Sangha

024e0-img_0932The other day I was having what can only be described as a ‘kick the cat’ day.

Now for the animal lovers amongst us I should clarify that no cats were actually harmed, in fact I don’t even have one but I’m sure you all know what I’m saying. I had the ‘Mean Fridays’ or the “Cranks’ as my son would say. That awful heart-heavy mix of grumpy,sad and tired all wrapped up in a slightly bloated pre-menstrual body (my apologies to all the men in the room).

I wanted to put my pyjamas on and eat potato chips in bed but instead I prepared to teach a yoga class. I walked in giving myself a half hearted talking to and was met with ….a gift. One of my students couldn’t make it but had gone to the trouble of bringing me a beautiful bouquet of leafy greens from her garden. Another student wrapped me up in a hug, someone else lined up with a warm grin and kind words.

And I felt better. In fact I felt better than batter, I felt happy. We had a lovely class and I was reminded of the importance of community. A little banter, a little yoga and a quiet moment at the end. How do people live without yoga? If I am asked what my favourite thing about it is, I would say my ‘sangha’ or my yoga community.

This is no high school click people. A very yogic attitude of ’no judgement’ and tolerance apples. We are all different ages, stages and personality types, but we are very real friends. I miss my students when they don’t come to class. I miss sharing a cup of tea, a laugh, a warrior pose or two. I miss hearing about their kids and their sore backs. I really like my students.

Do you know that it’s been scientifically proven that spending regular time with friends makes you live longer? These days we seem to focus so much on our health, hovering greens and exercising like mad. Maybe we could do more good with an hour or two of real human connection with some good bendy souls and a little nap at the end.

Perfection.

One of my students had a question for me the other day. “Can I book a regular spot in one of your classes? I’d like to come twice a week on Tuesdays and Saturdays.”  I was about to say no (you just book week to week) when I thought about this idea of community. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could practice with the same people each week?

What do you think? Would you like to come to the same class, at the same time each week? I only teach eight people at a time. Eventually we will have Monday and Wednesday mornings at 915am and Tuesday nights at 630pm. We will have a Saturday morning class at 8am and possibly another Saturday class at 10am. You could buy a three month block and if you couldn’t make it, we could do a make up that suits.

Please let me know if you think this system would work for you and hopefully I can make it happen. People will always need a certain amount of flexibility, I get that!…..(being a yoga teacher and all)

Beginners classes are going along beautifully. Intermediate 90min classes will be opening in July. I know some of you are super keen and so am I. I can start to take preferences for the classes you would like or you can just book classes on a weekly basis when it suits you. Any suggestions for the studio are always welcome-I want you to feel like it’s your yoga-home!

See you soon,

Michelle x

Before we begin….

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It was the beginning of the nineties and I was an angst ridden slip of a girl, barefoot and bored, waiting for my very first yoga teacher to emerge through the mission brown doors of the school library. I had already decided that yoga was for losers and I had better things to do than waste my precious time in this sweatbox-the whirring tease of overhead fans collided with the bombardment of bloody Enya. I’d have given my last dollar for a sick note.

Said teacher arrived rakish and hairy, draped in cheesecloth and radiating a intensely irritating aura of calm smuggness-the perfect fuel to my state of perpetual teenaged annoyance. He was like a bee sting to my eyeball. Abhorrent.

It feels like yesterday. Sometimes I see that girl, just for a moment as I enter a class of students, I am reminded of her cool irritation in the face of eventual salvation. The memory makes me smile. Today, as I sit down to write this letter to her, I wish she could stomp into my studio.

Dear Teenage Me (or beginner you),

Its me (you) here, just wanting to share some small things with you about your yoga adventure. You’re going to love it. I hate to be dramatic but yoga is going to save you from yourself. It’s going to turn all the ‘merde’ into magic. Remember that the lotus flower is a symbol of pure beauty that basically grows in shit. That’s what it’s all about my friend- blooming into wonderful. Here’s your tips…..

*Yoga will make you a better person, friend, partner, mother, sibling and daughter. You’ll be happier, fitter and healthier. Your mind will be less active and you’ll sleep better. Everything in your life will improve-except your desserts. These will probably start to contain less sugar and cream and more raw cacao and chia seeds. Sorry.

