Squats and Suspensions

To be comfortable in a squatting position, for even a little while, indicates a high level of health and function in the ankles, knees, hips and low back.

This practice takes you through some variations on squats, challenging your perspective as well as your body.

The practice finishes with a deep rest, coming from a very unlikely place.

Squats and Suspensions
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Deep Rest

Yoga Nidra is often misunderstood. It’s sometimes called yogic sleep or meditation. Neither labels do the practice justice.

It’s considered an advanced form of deep rest that asks the question, what does awareness feel like?

This short Yoga Nidra has been designed to introduce you to effortless, wide open feeling of awareness.

Yoga Nidra Practice 25:30
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3 Part Practice

This practice has three distinct parts. The first is how I choose to wake up every morning, a short sequence to ignite awareness while warming and preparing the low back. What follows are Sun Salutes, guided and then some time to move yourself. The final part has a Yin undercurrent; remaining with discomfort while it transforms into flexibility. Physically and mentally the three phases are polar opposites, all equally necessary, challenging and comforting in their own way.

3 Part Practice
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Happy Mornings

The first seven minutes of this audio is how I wake up every morning. No exceptions. For such a small investment of time, there are big low back rewards on offer. The final eight minutes is a unique diaphragmatic breathing practice designed around receiving rather than dictating breath. 15 minutes has the potential to prepare the body and breath for the day.

Happy Mornings
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I'm sorry it's been so long

It’s been awhile I know. Just to clear up a few questions I’ve been asked over the past few months.

No, I haven’t gone into retirement early.
No, I’m not in the depths of despair.
No, I haven’t turned my back on yoga.

I’m sorry it’s taken me longer than usual to reply to emails. The past six months have been a hive of activity. My quiet exterior has done well at hiding a hectic undercurrent.

We have constructed a new studio from the ground up. With the doors now open, I’ve realised the process of plastering, painting, tiling, laying floorboards and installing windows has highlighted a few things.

The exhausted joy that comes from physical labour.  The deep appreciation that comes when you don’t outsource.  Knowledge on every button and every sound. Crafting the aesthetics, function, intention and purpose behind everything.

Even more I’ve realised the similarity between building a studio and building wellness.

The joy and relief that comes from moving. The deep appreciation of doing the hard work to understand physical and mental layers, injuries and habits. Flagging when you need help (learnt the hard way via broken tiles, falling plasterboard and chipped marble).

Getting down and working in the trenches has been the only way to create an opportunity to step up and out of the dirt, muck and sweat.  Where I now step is a studio space that does justice to what yoga does for wellness.

I love change. My parents loved buying “renovators delights” (sh*t boxes) so I grew up in more houses than most. COVID for me bought an opportunity for change that I embraced but I’ve been reminded that not everyone shares my change fuelled exhilaration.

In conversations I’ve had over the past six months with change-strugglers, I’ve talked about the whole of 2020 being like a yoga class. It had a predictable start. Lay on back, knees bent, deep breathing. That’s how we start every class.

The middle went to sh*t. The middle of a yoga class takes you to a peak. A peak of work, discomfort and unfamiliar movements, sensations and demands.

The end of yoga is where it all comes together. A deeply satisfying rest. It’s only satisfying because of the work that preceded it. A body that feels different to how it arrived. A new perspective. Joy and gratitude for the change.

And so will be the same for 2020.


I don't sleep much

5 hours a night usually does me just fine. To be honest, I’ve developed a bit of an indifferent attitude to sleep.

What I’m not indifferent to is what I do before sleep.

Every night. Except of course for the few weeks I did an experiment to see what my sleep was like without it. Noticeably crap.

What I do is Yoga Nidra. On account of it often being misunderstood and also sharing what is a life-saver to me, I’ve recorded two things. A super short explanation of what Yoga Nidra is and an introductory practice to give you an insight.

Yoga Nidra Introduction 2:30
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Yoga Nidra Practice 25:30
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P.S There’s also an hour long Yoga Nidra practice available in the premium subscription.
P.P.S I’m creating something very unique between yin yoga and Yoga Nidra for the  October 2020 retreat. 


Holding on tight

Starting Monday 23rd March I’ve made one phone call a day. Each day the recipient was different, randomly selected from a list.

I’ve spoken to one of you everyday since the doors of the physical studio shut.

I’ve spoken to lawyers. I spoken to ER doctors and nurses. I’ve spoken to people who lost their job and others who’ve been at work for many more hours than usual.

Unless you previously worked from home, had no children, never visited friends or family, was a non-shopping minimalist who didn’t pay attention to global activities, then life changed.

As my list of called names continues to grow, I realised I was speaking to two groups of people.

The first group spoke about corona as if she were a loving but strict mother, who sat them down to have a difficult but heart to heart conversation.

You’ve been working too much lately. You’ve haven’t been eating properly. You haven’t spent enough quality time with your kids. You haven’t hung out with your partner for ages. Get some sleep – you look like sh*t. 

