As Winter creeps into our bones and the cold, frosty mornings tempt us to stay snuggled under the Doona, we can begin to see the deep, underlying connection we have to nature and our environment. You can't deny it. The drop in temperature, shorter day length and dryness in the air can be felt in our bodies, as we crave hot chocolates and cups of tea, warmer nourishing ( and perhaps not so nourishing) foods like soups and porridge, chocolate puddings and muffins. On a deeper level, we feel it in our spirits. Feelings of slowing down, settling in, hibernating and recharge take over the busyness of the hotter summer months. However, these body and spirit sensations can also give way to feelings of stagnation, even sluggishness as we move less, eat heavier foods as our digestion becomes strained or sluggish and things in general can just feel stuck.
Here's where Yoga & Ayurveda ( Yoga's Sisters Science) comes in.
Yoga is a way of weaving the practices on the mat, to all that we do off the mat. How we move, interact, eat, talk, sleep, rest, recharge. And by following the seasons that we are immersed in, we can create an individualised approach to Yoga and our life. To bring ourselves back into harmony and balance instead feeling like we are constantly fighting it.
Yoga is in its purest form, is a systematic approach to re-member our essential nature ~ A deep intrinsic knowing that we are ALREADY whole. We have all that we need and that we are full and complete.
However there's a catch. You need to do the work to feel the benefits. Take the gym for example, you don't go to gym once a month and expect to be able to see improvements in your strength? You go 3-4 times a week, to see marked regular improvements. The same goes for Yoga.
1. Yoga can create change but only from Committed Consistent Practice.
Come to Yoga once a month, and you probably won't see much benefit; come to Yoga once a week, and you'll begin to slowly feel the effects; come to Yoga 3-4 times a week & you will begin to see progress in other areas of your life.
Commit to a daily Yoga Practice that at its core includes Pranayama ( breath work) & Meditation, Yoga Nidra and Asana also, and you will see transformative change in all aspects of your life.
From the choices you make about your food, to who you spend your time with, to the way you interact with people and most importantly how you interact with yourself. From this often marked change can occur in your life. As you become more attentive on your mat, this ripples out into the world to all aspects of your life, challenging you to recognise patterns or behaviours that may not be serving you well. And to have the courage to make the necessary changes in your life to evolve.
2.Yoga's Benefits ALL areas of your Physical and Emotional Health & Wellbeing.
Yoga brings you to the present moment.Again and Again and again.
And its from this mindfullness and from this state, our body remembers its not in a state of fight or flight. It just is and it can get on with doing what it does best.
We know from decades of medical research that Yoga, and more specially Meditation do the following:
* Reduce heart rate and blood pressure
* Reduce Stress hormones
Reduce pain and inflammation
* Reduce depression and anxiety.
*Improve your immune and digestive function
* improve cognitive function including memory, focus
* improve a sense of calm
* Improve a feeling of connectedness
And Improves our sleep.
Recent research has even shown mediation can reverse damage to our DNA.
So with all of this in mind, how can we target our Yoga to each season? Well, lets start with Winter, our current season. With its cold, frosty feels, Winter hibernation can be an all too easy and comfortable option. Take a guide from Yoga, start getting up with the Sun, start the day with some Warm water to stimulate your digestion and get things moving. Then some energising breath work, setting a daily intention and then some movement, ideally waking up your core, spine, shoulders chest and legs. Nothing fancy. Just warming and heating movements to stimulate the lymphatic and immune systems, wake up your digestion and clear out congestion and stagnation from the body. Include more fluid movements, repetitive movements to build heat, core work and twists and side body & chest openers to heat up, invigorate and clear out.
My favourite flows are just simple Sun Salutations adding in some arm movements, twists and core work.
End with some centring breath work, to invoke a sense of steady calm and ease, helping to then cultivate a clearer and more focused mind, ready for your day ahead.
