Blog

Why the only way to start your day is with intention

Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, February 27, 2018

 

How we choose to start our day says a lot about how our day (and our life) will unfold.

Making the intentional change to an early-morning yoga and meditation practice in my early 30's has been one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Sometimes I still have to work at it but I never regret the effort I put in to start my day in a conscious way - it gives me the strength, joy, courage and perspective I need to face life gracefully.

According to ancient Yoga philosophy, the early-morning hours around sunrise is called Brahmamuhurtha. It means 'the creator's hour.'

This is a powerful time when our heart and our mind is naturally open, creative and the most receptive. If you listen to the birds at sunrise, they seem to know this magic!

So when we use the early morning hours to be with ourselves through the body and the breath (as opposed to doing other things, as tempting as they might be) it really pays off.

In our complex, fast-paced, modern lives we all need to find good ways that nurture and sustain us, or run the risk of burning out - and ultimately living an unfulfilled life.

A self-practice like yoga or meditation allows us to discover and tap into an inner source of energy that is life-giving and empowering.

Over time, the regular habit of 'turning inward' results in a relaxed presence and more energy, with better access to our creativity, our wisdom, our capacity to love, to make wise decisions and to be the best person we can be.

How do you start your day?

Perhaps yoga or meditation isn't your thing, but choose something that resonates with you and leaves you feeling relaxed, centred and energised for your day ahead.

And if you've never given yourself early-morning time before, rather than reach for the IPhone or get busy with the kids or your to-do list, I invite you to try a new habit - first take time for yourself - and see what a difference it makes.

Here are some tips to try:

💠Set up your yoga mat, meditation cushion or your quiet space the night before, so you're ready-to-go.
💠 Keep your IPhone out of the bedroom - use an old-fashioned alarm clock or clock radio if you need an alarm.
💠 Say to yourself last thing at night: when I awake, I will give time to myself first.
💠 Give yourself 15-45 minutes (whatever you can) to breathe, move, journal, sit quietly, meditate or practice yoga. Do it just for you!
💠 Commit to doing this for a whole week, or a whole month, and see what a difference it makes.

If you find that this approach to your day works, then why not adopt it as 'your way' and notice how it sustains you over the longer-term.

Our Intentional Living Group Coaching Program will help you with the mindset, skills, approaches and inspiration to deepen your self-awareness; increase your capacity for change and to accomplish the goals and vision you set out for yourself.

Wishing you focus, energy, and the fulfilment of your deepest desires in life - today and always!
Natalie

Natalie Snooke is an experienced Mindful Leadership Coach, Yoga and Meditation Teacher and the founder of Momentum. She specialises in guiding men and women to develop focus, presence, creativity and compassion in their personal and professional lives. She has a background in human resource management and takes a pragmatic yet light-hearted approach to her work.

 

How yoga and gardening get you back to your true nature

Alison Hilton - Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Most days my garden is my yoga. Its a joy and an ongoing reminder of impermanence and the cycle of birth, growth, flourishing and decay.

As a self-confessed gardening nerd, as well as a yogi, I love sharing tips and tricks with other more experienced gardeners and, most of all, just being 'in it' - outside with nature's green, the air and the earth.

Maybe it’s the oxygen and the beauty of nature or maybe it is just the thrill of watching something growing and transforming day by day.  Just like us, anyone with an observant eye will notice that a garden is forever changing. Not only from the seasons and weather patterns but also the animals that inhabit the space and our skills and impacts as gardeners - and as yoga practitioners.

The more I think about it, the cycle in a garden mirrors the yoga journey throughout our lives.

Sowing a seed in yoga practice first requires a healthy foundation, just as a gardener needs to tend the soil before planting. There needs to be just enough sunlight and the right combination of healthy soil and water for seedlings to burst through the soil.  In yoga practice, there needs to be just the right amount of focused yet relaxed attention, control of the breath and placement of the body for the energy to flow. 

In a garden, it’s all about the soil. It needs to be well-fed with just the right amount of nutrients for plants and flowers to grow well - and so too for us.

For yoga practice to work its wonders, our body needs the best nourishment we can give it – fresh, high-quality food in the right proportions, adequate water, plenty of rest and tender loving care. Over time through consistent self care, we begin to notice positive shifts in our physical, mental and emotional health, just as a plant begins to thicken its stalk and produce branches. 

In plants and in our yoga journey, the small changes that happen day by day are almost imperceivable but after a while, we notice just how much growth there's been.

