Monday, June 28, 2010


What is it about sitting down to do something that makes you do everything else but.

When you end a sentence with a but, it looks unfinished, careless but I must admit I found the writing of it really quite satisfying.

I guess I do feel a little unfinished today. 

After the dramas with my Vodafone connection these last few days (having no internet at home since Friday) I went into a bit of a spin; like a little beating heart without any blood to pump.

And now, after the pause, I've lost my momentum and I don't really know where to start. 

Here's what I've got to do:
  1. Sort out my Australian driver's license now that I'm officially a resident
  2. Plan a couple of new yoga classes for Friday
  3. Fix my broken vacuum cleaner or take back to shop
  4. Book some flights to Germany from London in August
  5. Sell my (aherm) second wedding dress on Ebay (I was married in April 2009)
  6. Research the blogging market, and find out how to be a better blogger
  7. Read Donna Fahri's classic, Yoga Body Mind and Spirit
I was hoping in writing this list it would help me to work out my priorities, but. 

I still don't know.

I remember a phrase from a fantastic book by Steve Toltz called Fraction of the Whole; the main character, Martin, was a bit of a procrastinator - clearly a genius but with so many random thought fragments, he  'philosophised himself into a corner'. I feel like I'm there except I've 'tasked myself into a corner' -  not quite as grand but it's still a corner. It's dark, a little sticky and there's a miscellaneous collection of hairs and spots of dirt. I'm looking again and there's nothing truly pressing on that list. Nothing that can't wait. In fact the only deadline there is yoga classes which need planning. For FRIDAY! I mean, I wrote my entire dissertation in the same amount of time as I've got. This is not pressure. I'm a white knuckle deadline girl. At Uni when we had to hand in our essays I was the one (or one of the ones) who was haring through the campus trying to find the printer with the shortest queues so I could just get the coursework in on time. And I made it. Oh yes, my heart was practically thumping out of my chest and I had a roaring stress headache, but I made it. 

I'm discovering that it's hard to be self motivated. Really hard. I need to remember my yogic discipline. Whatever happens, roll out the mat. Just do something.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Trying my best to be patient today as I encounter another day of tech-frustrations as the olde internet is soooo... Raaaahh... it's like watching a blind dentist pulling teeth. Slow. Painful. So here I am updating my bloggy from the iPhone. See there is always a way. Nevertheless this is not ideal. I just can't work in these conditions!!! so I'm gonna love ya leave ya, stay super cool and patient and have a hot bath. More later

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Can yoga help me love cockroaches?

One of the downers of living in this Australian paradise are the brown, scuttley pests which set my nerves all jangly and arouse my instinct to kill as they flee into one of the many ready-made kitchen hideaways under the fridge, between the cupboards, behind the rice etc. Oh yes, that loveable Aussie character, Mr Cockroach, who, over these past few weeks I reckon I’ve seen in every possible shape and size manifestation: from the dreaded large dried-pruney ones to the little scatty antsy ones. It’s taken me a while to realise that it’s not just the odd one here and there, but a cockroach breeding factory has set up shop and, most delightful of all, its HQ seems to be in my dishwasher. It’s pretty common not to like them but I’m sh*t scared of them, they give me the heeby jeebies and I don’t really know why. Back in the day I thought nothing of zapping them with cans of magic toxic spray and large WARNINGS to leave the house IMMEDIATELY after spraying. 


But now… it’s not as easy as that. Spraying is not just environmentally unsound, but I’m starting to feel a little bit guilty about killing these things. Maybe yoga can help?!

In fact I just need to look at what the yogis call the ‘kleshas’ or the five causes of suffering which arise from what’s known as avidya or ‘incorrect perception’.

Let’s hear what Desikachar has to say in his excellent book ‘Heart of Yoga.’

“We often determine that we have seen a situation correctly and act according to that perception. In reality however we have denied ourselves and our actions may bring misfortune to ourselves and others. Avidya can be understood as the accumulated result of many unconscious actions, the actions and ways of seeing which we have been mechanically carrying out for years.”

Sounds familiar?

