Yoga Suits Her
I've been teaching yoga since 1980. A lot of my identity is tied up with being a yoga teacher. What does that mean? What should that mean? On this site I explore my personal journey and provide commentary on the state of yoga in the twenty-first century. I invite you to have a look and see what may be here for you.
Photo by: Julie Slavin Photography, Old Bar
It's four weeks since I've been self-isolating and since my yoga classes have been suspended.
One of the blessings of this quiet Corona Time is my long-established yoga practice. I've always thought of my yoga practice as an investment, as good as superannuation. Nearly 50 years of practice, and I can call on my investment deal with the stress of self-isolation. There are other solid regular rituals, too: walking on the beach, dinner with my housemates, phone calls to the kids and to my family in the States.
My friend Heather makes a good case for the value of rituals in a Shedders blog post written several years ago. Heather has kindly allowed me to republish it here.
Thee Power of Rituals
Last Saturday we had breakfast at a little café in the nearby town of Taree. This is noteworthy, because it was a break in a well-established pattern. Those of you who know us well will be saying, “What?! What happened to breakfast at the Waterbird?”
…Because Saturdays we have breakfast at the nearby Waterbird Restaurant, with several good friends. The previous Saturday we did that, and next Saturday the group will likely repeat the practice. The Waterbird has been in existence for seven years or so, and since it opened, we have shown up there almost every Saturday morning. Sometimes there are four or five of us, sometimes a dozen or more. There’s no decision to be made about it: if people aren’t away somewhere, they show up for Saturday breakfast.
I believe this getting together could be called a ritual.
The Waterbird is a modest restaurant right over the river at Manning Point (careful not to drop your keys). It used to be a bait and tackle shop, until Jim the Proprietor decided it was an even better location for a restaurant. So he renovated and expanded the little shop, donned an apron, tied back his long hair, hired a waitress and bought a coffee machine. The food is more than adequate and the ambiance is stunning. Dolphins, pelicans and cormorants abound. It’s quite a place.
There’s another layer to the ritual. Dozens of years ago back in The Big Smoke, after Eve’s early morning Saturday yoga class, everyone would go out for breakfast and do the quiz from the Good Weekend magazine. This practice transported itself to Mitchells Island, and now you’ll find the lot of us deeply engaged in the quiz while we wait for breakfast to arrive. There we are – a raucous group trying to sort out things like which two countries start with the letter Z, or who has the most ever Olympic medals, or who invented the lightning rod. We have a scorekeeper and an ethics judge; there is much head scratching and wrangling. I’m sure it’s health-promoting on many levels.
But like many rituals, breakfast and the quiz at the Waterbird took a little getting into. Before something becomes a ritual, you have to try it on, and things don’t fit perfectly at first. The jokes aren’t always funny, the food is not to everyone’s taste, sometimes it’s too sunny or too cold out there on the deck – but on balance it’s pretty good. So you do it again, and then again, and by the third or fourth time you’re hooked. This is the birth of a ritual.
When I look closely, my life is punctuated by many rituals. Rick and I have a coffee and work on a New York Times crossword most days. We celebrate a birthday with a movie and dinner out. We call our kids every Monday. A beer on the deck marks a satisfying conclusion to a few hours in the gardens or behind the lawnmower.
The Shedders also have their rituals. For example, we get together most evenings for a shared meal; that’s just how it works here. On a Friday morning more often than not we’re all engaged in housecleaning. Every year on 31 December we sit down together and review our year-just-gone, sharing the highs and lows and learnings; a day or two later we assemble again and share our dreams and aspirations for the coming year. Every January we pack up our cars and travel up to Camp Creative for a week of community, learning and creation. And if someone’s been away for a while, there’s automatically a cup of tea and some sharing in the lounge room. These are the rituals that lubricate our Shedders lives.
What IS it about rituals? As I sit here on a Saturday afternoon, after perhaps the 200th time laughing with good friends and doing the quiz, I find myself trying to tease out the nature of ritual, and its purpose.
When the Shedders first moved to Mitchells Island, we left behind dozens of under-acknowledged rituals. They needed replacing. We softened the transition to this whole new life by the creation of such rituals as breakfast-and-the-quiz. The transition from living as an independent family unit to sharing a cooperative household was aided by rituals like shared evening meals and loud music while housecleaning. Change is good; perhaps we all have a deep need for it – and rituals give us stability in the face of these fresh starts.