The other group moved into struggle street. The language in the phone call was vastly different.

I miss the gym. I miss yoga. I miss my friends. Homeschooling is BS – I’m not a teacher. I can’t work the way I need to from home.

Common across all the phone calls were references to the roles we play. Essentially the hats we wear. Parent, worker, self-employed, carer, banker, nurse. What corona threw at us all was the need to take on other roles, wear hats we may have never worn before. Unpaid teacher, child psychologist, marriage counsellor for own marriage, yoga teacher to self, cook, toenail painter, eyebrow waxer.

This is where the two different groups emerged.

The people in the first group took off their usual hat, flung it into the wind and looked around for some other hats to try on. Even ugly, too small, weird hats got a shot.

The people in the second group gripped their hat like it was the only f*cker between them and death.

Because our tendencies in life have a way of showing up on a yoga mat, the group you’re in might also be reflective of how you do yoga.

People tend to identify with one way of doing it. I only do hot yoga. I only like fast, flowing yoga. I only do slow yoga. I only do yoga in a studio. I only do yoga with other people. I’m a morning yoga person.

Corona forced me to put on a hat I’d been holding at arm’s length for years. The hat of technology. What has come of it is an online offering of fast, slow, morning, evening and everything in between yoga practices.

If you reflect, really reflect on how you do yoga, there are often lessons there on how you do life. If what you learn is that you’re in a group you’d rather not be in, then use yoga to practice a different way rather than to reinforce the old.

If you encourage variety into your yoga practice you’re giving yourself an opportunity to practice wearing different hats. This tendency will inevitably seep into life off a yoga mat.

What corona demanded of us was the need to wear different hats. What it offered was the possibility of finding comfort and joy in these other hats.

For me the outcome of corona hat wearing have been varied. My kids now know I’m sh*t at maths but they have learnt about all the muscles in their legs.

Our most fundamental role is human. Our most fundamental yoga practice is mindful movement.

Some of what my technology hat produced.


Lesson 1: Tilt your head to the side

Tilt your head to the side. What does this resemble? 

Focus on the elevated leg.

Looking at things from a range of perspectives fuels empathy, compassion and provides a 360 degree sweep of information. It’s a huge milestone from childhood to adulthood, when we harness the ability to think from the perspective of someone else.

It’s also a huge milestone in using your yoga practice to inform your off mat movements.

To “see” the link requires you tilt your head to the side. To look from the perspective of the ground, the sky, the left or right side. To half close your eyes and see beyond the posture name and the wrapping of skin to observe the position of the bones and muscles.

In considering how to explain this ability to “see” I realised most of us practice it everyday, but in a slightly different context. Authors, movie-makers, artists, directors and producers rely on us having this ability to ‘see’.

Whether via a book, screen or canvas storytellers take a moment of humour or frustration, something we collectively experience and amplify it to the point where the message is glaringly obvious.

The Handmaid’s Tale, book and movie is an example. The storylines are insane, ghastly to watch at times. The definition of family and love are borderline illegal. There’s torture of every kind. Judgement and public shaming are the cornerstones of civilisation.

If you dial back the exaggeration, you’ll arrive at issues very much apart of everyday life. The nuances of parenting, marriage and divorce. Equality issues in domestic, occupational and financial arenas. The management of global cultural differences – how do we reconcile the behaviour of one culture when it goes against the majority of other cultures?

Warrior III is an exaggerated version of walking.

If you dial Warrior back, you’ll arrive at the same mechanics as walking. This means walking can help you with Warrior and Warrior can help you understand walking.  It also means if you find Warrior difficult, the difficulty likely spills over into how you walk.

One of the main muscles recruited is the gluteus maximus. During Warrior there’s an intensity in the glute. If the glute doesn’t engage or work hard enough, another body part will be needed to elevate the leg. In most instances this other part is the low back. If you dial back Warrior to arrive at walking, the glute still activates but not nearly as much. If the glute doesn’t engage during walking, the low back will become involved.

  • If you have low back issues, is there an issue with the glutes during walking?
  • Spend a little bit of time focussing on the glutes while walking. As you take a step forward you should feel the glute muscle of the back leg engage. Spend some time each day intensifying this. Each time you step forward squeeze the glute of the back leg.
  • Think about how this action, when exaggerated, transitions into Warrior.


A homage to real

Whilst I hold professionalism in the highest regard, I’m all about real. If it doesn’t fit into real life, what use is it. It’s not realistic to teach as if everybody does yoga every day, once or twice a week is much more where it’s at. It’s not real to assume yoga and vegetarianism go hand in hand. Active wear…not real daytime attire.

Given all this realness, I thought it high time to pay homage to some of the real yoga moments that have been the last few years here.