We might notice how we have become calmer, how our tight hips have loosened or our self-esteem has improved after a few months of regular practice. Just as we might realise how tall a plant has become and delight as tiny blossums appear.

An experienced gardener expects results from their garden instantly. They might think that just planting a shrub will result in it growing! Whereas the seasoned gardener, just like the seasoned yogi, knows there is a little more to it. The key to that shrub really flourishing is the careful planning, soil cultivation and patience - just as the seasoned yogi knows the importance of having the right mindset and lifestyle to support yoga practice so we flourish in the long term. 

 Gardeners also know that there are times when we need to prune, to cut right back to the base of a plant in order for it to survive and thrive. It can look stark, bold and be quite scary to do. But after a few weeks its amazing how thickly and beautifully a plant will respond with new shoots and growth.

In a yoga practice, time and time again we need to come back to the basics. Back to the moment, back to the breath and the simplicity of it all, rather than trying to add another technique or try another yoga style or another yoga teacher. Although it can be confronting to come back to the basics rather than to entertain the whims of the mind, in yoga, less is more.  Simplicity leads to a depth of growth and inner stability, often in surprising ways.

Just as you'd think about your garden, consider where you are at in your life and in your yoga practice:

  • How might you better tend to yourself and your yoga practice?
  • Are you allowing enough time for your yoga practice (and your self growth) to really flourish?
  • What nutrients are missing from your self-care? 
  • Does anything need to be pruned back for you to rediscover simplicity?

Both gardening and yoga are about connecting us with nature and noticing things just as they are. And they are the perfect fit when it comes to reconnecting us with our true, inner nature - that's calm, content and blissful.

Happy gardening and happy yoga!
Alison

Alison Hilton has been teaching yoga at Momentum for six years and specialises in pre and postnatal yoga classes. When not refining her tree pose she is most likely to be found pruning one or smiling joyfully in her garden!  

 

Yoga and love

Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Love – many would say is life’s greatest mystery.

Yet many also come to find that through the paths of yoga, meditation and other forms of spiritual practice, love becomes something more knowable than they ever thought possible. Myself included.

When we think about love, it’s usually the romantic or emotional form.

When we ‘love’ somebody it creates a myriad of feelings such as joy, tenderness, care, affection, appreciation, wonder and lust, towards them. Love has an emotional attachment to it – and we cannot help that. It is our human instinct to want to be bonded to another and to be ‘loved’.

Yet there is also another kind of ‘love’.

A love that transcends emotional attachment. It has to do with presence. It has to do with a deeper, inner, pure form of love. And it is this form of deeper love that, if we are open, we can learn to experience through yoga.

The poet Rumi says: “Love is the bridge between you and everything.”

When we are relaxed and present, and not identified with our egoic mind, thinking and emotions, we experience a deeper state of consciousness that we call presence - or awareness, higher Self or spirit. To experience ourselves as presence, whilst on one hand is simple, is not always easy because of our conditioned habit to identify with our mind and emotions.

When we are truly present with another person, it means that we are not trapped in the judgements of the egoic mind. Our presence is clear. And we can also see and sense the other's clear presence. We feel connected. And if we stay gently yet intentionally attuned, we realise that this shared presence is energetically very real.

When we are truly present, we come to ‘love’ the other person because we recognise the same presence of who we are, in another.

Regardless of someone’s personality (which is just the conditioned mind and its patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving) we recognise that we are all the same – this sameness, this energy, this connection is love at its deepest level.

When yogis say they ‘feel the love’, which may be taken jokingly, chances are they genuinely mean it! We don’t need to be in a relationship with someone to sense this presence and love.

Feeling this deeper love is always available to us (whenever we are present, that is) and it is deeply satisfying. The Ancient Greeks referred to this kind of love as agape meaning the divine, highest form of love or the unconditional, selfless love of one person for another.

“Love ultimately, is true love beyond emotion, it is the recognition of yourself in the other.” Eckhart Tolle

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the emotional form of love – it’s just that we need to understand its limitations.

We need to be aware that emotional love changes form and can easily turn into many other emotions such as frustration, guilt, sadness or its opposite: hate. If we therefore rely on emotional love from someone else to feel happy and good about ourselves, then we are ultimately setting ourselves up for disappointment and dissatisfaction.

However, if we commit to seeking a deeper love, then we have the chance to potentially enjoy lifelong fulfilment. The first step is to experience and trust the presence or awareness in ourselves.

