Acorns and Autumn

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 rick@harvestyoga.com.au

Enjoy the Autumn colours,

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

 

Summer days

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.

Bee on Sunflower

Bee on Sunflower

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 info@harvestyoga.com.au. 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,

Belinda

xxx

 

 

 

To try something new…

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,

Belinda

xxx

 

 

Warming up in winter…

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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,

Belinda

xxx

 

 

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

 

 

Blooming forth

Spring has now truly arrived in Melbourne, we are being blessed with longer and warmer days, more sunshine, flowers and blossoms, bees and butterflies, birds singing and that wonderful feeling that spring brings.

People seem happier, lighter, more carefree as the springtime energy takes over. While winter gave us time to hibernate and withdraw spring invites us to become more active, more energised and, like the bees, more busy. To catch up on jobs that need doing, to spring clean, to bloom and blossom just as the flowers and trees do.

In your yoga practice spring is a great time to try something new, to explore a different practice or just a new way of doing something familiar and comfortable. It is also a lovely time to meditate on the changes happening both within and beyond yourself. Take some time to get out into nature, a park or your backyard or wherever else you have the opportunity. Close your eyes and think of breathing in the energy of spring, the new beginnings, the stirrings of new life, new opportunities, warmth and sunshine and rain, everything that is needed for things to grow and thrive. If there is anything within your life which you would like to blossom and bloom then take that energy into that space, it might be an idea, a project, something work related or a relationship, anything important to you and your personal journey. Bring the spring energy to whatever it is and feel it absorbing the springtime energy of growth, bursting forth, expanding and when the time is right, blooming in all of its glory.

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

Little hints of Springtime and New Open Class

Recently while I have been walking my dog I have noticed that there are subtle signs that winter is winding up and spring is on its way. This I find very reassuring as I shiver beneath my layers of clothes and my warm wooly hat. I try to embrace all of the seasons but for me winter is the most challenging by far. Some bulbs are bravely emerging from the cold winter earth, some blossoms are beginning to bud on bare winter branches.  They are few and far between -these signs, but they are there. The days are now lengthening, the temperatures not yet rising but the sun has blessed us with some beams and is shining in through my stained glass windows as I type.

I love spring and the new beginnings that come with it. The subtle signs that it is on its way have also crept into my teaching with a new class at Harvest Yoga on Monday evenings. This class is Open, open to whoever would like to join me. It begins at 5:15 but the lead part of the class does not commence until 6pm. Students are welcome to either lie down and relax, or explore their own practice in a beautiful studio with me there and available if you’d like any guidance or questions answered. This is a fairly unique opportunity to explore yoga in your own way with all of the props and space you might need, the lack of which can make it quite challenging at home. For more info or to book please go to Harvest Yoga or just come along one Monday…

Keep an eye out for those little changes, little things beginning to shift…hope you enjoy them!

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

 

Winter is here

We’ve had a cold start to winter here in Melbourne, the coldest start in living memory. The winter solstice on June 22nd is fast approaching and the days are short, chilly and for many of us a little bleak. Even when the sun shines its light seems weaker and its warmth doesn’t seem able to reach us. It is the time of year during which we are invited to slow down, rest more, huddle up and withdraw a little. It is also the time when many of us succumb to chills and colds, winter blues and lethargy, immunity is weaker after the change of seasons and the cold and darkness can seem to seep into our bodies and minds.

Yoga offers many practices which can help us to get through these winter months, even to embrace and enjoy what they bring – the opportunity to slow down, take stock, rest and restore. Here are a few suggestions you might like to try…

1. Meditate- imagine you are like a tree, losing your leaves which might drain th energy you need to sustain you during winter. Reflect on your day to day life, what can you let go of? It isn’t forever, trees sprout new leaves in Spring, it is just for now, for the next few months. You might release actual activities, taking a break or rethinking commitments, it might be thoughts in your mind, unrealistic expectations, deadlines you have set for yourself, search through where your energy is going, keeping what feels right and reassessing what doesn’t quite fit anymore with where you want to be and the energy level you currently have.

2. Hibernate – like a bear in a cave, find a warm, snug little hidey hole away from it all where you won’t be disturbed. Find at least an hour or so (preferably without a fixed end time) and put yourself to bed or curl up on the couch with plenty of blankets and cushions . The purpose of this is to rest deeply, to fully accept winters invitation to slow right down.  Turn off mobile phones, computers and other possible distractions, if you live with other people let them know you are not to be interrupted, close your eyes and listen to your breath. During hibernation animals slow down their entire systems, digestive, circulatory, everything. Think of slowing down, breath moving at a slow, comfortable pace, body following by releasing tensions and slowly relaxing, mind joining in by letting the thoughts slow right down. Rest, restore and release, when you feel ready to come back do so gently and notice how different you feel.

3. Energise – Though we would like to spend the winter months hibernating for most of us life goes on, we still need to work, to get to places, to live our daily lives. Sun salutations are a lovely way to honour and connect to the warmth, light and energy we receive from the sun – even when it is at it’s furthest point from us. Practice your favorite sun salutes in the morning to give you the energy you need to get through your day. If you have a mid afternoon energy slump practice some helicopter pose to bring in a little more warmth and energy.

Cloud with silver lining

The darkness is as important as the light, this time of year allows us to tune into what is unseen, to do some soul searching, uncover hidden depths within ourselves, embrace both the light and the dark with equal acceptance and gratitude. Winters cloud of cold and darkness has a silver lining of rest and self study. I hope you enjoy the opportunity to do just that.