  • To the group of you that may or may not attend each week on a day that begins with the letter T. The day you locked me out of the studio when I went to shut the gate bought me sheer delight.
  • There’s more than one of you that grin like little kids while giving me the middle finger when I lovingly put your eyebag on. If your eyes weren’t covered by a bag of sweet smelling lavender, you would see me grin from ear to ear.
  • To the hordes of you that reply to my deep and philosophical chalkboard musings, with your often inappropriate and always amusing scrawl around the edges of the chalkboard…you make my day.
  • To those of you that have quite literally broken into the locked front gate on account of running late to class…I feel privileged that doing yoga was far more necessary than the law.
  • To those of you that have asked if alcohol is ok on a yoga retreat…I love your bold realness. We all have a vice. A most gracious cheers to that.
  • Thank you to the person who called before showing up to ask if nude yoga was something on offer. This followed an informative segment on the Today Show.
  • No thank you to the person who called to ask if he might sit in the back of the studio to scope us all out for potential swimsuit models. Whilst I hope your new business venture is going well, I’m not sorry for the spray I gave you.  I must though, thank you for the ongoing entertainment at your expense.
  • To those of you that despise sun salutes and go as far as mouthing profanities at me when we sweep up for chair pose…know that salutes are good for you and also that I have a little giggle when you fold forward in downward dog.

Our current global situation is teaching us what’s real and it’s actually a very short list. If it’s not real, then why bother.

Finally to the guy who asked me years ago what the word is that we all say after class…no it’s not I-wanna-stay but sometimes I think that’s a damn fine translation.


It doesn't work the way you think it does

Our landscape has changed. People are being asked to do things they’ve not been asked to do before. To step into the role of an educator. To become tech savvy. To become phone counsellors. To be their own personal trainers.

To lead themselves in their yoga practice.

In pivoting my business from face to face to now online teaching, I’ve been thinking back to my early teaching days, 13 years ago.  Thinking back even further to the 22 years I’ve spent doing yoga. What tools did I use?  What became crucial in creating my foundation?

In answering this I keep circling back to a question I’m continually asked.

How is it that every single class is different, even after coming to Yoga Emporium for years? 

Without consciously setting out to do it, I’ve been creating the conditions for spontaneity.

What I’ve come to understand about spontaneity is that its not actually spur of the moment. There’s a whole method that comes before it and what looks like intuition and creatively sequenced classes that ooze with challenge and variety are actually a product of this method.

On account of you being there and me being here and the whole corona chasm between us, I’d like to share some of this method. I don’t mean in this post though. Unfortunately I can’t fit the whole method in 600 words. There’s too much. There are pockets of information you’ll have to commit to memory. There are underlying movement principles you’ll need to look at technically to then understand experientially.

You’ll see there is so much more going on than you thought but also so much simplicity in creating the conditions for spontaneity.

Some of the method will be contained in these weekly posts. The more in-depth information will be released on the subscription platform.

The sweet rewards at the end are creative, intuitive ways to move, breathe, think and practice. Spontaneous ways to live.

Hell. We can’t use time as an excuse as more.


Anxiety. Let's get practical about this sh*t.

It’s highly likely that what you’ve previously never given any thought to, is now a source of anxiety. Grocery shopping, walking past someone, interaction with a neighbour. Finances. The health of parents. The health of kids. Herd immunity. The future.

If it’s any consolation at some point in the future, date currently unknown, we will return to a space when these interactions are no longer a source of anxiety. That doesn’t help us now though.

At the moment this wave of anxiety is what keeps us physically safe. We need a bit of anxiety to surface during each of these interactions so we don’t become complacent. The danger is anxiety remaining activated post interaction.

In an ideal setting it plays out like this:

  1. Anxiety starts to rise on route to shops.
  2. Get to shops. Anxiety surfaces as you grab trolley.
  3. Move through aisles fast and focussed.
  4. Return to car. Anxiety begins to decrease as groceries packed in boot.
  5. Anxiety decreases again as you enter house.
  6. Wash hands, groceries away, wash hands again. Anxiety disappears.

This cycle, while it might seem completely ridiculous when we’re not in a pandemic, showcases a highly desirable response. The nervous system is able to “fire up” our alert mechanisms quickly and efficiently when required and once the threat has passed, deactivate just as quickly.

The sweet spot is not getting to a place where we don’t have anxiety, fear or heightened alert responses but to get to where we can reset quickly and efficiently.

The problem is that we don’t know how or don’t have the time to reset. You might not even know it’s a thing.

  • Resetting is not sleeping. It’s not relaxing on the couch with a book. It’s not at the bottom of a wine glass. These things are relaxing. What we need is to reset.
  • Once you reset, you’ll feel the huge difference between relaxing and resetting.
  • The more often you reset, the more efficient you become at it.
  • The longer you put it off, the more sh*t will require resetting.
  • In an ideal world we reset immediately following each wave of upheaval.

There are so many instances when it’s not safe or possible to reset immediately. We go from spot fire to spot fire. Don’t stop doing this. Spot fires will become insurmountable if they get some wind behind them.

When it’s safe. When it’s possible. Reset. Don’t not do this. Upheaval will become insurmountable if it gets some time behind it.

