Yoga Diary /

Category: Yoga

Most of us are familiar with yoga as a form of physical practice, sometimes a painful one but a good workout nevertheless.  In fact the physical practice of yoga (the asana) that we do in class and in our home is only one small limb of yoga.  There are eight limbs as prescribed by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, Asana is the third rung on this ladder.  Want to read more about the Eight Limbs? Yoga Journal has a couple of great articles check them out here

The first limb comprises of 5 Yamas relating to ethical conduct.  The second limb has 5 Niyamas relating to self-discipline and spiritual observance and ideally we’d have a good grasp on the first two limbs prior to engaging in the third, Asana.  These limbs do their job by laying strong foundations to lead us toward and through the other five limbs where ultimately we land our minds and bodies at the door to enlightenment.  There’s a lot to take in so for today the lens will focus in on the 3rd Yama, Asteya, the principle of non-stealing.

“To one established in non-stealing, all wealth comes.” – The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Sutra II.37

It’s obvious right?  Stealing: bad.  Not stealing: good.  We can be the Kings of Oversimplification if it means we don’t have to look at how we might possibly be engaging in the less overt acts of stealing but the truth is energetic stealing happens all the time.  Theft, like a stealth mental Ninja, seeks out opportunities to snatch at ideas, thoughts, judgements and time before we even know what’s  happening.  When we want or desire something that is not ours we are engaging in a form of stealing.  How so?  Surely we should be able to want without guilt.  Have goals and aspirations to achieve and fly high in business, relationships, finance, health and wellbeing?  Of course all these things are valid desires but if we focus on the things we don’t yet have, we are stealing value from the things we already do have.

As Rhyanna VL Yoga rolls out its first mentorship programmes the principle of Asteya is being held at the forefront of ethical conduct.  Engaging as both recipient and giver of mentorship really brings home the essence of non-stealing. By giving guidance to new teachers the programme aims to give tools to the recipients so that they can find their own voice/style/method/structure of teaching.  

Rather than just the rote receiving information, regurgitating it and reproducing a replica of what’s already being done.  By the same token, the mentor must stay open to learning too, as everyone has some unique gift to bring to the experience.  If a mentor takes on a role of complete authority by shutting off external suggestions and information it defeats the purpose of an equally shared learning environment.

Here are some other ways that we can engage Asteya during our practice and stop that Ninja in their tracks: 

  1. Be cautious of comparison, concerning yourself with others abilities or lack thereof on the mat is stealing from your own practice.  Do what YOU can to YOUR best ability.
  2. Stay as present as you can while in your practice by following instructions and guidance given, you can get back to your stories and dramas after class. Wandering off mentally takes away or literally steals from the present moment. 
  3. Try to give yourself enough time to get to class.  Arriving on time for your own time is a way to honour the value of that time.  To always be rushing or running late actually steals from it.

 

Helpful links:

http://www.yogajournal.com/article/beginners/the-eight-limbs/

http://www.healthy.net/Health/Article/The_Ten_Living_Principles_Yamas_and_Niyamas/2410

http://yogisurprise.com/the-five-yamas-of-yoga

How often have you thought about how interconnected we all are with everything that exists?  Don’t resist the idea, just imagine that you are one with all that is: the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the strong, the weak, the light and the dark.  You are all that.  We all are.  There is no separation.  Yet in our day-to-day lives we charge around with all sorts of stories attached to the idea of separation.  The exclusion of “bad” and inclusion of “good” is how the ego splits our experience of life into little compartments.  

As yogis we are seekers of truth and the truth is there are ALWAYS two sides to the same coin.  That means without darkness we have no concept of light.  Without frustration, anger and apathy we have no understanding of peace, equanimity and action.  Opposing forces are in everything and understanding this is only part of the whole.  We have to feel into opposition, know and befriend it so that we can get closer to the truth.  

