Curvy Voices

Anna Guest-Jelley of Curvy Yoga has edited and launched a terrific e-book called ‘Curvy Voices’ – an anthology of short essays from ‘curvy’ yoga practitioners.

I have an essay in there, too. I tried to be as honest as possible in my essay. There are lots of great women in the book and I really enjoyed reading about everyone’s different yoga experiences.

You can read it for free! There is a link in THIS POST to access the book or you can also see the sign-up area on the left of Anna’s website under ‘Curvy Voices’.

It is most heartening to me that the face or, I guess, the body, of yoga is changing and more ‘non-noodle’ people are feeling safe and welcome at yoga classes and accessing all the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of a regular yoga practice.

Thanks so much, Anna, for bringing all these wonderful ‘Curvy Voices’ together! I’m proud to be a part of this awesome project.

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the god-shaped hole

One of my favourite writers, Anne Lamott writes often about ‘the god-shaped hole’ inside us – the  abyss inside us which yearns for spiritual connection or deep acceptance but which we will fill with almost anything else….drugs, drink, food, social media, hoarding stuff, being too busy, seeking peer or parental approval, hollow ambition, procrastination….we throw all manner of things into the ‘god-shaped hole’ but none of it fills us up.

This idea stems from an earlier notion posed by the philosopher Pascal:

‘What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.’

While in the 21st Century, many people do not believe in ‘God’ in the sense which Pascal meant it (a monotheistic parental god) – I think people still yearn for spiritual fufilment, although they might have different names for it (i.e. acceptance, contentment, happiness, connection…) and still often look in the wrong places for these things.

There is a similar notion in Buddhism of ‘the hungry ghost’ – the idea being that there is a ghost inside us who is always hungry and no matter how much we feed it, it always needs more, leaches away our energy…it is insatiable, animalistic…it haunts us. It is a paradox, because how can a ghost be hungry? A ghost is ephemeral, dead…but that represents the negative and repititive mental patterns we have which are illusory, not based in reality, and yet we can’t help repeating…like a stuck record.

Where is all this metaphysical musing headed?

I have been thinking a lot about the ‘god-shaped hole’ and ‘the hungry ghost’ in my own life. I have been thinking about what I fill myself up with…and I wrote a little bit the other day about social media. I also fill it with other ‘junk’ in many forms.

This is not about being a puritan, though because…

the god-shaped hole is a tricky thing – sometimes I get tricked into thinking ‘positive’ things will fill it. I thought that finally publishing a book might fill it – it didn’t. I thought teaching yoga might fill it – it hasn’t. In fact, teaching yoga has put me right in the path of an avalanche of self-doubt and all that I battle with in myself. The god-shaped-hole does not get filled with external achievements or with other people.

Therein lies the conundrum of the hungry ghost, the god-shaped hole. To quiet the hungry ghost, I have to stop feeding it. To fill my own god-shaped hole, I have to sit, really sit, BE with, see and accept all that is ‘wrong’ and messy and difficult and tricky about myself. I have to stare down the abyss at it and find a way to be okay with it. Only when I accept the frayed bits of my character will I be able to co-exist with them, without seeking to achieve them away, or numb them out, or seek external approval which will never seep in, until I can give myself the acceptance I seek from others.

I think all my life I have been invested in a notion of the future me – the future me is a better me, a more evolved me, a new me who has left awkward difficult me behind. Of course this is ridiculous – as the old hippy saying goes ‘where ever you go, there you are’. I am trying to fully accept messy, tricky old me. I am trying to let go of a notion that being me will get easier, somehow. I am trying to get clear about what I am doing in my life for the real, integral me…and what I am doing in my life for the god-shaped-hole, the hungry ghost.

Does any of this make sense?

Do I sound crazy? (It’s ok, you can tell me…)

What do you feed your hungry ghost? & What do you throw into your god-shaped hole?

my first yoga retreat

I spent two days over Easter at a yoga retreat at the studio where I practice, train and teach.

We did many hours of yoga, grilled our teacher, Nat, about yoga matters, and did walking and sitting meditations – a lovely way to melt into the Easter break.

I fought with a lot of my own personal demons to stay on the mat for two whole days: defiance, resistance, self-sabotage, not to mention a bit of laziness! but amongst all the mental wrangling were many moments of peace, rest and deep enjoyment.

I love Zing Studio – the building is so lovely and characterful. It is over a hundred years old and has been a Salvation Army citadel, a brothel and a swanky restaurant in it’s time.

Here is the room (at Nat’s house in the country) where I slept – a lilac room under steep eaves:

Here’s a sneak peek at the studio:

And here are some patches on sun on the studio wall at 7.30am on day two:

Namaste!

Pivara Yoga

Above is Zing Yoga Studio – where I spend a lot of hours every week getting my sanity back  and where I’ll be teaching my first yoga classes.

Pivara is a sanskrit word meaning both ‘an abundance of’ and ‘stout and strong’.

Monday 12 March, 6.30pm, Zing Studio, Palmerston North sees the launch of Pivara Yoga and the start of my yoga teaching. Pivara classes are aimed at ‘plus-sized’ beginners. There will be adjustments to postures to help bigger bodies or injured bodies benefit. Size shouldn’t matter in yoga. Yoga is for every body!

So far I have four people signed up for class, and that feels perfect to start off with – baby steps!

I’m going to cap my classes at eight people, because I want to give a lot of help with alignment and posture. Classes will run during school terms only, at this stage.

I am soooooo scared. Terrified. However, I also know this is something I really, really want to do. If I can share the benefits of yoga with women who thought it wasn’t for them, or who were too scared to go to a conventional yoga class because of their size – well, that will make me very happy indeed.

Wish me luck!

everyday

I’m planning to start teaching yoga in January and I’m not feeling ready enough. I go to three classes + one meditation class per week at Zing, where I’m training,  go to Ashtanga class with another teacher when I can, and I do some at home, but a regular, rigorous daily practice is the best way to improve, learn, keep in the flow and further develop teaching skills through what you observe through your own experiences.

Now that I’m down to one job and my schedule is less mad, I’ve resolved to be more focussed with my yoga practice. Yoga everyday.

My yoga teacher, Nat, is a huge inspiration in this regard – she teaches something like 16 hours on the mat each week and her teaching reflects those hours – she is the most intuitive, ‘in the flow’ teacher I’ve ever had. She is really good at inspiring people to find their own way with yoga. She meets people where they are at, rather than imposing her own beliefs and rules on them. (Nat’s blog is HERE.)

I won’t be teaching 16 hours per week, to begin with, I will be teaching just one class. Toe in the water. Baby steps. But I would like to have a daily practice for me.

I’ve also been really inspired by my friend Tania Brady’s ‘Yovember’ experience. This month she has been doing Bikram Yoga every day, sometimes twice a day! I’ve found her reflections on how her practice has changed revealing and inspiring. Check it out HERE. Go Tania!

Tania says about a daily yoga practice:

“Having a daily practice means you really do fill up your tank with energy and you have energy to spare. Everything is more connected, flows better, a lot of the niggly little things that used to make me uptight or anxious just fall away like leaves off a tree and settle or scatter. I think Bikram says something about “no-one can steal your peace” and it’s true, when you get to a certain point with your practice and continue daily, that the peace carries over into your normal life and seeps into everything you do. It’s pretty amazing and yet so hard to describe because you really have to do it to feel it.”

(I’ve never done Bikram, although I have done Ashtanga in a warmed room and certainly got extremely sweaty doing that! lol!)

‘No one can steal your peace’ – I love that notion. It’s a very Buddhist notion, too.

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

-Goethe

Yoga. Everyday.

 

 

 

power from cheesy pop

I walk a lot and am rarely without my iPod. This week I’ve been on a bit of a Madonna binge as I walk around. I know Madonna is kind of naff and boring these days, but I’m old enough to have first loved her when I was 11 and she was singing ‘Like a Virgin‘ and ‘Into the Groove’ – so I still have a soft spot for her. (My friend Sarah wrote a wonderful comic strip about Madonna and ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ here.)

Anyway, my favourite Madonna song this week is ‘Jump‘ from ‘Confessions on a Dance Floor’. The beat is perfect for fast walking, and the (very cheesy!) lyrics are like a pep-talk from an older sister.

‘Are you ready to jump? Get ready to jump. Don’t ever look back now, baby.’

I’m learning to be a yoga teacher (a size 16/18, can’t do full-lotus, teach from the heart yoga teacher!) and I am pretty terrified of taking that step of teaching my first classes. I keep delaying it, throwing obstacles in the way. Now I’ve secured a spot on the Zing timetable on Monday nights, starting next year…so my teaching debut is mere months away.

I said to my teacher, Nat, in class the other day – “that gap between your mat and mine looks pretty small, but it feels like a canyon.”

So, while I’m schlepping home from work, or striding to yoga with my iPod on – I’m listening to this tacky pop song on high rotate – the chorus has become my mantra around making that step from yoga student to yoga teacher.

I particularly love this lyric: ‘There’s only so much you can learn in one place / the longer you wait / the more time you waste.’

Exactly, Madonna, thank you.

What exactly am I waiting for? Perfection? Not gonna happen. For it to be easy? That’s not gonna happen either – first times are always hard. That’s why the song is resonating, I think. It feels like a ‘jump’ because it is.

Do you have a cheesy pop power song?