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

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

 

Habits

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,

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

Yoga for Pregnancy

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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,

Belinda

 

 

 

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

Making time…

It has been a while since my last post. I’ve been busy with some extra teaching, ongoing renovations and switching to a new computer. At the same time my daughter has dislocated her knee and my son has been switching schools so there has been lots of extra appointments and other end of year activities. I am also preparing to launch my new website in the new year, planning next years teaching dates and details and preparing for Christmas and all of the busyness that it brings.

It is easy to get caught up in the busyness at times like these and find myself with little or no time for yoga or meditation, however experience has taught me that these are the times when we need to prioritise the things that help keep us going. Taking a little time out and ensuring we have some time to put back ensures we have the energy and reserves required to keep going and get through whatever we are dealing with.

The trick is in making time, not an easy task. I have what I call my Yogic Time Machine which allows me to fit yoga into even the busiest of days. It works like this.

1. All you need to do to bring some yoga into your day is take a little time to become aware of your breath. You can do this while you are doing something else, just tune in, breathe easily, let it become a little deeper and more relaxed. You’ll be amazed at the difference this makes.
2. When you have lots of things to do don’t be tempted to multi task too much. Things might not get done as well and you might end up having to redo them so there is no real time saving there. Instead let yourself mindfully do one thing at a time, tasks then become a meditation in themselves, one pointed focus on one job at a time can be very calming.
3. The other advantage of taking on one thing at a time is that then you can fit in a five minute break in between tasks, it might be a quick cuppa, spending some time outside, sitting quietly but whatever it is you find calming don’t be tempted to let that to-do list invade this time, keep it separate.
Hope these tips help you find your own time machine, please feel free to share your own ways of fitting yoga in to busy times with me.
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

Begin again

We had a wonderful conversation in my beginners course last night about how and when you start to feel comfortable or familiar with yoga postures and practices. This is a difficult thing to define as, like many things, everyone does so in their own time and at their own pace.

Sometimes it takes the right instruction or the right teacher or for you to be in the right headspace for something to click, and then you have it. Other times the progress is so slow and sneaky that you don’t even realize it is happening, you just find yourself one day in a pose that has been difficult for you in the past and realise that it isn’t anymore. You try to remember when that happened but can’t pinpoint the moment because there wasn’t one, it was a gradual increase in comfort and familiarity which eventually culminates in feeling ease in that pose.

In my own personal practice, which began over 12 years ago, I have had both experiences and there are some poses which still challenge me, some days they feel okay, others they feel awkward. I’ve tried different methods, different teachers, different times of day but still don’t feel that I have mastered them at all. Perhaps I never will. I try not to feel frustrated about this and I do continue to practice those poses, not letting myself avoid them altogether as they teach me much, about being an eternal beginner, not putting pressure on myself to achieve, finding acceptance with where I am and not giving up entirely.

It is a lovely practice to begin again, even if you have done something a thousand times before to go into it as though for the first time. This helps us to notice our habits, to remain present and to give what we are doing our full attention as we do when we are learning something new. This applies to yoga, to work, to taking a walk, to washing the dishes, anything at all that you find yourself doing.

Happy beginnings.

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

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