Every night is ideal. Once a week, it’s going to take a bit longer. Once a month, f*ck. A good few hours.

It’s can be a completely different story for some. Front-line workers. Emergency services. Parents. People who struggled before a pandemic. There’s F.A time to reset. Honestly, it’s as much a logistical problem as a not knowing what to do problem.

13 hour shift.
Drive home.
Walk in door.
Wash hands.
Hug kids while peaking that your hug is the touch of corona death.
Dinner. Try not to talk about it but it creeps in.
Kids to bed. Pretend everything is ok.
Watch sh*tty Netflix.
Pass out from exhaustion on couch.
Wake up at midnight still on couch.
Check on kids. Kiss them. Look at them while worry peaks again.
Go to bed.
Look like you’re sleeping for four hours.
Not sleep.

This is challenging work but a life skill. The ability to reset with regularity is a life skill. Post pandemic.

In 2019 I taught a 6 week pilot program, Affected 24/7 which went through the process of resetting. The feedback was staggering. I have put together an abridged pandemic version of this course. Still 6 weeks. Free. Because it’s important work and it’s the right thing to do.

The course will be available from Sunday 19th April. You’ll be able to start then or when you like. If you’ve done this course before, do it again. Please.

If you’d like to pre-register, touch base and I’ll send you some pre-reading prior to the 19th.


Three options

Pre-Corona I taught a Slow Release masterclass every six weeks. The class is a little different to most and always opens with instructions of what you can’t do for the following two hours.

The first 10 or so seconds in a posture are for you to work out where you need to be. After that don’t move. Don’t adjust. Don’t even make small movements you think can’t be seen.

The similarity between this and how we’ve been instructed to deal with the current global circumstance now seem striking.

ScoMo’s directions to us. Get yourself home, from international travel, from interstate travel, from Corona-infested cruise ship travel. Once you work out your home and your immediate circle of people, don’t move. Don’t adjust. Don’t change the parameters. Settle in for the long haul.

After delivering this list of what you can’t do in a Slow Release, I spend the next two hours unveiling, uncomfortable posture by uncomfortable posture, the options you do have at your disposal.

Option 1. Change the way you’re breathing. During a Slow Release each posture is held for exactly three minutes. If you get control of your breath and slow it down to a count of seven, all you need to do is take around 12 slow breaths in each posture.

Option 2. Change what you’re choosing to focus on. I’m going to quote myself here for maximum effect. “How the f*ck is it helpful to focus on what is uncomfortable right now? Scan your body, find some part of you that is happy in this sh*tty position and focus on that. Even if the only part you find is your nose, then focus on that for 12 slow breaths.”

Option 3. Surrender to what is happening. It’s out of your control. It’s going to happen regardless. Surrender is often seen as a weak option but in fact surrender is the most powerful thing you can do. To get yourself in a position where you are not affected by the comings and goings of discomfort. To stay steady.

Generally in life we have a desire to continually improve, to build more knowledge, to increase wealth, to increase career prospects, to keep ourselves and our family moving forward. Insert a global pandemic and this desire is severely impacted.

Look at the pandemic through the lens of Slow Release. The class is not about improving the technical aspect of postures, it’s not about improving anatomical deficiencies. The sweet spot in a Slow Release is getting yourself in a position where you can hold steady and weather the discomfort that will surely arise over three minutes.

During this pandemic, none of our house prices are going to increase. None of us are going to build wealth. Our fitness is not likely to improve leaps and bounds. Our mental health will not likely become rock solid.

We can however position ourselves to hold steady. Forget about building wealth and instead how can you hold onto the money you have. Let go of improving mental health and instead how can you retain the tools and techniques you used pre-pandemic. Release the burden of your child’s education and instead how can you help position them to come out of this no worse than when they went into it.

Three options. Progress. Go backwards. Hold steady.

The other Slow Release options also come in handy. Change the way you’re breathing and change what you’re choosing to focus on.


The similarities keep showing up

Sometimes you get to the end of a yoga practice and realise it was just crap. Completely crap. Same teacher, same studio, same mat, same class. Last week it was great. This week crap.

It’s often not easy to pinpoint where the crap-ness has come from or why during that particular practice it decided to show up. Why it chose to ruin your yoga experience.

During a practice, teachers draw attention to a handful of elements.

  • Establishing a steady gaze point
  • Creating a steady foundation
  • Distributing weight evenly
  • Anchoring before elevating
  • Maintaining steadiness of breath
  • Protecting vulnerable body parts

Cues never contain:

  • Dialogue about the outcome
  • The word should
  • The word normal
  • Reference to aesthetics

I can’t help but feel guided by these cues in formulating a response to the current global circumstance.

The outcome is unknown.

Normal has gone.

Aesthetics are not even a consideration.

Prior to the onslaught of the C-word, many people arrive at yoga to ease discomfort in the body, to assist with injuries or deficits and to soothe mental health concerns. Yoga is exceptional at assisting with these things. It can also be a very influential voice in navigating challenging circumstances.

