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I received this note from a student of mine…

I received this heart-warming message by one of my yoga students who is now a yoga teacher and it prompted me to think of the role of the teacher…

One of the greatest compliments you can get as a teacher is seeing your own students succeed and even excel you.

In my teaching vocation, I have had past students come up to me and tell me how much I influenced their lives and how I instilled in them a love of learning that they didn’t have before.

It has been the most heart-warming experience to have had now 25 year old young adults tell me that I influenced them to become a teacher themselves or to follow their dreams.

My first year of teaching was a Grade 5 class. Looking back, I have no idea if I taught them a single thing! I worked my hardest in the first couple of years out of university and being young and inexperienced, I can see so many things I would now do differently.

However, if I asked my students what it was that made a difference to their lives when I taught them, they recall that I made learning fun, interesting and was able to explain things to them in a way they understood. They recall that I was a happy person who spoke to them on their level.

None of them mention the content of what I taught…. But rather the overall experience of how I taught and how I made them feel.

If you recall your own teachers, what is it about them that stands out to you as being good or not so good teachers?

What made a teacher memorable for you?
Perhaps it was their ability to connect with you in some way so that you could achieve these “light-bulb” moments in your learning?

Or was it their sense of humour?

Their ability to tell stories that captured you and helped you engage better in the learning experience?

Regardless of the content or field you are instructing people in – the purpose of teaching is not about delivering content – but rather it is to help people see more clearly, to awaken them, to unveil a sheath of ignorance…

to bring them to a place that is new, different, more enlightened….
To bring them to a new level of understanding of themselves and the world that they didn’t have before.

A teacher is not jealous of her students. But rather she desires to see her students excel beyond her own achievements and capabilities. The greatest gift a teacher can give her students is seeing their gifts and encouraging them to achieve beyond what they could imagine for themselves.

In my yoga teaching experience over the last 10 years, I have students of mine who are now yoga teachers or training to become teachers. It is the greatest gift for me to see these students shine and pass on the teachings of yoga that I was fortunate enough to have received by my teachers.

I am forever grateful for my amazing teachers because I know it has influenced and shaped me as a teacher (and a student) of yoga and of life.

We are all teachers. Every single one of us.

How do you help others around you better understand themselves as they walk on this road with you as a student of life?

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Do we innately desire new life?

Time is an interesting concept.

We tend to see time as something that is linear. With a beginning and an end.

But is this really true?

Or is time an illusion that keeps us shackled to the thought that our days are numbered?

We may have days on planet earth that are numbered… but what happens to the soul?

Did we exist before this physical life?

Will our soul continue on after the passing of our physical body?

Where will it go?

Is our age an illusion?

These are deep and thought provoking questions. Ones that most of us grapple with particularly on special occasions like our birthday when we are reminded of the passing of time.

One thing I do know is that most people desire new life.

People love to rejoice in new birth. New babies. New light. New love. A new soul…

The magical feeling when you see a pregnant woman… you wonder about the miracle within her. A boy? A girl? How will she feel when she welcomes her baby into the world? We often can’t wait to meet the baby and hear of the experience…we count down the weeks until we are able to meet this gift who will enter the world.

Her body becomes sacred.

Most of us get really excited about new life.

Why is that?

Perhaps it gives us hope?
It renews us?

It brings a sense of purpose or meaning to our lives…

It reminds us of the innocent, child-like joy we once had…

Time is interesting.
Are our memories timeless?

I think that’s why I love capturing photographs so often of my family and loved ones.

It helps me capture a moment in time so that I can keep the spark of sacredness alive within my soul.

Grace

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Can you find stillness amidst the chaos?

It is so easy to get caught up in the dramas of life. We hear a story, a news report, a piece of gossip and we get so involved in it. We share it. Talk about it. Think constantly about it. It could also disturb us. Make us angry or make us cry.

Some thoughts are so hard to shake and they stay with us for our entire life time! Usually these thoughts are around hurt, regret or sadness/loss.

