What qualities do you think are paramount for someone to be considered a "good yoga teacher"?
If you are already a yoga student, what do you expect from your teacher?
I had to write an assignment recently about my answer to this question for my Post Grad Yoga Teacher Training and this is what I came up with below. I certainly don't think that being a good yoga teacher means being able to do all the "fancy" poses. Do you agree with me?
A good yoga teacher is someone who is passionate about their yoga practice and they love how it has helped them physically, mentally and spiritually, and they want to share their knowledge of this practice, and the bliss and love that comes with it, with the world. They are committed to work towards being the best version of themselves that they can be every single day, as well as continuously building on their knowledge for the benefit of themselves and their students. They are aware that their wellness journey (and everyone else’s) is a life-long process and they are always owning up too and learning from their mistakes.
They are driven by a desire to help others on their path to wellness and help increase their quality of life (if the students desires this), such as learning how to honour and care for their physical bodies and its constantly changing needs on and off the mat, how to be present, how to connect with their intuition and ‘true self’ beyond the constant chatter of a busy and maybe self-damaging mind, how to release the ego and to realise it’s even there in the first place, how to practice self-love, kindness, forgiveness, non-judgement and acceptance, and to come to the realisation that we are all connected so extending that self-practice to include how we treat others is how we heal ourselves and the world.
The way the teacher offers this information is through guidance and suggestion and personal experience, not through preaching, as this allows the student to find out for themselves what works for them and their mindsets in that point of time. The student can then develop at the pace that they are ready for depending on where they are at in their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual journeys and they can form their own belief structure (and appropriate asanas/postures for their bodies) that they choose to follow.
They respect their student’s privacy, always keeping what they are told confidential, as well as respecting their values and beliefs, not touching them without permission, and not judging what point in their enlightenment journey the student is at. They don’t talk down to their students making them feel inferior, and they keep ethical boundaries within the teacher-student relationship. They also have the ability to protect themselves from taking others emotional baggage on board and from being taken advantage of. They are able to be generous and kind without being detrimental to their own health and well being.
They are approachable, friendly, reliable, honest, punctual, fair, patient and compassionate. They have sound moral principles, are excellent communicators (through much more than just what they say), have a clear and easy flowing “yoga” voice, are able to offer modifications throughout their sequences to appeal to all the different levels of abilities within the class, and they make their students feel “seen” and “heard” and that they are in good hands. They follow their duty or care and to the best of their ability they aim to keep their clients safe within their practice through smart sequencing and cueing, using their knowledge for how to deal with common injuries and restrictions. They lead by example in and out of the classroom by following the core philosophies of yoga, and they inspire and gently guide their students to find the knowledge and unconditional love that is already within them.
This is the kind of yoga teacher I strive and hope to be. I may be far from perfect, but I can promise that I will always try to be the best version of me that I can be every single day, on and off the mat.
My DNA - Results that sheds some light on my health and fitness, and how it affects my goal to complete a Half Marathon!
Did you know that there are genes that affect your muscle power, strength, energy, endurance, flexibility, injury risk and recovery time? There are also genes that affect your weight, body size, appetite, fat storage, fat burning capacity, cholesterol and triglycerides levels, fatty acids processing ability AND how much drinking coffee affects you?!!
My DNA (https://www.mydna.life) offers a service where you can pay online, they send out a testing kit to you (you take a swab from the inside of your cheek), you sent it back and voila, they send you your results in an easy to understand format.
Although my results don't change anything for me, it certainly confirms everything I’ve always felt, and it’s nice to have science backing me up! It’s pretty fascinating stuff.
I am currently training for a Half Marathon (in the Goldcoast in July) and have always said that I am not a natural runner, especially long distances. It’s always been a massive struggle for me. My DNA has confirmed that I am only 39% built for Endurance and 61% built for Power. My strengths according to my DNA is short bursts of high intensity movements with ample recovery time. This means that running long distances is VERY hard for me. But that’s not to say that this DNA result means I, or you, cannot do it. With adequate training and commitment, it is absolutely possible to train the body to be able to handle it.
It’s been my Goal to complete a Half Marathon for years but injuries, pregnancy and motherhood kept putting it off until now. It’s to prove to myself and to others that anything is possible if you really set your mind on it, regardless of whether or not it feels natural to you, or you have genes that make it more difficult.
Even though I am a Yoga teacher, I have always known that I am not naturally flexible. My body always feels tight and I have always injured easily. My DNA results has confirmed that I have genes that give me excellent muscle power and energy but I am at a very high risk of suffering from injuries due to my joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles being stiff. I am not alone here, only 18.5% of the Australian population has an ideal result, all the rest have increased risk like me. No surprise?! For those that have this gene, it is very important that you stretch as much as possible in a safe way to reduce the chance of injuring yourself and loosing range of motion. For the naturally flexible, it is important to focus on strength training to make sure your joints, ligaments and tendons have the support it needs to keep everything in place.
For those of you that like to smash out training sessions every day of the week just be aware, 19% of the Australian population has the same gene as me which means that muscle fibre regeneration is slow. We need our rest days in between sessions and are more likely to experience muscle soreness after exercise. Rest days can include movements such as yoga, walking, swimming etc
As for Nutrition, each one of us responds differently to the food we eat. There is no blanket rule that everyone should follow. This makes it very overwhelming to know what’s right for us an individual. My DNA has revealed that I function better with a Lower Fat Diet. Some people need less carbs, and some people need a lot more protein. Some people put on muscle and gain muscle definition easily, some don’t, some people are naturally tiny and some people are naturally rounder. This all affects how we should eat for our individual body types (carbs/fats/protein balance).
There’s a gene that affects your eating habits, food preferences, appetite and your brains ability to know when your full. If you’re overweight, this nasty little gene may be one of the things making it harder for you to loose weight. 50% of the Australian population has this gene that moderately increases their appetite, and 15% has the gene that significantly increases appetite.
Amazingly I am part of the lucky 2% that has a gene that makes it less likely to store excess calories that I have consumed! 80% of the Australian population has the gene that it the typical accumulation of fat if more food than is required is consumed. This can lead to a higher chance of Type 2 Diabetes and higher BMI. Yikes! Our Basal Metabolic Rate is the amount of calories we need to consume just to be alive. On top of that is calories that we need to give us energy for the movements we do in a day, including exercise. Every calorie we eat on top of that is considered excess. If you would like to work out your BMR, check out this calculator - https://www.mydr.com.au/tools/basal-energy-calculator.
On the flip side, I also have a gene that means I have reduced levels of the hormone needed to burn fat. So when I do put on weight, it’s very difficult to loose. The more overweight you are, the less of the hormone you produce so it’s a downward spiral. 52% of the Australian Population share this result with me. Only a mere 8% are blessed in this area. The struggle is real guys! But as mentioned before in regards to training, it is still possible to beat the odds that are against us.
Having this awareness of our genes means we don’t have to be so hard on ourselves if we are not seeing the results we want instantly. It takes time and focus, and remember, the best thing to do is just try to make healthy decisions 80% of the time, we’re allowed treats too! What and how we eat needs to be sustainable and suitable for our lives PERMANENTLY. Fad diets may work in the short term but as soon as eating habits change, everything else changes with it. Learning to listen to the body and what it’s telling us during and after we eat, and allowing the time to really taste and enjoy our food as we eat instead of eating while distracted will really make a difference.
Now, coffee drinkers!! Some people can process caffeine very quickly which means the affects wear off faster than normal (44%). If you drink a lot of coffee, you may be one of these people! How coffee affects your brain can be related to genes as well. 49% of the population can experience a moderate amount of anxiousness and sleep disturbance when larger quantities of caffeine is consumed. 37% have a low risk of feeling jittery but they have a high chance of sleep disturbance. 14% have a low chance of caffeine affecting their sleep but a higher chance of feeling anxious. Although anxiousness induced by coffee begins to disappear if caffeine is consumed frequently. For me it’s said that I can experience the effects of caffeine for up to 6-8 hours! It’s recommended that I don’t have one after 3 hours before bed, and I have a moderate chance of it making me jittery (it sure does which is why I don’t drink it!). Interesting!
All of this confirms more reasons why we cannot compare ourselves to others. We are all unique, from our DNA, to our life journey, lessons, experiences, feelings, skills and desires. We just have to keep being the best version of ourselves that we can be every single day, with no judgement that we are less or more than anyone else. Other peoples opinions, or even our DNA, do not have to define us.
On side note, when I did my Natural Therapy Diploma I learnt about Epigentics. 95% of us have been born “genetically healthy” but for the 5% that have inherited genes that predispose you to things such as Cancer, Diabetes etc, it doesn’t mean that you will get it. If you are in the 95%, it still doesn’t mean you won’t end up with these diseases as well. The expression of your genes can be turned on and off due to environmental influences. Switching On genes can be positive in the instances of activating anti-cancer cells, but we definitely don’t want the cancer causing genes to be switched on!
