#47 Wheel-y natural – Adelaide’s 52 Yoga Project

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You know when it feels amazing, when you’re you’re in the flow……..oh yeah…….

This happens to me with outdoors yoga.

It pares down your practice, simplifies your thoughts and intensifies the experiences. Stronger smells, more variable light, temperature and stimuli. So many more distractions in some ways – and yet seems simpler to quieten and slow down your thoughts.

It is “only natural” to begin an outdoors class feeling frustrated by obstacles. This day at Womad (see picture) with the lovely “Unlock Your Body Yoga” it was really hot. Super-needing-shade-or-else hot. We couldn’t find our spot.  That’s why there’s a photo – my husband gave up on the class and took photos instead. It was pretty crowded. The ground was uneven, grating noises like garbage trucks could be heard nearby. Oh, I could go on and on and on.

Yet battling the elements can help remind you that you are well and truly “in the moment”. It’s like nature is calling you to be present.

Here are some benefits to yoga outdoors 

* Uneven surfaces can build the smaller, secondary muscles around the joints. (Be sure to not over-exert since uneven surfaces can trigger tension in unexpected places.) 

* Outdoor yoga delivers a sense of space and freedom, one step removed from comparative influences like neighbourly mats, mirrors and fancy yoga outfits. 

* Outdoors can be humbling, especially when everyone is experiencing the same challenges of insects, damp ground, temperature, dirt or sweat. It is easier to laugh, to abandon striving personas, etc.

* It can ease people’s ability to breathe (as long as your air is clean in your outdoors space – pranayama is fresher than when cooped up in one space.)

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If you’re looking for a space, find a secluded, relatively quiet spot with a decent amount of flat, open space and few passersby.

Spend time meditating on the 5 senses – the near and far noises, – the smells, pleasant and unpleasant, yours, the ground around you, – what you see, often birds or clouds pop into view right at a crucial moment post-sivasana, – your skin, your sense of touch, what is hot, cold, uneven, where your body touches the ground, the breeze and so on.

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This day, for me, I found grace in the beautiful urdhva dhanurasana (Upward Bow or Wheel) pose. I often throw myself into this asana, hold my breath, force my muscles into unhappy places popping upwards to arch. Instead my arms felt like massively strong concrete foundations while my torso and abdomen rose like I was being held and lifted sky-wards by an invisible life-force. It felt so beautiful.

It is well demonstrated that there is great power in the restorative benefits of nature. It helps us improve our ability for self-reflection. It is simpler in nature to apply Svadhyaya – the ethical practice of self-reflection and enquiry. That was for sure. This pose, and all the rest – felt great !

With stronger ability for reflection that accompanies an outdoors practice, often you can find your sweet edge more readily. Find the wheel-y natural you.

 

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This Yogic Life

This is our yogic life.

The photos are a round-up of our beautiful journey through the past decade or so and how yoga has woven a thread rich through us all.

Hindu ceremony, New Mexico camps, Quebec ashram, inversions, conversions, beaches and buddies.

Partners, puppies, smiles – and always outdoors !

Dancing, playing and always propping each other up. Sometimes blurry, always with love and good intentions.

Us. Our family and friends on this planet.

Love.

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#46 Mat mates – Adelaide’s 52 Yoga Project

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Last year on arrival in Adelaide our family had a lovely surprise, we found Adelaide has an outlet of our favourite yoga store Lululemon (the Canadian active wear retailer).

And even better we found out that they offer unlimited, twice-weekly FREE yoga classes…..what a lovely surprise, an unusual gift in modern retail behaviour, but so yogic.

This week, after several months break I went again. After a busy summer away it’s taken a while to get my regular yoga class habit back. One clear yearning & intention I’ve had is to find a kula (yoga community – see below) and this intention has seen me trekking from one side of Adelaide to another – with some great experiences, but as yet not finding a true place to land that’s right for me for the long term.

