What to do with THIS blog

Given that I am so busy elsewhere….

It seems rather silly to maintain this blog at all.

As a medium for communicating my thoughts and feelings, Twitter and Facebook have replaced blogging for me.

I was going to write a parting post and delete the blog, but then I realised that the blog is a PR3 and in many ways, an asset to my business.

So I think I’ll leave it up for the time being, purely for my own evil purposes. (Insert evil laugh).

Updating Life

2011 was a pretty crap year for me. In late 2010, I was promoted to a director’s position in the agency I work for. This means I’m in senior management, doing strategic management rather than operational management. I do very, very little anthropological fieldwork anymore.

I do get on planes a lot, though.

I suffered months of depression, struggled to act simultaneously in 3 positions at work, and did not enjoy managing certain individuals at all. Afterall, I am an anthropologist. I have no quals in management, and have no FREAKIN’ desire to obtain an MBA.

Steep learning curve, indeed!

However, on a positive note, I completed a course in forensic anthropology and became involved in the identification of human remains found near Alice Springs in late November. This side of anthropology has always been a passion, and I’ve decided to pursue this by undertaking a Masters in Archaeology this year.

(not insane, I’m just no ordinary girl)

On the business side, my partner and I started an online business (Travel Outback Australia is part of that). I’m pleased to say that in the last 6 months of 2011, we made $4000 online.

This is where I’m heading in 2012. Thus, this blog still has a purpose.

The River House

In late 2010, Gary and I bought a second home.

This is a complete retreat, on 24 beautiful bush acres, right on the Murray River in South Australia. The river is 50 metres from our front steps.

There’s no streetlights, you can’t see any neighbours and there are NO FREAKIN hoons in cars roaring past.

At night, it’s quiet and dark.

This might sound scary to city folks, but for those of us who are healed by nature and time away from people, it’s a blessing.

We’ve spent quite a lot of time going back and forth this year, spending most of our holidays here. There’s gardens, sheds, chicken yards, horse stables, and lots and lots of natural bush.

Our plan is to move here in a couple of years.

Yoga

…Next question.

I’m quite disgusted at one section of the yoga community.

Not here in Australia, but those Stateside.

I mean, most people know that before you open your mouth, it’s a good idea to check your facts.

Unfortunately, some folks don’t share this philosophy.

Even stranger, they unfriend you when you point out their mistake.

The uncritical acceptance of things that simply aren’t real/true is something I can no longer abide.

I haven’t been practicing yoga regularly. At least, not the yoga that most in the yoga community would recognise.

Perhaps being a real yoga rebel is part of the shift I’m ready for this year.

My inspiration: no one you’d ever imagine or associate with yoga.

Let’s just say, from now on most of my yoga will be very, very private.

Focus

Over the past 2 years, I’ve learned more than I ever would have imagined about things like HTML, SEO, writing copy and more.

All things which have re-ignited by creative fires and given me passion where I had none.

This was a journey that began with Desert Book Chick (my book blog which I’ve killed off) and continued with Travel Outback Australia.

I’m sure you’re not wondering what I’ll be focussing on right now, but in the off chance that you are:

  • freedom
  • simplicity
  • owning/doing less

Sampai jumpa lagi

It’s All About the Core Or: The Freedom to Fly

I was doing yoga for nearly 5 years before I had the courage to even attempt a headstand. I still remember my first wobbly headstand against the library wall at home clearly. I purposely did it at home, because I didn’t want people in the yoga class to see me fail. I recall my fear at doing it, my surprise when I was able to do it and the confidence it gave me afterwards.

For me, it’s a bit of a cliche that Sirsasana is called ‘the King’ of yoga poses … the pose that you absolutely must do if you’re anywhere near serious about yoga. Go into a yoga class and people look at you with something less than respect if you can’t pop a headstand in the middle of the room. Personally, I think Ardho Mukha Svanasna is the ‘king’ of poses,  and -I’ll be honest here- it irks me that those same people can’t hold adho mukha svanasana and just be with it for 2 minutes to save their lives. But then, why do we need ‘king’ or ‘queen’ poses anyway? Which is a whole other post… so I’ll leave it there.