This is how twins who have the same genetic make up can end up looking different over time and can end up with different illnesses depending on how they are living their lives. Poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyles (not being active) and smoking are the main causes for switching on the nasty genes. Also such things as pollution, chemicals, stress etc Eating a healthy diet filled with antioxidant foods will help keep those bad genes off. Trying to move your body as much as possible with the balance of relaxation and mindfulness practices to combat stress, and trying to live naturally and chemically free (think cleaning and beauty products, processed foods etc) as much as possible will definitely help too.
Are you one of those people who cringe at the thought of how much the way we live is destroying our earth, but are too overwhelmed by the extreme steps needing to be done to make a difference, that you end up putting it in the too hard basket? I am one of those people, but I have found little ways to slowly make changes that overall will make a big impact to this earth. If everyone took small steps to change, the result would be HUGE.
Plastic is one of our biggest problems (although not our only problem by far). DID YOU KNOW? – It takes around 400 years for plastic to break down (whilst leaving toxic chemicals in its wake). Plastic has only been around for roughly 150 years which means that practically every bit of plastic that has been created in the world has yet to break down… There are 5 garbage islands floating in the ocean, one being double the size of Texas L
A lot of this was inspired by the recent television show on ABC called War on Waste. Definitely watch it if you get a chance! Most of the facts listed in this blog are provided from this: https://www.samedayrubbishremoval.com.au/War-On-Waste-Statistics.php
Also, if you’re on a roll and willing to step up the effort required to make a difference, here’s a few other ideas:
When you’re new to yoga, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. These days there are so many different types of yoga available, in many different types of environments, and every teacher adds their own unique flavour. My advice is to try multiple types with multiple teachers until you find one than suits your body, your individual needs, and your mindset.
Hatha Yoga – Hatha is a term that describes the physical postures of Yoga, so technically all Yoga is Hatha based. Classes that are advertised as Hatha are generally great for beginners as its structure is basic and it can be a simple gentle introduction to the practice, particularly the physical aspects. If a studio lists a class on their timetable as just “Yoga” then it’s generally Hatha or Vinyasa.
Vinyasa Yoga – This is what I teach. It’s Hatha structured into a sequenced flow of poses that is matched to the flow of the breath. It usually always incorporates some sort of Sun Salutation. This style is very broad as it’s influenced by the teachers’ unique personality so you may find that Vinyasa classes vary in structure and intensity greatly.
Iyengar Yoga – This was created by one of the most well-known Indian yoga teachers in the world, BKS Iyengar. It is very alignment focused and usually uses a wide range of props including ropes attached to the wall and chairs, to assist the individual deeper into poses safely. The structure is usually very slow and gentle so is suitable for beginners and those who are recovering from injuries etc
Ashtanga Yoga – This is a very intense structured vinyasa sequence that is the same postures in the same order every time that also link to the breath. Great for those experienced yogis who like to work up a sweat, be challenged to their limits and who enjoy routine and discipline.
Yin Yoga – Vinyasa is the Yang style of Yoga, and Yin is the complete opposite. It’s very slow, calming and grounding with postures connecting most of the body to the earth (ie. not standing). You hold a posture for up to 3 minutes at a time, with the use of props if needed to avoid pain. Generally you are led to focus on your mindset, your breath and relaxation of the muscles. When you hold a posture for an extended period of time without excess strain, the fascia around the muscles begin to release and you naturally deepen into the poses. Some postures can feel quite intense but a good teacher will guide you into adjustments that works for your individual body.
Acro Yoga – This is for the playful and fearless! Generally you work with partners to come into postures balancing in some way on one another. Do you remember doing the aeroplane pose with your parents as a child holding their hands with their feet lifting you up by the hips? This is considered Acro Yoga and can be done safely by counter balancing and bone stacking your bodies in alignment with one another. Even the simplest of poses look very impressive!
Bikram Yoga – Be prepared to sweat! This 90 minute class is a set sequence of 26 postures which are the same in each class and is held in an incredibly hot room (35-42 degrees Celsius). It is very strict and disciplined with its rules and structure. There is debate as to how healthy it is to perform an intense sequence in such hot conditions. We are generally more flexible in hot conditions which is a plus, but that’s not to say it’s safer, as we can overstretch past our abilities without realising and do damage, just as easily as overstretching cold muscles. And then there’s the issue of extreme dehydration… but some people absolutely love it and say they feel amazing afterwards so try it for yourself and judge!
Hot Yoga – Similar to Bikram in that the room is very hot but the sequence isn’t regimented. The exact temperature varies from studio to studio.
Kundalini – This style is not what you what you would expect in a “normal” yoga class and doesn’t include many of the widely known yoga postures. It is very spiritual based and incorporates chanting, mantra and meditation in amongst invigorating physical core focused movements with various breath techniques. Its aim is to release the Kundalini energy that in your body that is said to be trapped or coiled in the lower spine. The range of intensity and wildness is dependent on the teacher. Some may find it incredibly strange and out of their comfort zone, and others love the inner power of it.
Restorative – Blissful relaxation and release where the body is supported in a gentle stretch by various props and gravity does all of the work while you rest at ease! Requires next to no effort whilst reaping the benefits of stretching. Perfect to wind down, de-stress and calm the body and mind. Perfect for almost every age, body and condition.
Aerial / Suspension / Anti-Gravity Yoga – These classes are great for those who like to embrace their playful inner child and for those that love to get upside down. Basically, it’s yoga where you are suspended off the ground by a stretchy fabric of some sort such as a silk sling. It can be lots of fun, it can be incredibly graceful (if you’re already pretty bendy) or it can be pretty overwhelming! You put a lot of trust into being supported by the silk, and trust in yourself that you’ve positioned it in the right spot to hold you safely but it’s a great way to get a wonderful stretch without the pressure of gravity and a wonderful way to learn to let go and fly!!
Kids Yoga – Kids Yoga is a great way to introduce children to the benefits of Yoga. It can develop body and breath awareness, flexibility, strength, imagination, creativity, mindfulness, connection, trust and confidence. The classes are usually structured in the way that includes games, adventures, storey telling, singing, breathing exercises, dancing, partner work, meditation etc with lots of props and visual aids, depending on the age group of the children, to make sure it’s fun and engaging to keep their attention.
Mums Bubs Yoga - A gentle class that introduces mums back into yoga after being given clearance from their doctors to exercise after birth. (Usually around the 6-12 week mark). There are classes that can have a mix of newborns as well as bubs that are on the move, or they can be split into two different classes. Some of the poses and sequences can incorporate the bub, but ultimately the main focus is on mum as long as the bub is happy to watch! Great way to develop the skill of remaining present and peaceful even amongst noise and movement, while nourishing the physical body after the stresses of pregnancy and labour.
Prenatal Yoga – A gentle class designed for women who are 12-40 weeks pregnant. Sequences usually focus on relaxation, breathing techniques, body awareness, posture and pelvic floor activation as well as stretching and strengthening the body to support the extra weight of the baby on the ligaments and muscles, building the stamina and strength needed for labour, and assisting in speeding up the recovery process.
Chair Yoga – Generally designed for seniors who are unable to get up and down from the floor. Poses are modified to incorporate sitting on a chair, or standing postures using the chair as a prop. Very gentle and fantastic to increase range of motion, flexibility and strength as well as reaping the benefits of mindfulness and breathing techniques. It is never too late to advance your physical abilities and reconnect with your inner self.
Power Yoga / Slow Flow – Generally Vinyasa based classes but Power Yoga is more focused on the physical body by building heat through faster sequences that require strength and stamina; and Slow Flow is a more gentle with a slower vinyasa sequence that holds postures a little longer and focuses on the breath a little more.
Yoga Therapy – Generally designed for those that are rehabilitating the body after physical trauma, those that have chronic conditions and illnesses, or those that are even recovering from mental and emotional trauma. It’s a holistic approach to healing the body and the mind in a way that is gentle and safe for the individual’s conditions. Usually this is done by one on one instruction with a specially qualified Yoga Therapist, however there are some commercial classes out there that are basically just hatha/vinyasa classes that focus on the energetic meridians throughout the body that also affect the organs and bodily systems as well as the muscles.
Water/Aqua Yoga – Believe it or not, you can even do Yoga in the water! It’s another way to release the pressure of gravity on the body and to reap the benefits of stretching and strengthening in a gentle way. If you love to swim, then this may be a good one to give a go.
Yogalates – This is a mix of pilates and yoga. Great for those that can’t decide between the two and love both! They are very similar in the sense that they have a range of postures, use the breath as a tool, and increase postural strength etc but yoga has more of a spiritual focus where pilates is more about the physical body – which is why it has been used as part of a rehabilitation plan with physios for years. Now it is very common for yoga or pilates studios to have both practices on their timetable so having a fusion of them together was inevitable!
