Ke Bali Lalu Lombok…

Kemarin kami akan ke Bali…

Tomorrow, Mr Anthroyogini and I are going to Bali and then to Lombok (Indonesia) for a few weeks. We go to Bali nearly every year, and always start off in our usual place, Ubud. This year, I’m meeting up with a good friend in Ubud and we’re all going to go up to Pemuteran on the far north-west of Bali (you can see Java very clearly), to go diving for a few days.

After this, we go via bemo and boat to Lombok for more chilling, exploring, and diving.

Both of us need this holiday. In fact, I was in dire need of a holiday about 8 weeks ago, and suffered the consequences.

Amusingly, I went to the hairdresser this morning and she was asking about the holiday… she had  no idea that Bali was in Indonesia. She also had no idea where Malaysia or Singapore were.  Hmmm… Had to bite my tongue. As I was paying the mortgage on my hair on the way out, the owner of the salon said: “…ohh, I’d never go over there with all the civil unrest. The government’s not stable …. blah blah blah…”. She then went on to tell me that she was going on a cruise in March … to Fiji!!

Again, I just had to bite my tongue.

Anyway, Sampai jumpa! Bali, kemarin kami datang kesini!


Advance Australia?

January 26 is Australia Day. For those readers who live elsewhere, Australia Day commemorates the day that Captain Arthur Phillip sailed into Sydney Cove in 1788 and commenced the European settlement of Australia.

Up until 10-12 years ago, Australia Day was a daggy kind of day. Australia Day amounted to the government awarding a few honours to people (usually sports MEN), there was a cricket match, and a few other events around the country involving BBQs. And a pubic holiday. We love public holidays in Australia, but that’s another blog post.

Australians have never been patriotic in the way that Americans are. We are a laid-back, laconic culture, who shy away from the flag waving, chest beating, Hollywood whoo-haa that America promotes in the name of national pride. That kind of display has been treated with suspicion and embarrassment. Most of us can’t sing our national anthem to save our lives (it’s a woeful dirge, anyway). Many Australians think that Australia Day is celebrated on January 26 because that was the day Captain Cook discovered Australia! We just don’t do the whole patriotic thing….

Well. We didn’t. Now, apparently, we do.

You might be wondering where this is post going by now. My morning run has prompted this post.  As it’s a public holiday (Australia Day, in case you haven’t guessed), I went running a little later than usual: 7:30am. There were a lot more people up and about.  Many of these were young people packed into cars and 4WDs, adorned with Australian flags, hooning around the streets on their way to Australia Day BBQ breakfasts. That several of these cars tooted their horns at me and made comments that they thought were hilarious -and I couldn’t hear as I had my iPod on- really annoyed me.

It makes me wonder about the deep and possibly lasting changes that are happening in Australian culture.

The co-opting of the Southern Cross for one.

The Southern Cross signifies home to me. It signifies my identity in opposition to the Northern Hemisphere-dominated rest of the world. It comforts me when I camp out bush by myself in the Australian Outback.  I feel better when I look up and see it there, no matter where I am.

Yet now it seems, it’s become a symbol of fear, hate and exclusion. Every redneck, young lout and racist sports a Southern Cross tattoo on their anatomy, in honour of some new-hate and fear filled nationalistic fervor that’s become acceptable in the last 10 years.  This tattooing and baring of the symbol on the flesh is not about being a proud Australian and celebrating the good things about our country -like our tolerance and easy-going lifestyle- it’s about exclusion. It’s about saying: I’m a monolingual, English-speaking Caucasian. If you’re not like me, you don’t belong here. It’s kind of shameful display that fuelled the Cronulla riots several years ago. As a former Sutherland Shire resident, these riots appalled me.

Then there is the displaying of the flag.

The flag used to be reserved for the tops of official government buildings, office buildings, passports, tourist attractions, sporting events etc. People did not put the flag on their cars (they put streamers in the colours of their football teams during finals time), they did not put up flag poles in their drive ways or yards.

Now they do.


This is something I am trying to understand.

