Smile, seriously, let the corners of your mouth rise because this is a beautiful thing.
A yoga practice that invokes any emotion is an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, to go deeper. Whether it be joy, sadness, anger on anything between that we experience on the mat, relish these moments.
I haven't held a sustained period of being pissed off, angry and judgmental in a yoga class for a really long time, by no means is this because yoga has made me impermeable to it, I just haven't had the opportunity to be really pushed and challenged physically in class for a little while.
Today I attended a Power Yoga class that really pushed my buttons. It's a class that is well known to be strong and challenging, I'd never been before so was looking forward to getting in there and experiencing it for myself.
I made the rookie error of having a coffee before practice, while this has been a previous ritual for me here in Bali, clearly it doesn't work for me anymore! Even a few hours afterwards I was still feeling the affects. I arrived nice and early, looking forward to some time to ground myself and meditate. I soon found this just wasn't going to happen, the energy in the room was erratic (we'd call it ragistic in yoga), dance music was playing and people were jumping around like jacks in boxes, perhaps they'd all had a coffee too!
I'd already been triggered, all the activity and noise around me was disturbing my planned peace.
The class began in Tadasana (mountain pose) followed by a few rounds of slow Sun Salutation A, a few rounds of slow Sun Salutation B, a forward fold and them bam....we were in it - my mind hit flip out mode!
Next up Bakasana (crane pose) -> Jump Back Vinyasa -> Jump though Navasana (boat pose) -> Jump Back Vinyasa -> Pincha Mayurasana (forearm balance) -> Vinyasa and repeat like 5 times!!!
Immediately my mind started freaking out, 'what's going on here', 'I'm not even warmed or opened up', 'can this really be happening, 'we haven't even spoken about a rest option'?
This was at the superficial level of my mind, what was really going on was much deeper. I was struggling.
Pincha Mayurasana has always been a pose I found challenging in the middle of a room in a class, it's not lack of ability/strength, it's lack of confidence/trust. I've practiced it a lot recently and started to get pretty comfortable but not in this seemingly crazy rushed way of practicing. I was frustrated, disappointed that it wasn't working for me today, so what happened next, human nature took hold, I was looking somewhere outside of myself to lay blame.
In a yoga class this is often silently directed towards the teacher (that's where my mind went today). In reality it's always our own stuff that's coming up when we feel provoked, whether it be on the mat or not. These feelings/emotions never have anything to do with anybody else, it's only our perception of what's taking place that causes the angst or stress, we can always choose to not associate with the negativity and choose a different emotion (although this takes a lot of work and awareness)!.
I like to think of our yoga mats as nothing but a large mirror that reflects back to us whatever is going on inside, this is why yoga has such a profound ability to initiate deep change, it shows us our patterns and behaviours and offers a safe environment to start making conscious changes.
The class went on to include more Pincha Mayurasana than I've ever experienced before. I think it took around 7 unsuccessful attempts for me to re-direct the craziness of my mind away from the teacher and back towards myself. It was at this point that I came to a more objective place, approaching with a little more self love and recognising that yes it probably was not working because I've been doing 3+ hours of yoga a day for the last 5 days, this was perhaps my bodies way of telling me that it's a little tired. I was also seeing that getting frustrated and continually trying to get into it was counter productive and wasn't getting me anywhere.
Further challenges kept coming and the class just felt like one big rollercoaster, moving from anger, to fun, to challenge and everything in between. I won't even go into where my mind went when we held hanumanasana (the full splits) for a seriously long time, it's one of my least favourite poses! The teacher did say the way to break through in that pose is to literally break down, I think that's the angle we were headed towards today.
While I spent a lot of the class in emotions of being frustrated, angry, tired and pissed off it's probably one of the best classes I've taken in a while! I loved the opportunity to again experience where my mind goes in times of stress, to learn a little bit more about myself. It was also really nice to reflect and see how yoga has given me the tools to let that shit go, by the time we got to savasana I was back in the yoga bliss bubble, grateful for the experience.
Not so long ago I recall having those negative emotions on a repeat loop, often they would extend for days and days at a time. I was seemingly incapable of letting stuff go, there were literally some emotions that I carried with me for years!
