Join Us In Doing “Nothing” For International Yoga Day!

International yoga Day PerthYou may have heard already that International Yoga Day was declared by the United Nations and first marked on 21 June 2015.  You can read a bit more about how that came about here if it interests you https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Yoga_Day

There are many events happening globally to mark International Yoga Day this week but to be perfectly honest, we are doing absolutely nothing!

One reason for that is that I am a little burnt out and disillusioned with a lot of what the yoga world has come to recently represent in our country. Don’t get me wrong, there are many positives too and I won’t bore you with my endless opinions.  However, sometimes it feels as though I am wading through syrup when trying to impart what I feel to be a genuine practice of yoga.

As a small yoga school, it can be exhausting to keep up what with what is current including having a Facebook page, BLOG, Instagram and website.  It’s necessary to keep on top of it in order to stay relevant and it has its merits too, you are reading this after all.  Yoga studios are popping up on every street corner.  Not that this is a bad thing in itself either but things seem to be moving very fast for a practice that by design takes time, effort and a “slowly, slowly” approach.  The teacher training requirements are shorter, the classes themselves are paced faster (some only 30mins in length) and the turnover of studios also at lightening speeds!  To my mind, this all seems to be missing the point somewhat?!  Maybe I’m just getting old but I’m finding it hard to keep up with the pace.

So, that is why we are having an anti-celebration and declaring International Yoga Day as a day of “being” not “doing”.  Organising an event just seemed too much effort.  It would have most definitely sent me into a state of “doing” all over again.  I’m happy to be teaching my classes on the 21st June.  I may or may not  mention the significance of the day depending on if I remember or not!

How To Celebrate International Yoga Day

My suggestion is that to celebrate, you take some time this week to simply “be”, whatever that means to you.  It might mean hopping on your mat for some personal practice.  It could be noticing your breath at a time when you normally wouldn’t.  Another idea might be to take some time out with your family.  Try doings something that you really love that you haven’t for ages, just for the heck of it.  Sitting quietly and enjoying some internal peace whilst sipping on a warming cuppa also sounds pretty good!  To me, this is yoga in action : ).  Thank you to everyone who has organised events for others to attend and “be” at.  I admire your energy and enthusiasm but that’s just not going to be me this year.…maybe next year….

Charley Hickey

 

I Feel So Happy To Be Back In My Body

Yoga Therapy Fremantle

A Thank You Note From A Yoga Therapy Client

I just had to share this lovely thank you note from one of my private yoga therapy clients.  It  reminded me that writing thank you notes is really important as it absolutely made my day to receive this.  Yoga therapy is an emerging field so it’s nice to share when others have had successful experiences to help raise the profile of this profession.  I have a few more testimonials for yoga therapy fremantle from clients if you search under the “testimonials” category on this BLOG.  You can read more about private yoga therapy sessions and how they might help you here.  Yoga therapy is quite different to attending a general yoga class and provides the client with a tailored practice to suit  individuals needs.

Yoga Therapy Fremantle Testimonial

“Just writing a thank you note, which I am happy for you to use as a testimonial. I came to see you a couple of years ago, after being seriously ill for several years. I was feeling fragile, feeble and fearful. It was hard for me to know what was going to be possible for my ageing body in the ‘new normal’ post illness.

Your guidance and professional care was the most perfect thing I could have received. Just wanted to let you know that now – two years or more down the track I am doing aerial yoga, and eight dance classes a week: even performing at the Crown with far younger dancers than me. I feel so happy to be ‘back in my body’. It has it’s limitations, but only real ones.

Thanks to you I learned to explore my limits, carefully and courageously. Rather than shrinking and turning into a prematurely aged person, I have a fantastically full and enjoyable life. Thank you for your part in getting that re-started.” – Liana

Charley Hickey

Lotus Mudra ~ Accepting The Negative & Positive

Lotus Mudra Author: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

Accepting The Negative & Positive With Lotus Mudra

Acceptance is an idea that is sometimes misunderstood and usually stimulates hearty discussion when it’s brought up in groups of yoga students.