I took one of the local Grenville St Sunday morning sessions (the Lulu family offer twice-weekly classes) since I already knew a sense of community could be found here.

Hence the “mat mates”. Sigh. So lovely. My yoga family was there……!

I pulled up beside *Francis, someone I had practiced next to a couple of times last year, someone my daughter had teamed up with for partners yoga last winter. So kind, peaceful. I’d forgotten about her.

AND out-of-nowhere came a big hug from *Josie, a kind of “strategic team-builder” Lululemon has employed to help support and contribute to Adelaide’s yoga community. What a dynamo. Always offering incredible insight and so open to life.

How to feel like you’re home! I can’t speak highly enough for this location and the people found with in it. This is kula…..

When diverse people come together and celebrate yoga as a unifying thread – that is kula. Kula” (Koo-la) is a Sanskrit concept which effectively means community of the heart. A kula is joined by an invisible uniting, connecting bond where social norms, history and taboos are ignored and a focus on love, abundance and expression is the defining quality. 

This community at LL is definitely an intentional kula community. Now, a community is not defined by a space (although this huge heritage building, colored walls, herb tea and smiles certainly helps) – instead it is the people that compose it.

“You are the company that you keep, so keep good company”, says yoga philosopher Douglas Brooks.

I can guarantee anyone who comes to these classes will experience this positive feeling the joining of welcoming yogi companionship …. try it for yourself……

(*PS Yogi’s names have been changed for anonymity)

#48 Woah. Mad – Adelaide’s 52 Yoga Project

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How to describe Womad?

It was like an all-day x 3 day-long yoga class. Or a resort holiday. Combined with Christmas Day. Physical exhaustion mixed with bliss, mixed with the energy from thousands of others mixed with intimacy from the lazing around with your friends and family in shady trees with nothing to do (if you so choose).

Russell Chan’s Unlock Your Body yoga was like that too.

3 classes over 3 days. At times funny, frantic, soothing, slow, crazy. Pushing your boundaries then resting in acceptance. (And maybe just being outside contributed to them being such lovely classes too…….)

Woah, mad it was.

We’d never been to a music festival before (but that’s another story for another blog one day). The yoga is what drew us into the festival every morning at noon.

Under ancient boughs and clear skies with the mixed songs of dozens of types of birds, it was blissful right there. Drawing strength from the ground, our standing yoga asanas were energetic, strong and kind. Russell’s voice was perfectly-timed and humble. The sivasanas were tear-jerkers as we melted from the heat into the ground and let go of everything. I really loved his technique of scanning the body during relaxation and naming each part of the body as it is released. Mmmmm. A sure sign – my kids and husband joined in too.

What was most lovely was how people drifted in and out of the class – mostly in. In flowy skirts, without mats, with yoga newbies and piled up picnic baskets. There were some real tight bodies and some major “keeners” like us. All were welcome.

That’s the piece, the gem. 

Everyone is welcome to yoga. We all have unique geometries, like our fingerprints. There isn’t a yogi alive that can perfect all poses, all ways, all of the time. What makes us retreat in fear in our personalities is the same as what we retreat from in our bodies. I presume that’s what Russell means. When you unlock the parts of you that aren’t functioning optimally you unlock parts of your heart. And we all benefit. I can’t imagine why anyone would avoid yoga due to judging themselves as being too inflexible. 

If I had one wish it would be that more people could experience this wonderful event, in this wonderful Botanic Garden with this wonderful teacher.

Na-Ma-Ste……!

 

 

You can find Russell at Stomping Ground Studio

Stomping Grounds Studios (SGS), 9 Stepney St., Stepney, South Australia 5069  and you can

Contact them on info@stompinggroundstudios.com.au

 

 

# 52 Kundalini Kelley – Adelaide’s 52 Yoga Project

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What a homecoming.

It’s been about 2 years since I  attended a Kundalini yoga class ~ last time was back in Canada where we used to live. This was also my first formal class for 2014 and the first class of my new baby – The 52 Yoga Project.

