Stu

platesHow Meditation and Mindfulness Can Help

Plate spinning is a circus manipulation art where a person spins plates, bowls and other flat objects on poles, without them falling off. Plate spinning relies on the gyroscopic effect, in the same way a top stays upright while spinning. The actual art of plate spinning is not too dissimilar to what many of us try to do in everyday life. Stay upright while running to and from meetings; focusing on multiple goals; KPI’s; more meetings; remembering to have lunch; looking after staff; remembering to respond to that email from 3 weeks ago; booking the insurance for that holiday in 2 months time… And the list goes on! In the beginning, spinning plates can be fun, give us variety in our day, and can be quite rewarding as we manage to pull off achieving multiple goals in a day or a week. But after a while some things are forgotten, unfinished and become stressors in our already busy lives. To add to this forever growing to-do list, we have our smartphone constantly in our pocket, vibrating, ringing and reminding us of how many plates we actually have up in the air at one time. We have got into the habit of constantly checking our phones for new emails, Facebook status updates, Twitter feed, missed message and calls. Once upon a time we would leave work and begin to switch off. That phone from back in late 90’s and early 2000’s didn’t have data or a screen that could read more than 1-2 lines of text for that matter. By the time we reached home we would be ready to change down another gear, chat with family, sit down and watch a favourite TV programme, read a book. Ultimately, we would log out, switch off and unwind from the day we had just finished. What if we could use this technology we have now, to take time out of our day to switch off for very small periods of time and reset our minds? All of a sudden some of the plates we thought were important would vanish. Our minds would become more focused. Stress levels would decrease. Things would become clear and simple. Real focus and clarity would begin to creep in and we would all look much less like a circus act trying to spin a whole lot of unbalanced plates in mid-air while running down the road! I have been doing yoga for about 18 months now. It gives me both physical benefit from the stretching and strengthening of muscles, and the mental benefit of clearing my mind from the day-to-day clutter it accumulates. But I wouldn’t have time most days to do a class in the middle of the day, even though this is when I would benefit most. So recently, my very mindful, present and yogic partner put me onto the idea of downloading a meditation app for my smartphone. So I did! Since then I have been endeavoring to use the app at least once a day for 10 mins. I find it’s great for removing all those redundant thoughts and stressors which simply get in the way of me achieving what is important to me in my day. The app I am using at the moment is Headspace which has various guided meditations to suit you. So, my advice to you: click on the app store, search for ‘Headspace’, download, put your earphones in and press play! It’s only 5-10 mins out of your day, and the change that it can bring is absolutely incredible. Just do it!

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Tania

I recently returned from Bali. It was so luxurious. So indulgent. I got massages. I didn’t have to make my bed. All my food was cooked for me. I didn’t have to do dishes. I woke early every morning to meditate and do a two-hour yoga practice. I withdrew into silence for 24 hours. I was driven around in golf carts. I stared deep into the jungle. I climbed a volcano. I swam. I surrounded myself with lush greenness.

By the time I got back to New Zealand, aside from feeling a little jet lagged, I felt amazing. All that talk about making sure your cup is full? Well, mine was positively overflowing. 

However, timing meant that my dad went in for his knee reconstruction while I was away. I badly wanted to be here for it, but it wasn’t to be. My brother came out from Australia with his four-year-old to help Mum out. When I arrived back, Dad was still in the hospital. His knee was healing well and he came home the following day. My partner, Stu came north to join us. 

I stayed at my parents’ house for four days. I helped Dad up and down from his bed and chair. I helped mum cook meals. I helped Dad do the exercises from the physio. I helped my nephew build Lego. I reminded Dad to take his medication. I helped my brother with chores around the house. I did my best to make sure Dad didn’t feel like a burden. I made sure that Stu was okay, as he had his own life stress going on. By the end of the four days, I was a wreck. I was exhausted. Said cup was now back to empty. And it was time to return to work. 

By Friday I was starting to return to normal. On Saturday I headed back to my parent’s house and this visit included six hours in ED one night.

