Yoga can be messy or experimental and be excellent support for mental health

More and more I am embracing the messiness that occurs in my yoga and in my everyday life, but it wasn’t always this way.

When I did my first YTT (Yoga teacher training) I didn’t like being messy at all. I was pretty much a perfectionist in life, which caused me anxiety and stress and pain.

In YTT it was very much about having “aligned” poses, in which I wanted to be “perfect”. I now have Sacro-iliac-joint (SIJ) disfunction which I believe is from those years of squaring my hips for warriors, trikonasana etc….by the way people, please don’t try to “square” your hips and please don’t listen if a teacher expects you to.

In YTT, sometimes we had opportunities for alternatives, if we couldn’t get the “full expression of the pose”. I often felt very awkward in asking if I could do an alternative. Why I felt I needed to get the permission of my teacher is something I now wonder about. I had a faulty belief that I wasn’t good enough if I couldn’t do it.

I often felt pressure to continue the class even if I wasn’t feeling well. I even attended a class straight after being in a minor car accident! Even though I was shaky, and probably should have turned around and driven myself back home, I showed up because I didn’t want to disappoint my teacher. Did I pause to think about my own emotional state? I don’t think so, sadly.

My YTT was structured, following the teacher’s instructions. I admired her matter-of-fact way of delivering instructions. I was eager to please and tick the boxes. But instructions and expectations are friends with perfectionism.  I remember one of my fellow students running from the room in tears as she was feeling pressured to do a strong inversion and didn’t want to. It was either handstand or headstand.

At the time, I thought the structure was good for me. It was kind of what I was used to, and I felt it was helpful for me, and I thought helpful to manage anxiety at the time. It gave me a sense of containment; it gave me boundaries.

With the benefit of hindsight, I needed space to find my own way to practice; I needed less instructions and less expectations. However, my own yoga did evolve slowly and consistently through my home practice, and my own curiosity, more trainings with other teachers and facilitators, discussions with peers, etc.

I grew to love my home practice, as a dear friend and companion, always there with me wherever I travelled and whatever was happening in my personal life.

Now, more and more, my own practice looks waaaaay less like trying to get the “look” of a certain posture, and more like rolling around on the floor.


It’s definitely NOT fancy.

When I share photos on Instagram, I am aiming to offer alternatives to the various yoga-pretzel fancy-looking, on the beach in a bikini type of yoga.

Not that yoga on the beach, or in a bikini, or fancy pretzel looking yoga is a bad thing. Of course not. I want people to know they get to choose. It’s not good or bad, it’s just different. There are choices.

I want the world to know that yoga is accessible to everyone. And there are so many ways to practice yoga….what I believe matters the most is how it feels to you, on the inside.

By tuning in more to how yoga feels to you, will help to cultivate INTEROCEPTION. That is the inner-awareness of your body. Your felt sense. This is something especially helpful for trauma-survivors, and those experiencing mental health challenges.

I love offering Interoceptive cues in my sessions. And it’s something that I work with in my own yoga practice, which allows me to get curious and experiment with different movements and postures and how my body balances (or doesn’t!)

I love the experimenting. And allowing myself to be messy.

I often say to participants in my yoga sessions, yoga is less about how it looks, and more about how it feels. I also to participants many choices and options, and invitational cues. It is afterall their body, their experience, their yoga.

Allowing myself to be messy, and curious, with my yoga practice helps me to embrace the imperfect things about my life.

It’s always a work in progress, embracing myself as I am. It has taken me a long time, little by little, to release the desire and intention to be perfect.  But PHEW, what a relief it is.

How about the effect on mental health? I believe there are strong benefits. I have EXPERIENCED the positive mental health affects for myself.

Imperfect is good. Enough-ness is also really good!

Self-acceptance is brilliant! And when we can accept ourselves as we are, we can accept others as THEY are.

I say let’s celebrate being our imperfect selves, exactly as we are. We are whole and complete, exactly as we are.


Interested in Yoga sessions with me? I offer small friendly trauma-informed group Yoga sessions. Join us on zoom from wherever you are in the world. Several yoga sessions including Yoga Nidra, on zoom each week. My timezone is Melbourne AEST. I also offer 1:1 private sessions which can be via zoom. New offering – TCTSY, Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive Yoga.

My small daily promise to myself

I have re-booted my personal meditation practice lately. My yoga/mindful-movement has been a daily thing for me for ages, but when it comes to sitting in stillness and quiet, well, that has been a different and more challenging thing for me, over many years. I have been to numerous silent meditation retreats, and recently took myself on a solo retreat, and each time I gain new inspiration that truly lights up my love for meditation.

I could also interchange the phrase “sitting in quiet with myself, embracing myself in the moment as I am” with the word meditation. I could also say – gain new inspiration to befriend myself.

I have been working with the Selfhealers circle (with Nicole LePera, author of “How to do the work” and Jenna Weakland) and I decided to try making myself a “Small daily promise” to myself of 10 minutes first thing each morning of quiet meditation time. What a much nicer invitation to myself to call it a “small daily promise”! Nicole has spoken about how important it is to make it small and do-able, but also daily for the consistency.

If you have her book, check out the first chapter where she writes about her client Ally who was at a very low point and suffering from MS, when she resolved to make one small daily promise to support her health – drinking one glass of water every morning. From that small daily promise, Ally eventually went on to add in journaling, meditation, yoga, a nutrition programme….and now Ally’s MS is in remission. Nicole writes “Ally’s story shows us the power of choice. She learned that even when faced with a grim diagnosis, she had within her the power to make beneficial changes.”

From little things, big things grow!

