Sunday, July 27, 2008

Review: Bala Yoga and Interview: Jodi Boyd

Bala was one of the first studios I visited when I arrived in Melbourne. Despite the fact that it took me a hour and a half to get there, I just kept going back, until work got in the way! Jodi Boyd's classes, although vigorous, helped me start to rehabilitate from my sacro-iliac injury, and were completely safe, even for the likes of me. Also, the studio is beautiful and smells nice. I am always keen on the sweet-scented spots!

Jodi practising bakasana in the studio at Bala

Glamour shots of the studio...

And. Did I mention that there is a boutique? Prana yoga gear, mat bags, eye bags in delicious silks, and assorted natural goodies and books. A great way to pass the time before or after class!

They have an online store, for those of you who can't make it down to Beaumaris.

So, without further ado, read on to find out more about Jodi...

1. How long have you been practicing yoga, and how did you start?

My first class was about 18 years ago in high school, I was told it would help my asthma and my performance in the different sports I was competing in at the time (Surf Life Saving and Triathlons). I was pretty random in my practice - once a month, before or after an event - more stretching than the true sense of 'Yoga'.
Yoga became an essential part of my life a little over 10 years ago when I found two Yoga videos by Louisa Sear & Rachel Zinman. I practiced those videos morning and night until I knew them of by heart and that's when my journey really began.

2. How has yoga changed your life?

I am not sure how much of my changes have come from having Yoga in my life or have just come with age ('older and wiser') I know I put a lot down to yoga but I have 4 sisters who don't have yoga in their lives and they have had similar experiences - so a lot of my changes are inevitable - yoga or not. I know I am much kinder to myself and my body than I was in my teens/early twenties mostly due to yoga. I am very conscious and in tune with my surroundings, and my feelings, as well as what I want and what I actually need in/from life.
I know I was pretty sad and empty for some time and now I am the opposite. I lead a very happy and full life but my husband has a lot to do with that so it's not all Yoga.
And of course, it aided in changing my career path from Television Editor (which was not a bad job either!) to yoga teacher and studio/boutique owner.

3. You have been a triathlete, beauty queen, surf lifesaver, and TV editor. How did you come to add yoga teacher to the list?

My husband's job took us to Taiwan, and editing TV was not an option (I don't speak Mandarin). I had a pretty strong personal
practice then and one of the friends I made over there asked if I would teach some to her. I was nervous about teaching her things wrong so with my husbands encouragement (and my teacher at the time - Joy Armstrong) I did a teachers training course and I then started with teaching her at my house. 1 friend grew to 2, 2 friends grew to 4 then 8 and before long I was teaching 2 -3 classes a day all over Taipei some private some with 20+ students attending. People were telling me how I was changing their lives. I know it's the yoga not me, I am not disillusioned, I know I am not some kind of yoga Guru, it is just a great feeling to know you are helping to bring some happiness to other peoples lives, so there - a Yoga Teacher was born!

4. What kind of teacher do you strive to be?

Compassionate, approachable and understanding of my student's needs.

5. Lastly, tell us about the studio that you and your husband, Roger, own.

Hard at work behind the reception desk

It is a wonderful place for me to spend my days and hopefully an environment my students look forward to coming to, not just for the yoga but also for the comfort and calm they feel in being here.
My husband and I put it together, painted, scrubbed and assembled with a bit of help from a few friends and some tradesmen.My husband came up with the initial design, focused on a resort feeling with a Zen flow. We tried to create a spacious feeling with fresh flowing air, as well as being a quiet, calm and clean oasis with an Asian influence. Because the style of yoga I teach is very modern and not so traditional it was important to me that the studio reflected this.
The ambiance was very important to us also, dimmable lights, candles and oil burners with our unique bala scented oil. We are both into the minimalist style featuring large open spaces with the occasional piece (e.g - the Buddha's head) to add to the feel. Plus, I am an artist and I wanted my oil paintings surrounding me, they inject some colour along with our colourful students. I think your state of mind and the quality of your practice is effected by your environment, this is why I wanted to create something calming, open and uncluttered.

