Monday, April 30, 2012


Love this!

Found this letter on Sadie Nardini's facebook page and I immediately thought I HAD to share it on the blog for those who find it hard to get their ass to yoga sometimes (eg. everyone! We all have those days I'm sure!) 

If a superstar yogi like Sadie can cop to finding it difficult to "drag" herself to yoga I feel a bit better about the days I would rather stay under the covers or in front of the TV. And also a bit more inspired to remember why it is always great to make sure I damn well do though :)


The following is a response I wrote today to a yogi/mom who, after having her daughter, has been trying to regain the drive to reclaim her yoga practice. She asked me how I stay motivated to keep doing mine. I thought the response might be useful in some way for you!:

Dear *****,

Guess what?

I'm very rarely motivated or in the mood to go to class. I'm busy, tired and a million and one things left to do when mat time rolls around. Yet I just do it, and then when I'm done, I reap all the benefits, and I am SO glad I got there.

If you wait to feel like doing yoga, you might be waiting a long time.

Start the practice of making your mat time non-negotiable, even with yourself, show up for yourself regularly, and teach your daughter from the beginning that it's important to dedicate to YOU time, therefore showing her that it's OK to make time for herself, instead of forgetting about her own health in favor of other people and responsibilities.

Create that balance in yourself, and become that amazing role model. And watch--when you get to your yoga consistently, it will become easier and easier to make it your lifestyle.


So great! One more time Brogis:

If you wait to feel like doing yoga, you might be waiting a long time.

Bromaste... and see you on the mat... whether you like it or not ;)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Case Study: Yoga for Anxiety

As mentioned in my earlier post, yoga is an excellent way to calm the body in a heightened state of anxiety and stress. A general yoga practice will help with this as it works to burn through the nervous energy created in this state; but there are also some specific exercises which can help to release the tension from existing in constant "fight-or-flight" mode, bringing your nervous system into a state of increased calmness and relaxation.

Recently I had the privilege of attending a workshop with Nadine Fawell, an amazing yogi who specialises in yoga for those suffering from anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She took us through a few poses which are especially helpful in these states, which would be great to add to your routine if you need a little relief from anxiety and tension. She also recently wrote a great article on the Healing Power of Yoga here

Firstly though, it is useful to go over the role of the breath in calming anxiety; by slowing the breath we slow the heart rate, and "trick" the body into relaxing. As you do the below exercises make a conscious effort to slow your breath, some of them involve counting to ten on your exhale/ inhale - try and make the "ten" longer and longer as you go :)

Tadasana with arm raises

We all know trusty Tadasana or mountain pose. The idea of this pose is to ground ourselves and slow the breath; perfect for those suffering anxiety. By adding arm raises we can start to link the breath to movement and slow our movement down, which will also calm and relax us.

Take a deep inhale, then on the exhale begin raising your arms above your head as slowly as you can, to a very slow count of ten. Begin the breath first, then the movement. Pause at the top, gazing up between your hands with the palms facing inwards. Take a break from either inhaling or exhaling, but don't hold your breath - let the pause be natural and unforced. Bring the arms down on an inhale in a similar way - lead by breath, to the count of a slow ten. Repeat ten times.

Supta Baddha Konasana 

Lying on your back, bring your knees out in a diamond, with your feet together, the soles pressing into each other. Try and get your thighs closer to the ground by rotating your internal thigh muscles.


From this position, take a deep slow inhale, then on the exhale, start bringing your knees slowly in together to the count of ten.

Pretend someone is pushing on your knees to create a strong pressure to work against. Ideally by creating this pressure, you should start to get a "trembling" effect in your thighs. This is a good thing! It is releasing all the tension you are holding onto in your "fight or flight" state.

Pause at the top of the exercise/ exhale, then inhale to bring your knees back down. Repeat several times, more if you feel up to it.

Navasana (Boat Pose) 

This is another excellent "tremble" creator, and has been covered before, as it is an strong core exercise also. Click here to view instructions.

Warrior One

When you remain in a constant state of "fight or flight" your thigh muscles can become pretty strong (and tense) from being always at the ready for the "flight" part eg. running away! So let's use that strength, at the same time releasing some of the tension held in this area. One good pose for this is Warrior One.

Starting in Tadasana, take a large step back with your left foot. Turn the back (left) foot so it is at a 45* angle.

Have the front foot facing forward (90*) positioned so that if you a line it would dissect the back foot in the middle.

Check your hips are aligned to the front of the mat by placing your hands on them like guns - if the "guns" aren't pointing to the front, adjust the angle of your back foot (to say 60*) to make this happen.

Inhale - raise the arms above your head, palms pressed together, gazing up between them.

Switch on your core to stabilize your pelvis, and lengthen your spine towards the ceiling, as long as you can go! Don't overarch the back - keep the torso stacked above your hips.

