Friday, 23 September 2016

Bringing Yoga To Life


Bringing Yoga to Life: The Everyday Practice of Enlightened Living
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are many books on yoga, but not many really delve into what it means to study and engage in yoga practice beyond the mat. What makes yoga different to simply doing stretches or gymnastics at the local recreation centre?
In Bringing Yoga To Life, Donna has an easily relatable and no-nonsense style of writing and teaching. She can illuminate very complex ideas and concepts through stories, both personal recollections from her classes and retreats, and also from yogic texts like the Bhagavad Gita.
Essentially, though this concept is easily articulated, it is the very heart of yoga and cannot truly be appreciated and integrated into our practice and our daily living until we are open to learning. Yoga is the unity of not only our own body and mind, but a unity with the world. It is, as Donna tries to examine and explain, finding our self in every thing (leaf, animal, air) and every person and also, knowing that we are in everything around us also. Donna describes this idea as being like a matrix of energy, or a silence, that exists behind all the noise of daily living and our own mental chatter. It is our connection to the universe that hums along eternally. This is also the concept of Om, often chanted before and after class. The unity of our bodily selves with our infinite selves and with everyone and everything around us.
If I’ve lost you already, then this book may not be for you yet. If you have just done your first class, or your fifty-thousandth class, this book will confront and challenge your ideas about yoga and about your life. I know I have spent nights awake and stopped at the traffic lights considering everything from my approach as a teacher to whether I’m breathing fully and what my intentions genuinely are for every choice I make. As yogis, we aren’t going to do everything perfectly. Donna recognises the obsessive and ritualistic approach of a well-known yoga instructor in her book and his rigid adhesion to his own practice is so determined, he leaves the class he is conducting to go and do his personal practice alone.
What this also illustrates, inadvertently, is that yoga is a diverse school and there are many approaches. Donna’s most enlightening chapter, for me, was about seeking the teachers who resonate for us and recognising the traits that we most seek, require and benefit from in our teachers are what we really need to absorb into our approach to ourselves.
For me, I seek teachers who are frank, no-nonsense, challenging but also with a deep joy for living, movement, sharing and able to challenge my ideas and movement so that I push further than is comfortable, but doing so with a compassionate and attentive instructor overseeing.
I seek teachers who are passionate about what they know and always open and curious to learning and seeing what they know in a new light. I seek teachers who are exceptional students. I see this in myself as a deeply curious person.
Using anecdotes, spiritual texts, poetry, stories passed down from family and friends, Donna has not written a step-by-step guide for dummies on the spiritual life by any means. This is, however, not also a prescriptive text but one that like all great teachings, invites us to question what we think we are certain about and then to indulge new ideas and practices in our daily life and to also appreciate that our approach to life and to yoga will change with circumstances, age and experience.
My only niggles are very few really. I also think that with time and consideration, and more practice, I may change my mind on finding them niggles at all. Towards the end of the book, one chapter makes a few references to what particular age groups, from the 20s to the 30s “normally do”. As a yoga instructor and a writer, I meet many people of all cultures, ages, gender identity and what I have learned, is that there is no “normal”. In yoga particularly, instructors are a wild and diverse group of spiritual seekers of all ages and physical abilities. To define age groups and what they should or should not be doing is an exercise in narrowing down what a life ought to look like. This is perhaps just my sensitive interpretation though!
Donna is candid to a very controlled and short extent, in revealing family trouble that lead to an eating disorder in her twenties, exacerbated by dance training where her teacher made derogatory remarks about her less-than-bony physique. This is a common experience for many who studied dance or gymnastics as children and teens and found their bodies became battlegrounds for control and aesthetic worth. I know I have had my battles and it is enormously comforting to me to also know there are many well-known and honest international yoga teachers who speak about overcoming these lethal disorders to find a love and appreciation for their bodies through yoga. This may sound simplistic, and it is not through doing tree pose and having some amazing moment of enlightenment that acceptance and appreciation is nurtured in the body.
It is, as Donna reveals in Bringing Yoga To Life, through questioning, studying, and also accepting the mystery of life and having faith. This doesn’t mean worshipping God or Buddha or identifying with a religion. This means accepting the enormous joy and rarity of actually being here at all, of all the endlessly possible genetic and energetic combinations of a human being, you are here. This means accepting that we are not alone – we exist as part of the universe, and it exists in us. I am still considering what I read in Donna’s book. Hourly, daily, weekly. It has inspired me to seek more reading and to approach my classes with a greater curiosity and desire to inspire that same curiosity and joy in yoga as a spiritual practice in which asanas are an element but not the end goal.
Originally published in 2005, this is a book that has not aged nor can I imagine it will ever be redundant. For curious yogis and those who seek to embrace yoga on, off and beyond the mat and the routines of daily life. I had the great fortune to read this book via SocialBookCo.