So let’s break it down:
  1. Ignorance (avidya): My attitude towards our scuttley friends is based on my samskara (or habitual pattern of behaviour/thinking) which says ‘cockroaches are evil’. This is irrational and is therefore a misconception of the truth. If we remember Kino’s words from my post earlier this week, the goal of yoga is to free ourselves from these patterns of behaviour. 
  2. The ego (asmita) causes us to feel separate from others and most commonly results in negative patterns of behaviour such as the need to be better than so and so. Now I’m certainly not trying to be better than that so and so Mr Cockroach but I do feel separate from him, I just don’t understand him. Maybe some compassion is required here, he’s just doing his thing breeding and trying to make ends meet like we all are.
  3. Attachment (raga) and rejections (dvesa) I’ve rolled these together because they’re related. Attachments are like the extra cup of coffee/glass of wine you don’t need but that mechanical attachment causes us to really want it. Rejections or ‘dvesas’ are the opposite and here’s where Mr C comes in. When we have a difficult experience or find something unfamiliar we tend to reject it, assuming (incorrectly) that it will always cause pain.
  4. Fear (abhinivesa). Mr C is causing me to suffer from an irrational fear. When has a cockroach ever hurt me? In fact there are plenty of substances/activities/relationships which I’ve indulged in time and time again which have caused me far more pain in the past.
So, as you can see yoga has some fancy terms to explain my fear and after this quick diagnosis I’ve definitely got a bad case of the ‘avidyas’ here. I need to bring compassion and understanding towards cockroaches, I need to practice ‘ahimsa’ and not harm another living being. I need to see my fear/ego/rejections for what they are: the result of my flawed faculties of perception. It sounds pretty easy right? 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Yoga’s answer to life’s setbacks

My favourite way of understanding why the heck us yogis jump onto a mat and go through a sequence of postures (which are often the same) every day, is this. Yoga is a safe, rubbery laboratory for examining our life. The postures are our little test tubes, which when faced with different and challenging conditions will have interesting reactions which we observe, learn from, and ultimately apply to our own lives.  The very beautiful Ashtangi Kino MacGregor puts it a bit more professionally:

“Yoga is a body awareness technique aimed at liberating your consciousness from old, habitual was of thinking, being and acting.”

So through watching our reaction to the gross, physical stuff, for instance diliking a particular posture, we start to access the subtle levels of mind and soul asking ourself: why do I hate this posture? What does that say about me? Likewise it figures that doing a yoga practice helps prepare us for the nonsense which life throws at you, life’s conundrums, and the slippery mountains which seem impossible to climb. So, we struggle and battle with a particular posture (for me it was lotus, then supta kurmasana and now bhujapidasana  - okay you don’t need to know what these are but...) the point is, I told myself, there’s no way I’ll ever be able to do these impossible crazy bendy asanas. I know. There’s a girl. Could do with a bit more Anthony Robbins don’t you think? But it just seemed bloody impossible. Then, after a few more weeks/months of practice something opened up and I made progress in these postures, then hey presto, test tube experiment successful. I can get there. So ultimately the impossible became possible.
Life’s full of set backs too and my yoga practice has helped me to understand that we can conquer these too.

Today I woke up to blue skies, marshmallowy clouds and silvery sea. In fact, was a bit windy and damp underfoot but my mood was honey-coated happiness ‘cos I was just having one of those unexplained over the moon, top o’ da morning type days. I felt strong, accomplished, energetic. Driving back towards Manly over the glittery waters of the Spit Bridge, the radio cranked right up, I bounced along to my current favourite sing-along. Pure happiness.

Then... the darkness.  Just a few hours later, I noticed a strangely familiar sensation in my adductor muscle (the inner thigh which pulls our legs together). Familiar. Shit familiar. So back to the yoga laboratory. What’s happened here?
Well, clearly I was bouyed by my marshmallowy mood, so I had a pretty amazing practice first thing; there were only three of us and I was giving it a bit more bubble than I’d usually do first thing in the morning. I felt warrior-like, determined, strong, focused, erm… a little too energetic.  In yoga terms it felt a little like when you’re watching a movie and the actors are all radiant sunshiny loveliness, but the creepy music reveals something very bad is about to play out.