SMR / Roll and Release – These kind of classes are becoming more popular in conjunction with yoga studios as awareness increases of what fascia is, and its roll in range of motion and flexibility. Fascia is a web of connective tissue that surrounds the muscles, organs, tendons, ligaments etc It’s meant to be quite a fluid substance but from repetitive movements patterns and habits, sedentary lifestyles, injury, and even from stress and unhealthy diets etc it begins to harden which restricts motion in a big way and creates havoc within the body causing more injury’s and chronic pain. SMF stands for Self Myofascial Release which is basically giving the fascia a massage through specific movements in specific spots around the body with the use of equipment such as foam rollers or balls. It can be incredibly painful, like deep trigger point therapy, but a good pain if you know what I mean, and it makes a huge difference. There is a range of equipment to choose from with much softer options for those who aren’t big on discomfort or pain. This has been a popular technique with physios for a long time, and now it’s becoming more main stream for those wanting to “do it yourself” at home with equipment being sold everywhere, such as Kmart and even Aldi.
This is definitely not a complete list of all the options out there, but these are the most commonly found. Plenty of choices, so there’s something for almost every potential yogi!
A general break down for what to expect in the levels offered in Yoga classes:
Beginners – Generally slower and relatively gentle with modifications offered to be accessible for as many unique bodies and abilities as possible. It’s expected that flexibility and strength may be limited so nothing too fancy or overwhelming would be offered, or at least no pressure would be enforced on everyone to try everything offered. Alignment ques and posture names would be expressed often to direct those who are new to the practice. There are specific Beginner Course’s out there that involve a lot more talking than a general class – explanations of all the poses and different types of Yoga styles, and the structure would start with the simple foundation poses and slowly progress to slightly more complicated throughout the term.
Intermediate – These classes are the next step in progressing from the basic postures of Yoga onto more challenging and complex postures. These postures would require an increased level of strength and flexibility than in a Beginners class, however as it’s only the next step and not the end goal, it is still expected that the students are transitioning between stages and still require the break down of the process to get to that end goal. There may be less alignment ques for the basic postures as previous knowledge may be expected, and it may move a lot faster than a beginner’s class.
Advanced – Generally these classes would usually have minimal alignment ques and the names of postures would be directed with the expectation that the student would know what it was and how to get there, or at least how to work towards getting there. Transitions between postures, and the postures themselves may be complex and involve a generous amount of flexibility, strength and experience to do so safely.
A list of Spiritual Books that helped shape me into who I am today, and a few tips to get out of a downward spiral of depression...
If you just want the book list, scroll to the bottom!
People often think that because I’m a Yogi and Personal Trainer that I’m super happy, positive and perfect with my health all the time…. That is absolutely not true.
I certainly still have my bad days (or even weeks!) but the difference these days compared to my past is that I know how to deal with it now. I know how to not let it escalate to damaging proportions. I know how to accept it, feel it and forgive it. I know when it’s time to let it go and get on with it.
I was once a very negative, dramatic and emotional person, and I subconsciously enjoyed playing the victim so that I could get love, attention and sympathy from others. My past experiences led me to partying hard to escape the pain, and I didn’t eat well or look after my physical and mental health. Although I must admit that I did manage to have a lot of fun throughout that partying period of my life, ultimately this life style led me to battling deep depression and thinking that the world was a better place without me….
I desperately wanted to be loved and accepted and it would destroy me whenever I was judged (or thought I was being judged, which was constantly), eventually resulting with me retreating into my toxic dark shell within the mind where I was my own worst enemy. Once very outgoing, I began to struggle to put on a happy face in social situations (I called it my performing monkey act), and then I struggled to face the outside world at all. People eventually stopped trying to include me and then I hated myself even more as I knew it was all my fault that they were giving up on me because I was pushing them away. It was easier to shift the blame and get angry and hurt that they didn’t love me enough to keep trying. It was an endless cycle between logical and illogical emotional reasoning.
Logically I was aware that it was a mind set and I could clearly see how my brain was functioning and that it wasn’t normal nor beneficial. But it was constant cycle of war between fact and fiction. Sometimes I thought it would be so much easier if I wasn’t aware of the truth, that I had a problem, and that I needed help. It would be so much easier if I could just ignorantly continue on my crazy thought patterns and think that I was doing nothing wrong and it was perfectly ok to live this way.
But I knew. It wasn’t healthy. Living this way wouldn’t lead to happiness. Even when I did find chances at happiness, my thought processes would sabotage it by finding drama to fuel the fire. But the alternative was daunting. Having to change – shit – was it even possible? Where do you even start?!
Unfortunately there is no quick fix. You can’t just find the switch deep within the brain, flick it, and suddenly the world is perfectly peachy. You can’t just take a pill and it all goes away. It takes time. A LONG time. It takes a life time of mindfulness practice, of putting one foot in front of the other each second of each day, and then one day you wake up and look back on where you once were and think, “Wow, look at me go!, I’m a whole different person now”.
I used to always feel like I was on the outside looking in. Like the real ‘ME’ was floating outside my body watching this other person live my life. It all felt fake, like it was part of a movie that was scripted. I guess it was because I wasn’t being the real me. I was acting how I thought I needed to act to get people to love and accept me. This all began to change around 2009, the year before I met my now husband. Step by step I found myself and put all the puzzle pieces together. I no longer consider myself broken. Over the past 9 years I have learnt to accept and love myself, and to not expect others to be responsible for my own happiness.
We will never reach the moment where we are perfect and we know everything, so there’s no point looking for that end game. This is a life time commitment to finding the best version of you that you can be. The first step to healing is – ACCEPT WHERE AND WHO YOU ARE RIGHT NOW. Take responsibility for your life and forgive yourself. Stop blaming others and forgive them too.
When others wrong us, it’s easy to want to blame them. Their behaviour and actions could be inexcusable. They may not deserve forgiveness. But forgiveness is the only thing that will set you free. If you hold on to hurt and hate, you only make yourself suffer, not them. You allow a special place in your mind for them to live in and you carry them around with you every second of every day. Your experiences with them begin to affect new situations in your life as you will automatically react to past pain and blame those in the present.
As evil as people can be, try to remember that they weren’t born that way. Sometimes it can be a neurological disorder so technically they cannot be at fault for their actions, but a majority of the time it is because that person has been emotionally damaged in some way in the past and it’s the only way they know how to operate now. It’s nothing personal. They’re just reacting to past pain in the present too. We’re all on the same journey to find our way back to self-love and happiness. Sadly, many people never find it in one life time….
My mum used to tell me that how we feel was a choice. At the time I was not in the right head space to hear it, even though she was right. I couldn’t understand it. My emotions were too strong and they consumed me. Some part of me knew she was right but it only made me feel worse that I couldn’t control my feelings. I’m glad she said it though, as it was one of the many turning points towards my transformation.
One of the things that played a huge part in my transformation was constantly reading and listening to spiritual talks. We are very adaptable creatures and we are easily brain washed. What we hear constantly is what we believe, it becomes our truth. There have been many scientific studies and experiments over the years proving this. Hitler is an example. If we are constantly told that a certain type of person is superior, it won’t take long until we believe that to be the honest truth. It’s pretty scary how much power the media has over us these days too! So what we think, we also believe. Being aware of your thoughts is a great step to rewiring the brain. We cannot change what we are not conscious of! Repeating positive thoughts about yourself in your mind, even if you don’t believe them at first, definitely makes a difference if you are consistent. Reading and listening to things often also creates great change, it certainly had a huge impact on me.
I quite often get asked which spiritual and inspirational books I would recommend. Below is a list of authors / books that I can highly recommend to get you started:
Wayne Dyer – Loads of excellent books to choose from. I can recommend – Your Erroneous Zones (from his earlier days) and Change Your Thoughts Change Your Life - Living the Wisdom of the Tao.
Watch his movie The Shift - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SnWOTDykAc
Listen to any of his talks on You Tube. This one was at the Wanderlust Festival not too long before he died - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNrEFpkgWQo
Ekhart Tolle – The book the Power Of Now was a game changer for me. A definite must read. He also has a book called A New Earth which is very good, but the concepts can go beyond what most people are capable of believing, even though logically it makes sense. He also has many fantastic clips on YouTube worth watching.
Marianne Williamson – I would call this powerful woman my spiritual mentor, even though I haven’t met her in person. She makes the spiritual mindset make sense in a way that’s not too fluffy or hocus pocus. She’s even involved with a political party in the USA and if she managed to get to the top, she would help heal this world more than any political party ever has. She is the most well-known Teacher of A Course in Miracles.
Check out any of her books, I loved - A Return to Love (audio book is on You Tube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDcHlqzJMOs) and Tears to Triumph.
She also has many inspirational talks available on You Tube.
Gabrielle Bernstein – Marianne’s protégée. More ‘trendy and fluffy’ but still very inspirational. Her book Spirit Junkie is a good read.
