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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

Couples Pregnancy Yoga Workshop

I love teaching prenatal and mums & bubs yoga classes, sharing a part of that wonderful journey with women as babies grow within, arrive earthside, and then continue to grow and thrive is a very special privilege. It is an amazing journey, not just for the women but for their partners and support people as well.

A few years ago I trialed inviting partners along to one of my prenatal classes and it was wonderful! The opportunity to meet them, practice some partner yoga and support tips for the big day when baby arrives, connect with the whole family unit was great and the feedback from those who attended was all positive. I always fully intended to do it again more formally but with one thing and another that hasn’t happened. Until now that is…

Harvest Yoga & Yoga to Grow

are delighted to present
 
COUPLES PREGNANCY YOGA CLASS
Due to popular demand Harvest Yoga and Yoga to Grow are running a Couples Pregnancy Yoga Class
Sunday 8th November
1-2.30pm
with Belinda Blackburn
This will be a specialised class for prenatal students and their partners or support people.
Practices will include partner work, preparation for labour, massage and relaxation.
Open to couples at all stages of pregnancy
COST
$50 per couple for regular Harvest Yoga Pre Natal Yoga students
$60 per couple for others & for students who have attended classes casually
__________________________________________________________________
spaces strictly limited
book early to avoid missing out
please note
This will be the first in a regular series of these events
Because there is going to be more demand than supply for this
  • your payment confirms your place
  • no refunds (unless we are able to find a replacement for you – often difficult at the last moment)
__________________________________________________________________
PAYMENT OPTIONS AND BANK DETAILS
PLEASE NOTE
FUNDS TRANSFERS is our preference for payments
Please write your name onto transfer memo
AND let us know via RETURN email:
Ø  date of payment
Ø  amount paid
Ø  receipt number
Ø  what exactly you are booking
Your assistance in this is greatly appreciated.
ACCOUNT DETAILS
RICK HARVEST
Credit Union Australia
BSB 814 282
ACCOUNT NO 1016 9185 
So here I am, years after the initial seed was sown, excitedly planning for the first of what will become a regular event, Couples Yoga Classes at Harvest Yoga. I often have these marvelous plans and often feel a little discouraged when they don’t happen immediately. Life gets so busy and energy needs to be prioritised so these grand plans get put onto the back burner. As long as they are still there, bubbling away and popping up in my mind every now and then it is only a matter of time before the opportunity arises, as it has here and now for the Couples Classes, for them to surface and bloom.
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

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