I am well aware that sadly I have only scratched the surface in terms of the huge variety of studios on offer in Sydney but here are my thoughts about a few of them:
Image courtesy of BodyMindLife
This place is very special to me as it is where I did my Yoga Teacher Training. I love the teachers here – Kat Clayton, Noelle Connolly, and Susanna Topp are 3 of the best I have ever come across. Their sequencing, the variety of classes and the attention to detail makes this a very clever and impressive studio. I think their experience is phenomenal and I love that they teach in a very classic yoga way – no fancy gismos or gadgets. I have very much missed my two hour morning practice since finishing the course!
Image courtesy of Humming Puppy
Thier new studio has opened up in Redfern after the success of their studio in Melbourne. The studio itself is incredible – black changing rooms, huge white walls, large windows – all very modern, crisp and clean. The studio space itself has a humming sound played throughout the class and as the explain on their website:
‘Our yoga space…is injected with a combination of frequencies to enhance and deepen your experience. 7.83hz otherwise known as the Schumann Resonance is actually the frequency of the earth itself and helps to ‘ground’ you through your practice.’
I took a ‘Unified Hum’ class which was perfect in terms of not being too vigorous and not too slow. I really enjoyed Courtney Rose‘s message at the end of the class which was basicallly: reach for everything you want in life right now…. However, I’m not totally sold on the use of a microphone in a room with only 36 students – but perhaps it’s just because I am not used to it. However, I liked the studio a lot and if I was staying here longer I would definitely try one of their more fast paced classes.
Image courtesy of Urban Yoga
Again another stunning studio with a beautifully light and spacious lounge area, exquisite changing rooms and an impressive studio space. They explain on their website:
‘Urban Yoga drops in unapologetic tunes from the likes of Chet Faker, Fleetwood Mac and a host of featured artists to create yoga with a pulse. Urban Yoga uses jaw dropping visuals on a super-sized screen.’
The screen was super impressive and very cool – it definitely creates a powerful atmosphere however unfortunately you don’t get to watch the screen that much when you are moving through the flows. One of the things I was really impressed with was the assisting. I have never been assisted so many times in a class and the assistant stayed with you throughout the entire pose which really helped me deepen the posture with each breath.
This Is Yoga
Image courtesy of This Is Yoga
This is a smaller yoga studio in Clovelly where I have been staying. A really lovely simple space with fantastic teachers. Back to the classic style that I love! Their classes are pretty strong – I like the fact that in each class I feel really challenged and there is normally a pose I haven’t done before that we get to play with a little. Two things I really like about this place:
- They teach you a sequence and then let you flow in your own time with your own breath which feels very liberating.
- They have a sense of humour – nothing is taken too seriously, they make you smile.
Another couple of places I loved and would very much recommend – Creature Yoga in Byron Bay and Yoke Yoga in Melbourne.
Next time I’m here I hope to discover a lot more…..
The reason why it has taken me so long to get this blog post out is because I have been busy writing A LOT of essays to hand in for my yoga teacher training! One of the essays asked us to discuss the Yamas and Niyamas – the moral and ethical codes that a yogi tries to adhere to.
We were asked to pick one Yamas and one Niyamas as to discuss out of:
- Ahimsa: non-violence
- Satya: truthfulness
- Asteya: non-stealing
- Brahmacharya: non-excess
- Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-greed.
- Saucha: purity
- Santosha: contentment
- Tapas: self-discipline, training your senses
- Svadhyaya: self-study, inner exploration
- Ishvara Pranidhana: surrender
The Yamas I chose was Ahimsa – non-violence. When I first heard about Ahimsa I thought that this would be an easy thing to follow – but the more I read about this Yamas the more it resonated with me and the more of an understanding of what ahimsa truly means. Ahimsa doesn’t have to mean non-violence in terms of physically towards other people, it can simply mean – be kind to yourself.
How many times do we ask ourselves – ‘am I a failure?’ ‘Am I good enough?’ One doctor who has been helping me with my insomnia asked me to imagine the younger version of myself aged 6 sitting next to me in school uniform, legs unable to reach the floor, swinging back and forth, big smile on her face. He then said to me, “All these things you believe about yourself, would you be able to say them to that little girl?” It made me realise how cruel and disabling my thoughts had slowly become. Violent thoughts towards ourselves become such regular patterns of behavior and I think Ahimsa is really important in combating this.
During my research into Ahimsa I came across Patanjali’s way of combating negative thoughts:
Firstly: cultivate positive thoughts.
Secondly: stop identifying with your thoughts.
I thought it was really interesting that through CBT and mindfulness I had already been trying to practice this in my life over the last 6 months. I realised that so many of the modern ideas in terms of CBT and mindfulness are embedded in the various yoga teachings…. I was already practicing yoga and didn’t know it!