By now I was starting to get a really good picture of what self-care meant to me. And also what it meant, and how I felt, without it. 

So I went to a heated yin class. I took a bath. I went for a walk with a good friend. I sat on the couch and did not much. I surrounded myself with lush, green nature. I turned up the music and sang while I drove. I went for brunch with a good friend. I read. I listened to podcasts. 

And after all of this, my cup started to feel full again. I felt like I could show up and be my best self for my partner, for my Dad, for work. I sometimes find the language of self-care doesn’t sit quite right with me. But the last few weeks have shown me that regardless of what I call it, I need to make sure I prioritise time for things that make me feel whole. 

So what do you do for self-care? How do you make sure that your cup is full? Or, if you’ve never thought about it, maybe today’s the day to take five deep breaths, just for you.

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Dave
Tropical paradiseI recently went on my first ever yoga retreat this winter. I chose to go on a retreat because since starting yoga just over a year ago I felt like the working week would get all up in my grill and then yoga was my best means of escaping its suffocating grip. I began to wonder, what if I did a full week of back to back classes. How low could I dial down the ruminating thoughts of the mind? I craved a creative space in my life and it seemed to me that a yoga retreat was the perfect opportunity to manifest this sort of experience without the distractions of the city, the dramas of flat mates, the issues with my car and finances. This was my prescription to a reset. It was not knowing what to expect which was the most exciting element to the experience. I believe it is in the unknown where we attain the greatest expansions. The space that was created on this particular yoga retreat was quite profound. It was permission to let go in a supported environment. The same things that seemed to weigh me down so heavily back in the city seemed to dissipate like water off a duck’s back. The skills you begin to foster on a yoga or meditation retreat are easily applied to a life that revolves around travel, the beach, surfing and the overseas experience. The true test is being able to integrate what you have learnt and apply them into the mundane day to day life. This was my challenge. Life is all about building resilience in being able to master the waves that it sends crashing toward you. In some ways it was definitely more introspection than I am used to but it also made me acutely aware of our inherent abilities as humans to dance around our issues instead of knocking them face on. My conclusion of resetting is that it doesn’t need to be a yoga or a meditation retreat. It just needs to be something in your life that resets you, that refreshes you and takes you away from the trials and tribulations of life. Because unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) they will keep on coming. For me, my introspection and reset comes through yoga, the gym, music and travel. What’s your reset?
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Tania
I am pretty comfortable admitting I’m addicted to my phone. I use it a lot for work which means it’s never far away from my hand. At the same time, I absolutely loved my digital detox in Fiji recently, where I had ten days with zero connectivity to the rest of the world. Just quality time with my boyfriend, my friends, the sunshine and the salt water. I still had my phone with me though, as even without the connection to the world, my phone is filled with apps that keep me fit, happy and healthy. Below are my top three that I don’t think I could live without. bag-and-hands 1 Giant Mind. Their team recently upgraded this app and I am loving the sleek new look. The meditation on this app is mantra based and doesn’t change from day to day. You start off with a 12 day programme to get you used to the style of meditation. From there you can either progress on to the 30 day challenge or just set the timer anywhere, any time, and away you go. I’m up to Day 24 of the challenge and I’ve definitely noticed that I’ve got a much calmer approach to life. Also, if I’m feeling stressed, I can just take a moment to think the mantra to myself and I’m immediately transported back to that meditative state of bliss. (iOS and Android) Janet Stone Yoga. Yoga classes are pretty magical places. The energy that’s created when people come together to go yoga is almost impossible to recreate. But sometimes it’s just not possible to get to a class. Maybe you’re traveling. Or maybe life just gets a bit too busy and you’ve only got 20 minutes to spare. This is when having a home practice is so important. But sometimes even thinking of a flow of postures can be too much if your brain is full up from work. Or you want something a little different than your usual. I’ve been using the Janet Stone Yoga app for a little while now and I find it a great way to practice as it allows me to switch my thinking brain off and just follow the yoga flow. Plus she’s an absolutely amazing teacher. (iOS only sorry) Couch to 5k. I am not much of a runner. I did a half-marathon once. I haven’t said I’ll never do another one, but I’ve only laced up my shoes a couple of times since (and it’s been almost a year). But when I was learning to run I had a habit of running for as long as I could (not very long) and then walking for a bit (generally, the rest of the way). Not exactly the best way to get from being a non-runner to a runner. With the app, you work through a programme that slowly builds you up. The first ‘run’ alternates between 60 seconds of running and 90 seconds of walking. By not running for as long as I possibly could and burning myself out, I have the energy to do the other bursts of running. And by having the walking timer on, I will actually start running again, rather than just walking the rest of the way. There’s also a Couch to 10k app for when you’ve ticked a 5k run off the goal list. (iOS and Android) I’m sure there are lots that could be added to this list! Feel free to share yours in the comments below.
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Stu