What I am interested in sharing is realisation that I had whilst figuring out my journey through Sirsasana, and whether I could apply the same principles to Adho Mukha Vrksasana (AMV/handstand). (I’m currently playing with AMV in my home practice).

Time to Back Track….

As a child I was told not to do headstands, handstands or anything that involved putting pressure on my neck because I might end up in a wheelchair. Or worse.

Now, I’m sure my mother told me this because she was worried that I might hurt myself. As both my brother and I are adopted, from an early age, I detected a level of protection on behalf of my parents which other children did not experience, and -unfortunately- was at odds with my independent personality. In the end, I just ‘did stuff’ and Mum never knew.

However, that early ‘tape’ about headstands, neck injuries, paraplegia and death was recorded by my brain. It’s still playing, although I’ve taught my brain that, as I have a healthy neck and no other medical contraindications, I am allowed to do headstands.

Fast Forward: 2010, My Bathroom

After I did my first wobbly Sirsasana against the wall at home, and then got up enough courage to go public with it, I spent a lot of time watching, talking and learning. There was something that I learned about Sirsasana which came back to me the other day as I lifted up into AMV -against the wall in my bathroom (was subsequently busted by my son, who asked what on Earth  I was doing!). The secret to headstand wasn’t just the pressing down of the forearms into against the floor, it was THE CORE!

In AMV, it’s all about the core. A strong switched on set of belly muscles meant that I was able to find an amazing sense of ease and balance very quickly, rather than just kicking up and hoping for the best.

Washing in the Rain

Later, as I was running from house to laundry in the middle of the biggest wet (translation: most rain) we’ve had in 8 years, something else occurred to me. Having a strong core is the key to everything. Not just on the yoga mat, but off the yoga mat as well. I’m talking about the metaphoric core here, the metaphoric central foundations, fundamentals, heart, basics of almost anything I do. I can run, because I can walk, I can walk, because I could crawl, I can crawl because I could sit … and so on, right back down to breathing.

So the lesson for me is: don’t be in a hurry to progress (not that I often am these days, when you pass 30, you learn patience), and spend a lot of time strengthening the core, no matter what it is that I’m trying to achieve. Go back to the core and love it very much. Admire it from time to time and just be with it, rather than lifting up into yet another headstand.

In loving the core, the basics, you find the strength and freedom to fly.

The Yoga of Priorities

This week, I’ve had a few too many late nights and way too much time spent in front of a computer screen. After saving iTunes yesterday, setting up the new website over the weekend and beginning to dip my toes into the world of Photoshop, I’m feeling a bit tired.

And I’m feeling a little guilty. I started off with good intentions, I’ve gone back to the gym two days this week, did a hard interval running session on Sunday morning, lots of yoga and was intending to continue working on my distance runs (I’m back to 5km now). But the late nights and computer screen have taken their toll.

 Thus, this public announcement: do the run, do the class, get the reward.  This means: this afternoon, 5km run. At 6pm, Pump. At 7:30pm, visit my Amazon wishlist for a reward.

 Do you think it will work? I need a virtual cheering squad – can you help? 

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.

Namaste

Day By Day

Right now, I can hear the sound of multiple copies of my thesis being printed off for my examiners. I am submitting the thesis today.

The journey over the past few weeks since my last post has not been pleasant.

One would think that completing a thesis after 10 years would be joyous – there would be relief, celebration, happiness. There has been, but on the whole, these emotions have been fleeting.

Instead, I have sunk into depression, treading a well worn path into the black hole.

This time, it snuck up on me. There was no major life change. No broken relationship. No soul-destroying job to escape from. I didn’t know I was in the black hole until I found myself looking back up at the usual crowd of suspects standing around the rim of the hole, shouting down at me.

The first sign this time was my withdrawal from the gym. I simply didn’t want to go to classes anymore. I found ways to exercise alone – which I enjoy- but this absolute withdrawal from classes should have set the alarm bells ringing.

By the end of October, I was not exercising at all. I stopped doing yoga. Every spare second of my time was devoted to the thesis. If it was not, I felt guilty. By November, I was consciously aware of my depression – and sliding fast into the black hole. I was exhausted, I was stressed, not interested in anything. There were days when hiding in my room, laying on my bed asleep were the only things I wanted to do. When I finished the thesis, I was at rock bottom.  I lost it. Completely.

