I don't sleep much

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In an ideal setting it plays out like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

I did an experiment...no yoga

I recently realised the effects of doing almost 30 hours of yoga a week. Something dawned on me that I may have forgotten. With my crazy teaching schedule plus personal practice, my expectations of what people can do sometimes exceeds their reality.

My solution, albeit a little extreme, was to cut back on my mat time during a recent month long holiday. Cut back to what many people would do, one class a week. My intention was to emulate a more ‘typical’ body and mind and just see what happened.

Week 1.

I happily lapped up my first 40 minutes of yoga then firmed my resolve to not practice yoga again for the rest of the week. After two days of no yoga I felt achy, my back felt ‘sticky’ and I had a crappy night sleep. Stay strong – no more yoga for the week.

Then something happened I wasn’t prepared for. After five or six days, I noticed a mental shift. Lazy crept in, lethargy took hold, inner calm started to waver.

Week 2.

Another surprise. As I was still operating in lazy, lethargic mode, I had to almost force myself to do yoga this week. Now here is the crazy part, I went for a 20 minute run AND I DIDN’T STRETCH AFTERWARD. If I was going to do this experiment I was going to do it properly and I know so many people run, don’t stretch and do yoga once a week. My knee now hurts, really hurts. I had to buy a knee brace-thingy.

Week 3.

I did my hour of yoga this week and felt amazing. The rhythmic sound of my breathing was calming and reassuring. I had to modify a lot of postures on account of my knee but it felt good to be on my old faithful mat. I struggled to sit cross-legged, again on account of knee so my meditation practice felt a little interrupted.

Week 4.

Knee getting worse and starting to become concerned with studio opening soon and unable to sit comfortably cross-legged. Perhaps my quest for wisdom was misguided. Since 1st December I have done one class of yoga a week and run for 20 minutes. Crazy hey?

What made these four weeks so valuable to my teaching ability were the observations and reflections on how most people live. My body became like a beginners and my mind fragmented and unfocussed.

After a week of teaching, I am right back to where I was. My approach to life has once again became calm, my creativity has exploded, my quality of sleep is refreshing and revitalising.

Knee brace-thingy gone.

“Do not suppress it – that would hurt you inside. Do not express it – that would not only hurt you inside but cause ripples in your surroundings. What you do is transform it” (Peace Pilgrim)

Yoga for me transforms anger, impatience, ungratefulness, fear, stagnation and injury into something positive I can use to evolve.

Observations and reflections…

  • Most people have very low expectations for wellness and how good their body could feel.
  • Amidst the craziness of daily life, we all have a calm and peaceful centre. We just pay more attention to the crazy than the calm.
  • It doesn’t take long to lose it but it doesn’t take long to get it back.
  • Our bodies are designed to move.  Movement equals freedom.
  • Inner peace requires some stillness and inward awareness everyday.
  • Improvement doesn’t require a big hit of massive effort. It requires consistant and committed effort. Everyday.
  • Yoga makes a huge difference. Simple.