Steady gaze point. Be incredibility discerning about where you access your news. Ensure sources prove their legitimacy before you set your gaze upon them. During the week I found myself in the 2 metre presence of a liberal candidate running for re-election. I heard her tell a group of people that ScoMo had just announced we have to stand 4 meters away from each other outdoors. Confusion and fear went through the group. I walked 0.5 meters closer to her and told her that every interaction she has with people, particularly in her capacity as an MP has the power to either dampen down or incite hysteria. That was not at all what ScoMo said, please check your facts before you engage with people. Please make wise choices about your interactions.

Steady foundation. Lean into the simple structures of living; food, sleep, movement, sunshine, fresh air.

Distribute weight evenly. Many of us have historically given too much of ourselves to work. The current situation allows the opportunity to spread efforts evenly between work, family, meaningful conversations and deeper connections with fewer people.

Anchor before elevating. Before elevating into each uncertain, disrupted, potentially frightening day, take the time to anchor down. Find your feet, spread your toes and then lift your arches. Let the lift grow from the ground up.

Steadiness of breath. Slow, deep breathing provides an intrinsically rhythmic and dependable pattern both in sound and feeling. Given our current climate, with so much uncertainty and disruption to routine, carrying and connecting to something dependable can be a lifeline.

Protect vulnerability. This has become the epicentre of the pandemic. During a yoga practice, wrists can be abused plank after plank after plank. We protect the wrists by not using them, staying away from them, redirecting the muscular effort to bigger, more appropriately designed muscle groups. Recognise at risk populations and create a spacer of love between you and them.


A collection of contrasts

We heard from a friend that it happened.

On account of the trauma course I was about to start teaching the following week, I distinctly remember thinking, “there’s so much work to do in this area.”

One month later, while teaching week three of the course, it happened again.

What happened was suicide. Two guys we previously served with in the Navy. Both clearance divers. They were mirrors of each other. All divers are mirrors of each other.

These guys were not just good operators, they were exceptional operators. The very best company at sea. They were professional and trustworthy. They were successful.

I had the usual few days where this sort of news churns around in your head and puts a damper on everyday life but then things took a downhill dive. I found myself in a place I’d not yet been before.

I could no longer trust my definition of success. If this is what happens to people I defined as successful, then my definition had been thrown completely off tilt.

It felt like the day the definition of your parents as superhuman no longer fits. The day a few mistakes and crappy advice reveals their humanness.

The final piece of the puzzle showed up at a party I recently went to. I met this guy. He worked in law enforcement. The beer in his hand seemed to shorten the distance between him and I on account of the story that poured forth. The poor bugger was broken.  He listed his physical ailments, many from detaining criminals, chasing criminals, being hit by criminals. The list was long. He couldn’t trust anyone he worked with. His workplace was a cesspit of angry, deranged criminals. He couldn’t sleep. He also felt jaded and upset by the system he was supposed to rally for, that in reality it let down more people than it held up. The same people who although made his working days hell, needed mental health assistance not law enforcement. In so many ways this poor guy was broken.

Halfway through talking, his daughter walked up. She needed a quick word and a hug; reassurance about something. A few moments later, off she went, settled and content. In those few moments, he was the only person she wanted and he could only see her. That sort of relationship doesn’t happen overnight. He had clearly spent years showing up for her, soothing her, being the reassuring hug the world often didn’t give.

I realised something at that moment. The definition works both ways.

The divers, because they were so successful at work, never gave the world any reason to contemplate the possibility their success didn’t extend to every arena of their lives.

The law enforcement guy, the fact he was such a mess, physically, mentally and at work, made it illogical to think he could be successful in another aspect of his life.

The two-way definition is just as debilitating in both scenarios. It makes it really difficult for outwardly successful people to ask for and receive help. Help doesn’t intuitively find its way into their productive lives. This is evident in the number of suicides in the clearance diving branch alone, the most highly trained and specialised category in the Navy. The world sees them all as successful.

It also drives slightly broken, somewhat unsuccessful people down even further. They, along with the world stop looking for the pockets of success in their lives. They get written off as all broken.

We humans are so good at doing extremes. It’s all or nothing. Successful or sh*t. Nothing in between.

Week three of the trauma course I taught while all of this was unfolding ironically focussed on opposites. On recognising contrasting emotions and that our bodies are able to hold contrasting emotions simultaneously. We are not good or bad, right or wrong, happy or unhappy, angry or calm in absolutes but a constantly changing collection of these different emotions. This element of the course ended up being the most challenging but once familiar, the most soothing.

Challenging and soothing. Side by side.


Affected. 24/7

A few years ago I went along to a 5 day course, dutifully fulfilling my professional development requirements for the year. I expected to walk away with some new perspectives and techniques on assisting people with trauma.

It’s safe to say my expectations were not met. I, for the first time, was at a loss for words. I wasn’t able to describe what happened in a way that felt accurate but didn’t erode my own privacy.

