Thunder and lightning

I awoke to a loud roll of thunder this morning, closely followed by my panicked dog, Ebony, scampering into my bedroom. Like many dogs she is very afraid of thunderstorms so needed some reassurance. Personally I feel more alive and on edge when there is thunder in the air, the charged environment sets my physical body tingling. I get the need to use up that energy in some way just as the clouds need to release their charged electricity into the earth through lightning. The clouds are still deep grey and looming and that energy is in the air so I feel there may be more thunder on the way.

There is a yoga pose known as thunderbolt pose, also called chair pose or fierce pose or, in its home language of sanskrit, utkatasana. It has many names and they are all fitting – chair pose because to access it you lower yourself into an imaginary chair, thunderbolt because the shape your body makes from the side is a zig zag like lightning and fierce or powerful is the direct translation from utkatasana because it helps you find that powerful, fierce inner strength when you practice it.

What I love about this pose it that it is challenging to hold and gives a real opportunity to see what happens within your mind and body when you work with it. It is easy enough to get into and accessible to most people. Simply stand with your feet hip distance apart, breathe in and raise your arms then exhale and lower the arms to your sides as you tilt the torso forward and lower your hips behind you like you are sitting back into a chair. Your chair might be a high bar stool, a regular kitchen chair or a little kinder chair. The only correct height to lower yourself to is until you find a place where your thighs are working hard, core supporting the spine and you feel you can hold for a few breaths at least.

Once you are there breathe evenly, if this isn’t possible come up out of the pose until it is. After 3-5 breaths inhale and come back up, raising your arms as you do so. Then exhale, lower the arms and shake it all out. I like to repeat twice more, once with the arms stright out from the shoulders and the final time with them remaining up in the air. The position of the arms makes a surprising difference to this pose, it is much stronger with them raised so practice with care and lower them if it feels too strong.

Hope you enjoy the weather, whatever it is that comes your way. One of the best things about living in Melbourne is that we rarely have the same weather for long periods of time. Yesterday was 27 degrees, warm and windy and now it is raining, cold and stormy. It reminds me of the yogic concept of santosha – contentment with what is along with awareness that nothing is permanent and change will happen. As the saying goes, for every ray of sunshine a drop of rain must fall.

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

Staying Home

School holidays are here again, after much anticipation they’ve finally arrived. In the lead up I am often asked what we are doing on the holidays? Are we going away? Do we have any plans? While I do enjoy having a break, visiting family who live far away or seeing new places I am also a big fan of staying home. In life things get busy and to have a whole day at home with my kids to bake, play games, create artwork, plant something in the garden or just be together is a rare and much valued treasure.

It is a great opportunity to let the kids pick something they really like to do and give them the time, materials and opportunity to really explore that. I like to try to give them each a day to chose our activities with no screen time except for maybe all watching a movie together at the end.

Rhys insists on a pajama day every holidays when we might get up but we do not get dressed, just hang around in our comfy PJ’s. He also loves to play board games or to lose himself in his imagination with his siblings as they head off on an adventure.

Kelsea likes crafty activities so is learning to knit these holidays and doing very well so far, she also loves to bake so we will be making some yummy treats to enjoy together I’m sure.

Mitchell is happy with a pile of books and unlimited time to peruse them with perhaps a break for a game of tennis or to roughhouse with Ebony, our dog.

So what are we doing on the holidays? Working on our renovations, baking, making, playing, sharing, laughing and simply being together as a family.

Love and light,

Belinda.

xxx

 

Camel pose

I’ve been practicing ustrasana or camel pose a bit lately, backbends are good at this time of year to open your heart and enhance the increased energy levels that are offered by warmer weather, longer days and spring in the air. So I thought I’d share a simple version of the pose with my readers. This variation has the most of the benefits as full ustrasana – opening the shoulders, chest, abdomen pelvis and front of the thighs and hip joints, strengthening the back, improving posture as well as increasing confidence and  energy levels but being easier to get in and out of it is available to just about anyone as it requires less flexibility and strength to achieve. It is also much safer if you have any lower back issues.

