Find UR flow
Occasionally some yoga participants can experience a bubbling up of emotions during or after their practice, as tears flow or frustration rises related to things entirely outside of their practice. More often, yogis will leave practice feeling uplifted, lighter and even invigorated. Personally, I find yoga to be my ‘reset’ button, it allows me to let things go and gives me a clear slate to start afresh.
Although experiencing negative emotions may at first appear to be an unwanted outcome, it is something quite different, that may lead to a deeper understanding of ourselves, a more conscious awareness and ultimately healing physically, emotionally and/or mentally.
Yoga classes are commonly known as non-judgemental, supportive community environments where people can come to practice with like-minded others and feel a part of something bigger than themselves, without having the pressure or anxiety experienced in other public settings where conversations or social anxiety may be triggered. This in itself can be of significant importance as the deep primal need to connect with other people is met.
During yoga practice breath work (pranayama) and concentration inward helps us to become more calm and relaxed diverting attention away from the stresses and endless busyness of everyday life. With our superficial mind focused on maintaining postures, the deeper mind is able to look towards addressing the issues you have pushed aside and below the surface such as stress, anger or suffering.
Joan Shivarpita Harrigan Ph.D and Psychologist says “anytime you are working with the body you are also working with the mind and the energy system – which is the bridge between the mind and the body… the holistic system of yoga was designed so that these emotional breakthroughs can occur safely.” These breakthroughs can be seen as personal progress on the road to personal and spiritual growth.
I have experienced this both personally during my own practice and also as a teacher witnessing students. Personally, I credit yoga and meditation along with breathing techniques to helping me immensely during life threatening health crises including a stroke and cancer, before and after surgeries and also in my day to day life to relax me and ease pain. Following surgery earlier this year the Anaesthetist (who had worked with me during an operation a few months earlier) replied to the nurse who was puzzled that I hadn’t required pain relief said “she’s a yogi and meditator, I remember her from last time, she doesn’t need it, she is so calm I can even tell during the operations and in her recovery, I wish everyone did it!”.
As a teacher I recall vividly one such incidence where a student had become completely overwhelmed with emotion towards the end of the class. As I sat and comforted her throughout the remainder of the session she felt safe enough to open up (once other participants had left) about a childhood trauma she had never shared with anyone in her 50 plus years. In that moment she felt ready to finally acknowledge, address and get professional support and felt empowered to do so that very day. When I saw her next she had sincere gratitude to have finally been able to take steps to work through the events of her past to find peace and healing.
As we work through our yoga practice our mind and body connection is strengthened and parts of ourselves that we never consciously think about or notice are awakened. For centuries in some cultures, it has been believed that our minds, bodies and soul are intrinsically connected and when we work on one aspect the others are ultimately affected. From a holistic view point it is also understood that every experience, from joyful to traumatic, will be held within our bodies. It is commonly accepted that we hold tension in our bodies from a physical or stressful day at work for example. In more traumatic cases as we experience something our bodies go into protective and defensive mode, shutting parts down or tensing. These processes can remain active long after the event, sometimes years, and can be pushed deep down out of our conscious awareness. Over recent years more scientific evidence of mental and emotional conditions affecting the body physically and the mind-body connection are proving to be very real.
During our physical practice these feelings can be touched upon and released when stretching and opening the hips or offering open the more vulnerable front sides of our bodies (our heart and internal organs) when practicing back bends. If you do find you experience an emotional release it is recommended that you aim to use the breath to calm you and relax into the pose or come into another supportive or relaxing pose comfortable to you until you feel ready to resume. You may like to repeat a mantra, something like “I am safe, all is well” over and over to yourself. Signalling your teacher who can offer quiet support is always available to you too.
With this stretching and releasing of our muscles, joints, organs and tissues we can utilise the calming benefits of yogic breathing techniques to aid the release of emotions, erroneous self-beliefs along with deep fears and sadness. For some this new awareness may require further exploration outside of their practice and even require some assistance or support by trusted friends, family or professionals.
I would encourage anyone to see this as a gift, as they begin the process of healing. Although it may be challenging at times, I’d urge them to be gentle with themselves as they work through it, with forgiveness, love and kindness. Trust in the process, access additional support if needed, it will lead to a genuine healing on all levels and bring you deep satisfaction and relief. This is not something that you want to force or even to seek when you come to your mat, it is something that may or may not eventuate, with change and personal growth happening only as a natural process.