Radical Forgiveness by Colin Tipping – Great book on healing oneself through the power of forgiveness. Spot on.
Western Mind Eastern Body by Anodea Judith – If you’re interested in the bodies energy centres – Chakras – then this is the book for you! In depth knowledge about each Chakra, it’s characteristics and childhood development patterns, and how to heal and maintain balance. A mix of science, philosophy, psychology and spirituality.
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne – This book helped start a radical shift in my perception to life. Its core teaching is to be Grateful for all that we already have, and this resonated within me big time, and still does. It teaches that through the Law of Attraction, what we are grateful for and what we visualise to be our truth, we will attract into our lives and receive. Although this is very true, I now see that this book can promote self-serving tendencies…. Definitely worth reading but try not to get caught up on your superficial desires such as wealth, material things, having the perfect body etc Yes we can still want things and have goals to achieve, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s important not to bank our happiness on receiving these things. Try to release your desires to the universe and ask ‘How can I serve, How can I give back’ instead of “I want this and that”.
Celestine Prophecy – I read this book a very long time ago so my memory is hazy, but I do remember that its spiritual insights made a big impact on me at the time. I didn’t understand the ending back then though and thought it was very strange, however many years later with the knowledge I have now, I understand its meaning.
You Were Not Born To Suffer by Blake Bauer – I met this Australian author at the Mind Body Spirit Expo a couple of years ago in Melbourne and his presentation resonated with me so I brought his book. I agree with his message in the book and I enjoy reading it, but it does waffle on a bit so it’s not one to be read in one sitting. Best to read a chapter here and there and reflect on the insights it raises.
The Voice That Calls Us Home, A Buddhist Guide to Meditation and Living by Christian O'Toole - A very simple easy to read book that brings about many light bulb moments. Wonderful to read more than once as each time a different part will stand out and relate to a current challenge we may have. Christian also runs Meditation work shops and discussions in Rosebud and other various locations around the Mornington Peninsula (including at my studio!) which I highly reccommend attending to get further guidance. It really helps to have someone with vast knowledge to ask questions and discuss your mindset and meditation challenges and experiences with.
Other inspirational authors worth looking into - Deepak Chopra, Louise Hay, Dalai Lama, Rumi, Ram Dass
After reading each book I would have so many questions about parts of them that I didn't understand. Some things seemed to contradict others and it was confusing. But the more I read and the more my knowledge increased, I started to find the answers, and I realised that not everything that is written is literal and black and white. It's all open to interpretation. So take what resonates with you and leave what doesn't. At the end of the day it's what you believe and what works for you that's important. When I started practising 'mindfulness' and looking for signs from the universe I thought that maybe I was a bit crazy. But the results have proven it to me. This stuff really works. My incredible life now and balanced mind and soul is living proof! (Yoga definitely helps too hehe). I hope this helps you on your journey to enlightenment.
Much love x
Yoga – if you haven’t tried it by now, you would have at least heard about it! Once a very male dominated practice in India, it is now even more popular in the Western World, and through online websites and social media it has been given a certain reputation by gorgeous slim women in skimpy clothing doing incredibly impressive and seemingly impossible poses…..
If you’re not already a seasoned Yogi yourself, don’t let this scare you away. Don’t let this make you think that if you can’t do that, or if you don’t look like that, then yoga isn’t for you. You may be thinking “I can’t even touch my toes, I can’t do Yoga”. Sound familiar? Let me just tell you that there is so much more to Yoga. Yoga can be interpreted, taught and expressed in many different ways these days, so it’s likely that there’s a type of Yoga out there that you would enjoy. (There’s even under water yoga, hip hop yoga and suspension yoga now!) The underlying purpose of it and why it is so beneficial, quite simply is, it’s a way to move, strengthen and stretch your body. Now we all know that moving our body is good for our physical & mental health right?! So I don’t need to lecture you about why. On a deeper level though, if you’re open to mindfulness practices, it’s a way to connect to the present moment and a way to connect your mind, body and soul.
My recommendation would be to try a handful (or more!) of different styles and teachers before making any judgements about whether or not Yoga is for you. Every teacher resonates in a different way, even if they are teaching the same style of Yoga! So merely dabbling in one class is not even going to scratch the surface on what is on offer out there.
I cannot stress this enough – the stiffer and more inflexible you are, the more you NEED yoga! Or at least some sort of stretching and active movement in all directions. Otherwise your range of motion will continue to diminish to the point where getting on to the ground to play with your kids or grandkids will be impossible, and something simple like turning around in the car to pick something up off the back seat pops your neck out! If you don’t have the time or confidence to tackle a yoga studio or gym, there are loads of Yoga classes available online, even for free. Duration from minutes to hours! Every little bit counts towards your overall wellness.
Like any form of exercise, it is easy to injure yourself in Yoga. There are some teachers and students out there who push for certain alignments because it’s the traditionally “correct” way to perform a certain asana (pose). However, one of the key philosophy’s in Yoga (Yama’s) is Ahimsa which means Non-Violence. Forcing your body into an alignment that it’s not ready for is considered violence to oneself so it’s recommended to listen to your body and modify the poses as necessary. Most teachers will offer different variations of the more difficult poses in a class that caters for all levels, or Beginner classes can be a great way to start if you’re range of motion isn’t great.
Another key Yoga Philosophy (Niyama’s) is Santosha which means Contentment. Yoga teaches you to let go of the ego and accept where you are at in all aspects of life, including with the physical body. Practicing acceptance and non-judgement is a powerful way to achieve peace within the mind, which essentially leads to great joy and contentment within your life.
In my yoga classes I like to explain to my students that yoga is meant to FEEL GOOD. Our bodies are all different and unique and each one of us has had layers of experiences in their lives that have brought their physical body and emotional mindsets to where they are today, so what feels good to one person will be different to another person. So it’s not expected that everyone looks the same in every pose, especially for those new to yoga, and it’s not expected that everyone has to do the same things if they don’t want too. Hang out in that resting pose if you feel like it!! Give yourself permission to do what’s right for you instead of trying to strive for what you feel is expected of you (and this includes your own perceptions of what you would like to achieve!). Your yoga practice is your own personal journey so remove judgements or yourself and others and find what feels good.
When you’re on the mat, try to release everything outside of that room – your to-do lists, what you want to eat next, that text message you need to reply to – and stay present. When you are present you can FEEL your body and the energy running through it, you can FEEL your breath deep into your belly, you can observe your thoughts, HEAR every sound, and when you find that delicious stillness within, it is truly quite magical. Allowing ourselves the time to find that stillness, however you do it, gives us the tools to tackle our busy stressful lives in a much calmer peaceful manner.
Whether you’re only interested in yoga for its physical benefits and none of the fluffy stuff, or if you’re interested in the whole spiritual package, or if Yoga just isn’t your thing at all, either way it’s totally OK. Just find some way to MOVE that works for you and makes your heart smile :)
4 Years ago, my husband and I volunteered at a rural school and orphanage in Cambodia through NFO (New Futures Organisation). Even though we were only there for a very short time, the land of smiles won our hearts.
Unfortunately while we were there in November 2013, disaster struck and the volunteering program shut down and everyone was forced to leave. A lot has changed since then and thankfully the volunteer programme is running again with a more organised structure. The school we originally volunteered at has shut down but 5 other schools still require volunteers help, with a minimum of a week commitment. We look forward to the next time we can go back as it is one of the most rewarding experiences we have had on our travels from all over the world.
I will be donating my time to teach a one hour Karma Yoga Session on 19th November 2017 in Ballam Park, Frankston to raise funds to send to NFO. Everyone is welcome to attend and there is absolutely no judgement or expectations as to how much you would like to donate to attend the session. It can be as little as 10 cents, or if you are financially able, you can be as generous as you like. Australian dollars go a long way in Cambodia so even the smallest donation can make a world of difference to these kids.
Bring the family, bring your friends, spread the word and let's share the love!
Read below for further information on NFO and for my Blog that I wrote in 2013 about our volunteering experience.
Kat & Andrew's Worldwide Adventures
Volunteering at NFO - Takeo, CAMBODIA | THURSDAY, 14 NOVEMBER 2013 |
We jumped on a bus in Kampot heading to Phnom Pehn and got off halfway, an hour and a half later, in a small town called Angtasom. NFO is generally the only thing foreigners would go to Takeo for, so seeing foreigners for this region is quite a treat. Tuktuk drivers practically fell over their own feet in excitement when they saw us get off the bus. We made sure the driver knew where NFO was in Takeo, 11kms away, and off we went into the rural countryside of Cambodia. He was so proud of his $5 fare that he would shout the number out while holding up 5 fingers as he passed other drivers on the way there!