Whilst all authentic forms of yoga cultivate presence, there is one yogic path that also cultivates love. Bhakti Yoga is the path of union through devotion. Bhakti is characterised by the yogic practices of mantra repetition and chanting to cultivate a direct experience of deeper love. These practices work because they bypass the judgmental, egoic mind and connect us straight to the heart.

One final note. Even if you happen to have a sense of deeper love, you cannot force another to find it. One must undertake the inner journey and discover it for oneself. We might plant the seed, but it is up to the other person to want to water it!

And if you are lucky enough to be in an intimate relationship where emotional love is present as well as deeper love, then that is cause for gratitude and great celebration, over and over again.

I leave you with these words of love, again by Rumi:

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

With love,
Natalie

Natalie Snooke is the founder of Momentum and an experienced coach, mindfulness and yoga teacher. Natalie guides others to live with greater courage, compassion, purpose and authenticity. Apart from her regular classes held at Momentum, she runs inspiring and engaging workshops, retreats in Perth, Bali and India, as well as individual coaching programs. 

 

Why can't your pregnancy be a little more blissful?

Alison Hilton - Tuesday, March 14, 2017

I haven’t met a single pregnant woman who wants an uncomfortable and stressful time during their pregnancy, birth and transition to motherhood.

In fact, if ever you meet a pregnant woman who beams at you and says “my pregnancy is amazing and blissful” you might think she was completely crazy. Or probably lying. And underneath it all, you'd probably be feeling totally envious and wondering what was her secret.

Pregnancy is an incredible time in the journey of a woman's life. It's a time to celebrate and shine in all your feminine glory.

Yet I’m not suggesting that pregnancy, birth and motherhood will transport you to a fluffy, ethereal world with cherubs playing harps for the rest of eternity. But surely you deserve a little of the bliss? This bliss I’m talking about, is not something we find on the outside, it is not handed-out alongside the pee-cup to confirm our pregnancy at the doctor's surgery. It's something that we must create for ourselves.

It saddens me that for many pregnant women, pregnancy and birth is not blissful. Rather, it's just something to be endured or 'pushed through.'

Yes there are plenty of unwelcome and uncomfortable aspects to pregnancy. You may be quite familiar with your old friend ‘morning sickness’ (which never just greets you in the morning right?). There's the sore boobs, achy back or those restless and sleepless nights. You might've even experienced some of the less common side effects like random, dizzy spells in shopping centres, swollen ankles and hair loss!

Whilst pregnant we tend to focus a lot on the physical side – how the body feels and looks - and it’s not always a positive focus. What can really help us to enjoy the experience more, and even enjoy a bit of bliss, is our mindset. How we think and react is something we can control and nurture. And sadly, it is often completely ignored by both ourselves and those around us.

Doctors and medical professionals are intensely focused on your physical body and your baby’s growth and development. And we want that – that’s why we hire them.

But who attends to and nurtures your mental and emotional state during this period of change and growth? That's up to you.

You can choose to take time-out for yourself by joining a supportive Pregnancy Yoga group. This is where you'll get the time and space to be honest with yourself and consider and share important things that can really make a difference to your mental and emotional state. Things like: your attitude; your worries; how to manage work stress; dealing with your feelings about pregnancy and how it might be to be a mother. Doing this helps you to make conscious choices and thrive in pregnancy! It's invaluable to your overall health and wellbeing.

Too much time is spent obsessing over the best model pram or deciding on colour schemes and themes of nurseries, instead of reducing stress and increasing ‘down time’.

Why shouldn’t you feel great when you are pregnant?! Pregnancy is an exciting and even euphoric time. Don't let society pressures leave you feeling inadequate, scared or just unsure about what's going on. 

Pregnancy Yoga is a great way to spend time nurturing yourself, not just feeling good in your body or alleviating the aches and pains, but also giving you space in your mind to leave all the demands, expectations and responsibilities aside.

With a clearer head-space, pregnant and birthing women are able to:

  • Make better choices about their own health and wellbeing (and ultimately the health and wellbeing of their unborn baby);
  • More positively influence their attitudes towards their changing body and emerging role as mother and carer of a new life and;
  • Remain calm and enjoy their pregnancy and birth experience more.

A totally uncomfortable and stressed out pregnancy experience doesn’t have to be your default position. Why not take the opportunity now to shift it?

Can you stop, right now, just for one minute. Close your eyes and in this moment focus on one thing that is great about being pregnant. Notice how that makes you feel.