Add in more nourishing foods such as soups, stews, slow cooked meals, porridge, cooked brown rice, plenty of vegetables, protein from your chosen source. And take time out to feed yourself what you want. Stop all the good and bad food. Stop with all the cheat days and guilty pleasures. And just have pleasures. if you have cake or a block of chocolate. Enjoy EVERY. LAST. BITE. No more shame about food, eat with your friends, sit in the sunshine, eat cakes and drink cups of chai.
3.Yoga Gives your all the tools to Experience a rich full and vibrant life.
For me the greatest gift of Yoga is that it has brought me back home. Yoga ultimately cultivates a sense of observation and judgement. So that instead of constantly searching for outside validation, outside material things or other people to make me happy, I have learnt that it all exists within me and that I AM responsible for that.
Its where I have the courage to do what is necessary.
And who doesn't want that. It teaches you so importantly that you are not the voices inside your head, you are the one listening. Whatever you give power to will increase.
A Consistent, committed, daily practice gives you the ability to see yourself clearer. To see yourself with more honesty. From this clarity comes the ability to listen to the repetitive narrative you have going on in your head. And from that seat of observation you can choose to tend to the flowers instead of the weeds. And each time you choose this, you are "remembering yourself home " ( as my teacher Elena Brower says.)
Instead of being stuck in a cycle of judgement and repetitive patterns/behaviours, your consciously begin to unravel yourself, layer by layer. Till you find; YOU.
You begin to see the bliss and the beauty in ALL that is around you.
Resiliency. Strength. Softness. Grace. Ease. Compassion. Freedom. Peace.
Its all yours. Its already within you. You are already whole & complete.
You just need the tools to remember and Yoga gives you those tools.
Are you ready to make Yoga a daily part of your life?
I invite you to start a 40 Day Practice of Yoga. Commit to 2-3 Classes a week, start a Daily Meditation Practice and then on the remaining days get your body moving with some hikes out in nature, Sauna sessions, gym, running around with your dogs, rock climbing; some gentle but vigorous movement that suits your body. (Sound counterintuitive but for example, by body dislikes running, but loves long hikes wiht lots of change in terrain, so instead of pushing myself to run, I hike instead) Also commit to practicing Yoga Nidra 2 or more times a week, especially if you are exhausted, over worked, highly stressed or working through life changes.
Not sure where to start? Want to remain committed but need accountability along the way?
Contact me and we can work together towards a sustainable home practice that will keep you balanced and nurtured. I create tailored Therapeutic classes, for YOU with pranayama, Meditation, Yoga Nidra, Asana and more.
Start a Membership with me at the Studio located within @RAFT Art Space ~ to keep accountable and consistent with your practice.
I guide & lead Seasonal Practices month by month, addressing the full spectrum of the Yoga Practice. And I also offer Monthly Deep Rest Practices aligned with the Dark Moon, Seasonal Sunrise Sessions & Workshops.
Winter in the desert is a challenge. We celebrate its arrival because the days are no longer above 40 degrees, and the desert feels like ours again to explore ~ to walk, hike, camp and delight in the magic of the land. But you also feel a coldness deep in your bones. Its windy and dry. A lot of our houses are built to withstand the heat and stay cool in Summer, which means in Winter it can feel like you're living in an ice box.
I've been here for 7 years ( maybe longer, but who's counting?) and I wanted to share with you some of my go-to's that I've found have enabled me to not only survive winter, but do so without getting sick every other week and not end up like a cold, dry, shrivelled up sultana!
1.Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate
Most of us LOVE our coffee or Tea, but they're not only acidic for the body but are incredibly dehydrating, so start your Day with 2 glasses of Warm water. Not only will this kickstart your digestion and get things moving, but it will mean you've already drunk 1/2 L or more before your days begins.
Keep this up during the day, but having an insulated water bottle and drinking warm water or even herbal teas. I drink Ginger tea all day long somedays, its warming and invigorating and great for flushing the kidneys and organs from stagnation.
Also Hydrate your face regularly especially in you're in an office with dry heating on. Use a rose water or other natural face mist.