Once we arrived at the NFO Volunteer house, we met Neville, the Director. He explained to us how he came to be doing what he does and what things we could do during our stay. Originally it started with running the orphanage but grew to opening 7 village schools and also teaching the towns Chief of Police and Monks. He was very vague about the actual schedule of how things are run and what we actually needed to do. There was no course structure to teach the kids and it seemed like we could just do anything we wanted.
I instantly felt nervous and overwhelmed. I'm the sort of person who needs structure. I'm not much of a spontaneous fly by the seat of my pants sort of girl. Once we met some other long term volunteers that were also staying on site, it became clear that all direction and guidance was to come from them. Nic & Nige gave us ideas on what to teach the kids at school and how it all works, and I relaxed.
They took us to the orphanage to meet the 45 kids, ages ranging from 5 to 18, that lived there. It was one big house with all the boys on bunks on the bottom floor and all the girls on bunks on the top floor. There was a work shop where they could learn to make furniture, a sewing room, and a beauty room where they could learn about make up, hair and nails. There was also an area to play volleyball - which they were very good at!
It was a bit awkward at first as this was their home, we were strangers, and we didn't know what was appropriate. A big group of the kids came over and introduced themselves in better English than I expected. Some were very affectionate, and some were very reserved. When they asked how long we were staying and we said a week, it was clear that they were disappointed. It never occurred to me until that moment just how hard it must be on them to have people come and go all the time, especially as most of them had lost so much already. Not all of the children were orphans, some of them were taken in because of violence or parents being unfit to look after them or too poor. I instantly wished I could really make a difference in their lives. I wish I could help more.
Afterwards all of us volunteers went to Delikes, which is the only Western / Khmer restaurant in Takeo. NFO volunteers pretty much went there for every meal and it was so cheap! We could have a good meal and a drink for only $2 US, compared to the usual $4-8 + in tourist areas. Their lemon ice tea was divine.
The NFO Volunteer house was an old guest house so we had our own room (separate single beds) and basic ensuite. Unfortunately the fan wasn't great and it was incredibly hot, so it was difficult to have a decent sleep. The entire time we were in Takeo it felt like we were constantly covered in a film of grime and sweat, despite many cold showers.
It was $7 a night for our room, $2 a day to rent bikes (although we didn't know this was an added cost until we went to pay before we left!) and a $25 US each registration fee. It was the first volunteer organization I had heard of that didn't charge a huge fee to participate.
The next afternoon we all set out on our bikes to Prey Run village to teach at Lil Po school. It was roughly 7kms away in the scorching sun, down a pot holed dusty dirt road, past stunning lush green rice fields and through a village alive with animals - cats, dogs, massive pigs, cows, ducks, chickens etc
As we passed the simple wooden homes, we heard a high pitch scream of delight from the children as they spotted us. Hordes of them rushed out onto the street yelling "HELLO HELLO!!!" with humungous grins, jumping around in excitement and high fiving us as we rode past. It was the most bizarre experience! It felt like we were famous or were Santa Claus! Its amazing that after foreigners visiting the village almost every day for 5 years, the novelty still hadn't worn off for them.
At Lil Po, we met Team who is the only full time Khmer (Cambodian) teacher there. He had an endless smile and is very affectionate, eager to learn and enthusiastic. Its clear that the kids follow his lead in these factors. He teaches over 150 students ranging in ages and skill level. Its incredible how they respond to him - as a welcome to us volunteers, he directed them with a few words and they eagerly responded with various songs, hand movements or sentences in perfect unison. It was like the perfect little army and the effect of over 150 young voices all shouting and singing in unison was astounding. I couldn't wipe the grin off my face! All together they asked us one by one - How are you, What is your name, Where are you from and cheekily - Do you have a boyfriend?! Words cant even describe how it felt to witness such a performance.
Seeing as a lot of the longer term volunteers had gone away for a long weekend, Andrew and I took over one of their classes. The little girls rushed to grab my hands, and the boys grabbed the white board, and we were lead to the nearby Pagoda which was to become our make shift class room. We had a class of 11 students, ranging in age between 8 and 12. It quickly became apparent that the ideas we had for our lesson was too advanced for our particular group of kids. As we explained what we would like to teach them, they just stared at us. So we were forced to improvise! We managed to stumble our way through the first half of the lesson (45 minutes) and then we had a break at Thavy's iced coffee stand with the other volunteers.
Andrew and I don't enjoy coffee but we were instructed to try the iced coffee, and we had to admit, it was delicious! Thavy was an adorable lady who was so eager to learn whatever English words we would teach her. Nic & Nige had been volunteering for 4 months and it was clear that they had done a good job teaching her! It was obvious that they had made such an impact in the community as so many locals knew them and were comfortable with them, and the kids absolutely adored them. It was inspiring and I wished I could stay long enough to become so accepted and part of the community as well. (I think though that it had a lot more to do with their personality's than just the length of their stay.)
After our break, the kids were a lot more relaxed with us. We came back to a message written on the white board "We love you Andrew & Kat!" Awwww, how adorable! We played some games and had a lot of fun. As we went to leave we were surrounded and given many pictures the kids had drawn and countless high fives. We headed back to Takeo feeling fulfilled and rather special.
We stopped in at the Orphanage for an hour before it got dark and hung out with the kids. One of the volunteers, Laura, started teaching some of the boys how to play the guitar. They were so eager to learn and picked it up very quickly.
The next morning we went with Nic to teach the police for a few hours. The lesson consisted of reading through a passage and going over words they struggled to pronounce or didn't know the meaning of. The passage was about fleas! It felt very bizarre sitting with the Chief of Police and 2 other staff, discussing the English language and fleas! Nic had an excellent banter going on with them and they loved it. We went through some questions and they were determined not to get any wrong. Before coming to a decision they would seriously discuss it among themselves and it was very entertaining.
Once all the other volunteers were back in Takeo and more had arrived, we weren't sure what the afternoon would hold for us as we no longer had a class to teach. We weren't sure if we would be needed back at Lil Po and Neville didn't offer any direction. There are 6 other schools that would take volunteers, but 5 of them were too far away and we would have to pay extra for transport. The other one was Ben Mao, and we had been told that the kids were a lot rougher and unruly. They were still to learn classroom etiquette.
Then the bike for our rooms were taken by someone else and I didn't know what other bike to take as I didn't want to annoy the person it was assigned too. Unfortunately most of them were broken or had flat tires as well. It was frustrating how unorganised it all was and we constantly discussed little things that could be tweaked to make the organisation better and so that all of the schools were equally benefiting from the volunteers.
Andrew pumped up some tires and we ended up following the group to Lil Po again. Team was very excited to have so many volunteers and some of the kids who don't usually get to work with foreigners had the chance to do so. When Team asked the remaining students who wanted to go with us, most of them quickly shot up their hands. We had 10 students and Team told us their English is basic so to just go over the alphabet and simple things. They were very well behaved and enthusiastic and knew a lot more than we expected. We had a lot of fun with them drawing pictures, going through words and playing games. Some of the government school kids on their break sat and watched.
The government school is free but it is required that they wear a uniform and they must provide all their own books and transport. Some family's are even too poor to do that, which is why NFO took the school to them in their own villages and provided all the books. There is no uniform and the kids wear mismatched dirty clothes and patterned colourful flannel pyjamas. Even the adults wear pyjamas out and around town. It is perfectly acceptable! Neat!
During our break, the girls that we taught the previous day ran at me with big smiles and gave me the hugest cuddle like I was the most important person on the universe. It was at that moment that everything shifted for me. I had gone to Takeo happy that I was doing a good deed donating my time to charity and doing my bit for the world. It quickly changed from patting myself on the back to being so rewarded, humbled and moved by the experience and made to feel so loved, adored and special, that I felt like I was getting more from it than they were. It was also so fantastic seeing how much Andrew was loving it too and we started thinking about cutting out other plans in our travels to stay longer. Being the planner that I am, I even started thinking about how we could commit to coming back regularly and really make a difference. How could we make it work when we have little ones of our own soon? We can find a way! I didn't want to disappoint or let down those kids, those little rays of sunshine.
Afterwards we went back to the Orphanage again. The girls there had told me that they had run out of nail polish so I got some at the markets for them. Schremon (not sure how its spelt) is a beautiful 14 year old girl and she painted my nails like an expert. Then she convinced me to play volleyball with Andrew and some of the others. Sports not really my thing but I coped!
Our third day back at the school, we had the same class as the second day. We went through the parts of the body - nose, ears, eyes etc They were very clever. Then we played some more games. From the 2 classes that we had taught, we had begun a little fan club and they were never far away from our side. The experience was so incredible and amazing that I just loved being there and being around them. But unfortunately, disaster stuck.