Yoga is defined at the beginning of the yoga sutras as as the calming of the fluctuations of the mind.

And when these fluctuations are controlled and still, it is then that one sees things for what they truly are.

Yoga is a state of equanimity where one is able to see things for what they truly are, not what we think they should be.

It is about being in the world but not part of the world.

It is about being calm around the chaos.

The yogi is also able to avoid getting caught up in the drama and chaos of life or gossip but rather sees things from an observer point of view.

Almost like standing back and watching the drama go by, but not actually being part of it.

I have heard this yogic state described once as “conscious witness”.

The yogi is conscious and aware of what is happening. They are a witness to the events or thoughts. But in this state, the yogi is not immersed in it. They are more like a witness.

The yogi observes the thoughts come and go but she doesn’t get caught up in them. The thoughts come in as easily as they go out. Without holding onto them.

It is like being on a train. The train is traveling a certain direction and stops at different stations. No sooner it has stopped, it leaves again.

This is like the thoughts. They enter and then they exit. Before you know it, that thought has disappeared and the next one has entered.

Some liken it to a wave or learning to surf. You can’t stop the waves (the thoughts), but you can learn to surf. Which means you can learn to control the thoughts.

So how do you learn to control the thoughts?

Patanjali says it’s through a consistent yoga and meditation practice.

Like anything, practice makes progress.

The more often we do it, the better we get at it.

A short daily mediation is very effective in doing a mental clean out.

It doesn’t need to be fancy, long or complicated.

Find a comfortable seat. On a chair with your feet flat or seated on the floor in hero pose or cross legged on a bolster or cushion.

Set the timer on your phone for 10mins to start with (maybe even 5mins if 10mins seems daunting or too long).

Ensure your spine is long and shoulders relaxed.

Take a deep inhalation and sigh the breath out through the mouth.

Loosen the jaw and facial muscles.

Gently close the eyes.

Focus on your inhale and exhale. You can say the word inhale and exhale internally as you breathe.

That’s it.

Simple and manageable.

Daily for 5-10mins to start with.

Perhaps extend to 15-20mins once you have got the hang of it.

It’s a great mental clean out!

Allow any outside distractions to pass by. Become a conscious witness 🙂 you know it’s all there happening, but witness it from afar. Observe it. Let it go and focus on your breath.

Amidst the chaos of the mind.

Just breathe.

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Today’s yoga class left me feeling angry and frustrated

That’s so not yogi is it? To be angry after a yoga class is almost criminal!

Usually I’d feel refreshed and revitalised after a yoga class.

Not this time.

Since moving to Melbourne, I’m trying to find a regular yoga class where I can practice away from home and the kids.

I have been yoga class shopping for something local and I am blown away at how difficult it is to find a yoga class that I actually love.

Most classes these days can resemble very little of the yogic tradition.

This particular yoga class lacked any sort of spirituality to it. Not a single chant of the sound OM to acknowledge the sacredness of the practice.

The flow of the class didn’t cater for the varying levels of students in the class and so I found myself craving more.

The sequences had things like bicycle legs and stomach crunches.

Excuse me, did I pay for a yoga or a pilates class? Or a fusion of some other cool thing the teacher has picked up? Les Mills Body balance style perhaps? There is nothing wrong with any of these styles, however the timetable read “Yoga” so that’s why I turned up.

My expectations were not met and I guess that’s what made me angry and frustrated.

If I had signed up for a pilates class and then got a yoga class, that too what frustrate me no doubt.

The thing that I’m discovering more and more is that the authenticity of yoga seems to be getting lost. And I find myself feeling a sense of loss and sadness about it.

Classes are becoming more watered down.

The standard of the yoga teacher qualification has changed.

When I started practicing Ashtanga yoga 14 years ago, I revered my teachers in a unique way (and I still do).

These teachers dedicated their lives to yoga. Their commitment was reflected in their own personal practice and the knowledge they passed on.

