slow, mindful yoga & small group classes in St Kilda, Balaclava, Elwood, bayside

Yoga Me Well Blog

This is What a Non Scary Yoga Class Feels Like

Have you felt intimidated by yoga?

I’ve had a lot of inquiries this year from people who have.

Typically they’re in their 30s and beyond. They have attended bayside yoga classes (St Kilda, Balaclava, East  St Kilda, Elwood ) full of fit, slim-limbed people in the latest lycra. Big studios often attract a younger demographic that enjoys a strong, dynamic bend-stretch-strengthen style of yoga.

But when I ask what people want from a class they say: “to feel less stressed”, “to relax”, “feel more flexible”, “to become more mindful”. 

Find the right yoga class

Where does everyone else go? Those whose bodies complain about the wear and tear of life? Who don’t aspire to pretzel poses? Who accept that they are chronically tired and want a practice to uplift weariness of body, and spirit? The folks who prefer comfy clothes to second-skin gear? Or people ready to explore yoga’s most precious gift: mind management and spiritual growth.

I spent 10 years feeling intimidated by a yoga class.  Everyone there was pumped. The teacher called poses by Sanskrit names that I never remembered, too tired from my work day to focus. And I never found the spiritual connection I thought yoga was supposed to offer. Eventually I looked elsewhere.  And found yoga that changed my life.

Non-intimidating yoga feels like this

More than a decade later, I’ve drawn a community to YogaMeWell that is encouraging, nurturing, cheerful.  We look forward to our sessions together. When we arrive, we chat socially and settle into the ease of our sanga (yoga community). We connect.

When our practice begins, we become enveloped quickly and weave a little magic.  It’s keen focus that makes this possible.

We know that it’s not what the pose looks like that matters, but what we feel during the vinyasa, and how we feel afterwards, that counts. And we take time to notice.

Yoga for ordinary people

You would call us “ordinary”, facing the pedestrian challenges of life. We all have our periods of anxiety, mild depression, mid-life crises, health issues and recovery, emotional healing. Sometimes, we come to the mat slumped. Sometimes buzzed to the rafters. And teary, emotional, angry, fed-up (even with yoga!). But we always leave feeling better, uplifted by the group. Importantly, we feel safe to travel that road together.

What Yoga is really about

The practice of Yoga teaches us to manage the mind. A whirring chaotic mind does not focus on what matters most in life. And life is short. When our mind knows how to be quiet, we meet our dharma (life path, life’s work). But there can be no learning unless the body and mind come together to pause in stillness, guided by the breath which carries us deep into the intuitive, spiritual Self.

Curious? Drop by. We’d love to meet you.

Term 3 begins 18 July.

Call me about a trial class (Liv 0409 473 162 or email livmitchell@ozemail.com.au).

 

Liv Mitchell

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Liv Mitchell is a senior yoga teacher and freelance writer/editor.

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HOW TO LIVE INTENTIONALLY

“… feeling powerless will never serve you. And the longer you wallow, the harder it becomes to take action. When you live intentionally, you become a force of nature. You begin to create instead of react. Your energy shifts. Suddenly, there’s not only momentum in your life, but it’s moving in the direction you wanted to go. That doesn’t just serve you; it serves everyone around you. When you create a fulfilling life for yourself, you raise the bar on what success should look like—you demonstrate that it’s not just about functioning; it’s about thriving.”

Sanni McCandless, rock climber, life coach.

FALL TO RISE

Over the past two years, life lost its zap. Work was a stressful trajectory of ill-fitting jobs. Yoga provided grounding but no drive. Manageable problems hailed upon relentless days. My life lay clumped in malaise. 

Poor coping mechanisms crept in: overeating, wine o’clock, Netflix bingeing.

I get through these times by consistently shining a light on my responses, seeking to understand and alter them. I sit in my discomfort, unflinching, exploring how it feels to step in different directions.  And I stay honest about my actions and intentions when the will to act scurries south!

GETTING BACK UP

When I feel stuck, any learning and insight makes a day worthwhile.

I woke today to gleaming, freshly painted white window frames with clean windows, the world pouring in. I’ve spent several weekends exercising my demons through painting. It allowed me to say “no” to the usual distractions. When it was done, my body requested a morning in bed. With my ginger puss camped, purring, on my chest, I let go of the morning traffic and impetus to rise. My mind stayed clear for the first time in months. And the world outside beckoned: “There is inspiration ahead!” I sank into peaceful ease.

PRACTISE PERSPECTIVE

When the media shows me shiny people living large, I squirm within my tiny, contained life.  I hear myself fault the driven, Blessed Ones, a lame justification of my own lapse into functional living instead of thriving. I wonder often if what I do is enough. Am I living life as fully as I could? Will it be enough to allow me to accept death peacefully?  Mostly, I can say yes, but I always wonder if…

Rock climbers Sanni McCandless and Alex Honnold feature in Free Solo, a documentary about Alex’s superhuman 2017 climb – without safety ropes – of El Capitan, a stunning granite monolith in Yosemite National Park.

