Hello

It has been a long time since I last posted here, the longest break I’ve had since starting my blog all those years ago.

This wasn’t a planned break – there have been some things going on in my life on many different levels which have brought about some personal development and, being a rather private person, I’ve been focusing on my own growth and the discoveries I’ve made about myself . There have been a few times that I’ve set myself up to write a post only to find that I just didn’t feel anything I wrote was coming out as intended so I’ve put it off.

Although I am still in many ways feeling like I am in a transition it seems to be taking a new turn with lots of opportunities opening up, others things winding down and me just going along for the ride. I tend to trust the universe and when I got a message saying I had a comment to moderate I logged on to my website to do so and find myself writing again…

So this post is just hello, checking in, letting you know I’m still here, teaching, learning, exploring and sharing. I haven’t forgotten about you all – I just needed some to to follow my own advice and connect to myself in a nurturing way.

I hope to post more regularly now – perhaps monthly to begin with but you never know what might evolve. Feel free to comment on anything you’d like me to post on – whatever it may be.

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

Mums & Bubs Yoga and Baby Massage

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 info@harvestyoga.com.au

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,

Belinda

xxx

 

 

Circle of Joy

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…

  1. Start with hand together in Namaskar Mudra, palms together in the heartspace. Inhale fully here.
  2. On the exhalation interlock your fingers and open your palms out in front at chest height, lengthening the arms without locking the elbows.
  3. Inhale and float the hands up above the head, palms still facing away from you.
  4. Exhale and separate your hands, taking them out to the sides and behind your back where the palms come together again.
  5. Inhale and once again interlock your fingers and lift your arms, opening through the chest and collarbone.
  6. 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.
  7. Inhale to come back upright from the forward bend.
  8. 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,

Belinda

xxx

Winding up and wind down

It’s that time of year, some things are finishing off like my beginners course which ended last week and my Braybrook classes which wind up this Thursday while other things get busy, busy, busy in the rush to prepare for Christmas or other festivities, go to all of the social gatherings and events and see all of the different people for Christmas and just get on with the day to day stuff.

I sometimes look at my calendar for the week ahead and feel a little alarmed when there are no empty days, not even empty afternoons or mornings. I feel the need to brace myself to get through all of the events. Not that I don’t enjoy all of the catching up and socialising, quite the opposite in fact – I love this time of year and the opportunities it presents to share time with family and friends.  It’s more that I also need some time to myself, time to slow down, reflect on events, time to be alone, particularly when life is busy.

It’s taken me a while to realise this, I used to feel bad about not wanting to go to every party, every dinner, every event. I’ve arrived at the realisation of why I sometimes dread these things after much soul searching and self observation. What I’ve learnt about myself is this:

  • I love spending time with those close to me
  • I don’t feel comfortable in large groups of people
  • I need time to myself in between time spent with others
  • If I don’t honour these things I end up feeling frail, exhausted and on edge
The good news is that now that I know all of the above I can manage my calendar and social gatherings to suit which makes this time of year much more enjoyable. I prefer small gatherings to large groups, so try to visit people individually or go out for a meal rather than going to big get togethers. When I do go to the occasional larger gatherings I make sure I am aware of how I’m going and move out for some space if things start getting overwhelming.
Other ways I avoid the rush is by getting all of the Christmas shopping done as early as possible. Shopping centres, particularly busy ones, count as large groups of people and leave me exhausted so I limit my visits to them, try to get there during quiet times and, where possible, do my shopping at markets and smaller local businesses.
I keep track of that calendar and if it starts looking too crowded I start saying no to events or seeing what can be left off or moved to a quieter time. With three kids it can fill up very quickly so this one is important.
Finally I keep my yoga tinted glasses nearby, taking every opportunity between the busyness for a few deep breaths, a brief meditation, a short practice or even some mindful awareness of where I am and what’s going on. Winding down after a crazy day with my legs up the wall and some three part breathing helps me to reenergise and arrive refreshed and renewed to the next event…
May your festive season be restful and include a good balance of winding up and winding down…
Love and light,
Belinda
xxx

Mental Health

It is Mental Health week so my post today is about mental health, through yoga tinted glasses of course.