Perhaps for me the greatest gift of yoga has been the enhanced awareness, the ability to objectively look at the crazy stuff that goes on my head, and let the shit go that no longer serves me. It's also allowed me to be more discerning with what is, and isn't real.
I invite the challenge, those classes that invoke emotion, the ones that make me feel raw, vulnerable, pissed off, inadequate - these are the classes where the real magic happens. As the saying goes "if it doesn't challenge you it doesn't change you".
So what are you waiting for, find something that challenges you, go into the depth of your discomfort, allow yourself to be pissed off in class, to feel the emotion. Don't worry the teacher won't care if you are shooting daggers in their direction or quietly cursing them beneath your breath, they will be smiling on the inside because they know this work is where some of the greatest benefits of the practice can be found.
While here in Mysore I’m doing two yoga classes a day. The morning practice is at least 2hrs of Mysore style Ashtanga. This is a strong practice that follows a set sequence that is very much the same day in, day out. It’s done independently with everyone in the room moving in time with their own breath. The only thing that changes each day is how I approach it.
In the afternoon I attend a flexibility and back bending class. This is 1hr 45mins and also follows a set sequence for a while; then individual postures are given. This is a class I felt really drawn to, it’s an area I know I have lots of potential for growth. In each class I’m taken to my physical limit, to that point of discomfort where you don’t know how much more you can take.
Every time I step onto the mat here I’m confronted with the same challenges, the poses where I feel seemingly stuck. There is no escaping these postures, they are there waiting for me each and every class but I have a choice – to truly work on them, or to avoid it just brushing over the surface.
I came here to work, to break though some of those physical and mental blocks so most days, unless I’m flat out exhausted, I do the work.
It’s the same things I face repeatedly – lack of confidence, doubt and trust.
What translates on the mat reflects in life #truth
As I began really contemplating this today I started to see the link to injuries and relationships – yes yoga links to pretty much everything if you think deeply enough on it.
I had lots of confidence in my wrists; I was fearless throwing my weight into them however I pleased… until I hurt them. Similarly, I was totally open to love, fearless, until I got hurt a couple of times…
Then after hurt comes fear, what if I get hurt again?
Through my practice I’ve come to see lots of irrational fear and protection over my wrist, things I’ve been avoiding in case I hurt it again. All this does is further solidify the fear, causing stagnation and a slowing of growth into full potential. Has this pattern of hurt followed by fear translated into my life off the mat…to relationships…even if only unconsciously? While it’s hard to admit, I think the answer would have to be a yes.
So how to we overcome this?
My strategy has been to use my body as a vehicle and the yoga practice as a tool.
Rather than going for practices that I typically do at home, those that play to my strengths, I seek out practices that really challenge me. Each day here I put myself in a position where I have the opportunity to work on areas that I feel could be strengthened.
The arm balance transitions during the ashtanga practice teach me to again trust my wrists, to have faith that I won’t hurt them again, to adapt where required and to move mindfully. Handstands in the middle of a full room teach me to have confidence in my ability outside of my house (it’s silly but I have no trouble with this at home but really struggle when I step outside). The drop-backs (standing position to floor backbend) tackle fear for me in the most confronting way possible. For me there is nothing scarier than falling backwards in the hope that my hands find the ground and not my head!
As for the back-bending practice, well that whole practice is opening up totally new realms for me. It’s taking me places my body has never been, it’s causing lots of physical discomfort and pushing me into the space of vulnerability and openness constantly.
I’ll say it again…
What happens on the mat, translates into life.
If we repeat anything frequently enough, it becomes a new way of being.
Do I get bored doing pretty much the same practice every day?
Absolutely, but again this is something that I feel is needed in my life, I normally have so much freedom and choice. This practice is something that I commit to unconditionally for 2 months, it’s the challenge of showing up even when I don’t feel like it, when my body is aching/tired and the creative part of my yoga self feels like it’s dying.
More and more I come to see that it’s not at all about the postures, the real story and magic lies beneath the surface. It’s everything that’s taken place to make that expression of the pose possible.
I’m seeing that in many postures it’s not my body that is holding me back; it’s my mind.
As I break through these mental barriers the seemingly impossible postures just come, almost naturally.