This knowledge was given to them by their teacher in a close and intimate way.

The teachings of yoga were handed down one on one from teacher to student.

The best yoga teachers I have seen are those who have gone through this rich and personal mentoring process.

I’m not saying that there is no merit in teacher training courses. I’m just simply pointing out that something is getting lost in this process.

And we have way too many classes that are offered as yoga but personally I think they should be called something else.

Yoga has a deep and rich tradition. It is physical and spiritual. A yoga class led by a teacher I believe should encompass these elements:

* a chant to open and close the class to show respect to the lineage of yoga and the teachers before us. Or at a minimum, chant the sacred sound of OM
* some yoga philosophy woven into the class – doesn’t have to be much. Just some food for thought that connects the asana (postures) practice to the spiritual and emotional side of the students.
* a thought out series of postures (regardless of the style) that caters for the varied levels in the class.
* clear instructions on alignment and technique
* hands on adjustments that intend to help shift the body deeper into the practice in a mindful way
* pranayama (breathing exercises) woven into the class
* a connection/reference to the bandhas (energetic locks)
* meditation
* Savasna (relaxation)

So this class that made me angry… well it had very little of the above.

Yes, the teacher was lovely. She had a nice manner, a nice flowing class and clear instructions.

But I was left feeling empty.

And it just didn’t feel good coming out of a yoga class feeling this way.

So instead of letting that anger grow, I wrote this blog to help me acknowledge what it was that frustrated me.

Finding a good yoga teacher is absolutely essential to your growth as a yoga student.

I’ve been so blessed with a handful of exceptional teachers who I’ve had consistently guide me over the last 14 years.

I’m truly grateful, more than ever for the wisdom and experience they have passed onto me.

I love practicing and teaching yoga. To me, it’s just part of who I am.

My advice to new students of yoga – find a teacher who you connect with. Whose classes you really enjoy and feel helps you progress as a yoga student and student of life and stick to them like glue!

A good teacher can inspire you, challenge you (spiritually and physically) and they walk the journey of yoga alongside you.

Have you found your yoga teacher(s) yet?

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I thought my house was clean until I did a downward dog

Practicing yoga at home with 3 young children, you just have to make it happen somehow. Somewhere.

This particular time I had vacuumed and mopped the house and I was feeling so clean and fresh. With a few minutes spare, I got into a downward dog in the kitchen.

Yoga gets you up close and personal to areas you may not usually pay close attention to, like your toe nails for example or unshaven legs 😀

But this time, it was the fridge. Yes the fridge. In my blissful downward dog, my drishti (concentrated eye gaze) led me to concentrate on the layer of dust under the fridge! A hard to reach place that can only be cleaned by moving the fridge itself.

This scenario got me thinking about the human condition. We may think we are clean and fine on the surface or on the outside level.

But how often do we really dig deep to clean out the hidden stuff, inside us. The stuff tucked away for a while and only gets cleaned when we make some big changes in our lives.

It’s only then we start to notice them.

But up until that point, they’re tucked away. Hidden and dormant.

But eventually you need to clean the dust beneath the fridge. Eventually you will have to move that big appliance to clean that space.

And the longer you put off cleaning it, the more dust it gathers and the harder it is to clean. You may even need to go over it several times before the layers of dust are cleared.

This is like the mind.

There are so many layers. And the longer we leave it to its own devices, the harder it is to work through and sort out.

A regular yoga practice helps to clear these layers of dust so that we can see clearly.

The yoga sutras begin by defining yoga as “calming the fluctuations of the mind”. How do we calm them?
By doing a good regular internal clean out through the yoga practice.

It’s amazing really. That a practice can be so powerful at bringing calm and peace to the mind. Most of our suffering in this world is not so much physical, it’s mental.

The yoga practice helps keep the mind clean and clear.

Like peeling the layers of an onion.