What did happen was a game-changer. For me personally. So much so that it took me over a year to work out what happened and embed the practice into my own life in a way that feels just right.

So when I say I’ve attempted to write this piece a few times, that’s really what I’ve been doing. Working out what happened, the words to describe it and then how to extend the practice to others.

Fast forward to when an interesting chain of events unfolded delivering the clarity I’d been fumbling for.

The chain of events started during a clinical placement for uni when, and I’m fairly certain of this, the universe intervened by connecting me with this particular supervisor.

Every question I ask him is met with the same response. “What does the evidence say Paige”?

(On a side note, this evidence based context makes me fairly certain he would disagree with my comments about universal intervention given the lack of evidence for such a thing occurring.)

Answering my own questions has been frustrating but as it turns out exactly what I needed to gain clarity.

Depression. Anxiety. Trauma. PTSD. Stress. Chronic pain. Autoimmune conditions. The link between all of these is they are not curable. Treatment plans can never discuss eradicating but rather how to manage symptoms as they escalate and abate from day to day.

In the words of my evidence lovin’ supervisor, what does the evidence say?  With this intense focus on evidence I realised another word for it. History. So I substituted the word evidence for the word history. What does history tell us about these conditions?

  • They don’t cripple people from productive, constructive lives. They are not mutually exclusive. Amazing lives can easily hide depression, anxiety and trauma. Look at history. Avicci. Kate Spade. Robin Williams.
  • The problem is when you operate from that space too much of the time. Can you run a marathon for five years straight? There will always be a point of combustion.
  • A safe space is required to let depression/anxiety/trauma soften away. It will inevitably percolate and resurface so the safe space needs to be easily accessible.
  • What if the safe space was not attached to a physical location. What if the safe space was internal.

What I now have is a process for creating this internal space, in very certain, not weird, not religious, not airy-fairy stages. The process is Affected 24/7.

6 WEEK ONLINE COURSE

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This course challenges the idea that we are broken by anxiety, depression, trauma, overwhelm and stress. You’ll find a refreshing way of viewing these conditions along with practical tools and audio recordings to guide you.

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Fridays

It was a Friday morning. Last year. I cancelled classes. I quietly slipped out at 4am and drove three hours south. To see my dearest friend. To spend a few hours with her before I drove home again.

I can’t remember Anna not being in my life. What started at school continued through work, saw us through our fair share of drunken weekends, breakups and breakdowns, dumb moves and interstate moves.

Along with Anna, her mum Lou became a fixture in my life. She arrived because of Anna but remained because of her. Everything about her was homely. She was comfort. The kind of comfort that erased any awkwardness, even when I turned up hungry and without Anna.

Last year I made the trip because Anna was up from Sydney and Lou was dying. Pancreatic cancer. It showed up as something like sore ribs.

Straight from sore ribs to stage four. She was given 9 months.

On Friday last week I took the same drive. To Lou’s funeral.

She made a mockery of 9 months. She saw babies born. She got kids married. She travelled. She opened her home to refugees. She spent an inordinate amount of time harassing Peter Dutton, a legacy I personally feel compelled to carry on.

Because she never swore, she didn’t tell 9 months to f*ck off in as many words. Instead she sent the message by living and really living for 2.3 years post diagnosis.

Because Lou was Lou her parting words were “don’t follow me to the crematorium. Chuff me off. Then go party.”

When I left the party to drive the three hours back home, the music was suitably loud, the beer fridge was empty and the first bottle of vodka had been cracked. I think Lou would have been happy with the turnout.

It’s the turnout though, the people who have to go back to work on Monday and reconstruct their lives without Lou, that need a bit more.

I knew Anna would need a bit more so I started collecting bits of more for when the time was right.  I collected them in a shoebox, Asics I think.

The first thing that went into the shoebox was something I wrote for her.

The way she left
tells you everything

I wrote it in a notebook along with some other little poems and words. I added  a bottle of geranium deodorant with a label around its neck, “for the days you can’t face showering”. I also added a bottle of rose hip oil labelled “for when you’ve spent all day crying and your skin has no more tears”. I added a silver necklace and love pendant with “just because” on its label. Finally a bunch of crystals for “when you need all the help you can get, even the hippy kind”.

I hoped the box contained as much practical help as spiritual nurturing. Maybe looking after her body with oil and perfume would help her mind feel a bit more anchored. Maybe reading poems and pondering their meaning would take the attention away from the inevitable pit of emptiness.

And because my body was hurting, from crying and oscillating between anger and overwhelm, I did yoga. Yoga feels like the box I tried to create.

Equal parts practical and spiritual.

It takes a team.


The power of opposites. Taught by the infuriating Marty-K.

Lately I’ve been teaching opposites. In order to teach more about backbends, rather than doing a hundred of them, we’ve been exploring the contrast of a forward bend. Understanding via the opposite is used in many contexts. We appreciate life more when we brush up against death. We understand what marriage is against a backdrop of divorce. An injury will shine a spotlight on taken for granted wellness.