When we got back to the house, police were everywhere. Neville had passed away. He suffered a heart attack and his 11 year old adopted daughter had found him..... Everyone was in shock and we all sat together dumbfounded. Before going to the school I had just had a massive conversation with him about things he could do with social media and job boards to increase the amount of long term volunteers he had. Before leaving to school I had said "see you in a few hours". How could he be gone? He suffered a heart attack a year ago and hadn't be following the rules as to what he should and shouldn't eat. He also had a horrible breath stopping rasping cough that he refused to go to the doctor about. Life suddenly seemed so short and so fragile. What if, What if.....
Then the panic started. What was going to happen to NFO? The orphanage? The schools? Funding? What about his daughter? She no longer had a legal guardian in Cambodia. Fear and sadness started discussions that had the Chinese whisper effect, distorting information. It sounded like everything was going to be shut down, no one could take over and the police were being difficult. We were all asked to leave as soon as possible as there was fear that the police would try and pin liabilities on foreigners for bribes. The legalities of everything became a real mess and it didn't look like we were even allowed to say goodbye to the kids. That was horrible enough for us but absolutely heart breaking for the long term volunteers who didn't want the kids to think they had just abandoned them.
Things became a little clearer the next day. Neu & Matt, the other directors of NFO, had come down to Takeo from Phnom Pehn. Neu is 7 months pregnant so it would be difficult for them to pack up their lives and take over at this point in time. Camkids who funded half of the organisation also came down. They will take over most of the costs for the orphanage, along with other fundraising, and the schools will continue with just the one teacher each. The most important thing is that the kids at the orphanage are safe and looked after and I'm also very glad to hear that the schools will continue. Sadly though, the volunteer programme has been shut down completely. The volunteer house had been closed and vacated with most of the contents (mattresses, fans, bikes etc) going to the orphanage. Neu & Matt are hoping that in time they will be able to start it up again but they will need to find the right person to manage it, and there are many legality and paperwork issues that need to be sorted first.
Cambodia is very big on protecting children from abuse here which is excellent. There is also a huge concern about Orphanage Tourism where kids become a tourist attraction. Tourists come for a few days, take photos like they are at the zoo, and then leave, leaving the kids disheartened and their privacy violated. I totally agree that kids at the orphanage need stability in their lives and talks of enforcing a rule of a minimum volunteer period of 1-2 months is totally fair. The kids love meeting people from different countries with experience in many different hobbies and careers - it opens their eyes to the world and the possibilities, and they really do benefit from it. NFO usually had a minimum requirement of a week and most of that time is spent at the schools, not the orphanage. A very high percentage of volunteers at NFO become regulars or long termers. There was a rule about not taking photos at the orphanage without permission. I just gave my camera to the kids and they took photos of what they liked.
As for the schools, having volunteers to learn from and have fun with is huge for them as well. I really do hope that the organisation gets back on its feet soon. There are a lot of upset regulars and long term volunteers who are being told they can't come back indefinitely. It absolutely breaks my heart thinking that I may never be able to see these kids again. Yes, Neville could be lazy, but he had a heart of gold and did a really good thing with that organisation. Lets hope that all his hard work doesn't go to waste. NFO was earning a fabulous reputation and it has so much potential.
Once the devasatating news broke, the weather followed the mood. Thunder and lightening boomed and torrential rain began bucketing down.
Luckily we were allowed to go and say goodbye, so somberly we all headed out in the rain on the bikes to Lil Po. The village kids, unaware of recent events, still happily screamed Hello and wanted to high five us. Each time, it broke our hearts even more. They too will be effected by Neville's death. They wont understand why no foreigners will come past anymore.
The kids at the school were told that we all had to leave and they were incredibly sad. One bit of bad news at a time... I'd hate to see their faces when Team told them that no more foreigners were coming anymore. How to explain why? We got loads of cuddles and everyone wanted group photos. It was devastating. Some of Nic & Niges kids were hysterical and cried.....
We went to the Orphanage to say goodbye and reassure them that their home is safe. They were very upset, terrified and worried. If NFO stopped, they would be either on the streets or separated into other homes.
Finally, it became about Neville as a person, and not the domino effect his death had on everyone else.
Nevilles body had been at the Pagoda being embalmed and blessed by the Monks as the hospital wouldn't take him. Because of this, being exposed to the elements, the funeral had to be quick. His family couldn't afford to send him to the UK and it would take too long to process insurance, so it was decided that he would have a Cambodian funeral and his ashes would be sent to the UK. That night we rode in the dark to the pagoda.
He had been placed in a big box high up on a pedestal that was built and decorated with colourful flashing lights lit up like a Christmas Tree. Fireworks lit him on fire and for an hour, we watched his cremation.... It was very surreal and bizarre. The staff who had built the structure just sat in front of it and ate their dinner! Such a different culture that that wouldn't be seen as disrespectful. The police even had Neville's daughter filling out paperwork.... Some of the kids from the orphanage were there, as well as various locals and monks. Even the staff from Delikes restaurant came. No volunteers coming to Takeo will impact their business in a big way and it will effect the markets a lot too. Schremon balled her eyes out while gripping me in a grief filled hug.
When we left, the sky cleared and we could see millions of stars. It was so stunning and beautiful, it was like the skies were accepting him in and absorbing our pain.
The next morning we packed up the house the best we could and everyone left (except for a few long termers who were helping clean up the paperwork side of things).
Neville's daughter will remain with Neu & Matt until they can get her to the UK to her adopted mother.
I was only there for such a short time, 6 days, but the impact on me was still incredible. I feel so lucky and fortunate that we got to meet the kids and experience what we did. A piece of my heart really will be left behind there and I hope one day that we can return. It was amazing seeing the REAL Cambodia and not just remain on the beaten tourist track. Cambodia is the Land of Smiles. The kids smiles are infectious, and the smiles that break out of a stern adults face is such a huge transformation that your whole image of them changes, and you feel privileged to have that glorious genuine smile directed at you.
RIP Neville, we will remember you.
This week I had my meeting with my full time employer – New Balance Head Office – to tell them I will not be returning after my Maternity Leave. I loved my job at New Balance and if I have to work full time in an office, there is nowhere else I would rather be. But it has become increasingly clear over the last couple of years that my path is destined for other great things. I have been following my heart & intuition and bit by bit I have been led to use my knowledge, my teaching skills and spiritual mindset through starting my own business – Explore Discover Yoga & PT. Running my own business has also allowed me to work around spending as much time as possible with my little girl, which is a priority.
New Balance was my security blanket. Professionally and financially. It was scary letting go of that and taking the leap and trusting that my business will be enough to support us (along with my husband’s income). I’ve realised though that I’m not truly scared. Not deep down. Deep down, I know what I’m doing is the right thing. For now anyway, and I’m ok with that. The subconscious mind sends up flashing signs of WARNING, FEAR, DOUBT!!! The subconscious mind constantly chatters “Are you sure you should be doing that?” “What if you’re not good enough?” “What if it doesn’t work out?”. It’s natural to have those thoughts and I accept them as Fear is a natural survival instinct and is designed to help us avoid pain and suffering. But the key is mastering that fear. Sometimes when we give in to that fear, it actually leads us away from our calling, in turn ending up shoving us towards the suffering it was trying to avoid in the first place. Sometimes we need to master that fear and jump, trusting that your wings will appear, or at least, that a net will catch you.
Once you start asking the universe how you can serve this world and once you open the channels to your intuition by allowing some stillness into your life and being present in the now, you will be supported and guided every step of the way. It’s easy to get caught up in the dramas of the mind and to stress and worry – and to be honest, I don’t think these moments will ever completely go away – but the more we listen to our thoughts and are aware of what we are attracting into our lives, and the more we accept ourselves and others exactly as we are at that moment, the more we let go of trying to control things that is outside of our control – the easier it is to navigate through all the turmoil. We can’t change what happens to us on the outside but we can control what happens on the inside and we can change the way we react.
It’s ok to be driven and to have goals. For anyone who knows me, they know I am incredibly driven, goal orientated, organised and a major planner – but I’ve learnt not to be so attached to the outcomes. I’ve learnt (or should I say, always learning) to trust that things will work out the way they’re supposed too and when. Even if it means going in a different direction to what I had originally planned. As long as it feels right at that moment.
We’re not meant to navigate this world alone. We don’t have to carry life’s burdens on our shoulders alone. Ask the universe for help. Ask your higher self. Ask your spirit guides. If it’s your belief structure, ask God. Put it out there in whatever way resonates with you. The answers will come. Not necessarily in the way you expect. It may not be a deep voice speaking from the clouds above or flashing neon lights with the answers, but they will come. They may come from your own voice within, an inner knowing emerging. It may come from a suggestion from someone else which creates a lightbulb ‘aha!’ moment. It may be something seemingly negative like losing a job or the end of a relationship which actually turns out to be the perfect turning point for something spectacular to emerge.
