What got you into yoga?
When it all boils down it was stress. A combination of stress, over working and anxiety. Now looking back, at the time I didn’t know it was anxiety, I think a lot of the time we bottle up so many emotions and go about life not really realizing what we are carrying.
The practice was introduced to me and I started off physically looking around the room comparing myself to other people that had a strong practice. Very soon feel in love with the practice physically but the mental and the spiritual kind of just worked its way in to my life to the point that I just can’t live without it. And I just want to preach the world of yoga every damn day.
How do you practice yoga? What’s a day of yoga look like for you?
Really good question because I teach yoga and the teaching is quite the opposite to practicing because in the teaching you are tuning into the energy of the class and facilitating and there is a performance aspect and I would say you are doing yoga. Whereas when you are physically rolling out your mat and moving into the physical poses of yoga that’s the being. But where you really want to see yoga in your life is when you don’t even need to be on your mat but in conversations you are having you are present, less reactive to stressful situations, where you are looking at what you are consuming for example like what you are talking about with your clients – what they are putting in their mouth , noticing how they feel after certain foods and to really honor that space and their bodies and putting themselves first and think that’s a challenge for a lot of us when we first arrive at the practice as we are so conditioned to not be selfish but we need to learn that it’s all about self-care and filling up our own tank first before we go on to give to others.
Some might find yoga stressful, mind racing thinking about dinner and the to do list. What do you say to them? Can you talk about that?
Absolutely, and I’ll tell you from the get go its confronting as all hell. Because we haven’t been taught to sit in the company of ourselves, we are very good at distracting ourselves with Facebook and social media and television…and its scary stuff what goes on inside our minds but when we start to open up and realize we all have the same stuff, we all have this desire to belong to society, this desire to be loved and give love and it has to start with us. Start with us finding ourselves and loving ourselves and that’s where we need to sit with our thoughts and rather than trying to think I want you switch off my thoughts, which a lot of people think they need to do, to switch it all off completely – it’s like thinking a natural disaster is never going to happen, it’s inevitable, we are thinking human beings, we are processing units but what we can do is observe.
So I can sit here and think ok I’m thinking about the next food I am going to eat so there is a good thought. I’m having a thought about what I got up to yesterday, oh there is a past thought. And we can start to analyze and look at them and the more we train that brain muscle, like you are flexing any sort of muscle, when we train ourselves to do that we get to the point where we can kind of move into the meditation or meditative state more easily than other days when we haven’t practiced. It’s like people thinking they can just start to play the piano, you need to start with a couple of keys, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, whatever it might be, a little bit every day even if it’s just 30 seconds. Just sitting there and being mindful and watching those thoughts come and go, come and go and eventually it starts to become this little bit of space between the thoughts and that’s where the magic happens and that’s where we want to get to and we want to savor in that moment. And extend it over periods of time.
What do you say to those people who worry about yoga and think they are not flexible enough?
Ah yes it’s the F word, it gets thrown around at yoga all the time. Patabi Jois is like a yoga leader/guru and he was once quoted saying “body not stiff, mind stiff”.
So we are beings, we are experiencing things for the first time and we want to give ourselves excuses not to do things but what I keep saying is that these people who are talking about not being flexible enough for yoga are inly thinking about how high they can lift their leg up behind their head but what about thinking about can I be flexible enough to adapt to a stressful situation in my life. What happens when I deal with death and trauma, how flexible am I then? And we learn that mental flexibility through the practice and that’s something that really gave me a lot, I learn to become strong. Flexibility I mean that can come. A lot of our bodies aren’t formed to go onto the splits so then we have to learn acceptance. Accepting our bodies. In this lifetime imp this body shape. I mean imp excited about what I am getting next time. Because I will be working with that and accepting that. And I have tight hamstrings and have days where I feel really stiff and don’t feel like moving so I sit with that and just accept that.
It’s about the asana, the physical practice but what else is yoga about?
Yoga is about finding yourself, studying yourself and growing to love yourself. And eventually reaching a place of samadi, which is eternal bliss and some would refer to it, like the Buddhist monks, as enlightenment. Being free of stress, anxiety, worry or concern. Or negative thoughts. And just being at peace.
We have to journey there and let go of the issues. The really shallow kind of issues like flexibility because we can make transformations, we can find ourselves through the heat of the practice, despite how flexible we are in our hips or our shoulders. What if we get to know ourselves and we think hey this job I am doing doesn’t really agree with me anymore or this toxic person in my life has really been zapping all my energy. And we start to then grow as human beings and we evolve. And become the true version of ourselves. Yet we wren stuck thinking about how flexible we are!
There are lots of different types of yoga. Vinyasa, yin, what’s your favorite?
Oh that’s like picking between my children. We offer power flow and do yin and gentle as well and you resonate with the practice that works for you. Because I believe everything comes into your life at the right time (divine timing), if you have been curious about yoga because someone said something to you, I would just follow. If you go and try it out and resonate with that teacher, then that is the right place for you. And know you can change and evolve through the whole time you practice and try anything. It’s like trying different foods, try a different recipe tonight, we haven’t done this one before so do it and see things a different way I suppose. Every practice is going to open up a different level for us because we are closed off and yoga is all about clearing through the chakras and clearing all those blockages that have been holding us back from reaching out full potential so whatever it is that’s going to get us there. Stick with something and just go with it. Be open minded.