Don’t get me wrong, physical limitations still play a hugely significant role and there are loads of postures where all the positive thinking in the world will not get me there. In this case though I continue moving in that direction completely content with non textbook looking yoga postures because I know that beneath that posture is a whole lot of work and more progress than will ever be seen by the observer.
Take this as an example; here is a picture of the physical progress of my Urdva Dhanurasana (wheel pose) over the last 3 years:
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Initially what you may notice is that my feet and hands are slowly but surely getting closer together, my back is bending more. What these picture don’t convey is what’s taken place to get me to this point. The struggles, the tears, the ‘this pose is hell on a stick’ phase, the ‘avoidance’ phase, the changes to my overall posture, the change in my physical and non-physical openness, the change in my ability to surrender, to be vulnerable. As my body opens, my mind opens, for those of you who know me well you have probably also noticed this over the last 3 years.
Yoga is so much more than a physical practice; with a little dedication there is so much to be gained.
I encourage you to step onto your mat recognising that it is a training ground, a mirror for life, bring your awareness to the mat and see what comes up!
A MISSION BEGINS....
It's fair to say that while I had no fixed plans returning back to Australia I was still on a mission, a mission to get everything sorted as quickly as possible so I could begin to settle somewhere and find some routine. I was really impatient, racing my way up the coast making plans to move all my belongings into a place I hadn't even found yet.
This pushing went on for a few weeks and it was wearing me down, I was feeling really flat and frequently overwhelmed. Looking back now I see that it was largely driven from feeling un-grounded, having nothing solid to attach to, pure fear of all the uncertainty. This was being physically reflected back to me in my yoga practice, I was scattered and was really struggling with balancing. The intense yoga practices that I was choosing (Power Flow at 30+ deg) were not making it any better, this sort of practice for me personally, fuels my intensity.
It was after taking a slower more mindful, grounding class on the coast that I started to feel at ease again and began to see things as they truly were. I was trying to force things, I hadn't surrendered to the unknown at all, I was attempting to force everything into my neat little box that I'd created in my mind.
From this point I began to open my mind to more possibility, maybe I didn't need to immediately move all my things, maybe I didn't have to live right on the beach, maybe I didn't need to rush into moving, perhaps I wouldn't even live on the Sunshine Coast.
At this point I truly began to surrender to what will be, I let go of all the fear and the need to have everything under control. I started to spend less time planning and more time doing what I love, paddling in the ocean and immersing deeper in my yoga practice. I started to see that everything is perfect exactly as it is and began to feel really deeply connected to my yoga practice, truly seeing that it is no longer separate from me or something that I just do, it's inherently within me.
The basis of your life is freedom, the purpose of your life is joy. ~ Abraham Hicks
AND THEN THE MAGIC STARTED TO RISE....
I felt lighter, deeply content and things started to fall into place in ways that I never would have dreamed were possible. You know those times where you are in a flow? everything just seems to be going your way?? you get that perfect car park in peak hour, the song you are thinking about comes on the radio, the things you need/want seemingly arrive out of nowhere with little to no effort, you manifest the purchase of avocados with your bread in the local bakery.
It's even gone as far as things that I clearly described 6+ months ago in some Law of Attraction exercises (we described our future lives and key events as if they'd already happened) have actually played out exactly how I described them! At times I've been so gob-smacked that I can't help but laugh at the synchronicity.
In reality nothing has changed, only my attitude and thought patterns. I still have no idea what I'm doing, how I will make a living, if I will settle and stay on the Sunshine Coast. At this point though I'm so blissfully happy and content with not having the answers, I feel that I don't need them. I truly believe that they will come when the time is right. Over the last month or so I've come to see forcing and pushing things doesn't make them happen any faster, in fact for me it's been counter productive.
That's not to say that we should just sit by and watch life passively happen to us, I think a higher intention/goal is critical. I think Sadhguru put it perfectly when he said:
"Whether it is love, or flowers in your garden, or success in your life, or enlightenment, unless you create the necessary conditions, it will not happen. Whatever we do, it is not to make the flower, but only to create the conditions, so that flowers will happen".
This was the whole premise behind my move to QLD, to create conditions that I felt would facilitate my greater vision of a blissful life. It's taken a few mental shifts along the way, but without a doubt the flowers are starting to bloom.