If you are afraid of something, listen to your thoughts. Is the fear just self-doubt? Is the fear stemming from past experiences and not actually aimed at the current situation? Is the fear based on something you can’t control? Putting aside legitimate dangerous circumstances, if you answered Yes to these questions then chances are it’s the type of fear you can accept but not give in too. If you’re making a big decision and the best outcome is something that you are passionate about, something that brings you joy, somethings that makes your heart sing, chances are that’s the path you are meant to follow. As soon as something doesn’t feel good more often that it does feel good, that’s a sign that you need to listen too. Somethings got to change. If obstacles keep appearing that seem too hard to conquer, then you need to look at your mindset. Is it your thoughts that are creating these obstacles or is it things outside of your control? Obstacles that are outside of your control are also signs to point you in a different direction, signs that something needs to change for you to keep going forward. If it’s your mind set, then it’s an opportunity to learn and to grow.
That brings me to another quote of Arianna Huffington’s – “Failure is not the opposite of success. It is part of the success”.
There are always the odd exceptions to the rule of course, and my waffles here may not resonate within for you. In that case you can take my words with a grain of salt. But if these words do ring true deep within, then it’s likely you’re already seeing the proof in your life yourself.
My biggest concern about running my own business is not having enough money to pay the bills and to live comfortably with my family. I’m not a complete dreamer, I am practical and logical as well. I’m not just sitting here rubbing my genie lamp expecting it all to happen for me. I am putting all of my knowledge, experience, time and energy into making this work and am trusting that if this what I’m meant to be doing, then it will work. And so far, it certainly is. The business is incredibly successful, especially considering the short time I have been running it! But it’s been a process over a very long time of everything falling into place bit by bit to be where I am today.
My biggest fear is getting caught up in the money side of things. If I didn’t have bills to pay, I wouldn’t charge for my services. Not because I don’t think I’m worth it, but because I want to Give Back, I want to help others, and I truly enjoy what I do and I find it rewarding enough. But unfortunately I must bring in an income. I still have to be business smart. In my industry cancellations are common, and completely understandable, and I don’t want to deny people the freedom of choice. But my fear is that I’ll start looking at my clients/students as my bread and butter. I don’t want to get desperate and only see the dollar signs whenever I gain or lose a client. If that happens, I would have lost sight of what really matters and why I’m doing what I’m doing in the first place.
So to release that Fear, I trust. I trust that if it’s meant to be, it’ll work out. And if it doesn’t seem to ‘work out’ then I trust that another path will appear that also leads to joy. I trust that the universe is holding my hand to direct me on the path of the greatest good. I trust that I am supported and guided with every choice that I make. I trust that if I continue to Give to this world from the bottom of my heart without expectations and judgements, then I will continue to receive everything I need.
We’re meant to be happy. We’re meant to enjoy life. But we get in our own way by letting our endless mish mash of thoughts and our pre-programmed subconscious minds drive instead of our listening to our intuition. It doesn’t have to be so hard all the time. I’m not just saying all this airy fairy stuff out of nowhere. I’ve been through the hells of deep depression and misery. I’ve been to the place where life seemed unliveable. I’ve battled with the demons of unworthiness and constant doubt, worry and fear. I didn’t like myself and I was lost. But over time I’ve managed to re-wire my brain. I’ve managed to heal and grow. But I’m still learning every day. I’m still evolving into a better version of me. It’s never too late to change. If you want too. But remember, you are perfect exactly as you are right now. Accept your thoughts. Accept your Self. Accept your demons and your battle scars. Accept where you are in life and who you are right NOW. Only then are you able to Change. Subtle at first, but it’ll happen. If you want it too.
“Change your thoughts, Change your life” – Wayne Dyer.
“Look after your mind and you look after the world” – Arianna Huffington
Let me tell you a little secret – there’s a way to train less and get better results. The key is being smart with your training zones. Think of it like gears in a car – Gears 1 to 5. Gear 1 would be your base movement that requires very little effort. Gear 2 would be a fast walk or gentle yoga session. Gear 3 is your primary fat burning zone where you’re working up a sweat but can still hold a conversation. Gear 4 is reaching higher intensity levels and it’s feeling tough, and Gear 5 is your max effort.
To achieve results you need to hit a variety of gears throughout your week. If you keep doing the same exercise programme or activity at the same intensity day in and day out, you’ll most likely hit a plateau and get incredibly bored, and if you’re training often at high intensity levels, you’ll most likely injure yourself and burn out. So try and mix it up, and most importantly, make sure you’re having fun!
An example of an average week may look like: Take a dance class where you might be sitting in Gear 3 for the better part of an hour, go to a yoga class (Gear 2), do a 20 min high intensity cardio session (Gear 4 and possibly Gear 5), go for a walk listening to your favourite tunes (Gear 1 & 2), go for a 30-60 min jog / run (Gear 2-4), do some strength training at home or at the gym (Gear 2-4) etc
Obviously what you do with your week depends on what you enjoy, how much time you have and what your personal goals are.
The Department of Health’s Physical Activity Guidelines for an adult is to aim for 2.5-5 hours of moderate intensity activity a week or 1.2-2.5 hours of vigorous activity a week. So even an easy 20 min walk every day or two decent one hour sessions at the gym can help decrease the chance of disease and can increase your life span and overall wellness.
I really want to pound this into your head – ANYTHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING. Yes I’m talking to you who’s saying you don’t have the time! Do 5 min of squats while watching TV or cooking dinner, go for even one walk a week on your lunch break, get up off your chair every hour at work and walk around for a few minutes, take the stairs instead of the lift – all of this will make a difference to your overall health and well-being – so what are you waiting for?!
For those of you however who would like to lose weight, get fitter and stronger, have more energy and get drunk on those happy endorphin's that come with physical activity – you need to hit all of the gears for adaptation to happen. See the below chart as a guide:
Easy. Little Effort.
Time Spent before Refuelling: 3000 min
50-60% of Max Heart Rate
Light. Power Walk/Jog.
Time Spent before Refuelling: 45-90 min
60-70% of Max Heart Rate
Somewhat Hard. Run.
Time Spent before Refuelling: 30-45 min
70-80% of Max Heart Rate
Time Spent before Refuelling: 10-20 min
80-90% of Max Heart Rate
Extremely Hard. High Intensity.
Time Spent before Refuelling: 1-5 min
90-100% of Max Heart Rate
Most people feel like they need to walk away from a work out feeling absolutely wrecked and incredibly sore the next day to get anywhere with their goals. Looking at this chart, you only need to reach 80-90% of your max heart rate for a mere 10-20 minutes before your body has had enough and needs to recharge and refuel! The more often you reach Gear 4 and 5, the more recovery days (Gears 1-2) you need. And by recovery, I don’t mean doing nothing, I mean going for an easy walk, doing yoga, using your foam roller etc
So only doing a short high intensity session and then going for an easy stroll the next day isn’t cheating – it’s actually going to give you more results than smashing yourself for hours at the gym. (Unless you’re a professional athlete that is!) Great news huh?!
Have a read of Gareth Houley’s blog (From the PT Academy where I did my training) for more information – he explains it beautifully. Read Gareth Houley’s blog HERE.
Now this is where I come in. Let me tell you a bit about my business Explore Discover, and how I can help you achieve your goals in a safe, effective and healthy way. I run a Yoga and Personal Training Studio from home in Langwarrin VIC, as well as offering mobile services. Currently I have 4 weekly yoga classes on my timetable (max 8 ppl per session), as well as training private groups and individuals. As of July I am adding some Group Fitness classes to my timetable as well.
I like to educate people to think beyond superficial bodily goals and to delve deeper into observing the mind and connecting to the soul. The ultimate goal is to achieve overall wellness and to improve your quality of life. My Group Fitness classes (and private Personal Training sessions) are different from what you find at the gym in a group class. I don’t believe in a one size fits all approach, I prefer a more holistic viewpoint.
My unique class structure involves using Heart Rate Monitoring projected onto a TV screen which allows me to train each person who attends my group classes individually to their current abilities. Doesn’t matter what age you are, how fit (or unfit) you are, or what number is showing up on your scales. I will be able to tweak the work out for each person using their heart rates as a guide. I will also take into account any other training you have done that week, how much sleep and water you’ve had that day, how stressed you may be currently and how you are feeling etc Depending on all of these factors, I will review your goals for the session and guide how long you will spend in each training zone.
Each class will be 45 minutes in length and will include a warm up, and then structured moderate to high intensity activity (depending on your training zone target for the session) which may involve a game of some sort, circuit training, team exercises, strength and cardio exercises; and then a cool down, ending with a minute of mindful breathing. I mainly focus on functional movement, body weight exercises and free weights such as dumbbells, medicine balls, kettle bells etc instead of lifting heavy weights and using machines.
Due to limited space, bookings are essential, and pre-payment is required to secure your spot. Casual classes are $13 or you can buy a 10 Pass for $100 which is valid for 3 months. The 10 pass card is also valid for any of my weekly yoga classes as well.
Register your interest and book your spot now! I look forward to meeting you.
