Destination Sensation

 

bw saddle web

Yoga is an inward journey, I fear this is increasingly forgotten. In the yoga studios and gyms lined with mirrors, I’m almost certain it IS being forgotten. It’s true that this is where we go, these studios, for motivation, or for convenience, for a certain teacher or style, an adjustment or two, to be a part of something, for a community of sorts, for a reliable heat source or a mat sized flat space to call your own for an hour or two. Or for a regular pay check without the frustration of self promotion. 🙂

But yoga is also solitary. Actually, yoga is primarily solitary. A solitary, inward journey. Every student coming to class regularly should ALSO be devoting time to self practice. Turning up on your own mat to your own time and doing something ( it doesn’t matter so much what, as long as there is breath and focus).

I hear, over and over, that you don’t have the motivation for self practice.. the discipline — but I beg to differ. If you can come to class you have that drive in you, already. You say you don’t know what asanas to practice. I say you’d be surprised by your kinaesthetic memory even if you’ve only been to a handful of classes.

( Sequencing poses is quite intuitive. In can be ‘pose and counter pose’…. ‘compressive followed by expansive’. And/or a series of poses working one group of muscles on one side of the body, perhaps building up in depth or strength or hold, followed by the other side. Breathing is even more intuitive. Upward movements ask for an inhale, downward for an exhale. The breath wants to be smooth and fluid by nature, not ragged and jittery. Not forced in. Certainly not forced out. Not usually held, but sometimes so quiet it drops away. Focus is all that is needed here. If in doubt just breathe naturally! )

Then, here is where the concept of a quiet practice comes in. A practice doesn’t always have to be based on the constant chatter of a teacher and her generalised ‘blanket’ cues ( as experienced as she is, she can’t feasibly speak for everyone).  Or paced with the prescriptive mantra of the breath of your fellow class attendees. Yoga doesn’t require an external noise source ( your teacher’s playlist ),  defining a choreographed plot line with a musical peak pose moment.

A silent, solitary, inward practice.

Self motivated. Without mirrors or selfie sticks.  Without the internet or a podcast. Without music. Without that hottie on the mat next to you. Without a teacher or his instruction. Without that ‘advanced’ student to follow along, in front of you. Without the back-drop of a rack synthetic hot pants for sale at the studio, or boxes of packaged vegan bars / trendy ( ok, delicious) cold pressed juices, the free coconut water that calls you to rush out of your savasana before it runs out.

Can I ask you to practice alone, in old, not particularly flattering but just comfortable clothes, on a no frills mat from Target rolled out in a little bit of space somewhere, with your eyes half closed?

A silent, solitary practice is where yoga takes flight. For here, without external reflection, the mind is drawn inward and you start to notice, and in time observe, sensation. The feelings of being in a physical body. The feeling of the muscles, bones, sinews, skin. The stretch of the fascia, the rebound. The sensation of the breath moving in and out of the body. And more subtly, the sensation of energetic movement and pattern. Each pose has an attendant sensation. Perhaps a little -or a great deal- different for every body. Perhaps changing every day. The actual quality of the sensation is not what matters. Noticing the quality, with curiosity,  without judgement or categorisation, is what matters.

This is the present moment. This is the gift we are given whilst placed in a physical body. Sensation which always already brings you to the present moment. The start and the end of the journey, sensation is forever present, woven through all experience.

 

 

 

 

Yin yoga, Myofascial release & Yoga for the Face!

Yin Yoga, Myo-Fascial Release and Face Yoga workshop:  A self-care workshop:

savasana
I’m holding an afternoon workshop on these three delicious gems of self care on Sunday May 22nd at Hummingbird Eco Retreat, Red Hill, on the Mornington Peninsula in the beautiful Yoga space there. 

EXPERIENCE Yin Yoga , a slow and mindful form of yoga designed to wipe your stress away physically and mentally and bring you to an altered state of being. Yin yoga is a beautiful adjunct to a busy life or indeed a more yang style yoga practice. In Yin yoga we concentrate on sensation in the present moment. It is literally the anti-thesis of multi-tasking, and at the same time it is a powerful physical practice, working on deep connective tissue to relieve the body of stagnant energies.