I was scrolling through really old emails today and was about to hit the delete on this one which was a reply to a yoga student’s question about her trying to start her own meditation practice. Even though I wrote it about 8 years ago, I think it still sums up how I feel about it today….

“Don’t worry about feeling like you have your learners on with meditation! Even experienced meditators feel like that sometimes. I don’t classify myself as experienced either! Will I ever?….not sure….but I like thinking of myself as always learning. One of my teachers described to me how she went through a dark patch for a long time where meditation was a struggle every time, but she just kept persisting. Just like life, everybody has ups and downs with meditation, and the secret (not so secret) is two things – PRACTICE and NON-ATTACHMENT. These are the two guides from the “Yoga Sutras”.  Practice – In other words, it’s the consistency of practice, keep going, and continue to keep going, know that the consistency of practice is like building muscles from working-out in the gym…..and non-attachment means to not focus on judging things as either ‘good’ nor ‘bad’, but just know that either way everything has something we can learn. Remember in class how I often say you may wish to ‘observe’ your breath, or to ‘observe’ how you are feeling, but without judgement?…

“Non-attachment is NOT the same thing as detachment. If you think about doing a yoga posture and you feel an intense stretch in your leg or your hip, you are not trying to ignore the sensation or push it away (that would be detachment). Instead, you observe the sensation and accept that as part of your experience in that moment. And there is no need to judge it. Same with meditation – you may have a wonderful experience of sitting in meditation (ie. you judge it as ‘good’) and the next time you sit, you hope that the experience repeats; however, that would be attachment to the experience….so instead to practice non-attachment you accept that every single experience of meditation will be different, and you embrace each experience as unique and don’t judge.”

One thing I have also found really interesting for quite a while is that some people who practice Yoga don’t really meditate much at all, maybe never. Others who practice Yoga meditate a lot. And then there are people all in-between the “never” and the “consistently”. I used to feel a bit judg-ey about those people who practiced yoga but didn’t meditate. Well, I have let go of that judgement now: actually it’s an individual personal choice. And also, to me, meditation and yoga are the same thing but different ways of moving/not-moving, different ways of stillness/non-stillness.

It’s not what you call it that matters…. A rose by any other name will smell as sweet.

Keeping my small daily promise to myself makes a difference. This small kindness to myself first thing, then I have noticed the other “stuff” that happens after that, whether easy or challenging or however, is more like bouncing on a trampoline rather than getting bogged in mud.

It’s also faaaaaaarrrrrrr from perfect. The more I let myself (and my meditation time) be imperfect, the more I can accept myself as I am…and accept my meditation practice as it is.

Here’s some books that might interest you:

Meditation Secrets for women – Camille Maurine & Lorin Roche

Meditation for the Love of it – Sally Kempton

How to do the Work – Dr Nicole lePera

And a Podcast with Nicole and Jenna called the Selfhealers Soundboard


Interested in small group Yoga sessions with me? We have just started term 1. Join us on zoom from wherever you are in the world. Five Yoga sessions, including Yoga Nidra, on zoom each week. Three morning sessions and two evening sessions. My timezone is Melbourne AEDT.

The secret ingredient to self-care

I have tried to write a few times over the past few months, and still I can never seem to be content with my description of what has gone on lately! How about you?
I’m thinking possibly because I am still processing my own experience, it cannot yet be put into words, especially of the lockdown here in Melbourne from July-ish to October (or was it November? We lost track of the days a bit!) 2020.
Or maybe I can never find a true story, and that will be okay. And considering that the popular comment of “we are all in this together” and how sometimes that felt not right to me. Everyone had different challenges, different experiences, different perspectives, different opportunities. But yes, we are all having this experience of “life” together, just as we always have been on planet earth.

So, I am going to kind of jump over my personal stories of lockdown, of zooming, online-schooling for my kids, and multiple daily walks of deepening my connection with nature and staying grounded.

I’m going to talk about self-care….whoa, didn’t self-care start flashing like a neon sign!

What I am in right now I could describe as an after effect of lockdown, and also living on an earth where the pandemic isn’t over.

Here in Melbourne right now we are lucky to be having so many different freedoms. When things started feeling kind of “almost normal” many were out celebrating and (in the words of the Victorian state premier, because you know we have to laugh too) getting on the beers, or perhaps more out getting in the cafes for a great cup of coffee or 3. There were also some weird feelings happening for me. And I suspect others. Seeing people in other places in the world suffering, hearing of people struggling to be able to return home to Australia, hearing of hospitals in other countries overloaded to breaking point and death tolls rising. These are people. Someone’s wife, someone’s mother, someone’s son, someone’s friend.

My nervous system (and I am thinking many other humans on this planet, as mentioned before for different experiences, different challenges) is not at it’s most ever chilled out place.

When thinking about the world, humans on this earth suffering, the practices of self-care can seem kind of selfish sometimes.
But I believe it is necessary to be able to fill one’s own cup, because how else can we help others?

I believe that it is not selfish to care for oneself, keeping in mind that we are all connected, and we all have the ability to be of service to other beings on this earth.

I was already serious about self-care and have been infatuated with Yoga for a long time. I became more serious.

Like an itch one cannot scratch, I realised at some point that even with alllll my self-care practices, something was missing – Self-care, I’m talking daily walks in nature, yoga by myself, yoga online, Feldenkrais online, meditation in the morning with chanting, Epsom salt baths, reading awesome books, reading blogs, listening to inspiring podcasts, journaling, green juices, hot lemon drinks, seeing my massage therapist, seeing my reiki therapist, self-massage, gazing at the sky at sunset, self-hugs, self-reiki, creating art with drawing and collage, and the list goes on ….even with all this, there is still an important ingredient that needs to be included and to be set as an intention.

