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.

These things are so underrated

Over the past week these two things saved me. I had a sciatic nerve thing going on for a day or so.  I've been feeling a bit flat. I've been putting in long hours for uni. There is nothing complicated about what I did, the beauty is how simple they are. It's always the simple things that work.

  1. Standing slightly pigeon-toed.
    Let me explain this one by telling you about the opposite way to stand. Imagine a pregnant woman, complete with a beautifully enormous baby belly. There is a significant amount of weight pulling forward and down. To take some of the load, women tend to adopt a wide stance with their toes out (opposite to pigeon-toed). This throws the hips forward so the hips become like ledges, holding most of their belly weight. The hips are over-burdened and the low back is pulled forward and in, creating significant compression. This happens not only with pregnant women but body types that carry more abdominal weight. It happens to us when we get tired and lazy and forget about how we stand and hold ourselves.The opposite is pigeon-toed, turning the toes slightly in. The degree is only slight, you don't want to see a pigeon-toed stance, you only want to feel it. When you adopt this stance, the abdominal weight draws in toward the spine and importantly, the low back adjusts back and out, creating a triangle of space around the lumbar, sacrum and sacro-illiac joint. Ideally we want to be standing like this all the time.
  2. Constructive rest position.
    This is so simple it doesn't even seem like a thing to do. An actual healing thing to do. An amazingly restful thing to do.
    That's it. Lying on your back with your knees bent. Here's a run-down of what's happening...
    This position is all about the psoas muscle. This muscle is buried deep in the body, you can't touch or see it. It's a deep core muscle and structurally connects the top half of the body with the bottom half. One of its main jobs is to stabilise the lumbar spine. When the psoas muscle is tight, it pulls the lumbar spine creating an over-arch (hyper-lordosis). Pain can show up in the glutes, hip, groin, low back, sciatic nerve and S.I joint.  The other thing it does is communicate directly to the nervous system. This is because the muscle is located so deep within the body. When the psoas is tight, it will automatically send the nervous system into the "fight/flight" response. This is why the posture feels so restful, it lengthens and releases the psoas, dropping us into the parasympathetic "rest/digest" system.
    What does the damage. Sitting, running, kicking (martial arts, football, soccer), hockey and cycling are all movements that tighten the psoas.
    How. Have the feet hip distance and slightly pigeon-toed. Most people need to stack a block or firm cushion under their head so neck remains parallel to the ground. Hands can rest on the belly, ribcage or alongside the body. You don't need to do anything once you've set yourself up, our changed relationship with gravity does the work in releasing the psoas muscle. Stay as long as you like but try to aim for at least five minutes.

This shows up in yoga all the time

Last week I found myself following a bouncing ball of thoughts. Thoughts that started from this.

Australia’s indigenous story and our long history of attempting to reconcile the past show up in yoga ALL THE TIME.

Let’s go back about 250 years ago when the first people in Australia, group A, lived peacefully with their very distinctive perspective of the land. They used the land for specific purposes with their own set of intentions. When others arrived, group B, they had a very different set of beliefs about the land. They came with a different agenda and purpose. Group B’s agenda and belief system overtook Group A’s. It was as though the land was designated single use only. As if the 7.68 million hectares of Australian soil was only able to be used for one purpose.

Our bodies are designed the same way Australia should have been. For multi-use purpose. Health for our bodies relies on being able to easily interchange between back and forward bends. The ability to move smoothly between standing and sitting. Hanging upside down and twisting to the left as gracefully as to the right.

What went wrong was when group B overtook group A, stripping away their purpose and perspective.

What goes wrong in yoga is when you rape and pillage from your backbend in order to give to your inversion. You strip the life out of your breath in order to feed your forward bend. You compress the sh*t out of your lumbar spine to give to your hamstrings. For your inversion to ride upon the hunched shoulders of a collapsed forward bend.

The truth is that it’s quicker and easier to push someone or something lower so you seem higher but you can’t elevate a person, a race, a cause, a minority or a posture by taking from another. By making one group feel better by dragging another group down. Long lasting change, true reconciliation only ever elevates. Elevates both parties, both perspectives, both body parts. Evolution has to include all the people, all the parts, all the perspectives.

Truth. It took me eight years to be able to execute a downward dog and a backbend at the same time. Difficult but highly desirable. To not let the backbend suffer in favour of the inversion. To maintain the forward bend of the hips and slowly deepen the backbend of the upper spine.

Yoga postures give you really creative ways to access every part of the body. Tending to each body part takes time. You need to listen to each part and speak with each part. It rarely gives you instagram worthy images but it respects the whole body, that each little part has a purpose and fits snugly with the rest.

The opening ceremony of the Games wove contemporary culture with indigenous perspectives. Neither stole the spotlight and they fit oh so snugly together to give a rich, colourful map of Australia.  What has also fit oh so snugly together are all the athletes. Athletes with two legs or just one, with eyes that work and eyes that don’t, athletes that wheeled and those that walked. There was no big headline announcing a para-event, no ticker tape banner across the tv screen. They just ran, swam, dove, threw, did whatever they do alongside everyone else. The able-bodied and the disabled fit oh so snugly together.

I've gone minimal

I used to write complete plans for every yoga class I taught. Details on every posture, every cue, every prop. I was flicking through some of these old plans the other day and noticed just how much my teaching style has changed.