2. Energising Pranayama and Yoga in the Morning
Start the day with some energising Pranayama, my Favourite is Kapalabhati followed by Nadhi Shodnana. I then follow this with any intuitive movement, usually some joint warm ups and Modified Sun Salutations and get my body moving in all directions to get fluids and organs functioning well.
In Winter, I really amp up my Yoga Practice. I tend to really feel the heaviness and stagnation of Kapha Season towards mid Winter and so I focus on heat building sequences that invigorate and energise my body, with plenty of strong standing postures, hip stability, core and twists. These help move the heaviness and lethargy I can often feel & also help stimulate the lymphatic, immune and digestive systems to all function optimally.
Ideally, you work up a sweat to feel cleansed and rejuvenated, but short of someone opening a Yoga Studio in Alice with Radiant Heating ( hint hint anyone wanna pay for that with me ??) then the best option is to do your Yoga, then a few times during the weak get your sweat on - Sauna, few quick sprints, whatever floats your boat. My body doesn't really feel its best on huge amounts of Cardio I prefer Sauna, Heated Yoga or just a really strong Yoga Flow. Your body might be different, so listen to it, MOVE IT and sweat it!
2. Dry Body Brushing before your Shower
This helps stimulate your lymphatic system and will give you a brilliant all over body tingle. Lets face it we could all use more body tingles!
3. All Over Invigorating Body Scrub
You can buy one HERE FROM RASSARA Skin Food but its super easy to make yourself, just get coffee grounds, salt, coconut oil, orange or grapefruit essential oil, even some cypress too. It makes a mess but it's so worth it.
3. Use a Body Oil Onto Wet Skin Straight Out of the Shower.
I use this one, from Rassara Skin Food but again you can easily make it up yourself. Here's some more info on Why Body Massage with oil is so great. It might seem like one more thing to do in the morning, but using firm and nourishing strokes to apply the oil onto damp skin, is such a great way to give a self massage and just take a mindful moment before the craziness.
4. Keep Neck Warm, Feet and Hands Warm
If you know me at all, you'll know I always have some type of scarf or neck warmer on and a beanie, and keep myself super warm and my skin away from the dry desert wind.
5. Warming, Healthy Nutritious Meals
Think oats or cooked brown rice ( as whole and close to the grain as possible) or Berry Crumbles, or Frittatas, with plenty of protein and add some fruit like stewed apples or rhubarb, warming soups, slow cooked meals, that are easy to digest and give your belly some lubrication with some ghee or little oil also. You can get more detailed from an Ayurvedic perspective if you'd like, but just eating foods that feel right for your body and keep you warm.
6. Preventive Herbs & Tonics
I'm no naturopath or Chinese Medicine Dr but I do use both a lot during winter.
Recently I got sick and although I still took time off work to let my body heal I didn't get anywhere as sick as some people and no chest infection at all! I take a mixture of herbal tonics that contain Echinacea, Olive Leaf to name a few and ensure i have adequate amount of Vit C and ZInc supplements. Best to book in with a Naturopath to sort YOU out .
Hope that's given you a few little prompts on some things you could integrate into your routines to keep healthy and strong during these cold months ahead & remember that over all, you know your body best. Rest when you need. Get out in that fresh air, sweat a little, potter in the veggie patch, catch up with friends over Chai and cake and take care,
Love Mid x
Several weeks back, some thing happened that signalled to me I had to stop. Life at home became increasingly strained & without revealing too much about my personal life, I was struggling to keep afloat as my partner struggled with his own path. I realised I had been going non stop for nearly a year, taking care of everyone else and taking little care, if any at all, of myself. My own cup was becoming emptier and emptier, as I sought to find the energy and support to continue to support and fill others’.
I felt I was falling further and further away from myself ( cliched as it sounds) further away from my path of Yoga, and further and further away from my own practice.