One afternoon it finally dawned on me the self-care was like placing small band-aids over a gaping wound, without this ingredient.

Suddenly I found myself searching for a book I had read years before. (By the way, I still haven’t found the book! I think it had been a library book.)

Then, in synchronicity,  an email dropped into my inbox from that very same author. Kristen Neff, author of “Self Compassion”. After following a link to her website and courses available, I remembered searching for a local ‘mindful self compassion’ course in Melbourne years ago – I think there was one teacher in Melbourne offering it and I couldn’t make it to the class times, so I put it on the backburner thinking it wasn’t meant to be.

Fast forward to these special times where the zoom gods allowed courses to be happening from wherever in the world and right into your lounge room with the click of a mouse. A few of the courses I looked at, were scheduled for around 2am or 3am Melbourne time…..not do-able in my household, or with my level of exhaustion.

But a few more clicks on my laptop and I found a course at a time suitable for us Aussies! And with two teachers that are really inspiring, one zooming from Thailand and one from US. Their names are Siri and Jennifer.

So, I am right in the middle of this course in Mindful Self Compassion right now and loving it.
Plus I have to admit, that as a teacher, it’s always an extra pleasure to be a student in a class!
In the sessions we learn and practice different practices of mindful self-compassion in a group of likeminded souls, none of who I have met besides from on zoom, sharing our experiences, sharing our thoughts, our values, and learning how to really embody self – compassion in a meaningful way.

Everything is a work in progress. And I feel like in many ways I am circling or spiralling around in the ways that I learn about myself and my life. I bring the intention of self-compassion into my life now. I will see how thing go from there, and accept myself and forgive myself when I am not perfect. I am willing to embrace my imperfect self.

Here is something you can do right now and you only need a moment:

Place your hand on your heart, close your eyes, listen to your breath, feel the beat of your heart…you are here now…you can give yourself that gift of self-compassion. Be kind towards yourself. Be accepting. Be loving. Be forgiving. Give yourself that gift. You can choose that right now, this moment. Great compassion.

Wishing you peace, love and joy, and lots of self-compassion,


Do you let yourself breathe and slow down?

If there is something valuable the time during lockdown reminded me, it is the value of being SLOW 

Here in Melbourne, after several months, the lockdown has finished. It kind of feels a bit funny writing that. For a few reasons. I know there are all sorts of challenges going on in different parts of the world, we might be all “in this together”, but also we all have different circumstances, so I just want to say… my heart is also with you, and I send you strength and courage.

By the way, we still have some restrictions in Melbourne and Victoria, such as mask wearing and limits on the number of people in groups.

I don’t know about you, fellow Melbournians, but I was extra gentle with myself emerging from lockdown. I have continued with the things that I found beneficial during that time, however these things now take extra commitment to “make the time for oneself”….my personal Yoga and meditation practice and study, walking where I live (Lilydale and the Yarra Valley), spending time in nature, reading books, writing (I’m especially finding benefit over the past many months with stream of consciousness writing!), and embracing “slowness”.

A fellow Yoga teacher friend of mine, Claudia, wrote how when she was out walking by a place near her home,  she burst into tears. She wrote: “in the depths of lockdown that was where I took my kids for their daily outing…I felt sad for them and for how small our lives were”

I have had similar feelings. Especially on behalf of my children.

I wrote about how I had befriended a flower, just near my place, I would greet it each day, I looked forward to the chance to see it, admire it, and yeah maybe it sounds a little crazy. (If you follow my instagram you may recall, I shared a photo of the flower)
 Life felt very small… and close… and quiet.

I remember contemplating what life must have been like for my ancestors, who didn’t have many options to travel (pre-planes and pre-cars), and the wonderful art of old-fashioned snail-mail letter writing may have been the only option to stay in touch with family or friends. No phone, no email, no internet.

I still walk that way often, where I befriended the flower, but the flower is no longer blooming…it was beautiful, I felt connected to the land right there, in a way I haven’t before. As Claudia wrote, it felt small. Almost inconsequential, and yet it was important to me. A sense of okayness. A nearby friend who was there.

For those of you who have watched the movie “Castaway” with Tom Hanks (yep re-watched it during lockdown and my kids watched it for the first time) you will remember “Wilson” beloved basketball friend. Not that I was stranded on an island eating coconuts to survive, but you get the feeling. 

I think honoring our feelings is a gift we give to ourselves

And that is being self-nurturing

A little while ago, I received a beautiful book from a lovely Yoga student of mine, Kerry, and I love this book SO MUCH, it’s called “The four principles of Self-Nurture”. Here are some words from it that I would love to share…

 “The need for gentleness with ourselves is a lifetime commitment. Start today. Notice how fast you are going, breathe and slow down.” 

“We find the courage to face the difficult things in life, not by pushing ourselves hard, but by being very gentle and nurturing ourselves.”

When I am guiding my students in class, I encourage them to listen within. It is from within  that we can honor our feelings. It is from within that we have the opportunity to really find the true strength and balance and equanimity….. and that is never about pushing or forcing ourselves.
Usually the word “should” is a big give away as a time to question really how one is treating one-self, and to then perhaps re-assess.

My own practice of meditation, yoga, and reiki continues to teach me every day, and I truly believe in the power of SLOWNESS and NURTURING myself.

So for those of you reading this who are like me, in Melbourne, now feeling a bit “out there” with allll the options of shopping, cafes, and friend/family gatherings, remember it is okay to stay within your own little cocoon any time you want to.

If you want to.

Listening to yourself. Enjoying slowness. Honoring your feelings.