In Hindu mythology, Shakti (The goddess - symbolises the feminine principle, the activating power and energy) and Shiva (The god - symbolises consciousness, the masculine principle), with their sacred union can be used as inspiration both on and off the mat.  By embracing these opposing energies we allow so much of the ego storytelling crap to dissipate so we can get on with the business of being complete.

Consider this quote:

“Only when Shiva and Shakti combine can action, movement and creation arise. Until energy is impregnated with consciousness it is ignorant, disordered, aimless and “blind”. Energy alone can produce nothing; consciousness bestows upon it content, form and direction. Conversely,  consciousness without energy is dormant power, sleeping energy, and on its own is unable to be the cause of anything.”   Read the full article.

But, how does this relate to our asana practice?  More importantly can you find personal connection to these words and relate it back to all the parts of you?  Have you ever come to class feeling like you don’t really want to be there, you know it’s good for you but you can’t be bothered? Maybe that’s the essence of Shakti alone – blind action with no conscious awareness. What about being consciously engaged in the idea of going to class, so much so that thinking about it is all you do?  There’s the element of Shiva at play in that.  Without unifying the two we act out of separation.  Opposing forces create the whole.  The whole is necessary for truth to emerge.

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Ways you can embrace opposing forces in your practice:

Be willing to feel both strength and softness required in each posture.  There should always be the power and integrity of alignment (action/Shakti) combined with the peace of relaxation  (consciousness/Shiva) in even the toughest poses.  Ask yourself: Do I need to clench my jaw to hold my arms straight right now?  Do I need to hold my breath to balance on one leg?  Inevitably the answer is no.

Competition is the same as judgement and judgement holds us separate.  Separation keeps us from the truth.  Thus, maintain an inward focus during your practice.  Be aware of your own body and not the body next to you.  As with all things there will be others both “more” capable and “less” capable than you.  It does not matter.  It matters that you are practicing together.  One coin.  Remember.  Two sides.

Allow your shadow to have a voice.  It’s ok to feel “not that into it” sometimes.  Bring all parts of you onto the mat and let the practice do it’s job.  Staying connected to what is, rather than separate from what is not reveals the truth.

I invite you to share your thoughts and experiences or shoot me questions if you’re not sure about something.  Feel free to comment below and let’s start a meaningful discussion!

Namaste. Rhy xx

Image via rebloggy.com

And let go of what you don't.

We don’t have to be prime candidates for the casting of Season 6 “Hoarders” to have an issue with keeping shit we don’t need.  Holding on to and accumulating unnecessary stuff is really the symptomatic manifestation of hoarding.  In fact health professionals, treating those who hoard, begin by addressing the defective thoughts and emotions that trigger the compulsions to hold onto “stuff” before they tackle the obvious symptom: the piles and piles of god knows what.

With these images of chaos and disorder sifting through our minds let’s take a moment to consider Aparigraha – the fifth yama – non-grasping/ non-hoarding/ non-accumulation.   Not sure about the yamas?  Haven’t got a clue what they are?  No problem.  A couple of posts back we touched on this subject and included some super handy links for extra reading.  Head there now before you read on.

It might seem dramatic to draw similarities between having a severe anxiety disorder that results in “hoarding” with the concept of Aparigraha or “non-grasping” but if you remove all the illusions that separate “you” from “that” and simply ask: Do I take, keep or want more than my own reasonable share [of anything]?   I’m pretty sure we’ll all say YES.  Bear in mind your answer is not meant to incite any judgement only highlight a cultural norm, where we in the Western World, have way more than what we need. 

This is not to say we must chuck on turmeric dyed cloaks, shave our heads and receive alms.  It’s completely ok to enjoy the comfort and abundance afforded to us here and now.  It’s more a question of how attached we are to things.  All the things.  Just understand we are blessed with so much more than material security here.  

Yet we constantly grasp and snatch at ideas of wanting and needing more.  If we practice Aparigraha – we’ll notice it’s the ego that wants more.  The ego operates from fear.  From the place where there is not enough, from neediness and comparison.  Our ego will tell us to keep the thing we no longer need because it may be useful “one day”.  But our heart knows what is enough and is burdened by the unnecessary weight of hanging on.  Those who hoard “things” (whatever they may be: emotional/physical/mental) are driven by attachment.  And the insecurity that creates attachment to stuff is the same insecurity that creates attachment to ideas, labels, relationships even grudges.  