How do you know when there is a blockage?
Often there will be tension. For example, throat chakra is around communication so you might feel you get sore throats, get run down, got a cough and just can’t express yourself properly. So really your ailments and injuries. So feel into your body, through meditation, when you go through and visualize your body you will notice where there are blockages because you can’t see, visualize color or anything through that area.
Do you have a morning ritual?
I’ve got two children who come into my bed at 530am so it’s usually a big cuddle fest.
And what’s your favorite breakfast?
I am one for a smoothie. Loaded up with protein as I need that to help me get through the day. Big fan of mint and banana and peanut butter at the moment.
Where is the most amazing magical place you have done a yoga practice?
Probably on my retreats because there is a very powerful energy when people come together and practice together.
Where do you hold your retreats?
I run them on the Sunshine Coast in Montville which is the hinterland of the sunshine coast. And I am about to take a group over to Bali, to Ubud.
You have a lot of online videos. When you started yoga did you feel you just loved it so much you wanted to share it with everyone?
No not at the start. I didn’t even know how to breath properly. I wasn’t even aware of my breath, I just puffed and panted through each class, breathing through my mouth. And it took a long time to just get used to nostril breathing so really I was drawn to it by the physical aspect. I wanted to get into it to get strong arms and get flexible and that sort of thing. And being able to do handstands. But eventually that all changed and I went away on retreat and that’s when I delved into the practice and that’s when I thought maybe I want to facilitate and teach this. But I came from a business background, I ran a PR business for 6 years in Melbourne so considering moving into the practice and becoming a yoga teacher, I was a bit embarrassed about it to be honest, going from business to yoga as the two are so different and yoga is a way of life.
So I started doing the teacher training and before I had finished I was already teaching, friends and family, then I found a studio and started teaching there. Just started sharing what I loved about it. And that’s the thing, in every class, every day I just share what’s coming up for me and it usually resonates with at least one person.
I’m keen to hear about breathing, it’s really important, isn’t it?
Breathing is really important for your health and you will find most people suffering from anxiety and depression aren’t actually breathing correctly. They are breathing predominately with send into their chest area. That’s the secondary respiratory muscles in the chest and shoulders. And they have forgotten to take the breath down, deep into the belly, to primary respiratory muscles. So what happens if you are trying to protect yourself and feeling anxious right now in your physique you will notice your shoulders will roll in and you will chest breathe, really shallow breaths, thinking I’m a bit stressed about something and that’s what happens so our body’s will hold all that tension. Our body is so powerful in expanding and opening us up and they say if we can regulate the breath, we can regulate the mind. And therefore its almost lisle your guide through your practice. People think they need to move into a pose as then catch a breath but it’s not, you hear the breath and then move with that breath. And whatever is happening on our mats is mirroring what is happening in our lives. So sometimes we just need to stop. There is that beautiful pose, child’s pose, that I am sure you know if you are regular yogis where you come down onto your knees and bring forehead to the earth and you can either reach your arms out in front or beside you and everything just turns inwards. And we bring that pose into every single class. And I always tell my yogis that we do this, even when you feel strong and ready to go, you know those days when you are an energizer bunny, you still need to drop down. Because it teaches us that we need to stop and restore as well. And term inward. Every single day.
And sivasana is what it’s all about. We want to physically tire ourselves out. You know the better yoga you do; you have armed yourself with the tools to really drop into deep meditation. That’s when you know yoga is really starting to take over your life and you are immersed in the practice.
Favorite poses or otherwise?
I have challenges with some of the poses. Some inversions when you turn yourself upside-down. And core strengthening ones. You know they say the ones that you are challenges by are the ones you need the most. Buts its growing to love it anyway. All of us have fears, which is why we are not all going and doing what we want and desire in life because feat which is an illusion, holds us back. And this is why we practice the challenging poses. Its why we put a challenging component into each class so you can begin to learn and let go of fears. It’s there for a reason.
And it’s even good to practice falling out. It’s not that bad. It’s not failure. It’s just get back up and go again.
What are your top 3 tips for health and wellbeing?
- Visualize the truest version of yourself, how you want to yourself to be every day.
- Listen to your body and only consume what you resonate with, what you 100% agree with, despite what anyone else is telling you, or media are telling you. Get to know your body to know that carrot feels good and maybe McDonald’s chips probably don’t. But get to know your body. Because yoga won’t tell you to become vegan all of a sudden. Its doesn’t discriminate like that. Yoga says listen. And if you want to eat a steak, eat a steak. If you know that works for your body type.
- You have to love yourself. You have to fill your own tank up first, first and foremost. So then you are just overflowing and you can give abundantly. People that are giving resentfully, it sends negativity out into the world. So we have to fill ourselves up first. So if that is just half an hour to ourselves every day then that’s what it is. Everyone less benefits.
You have changed my sister’s life. I would get anxiety about starting up businesses, she would get anxious about setting foot into the kitchen to decide what to eat and what to make. She said she wouldn’t get into the favourite bood group, just do the meal plan and recipes but she saw the group and realized everyone is the same as me! And she’s found a tribe and cooking. And I’m so grateful for you both.
What’s the one mantra you are living by right at this moment?
This one came from my childhood and know it will resonate with Emily. My dad came home from a conference and said “it’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it”.