Now, I am not gonna jump the old gun here. Who knows, maybe it’s just a wee niggle that will evaporate with a good night’s sleep.  When I got The Bruise at Purple Valley, it felt different. Today, doesn’t feel as bad and there’s no swelling as yet, but….. It’s setting off those alarm bells. The worry, the fear, definitely something I am prone too – thinking the worst. What if I am out of action again, as I was for three weeks in India? But I got over it in India. What really happened? I learned from it. I rested. The world did not end.

I know that it will heal, I KNOW that yoga is about being able to transcend the physical and learn from it. Listen to Kino for crying out loud and use the experience of the practice. As I learn from my yoga practice, nothing is permanent so everything changes.  As my teacher told me today as well, having injuries helps you to become a better yoga teacher. Just as in life, people who have learned the hardest lessons have often come out the better teacher for it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Reflections on my new life

I’ve been busy. Honestly!

…So I fear I’ve neglected you a wee bit blog, and I’m sorry. But, things are ticking over nicely now so I’ll just quickly fill you in. The yoga’s coming on.  I’ve got a couple of regular corporate classes, one at a market research agency in the city with six or so 20/30 somethings - I love teaching them because they’re so passionate, they’ve not done much yoga before so they’re like little thirsty fish, goggling up every bubble of information. I’m also teaching another corporate class with my old marketing company on Thursday mornings, and afterwards I switch to corporate mode and do a day’s work. One day a week in an office!  It’s a fantastic arrangement and I really do feel very lucky, as I still get to connect with my media-businessy side; catch up with my old buddies and keep my eyes, ears and fingers in when it comes to the industry - with a nice bit of pocket money thrown in for good measure. Then tonight… ooh tonight… I’m a touch nervous just thinking about it, but I’m teaching what’s known as a Funky Flow class, which is basically vinyasa yoga to musica! I’ve planned the sequence, I’ve got the soundtrack, and I’m raring to get groooovy Manly folks yogied right up for a Friday night! Yeehhhaa! Actually it’s been an interesting challenge planning the class; I’ve been snatched right out of the old ashtanga comfort zone, but I’ve enjoyed it. I’ll update you on how the class goes.

Well, I’m feeling a little reflective today for some reason. It’s been a couple of months now of living this new life(style) - though style doesn’t come into it since fancy boutiques don’t see any of my dollars these days… In fact there has been a big lifestyle change as far as spending is concerned. Let’s take this one example:

During my one ‘corporate day’, I had lunch at the Taste Bakery, one of my fave dining spots in Surry Hills (delicious Vietnamese baguettes, fresh and interesting salads - You know the score.)  So I pulled out my library book (there’s a lifestyle change for a start!) and ordered my salad with tap water. $10, fine.  Bear with me here… I paid with my EFTPOS card because I’ve decided that to put a stop to any extravagance I’ll give myself some spend-hurdles: In this instance I figure, no cash floating in wallet so no un-necessaries will be purchased. So there I was, happily chomping on my salad and trying to concentrate on Tim Winton’s Dirt Music (loving it btw) when I was distracted by a creative type sitting on my neighbouring table; he was about 25, vacuum-sucked jeans, asymmetric hair, all fast, loud talk. He also had the most deliciously creamy looking flat white I’ve ever seen. Oh man, I wanted a coffee so bad. Scrambled in my purse for desperate cappuccino change but, of course, nothing. My wallet had that baggy, sad look about it and with a $10 minimum spend on cards, well I just had to deny myself the skinny cap.

Now, it’s not a particularly life-changing story I know. Certainly not one that I’d wheel out at a dinner party (mostly because people don’t want to hear people whinnying on about their personal finances… yawwwn), but the reality is that this little moment was a realisation for me that life has changed. Not that I was spending hither and thither, willy and niily, but on the whole, if I wanted something fairly reasonable, like a new pair of gloves, a coffee, a pair of jeans, well I’d get them.

But you know what. I got over it.  It’s often just mindless consumption, boredom, I don’t know what – maybe it’s parigraha (opposite of aparigraha meaning non-grasping). Because, that’s the word – grasping. You’re walking along, you see your favourite coffee brand signposted, the head goes down the body detours, the wallet comes out and hey presto another $4 gone.