platesHow Meditation and Mindfulness can help

Plate spinning is a circus manipulation art where a person spins plates, bowls and other flat objects on poles, without them falling off. Plate spinning relies on the gyroscopic effect, in the same way a top stays upright while spinning. The actual art of plate spinning is not too dissimilar to what many of us try to do in everyday life. Stay upright while running to and from meetings; focusing on multiple goals; KPI’s; more meetings; remembering to have lunch; looking after staff; remembering to respond to that email from 3 weeks ago; booking the insurance for that holiday in 2 months time… And the list goes on! In the beginning, spinning plates can be fun, give us variety in our day, and can be quite rewarding as we manage to pull off achieving multiple goals in a day or a week. But after a while some things are forgotten, unfinished and become stressors in our already busy lives. To add to this forever growing to-do list, we have our smartphone constantly in our pocket, vibrating, ringing and reminding us of how many plates we actually have up in the air at one time. We have got into the habit of constantly checking our phones for new emails, Facebook status updates, Twitter feed, missed message and calls. Once upon a time we would leave work and begin to switch off. That phone from back in late 90’s and early 2000’s didn’t have data or a screen that could read more than 1-2 lines of text for that matter. By the time we reached home we would be ready to change down another gear, chat with family, sit down and watch a favourite TV programme, read a book. Ultimately, we would log out, switch off and unwind from the day we had just finished. What if we could use this technology we have now, to take time out of our day to switch off for very small periods of time and reset our minds? All of a sudden some of the plates we thought were important would vanish. Our minds would become more focused. Stress levels would decrease. Things would become clear and simple. Real focus and clarity would begin to creep in and we would all look much less like a circus act trying to spin a whole lot of unbalanced plates in mid-air while running down the road! I have been doing yoga for about 18 months now. It gives me both physical benefit from the stretching and strengthening of muscles, and the mental benefit of clearing my mind from the day-to-day clutter it accumulates. But I wouldn’t have time most days to do a class in the middle of the day, even though this is when I would benefit most. So recently, my very mindful, present and yogic partner put me onto the idea of downloading a meditation app for my smartphone. So I did! Since then I have been endeavoring to use the app at least once a day for 10 mins. I find it’s great for removing all those redundant thoughts and stressors which simply get in the way of me achieving what is important to me in my day. The app I am using at the moment is Headspace which has various guided meditations to suit you. They also collaborate with corporates such as IBM to create corporate meditation programmes! So, my advice to you: click on the app store, search for ‘Headspace’, download, put your earphones in and press play! It’s only 5-10 mins out of your day, and the change that it can bring is absolutely incredible. Just do it!
0