The class was special. The intimate studio was very quiet, no traffic noise outside and had a high ceilinged, almost cave-like quality. The sense of one-ness wasn’t as strong with the students as I’ve experienced elsewhere (but Kundalini is quite new to Adelaide I’m told).

Kelley our teacher was so engaged, giving and confident in her teaching. I felt welcomed instantly and her instructions/demonstrations were really attentive and detailed, she gave a lot to her students…..

Once you find a style you love, it becomes very easy to overlook the quirks, stereotypes and individual nuances of a particular form. This type of yoga is no exception – students either adore or ridicule it. I am one of very few moderates, a pragmatic fan. There are things about it that frustrate me, but I am also slightly nuts about what it delivers to me. Here’s a summary about what to expect from the style……

The classic features of this style were all there – references to the founder, Yogi Bhajan, some very long and deeply meditative movements (long, slow pranayama breathing sets of 20 minutes duration !) juxtaposed against some wild breath-of-fire arm-numbing kriyas (set sequences). In addition, along came the sweet chants (the hook) by Snatum Kaur et. al. These always prove a treat, even when my mind argues with itself as I move through what feels like ridiculous-looking exercises. Sometimes Kundalini seems to put you into the craziest physical manoeuvres. And the terms, while correct, seem a little trite (the “ego-eradicator” exercise for example).  There are lots of rules in Kundalini and the sequences for a class are always as was set out by Mr Master Bhajan himself decades ago.

If you have never tried the Kundalini Yoga style, it’s OK to:

* Leave out the white dress. Many find the KY “uniform” a little too cult-like. Personally, I love it, I feel clean, summery and fit.

* Leave behind the need to understand the Ghurmuki language, the meaning behind the chants. Just enjoy the space the resonating voices take up inside your normally busy monkey minds!

* Stop rather than push through some of the more demanding arm raising kriyas. I find Kundalini a little light on alignment and anatomy, so pay close attention to spinal alignment during active movements. Resting is crucial. You can join back in at any time.

The benefits of this type of class are that they are quite the torso workout ! Your lung cavity, diaphragm are nourished and so your lung capacity feels greatly increased and you get a surge of mental vitality soon afterwards. And who doesn’t love to sing !?

Thank you Exhale Yoga for the opportunity to join in this space. While only a fledgling style in Australia, Kunalini has great relevance and Kelley’s success will only continue to grow in coming years. One request? I have been indulged by my last community, we always contributed snacks and yogi tea, etc. I guess I have been a little spoilt.

I tell you what, if this blog can encourage a few more students out, perhaps their hook can be an exquisite raw bliss ball treat, or small offering of golden milk. Just some small rewards to encourage this lovely, emerging community.

Sat Nam.

Kelley can be found at Exhale Yoga Studio. Her details are:

Kelley Watson King William Road Goodwood SA

Exhale Studio is a multi-discipline studio based in the Unley/Goodwood area, south of Adelaide City.

# 50 State of the Union – Adelaide’s 52 Yoga Project

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Surprise ! It’s a post about Pilates.

Actually, the real reason I went was cos’ it was an SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) class, and as you can see from the beach (Seacliff) we frequent it’s SUP heaven. Any excuse to get on a board. Crystal clear, abundant sea life and sand that goes on for miles…..

I was curious about the class cos’ I’ve never done Pilates before, and have never had a conversation with anyone I know about it ~ but it seems necessary for The 52 Yoga Project to include Pilates as we’re all part of the one family. Pilates though (to me) seems like the black sheep, the cousin no-one mentions. It’s quite possible yoga is like that in the Pilates world.

Rather than debate differences in a competitive frame, I’d like to highlight the similarities.  It’s not Pilates vs. Yoga. I’m looking for Union, not separation.

Liz, the instructor was vibrant. Healthy, funny and always looking to make the experience better, lots of guidance, very thorough explanation, diligence. Loved her straight away. She is obviously someone who has found her life’s work.