My understanding about what it means to display the flag on your house goes something like this:

  • being Australian requires you to satisfy a very few, highly, selective categories (whiteness,  be a monolingual, English speaker, have at least your great-grandparents buried in Australian soil, drink only Australian beer, love beaches, BBQs and V8 cars)
  • being Australian involves a fear that anyone who doesn’t fit the categories above is coming to Australia to blow us up, steal our jobs or rip us off
  • being Australian does not include being Aboriginal
  • being Australian gives you a god-given right to tell people who don’t fit the narrow characteristics above that they don’t belong here and should piss off
  • being Australian requires the belief that thousands of boat people are amassing off the coast, just waiting to over run us

If this is what it means to be Australian, I am ashamed.

I deeply suspect that at the bottom of all this, is a fear that people who aren’t Caucasians will come here and somehow steal our ability to build McMansions and buy ever-bigger plasma TVs. That’s right. I blame consumerism for this latest outbreak of fear.

Of course, this fear of invasion and scarcity is nothing new in Australia. After all, we were the country that had a White Australia Policy in the 1890s, banning Asian migration and labour. In the 1950s and 60s, this same fear reared its head again, as large numbers of Greek, Italian and other European migrants came to Australia in the wake of World War II – and our need for labour.

To me, Australia is a multicultural, easy going country. We are a country of immigrants. All of us, apart from those who are Aboriginal, are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants who’ve been here less than 250 years. The various waves of immigrants who’ve come here have added their hopes, dreams, hard work and blood to this nation in subtle, yet deep-running layers that are continually being built upon. This is no vague, left wing, idealistic dream; this is reality. This is the Australia I live in.

To the skin headed, ute-driving, racists, I say: you don’t belong here. Get the hell overseas, learn another language and don’t come back until you’ve got something better to contribute than petrol fumes, lame ink and endless playings of Cold Chisel.

So I will not be flying a flag today. I will not be going to any public BBQs or celebrations. I will be going to work today instead.

Coming to Yoga

Several days ago, Svasti wrote a post that rang a clear, true bell in my heart. After practicing for many years, Svasti last year completed a teacher training course. Here is an excerpt of what she had to say:

That old maxim “those who can’t do, teach” isn’t true at all for yoga (and probably many other disciplines, too). Yoga teachers must practice yoga, must understand what they are asking others to do before they can even think of approaching the front of the room.

I have been thinking about this post all week; thinking of the truth in those words and their relationship to my own coming to yoga. In 1999, I was selected to undertake training in a new Les Mills program called Body Balance (in the US, it’s called Body Flow). In those days (!) Body Balance (BB) was all yoga with a smidgeon of pilates. Now, BB is a hypnotic and highly addictive mix of Tai Chi, yoga, with a teaspoon of pilates on the side. If you haven’t tried it, promise yourself that you will do three classes.

Anyway, by 1999 I had been a fitness instructor for 10 years. I was no stranger to teaching people how to do odd things with their bodies (grapevine, anyone?). However, my experience with yoga at this point amounted to something like 3 Iyengar classes in my early twenties. Undertaking the BB training was stepping into an entirely different world; an alien landscape of complexity, new feelings, disorientation, and awkwardness with my body that I had long since forgotten. The course was three days of feeling totally out of my depth, frustrated, resentful and overwhelmed. There was only one other instructor from my gym undertaking BB training. This was woman who was a long term yoga practitioner, who effortlessly performed Surya Namaskar, Virabhadrasana, Trikonasana and every other asana requested of her. Alongside her, I felt like a 5 foot high elephant trying to perform ballet in gumboots! I cried at the training, because I was so sore, so demoralised and so inadequate. To complicate matters, in less than three weeks after the training, the gym where I worked was launching BB as new program, so I had to be able to teach an entire hour long class of warriors, forward bends and pigeons! No pressure, eh?

Having no yoga background, I struggled. I came to love the music associated with BB, but hated teaching the classes. I think it showed. We never had great numbers of participants, and eventually, the gym pegged the program back to only two classes per week, both taught by the other instructor. I filled in, and participated in launches for new music held every quarter.