Yoga peels away the layers of stuff that lay dormant or hidden. The stuff that gathers dust. If we continue to work through these layers, we become much happier and peaceful beings.

Yoga can truly help you find happiness from within.

So roll out your mat and start clearing the layers of dust of your mind! …not just the physical dust in your house! 😀

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I don’t think you’re ready for this belly

I used to shy away from my little pot belly. No matter how fit, slim and trim I have been, I always had a little belly pop out.

I used to hate it and always tried to hide it. But something has changed within me over the last few years.

The last 4 years I have either been pregnant or breastfeeding. I’ve had 3 children in 3 years and my body shifted from fit and strong to the size of a whale and I felt heavy and weak.

My belly has had a workout in the process of pregnancy, labour and weight loss after birth for now the third time. What an incredible body to be able to adapt to such changes to accommodate growing little humans.

I’m now 7 months post-partum and I’m feeling good. Still not as strong as I used to be but it’s coming back again with my hard work and persistence.

One thing that loves to stay with me is my pot belly which I now love to affectionately call my mama belly.

The difference with my mama belly is that it no longer bothers me. In fact, I’m super proud of it.

This belly has housed 3 babies and helped them grow and prepare them for the outside world. This belly is a sign of my womanhood. A sign of strength, sacrifice and love.

Something I couldn’t feel more proud of.

So instead of hiding it. I’m now comfortable with it and it’s just part of who I am.

My belly is Marcus, Aliyah and Raya. My three gorgeous loves who I have been blessed with. What a blessing it is to have a belly that is capable of nurturing human life.

Do you have negative self-talk about your body?

How can you shift the negative talk to positive talk?

Whenever you catch yourself starting this negative dialogue, try and change the direction of that thought with a positive one instead.