The caution with this posture is for the neck, it is easy to just allow the head to hang back but that position can put the neck under strain so I like to think of opening the front of the neck without collapsing through the back of the neck. When you are coming out take the chin towards the chest first and once the neck is safe release the rest of the pose.

Now for the practice:

Take a comfortable standing posture, feet hip distance apart and spend a few breaths lengthening the spine here. I like to work with the breath, lifting the crown of the head as you breathe in and grounding through your feet as you exhale.

When you are ready take your hands behind you, placing the palms against the  lower back with your fingers pointing down and resting on the top of the pelvis and your wrists touching the bottom of the ribcage. This is going to be your support for the lumbar spine, preventing you from over arching in this area so you can focus on opening evenly through the whole length of your back. Draw the elbows towards each other behind you to start the process of opening the shoulders and chest. On an inhalation allow that movement to increase as you release the hips forward and lift your heart upwards. Only go as far as feels okay and don’t lose the support of those hands as you go into the pose. Let the chin lift and the gaze rise to a comfortable position for your neck.

Once you are there take a few lovely full breaths, enjoy the opening through the whole front of your body. You might find over the time you hold this pose that you can deepen it further but only do so if comfortable, never forcing or pushing.

To come out bring the chin in to the chest and allow yourself to lengthen the spine and move back to standing. Take a few breaths here with the eyes closed noting how you feel, any shifts within your body or mind. I like to rest in childs pose afterwards for a few breaths at least the neutralise the spine and soak up the benefits.

Camels are fascinating creatures. They have amazing abilities to survive and adapt in the harshest environments on earth both in blisteringly hot and chillingly cold temperatures . They can go without food or water for days on end and resourcefully store fat in their humps for when times get tough. They also have charm which is what I love about them. Their double row of eyelashes has the purpose of protecting the eyes from sand but the added perk of making them very beautiful. I love watching them move, it is pure poetry in motion to see a camel walking or lying down. Don’t get me started on their lips! Camels have a reputation for being stubborn, spitting when angry and quite temperamental however they can also be loyal, hard working and loving companions.  I admire rather than judge them for the fact that they stand up for themselves when it is needed.

Hope you enjoy the practice and the photo, camels variation on childs pose I think. It shows they know how to conserve their energy, no wonder they are such survivors.

Love and light,

Belinda.

xxx

Flying Trapeze

Part of my daughters birthday present this year was a two hour Flying Trapeze lesson, I joined her in this on Sunday. I expected to feel a little nervous, uneasy about being so high up but it was surprising how little I felt this. Excitement is contagious and Kelsea and I were both very pumped when we arrived.

Wow! That is all I can say after the experience, it was amazing, the freedom of flying through the air on the trapeze, swinging my legs up and dangling upside down and, at the end, making a catch with one of the teachers left me exhilerated and uplifted.

I have always loved to swing, from childhood I remember closing my eyes and feeling the wind lifting my hair off my shoulders, leaning back as I swung forward and feeling the moment of weightlessness as the swing reached its highest point before the return journey. I could and did swing for hours. Having children had me revisiting the joy of swinging, with them on my lap when they were too little to go themselves but eventually I was demoted to pushing duties as they grew. The trapeze adds a whole new element as you are hanging instead of seated, from your arms then from your legs. Woohoo, it was so much fun!

My yoga tinted glasses were very active during the flying trapeze, the act of jumping off the platform requires trust in yourself and surrender. To make the catch you need to extend that trust to the person who is catching you. I can tell you my yoga asana practice also came in handy as it requires some flexibility as well as core strength to wrap your legs up and around as well as openess through the body to release and reach back into a backbend as you swing forwards. I found myself automatically using my breath to find rhythm and flow through the motions smoothly. It was also calming as I climbed up the shaky ladder to the platform (in my opinion the scariest part of the whole process). Finally there was the wonderful present moment awareness, experiencing the flight, the freedom, the adrenalin rush and the floating sensation which remained after I’d come back to land.