The subtext of the film is self-mastery. Like us, Alex and Sanni have issues, but their mental focus and commitment to their inner guides drive them to live intentionally. In doing so, Alex inspires thousands of people and has established a foundation that builds sustainable solutions for villages in developing countries.

HOW TO LIVE INTENTIONALLY

How do we live intentionally?

We create a mind that is capable of listening to itself. One that hears, explores and acts on the inner gnawings, even if we don’t know where they are leading us.

Only by observing our responses to situations and circumstances, can we come to understand what drives us and the roads we can take to create the life we each came to live.  

Our beloved yoga practice puts the fuel in our tank and gives is the signposts. It teaches us to be honest with ourselves; hones our intuition. It becomes a state of mind beyond the mat.

“Living intentionally” is a slow road to ‘success’ marked by humble sign posts, like clean windows, and our own version of an extraordinary rope-free rock climb.

Term 2 enrolments now open. Email livmitchell@ozemail.com.au or call 0409 473 162. 

 

Liv Mitchell

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Liv Mitchell is a senior yoga teacher and freelance writer/editor.

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Manage the Inner Storms

Every year-end, a few lovely people, dangling from the end of a tether, get in touch with an urgent need for support.

THE STORM BREAKS

They share challenging stories, ones that I tackle in my own practice: career or family issues, exhaustion, loss of direction. These are compassionate, intelligent, frustrated people who feel themselves unravelled, floundering in discomfort, straining to see the way forward.  

It takes courage to acknowledge when we are not coping.

I love this quote, borrowed from yoga teacher Donna Farhi’s newsletter:

“​​It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.” 

~ ​​Wendell Berry

 

ADRIFT AND AFRAID 

When we find ourselves stuck on the pin, wriggling in discomfort, we yearn for release.

Our coping mechanisms may be over-eating, drinking, exercising, or drug-taking.  Venting on those closest to us is popular, adding to our discomfort and theirs. Or, we turn the frustration inward, gnawing dangerously at our resilience. A well of angst eventually propels upward to gush out.

Then we shake our fist at the moon, pound a pillow, slam a door or drive around screaming in the vacuum of our car, roughly handle a child, a pet.  

Like the leaves on drought-stricken trees, parched and withered from the lack of healing rain, we sometimes fall to the gutter, spent.

FIND A WITNESS

Perhaps it’s the Darwinian gene prodding us to survive, amped by the cultural dictum “to strive” that pushes us to the precipice before we act.

Too often, only then we ask for support. If we are lucky, we have a Witness, a trusted person to turn to. Or we employ one.

The Witness is a gift. Unflinching, they listen without offering a fix and acknowledge that we are in the fire. They reflect back that our pain has foundation and that we are not going mad.

That pure support can be enough to lift us back into the life raft and uncover our reserves.

BECOME THE WITNESS

Yoga teaches us to witness when we are not coping.  Yoga philosophy calls this “ahimsa”, or the practice of non-harm to self and others. It is one of the “yama” principles, part of the 8-Limbs of yoga, or guidelines for yogic living.

Acknowledgement begins the process of dealing with the angst. We commit to treating ourselves gently, and reassure ourselves that this period is temporary.

“Yes, I have lost my ground, I feel overwhelmed and vulnerable, and it’s going to be okay. Maybe not today, but with self-care and patience. No matter how long it takes, I will be okay.”

We being to observe ourselves intimately. In daily life, we catch ourselves– in thought and action – and recognise the warning signs of self-defeating patterns of behaviour that contribute to poor, often cyclical, outcomes.

In the evenness and peace we find after a mat practice, for example, or gardening, long walks, time in nature, we build on a foundation of ‘knowing’ that quietness exists palpably within.

When crisis flares, we are less afraid to acknowledge it.

 “Okaaay, my thinking and behaviour suggest I’m having a crisis!” And invites us to do something about it. So we go wild for a bit. That’s pretty standard. And tiring and it increases the spiral.

When it’s time to move on, we distract ourselves productively in self-soothing activities (time with friends, comic movies, walks, spring cleaning, travel). As we experience the pay-off of yogic practices, the mind becomes more agile at diminishing thoughts that promote spiralling.

Once the freneticism of crisis settles, we reflect on how we have contributed to that difficult time, and sit tenderly with that confronting knowledge. Humbled, but wiser for the experience, we renew our commitment to stand up, dust-off and attempt things differently.

Paying attention to our Self on every level, we discover the practice of sitting with and moving through inner storms. Genuine climate change takes commitment and patience and agreement from all parts of our Self.

Join Liv’s friendly small yoga groups for practice on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays in St Kilda and East St Kilda.

Inquiries: 0409 473 162 or livmitchell@ozemail.com.au

 

Liv Mitchell

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Liv Mitchell is a senior yoga teacher and freelance writer/editor.

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