Tag Archives: yoga

Yoga gives me

People’s most common response to me when I tell them I am teaching yoga now is that they are not flexible. I have noticed that a lot of people believe they are not suited to yoga.

Yoga takes you exactly as you are.

  • I don’t need to be flexible to do yoga. But if I practice yoga my mind and body is more flexible.
  • I don’t need to be strong, but if I practice yoga I feel physically and mentally strong and I slowly gain strength.
  • I don’t need to be good at meditating, but if I practice yoga I learn to slip into the pure clean and clear place where I feel my breath floating up and down my spine and I am truly present and I have arrived in my body.
  • Often I think I don’t have time to go to yoga on Tuesday morning to do a yin yoga practice where the poses are held for many minutes. I go anyway and I slow down and enter a deep state of relaxation and I carry that with me through the rest of the week.

I am naturally flexible, so I have focused on strengthening my muscles and mind in my practice. Sometimes I have held so much tension in my body that everywhere feels tight and bound up and yoga has helped to lengthen, twist and release the tension in my muscles. I have often felt anxious and flustered and unable to meditate and I have learnt to stay with my breathing when the urge is to scratch or fidget or fall out of the posture.

I have come to understand that when I go to a yoga class I can expect to find people just like me who are flustered, stressed, anxious, worried, distracted and caught up or smiling too much when deep down they are feeling sad or anger is bubbling just below the surface. And I expect to see these people experiencing what it is to be human there next week.

A close friend of mine works in a stressful workplace where mistakes have great consequences. And the conflict that arises is often not about the actual technical issues at hand, but rather the tone of voice with which someone has spoken to someone or someone feels that their thoughts are not valued or someone is making light of another’s concerns. It always comes down to how the people feel they are being treated. And the energy of the workplace becomes so heavy with the conflict and there is not time and space to process and resolve what has happened because the important caring work must continue.

My friend asked me how to get out of a funk on a day like this in the workplace.

I answered that I understood her dilemma because I had had a similar experience on my birthday. My family was at my house for my birthday dinner. Everyone was helping to prepare the meal and I was being particularly bossy. I felt compelled to tell people what they were doing wrong. I could feel that my energy was off but was too tied up in getting everyone fed to slow down and feel what I was feeling. I knew I was hurtling along and hurting my loved ones in the process but I felt powerless to stop it. In the moment I was so wound up I didn’t have the capacity to breathe and slow down and feel.

When I met one of the Okido yoga teachers from Family Yoga in Japan, Mr Iishi, on a recent visit of his to Brisbane one of my friends asked Mr Iishi how one can change their energy when you know it is off or low. And Mr Iishi had a couple of great suggestions. First, he suggested that if it was an immediate situation like you had to work straight away, one way to switch things up would be to change your breathing. He suggested going somewhere quiet like a cupboard and doing some lion breaths. This is where on your exhale breath you poke out your tongue and stretch your face make a silent roar or growl like a lion. A few lion breaths and you are on your way.

The second suggestion for a longer funk that is hanging around is to go on a holiday. Or maybe just go shopping. How funny that even yoga teachers believe there is a t time and a place for retail therapy!!

I first came to yoga because of how it felt in my body. I explore more deeply because I know it helps with how I feel in my body and heart/mind.

Posture, ballet and yoga

Ballet as my introduction to posture

My journey from ballet to yoga began when I was five and I had a ballet teacher with great posture. My childhood ballet teacher, Miss McLellan didn’t have an overly athletic figure, although she was fit and strong, but what she did have was immaculate posture. In the twelve years I trained with her I did not see her slouch once. I remember seeing her walk around and simply her beautiful straight spine gave her an air and grace that is unique to ballerinas.

My ballet teacher taught me about maintain correct posture using cues like: tuck your ribs in, hold your stomach in, grow and hold your tail under. These prompts on how to hold your body for good posture are ways that encourage our muscles hug into our spines. It makes you compact and strong. Nothing is wobbling out there. It is kind of like drawing in your core, as you learn in pilates class.

Ballet and yoga

Skip forward thirty something years and I came back to doing what I love and that is being in a room with people working our bodies into poses together. As a child it was ballet. As an adult it is yoga.