Reflections on my Yoga journey

As part of my Yoga teacher training it was a requirement not only to have a dedicated self-practice, but to write about it in a journal. I have always loved to write! Little did my teacher know how much I would write; I filled 5 spiral notebooks which I still have and occasionally re-read. The journal writing was so helpful, because I was reflecting and learning from myself.

Many of the things I wrote were questions. Not questions to my teacher, but just questions that I was asking myself. Sometimes my teacher would add notes and observations of her own, and often to the questions she would add another question to encourage me to open my way of thinking or observing.

Svyadaya, is the 4th of the 5 Niyamas (Moral Observances) of Yoga, as recorded in the Yoga Sutras. It means self-study and self-enquiry.

Although I did have a home practice before I began my teacher training, the requirement of the journal definitely opened up my practice to embrace the self-study and self-enquiry.

Things I would record and write about included what type of practice, such as types of asana or pranayama or meditation. I would write the Sanskrit names I knew, or I would refer to my text books and learn the ones I didn’t know. I would record different variations of postures that I tried. I recorded physical reactions to postures and pranayama and bandhas and mudras. I wrote about my time in meditation, good or bad or otherwise. I wrote about other reactions to my practices, mentally, emotionally.

The more I wrote, the more I was looking for and observing subtle things in my practice. I wrote about thoughts of resistance and wanting to finish, and instead staying in a posture for an extra 10 breaths, just to notice the effect. I wrote about finding the balance between effort and ease. I wrote about challenging myself and how my body and mind responded. I wrote about how my practice and being a mother to my children worked….my son was 3 years old at the time, and my daughter was 5.

I started to observe my yoga practice in my everyday life. When I wasn’t practicing yoga, or writing about it, or attending classes with my teacher, there were still things I noticed when I was out in the world, or when I was cooking meals or cleaning at home, or the little (but still big!) challenging things of caring for young children.

There were many required texts for our course, including the Yoga Sutras and Bhagavad Gita, however my yoga-reading went to absolutely everything I could find. It was during my studies that I first read “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Parahamsa Yogananda…incredibly and powerfully inspiring.

It was also at this time that I read “Buddhism for Mothers” by Sarah Napthali….a book I often recommend to mothers of young children and it’s such a beautiful book.

I had embarked upon Yoga Teacher Training totally unsure whether I would even actually become a teacher.

Rewind to my Uni days. I attended my first ever Yoga class at age 19 and loved it instantly. My first teacher, Cate, was trained in Gita Yoga and wore a black bodysuit, and she was very flexible, but also very gentle. She taught classes at the Melbourne Uni college where I lived for 3 years; International House. I only signed up for classes because my friends talked me into it, haha! But I found it was the perfect antidote to the stress of study and exams.

I kept returning to Yoga classes in my 20’s because I wanted to feel less stressed and more relaxed. I didn’t know why yoga made me feel better, but as I started working as an Accountant in a second-tier firm in the city, I considered that Yoga was THE thing that helped me to deal with (what I perceived as) my stressful job.

The problem was that when things became really busy with work, then I didn’t have time to make it to classes. I would try a little meditation every now and again, but I couldn’t seem to make it stick, because I felt I just wasn’t doing it ‘right’. I thought ‘if only’ I could attend classes again then I would be okay. In other words, I thought that the yoga couldn’t happen without the guidance of my teacher.

It was after the birth of my children that I experienced a big shift in my perspective. Nothing in particular, and everything at the same time. Bringing children into the world, I was filled with awe…looking at their amazing little selves and watching them learn and grow made me feel amazed at life. At the same time, I struggled! I could write a ton about this, but I will sum it up briefly here to say this: My anxiety spiralled out of control and was fuelled by sleep deprivation. At one point I was fearful of leaving my house, and I became withdrawn from friends and family in my desperate state (that I wanted no-one to witness).

To help me with this, I knew I needed more mindfulness in my life. I started practicing Yoga at home, usually first thing in the morning, because the mornings were the hardest. I used a library book to guide me to practice some basic postures and sequences. I told my yoga teacher, Ali, and she encouraged me and suggested other books, including BKS Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga”. She told me of her experience of meditation, and I realised she was human the same as me. Light-bulb moment! One day she announced she was leaving. As we said our goodbyes she asked if I was going to study to be a teacher. I knew then that I would! It seemed like such a scary commitment. She smiled at me and said the heartfelt words to me “I’m so glad”.

I have been a teacher since 2011, and Yes – I still attend classes and retreats. And absolutely love doing so. I am always open to learning something new, or a new perspective, or having my own perspectives shifted or opened. Or simply giving myself the gift of rest. For me, it is always a wonderful feeling by practicing Yoga in a class with others.

But also in a class, I am practicing my own Yoga, from the inside. This is not something that happens easily or instantly. It is something that I have cultivated through my own practice and developing the art of tuning in to myself. I talk often about “Inner Body Awareness” and I am inspired by Eckhart Tolle’s teachings.

Even when a teacher is guiding me, ultimately I am making my own decisions for my body and mind on a moment to moment basis.

This is something I also encourage my students to do.

Yoga is about practice and experience. We can learn from teachers. But most of all, we learn from ourselves; our inner-teacher.



Join me for Yoga, TCTSY (trauma center trauma sensitive yoga), meditation, restorative yoga, yoga nidra, or reiki.

I offer private 1:1 sessions, and small group sessions, livestream on zoom, and also in Lilydale, Victoria. Visit for more info about my current offerings.

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Is your Yoga ‘hard’ enough? Something about slowness…

Are you able to treat yourself with extra TLC when you need it?

Are you able embrace extra slowness?

It is sometimes a challenge isn’t it!?

Busy-ness is all around us, and we sometimes feel we must be DOING MORE, somehow fitting more in, achieving more, somehow trying to be more…

Recently I noticed something interesting about slowness.