Acceptance is defined as a willingness to believe that something is true.  Another interpretation is the realisation of a fact of truth and the process of coming to terms with it. (Encarta Dictionary: English UK)

Often I find acceptance is instead misinterpreted as apathy or complacency.  Following this premise, instead of dealing with the truth, we might instead intentionally or unintentionally ignore it.  This can cause a side stepping around emotions that might need to be dealt with and accepted.  Moving on is almost impossible unless acceptance happens first.

Symbology of Lotus Mudra

This brings me to the symbology of the lotus flower and specifically the lotus mudra which is a hasta mudra or hand seal/gesture.  The lotus appeals to me because it symbolises something beautiful growing from out of the mud and crap!   It’s important to note here that at no point do we remove the mud and crap.  We couldn’t if we wanted to anyway because it holds the roots of the beautiful lotus flower.

I am not trying to turn something negative into something positive, I don’t believe in doing that.  The mud and the lotus, they both simply exist in their perfect oppositeness.  Let’s face it, life can be crappy sometimes!  Often we can’t change the situation we’re in and trying to do that can be an agonising process.  To me the lotus symbolises acceptance that for the lotus to exist, so must the mud & the crap.

Practicing Lotus Mudra

We can use mudras in a variety of ways depending on individual preference.  Some have great physical benefits for improving movement of the fingers and stretching out various parts.  Others are particularly useful for focusing the mind when it is roaming wildly.  On a more subtle level mudras work on the energetic yoga system and manipulate the flow of prana.  This means they might change how we feel on an emotional level too.

To practice lotus mudra, sit comfortably either on the floor or in a chair.   Bring the hands into Anjali mudra (palms together/prayer) at the centre of the chest.  With the base of the palms together, touch the thumbs together and then the little fingers together. Invite the other three fingers to open as wide as possible, like a lotus flower opening. Place the hands in front of the heart with the thumbs facing toward the chest.

Start the breath practice with a floating lotus flower. Inhale and float the flower from the heart up to the forehead.  Exhale, draw the palms closed into prayer, squeezing the hands together and taking the elbows out wide to the sides.  The hands can lower towards heart level or lower in order to feel a stretch into the inner wrists area.  Do as many rounds as you like along with the natural flow of your breath.  If you’re not sure then 10 rounds can be a nice place to begin.

Acceptance Can Be Hard

Acceptance can be hard; dealing with crap is harder in the short term than pushing it aside or ignoring it.   However, pushing it aside just creates a huge pile of it to deal with later!  Reminding ourselves of that every now and again can hopefully help us to create some space for acceptance.

I look forward to sharing a few more hasta mudras in class this term if you are coming along!

Charley Hickey

Share Your Best Yoga Selfie!….Or Not…

Share Your Best Yoga SelfieAuthor: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

So, I thought I’d put a challenge out to you all, can you take a yoga selfie and share it with us?  (By the way, I chose this accompanying photo simply because I like it.)

It’s an interesting concept which was touched upon by many of the speakers at the recent annual Australian Yoga Therapy Conference in Sydney.

The Rise Of The Yoga Selfie

More and more the idea of what yoga looks like is being propagated through social media. We are influenced by what we see, whether we like it or not!  This can underhandedly give voice to insecurities we may have about ourselves not being good enough, flexible enough, fit enough or good looking enough to start a yoga practice.  I wrote a bit of a blog about this in 2015 which you can read here, plus it has a very controversial picture of me if you haven’t seen it yet!

Most students who have been to a yoga class will already know that yoga is much more about what is happening on the inside then on the outside so how on earth is it possible to photograph that?!   As the yoga sutras (a yogic text) tell us ‘yoga is the quietening of the mind so that we may glimpse our true nature.’  How the heck do you photograph that and do you still accept my selfie challenge?