LEARN Myofascial self release techniques ( MFR ) to shift stubborn tightness in the fascia (the connective tissue ) and muscles, helping to release habitual muscular patterns and chronic pain and enhancing everyday mobility. We use tennis balls on trigger points and along acupuncture meridians to ease blocked energies, built up pain responses and chronic tension.


TRY out Yoga for the Face- a yoga facelift method to tone the face via its muscles – a workout we never think of doing but one that is just as important as all the muscles below the neck. Everyone knows that toned muscles don’t sag, and this is just as true for the face. Yoga for the Face also enhances circulation to help with clear smooth skin. On a less superficial note,  Yoga for the Face also helps with tension in the head, face and neck, bringing relief from headaches and jaw tension. 


RELAX with a guided Yoga Nidra meditation, deep relaxation through a mindful rotation of awareness.

The workshop includes notes on Myofascial techniques and tennis balls and sock for the MFR therapy, plus chai tea and a healthy gluten free/ dairy free snack.

1.30 – 4.30pm Sunday 22nd May

( this workshop would make a great early Mother’s day gift- vouchers available! )


Investment: $65
Couples/friends: $120 for two
Early bird price ( book & pay before May 8th ): $55,
$100 for two.

Suits all levels including absolute beginner and the established yoga student- and this includes most bodies!

Check out the lovely accommodation at Hummingbird if you want to make a weekend of it. http://hummingbirdeco.com.au/sleep/accommodation

Bookings for the workshop can be made via email :
heidi@yogaguerilla.com
or call/ text Heidi on 0403560850

Finding presence. Yoga as Meditation.

In the first year or two of a solid, committed YOGA practice you are learning the asanas (yoga poses). Your body responds by cleaning out, your strength and flexibility increase, your energy begins to flow clearly and your muscles and joints re-calibrate. Your system is able to detoxify more easily and your metabolism increases. You may discover the breath and how very deep and wide- and how very shallow and still- it can be.

Over more years, more practice, more attention, you discover how the breath and the body and indeed the pose are all one and the same, simultaneously. You begin to find some acceptance of the body- as within the exploration of breath you realise the body is far bigger than you ever imagined. Without borders. You feel the breath as the ocean, swelling and subsiding, beyond the physical limits of the body.
You begin to know a pose as a path of energy encompassing the body mind and breath- often changing in nature from day to day. No longer a collection of arms and legs, muscles and bones- with the breath thrown in from the outside.

You begin to sense that – ‘hey… the body is not me. It is something providing sensation.’ You look at sensation and see – ‘hey… these sensations come and go like the wind, the sensation is not me.’
And the thoughts- as much as we believe they are us, and give them such primacy, such value- almost attributing them with substance- we come to realise:
‘hey… my thoughts are not me, they come and go but I can be aware of them’
You feel the flow of breath and you begin to have an idea that indeed, you are being breathed.

The mind, the breath and the body and the energies within are forever in flux- they can not be defined as self.

Within your yoga practice, especially evident in self practice, is the vital task of cultivating awareness of the sensations of the asana, and the movement in and out of each pose. Awareness of the way the breath feels as your lungs fill and your ribs expand. The sensation of the parts of the body that touch the mat, the stretch in the muscles, the skin, the placement of the bones. The shapes of the energy as it moves. The bodily feeling of being in yoga.

Naturally, with practice, with time and with intent, you begin to become aware of certain thought habits that tether you to a limited reality. The grasping towards the idea of singular self, the ‘me’. The ego at work. The self-categorisation ( I’m tired, I’m flexible, I’m strong, I’m hopeless at this, I’m so spiritual etc, etc ).
The self limiting boxes we place ourselves in.

The practice of becoming mindful of habitual thoughts is key to progress in yoga practice. It is an integral step towards going beyond the physical- finding the spiritual- in yoga. As you become familiar with your familiar habits of perception, the conceptualisations that we build and have had built around us, and you see that everything that is perceivable comes and goes in a state of flux- it becomes clear that what goes on in your mind has nothing to do with the Real.