It’s not that I’m not having coffees anymore, or never buying anything, but these spend-hurdles that I’ve created are forcing me to assess my priorities. Can I wait three minutes until I get back to the office and have a cup of tea instead? Err. Yes.

Have you ever read those inspirational stories of big cheesy business men/lawyers/head honcho types who are just about to hand over their gold card in payment of their fourth Ferrari and suddenly, in a golden flash of realisation they ask “Do I really need this?” Then of course they tell their story of how they became yogis/ Buddhists etc and renounce all their worldly possessions. Maybe because I was never gonna be a four Ferraris kind of a girl, I haven’t quite got there yet, because I do miss my nice new clothes. I don’t want to let go of my inner girly notion that when you look good, you feel good. But I have to be realistic. As a yoga teacher I’m not going to be able to spend like I used to. Santosha, or being content, is a very important yogic principle, so it seems only fitting that as a yoga teacher I’d need to really understand it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Long weekending, Oz style

Happy birthday Queeny, for yesterday!

I love the fact that us Australians (I became a permanent resident last week so feeling very Australian lately) celebrate the birthday of our lady, the Queen of England. Back in Blighty we don't even know when her birthday is, let alone give the entire country a day off, so if ever there's a reason to be a royalist, here it is!

So, hubby and I decided to cut loose from the big smoke that is Manly and head on up north to another idyllic Aussie beach - Seal Rocks.  Ahh tis the life Australia. Being a long weekend and all (not that that means much to me these days - hooray!) it was the perfect chance err... do nothing. That's right. You have to travel for 4 hours in a car to do nothing these days. 

And that's just what we did. 

Well if you consider two closely fought games of Scrabble (1 draw, one win to me!) a stroll up to the lighthouse, feeding the retreat's horses Mono and Gauntlet, befriending the kookaburras and eating too much cheese and home cooked curry - thank the lordy for Madhur Jaffrey, you can't go wrong. 

The weekend was perfect. As we crunched along the gravel roads to our hideaway,   the evening sun casting golden spears through the trees, I felt one of those rushy, tingly there's-nowhere-I'd-rather-be moments. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to remember how lucky I am to live in this beautiful, glorious, country.

Gauntlet and Mono, love apples (view from our balcony)

 Friendly kookaburra on the verandah

Seal rocks beach

Rainbow over Seal Rocks, view from the lighthouse

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Porridge power!

I love Friday mornings. I don’t teach or practice until the afternoon so it’s the only day of the week when the alarm goes off at what my former self would’ve called a ‘normal time’.  Ahhhhhh, stretchhhhh, mmmmmmmm… 7am. Love it.  Being your typical 50s housewife these days (minus the valium) I get up, put the kettle on and start stirring up a big pot of porridge for hubby and I.  It’s honestly one of my weekly highlights and I say that without a hint of irony. Until now, I’d never really taken to porridge; this fabled cholesterol lowering, low GI, stomach warming, oaty super food. Sticky, cementy, tasteless, Dickensian goo. But, after eating it most mornings in India, as the only viable alternative to curry (I love curry but there’s only so many cumin-based meals I can take in a day), I can whole(grain)heartedly attest to its powers. On the digestive front it’s my super hero – I mean have you seen how much muscle power those oats have, bubbling forth in the pan? Whatever they’re doing in there, I promise they’re working even harder down there… aherm.

Now the texture, well this took some getting used to. Ideal if you’re a baby or haven’t put your teeth in yet, as I like to practice eating an entire bowl without moving my jaw.  It’s possible. To offset the gaggy stickiness, I make the porridge with water only and then add milk after, once it’s in the bowl. If you use cold milk it cools the whole thing down so no more cactus tongue moments. A sprinkle of raw brown sugar for taste – come on, this is not meant to be a punishment is it, and I’ve got a grandma-like taste for sweet things. Then we’re ready to go. If I’m feeling like the super powers needed amping up a notch and the top a little crunchier, I’ll sprinkle some L.S.A (linseed, sunflower and almond) mix on for superior consumption. Man it’s good.  