Practicing Yoga

Enquiring students often ask if their teacher practices yoga every day and my answer is always yes but not in the way you might think.  Even more alarming to me is the assumption that because I am thin (which is mostly genetic by the way!) that I must practice asana (poses) vigorously everyday which couldn’t be further from the truth!   It should be noted here that ‘wellness’ often cannot be seen from the outside.  The idea of wellness is much more than simply being thin and/or looking healthy.

8 Parts To Yoga Practice

As described in the yoga sutras, there are 8 limbs or parts to a yoga practice of which asana is one.  The other limbs are just as responsible for any kind of healthy glow that a practitioner may be exhibiting. These are the 8 limbs.  I may expand on them in future posts should you feel to follow along.

1&2 – a set of ethical guidelines to live by

3 – Asana – poses (the bit that is in photos)

4 – Pranayama – breathing practices

5 – Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses

6 – Dharana – Concentration

7 – Dhyana – Meditation

8 – Samadhi – Bliss

We practice all of these limbs in each and every class.  I sometimes speak about them specifically but mostly we just do it!  Exploring the depths of your inner self during a class is so much more than a yoga selfie could ever be.  It’s also much more useful in our everyday lives.  The practice and goal of yoga is in fact not to “get better” as a yoga selfie might allude to.  The purpose of yoga is to clear the lens of our perception in order to gain perspective.  Perspective is a wonderful thing and can help us in our daily lives enormously, especially in tougher times.

Changing Perspective

Remember those statements, the unhelpful ones like not being good enough, flexible enough, fit enough or good looking enough to do yoga?  Can we change that to “I am enough!”

When we feel that we are enough already, it makes it easier to start a yoga practice from exactly where we are.  This is preferable to striving to be somewhere else, even if we want to be.  It’s much less of a struggle this way, more pleasant and manageable.  A good yoga teacher will always start you off from where you are.  They also know that you are already everything that you need to be. Our role is to simply help you to discover that for yourself : )

Charley Hickey

 

 

 

Hot & Bothered? Try Sheetali Pranayama Yoga Breathing.

Hot & Bothered_ Try Sheetali PranayamaAuthor: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

I’d like to thank the lovely lady in one of my classes who jokingly calls hot flushes/flashes “power surges”!  This comment caused many giggles amongst my students and knowing looks between those that may have suffered from this at some point.  It’s often beneficial when we can label something fairly unpleasant in a way that normalises it and turns it into a bit of a joke.  Power surge sounds like it’s almost empowering for the person experiencing it rather than it being an unpleasant hot feeling that the sufferer has no control over.   It turned out to be a timely comment since the day was a very hot and muggy one in Perth.  It seemed like a great opportunity to practice Sheetali Pranayama which is a cooling breathing technique.  Sheetal means cold or soothing which describes the breath perfectly and I love how that fits with taking charge and being proactive during a process we have little control over.

How it works

I often describe Sheetali Pranayama as personalised evaporative air-conditioning for the body!  A more scientific explanation is that we are also drawing the breath through a small gap restricting its passage so that the air loses energy in the form of heat on the way into the body. We are also passing the air over the tongue which is moist and therefore cools the breath down further.

Benefits of Sheetali Pranayama

  • Cools body temperature,
  • Beneficial for fever and hot flushes
  • Calms the mind
  • Helps relieve insomnia
  • Stress buster

It can be contraindicated if you have asthma, a cold or other respiratory problems as the coolness of the breath can be irritating to the chest so keep that in mind.  If you aren’t sure, then please ask for the guidance of your yoga teacher before practicing.

Sheetali Pranayama Technique

Sheetali Pranayama can be practiced in any position where the spine is upright, ie sitting in a chair, seated yoga posture or lying down.   Sitting is preferable when initially learning as you will stay more alert.  If you cannot roll the tongue, it’s no problem; you can still practice by placing the tongue just behind the back of the teeth and draw the breath through the teeth and over the tongue instead (Sheetkari Pranayama)

  • Sit or lie comfortably
  • Roll the tongue or place tongue just behind the teeth with lips parted slightly
  • Draw the breath slowly in over the tongue feeling its cooling effect
  • Relax the mouth
  • Breathe out slowly and smoothly through both nostrils
  • Repeat for as many rounds as you feel comfortable with, you could start with 10 rounds.