  1. It seems I used to try and impart every single thing I knew, in just one class. Bloody hell.
  2. I used to talk a lot. Too much.
  3. My stick figures were dubious. At best.
  4. I wasn't nearly as creative.
  5. I was a bit OCD. Too prescriptive. My handwriting was much neater. Perhaps the neatness got in the way of creativity.
  6. Light bulb moments were few and far between.


I'll never throw these plans out. The tattered red book reminds me of how far I've come. It reminds me of the importance of developing a foundation, a voice, a style. It's also a reminder that we do the best with what we have at the time.

After trekking Milford Sound with only a few necessary items on my back, I realised my teaching style is becoming very minimalistic. You don't need one hundred ways to meditate. You just need one way that works. You don't need 14 different backbends. You just need one way to extend your spine. One accessible way. You don't need seven different ways to feel grounded, just one that feels familiar and works.

This is what the last page in my red book says:

  • Who is in front of you?
  • What is their greatest need?
  • What is the simplest thing in my toolbox to fulfil that need?
  • How can I describe it simply?

The important thing with going minimal is pairing it with awareness. Because you're not buying, eating, doing, earning, making or saying much, it's important that what you are buying, eating, doing, earning, making and saying hits the nail on the head. You don't have surplus, a big net that will inevitably hold something you do need while buried under ten tons of sh*t you don't.

The tricky thing with awareness is that it's not fixed. It's so fleetingly fluid. What you needed yesterday, might not serve today. If you don't notice the change, you'll go out and buy, eat, do, earn, make or say something you don't need today.

Me as a minimalist teacher:
I generally start every class in one of three ways. You might not have noticed this but what I'm doing is noticing. Who is in front of me? What is their greatest need? What body have they bought to class today? How's their bad back? They look tired. They look angry. Distracted.

Me as a minimalist yoga student:
I sit quietly for a moment. Reflect. How have I been using my body for the past 12 hours? Moving or sleeping. How do I feel right now? What is my greatest need? Do I need to wake up properly and start a very busy day or do I need to let go of my day and slow down for sleep?

The start of the forage into minimalism is the hardest. Who are you? What is your greatest need?

The walk. All 60kms of it.

After a big 2017, there was something tantalising about the thought of doing nothing. Nothing but walking. For four days. Walking with everything I needed on my back. From the moment I booked the plane tickets and the walk pass, I had one word circulating around my head. Simplicity. I committed to not overthinking this trip. No analysing, no research, no planning, no YouTube. No checking weather.

Dumb? Maybe. Exhilarating? Yes.

Milford Sound, NZ, has been explored by thousands of people. I'd even explored it, years ago, from the deck of HMAS Hawkesbury. I'd never explored it by foot though. With the onslaught of information available, it would have been so easy to explore it from the perspective of someone else. Social media, travel books, the information flows freely. But I'd never smelt the smells, felt the blisters and been captivated by the sights. I didn't know in my bones why it was one of the top 10 walks of the world.

Here's a run down of the three days prior to departure.

  1. Bought what looked like appropriate shoes. Given my barefoot lifestyle and deep love of birkenstocks, I owned nothing that was even remotely suitable.
  2. Wore shoes around the block once. Acknowledge this was a recipe for blister-town disaster.
  3. Tore ration packs apart to check the quality of chocolate. Immediately replaced the dubious looking bars with good quality dark chocolate.
  4. Packed one set of clothes to walk in, one set to sleep in. Clean underwear for everyday.
  5. Thought about red wine. The rubbish in, rubbish out policy made me ponder how heavy empty bottles are. Never thought about that before. Prefer to stay light and nimble. Disregarded wine.
  6. Done.

Here's a run down of what transpired from walking and not showering.

  1. So much is sacrificed for our complicated lifestyles. What takes the biggest hit is creativity. I don't just mean artistic pursuits. I mean thinking creatively, loving people creatively. Creative nutrition and hygiene. Random, out of the box conversations with people you meet while walking.
  2. Rite in the Rain notebooks. Splendid invention. I've filled three of them since December. Particularly useful given the annual rainfall at Milford Sound sits between 9 and 12 meters plus my sweaty occupation.
  3. I forgot to pack my sunnies. My expensive, favourite sunnies. Bought a pair in NZ from a two buck shop while waiting for the bus to take us to the start of the trek. I love these cheapo sunnies. Seriously. I haven't worn my expensive favourites since being back. It seems a bland, two set wardrobe was necessary for me to truely appreciate the injection of something new. Albeit something small, cheap and daggy.
  4. People need different things to set themselves up for the possibility of deep, reflective soul work happening. My husbands line of work means he likes to prepare for every possibility; snow, rain, cyclones, disease, famine.  A Belgium guy who kept showing up at the end of every day spent a few hours each night pacing with his Bijbel (which I could only assume translated to Bible in Dutch). I guess his soul needed a lot of cleaning on account of the pacing and the murmuring. What I needed after a year of planning everything down to the wire, was no diary and no knowledge of what was coming.
  5. Ugly and unorganised is real life. When an avalanche hits Milford, tearing down from the glacial rooftops, everything in its way gets caught up. What the DOCS rangers do is not much. Instead of coming in and removing the debris, taking it back to pre-avalanche beauty, the rangers move only enough for us Mother Nature spectators to squeeze through, shimmy around and tip-toe over. Sometimes they took a chainsaw and removed a tiny slice of an almighty tree fallen across the track. Pack off, go sideways. Leave it be.