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Friday, 16 September 2016

Vitamin C For Body And Skin


So many products, from bottled juice to hand cream, claim to be rich in vitamin C. It's a great marketing spruik, but do we actually know what value it has and whether it is effectively absorbed? Do we even need it?

Vitamin C is an antioxidant (fights free radicals) that plays an essential role in collagen synthesis. It is responsible for healing cells and this explains why it is so often a key ingredient in skin care. Vitamin C has been shown to prevent and treat ultraviolet photodamage (pigmentation/burn). The skin is made up of layers of dermis. Both the epidermis and he dermis have high levels of Vitamin C concentration, though this declines with age. Concentration of Vitamin C in the skin also decreases with exposure to pollution (car fumes, cigarette smoke, etc), UV light and stress.

Vitamin C benefits for the skin include increased hydration and a more youthful appearance as a result. The skin is also more resilient to sun exposure and pollutants.
Both topical and oral supplements have shown to have positive results for skin health. Since Vitamin C in the skin is normally transported from the blood stream, an oral supplement that delivers sufficient dosage is beneficial but excessive doses don't increase the concentration of vitamin C in the skin so be sure to follow instructions on any supplements.

Vitamin C is absorbed through topical application where the pH level is below 4.0 (greaer acidity) and greatest absorption is seen in a 20% vitamin C solution. It crosses the epidermis and reaches he underlying layers of skin. Exposure to heat, air and light degrade the quality and concentration of Vitamin C though. Don't store any skin care in sunlight or leave open longer than required.

Vitamin C has shown benefits in boosting skin hydration and improving healing time for wounds.
I like to hit my skin and body with double barrels, so I take high quality oral supplement, Viviscal (all the celebs and models do it, you know!) and Medik8 C-Tetra Cream. Both are not cheap, but they last at LEAST a few months and the high quality means you get results rather than cheaper products with lower concentration and shelf time.
Make sure Vitamin C rich foods are part of your diet too - I don't believe any of us are about to suffer scurvy but better safe than sorry.
I'm a little bit in love with Nourish Atelier for great recipes and inspiring ideas with food. Her latest genius recipe is Butternut and Kale Lasagne with Quinoa and Red Pepper Sugo. Go there.

Thanks to Oregon State University for Vitamin C info.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

What I Listen To For Inspiration

Are you a podcast junkie like me?
Do you just love a bangin' good dance mix to get you through a circuit routine or a cardio session?

I've got you covered. There's so many free music and radio resources. You could even learn Spanish while you're sweating it out! Here's my pick of what to listen to and I'd love to know if you have recommendations for me. Hit me up on Facebook or Twitter and tell me what you listen to and love.

Soulcycle on Soundcloud

If you can't be in one of these cult cycle classes, you can tune in to the remixes and playlists that make the grade in LA, NYC and Chicago.

The Do LaB on Soundcloud

An LA company that is behind interactive events and exhibits at festivals like Lightning In A Bottle - get into these playlists stat.




ABC Radio National Podcasts

You can call me a nerd, but this is a great way to tune in to politics, culture, science, economics, news and current affairs either for the whole show or just snippets you want to tune into. I love RN Breakfast, All In The Mind and Pats Karvelas on RN Drive.

BBC Global News and Business

Twice daily on weekdays, this is a round-up of what's happening around the world both in news and also in business. I tune in via iTunes but you can listen directly from the site or via iPlayer. The business pods are really interesting and meaty discussions on business and I haven't found an Australian podcast that can do this HALF as well.

Move Beautiful

An Australian pilates and movement podcast by physiotherapist and pilates pro Lana. She has over 20 years experience in pilates, rehab and movement for ultimate health and wellbeing. She takes a really joyful, curious and considered approach to the body and this podcast is really enlightening for teachers and those with a general interest in alignment, pilates and strength.

Beyond The Movement: The Pilates Podcast

No longer current, BUT these back episodes are a great insight into the purpose, benefits and business of pilates and the body.

Beauty & Wellness October Obsessions

Who doesn't need stirrup barre pants, grippy ballet socks, one-piece leotards and flattering, high waisted capri pants in their life...