I teach one class each week at a women’s gym. I noticed a new student, and I was slightly concerned she seemed to be not understanding my guidance to be slow and to follow her breath. When it came time for Shavasana it was apparent that, for her, there was no time or space to allow stillness. While the other 20 or so students were relaxing in shavasana, she decided to continue with various movements, leg stretches and twists, alternating side to side. There was no stillness.

I had to struggle against my judgement that she wasn’t allowing ‘Shavasana’ to happen and simply let her be.

I released my judgement.
I was quiet.
I held the space for all present.

After class I simply asked how she was feeling. I was open to accepting whatever she had to say.

She told me thought the class wasn’t hard enough.

The thing that she hasn’t realised is that the class WAS and IS hard enough for her. It was hard for her to be able to allow herself to be slow and to be still. She resisted against the stillness…. so that there was a big ZERO stillness for her.
Perhaps it was physically uncomfortable for her to be still…OR perhaps it was a decision she made mentally that it was a waste of her time and/or “too easy”.

I admit, I was once just like this student.
I had no interest in shavasana. I have been there and I have thought to myself “this class isn’t hard enough”…so hearing my student was like hearing my prior self from over a decade ago.

I honour this student, and I hope she returns to class, again and again and again, because through practice she may just discover what are her challenges.

It really is a massive challenge for some of us to ALLOW slowness and stillness.

How many times do you tell yourself you don’t ‘have time’ to rest? Or to relax? Or you don’t have time for yoga or meditation?
How many times do you criticize yourself when “things” aren’t getting done?
How many times do you use the word “should”?
(I should be doing this, I should be doing that, etc…)

Let go of all that.

Let me tell you – slowness and stillness are SO vital in your life.
For your physical wellbeing, your mental wellbeing, and your emotional wellbeing.

For those of you who attend my classes, or practice Yoga, I thank you and bow to you, when you allow slowness and stillness.

Because each and every time you do, you invite more PEACE into this world.


Om shanti.
Let there be peace.


The Eight Limbs of Yoga

What is AshtangaYoga?
What are the eight limbs of Yoga?

“Ashta” means eight, and “anga” is often translated as limb. These are the eight limbs of Yoga as given to us in the Yoga Sutras of Patanajali – an ancient text of approximately 2,500 years ago, which codified yoga practices even older, which were originally transmitted orally from teacher to student.

The eight limbs of Yoga are: 


Perhaps you recognise one or a few of these words?  Let me give you my explanation, and then I will share one of my favourite translations.

The Yoga Sutras were written in Sanskrit and there exists hundreds, possibly thousands of translations and commentaries.

Yama – are five guidelines for living in peace with self and others.
Niyama – are five guidelines for deepening inner peace.
Asana – finding comfort in the body, and can be practised as the postures in today’s modern yoga classes.
Pranayama – can be practiced as the breathing techniques in many yoga classes.
Pratyahara – meaning withdrawal of the senses, this is practiced in Yoga Nidra and other practices where one is “turning within”.
Dharana – a state of deep concentration and focus, such as focusing the mind on a mantra.
Dhyana – the meditative state sometimes reached during the practice of meditation.
Samadhi – the state of Enlightenment. Think about pictures of Avatars with the light around their head or body.

Here is a translation from “The Secret Power of Yoga” by Nischala Joy Devi.

Yama – Reflection of our true nature
Niyama – Evolution towards harmony
Asana – Comfort in being, posture
Pranayama – Enhancement and guidance of universal prana (energy)
Pratyahara – Encouraging the senses to draw within
Dharana – Gathering and focusing of consciousness inward
Dhyana – Continuous inward flow of consciousness
Samadhi – Union with Divine Consciousness.

So when we practice yoga, it’s a lot more than going through the physical movements. Students sometimes think a class is about the “asana” /postures, however the big picture is more than just one limb.

To me, it’s totally fine if a student is only focused on one limb, it doesn’t matter because in time the other branches of the tree (limbs) will open up. Everyone is unique with the speed at which this happens…but there is no rush!

It’s not necessary to ‘think’ about these when practising yoga, but I find it fascinating to contemplate. Within each limb there is a zillion things or more for us to learn and experience. 

I know I am constantly learning more.
As for reaching Samadhi, it’s a work in progress, hmmmmm, not there just yet!


Image via Pinterest


Booklovers – “First, we make the beast beautiful: a new story of anxiety”

“First, we make the beast beautiful”
– a new story of anxiety
by Sarah Wilson

I have to admit when I picked up this book, I read the first page (she writes about meeting the Dalai Lama on page one) and then put it back on the shelf, my ego telling me “Karen what do you need to know about anxiety, forget it!”
Oh gosh the ego loves to deny weak spots.
I loved this book. If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed I’ve been sharing little gems of wisdom from it’s pages. Because it hit a personal spot and made so much sense in a real, tangible way.
Yes, I, myself am an “anxious type”. Years ago I discovered that Yoga was an amazing, powerful practice for me to work with my experience of anxiety. Let’s just say I became pretty addicted to all things Yoga.
By practicing Yoga each morning I was able to help myself in the dissolving of anxiety. I say ‘dissolving’ because it’s not something I try to fully eliminate, even if that were possible.
If you do experience anxiety, take a read of this beautiful book; it’s like having a conversation with Sarah (who by the way was diagnosed with anxiety and insomnia at age 12, later OCD and bipolar disorder, which she describes as all anxiety, just different flavours.) She has so much wisdom to share from her personal experience and you will understand from her perspective also why anxiety is not a curse to try to get rid of. As well as plenty of ways to work with it. Yep, she recommends Yoga too!