In my exploration of opposites I was reminded of one of the most infuriating characters I have come across. Marty-K. More formally known as Martin Kaye. Marty-K bought out the worst in me.

In the first year following my promotion to Leading Seaman, Marty-K fell into my team. More accurately he was kicked from where he was and my watch was the first place he landed.

Now the job wasn’t hard but there were a few no-no’s.

Don’t hang your god awful smelling joggers over the ducted air-con vent for the smell to be evenly dispersed throughout the entire base.

Don’t turn up to work late. Turning up at the start of your watch is considered late in the defence force. Being on time is turning up 15 minutes before the start of shift. We call it a handover.

The job required top secret clearance. This, Marty-K implies the need to be more rather than less discreet.

Our relationship was on a steady downhill trajectory from day one. What sealed its fate was the very last time I got hauled into the COs office for yet another Marty-K debacle. The boss didn’t know the exact origin of this latest debacle, only that it belonged to “my part of ship”.

Damn you Marty-K.

Never again.

I went back to my unfortunately completely glass office and called the 6 foot sloth in. Round one began and this is where the worst in me came out.

I would like to say that I began with the following…are you ok fella? Is there anything going on at home? Do you need more training with this or that? Do I give you enough support and guidance? What do you need from me to lift your game a bit matey?

Not one of those words was uttered.

I, in the words of the defence force, ripped him a new a******.

It escalated to the point where Marty-K began sobbing. He reached out, presumably for an invisible tissue but the closest thing was a big cardboard bag of flags. Flags that are normally reserved for hoisting up a ships mast were now dubiously patting away his tears.

My response and this is a low point in the story. Go to the bathroom. Sort yourself out. Come back because I haven’t finished.

Two things came from this. The system didn’t give a sh*t about how I handled the situation. It wasn’t seen as inappropriate. That’s concerning.

The second thing was glass offices are not the most respectful arena to rip someone apart in. Noted.

I like to give credit where credit is due and I think Marty-K may have had a hand in my now much more loving and far less a-holey conflict management approach. My skills then to now are in stark contrast of each other. The old approach didn’t bring out the best in me and it was never going to bring the best out in Marty-K.

The opposite is a powerful teacher.

My experience with Marty-K means that I now ask all the questions I never asked him. I get the back-story, the side-ways story, all the stories so it’s an empathy fuelled interaction. An interaction that shortens the gap in between rather than divides.

Marty-K, I don’t think the defence force was your place to shine but I know there is a job out there for you and I do hope you’ve found it.

Marty-K, wherever you are, thank-you fella.


2018. You've set us up for a great 2019

Towards the end of 2018, there was one comment that seemed to be on loop.

I’m sick of going through the motions. I want to understand. I don’t want to do another year like this.

I wonder if it’s inevitable that we all reach a point where we need more. More depth, more context, more soul.

Consider rabbits. Pet or pest? If you live in NSW, your opinion is likely that they make quite good pets. Cute little buggers really. If you live just across the border in Qld, you think pest. Same animal, completely different opinion. If you’re only interested in the answer, pet or pest, then where you are located, who you speak to and the decision-making metrics they use become game-changers.

If you have a collection of symptoms and present to your GP in the UK, you might receive a diagnosis of Lyme disease. Same symptoms but visit a GP in Australia and you’ll likely receive a different answer. If the arrival of a sh*tty low back and turning 40 coincided, then you might be content to link the two and deal with the pain. Pop some pills. Whatever.

In October 2018, I found myself caught up in this same depth lacking wheel of motion. I had a huge uni semester which culminated in an exam. The exam was based on a 507 page textbook, the A to Z of pathological diseases. It was a ridiculous amount of information to learn and time wasn’t on my side. I decided to memorise as much as I could and hedge my bets on what they wouldn’t ask.

My plan resulted in a fail. First one ever. It seems gout is far more common than I gave it credit for.

The problem was that my eyes were fixed on exam answers, not deepening my understanding. So with a luxurious six weeks before the exam re-sit, I formulated a new plan that didn’t involve memorising or hedging bets. I worked out patterns. I looked for similarities. I ended up with all the info on two A3 sheets.

Pattern 1: an excess of something in the body
Pattern 2: a lack of something
Pattern 3: the death of something
Pattern 4: something adapts into something else
Pattern 5: something new develops

I nailed the re-sit but what’s more important is that I a) know everything there is to know about gout purely out of spite and b) remember, understand and can reapply the patterns.

Perhaps one of the big culprits for us no longer asking after the who, why and how, the patterns and the rhythms is that we’re all time poor. Perhaps we get into the habit of not concerning ourselves with the back story, we just need to conquer the front end. Maybe at some point we forget there is a back story.


What we used to think was a good idea

The brain controls the body.
Neuroscience used to think the brain body connection was only one way, the brain communicated to the body. If you want to lift your arm, the brain fired neurons to your arm which then lifted. What science is now beginning to uncover is the other side of the conversation. The body speaking to the brain. While we might never come up with an accurate ratio, conversations at the 2018 Australian Meditation conference suggest up to 80% of communication is from body to brain.