It's said that when your energy, thoughts, and emotions are aligned with the flow of the universe, it begins to work in your favour. What if the purpose of our life truly is to be joyous, to align with the natural flow of the universe where there is no pushing or forcing, only blissful ease?
Then I guess the next question would be what brings you joy, and what conditions do you need to bring more of that into your life?
This is the most intense experience I've ever had being in that effortless flow, but as I look back it's very clear to me that it's always the same conditions that create it, my magic formula of sunshine, ocean, yoga and feeling deeply connected.
I'm so very grateful for this present experience and will continue to enjoy every minute of it while being mindful that everything comes to pass. At least now it's even clearer to me what needs to be done to find this beautiful space, I hope that you also find it and linger here for a while too. If so I'd love to hear about those gob-smacking moments where your left wondering 'did that really just happen?'.
Around 11 months ago I left Australia on a solo adventure that I hadn’t planned in any real detail, this was a first for me – surrendering to the unknown.
I left in search of something else – I just had no idea what that something was….
The adventure started with a family holiday in Phuket, Thailand. It was here that I learnt the importance of compromise and making time for the things I need to keep me balanced.
I’d just spent the previous few months living a really healthy clean lifestyle; I was getting ready for yoga teacher training. My idea of a holiday and that of my dear parents can sometimes differ greatly. In the past this would've caused me lots of angst. This time though I approached it differently, simply respecting the fact that we have different ideas/lifestyles, neither of us need to change, nobody is right or wrong - it simply is what it is. I made sure that I took the time out to do the things that I needed to do (yoga, running, meditation) and could then happily sit at the beach sipping coconuts all day eating fruit/corn while everyone else drank beer and ate burgers. In the evenings I'd enjoy a few social cocktails (even though I was supposed to be detoxing pre yoga training) and at the end of the day we'd all happily retreat to bed. The new approach certainly worked and its now here to stay.
From Thailand we flew to Singapore as a family. It was in Singapore that I was reminded of the extremely fortunate childhood that my brother Brett and I had. It was like stepping back in time 20 years to when we were children visiting the zoo, the aquarium and were sitting around the dinner table together. It was in Singapore that the importance of my family was really reinforced; I cherish the time we share together and love them all dearly.
It was then off to Balian Beach in Bali to undertake 5 weeks of yoga teacher training with Alicia Cheung and Oliver Reinsch of YogaWorks. I learnt more during this 5 weeks that I thought was physically possible. Not only were we learning anatomy, sanskrit, philosophy, asana alignment and how to teach we were also taken on a deep journey into ourselves - this was perhaps the most challenging part of all. Some of the key things that I learnt during this 5 weeks (even though I could spend a day writing these alone) were:
After the training a small group of us decided to stay together and hang out in Bali for a little while longer. We spent some time in Ubud and then went on a surf trip visiting Balian, Canggu and the Bukit. It would be fair to say that the time we spent together was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. In such a short time we formed a really beautiful, supportive, loving, connected sangha (community). I learnt so much from these beautiful souls, but the power of deep connection with other humans was the big one. Somehow I'd been missing this - perhaps because my own walls were previously blocking it.
The most profound learning came from an amazing morning surfing with Scott. We caught waves, formed a band, made up songs, created seaweed jewellery and generally had a ball. Scott re-introduced me to a version of myself that I don't recall seeing for sometime, one where there is no inhibition, absolute contentment, pure joy. This was an extremely valuable experience, I know exactly what created the conditions for me to feel this way. I therefore have a recipe to create the ultimate version of myself, I simply need to source the ingredients.
From Bali I headed to a small place called Dhamma Ketana around 10km from Chengannur in the South of India. This would be where I'd get my first taste of Vipassana Meditation, a whole 10 days of it. It seemed like a logical next step and a great way to spend Christmas given that I wouldn't be with family/friends. For 10 continuous days I spent 10.5 hrs in seated meditation. To say this was a challenge would be a huge understatement, again the lessons were coming thick and fast. I wrote a whole blog on this experience so won't dive back into detail but the greatest learnings were:
The following month was spent in a place called Varkala in the state of Kerala on the south west coast of India. During my time surfing in Bali I managed to pick up an injury to one of the stabilising muscles on my right side, I thought it would pass with rest during Vipassana but this injury unlike everything else did not pass - the inflammation got worse and the discomfort only increased. I headed to Varkala for some more rest and to seek treatment. This was not part of my broad plan, I was in India to practice and study yoga but here I was unable to hold myself in a plank position. Some of the lessons from this month were:
The next stop was two weeks in Goa on the central west coast of India. Goa had always been part of my broad plan, I wanted to immerse myself in learning Ashtanga there. I was still in no state to learn Ashtanga so again adapted my plans. I headed south to Palolem Beach and continued my immersion into chilling out and holidaying with a side of yoga rather than the other way around.