Stay warm. Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

New Beginnings

I am looking forward very much to teaching beginners yoga once more, this time at Harvest Yoga in Kensington. It seems very fitting that this opportunity has come up in Spring, a time of new beginnings and much growth and excitement.

Even after practicing yoga regularly for over ten years and teaching for over five years in many ways I still feel I am a beginner. There are so many practices, styles of yoga, different teachers all with something unique to offer that I have barely brushed the surface of the depths of yoga out there. I love trying something new, expanding my own experience so that both my personal practice and my teaching evolve and are enriched by new ways and methods and feelings.

Perhaps that is why I love to introduce beginners to these wonders, it reminds me of my first classes and the amazing changes that have crept gradually into my live since then through the riches of yoga practice and study.

Whatever the reasons I do love teaching beginners, introducing them to yoga and guiding them to connect with their bodies, minds and spirits in new and marvelous ways is such a privilege.  Even over a short ten week beginners course most students will begin to notice changes – feeling more comfortable in a posture, sleeping better, breathing easier, stressing less, feeling more connected, reduction in pain, freer movement, calmer mind are just some of the benefits students have reported. Everyone’s experience is unique and often the changes are so gradual and subtle that it’s hard to notice when exactly they started occurring or even to pin down exactly what has changed. Other times the changes can happen much more quickly like when one of my students recently shouted for joy in class when she felt her heels reach the ground in down facing dog for the first time!

My first beginners course at Harvest Yoga starts on Monday, 29th September at 7:15pm and runs for ten weeks. Further details can be found at Harvest Yoga or my Classes page, to book email info@harvestyoga.com.au

May Spring bring you many new beginnings…

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

 

Bed Time Yoga Poses

At the end of my classes many students get up and say “Now I just wish I could climb straight into bed.” or “Can’t we just stay here for the night?”

This happens often enough that I have seriously considered running Sleep Over Yoga Classes where students get to do just that – rather than getting up, packing up and finding their way home (all of which tend to disturb that deep post savasana relaxed feeling) I just tuck them all in, tip toe out of the room, turn off the lights and let them sleep deeply and peacefully.

There are a few reasons why I haven’t run with this idea.

1. I pay to hire the venue where I run my Thursday Yoga classes in Braybrook, I pay by the hour and I think they would sleep for many hours so it would cost me a fortune!

2. My Wednesday night class in Williamstown is followed by a prenatal class and the lovely pregnant ladies might trip over the slumbering bodies of my students.

3. I teach yoga retreats where you do get to stumble sleepily straight to bed after the final relaxation of the day as well as being thoroughly spoilt with beautiful food and lovely surroundings.

These reasons, while good ones, are not good enough to completely eradicate the idea so maybe, one day, when the time and place is right, it will happen.

In the meantime todays post is inspired by a request from Lindsay from Casper Sleep who asked for some yoga you can do in your own bed at home before you sleep at night or when you awaken in the morning.

You are probably already doing some informal yoga when you climb into bed, snuggle down and adjust to your most comfortable position at night or when you awaken and stretch and wriggle before you rise for the day. Here are a few poses you can do in bed, under covers to expand that informal practice. You can pick and choose the ones you like or practice them as a short sequence.

1. Apanasana – lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest and have a little sideways then back and forth rock here. This pose releases and expands the lower back so is great both at the beginning and end of your day. You can work for a few breaths to stimulate the digestive system ready for a tasty breakfast by hugging the knees in tightly to the belly as you breathe out then releasing them arms length away again as you breathe in.

2. Gentle twist – bring the feet to the mattress with your knees bent and find a comfortable distance between buttocks and heels. Bring the arms out to the sides in line with the shoulders and on an exhalation let your knees move to the left while you turn your head to the right. Hold for a few breaths then inhale back to center and exhale to the opposite side. Like apanasana this pose releases the lower back and tones the digestive system but it goes a little further by involving the hips and neck as well.

3. Suppta Baddah Konasana – reclined bound angle pose is lovely in the morning to open up in preparation for the new day. From the same base posture as the twist above allow the knees to open outwards and the soles of your feet to come together. If it feels too strong for your hips try putting a pillow underneath each knee to support them. Now try one or more of the following with your arms:

– Palms together in prayer position and work with the breath by exhaling and pushing the palms and soles of the feet together, just enough resistance to feel the whole of the arms and legs engaging. Release on the in breath and repeat a few times. This one is more suited to a morning practice to wake up all of the joints and muscles but can also be used as a release at the end of the day.

– Arms open to the sides of the body with palms facing up, feel the openness of this posture, open through the hips and the heartspace. Rest here for a few full breaths. A really nice way to end or start your day.

– Take your hands to rest on your belly, release your shoulders and send your breath to your hands, feeling the gentle rising and falling of the belly. As above, lovely anytime of day or night!

4. The big stretch – take your arms above your head and stretch in the following ways in order:

– Laterally by stretching first through the left then through the right sides of the body.

– Diagonally by lengthening the left arm and right foot in opposite directions then swapping sides.

– Completely and indulgently by lengthening through your whole being, imagine arms and legs being gently tugged in opposite directions, like one of those medieval torture devices but not to the point where it is painful. Feel the front, the back, the sides of the torso all getting involved. Make some noise here, a yawn or a sigh or whatever sound naturally comes to you.

Sleep well…

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

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