Exhale - bend the front knee trying to bring it parallel to the floor, keeping the knee directly above the ankle.

Hold the pose - on the inhale lengthen the spine and expand and open the ribcage. On the exhale sink further into the pose.

Keep pushing your back hip forward and your front hip back. Don't sink into your feet, keep the arches lifted. Ground your back foot into the floor while at the same time feeling a lift running up your leg through the belly and chest, and up through the arms.

When you are ready to come out of the pose, inhale and straighten your legs, and exhale step the feet back together into Tadasana.

Repeat other side!

Tree Pose

Balancing poses are EXCELLENT for anxiety, as they take the focus from the mind and our thoughts and into the body. Tree pose is a great one for this as you really need to focus in order not to fall over! Let's get started...

Stand in Tadasana and shift your weight into the left foot, keeping the foot firm to the floor and making the leg stable and strong. Bend your right knee, reaching down with your right hand to grab your right ankle.

Draw your right foot up and place the sole against the inner left thigh. Press the right heel into the inner left groin, toes pointing toward the floor.
Make sure your hips are even (don't sink into the standing leg hip) and lengthen your spine toward the floor. Push the right foot sole firmly against the inner thigh, resisting with the left leg.
Find a (unmoving) point of focus ahead of you and focus your gaze unwaveringly upon it. Slow your breath.
Once you have established your balance bring your hands out to tree position, hold, then raise to above your head, hold, then finally bring down to prayer position on front of your heart. Try to stay in the pose for 30 seconds to a minute.
Slowing the breath, using the focal point and pressing into the thigh are all ways which will help you balance. If you wobble this is great as you are exercising all the right muscles, and if you fall... start again!
Release and repeat on the opposite leg.

If you have difficulty balancing place the foot down against your shin instead of your thigh. Choose either shin or thigh though - never use the knee. It can be damaged from the pressure on it in this pose. 
Savasana (Corpse Pose)

You will probably be feeling exhausted after all that trembling and pose holding, so a natural conclusion to this series is Savasana - or "corpse pose". As the name would suggest, yes you do get to lie there in a position akin to that of a corpse!

If that sounds relaxing to you, then you are not alone... many of my brogis list it as their favourite pose. It is usually done at the end of class, so it can be seen as a little bit of a reward after all the hard work you have done. Having said that - it is not an excuse to dose off! Although some think of it as the "nap" they get to have at the end of class, the idea is to still and quieten the body and mind, but not to completely drift off into slumber.

Lying on your back, gently shake out your legs and allow your feet to fall out sideways. 

Let your arms rest gently by your sides, apart from the body with the palms facing upwards.

Turn your head slightly from side to side to loosen out any tension, then settle it in the middle. Unclench your jaw, leaving your mouth slightly open, and feel your eyeballs rolling back into their sockets.

Feel your spine long along the mat, and your limbs stretched out long. Tilt your pelvis to straighten out any curvature in the lower spine, and sink your low back into the floor.

Let each part of your body sink into the floor, surrendering all tension becoming heavy.

Breathe deeply into the abdomen, and let the breath get slower and deeper. If your mind wanders return your thoughts to focusing on the breath, or try a guided meditation if you find it difficult to stop thoughts from entering your mind.

After five minutes, roll over to the right side of the body, then slowly push yourself up to seating cross-legged. Give yourself a few minutes to enjoy the relaxed feeling in your mind and body before returning to the "real" world :)


Hope you feel relaxed and anxiety free after these poses brogis, and are inspired to add these to your routine! I strongly believe any kind of yoga is a great help in this area... I'm sure those of you who have noticed the amazing feeling of peace and relaxation after a class will agree with me here.

And remember, keeping a focus on the breath and the mind still and focused on the moment during class (and life!) will act as a double boost to your practice, adding an extra level of anxiety busting goodness to every pose :)

And a wee bonus - Tara Stiles has a yoga routine for anxiety here if you want a video to practice along to at home.


PS. Thanks again to Nadine Fawell for letting me pass on these poses to you! If you want to know more about her healing based practices she has a blog here, a free downloadable relaxation meditation here and is contactable for classes here!

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor! These are suggested exercises, not solutions for medical issues. Please consult a doctor or trained professional if you have severe or re-occuring anxiety. Here is some info from SANE Australia on Anxiety Disorders which might be a good place to start. Stay safe brogis :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Getting ready to yog!

Yes I just made a new verb :)

Broga Melbz has a new beginners class beginning soon (yay!), so I thought it would be a timely to cover some things you can do to prepare for starting yoga.

Yoga is as much a workout for the mind as the body, so I'm not talking about physical stretches here (although feel free to do a few of those if you like - no need to though!) but rather ways to get into a good headspace for the yoga class ahead. When I was looking for some info on this subject I found someone had already written this article perfectly ("How to Mentally Prepare for a Yoga Class" by Pam Gaulin) so I will be borrowing very generously from this.