Happy swinging.

Love and light,

Belinda.

xxx

 

 

Baddah konasana

Last night we worked on our hips in my yoga classes, opening, stretching and strengthening these important joints through a variety of practices. I love a good hip opener, the release of tension I didn’t know I was holding is fabulous and I always feel more stable in my seated postures after opening through my hips, it broadens the pelvis and gives me a solid comfortable base.

One of the easiest and most accessible hip openers is baddah konasana, translating as bound angle pose but also commonly called cobblers pose or tailors pose as it is the position these craftsmen take in India while they work. Much more beneficial than sitting in an office chair all day I think.

I like to sit up on a blanket of cushion for this pose as it helps to support the pelvis at an angle which allows the spine to rise effortlessly upwards. start with crossed legs and experiment with the height of your support and the angle of your pelvis until it feels very easeful and natural. Then take the soles of your feet together, heels drawn as close to the pelvis as comfortable and lengthen the spine up as you open your knees downwards. Take it gently, for some people just being in this position is enough of a stretch, if it feels too strong or you have any weakness in your hips you can support the knees with rolled up blankets.

From there you can take this pose to a few different places:

– continue to lengthen the spine up then connect the feet to each other to activate the legs.

–  deepen the hip opening by opening the soles of the feet like they are pages of a book, outer edges stay together as inner edges peel away from each other (use your hands for support in this but no forcing, be gentle).

– take a forward bend, you might not go very far but your hips will open further with even a small forward motion.

-twist by placing your right hand behind you, left hand to the right knee and spiraling around to the right. Hold for a few breaths then come back to centre and repeat to the left.

– rock from one side to the other keeping the pelvis grounded.

When you have had enough use your hands to draw the knees in together, extend the legs out in front a little wider than hip distance, lean back onto your hands a little and let your feet move from side to side like windscreen wipers, allowing that loose relaxed movement to travel up the legs and into the hips.

Happy hippys to you all.

Love and light,

Belinda.

xxx

Stillness

After the wild winds of last week I am loving the stillness we are enjoying at the moment. While winds do have their benefits as discussed in an earlier post they can also be disruptive and unsettling, particularly for us at the moment as our renovations mean we have a tarp over part of the roof which flaps noisily in the breeze and disturbs our sleep and equilibrium.

So today, with stillness in the air, I am taking the time to appreciate the lack of wind. Stillness around me helps me to achieve stillness within, both my body and mind are calmer, more at ease. The quiet is almost palpable as I close my eyes, feel the warmth of the sun on my skin and allow myself to drop into the stillness of this moment. Aaaaah!

While it is easy to find stillness on a balmy spring day without a drop of a breeze it is more challenging yet still possible to find it amidst hectic activity using the same methods. Closing your eyes to remove any outside stimulation, find the calm in the centre of the whirlwind of thoughts in your mind and sigh out your breath. There, at the end of that sigh, resides a moment of calm, quiet stillness. Sometimes just a moment is all you need to find your centre and so find peace.

The winds will come back, it is a windy time of year, but for me this only makes me appreciate the stillness more. It is precious because it is fleeting, so I am enjoying every minute while it lasts.

May you find stillness in your day.

Love and light,

Belinda.

xxx

 

It takes two…

I have been teaching a bit more in the past week than usual as I filled in a few classes for Claire at SunYoga while she was running a retreat in Bali. This is great as it means I get to meet more students and challenge myself to keep my classes fresh, not too repetitive and inspired as well as managing my time more efficiently to allow for the additional planning and admin work.