For more than one minute of bliss and contentment, book into our next 6 week Pregnancy Yoga Course where you'll meet a group of like-minded women who are also keen to have a positive, relaxed mindset.

Alison Hilton is Momentum’s Pregnancy and Postnatal yoga specialist. She has been teaching yoga for 5 years and also works in adult education in the university sector. As a mum herself she realises that bliss during motherhood some days can be when your darlings are peacefully asleep and you can sink back into the couch and have a moment to yourself!

5 ways to overcome fear and anxiety

Natalie Snooke - Thursday, July 07, 2016

There isn't a person alive who doesn't experience fear.

As a coach and teacher who has had the privilege of working fairly intimately with hundreds of people over the years, I get to witness the positive and negative effects of fear first-hand. 

Being able to experience and move past fear, nervousness, self-doubt and worry is a skill most of us could become much better at. 

When we successfully manage our fears we live courageously, make good decisions, participate fully in relationships and enjoy a fulfilling life. And we feel good about ourselves!

Yet if our fear isn't addressed and well-managed, especially with the pace and complexity of modern life, it can easily become chronic anxiety with debilitating health, wellbeing and social impacts. 

Anxiety disorders have become the most common illnesses in Australia and the western world. According to Beyond Blue in Australia now one in every three women and one in every five men will experience anxiety - as will one in every six young people aged 16-24. That's pretty staggering when you think about it.

So what exactly is fear?

We know about the 'genuine form' of fear. It's one of the four primary human emotional states along with happiness/pleasure, sadness and anger. Fear's job is to let us know when things aren't 'quite right', to guide us to be safe and to look after ourselves. Like making us wait on the kerb so we don't cross the road in front of traffic. Healthy fear enables us to make good practical choices for how to live. 

Fear also has what I'll call a 'lesser form' that causes us the most problems. These subtler, more common fears come in the form of niggling worries, self-doubt, negativity, criticism and even procrastination. They are fears that we 'perceive' to be true, yet aren't. Things like: 

  • fear of speaking-up
  • worrying about what other people think 
  • fear of being rejected or not liked
  • fear of failing
  • fear of not being good enough
  • fear of not being able to cope. 
Which ones do you relate most to?

The impact of these lesser fears accumulates and puts us in a state of stagnation, confusion, defensiveness or makes us feel like we're just surviving - none of which are helpful in the long-run. They keep us stuck from taking healthy risks and meaningful steps forward in our personal or professional lives - and prevent us from being the person we'd really like to be or from living the life we'd rather be living. 

When we take a closer look at our lesser fears we find they're actually not that accurate, big or scary, its just that we've believed them and built-them-up to be that way. More on that later.

Mindfulness and breaking down fear.

If we break-down each fear experience it actually has two components: a thinking or story component; as well as an energetic component of felt sensations in the body. Most often we pay too much attention to (and get lost in) our 'story' and not enough attention to simply 'feeling' the raw bodily sensations of our fear. By developing mindfulness or self-awareness we get much better at being with our fears as a way of releasing them. Again, more on that later.

Fear also also tends to be a rather slippery emotion. Sometimes it hides beneath sadness or anger or even beneath the surface of our conscious awareness. We might strategically bypass or deny our fear but nonetheless it goes about sabotaging us and prevents us from being happy, without us even being aware of it. 

We all have the capacity to see through and overcome our fears. It's about putting fear into a healthy perspective, learning to be brave, putting into place helpful skills and practices and believing in your 'best' self. How?

These five approaches will get you on your way.

1. Understand that the root-cause of fear is your mind.

At its fundamental level, the root-cause of fear is over-identification with the egoic mind (as well as the limbic system that controls our emotions). We believe that we ARE our thoughts or emotions. We believe (and give unnecessary power to) the negative stories and self-beliefs that we tell ourselves. We lose the ability to see ourselves beyond our thoughts. 

Know that there is an aspect of you that is not fearful, an aspect that is beyond fear and doubt. Although it might be awkward or challenging at first, learn to get in touch with and experience this part of yourself. 

Take three deep breaths to relax and begin to notice yourself as the 'aware presence' that just witnesses your fearful thoughts and emotions - that part of you that is free and beyond the fear itself. (If you're having trouble relating to what I'm saying, don't worry, just keep reading because one of the other approaches will probably resonate more for you!)