I was asked this question many times upon my return. 

How much yoga did you do? None. Well not in a get on your mat, downward dog kind of way. I absolutely took care of my body though.  Each afternoon when we reached our isolated chalet (shared bunkhouse with 39 of your closest, also non-showering friends) I took a few moments to really pay attention to my body. What hurt, what I'd neglected, what I'd been too hard on.  I specifically tended to those parts, in quite a clinical way. Given my only preparation was a walk around the block, my body did an amazing job of carrying me up and down 60kms.

But did I do YOGA? Yes. Absolutely. I was reminded of the definition of yoga. Being settled with whatever comes up, riding the waves of both comfort and discomfort. Mindfulness. The ebb and flow. Being present with yourself. That yoga happened for an entire week. No mat required.

I now know in my bones why this is one of the top 10 walks of the world.

2017...the glue that held you together

1. Reading. 2017 was the year of reading some crazy sh*t. I vowed to go diverse or go home. Up until I made this declaration it was only biographies and yoga reference books that accompanied me to bed. The below list is just a sample of the diversity, no mention of yoga anywhere but surprisingly some of the best teaching inspiration.
Heston Blumenthal “In search of perfection”
Bill Bryson “A short history of nearly everything”
Rupi Kaur “Milk and honey”
Caitlin Doughty “Smoke gets in your eyes”
Craig Potton “Great walks of NZ”
Bessel Van Der Kolk “The body keeps the score”
Paul Kalanithi “When breath becomes air”
Helen Czerski “Storm in a teacup”
Doreen Kronick “All children are exceptional”
Phil Beadle “Could do better”
Macquarie Dictionary (Cover to cover. Do not underestimate my nerdiness. It is extreme).

2. Listening to something amazing before sleep. I started thinking about sleep as if it were a destination not an activity to do. When I think about destinations, I think about organising transport to get there. I found some amazing voices to transport me to sleep-land.

3. Experiments. I don’t care if it’s worked for them. I don’t care if it’s worked for everyone. I need to know it will work for me so I started doing experiments for everything. Theory only gets me so far. An ‘experts’ voice is only so loud. Here’s some of my more memorable 2017 experiments:
– Barefoot running. I learnt the theory at uni but wanted to try it out. Conclusion. Aside from the bullsh*t amount of blisters, it is much more appealing for my hips, knees and back.
– Used normal people toothpaste to see what the hype is all about. Ulcers galore. Reverted back to Indian dirt toothpaste. Shortest experiment of the year.
– Meditation experiment with one of my kids. Yes! It absolutely improved quality of sleep. As deep as a bottle of panadol.

4. Writing is like eating. It’s a goddamn necessity for me. This year I have defaced every imaginable surface in my home…shower walls, receipts, my arms, mirrors, my desk and a yoga block (just once).

5. Apple cider vinegar. I could describe it as an acquired taste but more accurately will describe it as appalling. A few tablespoons in my water every day. Gut and skin tonic, antibacterial and blood sugar regulator.

6. Had a really honest conversation with social media. Culled people willy-nilly, culled entire channels in fact. Sent out conscious invitations to only those that fill my bucket.

7. In the interests of thinking global, became a big girl and started following politics. They really are idiots aren’t they.

8. Cold showers. All year round. Makes me feel alive, especially if number two doesn’t work.

9. Nailed wave reading. Hormones work in waves, with highs and lows. I no longer feel the overwhelming pressure to save the world every week of the month. I contain this to my creative, powerful weeks and give myself a break on the other week.

10. Meditation. I say hello to you everyday, you glorious thing. You’re not only the icing on the cake but the foundation. Quite literally, the glue that keeps me all together.

I have to get my funeral dress out again

Here are my insights on suicide.


We’ll never know why. We’ll never know if they changed their mind at the last minute. We’ll never know what their breaking point was, when they made the decision, then started formulating the logistics. We’ll never know if we could have said something that might have made a difference.

We’ll never really know.

Humans hate this. We crave the backstory and suicide holds it at ransom. Because I’m a human and I need some sort of story to make peace with this, I’ve been thinking about the opposite. The opposite of suicide.


Would self-care hold it at bay? Would self-care flag an issue before the point of jumping? Can other people do our self-care for us? When we might be unwilling, unable or just not know it’s a thing. Should we formalise it…something like “Self-care Sunday”?

The other thing I keep thinking about is samvega, which translates from Sanskrit to English as emergence.

It’s a yoga thing, a phase someone can be in…a state of samvega. It looks a lot like depression but it’s mixed with a quiet, vehemence for renewal. In the western world we label depression as undesirable but in yoga, depression when mixed with a quiet, vehemence for renewal, is seen as empowering and full of possibilities. The old books describe it as a classic portal into the deeper practices of yoga.

Shit. That got deep. Fu*k it. Let’s keep going.

What is a quiet, vehemence for renewal? Quiet. Doesn’t live on social media. Vehemence. Marked by great energy, exertion and unusual force. Renewal. Breaking out into a better way of being.

In yoga, depression when coupled with this state, is necessary for growth and change. Change can’t happen any other way. Thought-provoking.

The third thing that’s been running through my mind is what I’d like to say to the guy who’s no longer here.

  1. I hope your earthy troubles have stayed here on earth and not followed you.
  2. The people you’ve left behind, you’ve connected together like glue. We’d forgotten how similar we are.
  3. Trauma gives birth to gratitude and perspective, it’s a punch in the guts reminder.