Stay cool and let me know if it worked for you : )

Charley Hickey

 

Fremantle Yoga Class Is Moving In 2017

Fremantle Yoga

It’s quite exciting to announce that the long running Wednesday 945am Fremantle yoga class is moving  in 2017.  After many years located at the East Fremantle Oval, it’s time to say goodbye! The lovely view out over the East Fremantle Oval will be missed but the newly refurbished Fremantle PCYC Progress Hall in Hilton awaits you all.  The photos  show what it looks like from the outside and the inside is very light and airy.  There is still heating and air-conditioning to keep everyone comfortable as well.

Fremantle Yoga at PCYC

Fremantle Yoga

The reason it’s exciting for us, and a little nostalgic, is that I taught my first ever yoga class in this very hall in 2003.  Back then it was a drafty old hall run by Fremantle Council and in dire need of renovations.  Some of you that came to that first class still attend today.   This  is quite astounding and something I never expected when I first began.  I remember teaching that first class with such clarity.  I was terrified but trying hard to hide it!  Being a yoga teacher is very different to just practicing yoga which is all I had done up until that point.  I kept reminding myself to breath which definitely helped me to get through it!  Thank goodness I did or I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Moving With The Changes

Change can be difficult, especially when something is a regular part of our weekly routine.  There will be a new route to take, somewhere different to park and new surroundings to get familiar with.  Parking is easy here and there is a nice coffee shop within walking distance.  It won’t be surprising if some students end up driving to East Fremantle by mistake over the first couple of terms!  This might all seem annoying yet it is also an opportunity to practice mindfulness.  We are often on autopilot and change can be a great way of reigniting our practice of mindfulness.

Fremantle Yoga New Address

Fremantle PCYC – Progress Hall, 34 Paget Street, Hilton (MAP)

Go in the main entrance toward reception and the Progress Hall is to the left.

See you there!

Charley Hickey

Am I Compatible With Half Shoulder Stand?

Half Shoulder StandAuthor: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

Half shoulder stand is a great pose but how do you know if it’s safe for you to practice it? When it gets towards the end of the term I feel comfortably familiar with any new students.   At this point we usually experiment a little with half shoulder stand (ardha sarvangasana) and some other modified variations.

I’ve purposely excluded a picture of half shoulder stand and instead have chosen shoulder bridge (setu bandha sarvangasana) and legs up the wall pose (viparita karani).  The reason is I’m always so conscious of us seeing a yoga pose and thinking “oh, I might quickly see if I can do that one”.  Often, in our head, we visualise ourselves in the pose or have done it before so think its ok.  The fact is,  it can be dangerous and the potential for injury is high with inverted postures.  This is particularly so when we aren’t properly warmed up.

Practicing Half Shoulder Stand

The milder variations I have included in the pictures are great and much safer for most people.  I should also note that I’m a yoga therapist and therefore often teaching students who are carrying old injuries so my viewpoint may be a little different to yours!  When we practice half shoulder stand in class, it’s always done with a full warming up sequence and then a warming down afterwards.  It’s so important to follow logical sequencing when practicing poses like this.  There also many reasons why you shouldn’t attempt the half shoulder stand.  A good yoga teacher will never mind if you decline to practice a particular pose.   We are usually proud of you for listening to your own body (after all, we’re always telling you this right?!)

Safety in Half Shoulder Stand

My students know that I never teach headstand or full shoulder stand in a group class.  Even one on one, I can count on one hand the amount of students I’ve taught these poses too.   Over the years, I’ve loved practicing them myself yet my body still says “no” sometimes.  If you tick any of these boxes below then I feel you just shouldn’t practice the half shoulder stand.  It isn’t worth the risk and other poses can give similar benefits in a safer way.

