Yoga during Covid isolation

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So just before the Covid lockdown, you find your perfect yoga teacher and class. The time and date works well for you and the teacher gets you. You even feel comfortable with the other students. You feel like you have finally found a yoga class that you can commit to long term.

Enter Covid 19 restrictions and all bets are off. No more yoga class, unless you decide to go online. You can do that, you have the space at home and your wifi is pretty good.

You set yourself up in preparation for said class and you are proud of yourself for not giving up on yoga. The class begins. The teacher apologises as she has never done an online yoga class before. She starts to take you through some warm ups and some breathing. You feel yourself relaxing into the class and into your body. Other cares and worries are getting left behind.

Then it happens. The screen starts to glitch for a few seconds, then freezes, before internet connection is lost. You feel stress creeping fairly quickly into your body. Then somehow internet is reconnected and the class continues. You catch up. You feel better.

Then it happens.. Again, and again. Internet is lost. You feel like screaming and you want to throw the laptop out the window. You remember that this is a yoga class and you are supposed to be relaxing.

Somehow, all those years of listening to the words of your yoga teacher come back into your mind. You close your eyes.

SURRENDER….

BREATHE….

FOCUS ON THAT WHICH YOU CAN CONTROL….

BECOME THE OBSERVER

You become aware of tightness in your chest, tension in your shoulders and belly. You recognise these as the result of feeling frustrated and angry. You soften your belly, allow your shoulders to drop and deepen your breathing.

You realise that you cannot control internet connection. Let it go.

You have an hour of time that you have set aside for a yoga class, and your yoga mat is rolled out. You feel like you are all dressed up with nowhere to go. Ok so you can’t go to yoga class, and the online thing isn’t working for you today.

But maybe there is another way. Maybe you can simply do your own yoga. You stand in mountain pose on your mat and close your eyes. You follow the breath moving in and out of your body.

You realise your shoulders have tensed up again. You roll them slowly a few times and notice warmth and movement of energy throughout your body all the way into your feet. This feels delicious.

One thing leads to another.

Before you know it, you have worked your way through an entire hour of yoga.

Is this yoga? Or is this you just mucking around?

What is yoga anyway?

Yoga means to unite, to connect, to yoke.

As long as you are connecting with your body, your mind, your spirit / higher self, and your breath, you are practicing yoga. As long as you have a sense of self awareness of these aspects of yourself, you are practicing yoga.

Thoughts will come and go, feelings will come and go, insights may come. You may feel a sense of connection with all that is…a sense of oneness. Allow your yoga session to be what it is, without judgement. This is your yoga session.

I like to call this INTUITIVE YOGA, where you tune into how you are feeling at the time and allow yourself to go from there. The inner wisdom of your body and being is your guide.

I will be writing more about Intuitive Yoga in the following weeks. Watch this space…..

Namaste.

Is our world male, female or other?

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My first language is Ukrainian and in this language (unlike English) pretty much everything is assigned a gender – either male, female or neutral, which makes it potentially a tricky language to learn.

So how would I assign gender to the world in which we live?

Before I go on, I have to emphasise that I am not referring to physical gender, ie man or woman. I am referring more to the qualities of masculine and feminine, to something more subtle than mere physical gender.

As humans, we like to categorise and understand stuff. For thousands of years, we have assigned gender to most things, and here are some examples: (I’m sure that you can think of some more!)

MASCULINEFEMININE
YangYin
Heaven Earth
SunMoon
ActiveReceptive
Left sided brain (rational) Right sided brain (creative, intuitive)
MarsVenus

In yogic philosophy, there is a system of energy centres located within and around the body known as chakras. There are seven major chakras, each with its own corresponding, colour, emotion, sound, symbol, qualities, organs and (yes, you guessed it!) gender. The chakras can also be related to certain eras in human history.

There is a lot of information out there about the chakras, but I would like to focus specifically on three chakras – Sacral, Solar Plexus and Heart. I would like to relate these chakras to specific eras or epochs in human history, and why I believe that we are entering the Heart Chakra era.

A lot has been written about human history, how we evolved and there are many stories, myths, legends and truths. According to what I have read, there was a time when women ruled the world (and dominated men). Women were seen as magical creatures, with the ability to create new life. Life was closely connected to nature and the cycles. Men were seen as good only for procreation and moving heavy objects (sorry guys!) This part of history can be seen relating to the Sacral or feminine chakra. The element of this chakra is water and even though water can be fluid, cooling and soothing, and it can also be destructive and a force to be reckoned with.

Then, as it does, the pendulum swung the other way and men started to dominate the world (and rule over women). ‘Witches’ were burnt at the stake, women were deprived of basic rights and disempowered. In Sweden, women gained the right to vote and to work as recently as the 1970’s. This part of history can be seen relating to the Solar Plexus or masculine chakra. The element of this chakra is fire, which is warming, and can be destructive if left unchecked. Yet the energy of fire is necessary for transformation to occur.

Neither system is ideal as there is an imbalance.