Lastly this…

“Death might appear to destroy the meaning in our lives, but in fact it is the very source of our creativity. As Kafka said, “The meaning of life is that it ends.” Death is the engine that keeps us running, giving us the motivation to achieve, learn, love, and create.” (C. Doughty)

You used to make us laugh. Now you’ve made us cry. You’ve made us think harder and love more. Your work here is done. R.I.P.

We have to talk about it...sweat

Sweat. Necessary. Gross. Scientific. Desirable. Embarrassing. Too much. Not enough.

The short answer of how it works:

When your internal body temperature begins to increase, the nervous system goes to work stimulating and releasing sweat. Sweat, essentially salty water with a few other bits and pieces, sits on the surface of the skin and begins the process of vaporisation, changing from a liquid to a gas. It's a smart system build on the laws of physics. To convert a liquid to a gas requires heat. Sweat uses the heat from your body to transform into a gas.

You end up cooler. Your sweat ends up as a vapour.

What happens when you wipe sweat off?

You disrupt the relationship between liquid, gas and heat. The body responds by registering the heat, producing more sweat and on the cycle goes. Lesson here is don't wipe it off. Try really hard to work around it, embrace it and let it be.


A fit person will begin sweating earlier and produce more sweat than someone not as fit. As fitness increases, the body becomes more proficient at this sweating business. The aim is to be able to sweat, indicating your body has a reliable way of keeping itself cool. This means you don't risk things like heat stroke and exhaustion and you can keep doing whatever it is you're doing for longer.

My third child

We're the same age. Why haven't you got this stuff figured out. Hell, why haven't you got at least some stuff figured out. It's not that you're completely hopeless, some days you are, but you're starting to need more than I can give.

I've got nothing left in the tank. Not for you. Not right now. But I know it's not a fair exchange. I expect so much from you. I expect you to be attentive, empathetic, to show up. I expect you to be present to me every damn day. I expect you to remember milestones and special days and make those the most important thing to you. Forgetting pisses me off.

Some days I ask you questions about finance knowing you're not an accountant but still hanging you out to dry when you give me the wrong advice. Other days I ask your opinion on why my boss is such a jerk. You're supposed to agree with my side of the story. Last week, last Thursday to be precise, you made me feel like sh*t all day. I know you had your own stuff going on and I know you didn't mean to ruin my day but I just couldn't snap out of it. I couldn't calm myself down without you. Sometimes I hate that you have so much influence over me.

God damn why do I need you so much.

I'm not sure why I resent taking care of you. Maybe because it's 2017 and we're supposed to be strong, put together, all by ourselves people. We're not supposed to be needy and incomplete.

If I'm totally honest, my approach to now hasn't been working so in the interest of dodging insanity while hoping for a better outcome, I'm bracing to try something different. I've decided to tend to you as my third child. I only ever wanted two, so I really have to park my resentment to the side for this to work.

Surprisingly, tending to you hasn't taken a monumental effort. It happened when I read a few lines from a book to you before we went to sleep. It was in the carefully thought out meals I prepared, stuff I know you like and stuff I know agrees with you. It was when I nudged you on the couch at 1055pm and prompted you to go to bed. When our alarm went off at 4am, I lay quietly beside you for 10 minutes before we attacked the day. Together.

Life's been better when I tend to you as my third child. For me. For you. For the other two as well.

I realised it was the simple stuff that made such a difference. We didn't have to book into a week long retreat and shut out the world completely. We just needed to connect for a few meaningful moments, every single day.

Mental. Health. My third child.

When what you want is so damn different to what you need

I've been having an ethical dilemma. A teaching dilemma of sorts.

Dilemma 1. Which comes first, yoga teacher or business owner?

Dilemma 2. Should I teach people what they want or what they need?

Dilemma 3. How do I know what they need?  That's a tad arrogant isn't it?

Let's start with dilemma 2. My most useful teaching tool is a spectrum. At one end is flexibility and the other end is strength. If you want a sustainable body you need to straddle the two ends. Plant one foot firmly at each end. Don't water one down. Don't let one erode the other. Pay equal attention to both.

What tends to happen is people have both feet at one end, committed entirely to either the strength end or the flexibility end.  At that point all they feel comfortable with and all they crave is to stay at that end. It's familiar, it's habitual.

Insert my dilemma. Do I teach them postures that will take them where they want to be, which is more of the same or somehow turn their head to glimpse across at the other end. To take a few tiny steps toward it. Do I give them what they want or what they need?

Now dilemma 1 shows up. They are paying. They should get what they want.

Something random helped me with dilemma 3. I'm doing work placement for uni this semester. I have to plan and execute a competitive event and find a sporting organisation to host it. Unfortunately for me, yoga is in no way competitive and try as I might, I couldn't manipulate it to fit the competitive criteria. So I came up with another brilliant idea. Found a workplace. Tick.

For my event I needed personal health and statistical information from five professional football players to use as benchmarks. Difficult. Information not available on wiki. Problem.

I got my hands on the direct contact details for the CEO of a football team. I emailed him. I wasn't rude but I was super direct. I was respectful as I asked for exactly what I wanted. I named the five players and outlined the data I needed. I didn't sugar-coat it. I didn't think about what I was likely to get, I just asked for what I wanted.

I got it. I got every single thing. No kidding.