In early 2000, I began my first stint of doctoral fieldwork and moved to Narooma on the Far South Coast of NSW. There is a big yoga community there (especially at Tilba Tilba) and I began to think about what I’d done wrong with Body Balance. I realised that having no yoga background meant having no understanding, no vocabulary and no body sense for the discipline … all of which were absolutely necessary for communicating with participants. There was also the breathing aspect of yoga which Body Balance training doesn’t really teach –yet those BB instructors who teach the best use the breath continually throughout their classes. These are also people who have a yoga background. Thus, I began to take Iyengar classes as much as I could. I was also fortunate enough to undertake a weekend course in Sydney on yoga for fitness instructors. After this, a gym in Narooma decided to launch Body Balance with me as the star. The second time around, teaching BB was bliss, was joy, and the classes were packed (although this too has significant draw backs).

What was different? Now, I had the experience of being a beginner, a vocabulary associated with where and how to place the body, an understanding of what one should be sensing in each asana, and the experience of truly feeling yoga to share with my participants. As Svasti has said, yoga is not something someone can teach in order to learn. One has to practice yoga in order to teach yoga.

Someone much wiser than I has said that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. I believe this is especially true in the case of yoga. Yet this is the opposite of the message we absorb every day in so many subtle ways: time is money, learn X in 10 easy lessons, more speed, more more more speed. Perhaps that was why the two-week yoga intensive I did at the end of 2008 scarred me so much. There is no quick, easy way to learn to do yoga other than sustained practice and study. There is no two week or even four week course that is ever going to teach you to teach if you’ve never done Trikonasana before and have never struggled with sirsasana.

In yoga, the journey is far more important than the destination.

… And the destination is always shifting to an unknowable event horizon.

Yummy Yoga Music

I used to be a sworn traditionalist, not using any music during asana practice. Having done the majority of my yoga in Iyengar classes and more recently, Satyananda, I thought that using music in yoga classes was a recent and somewhat inauthentic invention.

In returning to asana practice during the past month, I’ve started to use music. For the past month, I’ve used music for both vinyasa and yin/restorative sessions, and I have to admit … I love it! I was inspired by Nadine and Marilyn (Yogaway), who always use music in their classes. I thought I might share some of the albums I’ve been using:

DJ Drez: Jahta Beat and Jahta Beat – The Progression

I found Jahta Beat via the Yoga Glo website. I immediately loved it and downloaded it from ITunes. DJ Drez is an American ‘underground’ artist who mixes hip hop with jazz, blues and world music. The result is hypnotic, chilled with a good dose of spice. It’s definitely not wallpaper-type background music. DJ Drez is great for vinyasa sessions. DJ Drez’s website is here. He’ got a NEW album coming out soon.

Sacred Earth: Bhakti

Sacred Earth is the musical creation of Australian couple, Prem Aliyah & Jethro Williams. They use keyboards, infused with divine female vocals, singing mantra and songs of devotion. Supported by Bansuri flutes from India, shakohatchi, Irish whistle, something ethnic rhythms & acoustic guitar. Jethro & Prem Aliyah have embodied their experience as Yoga Practitioners and Teachers, Musicians, Parents and Lovers to bring into creation, Sacred Earth. An uplifting and spiritually inspiring performance touching the heart and soul. Bhakti is perfect for yin/restorative classes, or just for harmonising your room, mind or office. You can buy Bhakti here.

Soul Food: Yoga Groove

Yoga Groove was the very first album I used for asana practice and it remains my favourite. Some people might find it a bit Buddha Bar or lounge-y, but I find it a bit more upbeat and energising. It’s got a variety of moods suitable for vinyasa, static poses and even shavasana. It has a mixture of chill, downtempo and world beats, so you’re bound to find something you like. I love it. If I can’t figure out what to put on for asana practice, I’ll always choose this. You can read more about the Soul Food project here.

Of course, this is only a tiny selection of an ever-expanding collection of chill, down tempo and world music that I use for yoga. If you’ve got any faves, please leave a comment below and share them with us all.