I do believe (as Sarah also mentions) that anxiety tends to happen to those more sensitive and/or creative people, and being sensitive (eg. senses are more alive, colours brighter, air fresher, clarity, awake-ness)…. is  a gift, when you realise it is.

Sarah writes:
“…like me you might have wondered if there’s another way. I’d like to say this upfront. I write these very words because I’ve come to believe that you can be fretty and chattery in the head and awake at 4am and trying really hard at everything. AND you can get on with having a great life. Hey, the Dalai Lama told me so. Actually, I’ll go a bit further. I’ve come to believe that the fretting ITSELF can be the very thing that plonks you on the path to a great life.”

Sarah refers to “anxious types” and “life naturals”…She mentions that the book is really for “anxious types” but also helpful for “life naturals” to understand us anxious types. She also explains how anxious types often gravitate to life-naturals as partners or friends for that amazing stability and ease they have;  a rock of support.  However life-naturals often don’t understand what anxious types experience and here’s where Sarah has quite a few pages you can highlight or just casually leave around for your “life-natural” to read, to give them some handy hints and tips.

For example:
“Another simple thing you can do, dear-loved-one-of-someone-with-anxiety, is to just be there, patiently, when we wobble. Just stay. And be entirely certain and solid about doing so, even in the very convincing face of pushback and the frantic wobbliness from us. Your patience and calmness with exist in such stark contrast to our funk that we’ll start to feel silly and return to Earth. Our anxiety does pass.”

And I TOTALLY agree with Sarah’s advice to get out into nature! It’s one of my fav things to do either by myself or with my children and husband. Sarah describes herself as a ‘mad hiker’. She explains that “multiple studies show that folk who live in green spaces have lower rates of mental health issues. It’s been suggested that getting away from city freneticness allows the prefrontal cortex to take a break. Accordingly, stress hormones, heart rate and other markers back off…..Hiking connects us to ourselves. A university study found that because our senses evolved in nature, by getting back to it we connect more honestly with our sensory reactions. Which connects us with our true selves, and enhances a feeling of ‘oneness’….”

Here’s a ‘little trick’ she shares when needing to deal with an ‘anxious surge’ (from Eckhart Tolle! Love him!):
“It helped me get all that ‘be in the present’ stuff that my anxiety had previously stopped me from even being able to conceptualise, let alone FEEL…..try it, right now. Not in the future! – ‘Ask yourself what PROBLEM you have right now, not next year, tomorrow, or five minutes from now. What is wrong with this moment?’
“He asks you to try it right now with a problem. Try it with a bit of your particular brand of anxious buzz as you read this. Feel into the problem NOW; not in sixty seconds, not in two seconds. Now! Your head might jump fifteen minutes ahead. No. Now. Is the problem still there?
“Nope. It’s gone, right?
“As Tolle tells it, worries don’t exist in the now. Worries about the future or the past don’t exist either – they’re just narratives we create in the present. Practice asking yourself ‘what’s the problem’ often. See if you don’t start to feel the anxious cycle back away. See if those startled birds at sunset don’t begin to settle, softly, gently, at dusk. See if this gentleness is where you want to be.”

I also love how Sarah reminds me that thoughts are exactly that – ‘thoughts’. We do tend to get tangled up in stories that may or may not even happen. Sarah writes:

“Real disasters are a cinch compared to the shit we make up in our head. Actually they’re a relief. When the future does arrive, we’re always okay…”

You can visit Sarah’s website at
You can find the book almost anywhere right now…eg.BigW

If you are in need of support:
Life Line: or call 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: or call 1300 22 4636
Or speak to your GP who can refer you to a specialist

Silent meditation and the bumpy road home

Once again, as I have many times before, on Friday afternoon I packed my yoga mat, meditation cushion, and suitcase and drove myself to the Buddhist retreat centre, Maitripa. I turned off my car when I parked and paused to appreciate, once again, the huge gum trees and prayer flags lightly swaying in the breeze, many birds, the hills, the sky, and I felt a wave of peacefulness in simply arriving. The anxiety that had bunched up within me from previous weeks began to dissipate. Here, all I had to think about was sitting on my bum to meditate, yoga, internal reflection, walking in the garden, and enjoying beautiful vegetarian meals.

I didn’t feel so nervous about the internal reflection as I had before, knowing that each time I was a little better prepared, in fact each time I meditate I get to know myself a little bit better. And also appreciating that each time meditating is different. You can never really know what the experience will be like.

I suppose my “acceptance of what is” was happening comfortably – well, it was about to get a really good test!

Often my first thoughts upon arrival had been along the lines of “What the hell am I doing here?!” and “What was I thinking ?!” and “WHY do I put myself through these things?!”. Not so this time. Although I could detect those feelings in some of the people arriving as they wheeled their suitcases in to find their rooms. Polite smiles and ‘hi!’ and I said hello to as many people as I possibly could. Partly to try to put other people at ease and be friendly, and partly because I knew we soon wouldn’t be speaking at all.

I was surprised it was a huge group – 30 of us, and an equal split of 15 girls and 15 guys. A couple of us recognised each other, and in the meditation hall it was nice to put my blanket and meditation cushion down on a mat beside a lady that I had also sat beside at a previous retreat.

It was a chilly evening, and it tends to be cooler up in the hills, but the heaters were working well in the meditation hall and in the rooms also, so it was cosy.