*Give cheesecloth man a break!

*Being a beginner is terrifying. Walking into a yoga studio for the first time is awful. One day when you become a teacher or even a more experienced student, try really hard not to forget the awkwardness of feeling like you’re in the spotlight without a script.

*Lose the big baggy T shirts- they will end up around your neck in down dog. No one cares what your bum looks like in yoga pants. No one.

*Yoga will warm you to the world and show you the very best of yourself and other people. Be patient enough to allow the practice to infuse your body and mind with compassion. Swap the snotty teen thing (you may substitute cynicism or perfectionism) for kindness- I won’t tell you’re cool friends.

*Don’t concern yourself with touching your toes. I promise you they feel exactly the same if you bend your knees. I don’t think any great discoveries will be uncovered by reaching the pinnacle of any pose. The only attainment to strive for is to free the breath in that tightly bound chest of yours. The road to discovering your true nature begins with the breath.

*Take the time to choose a teacher that treats you with kindness and respect. If your teacher ever makes you feel judged-walk away. Do your own practice, for you. 

*Use your own mat. All manner of creatures exist on the surface of yoga mats-better to have originated from your own person than the sweaty guy before you. (sorry Wet Man, no judgement!)

*Speaking of judgement-  people can be judgemental and even unkind- this behaviour has no place in the studio. Try very hard to cultivate acceptance, for yourself and everyone that enters the class. You don’t know what they have been dealt, you don’t know how they think or feel. You are a friend first and a teacher/student second. If you can’t be their friend, they shouldn’t be your teacher/student.

*Take the teachings seriously but not the practice. Laugh lots and enjoy it. Farts happen in yoga, that should provide you with suitable giggle material.

*Look for that pesky ego behind your every thought, posture, promise, word and want. It’s a turf war that requires vigilance! Don’t let your guard down on that one!

*Always check yoga pants for split seams. One day you will race to class in those purple pants you love, only to discover a poorly placed ventilation system installed in the region of your butt. Rookie mistake made even more horrid by the arrival of a handsome new teacher. 

*Be a student of yoga forever. Keep reading, learning, trying and sharing for the rest of your days. If you find something that makes you feel good, share it with others.

*You don’t have to change anything. All is as it should be now. You don’t have to be more flexible or lose weight or whatever. All of this and more might occur in time but in this culture of constant self improvement, be aware, you are perfect as you are. I promise.

Go forth on your great adventure in Yoga. If you learn a few things and it makes you happy-pass it on. That small gesture is how we change the world my friend.

Namaste,

Michelle xx

Beginners class starts on Wednesday the 1st June 630-730pm at Whole Soul Yoga. The cost is $150 for 10 weeks (makeup classes are available). No prior yoga experience is necessary and the class is suitable for everybody. Whole Soul Yoga is located on Henderson road at Everton Hills Qld call Michelle on 0430222274 for details or go to www.wholesoulyoga.net

 

slow growth and long goodbyes

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This morning I decided to begin my day by doing the sort of slow meditative yoga that I love. I took my time with the poses, reaching and delving into all those areas that I forget I inhabit. It’s odd, a bit like walking through your house and discovering rooms that you were previously unaware existed.

Sometimes in this long, slow practice, I like to do simple poses really well rather than trying to balance in complicated postures. I like to track the energy flow of the pose, opening little doors along the way, metaphorically walking through the temple of Me.

Opening is the key to freedom, both physically and mentally.

Anyway, I was really enjoying the sequence and the house was lovely and quiet, morning sun streaming in and warming my face in cobra. I have a house plant in my yoga corner and I was watching the light cast shadows amongst the leaves when the weirdest thing happened…

With my head down in plank pose, there was a little crack noise.

Odd, because when I look up there is nothing in front of me but my little potted plant. I check it over for any signs of eight legged hairiness but thank goodness I find nothing. (as a side note I must say I struggle with Ahimsa when it comes to critters! I try, but I struggle!) So I return to plank and as I transition into upward dog, there it is again! I’m now face to…. well..pretend plant face with this botanical being and it’s actually making noise like it’s alive.