We called it 'BALA', it's a Sanskrit word associated with the meanings 'Strength, Energy and Power' reflecting the style of yoga I teach (a blend of the various different types of yoga practices I have tried over the years). I also like how the word 'BALA' implies balance.
With all the smiles on faces after a class and the lovely illustrated notes I receive from my Bambini (4-7yrs) and Nava(8 - 12yrs) students - 'I Love Jodi' and 'I Love Yoga', life can't be more rewarding! The Bala studio is a beautiful place to be.

Review: Studio Cirq and Interview: Lindsay van Niekerk

This post should have appeared much earlier in the week, but, dear readers, I have been busy!

Studio Cirq is tucked away in a side street in the centre of Melbourne, owned and run by a gracious woman called Lindsay van Niekerk. Yes, she hails from South Africa originally! A long time ago though. Lindsay has created a lovely space for people to go before or after work, and at lunch, and get their yoga fix. The studio also offers pilates classes, meditation, and shiatsu.

I have been attending the lunchtime Dynamic Yoga sessions, which are taught in the Sakshin Ghatasha style, and I love them! Just vigorous enough to keep you interested, not so vigorous that you need to shower before continuing with your day.

Image from a workshop held at Studio Cirq. See more on their Flickr

The studio is filled with interesting things; hand made stools from a local Melbourne designer, piles and piles of interesting magazines - yoga mags, health mags, Vogue. And then, of course, Lindsay herself is very interesting. Read on to find out...

1. How long have you been practicing yoga, and how did you start?
I think I started when I moved to Australia. It would be in the early 90s I dabbled in the odd Iyengar class at a school in Fremantle with a teacher called Kale Leaf (!) who was a wise and witty man who I believe is still teaching. I remember those classes fondly though I’m sure I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. The school was next to a strip club and I remember a Friday evening pranayama class where it took supreme mental strength not to be distracted by the amplified commentary coming from next door. It was a memorable experience and helps when I get stressed about the noise here at night with so many bars and restaurants around me. And now I am very drawn to Yin Yoga which emphasises working the joints by holding a pose for up to five minutes.

2. How has yoga changed your life?
The change has been a gradual process of changing the way I think about things. Trying not to be too dogmatic or believing their is one solution to things. Also being aware of the instinct to push oneself physically may be appropriate in many other activities, but in yoga we can rise above that and listen and learn instead of impose.

3.How did you come to open a yoga studio? What are the challenges? What keeps you at it?
I opened the Studio because I had lost interest in what I was doing (twenty years of film and television starting in Johannesburg) and wanted to do something that combined my skills in production management with my love of Pilates and yoga. My concept was very clear from the start and I researched it thoroughly, spending 8 months on a business plan. I love having my own business, making decisions every minute of the day that are all mine to make. Running a business can be a very creative process and I thrive on the human contact, particularly as it is something people want to do and the Studio is a place that is a great escape from the office.

4. What other things excite you?
Many things excite me. I read voraciously on many topics. I am also a huge user of the web, in particular blogs on topics ranging from architecture to politics. There is so much good stuff out there – I could spend hours on the web though I do restrict myself. I’m a bit of an early adopter and will research topics that interest me. Right now I am becoming more interested in growing things and have been messing around with making terrariums at home. Its something that will take a while as it is very much trial and error. Also I’ve discovered martial arts – and I do something called Swimming Dragon which is just the best thing as it is very expressive and beautiful to do. I’ve always been interested in design, music (my first job was at a record library in Johannesburg), cooking and I love animals, particularly my two large and noisy Siamese cats.

5. Lastly, tell us about your ultimate indulgence.
I’m not one for over the top luxury, though if you had to offer me a weekend at the Peninsula Hotel in Tokyo with unlimited spending, I may say yes please!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It's a circle of love!

Remember the interview of BlissChick I posted?

Well, if you click here, you can read the one she did of me: It makes me sound super-special, and now I love the BlissChick even more than I did before - it's a circle of love!