After the first meditation session I surprised myself with how comfortably I meditated, both from a physical body comfort perspective and the inner focus of my awareness. I practiced the Chakra Cleanse Meditation (as I’ve been taught in School of the Modern Mystic and I practice regularly) and White Light/Prana/Chi was flowing with ease. In fact, really easily. As the session finished and people began to drift silently out the door wrapped in their blankets, I continued to sit – gazing inwardly, and occasionally opening my eyes to look towards the candle in the centre of the hall – and to see that I wasn’t the only one continuing to sit (there was one other woman about my age). But soon I headed to my little yet cosy room, and as I slipped into bed I remembered the value of simplicity of being here – no TV, no wi-fi, no facebook, and no noise…..soooooo peaceful.

I set my alarm for 5.40am – on the lowest volume as the walls are paper thin. I had bizarre dreams all night and continually woke during the night. However I rose easily just before my alarm.  After a hot shower and a drink of water, I took my place in the meditation hall for the 6.30am session. Again I felt the one hour of meditation happened easily for me. I sat comfortable in my body. I practiced my chakra cleansing again, drew in the white light and let it pulse through. I also silently repeated the metta meditation for myself. Loving kindness for myself. We slowly filed outside at 7.30am and then re-assembled in the other hall with our Yoga mats for the Yoga session – which of course I loved!

Each meditation session went well, besides from my hips starting to ache a little, although when we practiced walking meditation in the garden it was good for my hips to stretch and soften. Each time entering the beautiful meditation hall was really special – it’s such a beautiful place, and with such a peaceful vibe about it.

In between sessions I spent lots time writing in my journal, as well as walking around the gardens and half way up the side of the hill. I had told myself to not take photos this time, as I’m always tempted to then Instagram or facebook them! However the flowers and gardens and views of the valley were too beautiful and I couldn’t resist.

Each meal was wonderful – eating in silence, but not alone, we were comfortable together in the quiet enjoying the amazing vegetarian food prepared for us. There was even chocolate cake (egg free and gluten free and dairy free to cater for everyones allergies!) and plenty of fresh fruit including watermelon. What a treat it was to A) not have to cook!…. and B) not have to plan the menu!

In the evenings a large pot of chai was on the stovetop for us to help ourselves, mmmmmm!

Well, everything seemed to be running smoothly in terms of my meditation practice that I questioned the smoothness! However I did soon discover a weak spot, a shadowy spot.

On late Saturday afternoon I opened up my journal to write about my restlessness and the feeling of resistance. I noticed the restlessness in my legs first and then I discovered it in my thoughts. I wrote in my journal how “I kinda distracted myself reading old Buddhist magazines in the loungeroom, and checking facebook on my phone.” And also how “I’m fantasing about FUTURE stuff”.

And then I wrote –
“Almost funny – here I sit in peaceful paradise, dreaming of a future peaceful paradise. How hard it is to be really PRESENT! Because one must be present with it ALL! The lot of it. The comfort AND discomfort.”

I wrote much more later in the evening as I sat with some discomfort of feelings within me. I just sat with it. I wrote about ‘deep acceptance’. And ‘being with myself’. Then before I fell asleep I wrote slowly in big  giant letters –


I slept a deep peaceful sleep, so deep that for the first time in I don’t know how long, my alarm went off – but I kept on sleeping…

I heard the 6am gong and I still had time for a shower before heading into the hall for 6.30am meditation. And how I appreciated the hot water on my skin, and combing the tangles from my hair, how good to dress in clean clothes, warm socks, how nice my moisturising cream smelt. I observed myself as I observed all the little things – my five senses were AWAKE, and the more I noticed the ‘awake-ness’ the sharper and brighter everything became.

In the meditation hall for 6.30am session, after a few minutes I opened my eyes just for the wonder of gazing around at everyone else, looking so still and serene.  I gazed at the soft glow of the candles and crystals in the centre. And then I turned my head to the right to gaze out the window and the sky was amazing! A beautiful bright pink! Within just a minute or so the pink faded to a soft grey, and I closed my eyes again. I felt alive as I sat there, still, with my palms pressed to my solar plexus.

Breathing and alive.

After Yoga and after breakfast, I spent more time writing, then walking through the garden. It was quite windy and so I decided to pack my bags early and I packed most things into my car. Suddenly I was ready for home. In fact I resolved I would leave early, straight after lunch, after we could speak again so I could so goodbye properly to everyone. There is always that time to share the ups and downs of the experience of being silent and the meditation, and it’s really interesting to see how comfortable we all become in each other’s presence of so much meditating together….and then being allowed to talk to one another!


Then the news arrived – the roads out were both blocked (one road leads to Healesville and the other to Kinglake) due to numerous fallen trees, because of the strong winds.

The power had been out since early morning and now my phone battery was low. We gathered in the lounge area and by the kitchen discussing what to do. Many were determined they would be leaving that day somehow, to return to work on Monday morning. Three people actually decided to walk into Healesville, about 6 or 7 kms, so off they went.

For the rest of us, with the road still blocked as darkness fell that evening, we were stuck there.

I sadly retrieved my suitcase from my car, and thankfully found my tiny torch. The manager informed us that water in the tank was low, and without electricity he was unable to pump water up (from somewhere – Another tank perhaps)

In the kitchen, our cook prepared us a simply yet beautiful evening meal – rice, vegetable curry, and salad. She gathered us all beforehand so she could explain to take just one scoop of each so the food would stretch out to feed each of us. We all expressed our gratitude for having a meal and a bed for the night.

Still I found myself oscillating between feeling angry and sorry for myself. Because I just wanted to go home! I couldn’t figure who to be angry at, but settled the fact there was no generator, and myself for not keeping my phone charged. Although a generator wasn’t going to get me out of there, but my anger wasn’t listening.

With the last tiny charge in my mobile phone, I called home to tell my family and send them my love. Then standing half way up the hill, madly waving my phone in the air, I sent off text messages to my Monday morning Yoga students to cancel the class. Then the battery died. No more phone.