I don’t expect many to people to understand why someone who has finished something this big and supposedly so personally infused with meaning is now burned out and deeply depressed. Barely able to muster any enthusiasm at all about the blasted thing.

To be honest, writing the thesis did not give me a sense of satisfaction. It did not spark my creative muse in the same way that writing my Honours thesis did, twelve years ago. It was a chore, a weight on my shoulders. A heavy load chained to my neck.

I hope that one day, satisfaction will come. As yet, I just feel flat and empty. I need time for me, time to recover, time to find my muse, my energy, my spark.

I have sought help. Gary has been incredible. As much as he bears the brunt of my depression, he is also my strength. In the past two weeks, I have starting doing yoga again. Last week, I had enough energy to start running and Turbulence Training again. I found the energy to enjoy Christmas, and thankfully, we weren’t travelling anywhere and needing to put on bright faces for relatives. It was just us and our (largely grown up) children.

At the moment, it’s day by day, and sometimes, hour by hour. That is all I have the energy for. I can see the healing already. I have done at least an hour of yoga every day (save two) for the past two weeks.

Blogging Plans

I will be making a few changes to the blog. I’ve decided to keep it for a while longer. I’m going to add some new pages and perhaps change the header. The changes will reflect my lifelong passions: books, language learning and exercise. I feel the need to expand and explore a little more. Perhaps now that I have LOTS of time, I’ll no longer be afraid (or feel guilty) about expressing myself online.

For now, I’m off to Watarrka (Kings Canyon) for the New Year (look at the blog header – the picture is Watarrka). Heading bush is always healing, even when it’s 40 degrees.

Yoga Bitchin’

HB3

I can’t help but comment on what’s been happening over at Linda Sama’s blog.  If you haven’t seen it, check out this post.

That’s Mr Anthroyogini bitchin about custard!

Linda has announced her intention to put her blog to sleep soon. I’m sad about this, as it’s one of a handful of yoga blogs whose posts I subscribe to. However, I could sense the integrity and sincerity in her post announcing her decision to close the blog down, and appreciate that it is time to move on.  Life’s like that.

Linda is the real deal. A true yogini. She volunteers her time in support of others (teaching yoga for free in a women’s refuge). She has invested many years studying with people like Desikachar, Paul Grilley and lately, Mark Whitwell – all highly respected yogis.  She has reflected upon bad experiences that happen to her with insight, looking for the lessons in them.

Which makes me wonder why moronic trolls nasty lurkers feel the need to place ‘good riddance’ type messages on her blog.

If I was more spiritually developed, I would say “ohh… namaste, bless you, fairy floss, thank you for your lesson etc.” But I’m still edgy and raw. Anger still arises, resentment still arises and try to I watch it and not get involved. I’m not always very good at non-attachment, which is why it’s my maha-sankalpa.

To me, the yoga world is identical to the fitness industry: hung up on its own holiness, on perfection, on contortion, on arrogance and on plain old bitchin’.

Reflect on my observations of 20 years employment in the fitness industry and make a comparison with the yoga world:

  • There are the snobby, so-called ‘elite’ master-trainer instructors (ohh-too-holy to talk to you, scumbucket).
  • There are many instructors whose only employment is fitness classes and whose mouth, empty heads and EGOs are at least as large as the space in which they teach.

This was all brought home to me clearly only yesterday, when the CEO of the fitness centre I quit from early this year said: “In ten years of managing (name of chain of fitness centres) I’ve seen it over and over again. The only place we have bitching in the centre … fighting and backstabbing is in group fitness… with the massive egos that go with getting up in front of people and teaching.”

These people are tossers. It’s why I stopped teaching after 20 years and walked away from something I loved.

The yoga biatches who left the comments on Linda’s blog are mega-tossers. I too am starting to turn my back on the image-obsessed world of bitchin’ asana barbie dolls.

As Abdi Assadi says: Project yourself to the moment of your death. Do you think you’ll still be bitchin’ then?

bridge2

With all this bitchin’, it must be time for me to bitch.

I’m going to Canberra for a month on Monday. This is to prepare my PhD thesis for submission. And you know what???

I AM GETTING A GOD-FORSAKEN COLD!!  Not fair. So not fair!