Pam came up with seven basic tips, which I will repeat with my own 2c.

1. "Tell Yourself Yes"

A lot of people are reluctant to start yoga and tell themselves "No" before they even begin. "No, I can't sit still" "No, I need to sweat" "No, I can't relax" etc. Any of these sound familiar? Yes, yoga is about stillness... of the mind. It is about stilling the mind, but at the same time as moving the body. Some yoga classes are very active, and if you want to you can definitely find one to get your sweat on to whichever degree you prefer (Bikram yoga anyone?) So try putting the misconception you will be sitting still for an hour (far from it!) aside and say "Yes" to giving yoga a try. 

I would extend this "Yes" to during the class, once you make it (yay for you!) Sometimes the very thing we need is the thing we also most resist. Less active people might resent a more physically challenging class, but actually need the energy and vitality this may give them. Or people who find it "hard" to relax may actively dislike a class that is slower and more reflective - but find in actual fact slowing down the mind is exactly what they need - so watch that. Observe what you resist, say "yes" anyways and see how you feel afterwards. You may be pleasantly surprised (and that includes saying "yes" to a (safe) degree of discomfort and pain!)

2. Forget the grocery list

Yes! This is a biggie! We are so used to the chatter in the mind, that it seems natural to bring this into our yoga class. Don't! As Pam says "Yoga is supposed to be down time for your mind" (doesn't that sound lovely, or is that just me?!) If you find yourself doing this there are plenty of other things to focus on - namely your breath in and out, the teachers instructions on where to place the various parts of your body, how your body feels in the pose, the whereabouts of your limbs, hands, feet, shoulders, spine, torso... you get the picture. NOT who said what on facebook, what to get at the shops, where you are going on holidays etc etc!

If we are not focused our interest wanes, and our awareness wanders. Instead of "switching off" from the class back into your usual ruminations, switch "on" your attention from outwards to inwards. When attention wavers - return it to the breath. You will probably need to do this again and again and again, but this is good... congratulations you are now doing yoga :)

3. "Do not compete with other students"

Don't worry if the student next to you can get further into a pose, it has nothing to do with you and your practice. We all have different histories, not to mention our levels of flexibility can be hereditary - not much you can do about that! "What matters is that you are focused on your own yoga practice and your own body"... Sing it Pam!

4. "Learn to Listen"

In each asana (pose) there is only so much you can learn from simply observing and copying the teacher, especially if they are facing you - making left and right a very confusing prospect! By honing your listening skills not only will you be able to move the correct arm/ leg/ foot etc you will also get the benefits of learning about the many subtle (and often difficult to outwardly observe) movements involved in each pose. Poses are not static, even if you appear to be holding them still, and by listening you will learn the adjustments you need to make to your body to get the maximum out of each one.

5. "Do not be self conscious"

Even if you fart :)

No-one is there to watch you. They are there for their own practice and the benefits they want to get from it. Same with the teacher. They are just glad you are there, giving it a go!

6. "Listen to your body"

As I mentioned earlier there is an amount of "pain" in yoga - but it is always safe pain. The way to tell the difference is by listening to your body, and respecting what it tells you. Minor manageable discomfort is fine, but actual pain is not. If you ever feel like you will be injured getting further into a pose, STOP and get straight out of it. Don't continue just because your neighbor is doing it (see #3) By paying attention to your body you will know the correct and safe limitations for you

7. "It's the journey, not the destination"

Okay, give me this cheesiness... because in this case it's truuuuuuuuue! The final pose isn't the "goal" in yoga, rather it's the moving in and out of it mindfully with the breath that constitutes our practice. Enjoy it! And enjoy the relaxation and renewed energy you will receive when you practice yoga this way.

Okay brogis, hope this was helpful. I found it useful to be reminded of these things so at least it has been good for something! Looking forward to a few more of you saying "Yes"... see you on the mat :)


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mindfulness Meditation Continued!

The beauty of Mindfulness Meditation is you don't necessarily need to "sit down" and practice mindfulness. It can be done anywhere! Use eating as a chance to do some MM - instead of shovelling a meal down in front of the TV or computer, actually focus on the sensation of eating, and the taste of your food. Turn off all other distractions and concentrate solely on the taste, texture, sound, smell and feel.

Or try same with taking a walk. Rather than spending the walk making your to-do list or ruminating on your thoughts, pay attention to what is in the now... concentrating only on the sights, sounds, smells and sensations in this moment. Notice any thoughts that come up, but then return your mind to your immediate surroundings.

I like practicing when I am on a bike ride down one of Melbourne's lovely quiet side streets. Not recommended in traffic though!