A lot of ballet dancers become yogis. Ballet dancers are usually flexible and this is seen as a benefit as a yogi, but yoga is for everyone. You do not need to be flexible to do yoga.

Some people think that ballerinas are drawn to yoga after they stop ballet because ballet can be so harsh on the body that it causes injuries that can be healed and soothed with yoga. I think that the reason is because practising ballet requires you to focus your mental energy on where your body is in space. Yoga does the same thing.

Finding yoga

I found yoga in my thirties and it was the space, the time, the focus on the simple practise of moving my body through certain poses with a concentration that let me escape my mind. I loved the discipline of letting go of the outside world and working on the physical work of bringing my body into set poses repeatedly. It didn’t matter how I felt physically before the class I would always feel better afterwards.

Just loving it

My Mum tells the story of when I was a child and she would pick me up from ballet class after school. I would get to the car and I would be sweating, I would be noticeably exhausted. She would look at me and say, how was class? She said I never once said, that I was tired or hot or that the barre work was too repetitive. I would always reply, that it was great. I would feel exhilarated. I loved it. There was nothing I loved more.

Ballet pain

It did become difficult in the middle of my teenage years when I grew centimetres in height in a short period of time. I felt gangley and I found I had to work harder to be as graceful as I had been when I was younger. But I loved the classes. I loved improvisation. I loved solos, I loved group performances at eisteddfods and concerts.

I had blisters and sore feet. Yep, the sore feet is definitely a pain that I can recall vividly. Imagine trying to get your wooden toed pointe shoes on again when your feet are already blistered. Mine didn’t bleed the skin just rubbed straight off.  A blister never lasted long enough to heal. Jumping all your weight on your toes when they are blistered with only a stocking and a small foam toe pad to cushion the impact is Very sore. But it does look beautiful.

Missing the love of my life

It was many years between when I attended almost daily ballet classes and a regular yoga practice. I learned a second language and travelled and lived abroad. I kept fit in gym classes and my own version of exercise and I had lots of fun and I got married and started a family but this disciplined body work that I had in ballet class and found again in yoga was missing. I feel sad that I let this main love of my life lay idle for so long. I feel happy that I have returned to what I love.

 

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This is a series of blog posts that I am posting every Friday about my curiosity around yoga, movement, the body and our purpose and how these can align.

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Your posture and your overall health

As I walk down the street I notice people’s posture. I notice if they are walking along head first with their mind driving them along, their body barely able to keep up and without a say at all. I notice the people whose hearts are shut off, protected by severely rounded shoulders, the hunch on their back more pronounced the older they are.

Sometimes not. Sometimes the protagonist is a thin young man who maybe grew too quickly and tried not to stand out by rounding his shoulders to bend in with his peers. It is not my place to rock over to the person and place my hands firmly on their shoulders asking them to relax and release the tension in their shoulders and to then lift their shoulders up and back and down. Who am I to coach a stranger? I am not trained in somatic therapy. I am a yoga teacher but I still have so much to learn.

Turned out toes

I notice how my friends walk and how their legs might rotate outwards in their hip joint so that they walk with their toes pointing out. I used to do this as I have high external rotation in my hips and all of the ballet training had turned my toes out. I could turn them straight again on purpose for contemporary dance, but my natural gait had me walking with my toes pointing out. It was only when I started practising yoga and strengthened and lengthened my muscles and gained increased the flexibility in all of my muscles that I was able to walk with optimal alignment of my feet.

Success

I notice successful people have lovely straight spines. I am yet to meet an excellent communicator who stands with a slouch. A straight, aligned spine and strong well-aligned limbs means all the bodies organs are well supported. When our joints are stacked the force of gravity is holding us firmly to earth comfortably. Our heads are very heavy and if the shoulders are slouched and the head is hanging forward it means the neck has to work harder to hold the head up.

One of my teachers who is a somatic therapist, Fran Archer shared at a recent workshop that one of her teachers had responded to the question: “what is the right position for my neck?”  – “the next one”. In other words we should be in constant flow and motion because this means we don’t stay in one position for too long. Any position held for too long is not good for us. Even if we are sitting with a straight spine, anything that is too repetitive without contrasting, counterbalancing movement is not healthy.