After Goa it was time to put my yoga student hat back on. I headed to Chennai on the east coast of India for a 4 week immersion at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram (KYM). The program was heavily focused on yoga as a tool for healing (perfect!). We undertook daily asana, pranayama and meditation practices, vedic chanting classes and attended lectures on philosophy, application of yoga and the tools of yoga. This was a truly incredible learning opportunity. My perspectives on a whole range of topics were challenged on a day to day basis (covering everything from arranged marriage to foot placement in trikonasana), it was great to hear things from an Indian perspective and then compare this to how things are viewed in the west. The time I spent at KYM has significantly influenced the way I practice and also my approach to teaching yoga.
Living in Chennai for a month was a really intense experience, I haven't felt that immersed in the authenticity of a place since I was in Rwanda back in 2007. Chennai has this knack of taking you on an emotional rollercoaster every time you walk down the street. It goes a bit like 'oh no that looks like a squashed dog on the road, oh how sweet there is a man bouncing a puppy on his legs, are you serious did that man just slap that women in the face, oh how cute look at those kids playing together and so on'...and you've only walked 800m! It was my time in Chennai that really re-enforced just how much abundance is present in my life, I really begun to feel gratitude towards the seemingly little things (like being able to retreat to a quiet place or lie down at the beach, having a pillow to put my head on at the end of the day). I was constantly amazed by the beauty, friendliness and kindness of the people I met. On our days off I would stroll the streets of foreign neighbourhoods interacting with the locals I met along the way, I learnt here in India that a simple authentic smile can speak so many words.
From Chennai I headed to Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka had been on my list of must see destinations for as long as I could remember. I was craving the ocean so headed straight to a place called Midigama on the south west coast, here I could surf until my heart was content. After Midigama and a day trip to Galle I headed inland to Kandy, the cultural heartbeat of the island. It was a really short two weeks but from the very first train ride I was completely taken by the place, I knew that I'd need to come back some day. The people were lovely and the scenery was stunning, untouched beaches and tea plantations as far as they eyes could see.
While it was a short few weeks, it was very intense, I learnt so much. The greatest lesson of all was the preciousness of life. I had the great pleasure of meeting a lovely guy by the name of Torge, we surfed together, went on a whale watching trip and hung out. The day after the whale watching trip he suffered a massive heart attack while surfing, he didn't make it, life taken away in he's early 30's. It really hit home for me that we just don't know what's coming, every day truly is a gift and we need to treat it as such. Again this reinforced the importance of my family and friends, I promised myself that I wouldn't hold back on telling people how feel, I'm going to live this life with no regrets.
After Sri Lanka I headed back to Bali, this seemed like stepping back to the western world after my time in India and Sri Lanka, initially it was a short 2 weeks spending time with my beautiful family. We visited Canggu and Ubud and it was in Canggu that I met Chris and the team at Ngeluwungan Villa.
In this short few weeks things begun to manifest in front of my eyes. I got the call from work (my engineering job) offering me a relocation or redundancy payment as our little office was due to close. This was a seed that I planted much earlier, when I left Australia it was with the thought that a redundancy offer while travelling would be the best possible outcome, and here 5 months later it had arrived. Now I would have the financial means to set up the business that I'd dreamed up during Vipassana, there was also no need to rush home, for the first time since being a child I was completely free with no commitments or obligations. One of the key things I learnt here is that when we are are very clear about what we want, these things will manifest, it only takes time. Things then begun to unfold further with Chris asking me to manage his villa while he visited he's partner Alona in the US, here was my reason to stick around in Bali.