  • Neck injury (old or current)
  • Neck or shoulder pain
  • Eye injury, recent eye surgery or any other eye condition (check with your teacher)
  • Feeling dizzy or unwell
  • Menstruating heavily
  • Don’t feel like it
  • Don’t feel safe, strong or stable enough….
  • Any other reason you just don’t want to!

I will continue to teach half shoulder stand like this as it’s nice to provide the opportunity for those students who are able to do it.  Some students love it (including me!) and would feel duped out of giving it a go if I never taught it.  However, I’ll always provide other options for those who are unable for any of the above reasons.

Happy inverting : )

Charley Hickey

 

 

 

If you’d like to learn yoga in a safe environment, especially if you are new to things,  you can view our timetable here and read more about us here

A New Way To Think About Flexibility And Yoga

Yoga And Flexibility

Author: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

“What will happen if I take a few days off?”  As a small business owner this is the dilemma I’ve mentally tortured myself with many times.

I’m returning to work tomorrow after an unplanned full week off from teaching which prompted me to write this.  (It’s nothing serious so please don’t worry!)

In the past, I used to easily talk myself out of having time off.   In part this was due to my absolute lack of flexibility.   I didn’t want to change things outside of my familiar schedule.  This extended to not wanting to change anyone else’s schedules either, for example the teachers that work for me.  There was also the worry of my students having to have a different teacher.  This lack of flexibility has always caught up with me in the end. Sometimes causing mini-burnouts which I’m sure sound all too familiar to anyone that lives in this century!

More recently, I’ve learnt to ask a newly phrased question instead. “What will happen if I don’t take a few days off?”.  This is a much more sensible and useful question.  It reminds me of times where my body has been sending me clear signals to take time out yet my lack of flexibility has impacted my ability to make a sensible decision.   So often we are giving others advice to slow down and take a rest when needed but it’s much harder to turn that mirror onto ourselves and really see what is needed.

Flexibility And Yoga

It’s my belief that flexibility in yoga is much more about flexibility of mind then flexibility of body.  Being flexible of mind  helps us to get through life shouldering much less stress when things don’t go to plan.  It sounds much like how a regular yoga practice can help us.  The flexibility that you might achieve over time in your physical body through the practice of yoga is great but really just a by-product of yoga rather than one of the goals.

Here is a definition of the word flexible in that physical context:

Flexible (adjective); capable of bending easily without breaking.

However, here is a definition in the context that I believe to be the most relevant in yoga:

Flexible (adjective); ready and able to change so as to adapt to different circumstances

Synonyms –  accommodating, adaptable, amenable, willing to compromise, cooperative, tolerant, forgiving, easy-going.

These words all seem to me like universally useful additions to our personality traits.  Perhaps over time this could allow life to flow along in a  more fluid way thus adding to our overall happiness.   By comparison, being able to touch our toes in terms of physical flexibility seems less meaningful to me in terms of overall well-being and happiness.  Does being able to touch your toes help you and others as much as being flexible and adaptable to changes in your life?

How do you combine flexibility and yoga? Is it more useful to be flexible or flexible?

Charley Hickey

 

 

 

For a hands on learning experience of yoga and flexibility you are welcome to join us for a term of yoga to help improve your “flexibility” whichever way you like!  You can view our timetable here and read more about how we specialise in helping you start your yoga practice especially if you lack flexibility here

Can Yoga Therapy Help Cancer Survivors?

Yoga Therapy Cancer SurvivorsAuthor: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

You can read a bit more about yoga therapy and how it differs from general group yoga classes here

People seek out yoga therapy for all kinds of reasons, that’s true.  However, I’m sure other yoga therapists would agree that cancer is a common one.  We see people in all stages including first diagnosis, during treatment and afterwards.  It’s important to seek out a suitably qualified yoga therapist or yoga teacher.  Preferably one who has additional training or experience dealing with clients going through cancer.  A search on the Australian Association of Yoga Therapists or Yoga Australia website is a good starting point.  If a teacher has been recommended to you, you could simply ask for their experience and training in the area of cancer wellness.  Good yoga therapists do not at all mind these types of questions, in fact, I’d say we expect it!