Can we find a way to bring Aparigraha to the mat and trust all that happens on the mat will simultaneously flow into our lives at large?  

Of course!  Here are 3 ideas for you to entertain when the moment seems right:

1. Take only what you need.  Not less, not more.   Consider the most challenging part of class – the peak pose.  Where can your body reasonably go?  What option will you take?  Can you let go of the expectations?  Have integrity and detach from the thoughts that tell you where you “should” be.

2. Receive what you need.  Do you have a lot of questions about yoga?  Your body?  Your limitations within the practice?  These are important issues to address.  Instead of trying to squeeze a few distracted minutes in after class why not book a one on one session and allow yourself to receive the right amount of attention.

3. Detach from labels and associations.  You may be physically a certain way: thin, tall, short, strong, flexible, bald, vegetarian, mother, brother, video game addict - whatever (you get the drill).  When you come to the mat can you drop the labels and separate from the stories you tell and were told about who you are.  Just let go.  And be.  Here lies delicious freedom.

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Are you interested in reading about simplifying life?  Becoming Minimalist recommends 8 different blogs inspired by simple living.  There’s a lot of focus on having only what you need in these…

Over to you now: what have you let go of lately?  How was your experience of letting go?  I really look forward to you sharing in the comments below.

Namaste. Rhy xx

Image via Tumblr

The end of winter brings about a renewal. We turn off the heat, throw open the windows and breathe in those first scents of spring. Early mornings become bearable as the darkness withdraws and the chatter of birds breaks the silence.

Soon our layered clothes will make room for bright tights, shorts, light tops and eventually bathers! You may find an urge to clean, discard and organize all the clutter that winter seems to collect, allowing for the freshness and growth that spring promises. As a good spring clean creates a harmonious home why not amplify these actions and pursue the purification process with your body and mind?

Enjoy your 'inner spring clean' by following my top 4 replenishing yoga go-to’s:

1. Salute the sun
In many cultures light has long been a symbol of consciousness and self-illumination. ‘The world begins with the coming of light,’ wrote Jungian analyst Erich Neumann

One of the means of honouring the sun is through the dynamic asana sequence Surya Namaskar (sun salutation). Each sun salutation begins and ends with the joined-hands mudra (gesture) touched to the heart. Aside from this there are variations aplenty that have evolved over the years. Because of the sequences malleability, it’s easy enough to cook up a few of your own. 

Go with what feels good for you on the day, start slowly with 3-5 rounds and then quicken the pace to 15 if you can.

2. Twist it up
Twisting poses we practice in yoga massage the abdominal organs, helping to facilitate the elimination process of toxins and waste, perfect for that spring revival that we are looking for! Try seated and standing variations and be sure to breathe. Notice the space you feel as you exit the pose. The word 'twist' also gives permission to zig zag along your path. Take a moment to experience any newness and relish it!

Quick tips:
-  Try a new class or teacher
-  Attempt an exotic pose
-  Place your mat in uncharted territory when you next enter the studio

3. Do a headstand #everydamnday 
Headstand (Sirsasana) is often referred to as the king of all yoga poses. And with soo many benefits it is obvious why! As part of our resurrection from the lows of winter a headstand each day can allow the adrenal glands to flush thus creating more positive thought. Another key benefit is a decrease in feelings of depression and being upside down will almost always put a smile on your face!

4. Get outside
Take your practice outdoors and take some time to appreciate the beauty of the natural world. As the winter chill recoils be sure to step out into nature. Notice the squishy grass between your toes. Breathe in the aroma of the freshly blossoming spring flowers. Touch the crisp but ‘promising of warmth’ air. Sync in with the cyclic nature of the big wide world. Let the season of rebirth spur on your inner awakening.