Learning for me. Ask for what I want.

I couldn't control what I was going to get but I could control what I asked for. Just by putting it out there. So I'm putting it out there for you to think about yoga in the context of want vs need.  Think about where are you on the spectrum? What do you need to get to the middle? Yoga isn't designed to be comfortable. It's designed to keep you balanced. To keep one foot firmly planted at each end.

To keep you strong, resilient, dynamic and active enough. To allow you to be soft, bendable, fluid and gracious enough.

The answer depends on who you ask

What’s a forward bend? Depends on who you ask.

Ask your spine and it will tell you how the movement increases the space between each vertebrae. It will describe how much taller it feels afterwards. It will tell you about the joyous feeling of hanging, just hanging especially after a long day.

If you chat to the hamstrings, brace for a punch in the face. Forward bends are offensive to the hamstrings. Ask Instagram and it only sees value in the ones that look amazing, never mind the knee joints, it needs to look amazingly unachievable.

If you ask your day, it will tell you the last thing it needs is another forward bend, what with the 8 hours you’ve clocked up in front of the computer. If you ask insomnia however, it will feel soothed by the quiet, introverted moments spent folding in, shutting out the world. If you ask yoga, it will scoff at how deeply you go but look instead for how deeply you can release.

The danger in only seeking one perspective is losing more than half the story. You actually lose most of the story.

So who the f*ck do we ask? The refugee crisis might help.

If you listen to politicians talk about refugees, they tend to dodge around them, wishing they would land upon the shores of a neighbour, hoping they might disappear. Not into into the ocean though, nobody needs that sort of sh*t storm.

If you ask the general, mainstream public, they care a lot but feel helpless. They don’t really know the solution but know it’s a big problem. They’ve got a bit of extra money, a lot of empathy but no knowledge on the most effective thing to do.

If you ask South Sudan, they’ll tell you their heart has quadrupled in size on account of the good deeds the’ve been able to do. When they look around their country and see all the displaced people they’ve taken in, they feel pretty good. Their reputation around the world in terms of good deeds done, has skyrocketed.

If you ask terrorists, it’s a great opportunity. If you ask a refugee, the answer is heart breaking.

How does this help? Tell me what compels you?

If you’re interested in politics, then contribute to the refugee problem by lobbying the sh*tty politicians who have the ability to make different decisions.

If you’re compelled by communities and people, start to spread the word, in your own creative way about the reality of the refugee situation. Educate and motivate people with the truth.

If you feel that strongly about terrorists, join the military.

We can’t all take in a refugee. We can’t all give money. We can’t all join the military. We can’t do everything.

What compels you? What do you need to do to feel sated when the day is done? Postures work the same way.

When you do a forward bend you can’t attack it from every angle. You’ll end up tearing the posture to bits until it ends up looking like a bedraggled drunk. What do you need to do to feel sated? If your spine aches, dedicate your forward bend to your spine. If your hamstrings catch every time you stand, then graciously draw them into the posture. If you’re a shocking sleeper, fold inward and forget about the rest.

The posture will take care of you.

5 to 6 kilos

Last semester I had to look at some studies for uni and provide discussion on different methods for losing weight. There was one method in particular that caught my eye.

In the study GPs were advised to identify patients who were 5-6kgs heavier than their ideal, healthy weight. The next step was to plant a seed,  to draw the persons attention to the extra few kgs. Next came a conversation about how easy it is to shift 5-6kgs, while it's such a small number and before it raises any major flags. It's not enough weight to trigger diabetes, heart disease or cholesterol, in fact there's no major health implications for 5-6kgs.

The philosophy was to empower people to take action at the inconsequential marker of 5-6kgs, because while it's easy to effect a positive change, it's also a gateway. It segues quickly into 15-20kgs. Then 25-40kgs. To then a really, big problem.

This approach worked on empowerment not fear. It increased self-awareness so the 5-6kg marker would be more noticeable in the future. It inspired people with a doable plan to circumnavigate something more disastrous.

What if we apply this approach to aches, pains, tightness, inflexibility. To the first night, rather than the fifth that we have a sh*tty sleep. Rather than waiting for a knee blowout, a back breakdown, bursitis, a tear, insomnia or stress induced illness.  What if we did something at the first niggle.

Two things are required for this to work. Notice the niggle first of all. Then do something about it.

Niggles are subtle. They are the first couple of steps you take in the morning as you hobble to the bathroom. By the time you're at the bathroom, gone. No more discomfort, already forgotten about. This is the 5-6kg marker.

It's really easy to go on with your day but also really easy to do something about it.

This method of weight loss returned amazing results. People felt powerful, in charge. They had options. They could start walking a few mornings a week, or swim, or cycle or run. They could make some small, barely noticeable changes to their diet.

The other option might be no option. Diabetes medication for life. Cholesterol meds. A potentially long battle with weight. Gastric bypass. Obesity. Depression.

I had a conversation with a client the other day, a 40 something year old guy who comes to yoga once a week, never misses one. He came to yoga in his 40's because of a lower back injury. He tells me all the time how he wishes he'd found yoga in his 20's. What would his footy career have looked like? What would the state of his back be like, with an hour of yoga a week for 20 odd years?

When you notice a niggle, the options are doable. Totally. Get friendly with your hamstrings. 10 minutes everyday. Legs up the wall. Awesome. Breathe deeply for 5 minutes. Oh the joy!