They manifest in myriad ways, these patterns and constructs… it may be the way you are a little averse to poses that deeply flex the ankles ( yep, that’s me right there ), but love a good deep forward bend or could hang out forever in an incorrectly executed headstand.
It may be a habitual, unexplored way of doing a pose, or a stuck-ness in a joint or muscle system. A catching of the breath. A hesitation. The way a pose triggers a thought association that can lead you off your mat even as you continue moving the body…. the way the mind plays extended remixes of high drama, on replay, ad infinitum. These are only a few, but the ones I have personally seen play out, either staying around and playing for a while or slipping away as fast as they arrive- over and over- within the past 25 years of various Yoga practices.

Our awareness of reality is clouded by avoidance and attraction- our minds swing from attachment to aversion, aversion to attachment, grasping in a habitual way.
Once we begin to even notice this vacillation between thoughts of
‘Oooh yes, I like this, I want more of this, I’m holding on to this’ and ‘No, don’t like that, yucko, I’m pushing that one away ‘, we begin to let it go.

Yoga is all about letting go.

Letting go of the grasping, of the pushing, or the fabrications and constructions. Realising that they are not you. Releasing, as they arise, the judgements and the comparisons. The personal and societal perceptions. The false concept that mind and body are split.

The lonely lie of the limited self.

Finding the neutral spaces between the grasping towards and pushing away, is finding yoga, the raw spaces where future thinking and past reflecting are not in attendance.

Yoga is finding and developing- with intentional curiousity and exploration– those moments where you can drop in to the presence that is ALWAYS ALREADY there. Always has been, always will be. Learning and practicing this focus is discovering freedom, for when you let go of boundaries, you find freedom. The presence of being..

Wat Po, Bangkok- Yoga sculputre- utplutihi

Yogis CAN go camping, too!

Lookout meditator

Handy bench, amazing view. The weather changed every few minutes up here on a lookout hill on a private 4WD track at Alpana Station.

So quiet in the middle of everywhere and nothing with incredibly ancient rocks

So quiet in the middle of everywhere and nothing with incredibly ancient rocks

It’s been a long time since we went camping. I grew up camping- the real kind of camping, the find-a-spot-far-out-in-the-bush off the beaten track, far-from-the-maddening-crowds kind of camping. No services, no toilet, no shower, no reception, no nothing. Except everything nature supplies. The bring-everything-you-need kind of camping, including a shovel for when nature calls and plenty of water.

However once we had kids, camping became more of a hassle for these particular Yogi’s, more than we ( ok, I ) could imagine getting excited about. Hassles like sleep deprivation, like kids that liked to wander- but weren’t old enough to safely, like nappies and poo and no baths for days on end. Like the thought of tackling motherhood insomnia/ hyper vigilance on seriously uncomfortable camping mats, whinging kids on a long road trip, etc etc.

But recently the call of the desert returned in an intense way, and I wanted more than anything to take the family to the Outback, away from the easy green of our country home, away from the Thermomix and the I-gadgets and Mine-craft. Away from all comforts including my lovely little warm, flat and dry yoga studio at home.

The thing about a daily self practice in Yoga, if I am quite honest, is that it limits what you do in your life. It is a marvellous, transformational life practice, but limiting all the same.
‘No sorry I can’t have breakfast in bed I have to do my practice ‘…
Getting up at the cracker and rolling out your mat may be hard to make into a habit at first, but after 25 years of doing it, it’s a near impossible habit to break. It defines your life. Truly. So camping was out of the picture for more than a moon day night or two as it all seemed too difficult, and indeed quite selfish, to get the kids to wait around while we did our morning practice.

But then the kids GREW UP a little and started looking after themselves… So, quite spontaneously, we decided to go camping for REAL. With a few concessions from me (like leaving Weet-bix and tinned fruit out for them to serve themselves instead of a hot, nourishing kind breakfast.. oh the horror, the guilt, the shame ) and a shortened practice ( Ashtanga primary series only, often only to Navasana ) the kids were able to look after and entertain themselves in a wonderfully independent way. They were free to roam and wander through the bush as they liked, as long as they were within coo-eee of their parents and stuck together. The kids had fun in their freedom, the parents had respite in our freedom, and our bodies recovered from the rigours of sleeping rough and days crammed into the 4WD. I dropped the need to do all poses, everyday, and it was all good.
Here a some photos of our yoga and meditation on this recent trip to the Flinders ranges and Arkaroola. 12 days of sleeping on hard mats and doing less, gentler but utterly delightful yoga on ancient earth in sacred places.