Our personal stories
Rituals also allow us to tell a story that helps explain who we are – for others and for ourselves. Knowing I always enjoy doing the Saturday quiz with a group of friends tells you some key things about me – that I relish being with my friends, that I am stimulated by the challenge of the quiz and the interactions we have while we do it, that I cherish the beauty and serenity of the Waterbird’s location.
When I tell you that I love attending our Wingsong community choir (not to mention going out for dinner at the pub afterward), it also tells you any number of things about me. That I get together with old school friends every year when I am back in Canada, that I never miss a Medd Family Annual Picnic – these rituals remind me how much I enjoy the power of family, friends, music in my life.
I can see another important quality of rituals. When I look back at the peaks and valleys of my life, I often think of the old rituals that marked its passage. My farmer-father making fudge in the kitchen on a rainy day. Camping at Christmas time with 3 or 4 other families when our children were young. Taking the kids out for Friday dinner at Manly Wharf when the business had met its targets. These events have meaning for me even decades after their expiry.
As rituals connect us to ourselves, they also connect us to each other. The simplest way for my communities to prosper is to create rituals where we can put our opportunities to get together on auto-pilot. We don’t have to think, plan, phone around, negotiate. We just show up at the Waterbird, we go to choir and the pub, we pack up our suitcases for Camp Creative. In this way our communities thrive.
It’s a grand design.
If you'd like little more convincing, read this article that proves rituals can even be taken on the road.
One of the blessings of this quiet Corona Time is my long-established yoga practice. I’ve always thought of my yoga practice as an investment, as good as superannuation. Nearly 50 years of practice, and I can call on my investment deal with the stress of self-isolation. There are other solid regular rituals, too: walking on the beach, dinner with my housemates, phone calls to the kids and to my family in the States.
The Previous 4 Posts
When Indulging Becomes Self-Care
When we first moved to Mitchells Island, we hadn’t yet winterised our house. Like a lot of people, we had mostly completed the interior but still needed to install a fireplace and block-out curtains. That first winter was painfully cold. Temperatures at night hovered around 3 degrees, with high winds and an unseasonable amount of rain.
There’s a windless, sheltered spot on one of our decks. During the day if the sun came out, I would grab fifteen minutes of unmitigated rays. […]
It might be an expression that’s been around for years, but I’ve just woken up to what a great one expression it is: self-advocacy.
It’s similar in meaning to self-care. But ‘self-care activist and mentor’, Christy Tending says it’s just the beginning. In her blog post, she says:
The art of self-advocacy means boldly declaring what we need in order to feel whole and well and like ourselves.
I was reminded of how advocating for ourselves can be a life or death matter when I read the news yesterday. […]
Restorative yoga helps you recover from illness
As I started up my Take Care blog series last week, I was reminded by my friend Lesley of the healing properties of restorative yoga practice. Lesley speaks from experience when she writes:
Dearest Eve, thank you for your article. As you know, I have used restorative yoga and yoga nidra to support my recovery from illness. It has helped in so many ways – supporting my immune system, helping with pain management & reduction (fibromyalgia), reducing fear/anxiety, and keeping me smiling through some very difficult times. […]
A few years ago, my friend and yoga colleague, Donna Cavanough, told me about a book that she had read called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. When I visited Donna’s home, she showed me the impeccable organisation of her pantry, kitchen cupboards and bedroom drawers and wardrobe. She had followed author Marie Kendo’s notions and created a beautiful environment from what may have formerly been chaotic spaces.
Unfortunately, I am still, at age 73, rebelling against the ideas of organisation that my mother tried to instil in me. […]
It's been out of print for 15 or more years but now it's back. It's available as a paperback as well as a range of digital formats for different devices. The design of this edition is modelled as closely as possible on the original release from 1997.
(Note: Book retailers set their own prices that are all different and constantly change. It's worth shopping around for the best price.)
Any bookshop, whether online or bricks and mortar, can order copies of Teach Yourself Yoga. Just ask and quote ISBN: 978-0-6487945-0-9.
Please send me feedback about the book. I'd love to hear about any errors or problems with eBooks on various devices. And please review the book wherever you get it. Reviews will help more people discover the book.
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No, I'm not selling yoga mats or clothing. I don't even have a t-shirt... yet. But from time to time I find myself with something that someone may want. Have a look, I'm never sure what you'll find.