Niggles. Powerful.

This was me. 10 years ago.

Friday 15th June 2007. Today. 10 years ago.

The Dalai Lama came to Sydney for a visit. His 7th tour of Australia. It was also the day I left the military. The day I entered my signature in the top secret register for the very last time.  Never to wear overalls again. Never to salute. Never to run that damn 2.4k track.

That afternoon I was officially unemployed and on a bus to the Domain. Perfect way to transition into civilian life, listening to the world’s most revered speaker on peace and love. It felt intimate and even though I was in a sea of people, I felt like he was talking directly to me.

His talk was called “One Earth” and in true Dalai Lama style, he spoke about compassion and peace. What I remember is how. How to generate world peace.

Genuine world peace must come from internal peace. 

I loved being a sailor. Until the day I didn’t.  I knew I’d learnt all I had to learn there. It was time for me to set sail. It took close to 12 months to leave. Those bastards don’t like you to go. Those 12 months were really hard, to go everyday to a workplace that progressively felt more and more foreign. Like I’d started fighting for the other side of the war. Odd feeling.

This is how some people spend their entire working life. Everyday for 60 odd years. Feeling odd.

I think I joined the military with a peaceful mind but over the years it eroded. Not because of the system persay but because I had changed and no longer fit the system I had once joined. I could stay and beef up my super. That would be savvy. I could stay for another medal.  That would be greedy. I could stay for the next trip. That would be great money.

I could stay.

But really I couldn’t. As the Dalai Lama pointed out to me, in our intimate conversation at the Domain, I couldn’t contribute to genuine world peace unless I was operating from a place of internal peace.

He also spoke about solving problems. Super helpful for me given I was unemployed, with a mortgage and a little fuzzy about what the future looked like. To this he told me;

If a person’s mind is strong and peaceful, even in the midst of hostility, they can solve difficult problems without losing basic human values. 

So I had my to-do list. Re-establish basic human values. Work out how to cultivate a peaceful mind. Thankfully time was on my side, on account of being unemployed and all.

10 years later and time to reflect on my to-do list. My mind does feel peaceful again, most of the time and what contributed to this was not the executive job,  nor the journalism degree. It wasn’t the countries I went to or the house I bought. It was actually going against the grain. Going against the grain of what I thought I would do with my life and what family thought best and doing my own thing.  It could have been yoga or gardening or communications. It could have been fashion or furniture. Irrelevant. It was respecting the deep, internal voice. The voice of internal peace which is actually quite loud.

The military did teach me something I use now, everyday in fact. In the world of military comms, there is only one rule; a message hasn’t been passed unless it’s been receipted for. Even if you can prove you sent a signal, unless the recipient acknowledges it, you’ve not sent it. The onus stays with the sender until the receiver acknowledges it.

It wasn’t so great back then, especially in the middle of the night when we would pass by a foreign vessel and get dragged out of bed to send morse code by light. If I could have, I would have sent one crappy signal, told the boss they didn’t respond and jumped back into my rack but no, we must keeping sending. Over and over. So many nights spent on the bridge, sending messages not received.

Unlike in the military this rule now works in my favour. I place a lot of importance on having a million ways to explain and do things. If the message isn’t received one way, explain it another way. People learn differently and if the onus is with the sender, then we need a million different ways to approach things.

Someone asked me the other day if I missed being at sea. Yes, of course. Without a doubt, but only twice a day. Sunrise and sunset. The rest of the time I try really hard to contribute, even something small, to genuine world peace.

Friday 5th May. My scheduled day of anxiety.

It happens every three months. Super high anxiety levels for just one day. It didn’t used to last for one day; it used to last for a few.

The trigger this time...six uni assignments due in four weeks. My day of anxiety happens when I realise all the due dates collide and I’ve booked in a million extra classes and clients.

I used to work madly on that day of anxiety, sucking every minute out of the day, foregoing eating, my own practice, hell even basic hygiene became a luxury. I questioned my sanity while I ordered takeaway.

It’s taken a journalism degree plus half a science degree to work out what to do. Sit with it.

The same way you sit with someone who’s just lost a loved one. Not talking, not trying, just sitting. Work wise it’s a really unproductive day. I don’t make any headway on assignments. It takes all my sitting to move the anxiety on. Not to revisit until next semester.

Then an enlightening conversation with someone made me realise what I’m doing is not actually sitting but defragging.

Defragmentation.  To rearrange the files on a hard disk for faster data access. After the files are removed, the operating system fills the space systematically with the newly arranged files. The process attempts to create space by compaction, in order to reduce the amount of unorganisation.

So now I don’t have a day of anxiety. I have a day of defragging.

At some point the defragging works and the feeling passes. It seems to pass quicker just by acknowledging it’s happening. I’m down to one day from three. Perhaps defragging will only take half an hour by the end of my degree.

This quarterly reminder is also really insightful for how I teach. This is how some people live most of their days, defragging. Trying to create a more ordered, harmonious and efficient way of being.

After my day of defragging, I start to do just one thing at a time. The same thing a computer does. An efficient computer, moving quickly from one thing to the next boasting super fast transition times.

I now welcome my next defrag day, sometime in October by my calculations. A day to clear out the crap, reorganise and carry on. It's really nice to know anxiety has a purpose, that something useful comes out of it.