Now before you go assuming I’ve lost my marbles, I should expand on what’s actually happening as I enjoy my salutations. Upon closer inspection the tiny creaking sounds appear to be coming from some dryer leaves at the base of a brand new leaf. This fresh verdant growth seems to be ever so slowly unfurling as the sun hits the plant causing the dry leaves to make crackling sounds. Too slow to visibly witness, but enough to cause these little utterances.

As I physically attempt to demonstrate a reversal of this process by trying really hard to fold my poor old body into a forward bend, my awareness shifts to my plant. The process of life might be slow, but it happens. It’s active. Change occurs every second, every moment. Whether that change is positive of negative is largely up to us. It feels like I will never get my nose to my shins at this point. But I can choose to try because it is my intention. Life is change.

In my life I have often been skeptical of peoples (and my own) ability to change. The truth is I was really doubtful. I wasn’t sure that I could really be a different me. Perhaps I hadn’t realised that I was choosing to be the old me every day. I was choosing to be hurt, I was choosing I identify myself as a victim. Ive made all sorts of wacky, wounded harmful, hurtful choices and it’s been a long slow goodbye to my sadder self.

I didn’t realise that I had changed every single day of my life.

We get older

We get fitter

We get faster

We get slower

We put on weight

We lose weight

We stop drinking

We might start!

We eat whole foods

We eat fried cheese and onion sandwiches and a whole tub of ice-cream in front of the TV…..No? Just me?

We learn things

We forget things

We get mad

We get happy

We quieten our minds

We challenge ourselves

We fall in love

We lose someone

We make decisions

We eat differently

We love differently

We like ourselves

We let go

We change

Every single day. When I began this yoga journey all those years ago, I never thought that one of my teachers would be a house plant.

Weird.

I’ve been blogging on WordPress for many years but I’m afraid it’s time for me to say goodbye. I’m moving on but I’d love you to come visit me at my new address.

www.wholesoulyoga.net

If you like, please subscribe on my homepage and I’ll drop by every now and again via email 🙂

Extraordinary Grace

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It was just you and I.

Somewhere, for all of us, our history begins with a quiet, tired nighttime mama. It’s a step into sentimental imaginings to conjure the image of my own teenage mother. Her body still so firm and strong with eyes bright and unlined. Her cotton nightie was surely too large after she gave birth and in my mind, it falls from one slight shoulder.

I can see her and although in my case I had a decade on her, I certainly remember being her. The faintly medicinal smell of the bedclothes, sore, swollen, beaten up bad by this snoozing beauty before me. A strange combination of enormous certainty and knee-knocking terror. An empty vessel, in my hands.

The first night you spend with your new baby delivers an enchanting paradox of perfection over promises. A forever tug of war over who you are over who you aspire to be. Never before was I so keenly aware of my shortcomings and so desperately inspired to somehow shed the shit from my wings…..where ever they might be?

This life begins with the Mama. All of what ultimately is, in you and I begins with one ordinary act of extraordinary grace. Whether she is good or bad or somewhere in between, her gift is delivering your soul into your little body. From hers to yours.

What happens from there can get a little hairy- we are human after all. We make mistakes, we try too hard or not enough. We carry our own grief and pain and sadness. Perhaps dishing it out like we might dole out dinner to the tiny ones we love. We might serve up a little helping of our own history.

To heal the wounds of our mama relationship is a powerful act of love. To recall with gentle understanding and forgive with an open heart,can rewrite all of our beginnings. Even if She is difficult, damaging and hard, she is yours. And once upon a time she was all alone, in the dark, with a small you. Scared she might not be enough, and perhaps she wasn’t, but maybe she just couldn’t find her way. Maybe she inspired you to do things differently (and you will).

Because of an extraordinary act of grace. All of this life begins with our mama. And taking the opportunity to heal the beginning of our life, blesses the rest of our life with love.

NAMASTE- the divine in me sees the divine in you. Today is international women’s day and I invite you to see the divinity in your mother, sisters, friends. I wish for healing for all children and their mamas.

