Church of Green

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On the weekend I went to a retreat to learn more about Kirtan, or devotional yogic singing…it was a restorative weekend in a beautiful place. I learned a great deal and even got to have a go at leading a Kirtan (very briefly!) which was terrifying and exhilarating all at once.  There were very talented musicians there and the two Kirtan concerts at night were beautiful experiences. We held silence after them and went to bed with uplifting music ringing around our minds as we drifted off to sleep.

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As a parent who is constantly thinking about food and meals, where everyone else is, what they are doing and what they need….it was such a treat to have beautiful meals provided and to only have my own needs to look after and I relaxed in that deep way, where even your bones feel heavy and  liquid…

I won’t share photographs of the workshops here, as there are lots of people in the photographs and I don’t have their permission to put them on my blog….but here are some photographs of the beautiful gardens and bush – the church of green surrounding the retreat…

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There were even dahlias!

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The vegetable garden at the retreat centre was just gorgeous – a permaculture garden with lots of companion-planting of flowers and a little bath-pond.

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No matter where my spiritual explorations take me, I always end up outside, with the plants – the beauty of the growing things, rocks, river, sky… soothing and uplifting me  more than anything coming from any human brain or mouth…

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yoga ruins your life

I saw a little video the other day about how ‘yoga ruins your life’. It is about how after you get on the yoga path, your world view changes. You check-out of the stress-rat-race-wheel, you become more interested on your inner-life than accumulating stuff and status, and you kind of live in yoga-time, which is a slower, more considered pace that that of the rest of the world.

You can see the video HERE, it is only three minutes long, but **be warned – the poses shown are ADVANCED ASHTANGA YOGA POSES. This is not the kind of yoga happening at your average yoga studio and it is certainly not where I am at with yoga, so don’t let the advanced poses in the video put you off if you are contemplating a yoga class. I share it with you for the ideas rather than the yoga shown! lol! ** 

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Yogis are ‘ruined’ for normal western life, but in a really good way….no longer prepared to accept bullshit or pointless stress.

In four weeks time, I finish my yoga course! – it’s been an intense couple of years and I have learned so much about myself during this time. So, I’m feeling in a reflective mood…and proud of myself, too.

Here’s a bit of a recap of my yoga experience over the last coupla years.

I started teaching one class a week as a student-teacher last March. I blogged about my nerves regarding starting to teach HERE. Oh man, was I nervous! & after I started, I used to spend Mondays feeling physically sick about teaching that night….thankfully, I don’t anymore. I am now experienced enough to not think about class until I’m getting ready for it. You can see my Zing teacher profile HERE.

I have taught almost 100 classes. (In yoga, achievements are measured in 100s, I’m not sure why. So my course is a 200-contact-hour course, and reaching your first 100 hours of teaching is big achievement.) After you do a 200 hour course, you can ‘upskill’ to a 500 hour course.

But the truth is with yoga, that it is a life-long learning practice. You can never know enough, you can never know it all…….and you have to re-learn things through life lessons. Sometime yoga will dump you on your ass, if you need to learn something quickly.

I’ve been on a couple of yoga retreats, which were both amazing. Blogged HERE and HERE.

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I have an essay in Anna Guest-Jelley, of Curvy Yoga’s ‘CURVY VOICES’ – an e-book of essays by ‘curvy’ (FAT!) yoginis. You can request it for free from HERE.

I have covered classes for three other teachers, two at my own studio and one a weekly public class at an art gallery. It is HARD covering a yoga class. People get very very very attached to their yoga teachers and every teacher has a different style. Sometimes you walk into a class you are covering and people glare at you, not because you have done anything wrong, but just because you are not their teacher, they are stressed and want to sink into yoga and because of you they are having to cope with something different, something potentially stressful, and boy, do they hate that!  I’m glad I did it though, good learning experience!

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I also have to cope with a lot of skeptical glances, people judging my body and raised eyebrows when people who don’t know me very well find out I teach yoga.

‘Suuuureeee, you do’ I see in their faces. People still have the delusion that a) yoga is all about the body (in fact, physical poses are merely one strand of EIGHT yogic practices), that only thin bodies are strong and fit, that a plus-sized teacher would teach an easy, unchallenging class.  (My students will tell you this is not true!)

I am fat and flexible and STRONG. These things co-exist in my body! I am also skilled in helping students look inward, breathe, find calm – important yoga teaching skills.

Sometimes it is hard to take and it gets to me, sometimes it runs off me like water – it just depends on how I’m feeling that day. The important thing is that I keep returning to my mat, and then anything anyone else thinks disappears.

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My fellow student-teachers and yoga teachers are a wonderful, eclectic bunch. Some are further down the spiritual end than others. Being part of a yoga cohort has meant that I have received spontaneous energy healings, gifts of flower essences, food gifts left on my doorstep, plant gifts, visitations from beyond, cranio-sacral healing, tarot readings, massages….and so much more! Once you step into a yoga community, you step into a river of healing and inner-work! You never know who is going to come at ya’ with an offering next!

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Anyway, after December, I will be glad to have my Wednesday nights and Sunday afternoons back, but I will also miss it, of course. After spending a lot of my adult life feeling physically inadequate and deeply unsporty, I have found and committed to a physical practice which nourishes my body and my mind and my soul. Yoga has helped me beyond measure and the only reason I teach it, is because I love to SHARE it with people and want to show people of all shapes and sizes and fitness levels that there is a yoga practice for them.

Next year I hope to increase the amount of classes I teach and also hoping to go on the road, offering some day workshops on the Kapiti coast and in Wellington.

Teaching more classes will come in a baptism of fire, when our head teacher, Nat Allan, heads to India for ten weeks in Jan/Feb and leaves us to run the studio without her. GULP!

I know the final month of class will zoom by. I am so proud to have overcome a lot of my fears, neuroses, body-angst and self-doubt to step over that chasm from student mat to teacher mat.

I also look forward to carrying on learning and practising yoga for the rest of my life.

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yoga retreat

I went on a yoga retreat a while back, down in the Kapiti hills. I was so full of everything that happened there, that I couldn’t blog about it right away. It was a wonderful three days – lots of yoga, herbal tea, hill walking, confronting aloneness, confronting togetherness, restful, tiring, thought-provoking, detoxing…..oh yes, detoxing! I stopped drinking coffee four days before the retreat, because I didn’t want my retreat to be ruined by headaches. My goodness, going off coffee was HORRIBLE. I had headaches, insatiable thirst and cold-like symptoms for days. My whole system went all weird.

Since I came back I haven’t wanted to eat meat, drink coffee or alcohol. It’s weird, like the thought of any of those makes me really queasy. I’m listening to my body and going with it for now…for as long as that’s what I’m experiencing. I think my body obviously needed a big break.

Life without coffee is interesting. I only realise what a drug it is when I’m off it. No wonderful rushes of energy and mental clarity, but also no frayed nerves, acidic stomach, and much less anxiety. Going to a cafe is much less attractive, which means money saved! (Who likes paying $4.00 for tea? Often cafe tea is really bad, too, because they use water from the coffee machine, which is too hot for a good brew.)

The retreat was a great way to drop me into post-library-job life….even if I spent about a week afterwards processing everything that had happened there.

I had major collywobbles about yoga teaching during and after the retreat, along the lines of ‘I don’t know nearly enough. I can never know enough. There is so much I can’t even do myself, yet, how can I possibly TEACH???’ but then I had to front up to teach my class the next day – we had a great kick-ass class together, my students said nice things to me and I thought ‘Ah well, I guess I’m doing OK.’ I think as long as I am continuing to train, learn and improve my own practice, it’s OK to teach. Maybe my insecurities even make me a better teacher, who knows?

Here’s some photos from the retreat – I haven’t included photographs of people doing yoga because I think it’s kind of a private thing. I know I wouldn’t want someone to post photographs of me doing yoga on the internet! (I did have to show you how we ended the retreat, though. The sun came out, after a weekend of cold and rain, so we rushed out onto the deck and did Viparita Karani (legs up the wall) whilst sun-basking! 🙂

 

the rush to fill the empty spaces

There is a gap opening up in my life soon.

Nature abhors a vacuum, right? My tendency is always to fill spaces up with more things, new things, ways to make money/art, projects, whatever. This time, though, I promised myself I would sit with the space, lean into the quiet, listen in and see what comes up.

When I teach yoga, my students often talk to me about savasana (corpse pose, or the relaxation bit in a yoga class)…how the first few times they experience it, it often makes them feel uncomfortable. Their minds race, they feel awkward and overly intimate with their classmates by lying down in silence, they are hyper-aware of the sound of breathing, they might lie there waiting for it to be over, even…

…but with a bit of practice, after giving it a few goes….they come to like it, and then to look forward to it. Conscious relaxation (i.e. staying awake whilst deeply relaxing) can sometimes feel more restorative than eight hours sleep.

I think it is the same feelings with any empty spaces that appear in our lives – we are not used to stopping, to silence, to deep rest…at first it makes us feel uncomfortable, like we are ‘wasting time’, being unproductive, or we just don’t like the thoughts and feelings which come when there is a bit of room for them to rise up.

I have a feeling something big, absorbing and fulfilling lies ahead for me, but I’m not entirely sure what it is yet. This is why I am going to let the empty spaces be empty spaces….so I can create enough quiet to listen for what’s coming.

I’ve always been a to-do list person. If I have any free time, I write a big to-do list and set myself a goal of getting it done by the end of the morning, or the day or the week. I work methodically through it….tick! tick! tick!

I’ve written on here about how this year has been a bit of a creative low-point and there’s been a bit of burn-out, too.

I’ve discovered a new approach to free time. (No doubt this is not a revelation to many of you, seasoned moochers!)

Free-form pottering.

Instead of enslaving myself to a to-do list, which -while organised and productive- leaves my already frazzled spirit feeling weirdly pressured- I am pottering. Doing a bit of this, a bit of that, drifting from one task to another and back, dropping tasks if they start to annoy me…stopping for cups of tea more often.

Here’s what I am experiencing by pottering:

-my free time feels free

-I am nicer to my kids and am doing more with them, because I letting go of the notion of what I ‘have’ to achieve in a day. A game of Operation or a spontaneous round of biscuit baking with the kids is more important than me calling the IRD or editing a poem or whatever would have been on that to-do list.

-I am still getting a lot of things done. Pottering doesn’t mean doing nothing.

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So, in my pottering space, in my savasana space, in my go slow/do less/breathe more space – I am sitting here – awaiting further instructions.

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.

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!