Everybody is talking about standing desks. But I think the best idea would be to sit sometimes, stand sometimes and go for walking meetings. Bring movement into your everyday tasks. Just standing all day isn’t any better than sitting all day. Anyone who has worked in a job where they are standing all day is no good for them. Just ask a hairdresser. I know two hairdressers who have had problems with varicose veins for standing for long periods doing repetitive movements focusing on their work.

Posture tells me so much about a person.

Have you examined the alignment of your joints? How is your lumbar curve? Do you walk with your arches of your feet nicely pulled up instead of rolling in. Nothing in our body is set in stone. Our ligaments and tendons and muscles and fascia can all be strengthened and stretched and straightened out. You are never too old and it is never too late. Isn’t this the best news?

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This the first in a series of blog posts that I am posting every Friday about my curiosity around yoga, movement, the body and our purpose and how these can align.

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Dance and yoga – perfect partners

A teacher of mine, once said to me that a lot of serious yogis have forgotten how to dance.

They are so rigid and stiff and serious they’ve forgotten how to move their bodies freely to music.

I love to combine dance and yoga in my classes and after offering up a session to my fellow trainees on yoga teacher training retreat last month, I was so happy I wanted to tell you about it.

WATCH: Can yogis dance?

What kind of movement does your body like to create? Do you give it a chance?

I am on a bit of mission to create space for people to move freely in a fun environment and I think yoga studios are a great place to start.

Have fun,

lots of love

Sally

stressed out? why I bring women together to nurture each other

If we are always working and striving and providing in the world we get stressed out.

And when we are stressed out we know we are more likely to nag at our partners or snap at our children.

Think about how you felt the last time you committed to some time to care for yourself. Maybe you had an extra large peaceful space in your heart to sit with your angry child. Maybe you had some great sex.

I know myself I am a much more loving partner and nurturing mother, when I have an upcoming weekend away with my girlfriends highlighted on the calender or when I take a Tuesday morning to go to yoga instead of working at my desk all day.

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When we come together and relax with  other women, we feel seen, heard, touched and nourished. And that puts us back in touch with our wonderful feminine energy, our sensuality, our ability to enjoy pleasure and helps us to feel fulfilled in our lives.

Really dancing and letting go to express yourself to music is such a beautiful, free relaxing thing to do. When you really let go and just let the music move you that is your own pure, raw unabashed feminine energy expressing itself. And it feels so fulfilling to me when I can bring women together to do this.

The world needs our divine feminine energy.  Let’s spread it around.

I am hoping you can join my Self Discovery Community Yoga Course (8 weeks) starting Wednesday 16 July 2014. Manly Lota RSL Hall

$120 per person. Or $160 for two (if you want to come with a friend or your partner)

184 Melville Terrace, Manly

love,

Sally

PS. contact me to tell me your in!

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PPS. The Shakti Summit inspired me today.

 

 

 

Floods of tears: witnessing true kindness

I was sitting at home, nestled on the lounge watching Yogawoman the film that a friend had dropped over because she knew I loved yoga.

I found the film quite interesting and then, in a moment I found myself in floods of tears, gentle sobs even.

My heart was opening to the amazing kindness of one woman who was bringing yoga to young woman inmates at a juvenile detention centre in the US.

This kind human had brought fresh flowers, candles and brightly coloured stripped blankets to decorate the centre of the yoga circle, to make a beautiful space for these women to be in.

What touched me the most was one young inmate’s recount of what she most liked about the class.

At the start of the class while everyone was in child’s pose, the teacher had asked if anyone did not want to be touched during the class. (Some yoga teachers like to adjust their students to help them in certain poses). The young girl said that this kindness and safe space to be in her body with control over whether she was touched or not was the the best thing for her. No one had ever asked her that before. No one had showed her such respect for her body.

I wiped away my tears. I knew this was the kind of work that I want to do.

In that instant I remembered that by providing a safe, comforting, beautiful space for people to get to know, appreciate and love the body they were given, a yoga teacher is doing life changing work.