By learning to let thoughts "pass by" without becoming attached to them, MM teaches us is that our thoughts are just that - thoughts - not facts or irrefutable truths. In fact, more often or not they can be incorrect, especially when it comes to things which cause us anxiety.

How often have we spent time worrying and stressing over things that never even end up happening (*puts up hand and answers "often"!*) MM teaches us to be in the present moment, not projecting forward to this mythical non-existent future, or back into the past.

By learning it is possible to treat thoughts as neutral, MM also shows us we have ability to control how we react and respond to them. It gives us the opportunity to develop a "pause" after thoughts arise, not just during meditation... but in our daily life. Instead of following a thought down a habitual path of worry or anxiety we can now begin to choose how we are going to respond, not letting ourselves automatically be pulled into negative thinking or catastrophizing.

I hope this helps brogis and I strongly recommend you give one or some of these exercises a try. Even if you don't suffer anxiety, mindfulness is great for bringing you into the "now", connecting you more to what is going on around you and making life just that little bit more vivid and sweeter. And who doesn't want that! :)

Links for you to enjoy below.. and with that I bid you... bromaste!


Six minute guided MM here.

Seven minute stress relief MM here.

Fifteen minute guided meditation focusing on the breath here.

Fifteen minute MM Body Scan here.

Great video using MM to overcome anxiety and panic attacks during exams (love the ginger fellow) here. Recommends meditating on a sultana! Try it :)

Jon Kabat Zinn, is a professor and scientist who founded the Centre for Mindfulness at UMass. He has some excellent resources available on CD and audiobook

Mindfulness Meditation and Anxiety

As promised in my previous post on Yoga and Anxiety, I have a few more tools for you to put in your anxiety fighting tool-box! The one I want to focus on in this post is Mindfulness Meditation (MM). This is a specific form of meditation which is gaining popularity as a treatment for those suffering from a variety of anxiety disorders.

This study conducted by Stanford University on the effects of Mindfulness Based Stress reduction on patients with Social Anxiety Disorder found that after two months participants were less anxious and thought of themselves more positively..."nine sessions of mindfulness mediation training made people with social anxiety disorders feel less anxious and less depressed, and improved their self views... Often people who have either depression or anxiety have a poor or negative self view... [MM] taught them to focus on things other than their personal criticisms"...

Dr Bruno A Cayoun, of the University of Tasmania, uses MM combined with more traditional methods of therapy. He found MM ..."produces neuroplasticity, which is the ability of the brain to rewire itself... As the pathways to self-awareness and acceptance in the frontal and other regions of the brain become more connected, self control in the face of problems such as anxiety, depression and traumatic symptoms is made easier"... Pretty cool, huh!

(Read the full article with case study here)

So now I've talked it up I'm sure you are desperate to know... What exactly is Mindfulness Mediation??!

MM is a form of meditation that involves focusing the mind entirely in the present.It means paying attention "on purpose", focusing on what is happening in this moment, not what has happened in the past or what may (or may not!) happen in the future. It is observing the thoughts that come into your mind without becoming attached to them, regarding them as you would clouds passing through the blue sky of your mind.

..."Mindfulness is a state in which you focus on the present: the sounds in the the trees, the softness of your cushions and the feelings in your body"... (More here)

In this kind of meditation, judgement is suspended. If a thought comes to mind we do not judge whether it is 'good' (and get excited) or 'bad' (and get depressed) - we remain neutral rather than following the thought towards worrying, excitement, analysing or indeed any kind of reaction. Instead we observe and acknowledge that the thought has arisen; and then consciously return our mind back to the present moment.If it helps you can tell the thought you have plenty of time to think about it later (here I go telling you to talk to yourself again brogis!)

Here is a basic script you can follow to get a feeling for MM. I will also include several links in the next post to meditations you can play on youtube if you find it difficult to stay focused without a guide.


1. Find a quiet and comfortable place. Sit in a chair or on the floor with your head, neck and back straight but not stiff.

2. Try to put aside all thoughts of the past and the future and stay in the present.

3. Become aware of your breathing, focusing on the sensation of air moving in and out of your body as you breathe. Feel your belly rise and fall, the air enter your nostrils and leave your mouth. Pay attention to the way each breath changes and is different.

4. Watch every thought come and go, whether it be a worry, fear, anxiety or hope. When thoughts come up in your mind, don't ignore or suppress them but simply note them, remain calm and use your breathing as an anchor.

[Ed note: remember the clouds brogis!]

5. If you find yourself getting carried away in your thoughts, observe where your mind went off to, without judging, and simply return to your breathing. Remember not to be hard on yourself if this happens.

6. As the time comes to a close, sit for a minute or two, becoming aware of where you are. Get up gradually.


From the article "Overcoming Anxiety with Mindfulness Therapy" here.

More in the next post... Until then bromaste!