Tania
When I was little, I always wanted to be a ballerina. I’m not suXtend-Barre_Studiore that I ever had the determination to make it, but this week I got to relive a little of my dream (I also got to combine it with my more recent love of yoga) at Yoga Dance at Xtend Barre. For a start, the studio is gorgeous – wooden floors, big windows and an open and inviting feel to the space. And the instructor Maria is so lovely. Full of knowledge and grace, she has a clear way of explaining a flowing yoga class that really does make you feel like you’re dancing. Maria broke each Yoga flow down slowly, making sure that we understood the sequence of postures before we picked up the pace a bit. This is where the Dance part comes in. With music playing, you knew where you wanted to go and you could just dance your way through to each posture. Having a knowledge of yoga definitely helps in this class, so you know where your body wants to be in each posture, but you definitely don’t need to be an advanced practitioner as Maria does a great job of talking you through the alignment. The class is a balance of strength and stretching that builds some heat as well as giving you a chance to stretch out any tight muscles you’ve created through some of the other Xtend Barre classes. If you haven’t tried the other classes at Xtend Barre, they are also a great way at bringing out your inner prima ballerina. After attending some great Barre style classes in California, I’m excited that the trend is making its way over to NZ! They’re a great way to work up a sweat and help shape your body into a dancers sleek physique. I would love to hear if anyone has attended classes at Xtend and what you thought!
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Sarah

Urdva Danurasana

 

Today I sat myself down, and I asked myself one simple question:

Why do I practice Ashtanga yoga? You see, I’ve realized that I’ve been through a lot of emotional and physical turmoil since starting this practice almost two years ago. I’ve dabbled on the brink of depression, had a few physical injuries, relived past trauma and I’ve often just felt absolutely exhausted. So, why do I do it? Why do I still make it to my mat five times a week? Why do I still get up when that alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m.? My answer? I don’t actually know. That’s the truth. I don’t know why I still continue to push my body into poses it’s screaming to get out of, why I allow my heart to be cracked open and tears to flow freely at any given moment, why I sometimes reluctantly drag myself through that same physical practice almost every single day. I don’t know why I keep trying to bring my full attention to my breath, to keep my mind focused and present, when most days it feels like an uphill battle. All I do know is that deep down, something inside me is telling me to keep going. That something is what gets me up when all I want to do is roll over and fall back to sleep. That something is what helps me through a particularly tough practice, when my body just wants to melt and disappear into my mat. I don’t know what that something is, but I know it is a lot stronger than my ego, which tries to convince me that maybe another form of yoga would be a lot more fun, and a lot more forgiving. But I’m not there to have fun. I’m there to learn, to grow and to heal. I’m currently attending a weeklong Ashtanga yoga workshop with a teacher visiting from overseas. She has reminded me why I do this, that there is no other path for me but Ashtanga, at least not at this time in my life. She describes the practice as something that isn’t meant to be fun. Fun is for the vinyasa flows, the hot yoga and all the other new styles of yoga that are created every other week. Ashtanga yoga is a healing modality; it is not a form of exercise. It is powerful, we break stuff down, we go deeper and deeper into our own physical bodies, into our emotional landscapes, and we clear it all out. And sometimes, it’s really uncomfortable. But you learn to sit with that discomfort and you realize that, actually, it’s okay. It’s okay to be uncomfortable, it’s okay to cry and it’s okay that you can’t do the pretty poses or the difficult poses just yet. I look back to when I first started this practice at the beginning of 2013. I jumped right into a teacher training, which required me to go from no practices a week to five, 2-hour Mysore style practices a week. It was massive shock to the system, my entire life flipped upside down and it took a while to settle. During this initial detox period I started learning techniques and ways to deal with these emotions. I learnt the importance of my breath, and how it can take me away from feelings of anxiety and panic and into a state of peace and calm. I learnt that my body is capable of some things, and not capable of other things—and to accept that fact. I learnt that this was a process, and that things weren’t just going to start happening over night. That to be able to come into my light, I’ll first have to step into the darkness, and be with my shadows. So, I guess this is the answer to my question. I practice Ashtanga yoga because I can’t imagine doing anything else. Because it communicates with me in a way nothing has ever done before. I practice Ashtanga yoga because I’m ready to face my demons, and I’m ready to let go of my past even if it takes months, years, decades. I practice Ashtanga yoga…just because.   First published here on elephantjournal.com
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