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And I was inspired.

lots of love

Sally

x

 

5 tips for getting your yoga on with the kids you teach

First I want to declare that I have not been teaching yoga to kids for very long!

But on my fast and steep learning curve and with a deep bow of gratitude to my wonderful teachers (Lainie Jenkins andGopala and Angel Yaffa) here is what I find works:

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  1. Play your favourite music. It might be music that you loved when you were a teenager, it might be the latest ballad that you love to turn up and sing along to in the car.  And play it LOUDLY. I think kids get a lot of verbal instruction at school. And in yoga, once you have everyone in a beautiful big circle facing in to each other and you turn the  music up loud everyone knows it is yoga time. You can use lots of hand cues and your body to show everyone what to do….just turn the music down when you need to give detailed explanations. When the music goes up everyone takes the cue to let loose, play, relax and have fun! We need to do this more!! (only caution: be aware of safe sound levels – we definitely don’t want to do any hearing damage.)
  2. Let go of your own inhibitions. I mean this one….pretend you are at home in the lounge room with no one watching! If you truly let your inner dance queen/yoga goddess come out and let the music guide you…the kids will then feel free to move freely and express themselves with their bodies  too.
  3. As in any yoga class remind your your children and yourself that  yoga always feels good in their bodes. If someone doesn’t feel like yoga-ing today that is okay. Have a quiet activity set aside somewhere with ideally another carer to supervise where people who aren’t feeling it today can hang out. Remembering, no ‘shoulds’ in yoga.
  4. Do some self discovery yourself. Try some new experiences and different yoga classes. Go to meet new teachers. Try out some different yoga styles online at home. Find something new you like? Great! bring it in to the kids the next day and try it out! Create your own kind of awesome class. Play games. Only rule: have fun.
  5. Be you. You may not be the most flexible yogi, the thinnest woman, the whatever, but you don’t have to be anything but yourself. Yoga takes you as you are.  Introduce your kids to yoga/free movement/dance parties/massage sessions because your way of teaching is unique to you! If you play an instrument bring it along. Bring some flowers for the centre of the circle.  Whatever you feel like. And when the fear or self doubt kicks in when you are planning your session (as it probably will) keep this in mind:….what if you are the first one in this little person’s life who shows them how to dance and have fun to music? What if you are the one who helps them to learn that all they have to be is themselves. That we love them just for that.

Have a wonderful time with your little people.

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I have so much love and gratitude for you as you dedicate your work to caring for the little people of the world.

You deserve a pay rise!!

love,

Sally

xxx

how do I help someone open their heart so they can stand tall?

I was at a shopping centre today and as I walked back to my car, I saw a young man waiting at the bus stop. He was overweight and smoking a cigarette. He was looking at his mobile screen. He was very hunched over. Very very hunched for a young man. From the side, it looked like he sat hunched over his phone or watching tv for a big part of his day…I felt a strong urge to help this young guy. I wanted to kindly show him how to open his heart and roll his shoulders back. What could I do?

I couldn’t take him to a yoga class. He is a stranger.

Can I help other people like him?

I know for me doing yoga and opening my heart, lets so much more love in and lets me give out more love!

How would I get him to a community yoga class to move, play, laugh, stretch, feel touch and stand tall?

Would you like to do a little less of this at your next conference?

So you’ve been sitting all day listening and learning at your conference. You’ve had a couple too many coffees and something you ate at lunch has left you feeling bloated. You can feel a headache coming on and you haven’t had time for any exercise.

You’ve met some lovely people, learned a lot but your body has really suffered. And if your body feels blah then it is hard to go off and implement what you’ve learned straight away because you need to recover from the event first.

Imagine if you had started the day with some gentle movements, stretching set to the right tracks to get you in the mood, played some yoga games and got to know people in a barefoot and calm way.

What if you had some more games and movement throughout the day to break the ice and keeping your body feel loose and open.

I’m imaging a different feeling at the end of the day. Want to try it?

I am giving away free community yoga sessions to break ice and so you can launch your work events and conferences in a whole new way.

Everyone feels invigorated.