(Note: I also use heart rate monitoring with my private PT clients as well.)
I had heard about a particular workshop focusing on the breath from a friend of mine who had experienced it at a Yoga studio called Radiantly Alive. Luckily for me that workshop happened to be running during my trip, so eagerly, I signed up. On my second day in Ubud, I attended the 4 hour Transformational Breathworks Workshop. And wow, transformational indeed. I had been told that it was an incredible, intense, and life changing experience. I was curious to see what it was all about. How can breathing in a certain way produce such profound effects? The human mind is unable to comprehend...
This is what I wrote about experience on August 30th 2015 -
The workshop was led by Daniel, Leanne and Giten. The first couple of hours they talked us through what the breath was and how we use such a small percentage of the lungs capacity. They explained the spiritual / healing aspects of breathwork and what to expect. Everyone’s experience is different but essentially it is a way to release blocked energy and repressed emotion such as fear, anger, grief, shame etc that is held within our bodies and that is damaging our subconscious and the way we live our lives.
We lay down with our eyes closed and began to breathe as instructed. At first I thought, this is a lot of effort, how can I keep this up for a whole hour? Then the sensations began. My body started to tingle, my throat and neck began to tighten and my mouth felt like it became a tight O shape making it a struggle to breathe deeply. My lower back began to arch up with each breath. Then my legs and arms began to stiffen. My hands and wrists contorted into horrible angles and I felt paralysed. My hands and wrists began to hurt so bad that I started to cry and I was at the point where it was too much. Daniel, Leanne and Giten were walking around directing us and supporting us throughout the experience. When I reached this point, one of them massaged out my hands and said things like “You’re doing great, there’s a lot of emotion being released right now, forgive yourself, you can handle this, it’s ok to feel, keep breathing, surrender, everything is perfect”. We were told to let out noise if we needed too. I could hear moaning (or toning, should I say), whimpering and yelling all around me, then I realized that some of that was coming from me too. It was all very traumatic and frightening.
Eventually though, my breath evened out again, my muscles began to relax and I could hear my inner self repeating positive calming compassionate messages about life’s purpose and it all seemed to make sense. As I slowly sat up, every cell felt alive and electric and my senses were intensified tenfold. Moving my body gently felt incredible, my mind was clear and filled with wonder in the world and I felt intense love. It seriously felt like I was on drugs. At the beginning of the session during the pre-talk, I had trouble getting comfortable sitting cross legged on the floor and trying to keep my back straight for so long. Afterwards though, every muscle felt strong and stable. My posture was perfect and I felt completely comfortable and at ease. We discussed what we experienced for an hour and I have to admit, I felt pretty emotional and vulnerable; especially talking to Daniel, Leanne and Giten because they saw my pain in an incredibly raw state.
By the time our session was finished, I felt normal enough to face the outside world, and I could walk again without looking like a space cadet. What just happened? Was it hyperventilating? No, it’s oxygenating. Was it dangerous? No. Was it healing? At this point I would say most definitely, Yes. I don’t truly understand the science behind it all without further research so I won’t try and defend or preach that which I don’t have sufficient knowledge of, but I trust in the knowledge of the Radiantly Alive teachers, and from personal experience, I can agree that it truly was transformational for me.
One day I would like to do it again to see if I can reach a higher consciousness and spiritual plane that some of the others managed to do now that I have let go of (hopefully) a large portion of my repressed emotion. But I definitely wouldn’t do it on my own yet and I’m not ready for it again anytime soon!! However, if you ever stumble across the opportunity to do this, especially at RA in Ubud, Do it. And remember, no matter what, you will survive it and it will be worth it.
Just – keep – breathing.
Looking back at this in hindsight now over 1.5 years later, I still see this experience as a turning point for me. My mindset was already on track to change and open up to the universes plans for me but after this day, I let go an old piece of myself that I no longer needed. I became free from my past demons – or at least free enough that when old destructive thoughts started to arise I could see it for what it was and not let it take control anymore. Things just didn’t get to me as much anymore. I still feel stress and worry, but it’s no longer crippling.
A part of me is still scared of doing another breathworks workshop as the vulnerability and intenseness of it all is still vivid in my memory. But I think I am ready, and I am trying to find a practitioner in Melbourne that I can bring to my studio to help my clients at Explore Discover. If you are interested in trying this out, please let me know.
- Note added 30 May 17 - I have been looking into Breathwork practitioners in Melbourne and have found that my experience in Bali was incredibly dramatic and not necessarily integral to get results. If the intensity of my blog has scared you off, just letting you know that most practitioners won't let you get as deep as I did, but you will still get fantastic results from a much gentler session.
- On a side note, I have been keeping a travel blog for over 5 years. During this time my husband and I had lived in Canada, travelling through South America for 5 months & South East Asia for 3 months. I have published 58 stories, with a total of 94,000 views, many of them featured on the World Nomads site Best Blogs list. My experience in Bali is also on here. Check it out if you are interested:
It has taken me many years to learn that caring about what other people thought of me more than what I thought about myself wasn’t the way to inner peace and happiness. Bit by bit I let go of relying on others to make me happy and found that once I loved, forgave and accepted myself and everything I had gone through, an enjoyable life began to fall into place with seemingly no effort. Along with this realisation became the ability to let go of judgement and expectations of others, which in turn, increased my inner peace and happiness.
I have always been an active person to a certain extent. I spent many years dancing – 10 years of ballet as a young girl before making the switch to hip hop for a further 10 years. As an adult I forced myself to go to the gym at least 3 times a week because I knew I should, not because I wanted too. I did pretty much the same routine week in and week out. I was bored, and exercising didn’t feel like it made much of a difference. I was never really into sports, mainly because of my insecurities and emotional scarring from school experiences. If anyone told me 10 years ago that I was going to become a yoga teacher and personal trainer, I would have laughed!
As a teenager, I ended up getting heavily into the party scene which attracted me in a big way because suddenly I felt like I was popular and part of something, and I was shown that life could be so much fun! For many years my weekends consisted of stumbling home when the sun came up, sleeping until midday and repeating it all over again. I let myself be consumed by drama which inevitably caused a lot of heartbreak. Eventually my body and my mental health began to send me undeniable signals that this lifestyle wasn’t going to be sustainable long term and I had to sort my s**t out.
Traveling has always been one of my deep rooted passions and driving factors and even though I was caught in the whirl wind of life (describing it as one big ball of complexity), I still managed to listen to my soul crying out for exploration and adventure. I moved to London for a year, travelled around Europe for 3 months, and then moved home for a year to save up to do it all again. It was at this point where I finally felt like I was starting to balance myself out internally. I moved to Canada to work a snow season and ended up meeting the man that is now my husband. I have always been a spiritual person underneath my past demons, but his calming and accepting nature let my inner light shine and allowed me to become the best version of myself. We travelled South America together for 5 months, lived in New Zealand (where I’m from) for a year and a half, travelled Asia for 3 months then moved to Australia (where he’s from) where we are now settled and happily married with a baby on the way.
Almost 2 years ago now I had an epiphany. I thought this sort of thing only happened in the movies, but I actually woke up in the middle of the night as though a light bulb just turned on in my head! I suddenly thought to myself – what would I be doing if I didn’t HAVE to work to survive. That opened the door to listen to my intuition and to discover my inner calling. I began to see flashing signs pointing the way and if it made my soul sing with excitement, then I followed it despite any fear, and my journey just kept getting better and clearer with every step.
I began meditating almost daily and I naturally started enjoying eating healthier and exercising regularly. I always enjoyed yoga but I didn’t really understand its true purpose until this point. Once my mind and heart had been opened, the many levels of the wisdom of yoga began to flood in. The PT Academy also provided me with the valuable knowledge of the body’s workings during exercise in a way that resonated within. I decided that I wanted to share my passion that has brought me incredible inner peace, love and happiness by helping people on their health and wellness journeys. I completed a diploma in Nutritional Therapy and became a certified yoga teacher (YT200) in 2015 and a certified personal trainer in 2016, and I don’t plan to stop there.
Mark Twain’s quote “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover” has always rung true in my heart, particularly given my endless love of travelling. Explore and Discover felt ingrained in the fabric of my being – I want to see everything this world has to offer and the more I travel, the more I want to see! You would think that my wish list of places to see would get shorter as I go (I’ve been to 46 countries now!) but it actually gets longer. However, I am at a stage of life where my priorities have changed and I am focused on my family and starting my own business. Explore and Discover still fits perfectly as a motto for this stage of life – in fact it fits all stages of life including discovering the benefits of ultimate health and wellness – which is why I chose it as my business name.
I am very grateful for all of my life experiences and lessons which have led me to this point and I am incredibly grateful for all of the people that have touched my life. I am very excited to follow my calling and to have the opportunity to help others. I have let go of worrying about the destination and I am in love with the journey!
Thank you for being a part of it. x