Thoughts and words are powerful. Choose them wisely.

~~~~
In this photo, I was 6 weeks pregnant with my third baby and it was was taken in 2016, just a week before I left Port Hedland, Western Australia, a special place I called home for almost 5 years. I love this photo as the landscape reminds me of Mother Earth and how, just like a mother’s belly, it nurtures human life.

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Saving Lives is Sexy

Ever wondered why fire fighters, paramedics and police officers are so often used as sex icons?

What is it that they all have in common?

Other than the fact they all wear a uniform (which is often portrayed as sexy), they all have the ability to save lives.

Saving lives is something extraordinary. Fire fighters, paramedics and police officers have the ability to do something that ordinary people cannot usually do themselves. They are able to take someone from their suffering or near-death experience and save them; giving them a second chance at life.

Saving lives is sexy.

And being saved or getting a second chance at life is often a life changing experience. It is these moments that are pivotal in our lives and cause us to reflect on our values, our past and our future.

These moments cause us to reflect on our core beliefs around God, the universe, the after-life and what lies beyond the realm of our physical death.

Yoga is about saving lives.

The practice of yoga takes us from our focus on mortal things to that which is immortal. It takes our focus from our mortal self to something beyond us with the ultimate goal of yoga to be unification with the divine nature.

Let me repeat. The goal of yoga is to be united with the divine nature (internal and external).

Internally being the soul, externally being God.

Another way to say it is that yoga is the unification with the divine nature within and unification with the divine nature in the universe.

Wow. Intense right? Not sure if you were expecting that!

Yoga means union. It is a state, not an activity.

So the state of yoga is the realisation of our oneness with the divine.

Pretty intense hey? And I think most people know yoga is more than just stretching, hence why you may read these inspirational quotes that say things like “yoga isn’t about touching your toes, it’s about what you learn on the way down”.

Yoga removes the sense of dissolution of separateness. It leads us to the core realisation of the oneness of being which brings us lasting happiness.

Jivamukti Yoga is a style of yoga focused on a pathway of liberation of the soul with compassion at the core of its philosophy. The term Jivamukti is a modern fusion of two Sanskrit terms: jiva (individual living soul) and mukti (freedom from the eternal cycle of death and rebirth); which together implies “liberation while still living on Earth”. It has also been translated simply as “Self-liberation” or “Self-Realisation”.

In summary, yoga’s ultimate goal is to liberate the soul from suffering. Yoga aims to help us break free from this cycle of suffering and liberate the soul. Imagine being liberated from suffering – this would be what happiness truly feels like.

So if you want to be sexy like a fire fighter, paramedic or police officer and you want to find a pathway to reduce your suffering to experience true happiness from within, perhaps it’s time to consider saving your own soul by taking up the practice of yoga… and at a superficial level, you can look pretty sexy in your yoga gear with your cool yoga moves 😀

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Put your hands on me, yogi!

I was updating my First Aid Training yesterday and when it was time to put people in the recovery position, you could see everyone feeling awkward about touching other people and moving their body in the correct position.

I personally didn’t think twice about it as I’m so familiar with being adjusted in different yoga postures as well as touching my students and adjusting them. So the sense of touch is something I do with ease.

As an Ashtangi, touch is part and parcel of the practice. If you want to progress, be prepared to have your teacher shift and assist you to a fuller expression of the pose or assist you to go a little further. A place where you perhaps thought you could never go.

Touch is able to move you emotionally from one place to another too. Have you ever noticed the power of a loved ones touch? It has the ability to shift you from being upset or angry to a calmer place.

This is one thing that I love about the Ashtanga Mysore method (self practice with guidance of a teacher); you are working at your own pace but have the expertise of a teacher to take you from where you are at, to a deeper place.

So many people say to me “I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible”. It’s quite interesting how we think we have to already be good at something in order to even give it a first attempt! It’s quite odd really!

Practicing yoga makes you more flexible. That’s why it’s called a practice.

After over 14 years of practice, I still feel like a beginner – why? Because the yoga practice is so deep and we know that we only scratch the surface in one life time!

I practiced this morning with a dear teacher of mine who first adjusted me 14 years ago…. and today when the same hands shifted my body to go deeper in the posture, I was reminded of the importance of touch in the practice.

It also made me realise how touch is lacking in so many yoga classes. I’ve been to many open classes where I am touched perhaps once or not at all. Or the touch is very subtle that I feel it hasn’t shifted me at all.

Also, when you have a regular home self practice for so long, it is touch that I really miss! It’s always a privilege to be adjusted by a teacher.

So teachers, enjoy adjusting your students! Be confident when doing so 🙂

And students, be open to having your body shifted into different shapes.

I love the following peace mantra as it defines what a yoga teacher can help guide her students to:

Asatoma satgamaya
Tamasoma jyotir gamaya
Mrityormaamritam gamaya
Om, shanti shanti shanti

Lead me from the unreal to the real
Lead me from darkness to the light
From the earth to the open skies
Lead from death to eternal life
Om, peace peace peace

~~~~

Does your yoga practice lead you from darkness to light?

Can you identify ways it has helped you through challenges in your life?

Maybe start making some observations around the sense of touch with your loved ones and how it binds you to them.

If you have a yoga practice, how do you feel about being adjusted by your teacher?

Please feel free to comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Keep up the practice! All is coming 🙂

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Today was a shit day

There.
I said it.

So it’s a hair pulling day. Every moment of the day, one of my children at any given moment happens to need something. And when do they want it? NOW of course.

It was a rough morning trying to get out of the house on time with sibling arguments, baby crying, kitchen absolute mess and everyone having meltdowns (that includes me).

And so it happened that this set up the rest of my day to be absolute – well…. shit.

I got talking to a mum briefly in the afternoon, who with the best intentions, offered these words of advice “just be thankful your children are healthy”.

Really?

Because I’ve had a hard day with my kids, does this imply that I’m ungrateful in any way?

Actually, all it means is that I’ve had a bad day.  Quite simple really.

All it means is that motherhood (and life in general) can be challenging.

All it means is that some days are highs and other days are lows.