The next stop was a quick trip to Singapore to undertake 6 days of Stand Up Paddleboard training. Again I met so many amazing people from all over the world but it was the guys from Singapore that I became great friends with. During those few days we learnt all about water rescue, paddling technique, and lots of new skills. I went into the training with the intent of simply getting a piece of paper to certify me as a SUP Yoga Instructor although enjoyed the paddling instruction so much that it became part of my business plan. Here I learnt that an open mind can show you doors that you never knew existed. I now have so much diversity in my business offering that I give myself every chance for success.
After Singapore I headed back to Canggu in Bali to look after the villa for a few weeks. This was a huge learning curve for me. I've managed lots of stuff before but had never done so in a foreign country and an area completely out of my expertise! Quickly I learnt about the significant cultural differences between Australia and Bali, I also came to realise that there are many different sub-cultures in Bali alone. Some of the key lessons that I learnt during this time were:
Once Chris returned to Bali he asked me to stay on and I was more than happy to do so. We came up with a plan where I would teach yoga at the villa, look after guest activities and set up/manage some social media platforms. He's an incredibly creative, intelligent guy, he's taught me so much about business, marketing and managing people expectations - these are lessons that I will translate in my own business.
While in Canggu, I was searching for a yoga studio where I could practice, I was stoked to come across Samadi. It was at Samadi with the lovely teachers Damien and Andrea that I finally began to learn the Ashtanga primary series. The Ashtanga style reintroduced some fire back into my practice, I'd very much lost this since the injury and my time in India practicing more passively.
It was during this two months of daily Ashtanga that I began to see my yoga practice in a new light. It's really difficult to explain in words, perhaps you could say that the spiritual side of the practice really started to shine through, this was the most beautiful gift - I now get to enjoy this on a daily basis.
I was still surfing almost daily but was soon to be taught another valuable lesson about over-doing it, making intelligent decisions and letting go. Somehow while surfing I replicated the injury that I had on my right side, only this time on the left. The severity was nowhere near as bad with only a few weeks rest needed, but it certainly alerted me to a problem. I went back to the basics:
That's not to say I no longer get out on the surfboard, just not every day and not for 2 hours at a time. If I feel like it I'll paddle out, catch a few waves and come back in.
I'd let go of surfing but was still battling with letting go of my engineering career, I had lots of great offers coming through for engineering work back in Australia but at the same time I knew that waSUP Yoga & Fitness absolutely had to go ahead. I was overwhelmed with options, my normal spreadsheet analysis wasn't bringing forward any answers, I honestly though that I could do it all, part time engineering and run a new business. That was when I decided to do some Life Coaching with Andrea at Samadi to help make sense of it all. It was after our first session and a simple homework exercise of writing down an ideal day that I came to realise that attempting to do both jobs would take me exactly where I was before I left Australia - overworked, exhausted and unfulfilled. Quickly I learnt that I can't do it all. The detachment to engineering was then instant. It was during this exercise that I learnt, when we are clear about our values it becomes easy to guide ourselves in the right direction.
While I enjoyed my few months learning Ashtanga I got to the point where I felt that my progression had significantly slowed, I was no longer inspired and wasn't learning as much as I would've liked. I needed to get back to the style of practice that I was most passionate about and constantly inspired by, Vinyasa. I wanted to soak up as much yoga as possible as I won't have this available to me when I get home. It was with these things in mind that I decided to treat myself to a two month yoga immersion in Ubud, my spiritual homeland. This would see me spending much more time on the motorbike (it's around 1hr away) but I didn't mind the driving.
One thing that's become clear to me in my travels back and forth is that so much of our experience is dictated by our own state of mind. Here in Bali I've found myself really enjoying lengthy road detours and getting stuck behind slow cars or in traffic, this is a great opportunity to see new areas and notice things I'd otherwise miss. When I leave here I'll be making a real effort to continue cultivating an attitude of appreciation/opportunity rather than frustration in circumstances which would normally cause stress, after all why should it be any different in Australia?
My Ubud destination was a yoga studio called Radiantly Alive, this place has been a real pillar of inspiration for me, it was here after a Transformational Breath workshop with Daniel almost two years ago that I knew with absolute certainty that I needed to get out of my work as a consulting engineer, this trigged everything that has taken place since. For the past two years I've used this studio as my retreat space, its where I go when I need to feel inspired, to reconnect to myself and to my yoga practice. It was here that:
Bali is such an incredible place, it keeps drawing me back in. I had no idea that I'd stay here this long, it's been a truly wonderful experience - I'd do it all over again. So much of my personal evolution has taken place on this small island, it now feels just as much like home to me as Australia.