I believe that for the last few decades we have been making the transition from Solar Plexus Chakra into the Heart Chakra era. The Heart Chakra is the middle chakra out of all seven and is represented by the colour green, which is a balance of warm (yellow) and cool (blue) colours. The element is air, which has a quality of lightness, expansion and ease about it. The Heart Chakra has a sense of balance to it.

The keyword here is ‘transition’. Like the birthing process, any sort of transition can be painful and ugly, but is necessary in order for the birth of something new.

As we move away from a male dominated world, we are fumbling our way into a new world of balance. We are making mistakes along the way, and hopefully learning from these mistakes. Sometimes it feels like we are taking two steps forward and one step back, yet we are moving forward. I love seeing men pushing prams and playing with their children! I have a friend whose husband is a truck driver. My friend recently posted on social media, pictures of her husband cooking up a storm in the kitchen and wearing an apron.

We are moving away from The Stepford Wives era, away from a world of perfection and keeping up appearances, to a world of authenticity and realness.

Masculine energy qualities of dominance, control, linear growth, competitiveness, large scale, are being replaced by Feminine energy qualities of co-operation, community, human scale, fluidity and cycles. Workplaces are starting to acknowledging the diversity of their team, not only in terms of gender, religion or family situation, but also in the respect of differing styles of communication and work style. Morning people are allowed to come in early when they are at their most productive and night owls are allowed to work late. There is more fluidity and co-operation, less ‘one size fits all’.

With thanks to the pandemic of 2020, we are starting to realise that our economies are unsustainable and that we have created a society of complexity, in our attempt to control the world (Masculine qualities). This pandemic has taken away our illusion of control, and replaced this with creativity, flexibility, community, co-operation and togetherness (Feminine qualities).

Traditionally, yoga has been practiced only by men in India. Yet in the last hundred years or so, it has started to become more inclusive of women. Interestingly, when yoga was first introduced into the western world, it was predominantly the domain of women. Now more men are taking up yoga as we are coming to a place of balance.

And so the pendulum continues to swing, yet I feel that the swing is levelling out. I feel like we are creating a world of balance, inclusivity, validity and authenticity, regardless of gender.

As a world, we are entering the Heart Chakra era, as one human race – male, female, other. We are all in this together.

‘May my life force be linked to my heart;

‘May my heart be linked to the truth within me;

‘May this truth be linked to the eternal.’

(With thanks to Acharya Upendra Roy)

Celebrating Perfection of the Imperfect

In Japanese culture there is the concept of Wabi Sabi, celebrating the perfection of the imperfect.

For most of my life I have struggled with being a perfectionist, which any perfectionist will tell you is an uphill battle. The older I get the more I realise that perfectionism is an illusion. There is no such thing, except in the mind.

Nature is perfect in its imperfection, like the tree growing sideways, atop a windswept cliff. The imperfection of this tree is testament to its courage to grow in such a place, and its resilience to survive despite the harsh environment.

Life is like that too. Life is not always perfect. Yet this imperfection is testament to our courage and resilience.

As a yogini, it comes as no surprise that I love my regular yoga and meditation practice. In a ‘perfect’ world, I would have a dedicated space in the house for my practice. I’m envisaging a space which is light and airy, warm timber, large windows bringing in the greenery, the distinctive aroma of incense wafting through the air, with my mat and props all set and ready to go.

In reality, I practice yoga in the lounge room which I share with my family. My mat and props get put away every time. There is cheap carpet on the floor and in certain poses I end up hitting the window. At times, someone will walk through the lounge and disturb my flow.

This appears to be far removed from my ideal yoga space and yet it works. I celebrate my determination and resilience as I make it work despite the challenges. My yoga space is perfect for now.

Through the asana (physical posture) practice of yoga, I have come to accept the perfection of the imperfection of my body and being. There are certain poses which I cannot do, and that’s ok. There are days where my balance is not that great, and that’s ok. There are days when my practice is only ten minutes and that’s ok too.

Off the mat, I have come to accept that I am getting more wrinkles as I get older, my tummy will never be as flat as it was pre-children and some days I get tired more easily. That’s more than ok, because it’s testament to the fact that I have survived to my early fifties, that I have children and that I have notched up life experience and wisdom.

Acceptance of the authentic self is really about seeing the perfection in the imperfections. The more I cultivate self acceptance, the more I will be likely to accept others for their authenticity too.

If you would like to tell the people of the world to strive for authenticity rather than perfection, check out my creations at: https://www.redbubble.com/people/halynadee/shop

The Power of the Pause

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In the practice of yoga, there is emphasis on the breath. One breath cycle is usually composed of four phases – inhalation / pause / exhalation / pause.

While all phases serve their purpose, I have always loved the pause. To me the pause is a special place, a fleeting few seconds where I have the luxury of not having to do anything, not having to go anywhere, not having to think about anything. In these few seconds, I can rest, I can pause, I can simply be.

When I come home from work, or if I feel like my head is spinning from information overload, again I like to pause.