There is such stigma still associated with mental health conditions, I think things have improved but there is a long way still to go. I have a friend who was suffering depression and confided in me that she felt ashamed of having to take medication to manage it. I told her that I had no shame in using an inhaler when my asthma played up so why should she feel ashamed for treating a medical condition with medication? Yet she did, and I’m sure she was not alone.

Yoga gifts us with many tools to manage our mental health, from meditation, to slowing down, to tuning in or even losing yourself in the flow of surya namaskar for a while. My own mental health has been much more stable since I found yoga. It is not that I no longer have sad days or feel anxious, it is just that when these things happen I can pause, recognize, acknowledge and work through what is happening rather than getting caught up in the turmoil that comes from these situations. I feel so much more in control.

Here is a quick technique I use for anxiety which I find really helps me to stay calm. Hope you like it, please let me know if you have any feedback!

Step 1. Recognise – as soon as you notice thing getting slightly off balance recognize what’s happening. Say it to yourself, “I’m worried I’m going to be late.” Just putting that out there helps to put whatever’s happening and your reaction to it into perspective.

Step 2. Push the pause button – imagine, just for a while, pausing those thought processes, count to 30 or 100 or any other number that suits.

Step 3. Breathe – while you are counting let your breath slow down and deepen, when we are upset or anxious the breath speeds up, by doing the opposite you slow down those feelings and reactions.

Step 4. Acknowledge – give yourself a pat on the back for recognizing what was happening and acting to reduce the impact of it. The more you practice the above the sooner you’ll start to recognize the signs, the earlier you catch these reactions the less power they will have.

Step 5. Get on with your day – keep going where you were going or doing what you were doing, from a calmer, more in control place.

Love and light and good mental wellbeing,

Belinda

xxx

Packing up my Women’s Wisdom

I’m heading off to the King Parrot Valley today for my Celebrating Women’s Wisdom yoga retreat.

Planning this retreat has been a journey in itself, connecting with my own feelings about being a woman and what it means to me and reflecting on how that has changed over the course of my life so far. I am very much looking forward to sharing the wisdom I have gathered through my research and receiving some new insights from the women at the retreat.

Teaching retreats offers a wonderful opportunity to work very intensely without distractions, though I put a lot of my energy into planning and presenting my classes I do very much enjoy the process, the exploration and growth for myself personally and my students. If you have not been able to attend a retreat yet I highly recommend making the time, it takes your yoga to a whole new level.

Packing for a weekend away is an interesting insight into what you really need, over the years I have managed to narrow down my packing, reducing it to what I know I’ll need rather than a heap of “Just in case” items. I like the freedom of living sparsely, no dilemma about what to wear as there is only one outfit for each day. No unpacking half a suitcase full of unworn clothes at the end of the trip.

So as I put the final touches on my packing and prepare to head off I wish you all a wonderful weekend.

It has been a busy few months and coordination is still going on for some of my yoga classes, regular weekly-fortnightly blog posts will be resuming as of this one.  Apologies to regular readers who may have been missing me!

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

 

Those tight places…

We all have them, places where we tend to hold on, to tighten up without even realising it. For me and many of my students the shoulders are the biggest culprits with the jaw and eyes following closely behind. Other places that commonly hold unknowingly are the hands, feet, belly, hips, the list goes on and on.

The first step in reducing this type of physical stress is becoming aware of it. Noticing your own little patterns – where you clench, tighten, grip and eventually ache. Yoga is a great way to notice these things but you don’t need to wait until you’re in a yoga class to tune in to them, you can do it right now, take a little tour of your body and notice where you are holding.

The second step is releasing when you notice that tension is beginning to creep in. Consciously softening in those places, reflecting on how this holding is in no way helping to resolve whatever situation has caused it and letting it go. Again our yoga practice helps us to do this, to feel in and create space, to release and soften into a posture or practice, to stretch out those tight places but there is no reason you need to carry it around with you until you get there. Try it now, breathe into those tight places and feel them gently softening, aaaah.

The final step is to begin to break that habit, to notice the tension as it starts to creep in rather than waiting until its there. This isn’t as easy as it may sound but can make a huge difference to how you feel and how you function. Over time practicing steps one and two regularly will lead to this.

May all of your tight places release.

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