I've met so many amazing people during my travels creating memories that I will cherish forever. I'm so grateful that I met Chris and Alona here in Canggu, they took me in like a family member, I've enjoyed every minute with them and the awesome team at Ngeluwungan Villa.
With just over a week left here in Bali I'm preparing to close the pages on this chapter of my life, one that was filled with travel, rapid transformation, much learning and growth... I had no idea what I looking for when I left Australia but I now see that I have everything I need...
In just under one month I will launch my new business waSUP Yoga & Fitness, my personal manifestation of all the things that I'm passionate about. For the next six months I'll be pouring my heart and soul into waSUP. I'll also be gathering the ingredients for the ultimate version of myself that I discovered during our Bali surf trip.
I return to Australia re-energised, focused and feeling more balanced and internally connected than ever before, it's from this space of internal contentment that I can now put myself back out into the world in service to others. I can't wait to see what the next six months brings, it's going to be one hell of a ride - rock on!
I still vividly recall where my yoga journey began, it was at a gym called Bodystyle around 7 years ago in the town where I grew up (Melton). It was a Les Mills Body Balance class that infused yoga, pilates and tai chi. The soundtrack for this experience was "Make things right" by Lemon Jelly, when I hear that song I'm instantly taken back to those very first classes.
The power of yoga was apparent to me even in those very early beginnings. The union of movement and breath along with the deep relaxation at the end of class began to teach me how to switch off my over active mind and connect to my inner self. I'm sure in those early days this is what kept me going to classes, I needed that outlet and release.
Over the last 7 years my relationship with yoga has regularly morphed and changed, there were times when I used it as a tool to get out of my head and into my emotional body and there were times when it served purely as a great stretching session, strength workout or even a sweat fest to assist with other athletic pursuits. One thing that I only came to realise in the last year is that yoga is where I regularly turn when life starts to get overwhelming.
To many the practice of yoga is viewed only as the physical practice of the postures (asana), this certainly was my view up until a year or so ago. Patanjali (the godfather of yoga) outlines 8 different components that comprise yoga, these include:
I began to really discover the other aspects of the 8 fold yoga path on a trip to Bali in April (2013). I'd had a taste of it during my earlier trip to Bali in October (2012) and I was seeking more. From that first trip I'd began to practice more regularly and it started to become a stand alone practice rather than just a tool to assist with something else. Although like most things, when life got crazy busy maintaining this regular practice was challenged, slowly the consistency dropped away. When I again found myself exhausted from working far too hard it was no surprise that another trip to Bali and a month of yoga is where I turned to help make sense of it all.
I found a great little studio called Radiantly Alive in Ubud where the teachers infused their classes with the other aspects of yoga, particularly philosophy and pranayama (breath control), the teachers were all very unique in their style and often extremely inspirational, this drew me in ever further. I would spend anywhere between 1.5 and 4.5hrs taking classes at the studio each day. I also took some classes on meditation and began to incorporate these practices into my yoga repertoire.
During that trip I also picked up a book called "The Heart of Yoga" by TKV Desikachar, this was my first formal introduction to the 8 step yoga path, I fell in love with the book and found myself again seeking more, the next step was the Yoga Sutras. Here I found this great philosophical approach to conducting life in a manner that is mindful and of service both to ourselves and our surrounding environment. I'd reached a time in my life where I was seeking change and here a new approach began to unfold in front of my eyes.
The clarity around what this change would entail came the morning after a workshop on Transformational Breathing (a practice of rapid belly breath through the mouth which goes deep into the nervous system). I've done this workshop twice now and each time the days that follow have been filled with clarity and what seems like direct access to my deeply seated intuition which often seems to be hiding from my consciousness. Within 24 hours of that first workshop I'd written myself a step by step logical process to instigate the change I wanted to see in my life.
Now eight months later I've fully executed all I'd planned to do. This included completion of a Group Fitness Certification in Australia and Yoga Teacher Training in Bali, these would give me the tools to start working with my passions again.