I think there are grammatical errors in this post, bear with me, late-tired-incoherent.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Just Breathe...Out!

I was so grateful to receive this email from Nischala Joy Devi:

1:34 Slow, Easeful Exhalations can be used to Restore and Preserve Balance

Rhythmical breathing allows the mind and emotions to return to their natural state of equilibrium.

This is her interpretation of the Yoga Sutra 1.34. I wasn't breathing so well, having just spent 15 very uncomfortable minutes with a guy at the laundromat* who insisted on telling me about all the women and girls in the area who had been raped and assaulted. In fact, he said the word rape so many times, I was starting to feel quite twitchy. I would have left, but had to wait for my laundry to finish. Needless to say, I had to stop and take a few deep breaths, and a few more deep exhales, once I escaped!

Thank you for the reminder, Ms Devi!

*Still waiting for my furniture to arrive, and with it, my beloved washing machine. Sigh. Soon.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Melbourne Yoga Expo!

How exciting! A big, YJ-style yoga expo, in Melbourne. It has been running for several years in Sydney, but this year is the first in Melbourne.

Here is the official schpiel:

Come as one, bring two.
Share happiness. Introduce your friends to yoga.

The essence of yoga is union. Practicing yoga gives rise to a sense of being connected with all others - in effect to become ‘at one’ with them. The main aim of Yoga Expo is to help bring about this sense of oneness within the yoga community and within the community as a whole.

When we are ‘at one’ we can connect with ourselves and our natural reaction is to share the joy of this connection with others. Therefore, the Yoga Expo’s theme this year is for all yoga practitioners to come in a mood of oneness, of unity, but to bring along other friends to share in the joyful experience. In other words to ‘come as one and bring two’, to ‘share happiness and introduce your friends to yoga’. For more info see:

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Interview with BlissChick

Have you chanced upon the BlissChick blog? If not, you are missing out!

When Christine Reed, the eponymous BlissChick, approached me to do an interview for her blog, I asked her to answer her own questions for mine. She is a fascintating woman, an inspiration for living right, a lyrical writer. Read on to find out more about her, and also, admire this magnificent portrait of her, painted by her partner Marcy Hall. I love Marcy's work, especially her animal portaits. If I was certain I wasn't infringing copyright, I would have posted those here too!

1. Describe the PrimaryBliss of your life. How did you come to know that this was your PrimaryBliss?
My PrimaryBliss is centered around story. Thinking back, it's been like this since I was a small child. We moved a lot, so books became my best friends. I ate them, one after another. And at night, to put myself to sleep, I would make up stories, imagine different lives, faraway places, all of that. So I've always found some of my greatest joys in reading. And now I write stories; I am rewriting a very long novel, actually. Which has been a surprise to me -- to be writing a novel. It has taken me a long time to realize that I'm not "just" an essay writer or a poet but a storyteller. It seems like that should have been obvious to me from the beginning but I've taken a long and circuitous route to my PrimaryBliss! I also collect stories. When I meet a new person, it's the first thing I do -- try to get their story, the overall narrative arc of their life. And I teach other people about finding their stories. Whatever I am teaching -- whether it's creative writing or communications -- and wherever -- in a traditional setting or a nontraditional setting -- I realize that I am essentially trying to teach people that their lives are comprised of stories and that this is important, that their stories are important.

2. What types of choices and sacrifices did you make to be able to craft this bliss-filled life?
My partner and I realized a long time ago that having bliss-filled lives, for us, meant having time. Time to read and write and for her, to paint and write, and time to garden and be at home and with each other and our animals. So we bought a smaller house than the bank thought we should. We gave up our car seven years ago -- for reasons that started out as personal and then after 9/11 became more political. We simplify every chance we get. We don't travel -- again, also for environmental reasons. Now, we live on basically one full-time salary. But this means, yes, that we have fewer things, but that's totally okay because we have time. We are on our paths and our hearts are fulfilled and we are stimulated and challenged and invigorated. Living bliss-filled life is about making choices, choices based on your purpose here, purpose beyond accumulating things and planning for a retirement that none of us are guaranteed to get.