On the way to the Outback we camped at the Showgrounds at Burra and found the perfect open air shed to practice in.

On the way to the Outback we camped at the Showgrounds at Burra and found the perfect open air shed to practice in.

Burra

Beautiful warm sun, so stiff and sore after the first 1000 kms or so.

salutes

Alpana Station- first morning, sun salutes

standing meditator

Free Ranging Kids

Free Ranging Kids

Roo watching

Alpana

Handy tarp for keeping off the bindi bindi’s ( nasty prickles )

upward

More free range kids- imagine having this many

More free range kids- imagine having this many

second morning- pre practice photo

second morning in Alpana- pre-practice photo. It was so lovely there we stayed longer than planned.

wilpena hike

Always save some energy to hike, (skip the 20 backbends sequence)

at it AGAIN

at it AGAIN

Above the amazing old Blinman Copper mine- fragments of malachite everywhere.

Above the amazing old Blinman Copper mine- fragments of malachite everywhere.

My turn- leave me alone for 10 minutes now, please!

My turn- leave me alone for 10 minutes now, please!

Sandy dry river beds have the perfect flat, firm and shaded ground for practice- Arkaroola.

Sandy dry river beds have the perfect flat, firm and shaded ground for practice- Arkaroola.

Ardha Baddha Padma in Arkaroola

arkaroola pranayama

headstand lift

supine in river bed

Supine in river bed

football heart opener

Football Heart Opener

footy hamstring support

Football hamstring support, shavasana

On the way home- Broken Hill motel. Not ideal but better than nothing- of course being smaller I got the dodgy spot. And a lovely hot shower.

On the way home- Broken Hill motel. Not ideal but better than nothing- of course being smaller I got the dodgy spot. And a lovely hot shower.

Why Yogaguerilla?

Yogaguerilla is about facing up to the fact that in our minds, in every human mind, is the capacity to fight… ( ‘guerre’ war, ‘-illa’ little).   We are ‘set’, conditioned to react, to judge, to have desire or aversion to every little thing in our world. This is the way the human mind works, a constant whirl of thoughts, feelings, judgements etc. It is a battle. 

However, going within and attending to the present moment, as it is, right now… in this moment… gives us a break from this, a chance to be here, now. It is something you have to take on yourself, like a warrior… no one can do this for you.

This is your own little battle you are fighting. 

Practicing Yoga in a mindful way, learning mindfulness meditation and practicing it both formally ( including sitting practices- with standing and walking practices too) and informally in every day life ( for example , cultivating a non-reactive attitude of equanimity when parenting, working, dealing with other people ) … all these are part of Yogaguerilla…. fighting the little war inside you.

As a yoga teacher, I am often aware that although I can have a good idea of what is going on within a students physical ‘body’- i.e. which muscles they are using, which ones not engaged, etc… I really can never know what is going on in their minds. Although there may be hints- a fidgeting, particular breathing pattern, loss of balance or a tight jaw… one can not be sure if the student is feeling the pose, or actually off writing epic ‘to do’ lists in their heads.

Some Yoga traditions, such as Ashtanga Vinyasa’s ‘tristana’, have guidelines of where to look ( drishti ), how to breathe ( ujjayi- a sibilant, warming breath that acts as a mantra ), internal energetic locks ( bandha )… but even with those, and especially with students who are secure in a daily practice- almost on auto-pilot… who truly knows what is going on within?

It was on learning Mindfulness Meditation that I began to really grasp the meditative aspect of my daily Yoga practice… even in a challenging practice or pose. Learning how to be present, not only within the tristana tools above, but with the sensations arising and passing, ( or indeed arising and sticking! ), the thoughts coming and going, learning to keep coming back to the present moment, again and again, moment by moment, breath by breath.

Truly being in the practice of yoga. 

If I can teach my students how to do this, give them guidelines towards finding the meditative aspect within their practice, whether in a class or at home, then I feel I can really share with them what yoga is about… as without mindfulness, yoga is not much more than a stretching and contorting to various degrees.

Yoga is and should be a transformative experience, not so much a set of exercises to beautify the body and build the ego ( along the way possibly attracting physical injury ), whilst just creating more ‘chatter’ in the mind.