Bodies have things to say, giving a little niggle here, an unusual sensation there and sometimes a big jolt. The problem is we don't listen to these messengers. With the growing surge of interest in meditation practices, we are slowly learning how to observe this side of the conversation. One of the benefits of tuning in regularly to body conversation is being able to mitigate niggles, issues, injuries while they are still small and manageable, before becoming a raging headache or debilitating injury.

Bodies also talk about the trauma we collect. Bodywork practices like yoga that challenge the body in strange and unfamiliar ways, identify trauma and can cause an immediate and strong emotional reaction.  A flood of tears in a hip opening sequence might seem to come from nowhere until you think of what the body might be holding onto, protecting and trying to communicate.

No pain, no gain.
Thank you 80's. You desensitised us to individual needs, different body types and the importance of understanding our own biology as well as sticking up for it. The "no pain no gain" motto was rife through gyms and aerobic classes, yelled by Jane Fonda and her swag of followers. It was never based on science. As soon as people had been "no paining no gaining" for any length of time, injuries started to show up. Bodies began to fall apart. Arthritis crept in.

The industry of exercise science, based on science, educates us about training intervals, variation and overload principles, specificity, progression, reversibility and diminished returns. It informs us how and why to build recovery into training programs. It's built on longevity alongside safety.

Rest is best while undergoing treatment for cancer.
Up until last month the advice to cancer patients had always been to rest and avoid any activity. Research has recently come out  about the merits of prescribing exercise the whole way through cancer treatment. The research found exercise:

  • helps to counter the adverse effects of traditional cancer treatments (fatigue, nausea, depression, mental fogginess, DVT/blood clots, constipation)
  • can build patient strength and stamina to withstand more chemo and radiation therapy

And these great ideas...

  • Diet soft drink! The perfect answer to a great calorie free, chemical laden drink.
  • Asbestos - cheap and effective. What could go wrong?
  • The magic weight loss machine called smoking.
  • Frued's magic song of praise for cocaine, a wonderful antidote for depression and anxiety.

Given our track record of getting it collectively wrong, is there a possibility that we're also wrong about some of the things we currently think are a good idea.

  • Working longer and longer hours as a sign of productivity
  • Busy as a badge of awesomeness
  • Connecting via social media is still connecting

Damn you Doug

Events of the past few weeks have reminded me about habits. They can build or break us. Unfortunately Doug's habits have just about broken me. Let me set the scene.

Two ex-military people decide to get a dog. Not just a dog but a big dog. They like a good human name so Doug it is. Douglas when behaviour dictates. They decide that poo is gross and make Doug walk across 10 metres of good, sweet smelling grass to a patch of astro turf conveniently positioned (for them) in the furtherest corner of their yard.

Doug probably thinks they are idiots but nevertheless goes along with the plan, pooing and weeing with military precision. Life is sweet smelling. That is until the idiots decide to renovate the backyard. Up comes the good, sweet smelling grass. It's replaced with a pit of mud.

The idiots now realise how good their training was. Doug won't go anywhere else. Nope. Nowhere.

Damn you Doug.

Can't you see these are extenuating circumstances? There is rain, there is mud.You are big. I am little. I have mopped the floors 15 times already. And that's just today. You can see where this is headed can't you?

The idiots start carrying Doug over the mud pit to the poo pit. Not just once but many, many times.  The idiots provide hours of entertainment for the pool builders and the landscape gardeners. Did I mention Doug is big.

Damn you Douglas.

Then then idiots wised up. They moved the poo pit. Terribly soul destroying job but Doug happy and idiots happy (after 15 showers). They are not looking forward to relocating the poo pit once the mud pit has gone.

In hindsight maybe they should have let Doug do a few sneaky poos on the grass. Maybe Doug should not have been so stubborn.  Maybe they all could have softened a little and met in the middle.

For nearly five years I could be found on a yoga mat between 4 and 6am every weekday morning. Without fail. No early marks, no days off. There was a staunchness to my habit. It worked perfectly, just like the perfectly positioned astro turf.

Then kids came along. Free time became unpredictable. I tried to keep my habit for awhile. It made me cranky when inevitably it didn't pan out as it once had. The mud pit of life had arrived. Undoubtedly messy but also the start of something wonderful.

Now my eyes are on the intention, rather than the habit. The intention is to find some time to ground, to connect, to move my body, regardless of time. My staunchness now rotates around the intention, however that happens.

Perhaps this works because I have five years of a staunch habit to fall back on. Maybe it would have worked anyway, if I picked yoga up later in life and just let it seep into the corners, practicing here and there. Either way, soft or hard, the intention is the same.

When our intention was trying to keep beautiful grass, we created a really hard habit to maintain. Now the intention is keeping a beautiful dog.

A damn good dog.