3. How does your PrimaryBliss radiate out into the rest of your life?
My PrimaryBliss and the resulting choices touch every aspect of my life. Once you make choices, the next important step, I think, is always keeping them in mind. Not just reacting miscellaneously to life but acting from your center. So when a full time job opportunity came up that sounded momentarily interesting to me, I had to work through that and realize that it didn't fit. That it would just end up being a distraction from what I say is most important to me. Changing your mind is one thing, but it can't happen every other day. Commitment to your choices is vital. Otherwise, we are like little boats on wild oceans, not ever really navigating for ourselves.

4. What are some other activities that also give you this sense of bliss? Things that make you lose track of time?
Gardening. Even just weeding takes me out of my head. Which is good. I have to do things to get out of my head and into my body. So yoga is so necessary. I would say that yoga works in tandem with writing for me to keep me balanced. Kundalini yoga specifically. I love riding my bike and being at the water. Bird watching was one of the first activities that I encountered where I could totally just lose myself and be in sync with nature (I've been such a city girl for most of my life). Music is crucial and films and sitting with friends and trying new wines. And food -- I love to eat good food.

5. What is your daily or weekly spiritual practice?
I have a real eclectic approach to my spiritual life. I turn 40 later this year and I am finally accepting the fact that I have a need for a variety. (I come from a family that was very into specialization -- we'll put it that way.) Anyway, I would say that I am a Reluctant Catholic Yogi. I find a beauty in the mystical aspects of Catholicism and there's an emotional and visceral reaction to the Mass, when done well, that I can't get away from (as hard as I may try!). And I am very attracted to Mary -- the idea that she is really the last vestige of feminine divinity in any Western religion. The rosary beads helped me through some deaths. Of course, I do yoga almost every day. And I'm a big candle person -- and I try to make intentions with the lighting of any candle. And finally, I find it's important to me on every level, especially spiritual, to be outside every day. To walk. Especially in the winter, when we can get so cozy inside that we forget there is more outside our four walls.

6. What music is your bliss?
Music is one of my blisses overall. I love to listen to music, live and at home, all the time. And thanks to Kundalini yoga, in which there is a lot of chanting, I rediscovered my love of singing. Something I used to do spontaneously when I was little. I would just make up songs about whatever. My partner and I now do this, so our house can seem a bit like a musical sometimes. But I love everything, from Frank Sinatra to Azam Ali to Vampire Weekend to Yo-Yo Ma, everything. I am a child of the 80's so I have a particular soft spot for U2 and INXS and Duran Duran.

7. Name books or authors/poets or people who are your bliss, who influenced your bliss.
Obviously, books have been a significant part of my path. I have an MA in English so for a long time, I only read dead people. I return again and again to Virginia Woolf and have recently fallen in love with Proust. But I've been trying to branch out into the land of the living... I adore anything by Joanne Harris, Neil Gaiman, Barbara Kingsolver, Jonathan Carroll, Jennifer Egan. I read a lot in mythology/theology/philosophy. In poetry, I seem to have a thing for Latin men, like Neruda and Lorca.

8. What advice would you give to someone who feels they have not yet discovered their PrimaryBliss?
Journal. I think writing through all your "stuff" is really powerful, and if you don't know your bliss, I'm guessing you have "stuff" to unpack. Think back especially to your childhood and to what you spent your time doing -- when you had free choice in the matter -- and think about what your wildest dreams were, what you fantasized about, what you thought was out of reach. The journaling process can go on for a long time, but if you stick with it, I guarantee it will work. Also, I think people can take this all way too seriously sometimes, so remember to play and laugh and have fun. And look at this with, as some indigenous cultures would say, "soft eyes." When we look too hard, we can scare away the clues and the helpers.

9. Do you have a favorite quote you would like to share?
My current one is "all shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well" by Julian of Norwich. I think that contains all the theology/philosophy any of us ever really need.