Michelle xx

Strange social media fruit

 

Untitled 4 copy 4.jpgArrr social media, you’re a strange fruit. A prickly, saccharine sour thing with a lingering after taste of fragility. Ego’s belting out blahness until our ears bleed. Special offers, promises and hopes all emblazoned across a shiny screen between constant advertising and some silly cat videos.

I come from a large tribe.

A yell-over-the-noise-and-make-it-quick kind of family, with big opinions and vocal aspirations of well…volume.

I understand the need to be heard and valued and noticed. But I find this sludge of Me-ness quite disconcerting and well, tiring. Don’t get me wrong, there are people who wield the social media sword beautifully, slicing through the crap and managing to connect in a very real way. It’s rare but it happens. How to?

I began this year with good solid plans for my own business and was immediately inundated with expert advice about online marketing, Facebook, blogging, instagramming, twitterwhatevering and going ‘viral’ which sounds nasty and is quite frankly a bit nasty. All ‘lookatme’ pursuits of sign em up and grab yourself a big helping of internet pie. What’s your plan for total world domination?

“Um… I just want to teach yoga. Small classes, beautiful studio, a communal place to find pleasure in your body and mind.”

Simple. A little whisper amongst all that shouting.

The experts however say that once you own a business, shouting is paramount to success. Campaigns and giveaways designed to get you clients and ‘likes’ and perhaps love and fame and untold fortune. All constant vacuous content being thrown into engines driven by ego and desperate wanting.

So my question becomes- Can I whisper and still be heard?

The older I get the more I want to chain the beast of ego to a big ol’ tree in the yard. Of course I want my business to work but is it possible to do so with out letting it loose to tear up the place? Can’t I just serve my little community in the hope that they might tell their friends who might (fingers crossed) tell theirs?

Just a quiet little studio, with a few yoga loving souls and my small contribution to this magnificent practice. Svadhyaya (self study) over the sludge. Little whisper-just like we learned on the first day of school- spoken politely using our inside voice.

xx

 

 

#spicysaucyovalove

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Ido  love the feeling of optimism that comes with the arrival of spring.

A lingering notion that perhaps all is well with the world after all. Bare feet on dewy morning grass, the air crisp and fresh before the sun has cast it’s rays. Coffee beckons after meditation- life is about balance after all. My morning practice has left me feeling ravenous.

The chooks raise a shout in the yard- they too are hungry. I throw them seed whilst harvesting still warm eggs from the nesting box. The chalky globes fill an old wire basket- some relic from a local chicken farm that probably made way for comi-townhouses with ‘eggshell’ facades and neat landscaping.

The eggs are spoken for so fast they barely have time to harden. It’s the weekend, which means a slow start and a long breaky. This is my version of an exotic shakshuka and it’s ridiculously good. “Hashtag freakin amazing” according to my 14year old. But really, who knows what he’s on about half the time? I’ll take that as a positive comment until I am led to believe otherwise.

I recall him being small and I was the only person who understood his tottering talk- the funny pronunciations of new words and eager effort. I remember that gentle pride I felt, my boy and his special ways. He’s still special…..(and still requires a translator sometimes). I am as full-as-a-goog with mama love.

But over to my ova.

First I fry a little onion and chilli in some olive oil. Add some smoky paprika and ground coriander and a sprinkle of cumin seeds for good luck. I add a bottle of good quality tomato passata and a tin of refried beans. Stir over medium heat until thick and bubbling.

Heat your oven to 200 degrees and pour some sauce into ramekins. Crack in some eggs and pop in the oven for around 8 mins. Keep an eye on them and whip them out as soon as they’re not gooby- you know what I mean. 🙂

Top with chopped parsley and feta and serve with sourdough toast. Guaranteed to make the sun come out and the world turn in a whole new way. Every day is a good one- be grateful for good eggs and great beginnings.

Ps. Work starts on the construction of my very own yoga studio this weekend. So happy,happy,happy. See you in class soon.

Namaste xx

Fierce Femina

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How to raise up our girls?