Not all emotions that are experienced on the mat are what we often look at as being negative (frustration, dread, despair, sadness), they are more often positive with feelings of invigoration, elation, joy and peacefulness; a lightness to both mind and body. There is also the overcoming of fear and the emotional delight as we build confidence when our yoga practice develops and progresses.
Ultimately see your practice as a journey, there is no end destination, it is a process of constant change, growth and personal development for your mind, body and spirit and it truly is a gift.
Yoga classes can compliment your current gym and weight training workouts – think bringing more stability both physically and mentally i.e. Yin (calming, releasing, introspective) to your Yang (power, striving, external). Each class will be unique yet have a common thread created to enhance and bring more balance to participant’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Yoga is not a religion and it has no end goal, it is an ongoing PRACTICE, a way of BEING and accepting yourself and your body as you are in each moment.
Be ready to experience improvements in flexibility, strength, balance, posture, stamina, emotional wellness and so much more! Importantly, yoga encourages a sense of community, enjoyment and connection as we each learn and grow through the gifts and wisdom of yoga.
Each of my 1 hour classes consists of:
Pranayama – breathing techniques to ‘tune’ into the body, quietening the mind and allowing focus and awareness to turn inward. Pranayama helps purify the blood and respiratory system whilst enriching the blood with oxygen enhancing all aspects of life. Improvements to respiration will of course improve all your other gym workouts.
Asanas (postures) - classes vary between gentle to more powerful flows with classic yoga asana (postures) from Hatha Yoga. There is a focus on correct alignment and may utilise props such as blocks, straps and bolsters to provide students extra support and the ability to delve deeper. Asanas are linked with the breath providing a positive biological effect on our mental, emotional and physical state. Each week there will be a different focus, however the whole body will be awakened and supported.
Weekly theme or yogic philosophy will be threaded within the class to provide uplifting principles and practices for a happier more fulfilled life.
Savasana Relaxation – 5-8 minutes at the end of each class is devoted to find stillness, to calm the mind and body facilitating deep rest, rejuvenation and inner peace much needed in today’s busy overstimulated world.
Improved Flexibility & Mobility – This is important as a lack of flexibility leads to dysfunctional postures and irregular movement patterns in daily life and during exercise which can lead to injury such as knee & shoulder problems, back pain, tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.
Reduced Pain – joint pain, cramping and muscle soreness can be reduced and sometimes even eliminated as your body is retrained to express itself in a wide range of motion with more natural movement patterns as the body reduces tightness and tension. The cause of pain can be the result of both unbalanced physical and emotional patterns held within the body. When our bodies are more limber and open they simply function better.
Improved Circulation – Yoga can improve your vascular system as every movement or constriction thereof affects the vast and tiny capillaries throughout our body. Nerves can also be blocked by shortened and tight tissues impairing the free-flow of energy throughout the body. Yoga can unblock tightness, impaired circulation and naturally improve whole body functioning and energy transfer.
Endurance – Lifting weights will activate your fast-twitch fibres for power and speed, whereas yoga will compliment this as we perform movements slowly and holding poses to activate slow-twitch muscle fibres for endurance.
Mind and Body Connection – Yoga can improve the level of connection and communication between your brain and your body, aiding more fluid body movements, better reflexes, faster responsiveness as well as listening to those messages your body is telling you before it has to yell i.e. injury, illness.
Improved Sleep – Breathing techniques, reduced muscle cramping, poor posture, decreased pain are just some of the ways yoga can help you get a better night’s sleep meaning you can function better during your everyday life and your workouts. Oh, and I guess there’s no need to go into details about how improved flexibility can help in the bedroom in other ways :)
In yoga you’ll often here phrases like ‘ground down through your feet’; ‘press into the four corners of your feet’ etc. These instructions are to create a solid foundation for ideal alignment, balance and integrity in the pose. When we build our postures from the ground up we are working with the biomechanics of the feet. Did you know, however, that the foot is also an important neuromuscular structure?