Big up oat power. Use the big flakes please

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I’ve never cried in a yoga class before but I did during a meditation practice once during my teacher training - we did a full day of meditationy techniques. It was like an emotional mogul run; bumping along. At times I felt all snuggly and comforted, at other moments I was aghast, sad, lonely and empty.  I’ve still not really worked out what was going on that day – but maybe one day I will.

There was a girl in my yoga class yesterday who cried. I was practicing thankfully, as I’m not sure I’d know what to do if a student were affected like whilst I am teaching – although of course it’s entirely natural; life doesn’t wait ‘til we’re ready does it, so you manage (sometimes the responsibility involved in being a yoga teacher blows me away...!)

But anyway, I spoke to my teacher (as he’s also a kind of mentor to me at the moment), after the class about how to deal with this and why it could happen; and his suggestion was that, yes yoga releases emotions – in particular twists and heart-opening backbends are known to make you a bit weepy – but he also believed that it was down to that student’s own expectations as well. When you’re in a challenging class and struggling with certain postures, it can be really confronting. “Why can’t I do this pose?”When will I be able to do it?”

I sometimes imagine there’s this little battler inside me, he’s like one of those sports-mad Dads who desperately wants their kid to play footy for Australia, frantically egging his son on (I’d just like to add that his son is a toddler), slating him if he misses a ball, calling ‘out!’ when the ball was just out – you know the type, it’s not realistic, but it's how we can be with ourselves sometimes. Now I don’t know if this was the case for this girl of course, but for me it shows how we can manifest our emotions, our struggles, our strengths and our weaknesses within our in our practice. But really, this is where yoga has worked for me – when you take that sticky mat metaphor and apply it to your life.

In terms of how I’d cope with this in a class of my own, his advice was simple. Just be there for them but don’t pry too much. It’s pretty heavy this yoga lark.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Baby steps

I can’t write today without mentioning that it was the Manly Food & Wine festival at the weekend. Of course it's one of my annual highlights, but happily this year sustainability was integrated into the event, so folks were encouraged to cycle there, and biodegradable cutlery was provided along with numerous organic, eco and  sustainability stands (the chickens were another highlight!). But I’m feeling guilty today. Guilty about the amount of wine I drank on Saturday. Guilty because I always talk about making changes and for some reason I can’t seem to bloody well do it.

If I'm honest with myself, I’m really not as green as I could be. For instance, I fly a lot (family in England and a sumo-sized appetite for holidaying); I love my electric heater, which I probably leave on for too long – though never whilst out of the house. And whilst I am careful to recycle as much as possible, I find myself forgetting to bring my reusable shopping bags to Coles (does buying yet another pink reusable one count, or is it better to go the evil plastic one?). And yes, I shop in Coles, rather than local farmers’ markets or organic fruit and veg markets, however I try to buy organic, fair trade and sustainable products where possible, but that’s just it – where possible. I walk places – particular to Coles - though my commitment to walking in the warmer months involves arriving a lot less groomed so I have to shower more frequently (water consumption, hairdryer blasting etc…) Man it’s not easy. I'm a C-, I'm a 'could do better'. But I honestly get confused. There’s a plethora of information on the issue, yet I kind of feel it’s all or nothing, and when faced with the ocean-sized task of offsetting the environmental damage done, I just don’t think I can do it.

Then take the issue of meat eating. I decided when I was in India I’d eat a vegetarian diet. No meat-loving husband around, in a country where 42% of the population are vegetarian, and the choice extensive (lady finger jalfrezi anyone… Mmmm!!) it was the perfect time to go meat free. I loved seeing signs for ‘non-veg’ restaurants, it always took me a moment (I can be quite dim) to work out what that meant, living in meat-lovers paradise, Australia as I do (I was at a huge Australian media event last Christmas where the vegetarian option was salmon). But I loved the veggie diet over there and I honestly didn’t miss meat, one bit, not a chop.  So when I got back to Sydney I decided I’d keep the veggie thing going.

Day two and hubby only had to waft the word churrasco at me, and we were down Brazuca in a flash eating their spicy chorizo and succulent picanha. In yoga terms, meat eating is completely at odds with the idea of ahimsa. Jargon aside, I know it is wrong.  Inhumane. Unhealthy. Environmentally speaking, meat eating is a disaster; in fact the UN recently released a report which urged that on a global level we need to move towards a vegetarian/vegan diet to save the world from hunger and the worst impact of climate change.

