So much more than time is needed

Mainstream dialogue over the past few months has tried to make us aware of something. The abundance of time we were all delivered. Albeit the gift of time was wrapped in a blanket of highly contagious germs, but it was time nonetheless.

Someone told us we should use our gift of corona wrapped time wisely. Actually a lot of people said it. The Deans of uni’s who gave us discounted courses. Medico’s trying to make home as appealing as possible. Outnumbered cops.

It also seemed like a fine time for self-development.

In your time starved pre-corona life you might have been restricted to yoga only once a week, maybe twice if you played your cards right.

But since time started showing up in droves, we can do yoga as one hashtag puts it #everydamnday.

Whilst the theory is sound, in reality it’s all BS.

In reality so much more than time is required.

The obvious requirement is motivation. It’s either internally or externally grown. The ideal storehouse is internal so external ripples don’t influence your goals and plans. All rain does is change the location of your run. An unreliable training partner delivers a solo session with music instead of talking.

I was in the Navy with someone who asked me repeatedly to run behind and yell at her to keep running. Whilst I found it absurd and the best way to ruin a peaceful run in the park, she knew her enemy.

Based on the conversations I’ve had with people over the last 12 years and especially the last three months, motivation doesn’t feel like the entire answer.

A fear of not doing the postures right. An expectation that it can’t possibly be as good as in a studio with a teacher. The restraint of time – I don’t have an hour and yoga is always an hour.

Just like my friend, knowing your enemy is powerful.

Some of the following words are yours, some are mine. They are snippets of conversations I’ve had over the past few months that seem to highlight these categories of enemies.

“If you move with awareness, you actually have to go out of your way to hurt yourself.”

“The worst case scenario in doing the postures a little bit right and a little bit wrong is the net value ends up neutral so physically you’re where you began. However what you’ve increased is internal motivation, habit and self-sufficiency.”

“15 minutes of yoga a day is more beneficial than one hour a week.”

“I now realise the value in curiosity.”

“I’ve heard a particular instruction for the past seven years but it wasn’t until I was in my house, doing it by myself that I got it.”

“I forget stuff that is said to me all the time but I don’t think I’ll ever forget the realisations I’ve come to on my own. These realisations I feel rather than think.”

There’s also another big player in the enemy game. It’s been at the heart of many conversations.

Who’s responsible?

I find the answer to this baffling, interesting, infuriating and provoking.

As humans we crave independence. It’s liberating. But of all the independence we seek, wellness doesn’t seem to be one.

We routinely hand ourselves over to doctors. We follow chains of referrals without asking questions. We pop whatever pills. We follow apps and trainers and years later still have no idea about our biology.

I couldn’t wait to be self-sufficient in yoga. I viewed it as a mark of independence. The interesting thing was that entering into self-sufficiency didn’t result in my never attending a class, enrolling in a course or interacting with a teacher. I did all those things. I did it with purpose though. I actively sought out information in areas I wasn’t yet self-sufficient in.

So who is responsible?

When you view responsibility through one lens it can look a lot like hard work. When you view it through another, it looks a lot like freedom.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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. 

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)

Two things I've learnt from drug addicts

Addiction. I’ve been mentored by people who’ve worked with addicts. I’ve worked with addicts directly. I find addiction to be the most fascinating topic. It’s taught me two important things. About rehab.

For rehab to be successful and sustainable, to be their forever story, two things need to happen.

The person needs to acquire strength. Then that strength needs to be tested, almost to the point of breaking. Almost but not quite.

1. Acquire strength.
12 step programs. Isolation. Withdrawal. Letting go of bad influences. Checking into a clinic. Staying in a clinic. Finding a shrink. Talking to a shrink. Every day. Every week.

2. Test strength.
Abstinence. Not abstinence in a rehab centre. Not abstinence because you can’t afford it but abstaining while staring at it. Being able to smell it, hear it, see it and still make a strong choice. Challenge your urge and still fall back on your strength.