The skin on the bottom of our feet has many unique design factors and is our main skin to earth connection. Our feet are packed with nerve endings that are sensitive to texture, skin stretch (adapting to different surfaces) and vibration with 70% of nerves on the bottom of the feet sensitive to vibration. NB impact forces or ground reaction forces are perceived by your nervous system as vibration. If we can’t sense vibration (because we are wearing cushioned shoes that inhibit and insulate our feet from sensing this vibration) the body is unable to receive the messages to effectively and safely alter our movement patterns, posture, balance, nor adjust your movement patterns for efficiency. This has the potential to negatively impact our bodies from the feet upwards affecting our knees, hips, backs and our centre of gravity often resulting in stress to our joints, pain and inflamation.
Here are two exercises you can do at home to ‘reset’ the feet and effectively open the neural pathways between the soles of your feet and your core to total body conditioning and support.
FOOT RELEASE - SENSORY CONDITIONING
Using a golf ball placed under the sole of your foot, roll it back and forth and side to side to stimulate all parts of the foot. Do this each day for 5 minutes morning and night to reset our feet to their natural state and stimulate sensory conditioning.
FOOT TO CORE SEQUENCING
Standing in bare feet, one foot at a time (you can hold onto a chair or other support for balance as needed):
1. With toes pointing straight ahead, centre of knee in line with your middle three toes, softly bend the right knee slightly so that it is not locked. Take your weight onto the right foot evenly distributing the weight between the four ‘corners’ of your feet i.e. press down into the big toe and little toe balls (first and fifth metatarsals) of the feet and both sides of the heel evenly.
2. lift all of your toes, spread them as wide as you can then press the pads of each of your toes into the ground. This activates the Abductor Hallucius muscle on the sole of the foot. Relax the toes.
3. Press the pads of the toes into the floor noticing activation of the Abductor Hallucius in the sole of the foot. Notice the reciprocal affect this has all way up the inner thighs, glutes (buttock) and abdominal (core) muscles as you dig your toes in! Repeat 5 times.
4. Change feet and repeat steps 1-3.
Optional progression to add a single leg squat.
5. Follow steps 1 above then move into a squat position bending the knee a little deeper.
6. At the bottom of the squat press the pads of your toes into the ground. All the muscles then ‘switch on’ right up to your core.
7. Relax your toes and push back up to standing.
8. Repeat 5 times then change feet/leg.
* This advice is not meant to replace medical advice specific to your own foot/body's needs and never do anything that causes you discomfort or pain.
I remember a month or so before I had a stroke thinking to myself “I wish I could just lay in bed and not have to be anywhere, do anything, think about anything or worry about anyone else.” I was exhausted, overwhelmed and totally anxious in my day to day life.
I was questioning whether at my age if this was all life was about, how I thought I’d have everything all sorted by now and frankly the reality was I was still dealing with a lot of the same old shit (challenges, triggers, blocks) I had been for most of my adult life.
My big 50th birthday (midlife!) was only a few short years away and that only compounded the issues in my mind. I’d lost some pretty special people in my life to the dreaded “C” and life still confused me – what is life all about, why am I here, who am I really, what is the point in all this? So much for wisdom coming with age!
Well, be careful what you wish for! I found myself in exactly that situation but not as I had envisioned it, instead I was in hospital where I would spend my 45th birthday and many weeks after. Almost 2 years since the fateful day of my stroke and I’ve certainly come a long way. I am known to refer to this major health crisis as my ‘stroke of luck’. In hindsight, I now see how the healthy life I thought I was living was clearly not so healthy at all. I’ve certainly done a LOT of inner reflection and sought the wisdom and experience from a wide range of friends, mentors and teachers. What I’ve learnt has transformed my life in every possible way, I’m a completely new version of me that has inner peace, happiness and true health.
So why am I telling you all this, and why would you care? Well, I don’t think I’m alone in this, most of the things I was doing that I believed were healthy and my ‘normal’ were in fact the exact opposite of healthy yet it is exactly what I see most of my friends doing and most of the 35-50+ year old women I come across. All our attention is outward, we expend all our energy meeting the demands and needs of everyone around us from family to work life, we rank ourselves last and have lost the true essence of who we truly are. We’re tired, stressed, frustrated and physically, emotionally and mentally drained. We’ve lost the “i’ in life and seem stuck on this treadmill of blah, blah, blah!