I found myself including some partner work in many of the classes which I love doing but I only teach it if I feel the group will work well with it. Some people really hate partnering up – especially with strangers, while others thrive on the social aspect and the opportunity to connect with another person. I myself have felt both ways so can relate to both frames of mind. When  I first started yoga classes as a mother of three young children they were the only only time I got to myself, to be completely in my own space and hearing the teacher say “Find a partner” which meant I had to share that space, talk to someone else, surrender my private time left me groaning and resentful on more than one occasion.

Over the years I have learnt the advantages of working with someone else, supporting each other, breathing together,  discovering the differences and similarities between myself and others, communicating my needs and limits, really connecting and sharing an experience deepens and enriches yoga practice. I include partner work in the final week of my prenatal class blocks to encourage my students to accept support, work with partners or health care providers, explore comfortable supported positions in preparation for labour and get to know each other better in the hopes that they will forge friendships which continue beyond our classes.

Over this week it has fitted nicely into the classes I taught in it. Yes, some people may have been a little out of their comfort zone but that can be a good thing and many of the classes have been filled with joy, laughter and chatter as partners worked together through a variety of practices. At the end of the class we always go back to our own space for relaxation, the energy slows and settles and stillness and quiet return along with a sense of shared contentment and unity that only partner work achieves.

A simple practice you can try with a partner is simply sitting back to back, legs crossed or straight out in front, hands resting in your lap and synchronising your breath. Let this be effortless, start by breathing comfortable but deeply and feel your partners back moving with their breath. From your awareness of their breath yours will naturally shift to match the inhalation and exhalation. It feels wonderful, stay for at least five minutes and let yourself really feel the two bodies breathing as one. Lovely!

Happy partnering.

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

 

A tribute to fathers

Fathers Day was on the weekend so this post is a tribute to dads all over the world, mine especially.

Here are some of the wisdom I have gained through my relationship with “The Old Man” over the years.

1. More than I ever really wanted to know about trains, trucks, cars and all things mechanical. My father has an almost childlike fascination for the way things work and my sisters and I have all spent many hours at museums trying to match his enthusiasm but eventually, inevitably, glazing over.

2. Country drives are fun, dad and I would often go off on what he called a “Magical Mystery Tour” which pretty much meant getting in the car and driving, seeing where you ended up. Some of the best times I ever had with him were on those drives. From the time he got stuck halfway through a weir, water flooded the car and he managed to wade out, chock up the wheels and get us out of there (I still hate driving through weirs as I remember this so clearly) to the time we got bogged on the top of Mount Disappointment and walked for miles to call for help there was always a great sense of adventure. Most often we just got out into nature, walked the dog around Lancefield, Wombat State Forest, Lerdederg Gorge and other beautiful places within a days drive of Melbourne. We always ended up at the pub which I didn’t enjoy so much but the other destinations were wonderful.

3. You can’t always get what you want but you can find happiness with what you get. Dad wanted a son, he even had the name picked out – Barry. But after three daughters he called it quits and didn’t complain, he did however try with limited success to raise his girls with some blokey experiences (see points 1 and 2).

4. Life is tough and how you respond to difficulties has huge a impact. Dad is not well now, too much drinking, smoking, hard work and not enough looking after has taken it’s toll on his body and mind. This lesson has taught me the hard way that you only get one body in this life and it’s worth looking after it. Watching him over the years and being powerless to stop the downward spiral he has been in has not been easy for me or anyone else who loves him dearly.

5. We are all human, I remember as a little girl idolising my father, thinking he was amazingly clever and putting him on a pedestal. I remember the first time I ever saw him cry when he lost his best mate to cancer and how much it shocked me. I clearly remember his face at his own fathers funeral, full of sorrow and feelings which he would normally never have let show in front of us girls. Seeing him in these moments of what he probably thinks of as weakness but I think of as proof that he has feelings just like the rest of us has deepened my love for him and my sorrow that he was never comfortable sharing his pain except in extreme circumstances, he preffered to drown his sorrows than to share them. Perhaps his life would be different now had he felt comfortable doing so.

So thanks Dad for all of these lessons, good and bad, deliberate or accidental. Happy Fathers Day!

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx