Category Archives: yoga

Silly Saturday

here’s a little song what I wrote:

Down dog and up dog and parsvakonasana
plank pose and cat pose and sweat trickling down my nose
chanting old mantras and feeling the zing
these are a few of my favourite things

When the dog (pose) bites, when the bee (breath) stings
when I’m feeling stiff
I simply remember my favourite things
and get back on to… the mat.

(Of course you knew to sing that to the tune of the song from the Sound of Music right?)

First time I’ve been back to yoga in ages. It was great. Made me come over all creative.

Silliness over. Normal programming will resume sometime in the next few days.

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Courage

This week I got a card from my mother with a quote from Vincent van Gogh on it:

“What would life be like if we had no courage to attempt anything?”

It means so much to me that people recognise the courage it took to attempt IVF. So I thought I’d share the quote with you because we are all courageous in our own way, and it needs acknowledging.

A friend also shared a most amazing article on facebook today too, which I’m also going to share in its entirety, because we all need to know that we’re ok the way we are, even broken and lying in a pile on the bedroom floor. I’ve been there, haven’t you?

This is from a writer and yoga teacher called Julie Peters writing on Elephant Journal. The part about your future dissolving in front of you after a failure, or a breakup, or a miscarriage or some other awful, heart-wrenching event spoke to me. I’m sure we can all relate. Here it is:

“The Goddess of never not broken.

You know that feeling when you have just gone through a breakup, or lost your job, and everything is terrible and terrifying and you don’t know what to do, and you find yourself crying in a pile on your bedroom floor, barely able to remember how to use the phone, desperately looking for some sign of God in old letters, or your Facebook newsfeed or on Glee, finding nothing there to comfort you?

Come on, yes you do. We all do.

And there is a goddess from Hindu mythology that teaches us that, in this moment, in this pile on the floor, you are more powerful than you’ve ever been.

This past week, I have been deeply inspired by a talk I heard on the Yoga Teacher Telesummit by Eric Stoneberg on this relatively unknown Goddess from Hindu mythology: Akhilandeshvari.

This figure has snuck up inside me and settled into my bones. She keeps coming out of my mouth every time I teach, and she’s given me so much strength and possibility during a time of change and uncertainty in my own life. I wanted to unpack a little bit about who she is for those that might be, like me, struggling a little bit in that pile on the floor and wondering how the hell to get up again.

The answer, it turns out, is this: in pieces, warrior-style, on the back of a crocodile. Yee ha.

Akhilandeshvari:

“Ishvari” in Sanskrit means “goddess” or “female power,” and the “Akhilanda” means essentially “never not broken.” In other words, The Always Broken Goddess. Sanskrit is a tricky and amazing language, and I love that the double negative here means that she is broken right down to her name.

But this isn’t the kind of broken that indicates weakness and terror.

It’s the kind of broken that tears apart all the stuff that gets us stuck in toxic routines, repeating the same relationships and habits over and over, rather than diving into the scary process of trying something new and unfathomable.

Akhilanda derives her power from being broken: in flux, pulling herself apart, living in different, constant selves at the same time, from never becoming a whole that has limitations.

The thing about going through sudden or scary or sad transitions (like a breakup) is that one of the things you lose is your future: your expectations of what the story of your life so far was going to become. When you lose that partner or that job or that person, your future dissolves in front of you.

And of course, this is terrifying.

But look, Akhilanda says, now you get to make a choice. In pieces, in a pile on the floor, with no idea how to go forward, your expectations of the future are meaningless. Your stories about the past do not apply. You are in flux, you are changing, you are flowing in a new way, and this is an incredibly powerful opportunity to become new again: to choose how you want to put yourself back together. Confusion can be an incredible teacher—how could you ever learn if you already had it all figured out?

This goddess has another interesting attribute, which is, of course, her ride: a crocodile.

Crocodiles are interesting in two ways: Firstly, Stoneberg explains that the crocodile represents our reptilian brain, which is where we feel fear. Secondly, the predatory power of a crocodile is not located in their huge jaws, but rather that they pluck their prey from the banks of the river, take it into the water, and spin it until it is disoriented. They whirl that prey like a dervish seeking God, they use the power of spin rather than brute force to feed themselves.

By riding on this spinning, predatory, fearsome creature, Akhilanda refuses to reject her fear, nor does she let it control her. She rides on it. She gets on this animal that lives inside the river, inside the flow. She takes her fear down to the river and uses its power to navigate the waves, and spins in the never not broken water. Akhilanda shows us that this is beautiful. Stoneberg writes:

Akhilanda is also sometimes described in our lineage like a spinning, multi-faceted prism. Imagine the Hope Diamond twirling in a bright, clear light. The light pouring through the beveled cuts of the diamond would create a whirling rainbow of color. The diamond is whole and complete and BECAUSE it’s fractured, it creates more diverse beauty. Its form is a spectrum of whirling color.

Photo: Justin Graham

That means that this feeling of confusion and brokenness that every human has felt at some time or another in our lives is a source of beauty and colour and new reflections and possibilities.

If everything remained the same, if we walked along the same path down to the river every day until there was a groove there (as we do; in Sanskrit this is called Samskara, habits or even “some scars”), this routine would become so limited, so toxic to us that, well, the crocs would catch on, and we’d get plucked from the banks, spun and eaten.

So now is the time, this time of confusion and brokenness and fear and sadness, to get up on that fear, ride it down to the river, dip into the waves, and let yourself break. Become a prism.

All the places where you’ve shattered can now reflect light and colour where there was none. Now is the time to become something new, to choose a new whole.

But remember Akhilanda’s lesson: even that new whole, that new, colourful, amazing groove that we create, is an illusion. It means nothing unless we can keep on breaking apart and putting ourselves together again as many times as we need to. We are already “never not broken.” We were never a consistent, limited whole. In our brokenness, we are unlimited. And that means we are amazing.”

I hope this gives others as much inspiration as it gave me.

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My top tips for life after IVF

*Ok, it’s early days for me, and of course it’s not just the end of IVF, but the end of the road for me in terms of having my own child (miracles notwithstanding*).

So these are working for me, for now. Kind of. This week has been hard though, I’ve not been sleeping well, I’m getting up super early, and I went back to work. Ugh. Generally feeling very sorry for myself. I was fine in the week or so before, but the pain has returned, and it’s taken a new shape.

Of course everyone’s different so please feel free to comment on what works for you in similar shitty, unhappy and generally lonely circumstances – in fact, please do comment, I need all the ideas I can get!

  • Do stuff. Make an effort not to sit at home and wallow in your sadness. By getting out and about you remember that life’s pretty good actually. Your friends are there to entertain you and accompany you on excursions to see and do things – going to the art gallery, seeing music, going to the cinema, going to a market or a festival. I know it’s not going to erase your pain, but it will lessen it for a while.
  • When sadness hits though, don’t ignore it. Honour it, go into it, feel whatever feelings, think whatever thoughts come up. Sometimes they may not even be (seemingly) connected to your loss, but they are.
  • Think about volunteering. It could be with disadvantaged children, or a political or ecological cause you are passionate about. Helping other people is really satisfying. The Dalai Lama says “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions”, “the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes”. To put this into action, I have just applied for the Big Sister program through the YWCA, where you mentor a young girl . And you know, I know this will be good for whichever young girl is put in my charge, but it will also be just as satisfying – maybe more so – for me.
  • I’m looking into permanent fostering, with a view to adoption in the future. I thought  adoption in Australia was impossible for me, and it is if I wanted to adopt a baby or small child that was deliberately put up for adoption.  Because there aren’t any in this country, and intercountry adoption costs up to $40,000 and can take up to eight years, which is fricking ridiculous. But fostering a child seems to be a way that can work, and also saves a child from harm. There are issues, which I’ll cover in a later post, but they are not insurmountable.
  • Read. Whatever you like really, but uplifting, inspirational books or articles that give you ideas for living well. Think Deepak Chopra, or well-written fiction that connects you to amazing stories – “we read to know we are not alone” as C.S. Lewis (apparently) said. At least he did in that really sad movie I saw years ago (Shadowlands). I’m currently reading “A Visit From the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan and just finished Jeffery Eugenides’ “The Marriage Plot”, both engaging, beautifully written and thought provoking. Or read my friend Fanny Blake’s book “What Women Want” which is a really fun read (shameless plug!).
  • Meditate. Ok, I admit I am not even doing this one. It’s hard to establish the habit, then if you’re really tired (I am) you’re likely to nod off, and if you’re really sad (I am) you’re likely to just sit there and sob. Still, it’s key. Really. Listen to me trying to cajole myself into stepping away from the keyboard and sitting. The best thing to do is find a guided meditation CD, or log onto the Chopra Centre’s website – they have a 21 day meditation challenge they run often which is a good way to start/restart.
  • Do yoga. I know I bang on about it, but it’s about stilling your mind, connecting with your body – which you might think has betrayed you, but it hasn’t, finding a sense of connection with stillness.

Good luck, and let me know of any other ideas.

*I mean, I might actually meet a real, live MAN, have actual SEX, and fall pregnant naturally. Wow, what a concept. I’m not ruling it out, but on the empirical data I have accumulated so far in my life… but things can change in an instant, so I’m not ruling anything out.

*I *think* the photo is from Garance Dore, hope i’m crediting that correctly.

Cover of "A Visit from the Goon Squad"

Cover of A Visit from the Goon Squad

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(My edition looks nothing like this)

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Want what you have

Want what you have

This phrase has been rolling around in my head for a few days now. It has a habit of popping into my head every few years and staying awhile, perhaps when I am in the throes of some particularly want-y sort of thing. Such as wanting to be pregnant. Such as wanting to have a child. Such as right now.

Want what you have – it’s a quote from a book called “I Am That” by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, who lived all his life in Bombay and died in 1981, never having left that city. He was a teacher of eternal truths as simple as this. Want what you have.

And how hard is that? My colleague who is unhappy in her marriage envies me my “freedom”, and until I discovered she wasn’t happy, I wanted her life – or what I thought it was.

Want what you have. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. But I don’t want that. Not right now. I want to be tied down, to a baby who needs feeding and comforting and love. I want to be in a relationship, and to have to check in and see if “we” have anything planned tonight.

I live in a beautiful city, and in a great part of that beautiful city.

I have a good job, and earn good money.

I am resourceful, and know how to look after myself.

I have lovely friends.

I have a good, sound roof over my head, and it’s filled with nice things.

I eat nourishing and delicious food every day.

I have a good family, despite what I wrote the other day, and in their own way are caring and loving, and infinitely better than a lot of other units out there passing as families.

But. There are so many “buts” I could add to each one of those sentences, but I won’t because I keep coming back to  “want what you have”. And when I think about it like that it seems unbelievably ungrateful to say, yes, I have all those things, and yet I want more.

But I do. I want all those things to contain a child, and I really don’t think I am pregnant. I don’t know if I am imagining it or not, but I think I feel a vague heavy feeling in my belly, like my period may be about to start. And that devastates me. But there is a corner of my being that believes I am. Even through my sobbing (of which there has been plenty), there is a part of me that believes.

But the other night just before I switched off the light to go to sleep, I picked up a Deepak Chopra book that has been sitting on my bedside table for months now called “The Book of Secrets“. This book is obviously calling out my name, demanding to be read, because I bought this copy a few months ago, only to realise I had another edition of the same book sitting unread on my bookshelf, bought when I went to see Deepak speak in Sydney some years back.

I opened a random page, and two phrases jumped out at me.

The first was, “Nothing is random – my life is full of signs and symbols.”

The second was, “Whatever I pay attention to will grow.”

So, if nothing is random, and I have been placing a lifetime’s worth of attention into this moment, perhaps my period won’t arrive tomorrow, and perhaps that blood test on Monday will give me the sign I want to see.

I went to yoga this evening, and revelled in my strong body. Breathing and stretching and just being with my breath and body made me feel elated, almost euphoric. Not that the dark, and light, thoughts didn’t intrude, because they did. But my body and breath were at the forefront and my chattering, worrying mind got a bit of a break.

Cover of "I Am That: Talks with Sri Nisar...

Cover of I Am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta

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Yoga for fertility

I thought I would provide a few tips on how yoga can help in this fertility party a lot of us have going on, or anyone interested in yoga in general. I wrote an article on this for another website recently, so will summarise it here.

It all boils down to your body and mind needing to be in the best shape possible. Whether you want to increase or maintain your health and wellbeing for this time of your life, yoga can be a great aid and companion.

According to doctors, one of the greatest obstacles to fertility is stress, which has been shown to reduce the probability of conception.  Ever heard those stories about couples who had tried for years to conceive and after “giving up” or adopting, have fallen pregnant? I’ve heard those stories too. What yoga offers above all is relaxation, and research shows that participating in a “mind-body” type of program – which is exactly what yoga is – can positively affect fertility.

The classical definition of yoga is that it “stills the fluctuations of the mind”* – when our minds are busy worrying about what might have been or what could be in the future, we lose touch with the present moment, with the body, the breath and the self. Yoga is very effective in pulling you back to the now.

For women struggling to fall pregnant, the stress can be overwhelming. Yoga also teaches that suffering is caused by attachment to outcomes, and this is never more true than when trying unsuccessfully to fall pregnant, or through the slog of IVF treatment.

Yoga for fertility programs generally concentrate on the stress-relieving and relaxing effects of a practice, so if you can find a yoga studio that offers “restorative” yoga, get there quick-sticks. Restorative yoga usually involve using props such as bolsters, blankets, belts and chairs to support some well-known poses so that the body and mind are free to completely relax.

But renowned yoga teacher Geeta Iyengar, daughter of BKS Iyengar, also advocates a number of poses that have beneficial effects on the reproductive system.

Her recommendations include poses that stimulate the thyroid such as

Sarvangâsana

(shoulderstand). Dysfunction of the thyroid gland can upset the balance of the body’s reproductive hormones.

Sarvangasana, sometimes called the “queen of all asanas” (headstand is the king) is believed to directly affect the thyroid, due to the firm chin lock (also known as jalandhara bandha) which increases blood supply. Geeta Iyenagr also says the pose also develops “the feminine qualities of patience and emotional stability”. Anyone need patience, much?

Other poses with similar, chin-locking effects and which are suitable for beginners are setu bandha (bridge pose) and janu sirsasana (head-to-knee pose).

Poses that bring increased circulation to the pelvic region and reproductive organs are also recommended. Try baddha konasana(bound angle pose) and

Supported Supta Baddha Konasana

Image by tarnalberry via Flickr

supta baddha konasana for similar benefits but with the added bonus of being supremely relaxing.

Supported supta virasana (reclining hero pose) also opens the pelvic region and ensures circulation. I find this one almost impossible though as it’s too strong on my lower back – but everyone’s different.

While I can’t guarantee you will fall pregnant by following any of this, it can certainly have a positive impact on your mental and physical health.

If you’ve never done yoga before, I recommend you head along to your local yoga studio to get expert guidance from an experienced teacher, rather than trying these by yourself.

*Yogas chitta vrtti nirodah

PS. If you do want to know more, just leave me a comment. I can “talk” you through a few poses – supta baddha konasana is easy to do at home and really relaxing.

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Yoga girl

Had to share this … I may have used some of these exact phrases – eek.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-8IPDR4Khc

Funny and a little bit true.

(OK so I’m not too sure how to embed a you tube video into WordPress – this didn’t seem to work the way I planned.)

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Yoga / beautiful photo

Motivation to keep moving / #yoga.

From Pinterest

That’s not me, just so you know. Just a gorgeous photo of an amazing pose – a variation of pinchu mayurasana or forearm balance which I find really, really difficult. I can balance on my hands, my head, my shoulders, but not my forearms.

This requires strength in the arms but mainly in the shoulders and core so you can lift yourself up out of your lower back – when I do it, my lower back just crunches down, my shoulders collapse and I fall over. Graceful.

Just thought I’d share the photo. I’ve just discovered Pinterest (where I found the photo), so now will never get anything done.

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My top 10 tips for surviving IVF

I thought I would share with you how I’ve got through this (in the absence of wine! ha ha). Hope they are helpful and tell you something you don’t already know.

1. Acupuncture – weekly then twice weekly. Find a clinic that specialises in IVF. My experience was that the acupuncture almost completely eliminated any side effects. Read here for more info.

2. Yoga – if you’re a fitness junkie who likes to flog your body doing cardio, I reckon it’s time to be kind to yourself (see point 5). Yoga allows you to flex and strengthen not just your body but your mind. You mind being your greatest asset or worst enemy, sometimes simultaneously. The stillness and focus that comes from a yoga practice can help you recognise this. And ooh it’s good to stretch and work those joints if you are still feeling some side effects despite having acupuncture.

3. Meditation – by continually bringing your mind back to the “now”, you access calm and quiet, free from anticipation of the future and memories of the past. I also use it for goal-setting – visualising exactly what I want (while calm and relaxed) and then sending that intention to god/the universe/the field of all possibility (whatever appeals to you) to sort it out. Then let go of the attachment to the outcome.

4. Rest – lots

5. Be kind to yourself, even treat yourself to a pampering. Recognise that yes, you do have  a lot going on right now, so it’s not the time to be running marathons/ moving/putting in long hours at the office/helping out friends who won’t help themselves/keeping the house in perfect order… or whatever else takes you away from yourself. Have a massage, go to a yoga class (see point 2), go for a walk in nature.

6. Someone to offload to – your partner, or if you’re doing this solo like me, a sympathetic friend. Support is crucial.

7.  Lots of healthy food – I read a book called The Fertility Diet by Sarah Dobbyn which I found very useful. Not that I followed every one of her rules but it’s still good to keep in the back of your mind.

8. Remember your life outside of IVF.

9. Stay positive. No point otherwise.

10. I’m going to go all yoga on you again and say, “Tapas, swadhyaya, isvara pranidhana” which roughly translates (or the way I have learnt it anyway) as do all you can, gain as much self knowledge as you can, but know that sometimes, you have to surrender to a higher power. And I know that’s a hard one.

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