As my personal life got more & more reactive/stressed/heightened with anxiety & struggles of all that encompasses being in a relationship & caring for someone else & their struggles & anxiety, my ability to see clearly and care for myself disappeared.
( A part of me always feels guilty when I have these thoughts, because I don’t have kids, and see so many people struggle with time & rest when having a family. I remember though, that it was my choice to not have kids & it doesn’t make what I experience, feel & sense any less than anyone else’s, BUT I digress)
I needed to REST.
But god that was hard to do. I actually had to phone a friend and have him literally tell me to TAKE. THE. WEEK. OFF. Seriously I’m 38 and it took my best friend in another state to tell me that and I thought to myself, where have we all gone so horribly wrong that we wait until an eruption to slow down, why can’t we slow it down?
At that same time I felt an enormous surge of energies around me as so many others were going through a very similar time. So, I decided to write a little HOW TO REST to provide some light in how I was ( and still am) able slow it down and slowly make my way back to the light:
1. DON’T Fight It! Stop striving and start seeing. Feeling. Sensing. No more struggle, just REST.
Leading into the next one
2. REST ~ as in DO NOTHING. Unstructured downtime. I don’t mean watching Netflix or reading a book or gardening, I simply mean STOP and REST. Lay on the grass, float in the pool. Lay on the beach and REST.
3. RESTORATIVE YOGA ~ Every damn day. You heard me. I did Restorative Yoga every day for a week 3-4 hours a day. Get online or Buy a book. If you don’t have Yoga Blankets or Bolsters, just make do with soft towels and cushions and pillows.
4. Yoga Nidra. I completed one if not two each day of the week I had off. Again, some great resources listed below.
5. Addition of Supplements: In these times I always make sure I taking adequate supplementation as my body
is pulling loads of these to cope with the added stress and energy it takes to care for someone.
Below is what I typically take but remember this is just me. Seek out a qualified Naturopath or Chinese Medicine Dr/Acupuncturist to ensure you get the correct treatment and supplements.
My Supplementation Routine:
6. Bed Time Routine: bath with 2 cups of Epsom salts OR Magnesium Flakes and oils, Cup of Tea with Camomile Passionflower, Lavender and other relaxing herbs.
~ Legs Up the Wall for 5 Mins, followed by Pranayama of even count of breath in and out
~ Roll onto my Feet and belly @hanakotherapies Happy Tracks
~ Doterra Lavender Peace 4 x drops on pillow ( Or any Lavender Single Oil or Blend)
~ Finally, a Spray of @ hanakotherapies, DREAM MIST to settle me into bed.
I hope the above helps you in some way and remember to always follow your intuition and do what feels right for you.
There’s a heap of Online Yoga platforms you can access to take Restorative Yoga Classes on & some of my favourites are:
Gaim, Yoga International, OneOEight, Yogaglo.
Authors /Books: some of my Favourite authors are Rod Stryker, Brene Brown, Jillian Pranksy, Judith Hansen Lassester & Elena Brower.
Yogarupa Rod Stryker also has some fabulous Yoga Nidra recordings on his new APP Sanctuary.
Some of you may know that I am currently on Yoga Teacher Training retreat in Koh Samui with my teacher Tiffany Cruikshank. The module we're studying is Meditation and Yin Yoga. I chose this module specifically because I am fascinated about the affects of meditation and want to learn all I can about it to translate this into becoming an amazing teacher for my students. Little did I know that this would be a game changer for me.
Some of you maybe also know that I suffer from two autoimmune illnesses and have been struggling with Graves disease and all its shitty manifestations for a while now. The idea of choosing this module for training was to not only help my students but really, to help me learn how to heal. I've researched the crap out of Graves disease and although I know I have to work seriously hard on getting my gut back into the best shape ever, I honestly and truly believe that its my mind that will be the medicine.