Substitute drug rehab for injury rehab.

1. Acquire strength.
Isolate muscles. Build strength. Do repetitions. Create webs of strength throughout the body. Increase knowledge of injury. Understand it. Visualise it. Be clear on how it happened.

2. Test strength.
Also known as flexibility. Presents as an unfamiliar environment. Elongate the muscle and see if it can hold the same weight. See if you can breathe while elongating. Your strength will be tested when you go back to work and bend down to pick up the same box that caused the injury. Will work deadlines cause your strength to waiver, as you fling the box up, bypassing the newly acquired strength in your thighs? Testing your strength shows your limits. It validates step one.

People tend to do one step or the other. Very rarely both. However both are required for success to be your forever story. There is no injury, ailment or disease that won’t benefit from acquiring strength and then testing it with flexibility. Here’s a yoga example.

1. Plank pose, either practiced on elbows or hands. Hold plank. Do reps. Stay. Then stay longer. Then longer again. Notice how you progressively feel less strained and more comfortable.

2. Test plank by adding flexibility. Move between plank and downward dog. Create a little sequence between the two postures. Does your plank hold it’s form, shape and comfort? Can you breathe in the sequence?

Arthritis. Swollen, inflamed joints. Limited movement. No cushioning, no softness, bone against bone. Most sufferers only focus on step 2, flexibility, given the condition depletes so much range of movement. They miss the part where they build strength in the surrounding muscles. Create webs of integrity and stability so the damaged joints have a support system.

Low self-esteem. Requires you to strengthen yourself with good company, positive and motivating friends. An uplifting workplace and taking regular holidays to inspirational locations.

Does the positive self-talk continue on a lonely Saturday night, bored at home in your pjs? There’s the test.

Seek to understand the purpose of rehab. Purpose is power.

The story of the swearing class

Yoga and swearing don’t seem to go together. Certainly not like peas and carrots. But there’s a weirdly wonderful marriage between the two that not only works but is necessary.

This class is designed around comfort or rather a complete lack of.

Now don’t confuse discomfort with pain. I’ve never had anyone lose a limb, break a bone or vomit. And nobody has ever walked out. Never. Not in three years of teaching this class. Rest easy in this knowledge.

But something happens that only discomfort seems to invoke. Over the course of two hours you’re shown the answer to the question…

What do you do when you're uncomfortable?

As adults we don’t hang out with discomfort often. We choose pleasure, we gravitate toward exercise we prefer, we eat what we like, we go to sleep when we like. We choose what we want.

It’s rare we’re in a situation that’s entirely uncomfortable. Absurdly uncomfortable. So when discomfort does come knocking, we abort, we exit stage left, we run for the hills. Hardly resilient.

The class came to fruition because I met a swearing yoga teacher years ago. He dropped some seeds that I collected and played with and then eventually weaved together with my experience in the military.

Now if you’ve never gone to sea, let me describe it for you. Similar to being trapped in a floating esky with 40 people you can’t stand while eating shitty food. For months at a time. It’s not all terrible though, the days highlight is your allocated 30 minutes on a treadmill. A treadmill that requires you to hold onto the ceiling while riding in the event of rough sea.

Escape wasn’t an option, given I’m not a strong swimmer so there was no choice but to survive discomfort. But just surviving is setting the bar fairly low.

When I talk about this class I often refer to the sweet spot in the class.

It’s always between an hour and 20 minutes and an hour and 25 minutes. I’m still trying to work out the science behind the time (will keep you posted when I work it out) but something magical happens.

Insert the wise old guy Shakespeare, “Nothing is good or bad – the mind makes it so”. He describes the sweet spot perfectly. The discomfort doesn’t stop, in fact we keep building to a quite uncomfortable climax.

But our relationship with discomfort changes.

Plus…you’ll develop an entirely new relationship with your hips.