Intention. You had me at every turn

Intention...you get me at every turn

The last few days I've taught yoga a little differently. Same postures, same speed but I've added something else to my dialogue. I've clearly articulated why we're doing what we're doing. People noticed. I noticed. Postures were much steadier. Savasana was much deeper. The calm was much calmer.

Intention. You powerful beast. 

It reminded me of the great battle of 2006. I had a run-in with a group of hippies. I took eight weeks off following a long stint at sea. I met up with a friend just outside London. We hadn't seen each other for a while. She'd always been a bit of a hippie. I'd no sooner arrived when her new "friends" blocked me at every turn and every word. They heard I was in the military and it didn't sit well with their free-lovin' vibes.

I lasted a few days before the conversation got real. Really real.

Let's be clear, I told them. I joined the defence force not the attack force. I joined to promote love, not war.  I joined because I don't want to live in a world or a country, or within a community, a family or a body that doesn't have healthy boundaries. That doesn't stand up and yell when sh*t goes down and that doesn't have the empathy to throw someone a lifeline. Sometimes promoting love requires unconventional, hard and not so pretty actions but it's still in the name of love.

Let's also be clear, my hippy friend, that you're still a follower. In your quest to be all about free love and individuality, you actually look like everyone around you. A tribe of free-lovin' hippies who all have dreadlocks, who collectively don't shave and who all eat vegan. Have you noticed you're all wearing Sea Shepard shirts? You spend your life protesting and fighting for your right to be an individual and yet you're surrounded by replicas.

And one more thing. You don't seem to able to extend this universal love that you speak of, to me. The fact that I challenge your beliefs and actions seems to preclude me from civility, respect and love.

They were fighting words. It was on. Good time for me to get back to my little tribe of sailors.

How interesting that the sailors, with their tattoos, their girl in every port and their all-night benders were far more accepting and respectful of my yoga mat, "self-help" books, crystals and weird conversations than the free-range hippies were.

These days I spend 35 plus hours a week immersed in yoga. Back then it was an hour or so a day, woven around rifle cleaning, pretend man overboards, fresh-water wash downs and tactical manoeuvres. But time hasn't made me any more   of a "yogi" now than back when I wore overalls and lived on a warship. I still do it for the same reasons.

Any technique, whether veganism, yoga or tactical manoeuvres, if executed without philosophical understanding, without a firm intention are shadowy and flippant at best. Inauthentic. Completely transparent.

Intention. You powerful beast. You win everytime. 

What the hell is a flexible habitat?

Flexible Habitats

It’s a tent.

I found out this fun fact when I worked for the fire service. It was years ago, while I was working up the courage to open my own studio. I answered 000 calls. Soul destroying.

The big problem for me was no closure. The job was to speak with people having the most tragic day of their life and then speak to the next and the next. For 14 hour shifts, keep speaking to more and more people. We never knew how it ended. Did they survive? Did they get out? Can they function? Are they happy?

Back to the tent. The fire service calls tents flexible habitats. They use them to deploy to crisis areas for the crews to create, well, a habitat in. Once I stopped laughing I realised yoga does the same thing.

It uses names to not only describe how things look but how things feel and their purpose. Quite a lot to fit into a name.

Vrksasana. Tree pose. You look like a tree. You want to feel grounded through the feet while remaining fluid and responsive to the elements.

Setubandhasana. Bridge pose. You look like a bridge with the hips elevated and the feet grounded. You’re light enough to take flight but stable enough to withstand resistance.

Trikonasana. Triangle pose. You can create at least four visual triangles in the body. Embody the principles of a triangle, the strongest shape in nature. Allow your weight to disperse evenly throughout the sides, the perfect blend of rigidity and flexibility.

Pashimottanasana. Seated forward bend. East meets west. Your back body experiences a deep stretch as it gradually meets your front body. The blending of two cultures. Nothing to do with the hamstrings.

Surya Namaskar. Sun salute. Gratitude in motion. For the spiritual aspects of the practice. For what makes it different to pumping out reps at the gym.

Savasana. Corpse pose. The body doesn’t move. It fades into the background. Depending on your belief system, the mind, the soul, the untouchable bits connect to something else, if only for a few moments.

Study a tree, a bridge, a triangle. Stare at the sun and get familiar with death. It will deepen your understanding of yoga postures and the sheer intelligence behind the naming system.

Sanskrit is the language of yoga and one of the oldest. It’s seeped in vibration. You can feel yourself saying it, not just hear it. It’s a 3D language designed to ignite the senses.

Back to the flexible habitat. I don’t know that they will ignite the senses but you’ll certainly know exactly what you’re going to be sleeping in.

Yin yoga. It's supposed to be different

Yin yoga is designed to be different. It’s quite scientific and very anatomical. In some ways it’s easier but in many ways it’s harder. Our sedentary lifestyles make yin yoga difficult but so very necessary.

Yoga is typically grouped into two approaches, yin or yang. The popularity of yang classes continues to rise in the western world.  Yang works with muscular tissues which tends to include repetitive, rhythmic muscular contractions. Yang classes are dynamic and fast-flowing. At Yoga Emporium, we call yang Hot Flow.

In comparison yin movements are very slow and deliberate. You stay in the postures for longer, marinating in the sensations. This is HARD. Mindfulness is challenged with a yin approach.

We often use distraction as a way to circumnavigate discomfort. We distract ourselves with heat, sweat, with fast movements, with the people around us. With the pictures on the wall. With our toenails. Yin yoga sets down the challenge to stay PRESENT with the sensations. If the posture focusses on the hamstrings, then follow the sensation down the hamstring. Stay with it.