I’m no spiritual guru nor wisdom warrior but I’ve listened to, read, trained and been mentored by some people who are. What I’ve gleaned I need to share, I have a strong desire to pass this stuff on, to help women just like me get out of their personal ‘ground hog day’, get back to enjoying life, to find true health, happiness and fulfilment. To truly discover how to care for themselves, to discover self-love from the inside out and outside in.
So, if any of this is sounding like you, please take some time to reflect on how you are living your life, could you be a few moments away from a major health or life crisis too? Come learn from my mistakes and take a short break with long term benefits to start living a life full of fun, love, oneness and wellbeing or what I like to call F.L.O.W.
Give yourself this gift, join me and a small intimate group of like-minded women just like you, here in the tranquillity of world-renowned Noosa Heads on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland where nature nurtures, friendships are formed and fun is had.
The day my greatest fear became my greatest gift.
For as far back as I can remember there has always been an element of fear in my life. Despite growing up in a very loving and caring family with many close family friends and relatives bestowing these gifts on me too. There has always been an element of trying to be the ‘good girl’ and an underlying fear of failure if I didn’t live up to the expectations set by others and society. My father’s parents died from cancer when I was in my early twenties, my uncle died suddenly when he was in his forties and an element of uncertainty and distrust of the body, the precarious nature of our health and life generally was depicted all around.
A few years ago when my dad was diagnosed and subsequently died of cancer I was triggered by such strong emotions a fear was ignited in me to a level that was almost unbearable. I began to hate life and was struggling to understand it. I was asking myself some big questions – What’s it all for? Why must there be pain and suffering? Is there a purpose to it all? What is life really about? I didn’t have the answers and I didn’t know where to find them but I was willing to start an exploration, something had to change.
What followed was a chance webinar and an opportunity to explore some new concepts, ideals and deep personal reflection. What I didn’t know at the time was that I was actually training for the biggest challenge of my life that was only a few months away.
The 2nd May 2015, three days prior to my 45th birthday started typically like any other. I woke, relaxed/meditated, exercised, ate breakfast, did some laundry and got my children organised before heading to work. However, the events of this day, although beginning very mundanely, would become the biggest life lessons thus far.
Whilst standing at work I very abruptly, yet unobtrusively, found myself in darkness as my eyesight slipped away. There was no pain, no headache, no warnings. I then noticed my right arm had gone limp and I was no longer able to stand so I slid myself down onto the floor. I was very fit, healthy and relatively young and despite having no precursors to such a condition, I somehow knew I was having a stroke.
An ambulance was called as was my husband who happened to be in the area. I was communicating and able to get to the stretcher with aid at that stage. It was a much different story when my husband was to see me an hour later in the hospital. The last thing I remember of that ambulance ride was the ambulance officer saying “she’s deteriorating..” before waking at the hospital to my husband’s voice full of fear searching for answers from the medical team about my lost eyesight, drooping face and slurred speech.
Reflecting now I recognise it was at that point I connected with something more than myself, my gut instinct perhaps, something beyond me and I just knew I was going to be alright. It’s difficult to explain and yet it was so real, so strong in me. From that moment forward I knew I had to show my husband and all my loved ones that was the case, despite numerous tests verifying I had indeed had a major stroke.
Herein lies the first signs of my transformation, instead of my usual fright response I was acting from trust in both my own body’s ability to heal and in life itself. What was to come was weeks in hospital and months of rehabilitation but unlike my pre-stroke self my default wasn’t to act from fear and it wasn’t to play the victim. I began relaxing and meditating at every opportunity. The more I did the better I felt, physically, emotionally and mentally. A complete trust and belief grew in me that everything was as it was meant to be. The training I had started months early I now needed to put fully into practice and it was to be my saviour.
It became apparent to me that I needed to nurture that belief in my loved ones too, not just for them but for me. Their reactions were like holding a mirror to me and I wanted that reflection to be a positive one. It occurred to me that I was in the spotlight so I wanted only to shine!