I go into the lounge room, lie down on the floor and put my legs up on a cushioned chair. For extra inversion I like to put my lower back on a bolster, but this is optional. I allow my arms to fall naturally by the side, with palms facing up, in the pose of relaxation. I take a few big breaths out and simply let go – of the day, of worrisome thoughts, of excess information in my head. I close my eyes and just allow any thoughts to drift in and out of my consciousness, like clouds floating across the sky.

In yoga, this is known as supported Viparita Kirani and is known to reduce blood pressure, reduce heart rate, relieve headaches and soothe the nervous system. As the diaphragm doesn’t have to work against gravity, breathing naturally becomes deeper, which allows more oxygen to enter the body, creating more energy.

In this way, I reconnect with my self…..I restore my energy…..I pause.

Just like I enjoy my pause on a personal scale, I feel like we are being invited to pause on a collective scale also, at this time of the Covid pandemic.

This is an invitation to slow down, to rest, to go within, to reflect, on a global scale. If we accept this invitation, we have the potential to tap into the power of the pause – the power to reflect and question how we are living our lives and make any changes that we see fit; the power to restore; the power to simply be, with no expectations.

This is an invitation particularly to those of us who have always tended to do too much, to overachieve, to strive for perfection. This is an opportunity for us to realise that we don’t have to do it all, that it’s okay to rest.

The power of the pause reminds us of the importance of simply being. By being our true selves, this is enough.

Gifts within the Adversity

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Tomorrow is Anzac Day 2020. Usually there is ritual based around this date, commemorating the fallen soldiers. Last year I attended my first dawn service and thoroughly enjoyed the solemnity and comradeship of this event. This year I was looking forward to the same, but Covid 19 has put a dampener on this, or has it?

Even though the usual marches and gatherings will not be going ahead, collective creativity has stepped in as we look for other ways to commemorate this event. There will be an audiocast at 5.30 and 11.00am, there will be a lone bugle player at some memorials, and old mates who usually catch up at the pub are going to catch up on Zoom.

People are being invited to stand in their driveway or front verandah with a candle at 6.00am as a show of solidarity and unity to commemorate Anzac Day.

What I’m seeing here is a gift in the adversity. The adversity is the inability to celebrate Anzac day as we know it. The gift is the opportunity for collective creativity and a new way of seeing / doing things. What a great gift!

Despite the many adversities of Covid 19, there have been many gifts:

Petrol is at an all time low (about half of what it used to be);

We are showing more kindness and compassion;

Mother Earth is breathing clearer with less pollution;

We are embracing baking, growing veggies, and having chooks in the backyard;

Creativity is rife as we find new ways – to do business, to connect, to live and to be;

Those that have lost jobs are offering to help those even less fortunate;

A five star hotel in Perth has opened its doors to the homeless and the manager reported that in his entire twenty year career, never has he met such an interesting bunch of people!

Teddy bears and soft toys are popping up everywhere as we engage in a global bear hunt.

And the best part about all this? You and I can tell our kids and grandkids that we lived through the pandemic of 2020!

Acknowledge the adversity (yes it sucks to have your work hours cut back and yes it sucks to not be able to sit a cafe and enjoy a catch up with friends, yes, yes and yes) but underneath all this there are hidden gifts waiting to be found.

We are all in this together

Love this bit of art in my local community

It is no coincidence that I started this blog in April 2020….As the entire world is gripped by the COVID 19 pandemic.

I feel like the world has been turned upside down and inside out, and when we do finally emerge on the other side, it will be a new ‘normal’. I feel like things may never be the same again.

I feel like we are in the midst of a massive change and transformation that the earth and her inhabitants have been longing for. I feel like this is a time of both outer and inner transformation.

Some people are worse off, some feel like they are better off and some are struggling to deal with the changes beyond our control. One thing is certain…we are all in this together.

At this time, most of us find ourselves in social isolation, allowed out of our homes only for work, study, shopping and exercise. No family get togethers, no celebrations, concerts, festivals, movies, religious services, etc. Most people are working from home, some parents have been thrown into the deep end, expected to work from home and home school their children.

Easter has come and gone and I feel some sadness at the fact that our family has not been able to get together. We have two new bubs in our family and I won’t get to see them.

My daughter wants to catch up with a friend, yet they have no idea how this is physically possible. How does one even date at this time?

So much disconnection…..

And yes there is connection through social media and the internet which is a blessing at this time.

Despite all this, I feel like there is a deeper sense of CONNECTION, a common sense of purpose, and a sense that we are all in this together.

People all around the world are going through the same issues at this time. This is a level playing field.  There is no discrimination. Celebrities have been affected as well as young children, royalty, sports stars, politicians and so called ordinary people.

We rely on the so called humble people like truck drivers, grocery store workers and medical technicians now more than ever. This is their time to shine. One of my heroes is the man who makes my coffee when I need it and who has kept his café open, even when others are closing.

There is no us and them anymore, it is all just us.

We are all in this together.