No power, hardly any water, no heaters, no way to get out, and now no phone.

It was getting dark.

I felt alone.

Yet here I was with other people in the same situation.


What could I do? What else? I wrapped a blanket around me and headed back into meditation hall with everyone else. Beautiful chants played to lead us into meditation. Then the ipod stereo went dead – and with a few giggles, we returned to silent meditation. The hall was lit softly with the candles in the centre.

Returning to my room with my little torch, there was nothing to do except make my bed (again!) and hop into bed. Of course I was missing my daughter and my son and my husband, but I knew they were safe and sound. And here I was with a comfy bed for the night. I was thankful and I slept well. Yet I was also longing for the light of morning, when I hoped the road would be clear. I knew nothing of what else was going on beyond the retreat centre, and simply thought the trees would be removed. Only later I realised of the devastation was spread much further than one road.

Without an alarm, I woke to the 6am gong, just like everyone else. No hot water for a shower, and in any case rationed water so we couldn’t shower. I considered staying in bed, however joined the 6.30am meditation. I didn’t last for long, as I was overwhelmed by a combination of emotions just ten minutes into sitting so returned to my room.

Soon I heard excited voices outside my room and was informed the road was clear; we could go home! I grabbed my things with lightning speed, and joined everyone in the carpark saying farewells. I was so keen to leave, and everyone was smiling away that we could begin our journey home. But it was a scary drive.

There were branches and logs and trees and debris everywhere so I was driving at walking pace. As I drove, I said prayers of thanks to the people that had cleared the road with their chainsaws. In some spots the clearing was just wide enough to get a car through. I had to stop and soon a convoy of parked cars was behind me, all my fellow meditators, and we all congregated to check out the road and the mess. I didn’t know (and yes I scolded myself for being so dumb as to not know) if it was okay to drive over fallen power lines. Why hadn’t I asked more questions or listened properly to the situation? However the guy in the ute seemed to know what was happening and he went ahead. So each of us slowly followed. But my heart was beating and my stomach was churning, and I kept thinking and saying out aloud to myself “Holy C**p, I’m gonna have to turn back now!”

There were several other spots where we had to stop and survey the situation before driving underneath fallen trees. We continued on slowly.

I was reminded of us all sitting in the meditation hall, and how we are all individuals, having our individual experiences, meditating alone within ourselves, but we were all TOGETHER in that hall, in that circle.

And I remembered the words from a favourite movie of mine “PS I love you”……

”If we are all alone, then we are all together in that too.”

We made it to the end of the road and continued on our ways, perhaps to meet again another time, or perhaps not.



Take hot showers when you can.

Keep your phone battery charged.

Keep your water bottle filled.

Have a torch.

Listen to information carefully.

Know that even when you don’t have all the things you think you need, you will still be okay.

And sometimes you will drive under fallen trees and on roads that are scary. And sometimes the road is windy and bumpy.

And sometimes people will support you who don’t even know you…… and you them.

We actually cannot control mother nature – yet she is still beautiful.  

And it’s perfectly okay to be just as you are – even if worried, stressed, angry, or whatever – just observe and know that you are human – and perfectly imperfect.

And keep on meditating. There’s so much to learn on this windy and bumpy road.


Being called to be Nourished

Often little things, little coincidences grab my attention.  Have you ever felt moments of dejavu? Or two or more unrelated people mention the same thing to you within the space of a day or two? Seeing or hearing the same thing several times over? My teacher, Glenda, often said to me that there are no coincidences, only synchronities.

I call them wake-up calls from the universe. And I’m learning to listen.

Here’s one of my favourites from a while ago:

As I was going through a rough patch and struggling with my meditation practice, each afternoon I would ask for a sign that I was on the right track and that I was supported. When I did ask, the synchronity would be seeing a white car drive past at the end of my street. Yep, it was always a white car. White for me represents white light. White light AKA reiki AKA prana. Unconditional love.

What can be more supportive than unconditional love, right?!

Well, one day I was really struggling. It was a really difficult day for reasons that I now cannot recall, but it was a tough one. I had to go out in my car, and as I drove to the end of my street, I was starting to feel hopeless as there wasn’t even a white car in sight. I said “Where is my white one today? I really need it today!”

But the universe also has a sense of humour and likes to make you smile or laugh out loud, when just a second ago you felt hopeless.

I turned the corner, and the car driving towards me was not only a white car, but the numberplate was a personalised one that read – “WHTONE”… Hello Karen – yes you are supported!

Last week while in meditation, I heard the words clearly…

“May I be nourished”

I felt so inspired that I wrote the words down.


The word “Nourish” then kept leaping out at me from ALL directions. I recalled how I had felt at the yoga intensive I attended recently with Donna Farhi. With so many of the restorative yoga postures she took such INCREDIBLE great care and patience to instruct us how to set ourselves up with all our props and blankets. Several assistants wandered around the room to help each and every student. I remember being in supported Viparita Karani using a chair, bolster and several blankets and a towel, and feeling amazingly comfortable, amazingly supported and really really nourished.

So here is the icing on the nourished cake….

Recently I’ve been listening in to Amy McDonald’s ‘Abundant yoga teacher’ podcasts. I was discovering lots of awesome advice from her. So I tuned into some of her live periscopes, and as a result, was lucky enough to be the recipient of a book prize.

When the parcel arrived on my doorstep a few days later, my children excitedly helped me open as if it was somebody’s birthday! It was a gorgeous book, with a pretty handwritten card….can you guess what the name of the book is?!


NOURISH – mind body & soul

Thanks for that one Universe, I absolutely love it, and love receiving these little wake-up messages.

Karen ❤❤❤