 

It's a time to renew your energy, refresh your desires and reset your intentions to live out your dreams. Get to it!


Namaste. Rhy xx

 

Where to next:
-  Tomorrow (Sept 12) will feature a 1 hour PLAY session after class that will have you getting upside down and taking your practice outside.
-  My regular weekly classes at the Mosman Park studio always include sun salutations. Refer to my class schedule.

In a traditional sense the practice of devotion seems to lie inextricably with the concepts of religious spirituality. Bhakti yoga also has its roots embedded in religion and worshipping of “the guru” or God. But don’t worry, there’s nothing hocus pocus about it. Quite the opposite in fact, Bhakti is devotion, but more than that it is connection with the Divine within. However you personally interpret this Divine is completely and totally up to you. Divine can be anything: Nature, Source, Universe, One Love, Self, you get the picture. The important thing is that we have something to reach into, be devoted to, to love.

If you are interested in more structured yogic ways of including Bhakti yoga into your experience and spiritual evolution there are practices to help you do this. 

One way is through chanting, Kirtan (translates to “praise”) is the call and response pattern of chanting and is thought to be a way to literally sing yourself into enlightenment. Another option is good old prayer, but not the bedtime ritual of prayer from childhood, nor the “I’m in a crisis, please fix this God” kind of prayer but rather the classical Hindu style of japa – which is the repetition of a Mantra. If singing, banging a tambourine or repeating the same word over and over again isn’t your thing, that’s ok. Some of this stuff can bring up all sorts of resistance, it’s not about judging yourself or others it’s about finding your own personal way to feel the power and joy of devotion.

In fact one of the best ways to begin your practice of Bhakti is to devote time to self-care, self-acceptance and self-love. When we give ourselves over to this practice our hearts can soften. We can eliminate jealousy, mistrust, judgement and unkindness. We can actually connect with the Divine just through speaking kind words to ourselves, by being grateful for the opportunities we have, for living in a country where we are free to express ourselves. For this to be Bhakti it must become a dedicated daily practice, devoting time everyday to filling our own spiritual cup with love, gratitude and praise.

As with any practice discipline is required. For Bhakti to really feed your soul and for the effects of love and devotion to shine through you, it’s important to create a sacred time aside from the hustle of everyday life. If you are a yogi with regular home practice set up then it’s ideal to tag a bit of extra time onto the beginning or the end to practice Bhakti. If you are yet to establish home practice but still want to include Bhakti then first thing in the morning as you wake up or last thing at night just before you fall asleep is just fine too.  

Creating a ritual of devotion needn’t be a huge event. Simply stating an affirmation such as this one everyday could bring about enormous positive change.

I am grateful that I receive the wisdom of the Universe, knowing that I am guided to my highest good in every moment. – Excerpt from the Enneagram prayer of Gratitude

So, over to you now, how do you practice devotion? What rituals do you already have in place to set you up for the day, or settle you down at night?

We’ve all heard and certainly used the expression “go with the flow” - it’s synonymous with the idea of being happy go lucky, feeling chilled, being flexible with change, open to challenge and just generally having an altogether cool with life vibe. But... Did you know this concept of “FLOW” is a scientifically studied experience that’s been well documented by positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi? (Ok –this is how you say his name MI-HIGH CHIK-SENT-MI-HIGH). And as a side note: this awesome guy accidently or serendipitously developed a fascination with psychology when he was a broke teenager in Switzerland, having no money to go to a movie he took himself to a free lecture in the town hall. The speaker that evening was none other than Carl Jung. Minor digressions aside, this is going somewhere – I promise. Stay with me.

In developing his interest in psychology Csíkszentmihályi studied people who were heavily involved in art, philosophy, religion and music. He interviewed them and discovered that all them had one thing in common. They were most happy when immersed in the subject of their choice. They all noted that when totally absorbed and focused on their chosen task time slipped by, they felt no pangs of normal biological needs such as hunger, thirst or needing to wee. They could in fact go for hours or days without noticing anything but pure engagement with the task at hand. Language accompanying such experience included “being in the zone”, “finding a groove” and “everything just flows effortlessly”. Csíkszentmihályi then went on to write a thesis on “The Flow Experience” for his doctorate back in 1972. You can read more about Flow Psychology here and here.

