so subtle that we don’t even notice them at first. I remember very clearly the first time I noticed I was breathing easily through my sun salutations without having to think about it and the student next to me pointing out in class one day that my heels were comfortably resting on the floor in down dog. Neither of these changes had come about in those moments I became aware of them, they had been gradually evolving up to that point.

So the best way I’ve found to cope with change in life and yoga is to observe, be aware, tune in but don’t attach to whatever is happening. Noticing not only the changes but my responses to them. Surrender to the changes that occur, knowing that if I don’t like them they too will change one day.

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

 

Transformation

I have just come in from painting the outside walls of my house. A big job but one I enjoy as the fruits of my labours are very visible and instant.

Sometimes during our renovations we work very hard and put in many hours with little  obvious tangible outcomes which can get frustrating as you feel like you are not getting very far despite all of that hard work.

It is a bit like that with yoga as well, sometimes you put in determined effort, focus and  practice but little seems to change while other times you walk out of a class or practice feeling dramatically different and improved compared to how you felt when you began.

One thing I have learned through my renovations is that there is work happening during those seemingly unproductive times. Each task is a step towards the goal and I have learned to measure progress in small increments, each tiny step something to celebrate, each job completed a step further towards our goal. Even if it takes longer than expected or needs to be redone or is very time consuming that is part of the process and it is all progress, all moving us further towards completion.

In yoga even when it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier, you don’t seem to be finding calm or gaining flexibility or building strength or whatever goals you have set are not forthcoming it helps to take the time to reflect on that. Even the fact that you have set those goals is progress, beginning that journey which may lead you to those outcomes or may take you in a completely wonderful yet unexpected direction. The changes yoga brings are often subtle, they sneak up on you and you might not even be aware of them until you have a light bulb moment of realization that they have taken place.

Happy transformations!

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

Release Stress, Embrace Rest

What is stress? We throw that word around every day but don’t often stop to think about what we mean by it.

Here are some definitions I found…

“The physical pressure, pull, or other force exerted on one thing by another; strain.”

“The action on a body of any system of balanced forces whereby strain or deformation results”

“A load, force, or system of forces producing a strain.”

“Physiology . a specific response by the body to a stimulus, as fear or pain, that disturbs or interferes with the normal physiological equilibrium of an organism.”

“Physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension.”

“A situation, occurrence, or factor causing this.”

“Archaic . strong or straining exertion.”

Many of these definitions relate to an external force affecting something but it might come as a pleasant surprise to know that stress as we know it is not necessarily the force being applied but how we respond to that force. Yoga is the perfect tool to use in combatting stress as it works with our bodies, minds and hearts , all three of which are affected by stress.

As an example when we are running late and the deadline is applying its stressful force upon us we can chose how we react, we can become “stressed” which means a cascade of responses in our physical body, our mind and our heart or we can pause, breathe deeply, reflect on whether it is worth getting all worked up, what is the worst case scenario if we are late, acknowledge that there is little we can do to change the fact that we are running late and go about arriving at our destination as soon as we can in a calm and steady manner rather than all worked up.

This is much harder to do than it is to read and write about because our bodies respond to stress without our conscious control so often we can become stressed before we know it is happening. The good news is it is never to late to pause, breathe and go through the above steps to halt stress in its tracks. Next time you become aware of being stressed give it a go and see what happens…

We will be covering this and many more techniques to release stress as well as indulging in some wonderful embracing of rest and relaxation in my upcoming yoga retreat Release Stress, Embrace Rest at Clearview Retreat on the17th – 19th of October. Spaces are filling fast and only a couple are left so if you’d like to join us book soon to secure your place by calling Jocelyn on 03-5797 0229 or emailing diversity@diversity.org.au.

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

 

Yogavation

I am still renovating, it seems to have been a permanent state as long as I can remember. We sometimes talk about before we started this major project. “Remember when we could use the heating because the house was all sealed and it wouldn’t just float out into the universe?” or “Remember when we had room for most of our stuff and it wasn’t constantly being shuffled from room to room to accommodate the latest thing we are working on?”.

The wonderful thing about it is that all of our hard work and dedication are paying off and we are starting to see, feel and live in improved and much appreciated progress. An example is our front door. One of the first things we had to do was dig footings, one of which was located right by the front door. This meant ripping up the existing concrete porch to dig a metre deep hole which then needed to be filled with concrete. Not exactly the greatest entrance to your home, particularly when the hole was empty, when you stood in the doorway there was a big chasm beneath you – quite scary really!

Boy standing in a deep hole

Front doorway

This photo taken in January 2011 shows my youngest son in the hole, you can see the open door above him. Further work was done in the area, moving the front door forward once the footing was in place and then we got busy with building other stuff. Our “front porch” was made up of bricks laid roughly over the dirt to allow us to walk in and out and prevent the area from becoming waterlogged ( we lay the bricks down after it did indeed become waterlogged and we had a lake in front of our door!).

After three years of this “temporary” measure we have finally replaced this with our new front deck and boy do we appreciate it! Now we can say “Remember when we had those loose bricks on the ground at the front door?”

Older boy standing on a deck

Big changes over time

An older Rhys enjoying the new deck. Though it looks completely different this is the same location as the previous photo.l

Each little bit of progress we make now moves us further toward our finished house. What was a huge, overwhelming job has become a step by step journey which is now more than half way done.

Yoga works in much the same way as this. Often we become so accustomed to how things are that we really have trouble imagining life in a different way. It might be a physical condition causing pain or discomfort or a mental condition such as anxiety or stress. When these things first occur it can come as a shock but after they’ve been there a while we can become accustomed to them and accept them as just how things are. We might look back fondly to a time before they occurred but not be able to look ahead to a time when they will not be a part of our lives any more.