That’s it.

Doesn’t make me any less grateful because I can openly admit that today was rough.

The best words of comfort I’ve had when I’ve experienced these days are when my fellow mum friends say things like, “oh I totally get it. I have days like this.  I know how you feel”.

That’s it. I already feel so much better. I’m not the only mum that loses her cool with her kids on a bad day. Phew.

Words are so important. One word or one unthoughtful comment can really last a lifetime in a person’s heart.

Similarly, one awesome comment can be a lasting memory in a person’s life and one they always recall during tough times.

When I decided to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) with my third baby, one obstetrician told me in these exact words “you failed twice.  What makes you think you won’t fail again?”

I know these are his exact words because:

  1.  He said them directly to me
  2.  I was gobsmacked that a professional would use terminology like “failure” when referring to birth
  3.  It is not something you can easily “un-hear”

Do you know what I did with those words he said to me?

I gave them right back to him (in the allegorical sense).

They weren’t my thoughts or feelings about myself. I didn’t own them. I didn’t believe them. So for the rest of my pregnancy, I focused on a positive journey to birth and I’m happy to say that I did have a successful VBAC (to which I was absolutely elated about) and I would love the aforementioned obstetrician to eat his words.

I still remember what he said to me, where I was sitting, how I responded and how it made me feel. And worst of all, I wonder how many women he has said such disempowering words to on their birth journey.

Choose your words wisely. They can affect people for a day, a week, a month or even a lifetime.

In the practice of yoga we talk about our thoughts, words and actions being aligned and in synch. When our thoughts are honest and pure, our speech will follow in the same manner…. which leads to actions with the same values.

This union is yoga.

May our thoughts, words and actions of our own lives bring happiness and freedom to all people, including OURSELVES.

The way we view ourselves can often be reflected in how we treat others.

So although my day was not the best of days – well, down right, terrible – After a brief encounter with a mum, I am reminded of the importance of how we speak to one another, how we think about ourselves and others and how this is reflected in our actions.

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu 

One of my favourite Sanskrit chants.

May all beings everywhere be happy and free….

And may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way, to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

~~~~~~~~

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It will Get Better by Itself

My son fell over a couple days ago and stubbed his toe and grazed his arm. Between tears I offered a band-aid to “make it better” which is usually a winner. But this time, he said to me “no it’ll get better by itself”.

I was quite surprised to hear him say this (as band-aids usually fix everything), but I was pleased.

We are so quick to think we need to “do something” to fix things immediately when we hurt ourselves or when something goes wrong. That seems to be our natural response – quick – what can we do to make it better? What action can I take? What kind of intervention needs to take place?

However, sometimes the only action we need is no action at all. At times all we need to do is absolutely nothing. Because you know what? Sometimes, things just get better or easier when they are just left alone. Like the old saying: ” it will get better with time”. Sometimes we need no drug, no quick fix and no self-help guide – no intervention whatsoever. Instead we simply need to just wait and let it get better by itself.

Just like a cold or a stomach bug. You just have to ride the wave. It’ll take a couple of days, but we know it’ll pass. Just needs time. As painful as it is: it will get better on its own.

Meditation is an effective way to “ride the wave” of life’s ups and downs. It allows us to sit in the silence. To hear the voice within, without all the clutter. Just simply be in the present moment. Alone with your thoughts.

We often numb this silence by having the TV run in the background or play music so we don’t feel alone. Have you ever tried just cooking in absolute silence? Or working in silence? No radio. No TV. Mobile phone switched off?

Now take it a step further. Just sit in silence. Either eyes closed or gaze softly downward along the nose. Focus on your inhale and exhale. Make your breath your focus.

Allow the thoughts to come and go. Allow them to enter and to exit without hanging onto a thought. Just let it be.

Just be.

Don’t just do something, sit there 🙂

Let it get better all by itself. Sit in the silence so you can hear the voice within.

Just be.

——-
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