We've been studying the latest research and methods of meditation and Yin Yoga and putting them into practice each morning and afternoon and today, I had the most profound experience I have had in my meditation practice and I have been practising for 8 years. As Tiffany guided us through our evening Yin class focusing on the metal element, that ability to let go of control and order, to let go of protecting ourselves and others and to be supported: we held asanas that targeted our Lung and Large Intestine meridians ( thats a whole other blog post coming). These asanas focused on opening up our chest and pectoral muscles and also back of our lungs and arms, When we finished Savasnana, we ended with our usual 30 minute meditation.
Woah- if only I knew what was about to hit me. We began a visualisation of letting go of what was weighing us down. I instantly knew what I had to let shift. The past 2 years ( well lets be honest here) the past 7 years in my life have been somewhat intense to say the least. After the death of my dad suddenly from a stroke in 2008, my health rapidly deteriorated. Not that you would know it. On the outside, I looked perfectly healthy. About the right weight, I'm happy, all my bloods are normal - everything said I should be healthy. Since then I have struggled each day,I've pushed through, like we're taught to do, i've manned up and battled through anxiety, panic attacks, depression, chronic fatigue and pain, but most of all, I battled the feeling of complete detachment from my body. There have been brief moments within those months of feeling more like me, when the light shone into my world, but its been a challenge. Not only for me but for my beautiful and devoted husband, Mike , who has carried me through this struggle. During 2011, I began to feel a shift again, And then in later 2014 I was diagnosed with Graves disease ( after two traumatic events as a park ranger at Kings Canyon) and my world and health cam crashing down again.
Fast forward now to this mediation this evening and this shitload of crap - this overwhelming sense of failure, grief, heaviness and sadness would not shift. it just wouldn't go. It resisted and pushed back. I kept going, i kept giving it the space to release away from my body and the pain in my right shoulder ( rhomboids to be exact) became intense. Excruciating in fact. Eventually, as Tiffany gently guided us through the release, she asked us to just let go of what no longer was needed. I felt a moment of lightness, levitation, call it what you will - that weightlessness that I experienced in my first ever yoga class happened and i began to cry. Tears streamed down my face and the pain in my right shoulder immediately just disappeared. just like that.
BEST. MEDITATION. EVER.
The amount of chronic stress that has accumulated in my body is immense and the response that my body has had to this is even worse than the trauma it has suffered in my short life. These last few days I have begun to find a light that I thought I might not ever find again. I have been feeling so helpless these last few years- thinking that my life was destined to be that of a sick person.
Now I know thats not my destiny. And I am ecstatic. I know I am meant to heal people by helping them heal them selves . And I cannot wait for my dream to become my reality.
In the meantime, if you don't meditate, then just stop making up excuses. JUST DO IT.
Meditation has the ability to transform you. It increases your ability to deal with stress, anxiety and grief and encourages neuro-plasticity. It gives every part of your body and mind and spirit a chance to heal. You have the power to change your physiology -thats right you do. So why would you not do it?
Try this simple meditation:
Create a space in your house or your bedroom. Light a candle, dim the lights and make your space your own. Set aside 5 or 10 minutes each day. Set a timer on your phone to remind you when you've finished. Sit quietly in a comfortable seated position or even upright in a chair. relax your shoulders, soften your jaw and gently close your eyes. Begin to become aware of your breath and sensations in your body that it creates. Follow your breath in and out. Sit like this for several more minutes. Just allowing yourself to be in the moment. With no judgement, or expectation, just to be.
Alright, so yes, I know, its been forever since I actually did anything with my blog and website and most of you have probably lost interest or thought i'd just given up. In fact, I kinda did think that too....
I have a habit of doing that - of having ideas and dreams, of thinking up amazing grand plans and then never actually following through. Or just losing interest and motivation, until finally I just kinda forget about it and think oh well, wasn't meant to be. And then I find anew idea and so on and so on.
This year has been tough, thats my excuse..... shit - who am I kidding the past 4 years have been tough...and I tend to dwell on that and let that energy drag me down, make me feel heavy and sad and then suddenly Ive lost my glow and I am back to square one AGAIN.