She might be small but she’s fierce. May she be kind and surefooted. Please tell her, her body is a bridge between the Earth and the stars. Might she grow to honour her connection to the entire universe. When she looks at the moon, might she see her own special place in the heavens. Please make her choose proud over pretty, strong over salacious, clever over compliant.

We bring so much shame into the lives of young girls. So much sanitation in regard to their bodies. So much pressure to stay clean, be quiet, be good. “Hide your power, no one wants to see it.” Apparently, at a certain age, it’s ok to flaunt your sexuality but please make no mention of menstruation or that fire in your belly. Don’t scare the boys away. Men like to be taken care of. Put others first. Fix your hair and smell nice.

Yet it surprises us when our girls fall victim to acts of violence or abuse?

Please God (poetic licence) let my daughter know what she’s worth. Not to me but to herself and the entire universe. Let her squarely know that shame doesn’t suit her loveliness. Let her know that all men (and women) should honour her and treat her well. Self respect is her unconditional birthright. As is safety, not to mention love.

Please don’t think that for one second I’m suggesting that women allow themselves to fall victim to violence. I am not suggesting that they take responsibility for the abhorrent actions of others.

I’m merely trying to understand why we accept sullying the loveliness of young girls with the ugliness of indignity? What does it teach them? Is it possible that they might take that awkward shame inside themselves? That they might own it in a way that prevents them from seeing their perfection?

I don’t understand why culturally, when girls reach puberty, we teach them that their bodies are just a little bit unfortunate. We are cursed with menstruation. We roll our eyes at their hormonal outbursts and how difficult they can be. For us. Without a second of remembrance for how it felt to be thirteen years old.

As women, we often contribute to the wounds of the feminine. Unaware and from a place of our own fear and hurt, we damage our daughters. We silence them, we ask them to keep our ridiculous secrets and play our silly games. We stand before them insecure, poking our thighs and staring disapprovingly in the mirror.

All she sees is her lovely mama.

Imagine if we honoured our girls. Imagine if we told them that they bled with the moon, belonged to the Earth and were filled with light? Imagine if we taught them that their sexuality was natural and guided by love. What if we listened to their feelings and asked about their dreams? What if we celebrated menarche with gifts and reverence? What if we delighted in our own ageing bodies and taught her to do the same?

Imagine what titanic creatures might emerge if we taught them to embrace their power.

While we’re at it we could also tell them that Justin Bieber is a douche, high heels are torture, Kim Kardashian is 42% actual plastic and it takes a village to prepare for that ridiculous bathroom selfie. In fact, no selfie will ever actually, be a reflection of your true self.

Any man that has a bar fridge next to his couch is a bad idea. Don’t date a man that hates his mother and that gorgeous fifteen year old that broke your heart will possibly turn into a portly 35 year old with an overinflated sense of importance. Oreos might be vegan but technically, so is a care tyre.

‘Gorgeous’  is heaps of fun for about two weeks, then, you actually have to live with him. Bad shoes are totally unexceptable. As are bad boys. Or girls. No bloody cars with noisy motor-thingies or fluffy dice. Stoners end up stupid. The nice guy winds up being……..drumroll…….a nice guy. Who would have guessed?

……..I could go on.

The first time I saw you, you took my breath away. Just because you’re you.

You are love.

M xx

Planting seeds of perfection

IMG_1612 copyThe other day I was talking to a student of mine who told me she was looking to improve her practice. She wanted to be better at yoga and a better version of herself. She wanted a stronger core and to lose weight. Sincere and sweet, I didn’t want to risk offending her by my reaction to what she was saying.

My response (in my head) came from a place of love- but to her ears it may have sounded a little like judgement. I made a vow to myself some time ago to be a Truthspeaker but I still struggle at times with the delicate balance of ahimsa (non-harming).

So I went home and spoke it aloud to the trees in my yard. Weird I know. But I really wanted them to pass it onto her somehow. Like some sort of arboreal osmosis, take these words and plant them in her lovely mind. While you’re hands are dirty, put these seeds in my daughter’s mind too.