The yoga teacher training has only further enhanced my passion for yoga, I now find myself on a plane to India - the place where it all began. For the next few months I will dive even deeper into my own personal practice and will seek to learn as much as I can so that I can develop my own unique style/offering and share my learnings with future students.
The path of yoga is not a destination, its a journey and it's one that I'm so excited to be taking.
Just a few days ago I was doing a home yoga practice with my online companion 'YogaGlo'. The class, taken by Kathryn Budig was pretty challenging (as I've come to expect). Through my struggle to breathe, hold strong and maintain alignment in an intense pose one comment brought me to a complete standstill, Kathryn casually states:
“let the voice of your body be louder than the voice of your ego"
Instantly I hit pause, grabbed a pen and noted it down - soon after this was translated to my blackboard of inspiration. This would be my new mantra..
While this may seem like a perfectly logical statement to many, I'll be the first to admit that my ego has been schooling me for years. I'd perfected the art of ignoring the 'voice of the body' and getting on with the job.....
In the past I'd say that competitive sport fuelled my determination and my ego to no end.
If I look back 10+ years ago to my days playing netball with chronic shin splints, I would much rather have somebody wrap up my legs from knee to ankle with strapping tape and spend truck loads of money on really painful massage than simply take some time out...the worst thing is that this was social netball - fun....while standing one foot where possible because it took the pressure of the calf on the other side (yes in hindsight I must've been having a blast)!
Again several years later when I started triathlon I pretty easily managed to advance those shin splints into a stress fracture. When given the diagnosis I stupidly quizzed the doctor as to whether the rest period was really necessary, after all I'd coped fine with a 20km run only one day prior and my complaint was general muscle tightness that I couldn't fix, not shin pain!
You'd think by this time I would've learnt but again two years further down the track I'd developed a healthy case of plantar fascia though ignorance and at this time I was training on my own, just me and the ego urging me along...you must be stronger, faster, better, keep running, increase the km..
It seems that over a several years I'd pretty effectively found a way to block the signals between my legs and my brain...
For some time this approach didn't seem all that bad, I actually viewed my ability to persist as a key strength. It was when this approach started to creep into my work (in a big way) that things started to come to a head.
It was a build up of a really challenging 9 months on a difficult project, followed by 3 months of living out of a hotel (in what I thought was my dream job), finishing up with 3 weeks of working 75+ hrs feeling like I had the weight on the world on my shoulders that started to un-ravel me..
The 100km MTB ride that I tacked onto the back of this (just to balance out all that work) was where everything quite literally came undone....I was mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted, in tears within the first 35-40km probably for the first time ever saying I just can't do this and truly believing it. Every part of me was saying please no more its time to stop but somehow I continued to push through and finish the ride.
Normally a tough day out like that leaves me feeling energised, motivated and inspired, almost instantly I'm planning the next attempt, although this time there was none of that....I walked away from that ride thinking to myself I never want to feel like this ever again..and that feeling hasn't faded with time (as can sometimes happen after a really tough race).
Sometimes we really need to come crashing down to take the time to reflect on the how and the why.
I'd managed to turn my strength into a weakness by becoming so completely absorbed and focused that the voice of my body was barely a blip on the radar..
I still believe that the ability to push on is an essential characteristic for somebody who undertakes endurance type racing, it will hurt - that's a fact, but being able to continue to push through this...that's what sets you apart, it is however a very fine line to walk. On reflection I think it all comes down to knowing your body and understanding when to listen and when to continue.
I'm still very much learning to listen and then take notice of what my body is saying. I've come up with a number of triggers that force me to step back and think about what I'm doing, they are little things like 'eating meals while standing' and 'feeling like I don't have enough time to exercise'.
Already with only a few months of this enhanced awareness my overall wellness has increased 10 fold. Maybe with a few months or even years more I will be able to run regularly without any shin/plantar fascia issues.
As I continue on my path to somewhere with my broadened perspective I will continue to ask myself:
Is it my ego urging me along or am I pushing my edge with full awareness of my body?
If it's the ego then I'd like to think I've developed enough personal case studies to second guess that little monkey on the back. It will take time - I'm super competitive and driven by nature, but at least now I know that I should be stopping to ask the question...
Mandy Habener (Dumas)