om gam yoga

Melbourne yoga instruction by Sophie Langley

Stillness

Stillness is not the absence or negation of energy, life, or movement. Stillness is dynamic. It is movement, life in harmony with itself, skill in action. It can be experienced wherever there is total, uninhibited, unconflicted participation in the moment you are in—when you are wholeheartedly present with whatever you are doing. ~ Erich Schiffmann ‘Yoga: the Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness’

I must’ve read this paragraph at least ten times over the last two years. It still strikes me every time. Stillness, on the rare occasion we manage to get it right, is dynamic. I love that idea.

Yoga flow video from YogaChick

I love this flowing sequence from YogaChick. She’s recently been experimenting with short-ish videos of her own practice, and they’re really lovely to watch — and have given me lots of ideas for my own practice, and for teaching! If you’re interested in seeing a few more, you can find them on her blog, or on YouTube.

My words in Death of a Scenester

Melbourne ‘zournal’, Death of a Scenester is launching its fifth issue, Food, next Saturday night in Abbotsford in Melbourne. Some words of mine on growing my own food and the subtleties of vegetarianism will appear in this issue.

Unfortunately I can’t make it to the launch, but if you’re in Melbourne, do try and get along! I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of this issue.

The Emerging Writer: An Insider’s Guide to Your Writing Journey

At the beginning of June, an essay of mine will be published in the Emerging Writers’ Festival’s yearly publication, which this year is called The Emerging Writer: An Insider’s Guide to Your Writing Journey. Here’s the blurb from the Emerging Writers’ Festival’s website:

Every writer has to find their own way to emerge – there is no set route, no absolute path and no road that must be followed. But there is a lot we can learn from those who have travelled before us: how to get there more directly, how to bypass the road blocks, traverse the peaks and valleys, or which is the most scenic route.

The Emerging Writer is an insider’s guide full of valuable advice from fellow travellers – a resource you can keep within arm’s length, for when you need to consult that map again to help you find your way. Inside you will find information on: how to create publication opportunities, understanding your value and getting paid, why you shouldn’t write what you know, managing your digital domain… and much more! Whether you’re taking your first step, planning the next stage of your trip, or just want inspiration to keep travelling on your writing journey, this book is for you.

I’m being published alongside a wonderful list of writers, and am really looking forward to getting my hands on a copy.

~

Sort-of related: the Emerging Writers’ Festival program came out yesterday. You should check it out here. I’m heading down to Melbourne at the end of May to attend, and I can’t wait.

(This has been cross-posted over at my writing blog.)

Yoga & body shame

“Yoga is really trying to liberate us from shame about our bodies. To love your body is a very important thing. The health of your mind depends on your being able to love your body.” ~ Rodney Yee

From: Garden of Yoga (reblogged from geeky-yogini).

Expansion

Happily, I’m having one of those weeks where my reading keeps building and my thoughts keep expanding out, turning into this incredibly complex web of interests. I’m not quite sure where to look at any given moment. I’ve made some decisions to change things — in big ways and in small ways — over the last few months, and it’s like I’m looking at a map, looking at all the different routes I might take to get to where I’m going. Except that where I’m going is a very vague concept — like I’m headed to a suburb, rather than a particular address. It’s exciting*.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend about how I’m a bit of an airhead, a bit of a dreamer. I need things and people to pull me back down to earth from time to time, and I need to do my best to be really organised so I don’t forget to do things I’ve said I will, or be places I’ve said I’ll be. I’ve also been teaching an awful lot of yoga classes these last few weeks. Having my head in so many different places in such a short space of time makes me even more prone to forgetting things. So it probably shouldn’t surprise me that I’ve found my way back to sitting curled up with a book for hours on end. It seems to satisfy both the dreaminess and the need for some kind of grounding.

Among other things (I seem to have ploughed through books much faster than usual lately), I’ve been reading Anne Enright’s Booker Prize winning novel The Gathering, partly for sheer enjoyment, and partly for research. Today I came across this passage, where the character is thinking about St Veronica, who gave Jesus her veil so he could wipe his face as he carried his cross:

“I became quite fond of her; a figure leaning out of the crowd, both supplicatory and tender. I still think of her wherever wet towels are offered in Chinese restaurants and on old-fashioned airlines. We have lost the art of public tenderness, these small gestures of wiping and washing; we have forgotten how abjectly the body welcomes a formal touch.”

It made me think about how we touch. How a small gesture of touch from another human being can bring so much comfort, can calm you down. Of how the gentlest touch when I’m teaching yoga can change a pose entirely for the student. And of how that calming, that grounding, on a yoga mat or in life, helps set the base from which expansion can occur.

~

* And, if I’m honest, at times also confusing and daunting. But then aren’t all the best things in life a mixture of exciting and daunting?

(This is cross-posted over at my writing blog.)

Yoga: Changing The Brain’s Stressful Habits | Psychology Today

This is perhaps the most accurate description of why, once I started, I continued to practice yoga. Physical exercise, sure, but mainly because it’s helped me manage better my stress reaction. Think calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean.

As a neuroscientist, despite my initial incredulity, I came to realize that yoga works not because the poses are relaxing, but because they are stressful. It is your attempts to remain calm during this stress that create yoga’s greatest neurobiological benefit.

via Yoga: Changing The Brain's Stressful Habits | Psychology Today.

Promising Scientific Studies on Yoga & Health | Alison Hinks Yoga

I love Alison Hinks‘ infographics. Her latest shows some of the results of scientific studies into yoga and health.

(See Hinks’ original post here)

A city’s intricacy

It’s the city’s crush and heave that move you; its intricacy; its endless life.

    ~The Hours, Michael Cunningham

I’ve been trying for months now to articulate exactly this sentiment. I miss the open space of my country upbringing, I miss the clean air, I miss seeing the stars in the sky at night. But this, this layer upon later of human intricacy, is what I’d miss about the city were I to move to the country.

An example: in a house around the corner from mine lives a man who practises his operatic singing in the middle of the day. Sometimes I happen to be walking past, and it never fails to make me smile—there he is, just the thickness of a wall away from me, singing beautifully.

~

Cross-posted on my writing blog.

Shake, shake, shake

My leg muscles almost always start to shake when I hold uttanasana. Standing, folded forward, pressing my feet into the mat to encourage my legs to straighten a little more and my tailbone to move closer to the ceiling, my legs inevitably start to wobble.

In uttkatasana (chair pose) that wobbling is even more pronounced, and usually accompanied by a burning in my thighs. Uttkatasana and I have a love-hate relationship.

I often have students ask me quietly and sheepishly after class what’s happening to them when they get the shakes in class. The first thing I tell them is that this shakiness is not uncommon. It happens to almost everyone at some point. For me it’s in uttanasana and uttkatasana; for others it could be the warrior poses. Usually, it seems to be poses asking for strength from the muscles.

Yoga Journal has an excellent explanation for what’s going on anatomically.

Muscles are made up of many fibers. When a muscle is used, not all the fibers contract at the same time. Some rest while the others work, and then they trade places. When the muscles are really challenged, the changeovers can get a little ragged.

A little bit of shaking is okay — it’s a sign that you’re challenging yourself — but really shaking could be a sign to take it a little easier. Use the breath to decide how much shake is too much shake. If you’re shaking but you can still breathe slowly and fairly calmly, then you’re probably okay. But once the shaking starts to affect your ability to keep the breath slow it’s time to back off a little. And remember that point will be different for everyone — and will probably depend on the pose.

If you’d like to read the rest of the Yoga Journal article, you can do so here.