But is that really it? Nope, I don't think so, I think I was and still am, pretty fearful of living life to its fullest. I was scared, all the time, what if I'm a crap yoga teacher, what if I fail, what if i lose all our money, what if its the wrong decision.... You get the picture? I was letting this fear control me and scare me so shitless that I kinda half did stuff then would just stop it. Its what one of my favourite all time gals calls, "listening to your mean girl" ( Thanks Melissa Ambrosini for helping me work through this)
When I get like this, I tend to stop all those things that actually help me. Well the one thing really, thing. I stop yoga. I stop not just the physical practice but all the practice of yoga, the meditation, the service, the compassion, all of it And with each day as I lose a little of yoga, I lose a little bit of myself. Yep you heard me, yoga is what makes me , me. And when I lose me, i kinda stop doing all the things I love, stop cooking, stop having cups of tea with friends, stop calling family, stop connecting and stop my dreams of creating a blog, a website and a studio where people can come and find a little bit of themselves.
So, 6 months ago on a dream holiday with my soul mate, partner and husband, in Sri Lanka, we made a decision, we put fear aside and we decided to quit our jobs, I should mention here, our well paid, excellent conditions ( 7 weeks paid leave a year) stable and secure government jobs, to leave the desert and go find it. That things which makes you shine....That things that ignites your spirit as dear Rumi puts it. We spoke at length over Arak and Ginger beer on the beaches of Sth Sri lanka, ( for those of you familiar with Sri Lanka, you will know this Arak, it is sublime..) on the fort walls of Galle and in the lap pool under the frangipani and it all came down to one thing........I was scared as hell, that if we left, we would fail, but I was even more scared of staying, I was even more scared of staying in a job that was slowly destroying my health....so we left.
We packed our house up, put our dogs in the trailer, I made a weeks worth of Almond milk, green smoothie jars, mike did amazing manly things to the car and off we went into the unknown. We had made a conscious choice to go to Byron Bay - the meca of all things yoga, health, activism and bliss. We manifested farms with rolling green hills and wide verandhas, sitting with cups of chai and a yoga business where I could create and help others. We put put heart and soul into this dream. But it wasn't to be......It wasn't quite right.....
And therein lies the problem, we were pushing to much. Like a friend I spoke to last night put it, sometimes when you push, you get it pushed back. When you stop trying it just happens. And this is the thing.
We were working so hard at pushing, at dreaming at creating this life we wanted that the universe pushed back.......and thought to itself, hmmm, time for little lesson in life... listen to your heart, listen to your gut. Go to a place where you feel at home, where every time you fly over the harbour you get that amazing sense of peace.....where the air is warm and filled with the scent of frangipani and where people welcome you with open arms.....
So on a gut instinct, I rang a realesate agent in Darwin got a friend to inspect a house and four hours later we got a call to say we got it.....I spoke to a friend and got a yoga trial class in a studio and had the most amazing creative brainwave for my yoga pathway........That simple....Like Rumi said, " be like the trees and let the leaves drop". It all comes to you when you just let it all go. All is as its meant to be.
So farwell Byron Bay, farewell rolling green hills and glistening ocean, until a time when you call us back, these gypsies are off to Darwin, to return home to a place that loves us and embraces us with open arms, without judgement, and with love - (oh and a big whack of humidity for good measure)
So the dream has deviated little, changed course and traveled over 5000km but we won't let that stop us. The one thing that yoga has taught me to do is accept - accept this is where you need to be and be okay with that. Dont fight it or push it away or spend hours worrying about what if (in our case, god what if we'd just driven straight to Darwin) just be here now.
Stay well peeps, and remember to always follow your gut not matter how small that voice inside is, listen to it and follow it every step of the way, it may deviate a little, take you on a path that you can't understand but it will eventually lead you to where you are supposed to be. If you've got a spare moment, let me know about what sets your soul on fire, about what lights you up and about your journey that you're on, id love to hear more!
I'm a Yogi, tea-lover, wanderluster, truth seeker.