"Animal products cause more damage than [producing] construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as [burning] fossil fuels."

I stumbled upon a nice little 5 minute TED video today during one of my cyber potters, which raises an interesting point. 

Graham Hill points out the all or nothing issue with vegetarianism. Like me, he’s struggled to give up meat entirely, but outlines the serious impact meat eating has on the environment. He proposes another solution - for the past year, from Monday to Friday he’s a vegetarian. At the weekend he eats, whatever. As you’d expect there are lots of the comments on there are from vegetarians who believe it’s pathetic and he needs to commit to the cause. But it's gotta help right?

Same with plastic water bottles. After seeing the plastic bottle problem in India, I resolved to always carry a reusable bottle (they feel sexy too!).  

There are plastic bottle piles like this everywhere in Goa

I don’t buy bottled water now, I refill. See, for me starting to think about reducing my footprint, it’s got to be baby steps. Happily in Manly a company called Culligan provide filtered water available through the water fountains, which is a fantastic baby step, I reckon.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Self help dilemmas

These last few weeks I've become an emotional chameleon. It’s not my skin that camouflages with the environment, (although, sadly, my Indian tan has shed, in favour of winter lizard scales...) It’s my soul. My mood, my mind, which is currently spotted with damp puddles, unsettled by a howly wind and beaten by lashing rainstorms. Sydney weather eh. I know it’s typically English to whinge about the weather but permit me just two minutes to be a real Pom. What kind of crap weather is that outside, Manly! You’re a dreary soggy shambles and you’ve sucked the light right out of me. Okay.

Now come on. That is so pathetic. 

I’m gonna do some star jumps. 

They feel surprisingly, embarrassingly good.

And I’m gonna smile to myself. Now this feels way too Antony Robbins. Oh yes, that’s better! I think I've started to awaken my giant within.

Cringey self-help gurus are a bit of a weakness of mine, I’m ashamed to admit. But if you pare back all the evangelical jargon, the obligatory acronyms and the completely… (derrrr…) obvious; the underlying message is always the same (and very valid it is too): We have the POWER to influence our OWN state of mind, to change our thinking patterns, and therefore to find our own happiness, fulfilment, confidence, success etc etc. Oh yes, we CAN!

The other guilty weakness I have is for Lululemon bags. I love the way they’re emblazoned with motivational statements like Friends are MORE important than money’ or ‘The conscious brain can only hold one thought at a time. Choose a positive thought.’

When I’m with my group of 'cynical friends' (I’ve got quite a few of these folks and they’re great company because they're very funny and love drinking... but they’re not necessarily the most err, positive of people...) then I might dismiss these ‘McInspirations’ as well, to be honest, trite nonsense. But when I’m on my own - pretending I’m a monk who sold my Ferrari, doing handstands, smiling to myself - and I need to dig myself out of a puddle; then I must admit a certain respect for these sentiments. Bring it on Antony! Obviously I’ve still got some work to do when it comes to standing firm on my own opinion and in doing so I risk losing some funny cynical friends along the way, which is a shame, because they’re so much more important than money… eh!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A tiny paws

That's it. It's time to dress you up a bit. You really are starting to look like the kid at school with the hand-me-down clothes, scuffed shoes and the holes in your sleeves.
See, there you are, let's wipe that blue pen off your cheek and I'll put you in a pretty lilac dress and.. ooh those matching purple earrings.. you're looking so cute! 
Well, at least a little more presentable. Geeee......
Yes, I've got blog envy.  So many pretty looking blogs out there and my blog reminds me of me as a kid. Not that my mum didn't dress me properly, she did her best but I was a strong-willed child. I refused to wear a dress/skirt until the age of 13. I remember my parents' triumph when they packed me off to a friend's seventh birthday party in a kilt, obviously under the pretence that a kilt is definitely NOT a skirt. 
It's tough you know, sometimes you want things to go a certain way, to look a certain way, to be a certain way and, like trying to teach a kitten the clarinet, the kitty cat won't play.