The Niyamas I chose was Santosha – contentment. I am not sure whether I have felt truly content in my life for a while….until I started yoga and quit my job. I knew I needed to work out what I was going to do in terms of work, and the future but I started to try not give myself expectations to live up to. I think that expectations are the root of a lot of anxiety. At the time that I decided to go into health and fitness I had no expectations – I had never ever imagined this life for me so it became an exciting prospect, instead of a constant fear and panic of ‘is this life going to live up to my expectations?’ ‘Am I going to be good enough to make it?’
Santosha helps me worry less about what will happen and feel happy about what is happening right now. That doesn’t mean to say that I can’t or shouldn’t think about what’s going to happen, but I think practicing Santosha helps me make better, healthier, happier decisions for the future.
I came across a quote that I by Nischala Joy Devi: “Smile, it changes everything. Practicing smiling is like planting the seed of a mighty redwood. The body receives the smile, and contentment grows. Before you know it, you’re smiling all the time.”
Right now I am in Sydney doing my 200 hour yoga teacher training and it is intense! As an introduction to the course the 30 of us trainees and about 10 teachers all sat in a huge circle and we were asked to tell the class:
- Who we are and what we do.
- What we love about yoga.
- What brings us to the teacher training course.
It was soon obvious that most people were on the course because something had happened in their lives, such as a physical or mental illness, and yoga had helped them at a time when they most needed it. It was pretty emotional with a lot of tears and tissues being handed round the room. To be honest I did not expect it at all so it was all a bit of a shock. Even though I would say to a large extent yoga has helped me change my life, I realised that people had come to the course as a way of dealing with a lot of pain.
0700 – 0900 Practice – doors are locked at 0700!
0900 – 1000 Breakfast and a much needed shower.
1000 – 1300 Lecture on either philosophy, nutrition, anatomy and physiology, sequencing and techniques, pranayama or meditation.
1300 – 1400 Lunch and swim at the local pool.
1400 – 1500 Asana instruction / practice teach.
The afternoon is dedicated to going through the 62 poses in our manual (a huge 607 page file) learning what muscles they use, what other poses they prepare you for, how to teach them and what the assists to help a student get into the pose would be. Day 1, first pose, tadasana. I thought that this was basically just standing. But oh how wrong I was! This wasn’t just standing, this was full on and hard work…. And this was just the beginning.
My fellow Yogis
The people in the class are all totally different, interestingly most don’t actually want to become teachers at the end of the course…. To give you an idea, here are a few of the different yogi types:
- The people who have read up on EVERYTHING and question EVERYTHING but totally embrace EVERYTHING!
- The very emotional people who are on a personal journey, using yoga as a way to heal.
- The people who find it hard to completely get their heads around and totally understand the philosophy but who are keen to learn and to teach.
Teachers and language
Our teachers are brilliant at using language to conjure up images to help us feel the depth of the pose – especially Kat Clayton. The movement of a pose is how you physically move a part of your body in a pose and the action is the feeling of ‘hugging your outer upper arms in,’ or ‘hugging your right sit bone towards the midline’ …. There’s a lot of hugging going on with our muscles! One of the most interesting and important things I have learnt is that yoga is constantly trying to bring you into a state of balance – opposite muscle actions are continually working with each other and this is why the poses feel so strong.
The sequencing for me has been the most interesting part of the course and we are very lucky to have an absolutely amazing teacher for this – Noelle Connolly. It’s a very creative process working out how to theme a class, how to sequence around a particular peak pose, how to organise your flows, how to counter pose and balance various sequences….
There are 3 main stages of sequencing:
Meditation and Pranayama
Meditation and pranayama has been really interesting but completely new ground for me. The only experience I have had is through my own mindfulness practices and through the headspace app! I thought that meditation was switching off the mind… But apparently this is a common myth. The nature of the mind is to be busy, to consume itself with thoughts no matter how big or small. The idea of meditation is not to suppress these thoughts but to find the space between the thoughts. It is a process of developing awareness to see things as they actually are rather than what we want them to be, and with awareness comes mindfulness.
For a lot of people their nervous system is in sympathetic mode most of the time – the system that keeps us in our fight or flight mode, on levels of high alert and high stress. (As opposed to the parasympathetic mode which is our rest, repair and restore system.) It is therefore hard for us to leap straight into meditation, we need time to focus and prepare. For us fight or flight lot, guided meditation can be more appealing and helpful – if any of you haven’t tried Yoga Nidra I couldn’t recommend it more.
Image courtesy of BodyMindLife Yoga & Pilates
A few final things I will take away from the course:
- How extremely uncomfortable it is to sit upright on the floor for an hour of meditation.
- How nothing is permanent – how quick the body and mind has the potential to change.
- How yoga can unite an extremely different bunch of people from all over the world.
- How a raisin will never taste the same ever again.
More on the raisin in the next week….