The class was energetic and the requirement to concentrate on the actions, the boards, the waves, the instructor and so on, meant that there was little room to wander mentally, for any mind chatter. So, it was like a meditation…..no different really in final effect than an active vinyasa class or Kundalini workout.

We laughed, looked after one another and drifted from the shore to the murky depths and back again several times. That connection with each other as a group and reacting to the external wind and waves around us really encouraged a strong sense of community.

In the modern fitness world there seems to be a misunderstanding about what each other does. Essentially, the principles are the same.

What do Yoga and Pilates both offer? 

* centreing (that is – going inward and finding calm) both in the mind and the body – in the core (with Pilates) and the heart centre (for Yoga) 

enhanced breathing practice and oxygenation

* control of muscles and limbs, spinal strength

precise anatomical movements to strengthen small muscles

* enhancing your capacity for concentration

* relaxation for both body and mind

I guess the idea I want to promote is that whatever unites both systems will help them both improve and be more widely embraced by all people. The assumption is that yoga is more gentle and pilates is more rigorous. However, knowing what I know about yoga, it is impossible to categorize yoga as such. I imagine in Pilates it is the same – there is a wide variety of classes that  require both gentle and hard working participants.

If you want to know more about Pilates and yoga fusion, read here. 

Essentially Liz gave us dynamic balancing poses, using the paddle board paddle in forward bends, doing similar movements to yoga like side plank and twists. I learnt some great core strengthening tips and a reaffirmation of the importance and beauty of combining the breath with the movements in a fluid fashion. The class was well-paced. I felt strong.

What was also brilliant was learning a few new SUP tips, like how to paddle in strong wind on your knees or seated with a Hiawatha-like paddling position.

Let me just say that the sivasana with lapping waves was exceptional and all of it was a great yogic experience. How could the beach be anything else?

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You can reach Liz at;

Stomping Grounds Studio

9 Stepney St, Stepney SA 5069

0422 621 941

info@stompinggroundstudios.com.au

Tuesdays 10:30am-12:30pm & 3-5pm
Wednesdays 12-3pm
Thursdays 1pm, 2pm, 4pm & 5pm
Fridays 8am, 12pm & 1pm
Saturdays 8am

She is available for Private Lessons

Please call Liz on 0409 775 158 to make a booking.

# 51 It’s the little things – Adelaide’s 52 Yoga Project

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Sometimes the little not-so-good things feel big.

Such was the case with todays class. I had an OK yoga experience. Actually it was a very average yoga experience. Yukky.

At those times it’s a hint to actively explore and find small things to be grateful for. I won’t say where the class was or with whom. I am going to go back again for another class soon, to delve in deeper, try to reveal the layers of feelings that were contained in this class and report back again with more knowledge and equanimity.

Was it me? Was it the teacher? I don’t know, and yet I know there was a learning to be had.

At the time I didn’t know what I was in for, so was open to the experience and all that it contained, and afterwards I felt pretty good. But there was some stickiness. Body felt good, mind good, heart not so good. I felt the class was brittle, dry, empty. Perhaps it was me?

I was I’ll admit, a teensy-weensy bit late.

That may have been it. I wouldn’t ever dare enter after a class had begun. But perhaps she waited for 10, 20, 30 seconds before commencing, while I found my way in and had to be instructed to be in a restorative sivasana? Should it have affected the overall effect of the class, the teacher’s demeanour? Not sure. But it was an opportunity to reflect on time, on yoga etiquette.

Here are some tips………

***If you are late***

********************************************************************************************** Seems from being involved with the yoga community over the years there’s a pretty clear outline of boundaries with yoga lateness, class starting times, etc. Ten minutes early is optimal. One minute early is still OK too, providing you leave your energetic self (and your voice) at the door and come in quietly and respectfully. If the teacher has begun to speak or chant it is fine (from my experience) to wait quietly and unobtrusively and join in at the first opportunity, the first break . However, if you are any later than that, it’s best to go home and come again to another class.