Yoga can often help, very slowly, to improve the conditions or sometimes to improve our coping mechanisms to allow greater happiness despite these conditions. Often the changes are so gradual and subtle that we don’t notice what is happening until one day we look back,  “Remember when I used to have back pain every day? ” or “Remember when I used to feel anxious all of the time?”

So yoga is like our renovations, a long journey which can sometimes be a little overwhelming and which we sometimes may not be able to imagine getting to the end off. (I suspect our renovation journey will linger endlessly even once the main workload is complete there will always be something left to do). However, along the way we have changes, little steps forward, progress being made whether it is by pulling apart the existing framework or rebuilding a new improved model.

Enjoy the process and take pride in each little step forward you make on your journey.

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

On being forty

As mentioned in my post a couple of weeks ago, I have recently turned 40.

We often tend to think of these big “0” birthdays, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 and so on as milestones or turning points in our life and it is nice to take the opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re headed when they come around. Looking back ten years to my 30th birthday I can see how much I have grown and changed over that time. These past ten years have included the birth of my youngest son, my yoga teacher training, saying my final farewell to my beloved Pa, renovating our house, my older two children starting high school and many other life changing events. Each one of these experiences has helped me to learn more about myself and the world around me. The good times and the bad, the struggles and the highlights, each has its own gifts to offer which make me feel much wiser and more in touch with myself and my world at forty than I was at thirty. Who knows what the next ten years may bring and where fifty will find me? I look forward to finding out!

40th Birthday 307

I celebrated my birthday with my close family with a weekend away and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. I love to get back to nature, to spend time with family, to take time out to relax and step away from the busyness of life and our weekend at Clearview Retreat gave us all of the above and more. Above is just one of the beautiful views we took in and below are some of the companions we met over the weekend.

40th Birthday 326

Love and light,

 

Belinda

xxx

Having Fun

After class yesterday one of my students thanked me and commented on how much fun it had been. Yes, fun!

Lots of people don’t expect yoga to be fun. Relaxing, calming, challenging, strong, difficult, serious, quiet, energizing and many other things yes, but fun – no. The image we have of things is often far from the reality and this is especially true of yoga. Lots of people tell me they can’t do yoga because they are not strong/flexible/focused enough, these are the gifts yoga brings slowly and with time and dedication to our practice. If we already had all that stuff we wouldn’t need to practice yoga!

My classes are light hearted and fun, we have a laugh at ourselves, at the world, at the challenges and the difficulties and what we struggle with. By seeing the funny side of these things we learn not to take it all to seriously and to have fun along the way as we improve (or sometimes not!) not just in yoga but in life.

I have just returned from a weekend away with my family to celebrate my  40th birthday which has been loads of fun. We spent time together walking, playing games, making (sometimes bad) jokes and laughing together. We stayed ay Clearview Retreat where the kookaburras laugh and laugh and the sound can’t help to bring a smile to me face. Unrestrained laughter at nothing in particular is a wonderful thing.

There is much value in a good laugh, it is a form of pranayama as the breath is involved, a form of asana as the belly gets in on it too when you laugh deeply and a form of meditation and relaxation as it serves to lift the spirit and release your joy into the world.

Finding the funny side of any situation always improves the outlook. I’ve used this practice a lot as we’ve renovated our house – often saying to myself, “One day I’ll look back on this and laugh.” It always helps me to see that the challenges are temporary and will pass and when they do I will wonder why I was so caught up in them to begin with.

So this week have a good laugh. With friends or on your own, watch a funny movie, see a comedian, find humour on the everyday, it doesn’t matter why you laugh and sometimes you don’t need a reason at all. Just laugh out loud and enjoy it!

To finish a little yoga humour for you…

What did the sign in the window of the yoga master searching for a new disciple say?

Inquire within!

 

Mahatma Gandhi: “I think it would be a good idea.” (When asked what he thought about Western civilization)

 

A young woman who was worried about her habit of biting her fingernails down to the quick was advised by a friend to take up yoga. She did and next time they met her fingernails were growing normally. Her friend asked if the yoga had cured her nervous habit and she replied, “No, but now I can reach my toenails so I bite them instead!”

 

Love and light and laughter,

Belinda

xxx

 

Gravity

I often mention gravity in my yoga classes and felt inspired today to write my post about this grounding energy that we work with, or against, all of the time.

Although we are constantly relying on gravity to keep us grounded we often think of it in a negative way, like a weight, pulling us down, creating heaviness, holding us back.

The truth is that gravity gives us our foundations and foundations are important. The process of building our second story extension has given me a greater awareness of just how important foundations are. Before we were able to build up we had to dig down, deep down into the earth to put in our foundations. Once those strong, stable foundations were in place we could begin the (lengthy) process of building upwards but if we had tried to go up without first putting in our foundations our house would have been weak, unstable and short lived.

So when does gravity help us in our yoga practice? Lets take a simple tadasana, mountain pose to begin with though what we will cover relates to every posture, standing, seated or lying. In tadasana our feet are our foundations and so we ground through them. Gravity draws the weight of our body through the soles of our feet and from that grounded support gravity gives up the ability to move in any way. With that connection to the earth we can lift one leg, raise our arms, jump up into the air. Any movement against gravity requires that downward connection first to support it.

So just like with my renovations, in yoga you have to go down before you can go up.

Of course as well as giving us the means to reach great heights gravity is also super lovely in helping us to relax, so at the end of our asana practice we can surrender to gravity’s downward pull and release into its support. Aaaaaah.

Stay grounded.

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

Previous Older Entries