Although I wouldn’t say it was a fully conscious decision at the time, I sought to turn every fearful, alarmed and despairing face that entered my hospital room around. I wanted my visitors to be transformed so that when they left they were feeling not just relief and comfort but inspired.
I had a strong desire for them to have an appreciation for their own lives, their own health, for life itself like I now did. I wanted them to find joy in the ordinary, in the everyday. I wanted them to slow down, to really see the magic all around. But mostly I wanted them to love and to care for themselves, one another and for life.
I saw how my attitude, my actions, my energy was so influential to others, as I lifted them, they lifted me. We were echoing each other. It was all part of my healing. If all who came into my room left feeling I was ok, that added more hope, more belief and energy to that idea.
I resolved to try to uplift anyone whom I came into contact with. Anyone from fellow patients, Cleaners, Catering Staff, Doctors and Nurses. I offered genuine compliments here, gratitude there, I showed others I noticed them, their work, their care. I took the focus from me and focused it outward and it was healing for us all.
With my outward focus I began to notice the demeanours, comments and challenges faced by many of the other patients. They displayed so much fear, pain and anguish not unlike a version of me from not so long ago. As I reflected on this I became aware of just how far I had come since starting my inner journey and exploration of life’s big questions some months before, it was really evident now. Notably, I knew had I not taken the steps to understand myself better I would have been reacting in exactly the same way – from fear.
This realisation was the catalyst for a strong desire in me to help. Despite being aware the other patients were receiving expert medical care and I certainly didn’t have a magic bullet, I did have something that was working for me and I wanted to share it. I'd learned, practiced and consistently succeeded in getting myself out of such states through relaxation and meditation.
I made enquiries with hospital staff if there was an opportunity for me to share this knowledge with the other patients in a voluntary capacity and so began the next level of my healing. As the positive feedback came from patients and hospital staff alike the idea of building this into something more developed. It felt right and I wanted more.
The effects of the stroke had slowed me down significantly but instead of this having a detrimental impact on my life I discovered quite the opposite. I was now noticing the ‘breadcrumbs’ of life, all the simple everyday little things, showing me the way. What was even better was I was now willing to follow them.
My life vision had gone from having a lens of fear, to being visually impaired to now having crystal clarity. My eyes were now wide open to see the synchronicities that appeared and without hesitation I began to act on them. One thing led to another and a new business was conceived. This business has an ever evolving framework with many different facets but at its core has been my desire to share healing, connection and love.
I’d discovered that when I improved my relationship with myself to be more caring, my relationship with others improved. When I became more loving toward myself I experienced more love. What I thought before to be loving and caring to my body I’ve realised was actually pushing, punishing and trying to conform with ideals set by others. I wasn’t listening to my body, I was listening to everyone else. I know now the most important relationship is with myself and I wasn’t giving that relationship any value, time or authority.
I’m also beginning to see life as benign, it’s neither good nor bad, it just is. All that happens is here to assist us even when we can’t see it or understand it. It is often upon reflection, maybe years down the track, that the challenges are revealed as invaluable lessons. I’ve learnt that letting go of my need to know and control, of my perception of how life should be and simply allowing and accepting offers such freedom. I still don’t have all the answers but I’m ok with that. The exploration is ongoing and I’m enjoying the adventure.
My stroke of luck has taught me so much about myself, about life and about love. I hope by sharing my experience I instil in others a desire to discover self-care, self-love and to experience the true joys and love of life and to start their own exploration.
Recently I have been taking part in a course called GamechangersGo with the fundamental objective to make better decisions. One of the assignments was to develop a guide or outline that I could use when making decisions. This is what I came up with. Let me know your thoughts and any guidelines you use when making wise decisions.
A Guide - How to make wise decisions
We're brand new & a work in progress! Come back soon and we're sure to have some fun and valuable insights for you...
What an honour it was tonight to hold a class for some truly inspirational women. My class consisted of women aged 45 to 91 years old! One of these ladies came despite being in the midst of chemotherapy treatment.
Such a wonderful group as diverse as their lives, their bodies, their challenges and their dreams. Coming together and connecting with one another in a supportive and empowering class epitomises what I'm trying to create.
A time for each participant to allow themselves to attend and receive the gifts of kindness, caring, nurturing, compassion, fun and friendship. Namaste _/\_