Centring and warm-up especially is crucial to prevent injury and having one disrupted mind can have a surprising affect on the energy of the class, particularly if the class is quite cohesive.

Anyway, if you are late, gather your props quietly, take a space at the back if it’s possible, and if necessary do a short-warm up so you can join the class effectively as soon as you are able.        **********************************************************************************************

In addition to the late issue, here are some aspects I struggled with.

The teacher was light on explanation & adjustments. 

It was silent and serious with an almost-mention of the theme of ego & striving/letting go.

I wasn’t sure what the intent was for the class, we seemed to bounce from restorative to floor, to standing poses. Just didn’t gel for me physically.

As for the small gratitudes – it was a nice sized class. It was quiet. She was direct and precise. There were plenty more aspects to enjoy.

Most importantly I have been reminded again from this class what I love most in a class. I love music with my yoga. I have a preference for a voice with variability from softness to stern. I want it all from my teacher……..I want eye contact, I want them to hold the space for me, I want all the range of emotions, humour, explosiveness, pain, exquisite joy. I want my fellow class members to love yoga as much as I do!

Ah, the ego. Coming out in all her glory. Hopefully next time my ego will be back in her box and all will be well.

Namaste.

#49 Prop Junkie – Adelaide’s 52 Yoga Project

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Gee I had fun this day !

There’s nothing I enjoy more than going to a rigorous hatha class and wishing I had a notebook to write down ideas, being sparked about the way a teacher explained something, or experience a kooky pose I’ve never seen before.

That’s the beauty of yoga, it’s endless, vast and there is always so much to learn.

We started out at Exhale doing a weird arm stretch warm-up. No criticism, I think it was just that it wasn’t a formal pose as such, something you can name. Lying on our sides with blankets and bolsters and tip-toeing our fingers over our heads & around, almost onto our backs. It was gold to someone like me who loves new things, likes the new and shiny, is distracted and curious about what else there is to learn……it felt incredible. More please.

And Richard nailed it – the term “prop junkie” is great, cos’ props give you such an extra range to work with, extra ways to determine where your boundaries are in space and extra protection for emerging yogis. Here’s one we did which was very new to me. Chair plough.

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Now apparently, in some circles, Plough is a bit of a no-no these days, it might be that practitioners are allowing people who are not ready nor truly able to do the pose, or perhaps it simply isn’t something our bodies should do a lot of. You decide – read this article. I’ve always loved plough, and starting out with props (blankets) years ago at an ashram in Quebec, Canada (Sivananda)  I learnt how it could do amazing things to my then-emerging dowagers hump ~ which after a decade has completely gone.

Anyway, in Richard’s class the chair was brilliant. After some confusing looks (am I facing this way? which way? Which way do the blankets face? Where does the chair go? Where do I go?) we emerged victorious and happy – since you could find out where your feet where in the inversion without needing to find the floor. Excellent for beginners.

Anyway, the point is that Richard’s instruction was bang on and the class allowed for people of all abilities to do their yoga thing. And safely and without ego and with good humour from our guide. It was an excellent session, and a space that I intend to inhabit more frequently in future…….

One comment though, it’s early days I know, but so far each of the classes I’ve done, people are very reserved. Is it an Adelaide thing? By the time I got up from Sivasana they were all almost out the door…….not a lot of interaction or smiles & gaiety. Yes, perhaps I’m being too judgemental, and the students obviously had things to go and rush off to do, cook dinner, retreat from a hard day at work.

Merely an observation, but something I am very unaccustomed to. More to learn, always more to learn.

Thanks Richard.

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You can find Richard Sanders multi-teacher Exhale Yoga studio in Goodwood – they have kids yoga, prenatal yoga, etc.

Cnr 72 King William Rd. and Union Street Goodwood, SA 5061

Ph: 0418 819 138
Richard Sanders
Studio Director

Studio available For Hire for workshops.