The concept of the flow experience has infiltrated many levels of society today, from big companies such as Microsoft to small businesses and the personal development industry. We often use the language of flow experience within our own lives without even knowing its origins because it feels so natural. And that’s the key. This is an experience gifted to all of us when we find our passion. Our drive.  It’s The Holy Grail in a sense. Now, the thing is flow doesn’t just land in our lap like a little present from the angels. It actually takes effort and challenge. In a nutshell it is the intercept of challenge and skill. There is a fine balance hanging there where challenge can be too great and it creates stress and worry, or challenge can be too low and it creates boredom and apathy. Flow happens when the challenge of the task pushes us to the point of heightened awareness but not beyond our actual capabilities. 

So, getting to the nitty gritty of Flow and Yoga: How can we apply or tap into the flow experience on the mat? Here are 4 ways:

1.    Get real about your reasons for doing yoga. We hear this all the time “Yoga is so much more than good stretch” but if you do yoga just because it makes your body feel really great then own it, it’s the best start! Pretending to be or experience more isn’t authentic and you will automatically resist “flow”.

2.    If you have to force anything in your practice, you will not be able to experience flow. Challenge good. Force not good. Be honest with yourself, no one feels peaceful or happy if there is pain and struggle. Let challenge meet your skill level – from there you can progress.

3.    Boredom is a teacher. If you find yourself thinking- F... this, I just want it to be done. Don’t judge. Notice. Why? Are you feeling underwhelmed or over stressed? Being bored is the antithesis of flow. Being bored means your skills have increased and therefore your challenge must increase. It’s actually a GOOD thing. 

4.    Revisit what feels too hard. Sitting still or lying in savasana is the hardest thing to do.  Our monkey minds just want to chatter all-the-day-long. We have lists and conversations and stories and problems that constantly compete for attention. Eventually though, through the effort of coming back time and time again, meditation and savasana will provide the ultimate flow experience. Practice it. Honour it. And your internal world will be lit up, free of ego and timeless.
 

Now join me for your next 'flow' on the mat!

Namaste. Rhy xx

Wanderlust: The irresistible desire to travel, practice yoga, eat well, be green, appreciate art & create community around mindful living.

Let’s do it!

 

I head in as an individual soul, seeking little explosions of understanding, an affirming experience, and a smile from the universe. Wanderlust Sunshine Coast, what will I learn and uncover here? Here are 4 things I learnt as a Wanderlust first-timer.


1. Being a yogi means realising that we are not all the same; but wanting to hang out anyway.

First thing I notice, Wanderlust is not the set of ‘Clueless’ circa 1995 or any other American teen movie based on stereotypical cliques ie. If we don’t all look the same, dress the same and like the same things: we simply cannot be friends. We all have our own style, ideas, views and experiences both on and off the mat. I met many yogis over the 4 days, unique yet somehow in the crazy mosh pit, all strongly connected.

To name a few:

Me- 30, Yoga teacher & business owner from Perth, AUS. Vegan, bendy, loves a bit of yogi bling, recognises her obsession with yoga apparel and devours strong vinyasa classes with intricate anatomical cues.

Tom- Late 20’s worked in rural Victoria as a ‘bush track landscaper’. He practiced yoga irregularly but ended up at Wanderlust as his wife (the keen yogi) decided to pass on her ticket and lay by the pool. The poor girl broke her ankle a week out from the festival. Tom is tall, slender and dresses like a casual ‘Aussie’ bloke would. He likes to talk about his outdoor adventures, drinks beer on the weekends and looks like he has a metal rod running parallel to his spine in any type of back bend.

Lisa- Mid 30’s, mother to 2, living a family life on the Sunshine Coast, AUS. She has been a yogi for 10 + years, is gentle, kind, shy and eager to please.