The benefits of Yin:

  • Develops a deeper awareness of muscles, joints, injuries and tightness
  • The longer holds allow the posture to seep down into connective tissue and fascia
  • It specifically prepares the body to sit comfortably for meditation
  • Works with the principle of applying a slow, steady load to encourage the body to respond with increased strength and length
  • Postures often focus on hips, pelvis and low back
  • Encourages a sensitivity to more subtle cues which is necessary for injury prevention

Yoga Emporium offers three Yin classes per week. Check timetable for details and to book.

Unique, untameable beasts

Wild creatures. Who can’t be understood but strive desperately to be. Scientists side-step them. Labs go on lunch break when they turn up.

Mice. Female mice. They aren’t used in rodent studies. It’s all about male mice. There’s just too many variables with the lady ones. Too many factors to influence the results. No matter how the data is sliced and diced, it just can’t take into account those sweet little things called hormones.

So it’s better for everyone concerned to just leave them out.

Being excluded in the rodent world actually turns out well for the girls, seeing as the experiments tend to sway more toward life-ending than life-enhancing. But when it happens to humans it results in huge gaps of information.

The fact is it’s really hard to get your hands on studies that work with human females. They are either menstruating or not. Having babies or not. Don’t have any ovaries or do. Are taking some kind of contraceptive or not. They might be riding the moody, sweaty rollercoaster of menopause, or not.

The purpose of scientific studies is to disprove a theory about something. To  collect a reliable data set that has the potential to influence and effect change on a global scale.  To be reliable all studies need a control measure. A dependable group of people that share many similar characteristics. It’s virtually impossible to find a control group in the female kingdom.

WAY too many variables. Go with the guys. Keep it simple.

Fact. Females can’t be scientifically understood.
Not fact but good practice. Understand something before you judge it.

The fact that science can’t provide large amounts of scientifically validated data about females is answer enough. The facts are not in what’s said but what’s left unsaid.

There’s no one size fits all hypothesis.
The fact that females can’t be studied with any accuracy is testament to uniqueness.
Uniqueness is undervalued.
Complexity is meaningful.

My truth bombs. Learnt the hard way.

This is me. Gettin’ real.

  1. Early morning is my time to shine. Give me 4am, laptop, pencil, paper. On fire.
  1. I need to be asleep by 11pm to have any hope of seeing 4am.
  1. If I don’t sleep by 11pm, I’ll sail into my second wind of the day. Makes getting any sleep challenging.
  1. Honesty is the best policy but sometimes you lose friends because of it. Bec, Viv, Cal…I hope you’re doing ok. The list is long.
  1. Honesty is the best policy but sometimes it rewards you in very f*cked up ways.

These ones took longer to learn.

  1. I incorrectly labelled myself as scientifically incompetent for 20 odd years. Enrolled in science degree to prove myself wrong. Going well.
  1. Holy sh*t. It’s 1128pm. Sleep! Work harder on number two.
  1. I need to meditate. Everyday. Sometimes it looks very similar to sleeping.
  1. Piling all your hair on top of your head doesn’t make you taller. It gives you a headache. Now at peace with stumpiness.
  1. I’ve tried to go vego four times. Four epic failures. Accept you have crazy low iron levels. Now eat consciously obtained meat instead.

This was our view at lunch. Tucked away at the top of the mountain. Hidden away from the world.

Two weeks ago on a beautiful Sunday. Our first day retreat.

Everyone does relaxation their own way. Some people need to prepare for it, to have certain needs met before it comes.  Almost like a visitor you’re expecting to arrive at any moment. Others slip into it with only the slightest of nudges.

We had a writer stay on for a few days to take advantage of the creative flow that the retreat ignited.

There was a couple who came the day before, spent the afternoon in the day spa together. They had a romantic Saturday night which then flowed into our Sunday retreat.

Two lots of best friends who never get time to catch up. Unless you call soccer runs, kids parties and playdates “quality” time. One of them may have told her family it was a two day retreat, just to escape a little longer and a little deeper. (No judgement, we’ve all done it).

There were two sisters who did all of the above and added an enormous amount of chocolate.

There were some other smarties who told their bosses they wouldn’t be starting until lunchtime on Monday so they could stay overnight on the mountain and linger in the after retreat bliss.

Someone else got their partner to pick them up, but not before staying for dinner, just the two of them, overlooking the world before getting involved with it again.

The retreat was about rituals. Morning and evening rituals. Two things we all have. Then two words we all crave, empowerment and contentment.

We practiced. We flipped perspectives. We dug around a little. We meditated. We laughed. We laid on the grass. We ate spectacular food.

Next retreat Sunday 23 April, “Living your Layers”.

The lodge was perfect. The day spa was divine! What we did on Sunday was exactly what Sundays were designed for, to be inspirational, to be full of space, to prepare for what’s to come. I can’t wait for another Sunday. (P.L)

I’ve been on retreat with Paige before and her signature move is to give people what they need, which is sometimes not always what they want. But this one! This one was what I wanted and what I needed. The venue is beautiful. It’s quiet and peaceful. I now approach mornings and evenings very differently. (Sara)

I was nervous arriving but this was the best bunch of people. Paige is such a natural. She’s just as good at putting people at ease as she is challenging them. (A.H)