What if today you were perfect?
With no air-brushing, no modification, no transformation at all. What if everybody, in every room, exploded into applause when you entered and smiled when you left?
What if you stopped searching and found everything?
What if when you looked in the mirror today, you saw what your mum sees?
Or your child, or your best friend?
What if you could see yourself with a heart full of love? What if you saw the truth? What if your yoga was enough? What if you were enough?
Imagine if you decided to stop worrying about everything and just walked in the light and accepted grace.
Imagine if, just for today, you nourished your body with food from the earth. Filled up with art and music and soulful gifts. Made a new friend. Did stuff that made you whole and happy.
What if you gave thanks to your body and mind for it’s brilliance?
What if you found gratitude?
What if I told you that all that hurt you’ve been carrying is a choice you made? Would you put it down? Would you choose a different way?
If everything could be forgiven could you let it all go?
What if, in a moment of quiet, the universe spoke only to you?
What if she whispered of your divine magnificence?
Would you listen to the truth?

Namaste

Mxx

Alchemy in the suburbs

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I was chosen by the bowl.

I’ll never forget the moment the tiny Nepalese witchy-woman wound the swede wrapped mallet around her. The way the vibration enveloped my whole head, a strange disorientating sensation that seemed to have a altogether different origin. Some exotic heavy sound that possessed a weighty mass not unlike a heavy woollen blanket.

I was reminded of being tucked into bed at my grandmothers house, the satisfying poundage of lavender scented layers as she pulled them up to my small chin. Way too hot and heavy considering the mild night, but magical all the same. Safe and secure.

I bought the bowl, paid too much, quite happily.

………………………………………………..

Yesterday my son was tender. Sore and sorry in that way that young men can be. A general malaise that doesn’t form words and sits on his shoulders, resulting in a uncharacteristic darkness- the weight of the world.

I thought of my bowl and it’s gentle mass of music.

He started too fast. To eager to get it done. I held his hand, correcting the angle and urging him to slow down. I watched his face as the vibration built and the sound lifted into her song. The look on his face was a beautiful combination of surprise and joy. Healing sound. He sat with her for ten minutes, until his hand grew tired of her heaviness.

He walked away transformed. He came and found me in the kitchen, big grin and a cuddle. Look at that! Transformed.

It made me think about how we could take our troubles and put them in a bowl. Mix them around and turn them into something else. Alchemy in the suburbs. What if it was possible?

Just throw in your shame and shit, couple of turns and wait for blissful swathe of trouble-no-more. A thorough energetic scrub down that turned your frown upside down and cleared the crap from your life. A bit like instant yoga, an easy ride to Ananda.

A little magic and lazy mysticism that asks little and gives loads- a whole bowl full of goodness.

On open letter to cauliflower. Ugly words, ugly fritters.

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Oh cauliflower why do you bore me so?

With your pasty, lumpy  motionless moonface. You don’t sway your leaves in the vegepatch or even attract the caterpillars. Such is the sad miserable fate of your rotund little self.

Does anyone get passionate about your ho-hum beige-ness?

You need some serious jazzing up that only a little bengali spice and a frypan can do. I apologise for the blistering baptism of oil you are about to endure. Nevermind the food processor. Eeek.

I quite like you in a salad, raw and unsullied, but it’s cool outside and I need some naughty in my life. Somehow I see that your bumpy, lumpy self still manages to show it’s head even with all my chopping and changing.

I remember how my granny boiled you into submission served with corned beef and (I think) PVA glue. Urgh. You tasted like an old musty Tshirt that was left in the rain. I shan’t be sayin’ “Don’t go changin.”

You need some serious wrangling.

Unapologetically,

Michelle

Cauliflower bhaji

½ head cauliflower

½ cup caramelised onions

handful of spinach

handful parsley

1 clove garlic and a little knob of ginger (2cm) grated

1 tablespoon Panch Phoron (bengali spice mix) toasted

2 eggs

1 cup rye bread crumbs (you can use ordinary crumbs)

3 heaped T yogurt

salt and pepper

Grab a food processor and blitz your cauliflower into a chunky crumb.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Heat a frypan on medium heat with a little oil (I use rice bran)

Fry on both sides until toasty and crunchy. Serve with Spinach leaves, mango chutney and minted yogurt.