Sandra- 19, Brazil dancer. In the midst of her yoga TT she asks lots of questions, has a stand out handstand practice and no fear.

JT-  30, Musician from NZ. He is a free loving, hug giving, without prejudice, tattooed guy. Tall, gentle and relaxed.

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Five places to call home, five ages, five jobs, five experiences; One clique, one tribe, one family, one Wanderlust.
Lesson - Wanderlust Festival = A kindred clan, not an American school yard.

 

2. Committing to a simple structure serves me.

First, wake up then follow with any combination of the following actions; walk on the beach, enjoy a green smoothie, attend a rad yoga class, lay in the sun, listen to a swami speak, dance till your legs tire, meditate, hula hoop.

Once the day is complete, sleep. Wake and repeat x4 days.

Lesson - No car, no lists, no set-in-stone plans, no watch, no phone = Bliss

 

3. I really like being on my yoga mat.

So, none of the promotional material stated that at almost every yoga class on offer you would be asked to leave your mat! I loved moving like a unicorn in the sand, feeling the grass between my toes, dancing to the beat of my breath in circles, hugging the stranger across from me and being blindfolded and asked to crawl to the centre of a ginormous room.

However, by the end of the 4 days all I really craved were the words of my fiery teacher at home, “10 rounds of salutes, go, breath, press your hands down into the mat”.

Lesson - Don’t be fooled by the ‘normal’ sounding blurb in your wanderlust passport! Make space for your own salutes if it serves you, as it's unlikely you will get this ‘comfort zone’ practice in otherwise.

 

4. I am on the right path. I know just the right amount to be right here, now.

The first few moments in a new environment with brand new companions almost always invites questions,self-judgement, and perhaps fear. It was when the comparisons started in my head as I rolled out my mat for my first session that I decided, enough. I am here, as I am, right now. Worthy and vulnerable. I kept this mantra pinned to my heart during every offering thereafter.

This seemed to be a personal boundary that once set, allowed me to move effortlessly in and out of moments. Each class, connection, experience, flowed and felt spacious. I felt liberated by my current knowledge and excited by the potential understandings to come.

Lesson - Full and empty are both valuable. Feel your capability and vulnerability equally, from here you will grow.

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Wanderlust is a community. A group of amazing people coming together, in common unity!

2016 Summer Festival season heats up in AUS with the Perth 108, one-day event, and Sunshine Coast, four-day festival Sept and Oct respectively. Join me at both!

*Tickets and details here- www.wanderlust.com

If you exercise you should always ensure that you are giving your muscles a proper stretch afterwards. Yoga doesn't have to be an isolated thing, if you can get down on your mat even for 10 minutes and move and breathe mindfully your body will thank you!

Here are a few key favourite stretches of mine after cycle class, intense workouts etc

 

1. Straddle Forward Fold 

Areas targeted: hamstrings, calves, outer ankles, back and neck

The Straddle Forward Fold is beneficial for stretching out your hamstrings, calves and outer ankles. Added variations also start to target parts of your upper body like back, neck, shoulders etc.

 

2. Low Lunge

Areas targeted: hip flexors, chest and spine

Cardio activities can be hard on the hips, so this pose is perfect for stretching out hip flexors and the spine. It creates a nice opening sensation that you feel across your chest. The pose releases hip tensions, whilst also stretching and strengthening your lower body

 

3. Half Split

Areas targeted: hamstrings and calves

Especially after a big run, cycle or just sitting for hours hamstrings and calves tend to hold a lot of tension. This pose is helpful for releasing tightness in these muscles.

 

4. Half Pigeon Pose

Areas targeted: outer hips, hip flexors, quads

Helps to stretch your quads, open up the hips, and lengthen hip flexors which over time increase range of motion.

 

5. Reclining Bound Angle Pose

Areas targeted: Groin/ inner thighs

This pose helps you to decrease your heart rate and relax – essential for after high-intensity workouts and stress. It stretches out groin and inner thighs reducing the chance of strain in this area.