I am very fortunate that one of my mentor’s during my yoga therapy studies was locally based Naturopath, Yoga Therapist & Teacher Trainer, Chandrika Gibson ND MWell (Owner at Surya Health www.suryahealth.com.au ) .  I would class her as Perth’s leading expert on merging the fields of yoga and cancer wellness.  She works tirelessly in each of these fields whilst also finding time to train yoga therapists through the Living Yoga Therapy Program (www.livingyogatherapy.com)

I feel confident that it’s possible for those diagnosed with cancer to practice yoga at any stage of their diagnosis.  For many, private yoga therapy sessions are best to begin with.  This helps to assess which practices might be suitable.  This can then be adapted as treatment progresses or symptoms change.  For others an initial consultation can be useful to assess their ability to join in at a group class.  Group classes are often possible and have the added benefit of sangha; a community of like-minded individuals, even if they don’t all have cancer.

Here is a first hand account kindly provided by one of my lovely yoga therapy clients Liana.   Her story is one of moving on after her cancer treatment and how yoga therapy helped her to do that.

Yoga Therapy – A Cancer Survivors Story

“I came to yoga therapy after two years of heavy treatment for two different conditions, including breast cancer. The treatment had left me cured, but weak and with a host of physical problems.

Previously I had done many years of yoga and wished to come back to a practice. A yoga therapist is both skilled in yoga and also trained in the assessing of individual’s health needs: this sounded like the perfect option for me.

Yoga therapy was something I actively sought out as it met my current needs. I have also had great assistance from both mainstream and alternative therapies.

I wished to have an accurate assessment of what I could safely accomplish in my current state of health. I was looking for a gentle, safe practice I could begin at home. The practice that was designed for me was exactly right and very beneficial.

The biggest gain from my yoga therapy session was a renewed trust in my body and how to safely extend my physical activities.”

Thanks so much to Liana for allowing us to share her experiences. I hope it encourages others who are in a similar situation to give yoga or yoga therapy a try.

Charley Hickey

What Is Yoga Nidra And Why Should You Practice It?

Yoga Nidra

Author: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

What is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga Nidra is often referred to as “yogic sleep”.  This can be a little misleading as the idea is not to actually sleep but to enter a state where you can emerge feeling refreshed as you would from sleep.

It’s a much better alternative to taking naps, especially if you are an insomniac (I speak from experience!).  Naps aren’t all bad but if you’re trying to get into a healthy sleep routine then it can be counterproductive to nap during the day when you should be awake.

How to Practice Yoga Nidra

You can use yoga nidra instead and if you’ve ever been to a yoga class, chances are you’ve already practiced it.  Usually you will lie in Shavasana (corpse pose) on your back with the legs extended and arms relaxed by your sides or a supported version if you suffer from pain in a particular area of your body.  Please ask your teacher for guidance on this one.

The teacher will then systematically guide you to different parts of the body one at a time.  You simply bring each part into your awareness as it is mentioned and move onto the next when prompted.  An audio download or cd can be used to practice at home.  The idea is that once confidence is built, guidance is no longer needed and you can practice it on your own.  Yoga nidra induces a relaxed state said to be similar to alpha sleep (stage 1 & 2 of the sleep cycle).

Research & Yoga Nidra

Research has found that Yoga Nidra has been shown to improve stress and anxiety levels and helps in building up the coping ability.  As yoga nidra relaxes the physical as well as the mental stresses, it relaxes the whole central nervous system (Kumar, 2008).  This means that it illicits the relaxation response or parasympathetic nervous system which relaxes the body and aids sleep.

It really is a fantastic practice to learn and master.  It’s a practice I often use myself on those nights where my mind is racing and I’m having trouble quietening it down.

References

Kumar, K. (2008).  A study on the impact on stress and anxiety through Yoga nidra.  Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, 7(3), 401-404.

 

If you live in the southern suburbs of Perth and are keen to try out some yoga nidra, we often practice in class.  We are located in Applecross, Fremantle & Bateman & you can view our timetable here