2. RAIN - recognise and accept yourself as you are.

The RAIN approach, developed by psychologist and teacher Tara Brach, is a simple way of befriending and overcoming all sorts of emotional states including fear. It reminds us that all emotional states are temporary, they come and they go if we give them the chance to do so. The power of this step-by-step approach is in accepting yourself just as you are and showing self-compassion. 

Recognize what is going on. You might say to yourself: 'right now I am scared' or 'right now I am feeling anxious'.
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is. There's no need to change anything.
Investigate with interest and care. Become curious about what's going on inside you. Observe your thoughts and the sensations in your body.
Nourish with self-compassion. Go gently with yourself in the process. Treat yourself kindly. Let go of expectations and judgments. 

3. Adopt a life-long mindfulness practice - how yoga and meditation helps overcome fear.

Begin a regular yoga and/or meditation practice and stick with it over a number of years to experience its full fear-busting benefits. 

Yoga involves working mindfully with the body and the breath to enhance and balance our flow of energy. When we practice authentic yoga regularly over a period of time our energy flow increases and we become more and more attuned to noticing and accepting all of the various sensations, thoughts and emotions that dwell within us in any given moment. For example, we might notice when we become scared before attempting a new yoga posture. Our yoga teacher is there to gently encourage us to safely 'feel and meet' this fear rather than running from it, denying it or indulging in it. Despite the fear, we give the posture our best and be happy with our efforts. 

A similar process happens in meditation. We train ourselves to be mindful, to focus and notice things that arise in us moment by moment. If fear or self-doubt arises we learn to gently 'be' with it and to give it time to dissolve. Over time as we become more skilled we become better able to experience fear and its impacts on us tend to lessen. 

By applying these skills we learn in yoga and meditation we become skillful in overcoming fears in our daily life. And when we stop resisting feeling fear, we give ourselves the opportunity to open to the deeper peace and joy that's naturally within us. This is the ultimate goal of yoga and meditation.

According to Yoga Australia the peak professional body for yoga in Australia, there is a growing number of scientific studies that confirm the evidence of yoga and meditation's positive health and wellbeing benefits on anxiety.

4. Get support with therapy or coaching.

When we are facing our fears we are really confronting ourselves. Getting the support and confidence of someone else is crucial if you are really serious about overcoming your fears - I know that I would not be who or where I am today if it wasn't for the valuable support of both professions at different stages of my personal growth. I truly believe that it takes the support of someone else to allow us to grow into our fullest potential.

A good psychologist or therapist will support you to understand and be with your fear and anxiety. A good life coach or executive coach specialising in mindfulness will also help you to deepen your self-awareness, identify your unique vision, values and goals and take meaningful steps to move you forwards. Both professions will teach you invaluable skills that you can adopt and master for happier everyday living.

5. Choose LOVE over fear.

The opposite of fear is love. Fear cannot exist where there is love. By this I mean seeing the goodness in life and adopting the attitude, confidence and trust that life is 'for us' instead of 'against us'. 

Choosing to live from a place of love means that you are ruthlessly committed to creating and finding goodness, hope, peace and harmony in yourself, in others and in the world - as opposed to competition, blaming, one-up-manship and the need to prove oneself - which are all fear-based. Love opens and expands. Love is courageous. Love is strength. Choosing love evokes our greatest human and spiritual potential.

Choosing love is however not for the faint hearted, but it is powerful beyond words! I recommend books and talks by empowering spiritual teachers/leaders such as Michael Beckwith, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Tara Brach and Marianne Williamson - and I'm sure there are others. 

Embracing life and overcoming fear are one and the same. At Momentum Coaching & Yoga we stand for, honour and support the best, most courageous and most loving version of you - always.

With love,
Natalie

What is mindfulness?

Natalie Snooke - Friday, April 29, 2016

Mindfulness. I well remember the time in my early 20's when I first made the discovery. When I realised I could 'observe' my own mind without getting involved in its story. 

I was at a communications skills workshop with well-known facilitator Rachel Green, who had us in pairs talking and listening. One person had to talk while the other person had to listen and at the same time, watch their own internal dialogue and reactions. As I was listening to my partner, I realised that I could also see what was going-on with my thoughts and reactions without getting caught up in them or in the other person's story. It was one of those light-bulb moments. 

Up until that point in my life, it hadn't really dawned on me that I could actually 'watch' my own mind. 

It was like I had discovered a new way of being with myself - not that I had any idea of the significance of this discovery at the time, I just thought it was pretty cool! And later as an adult, this realisation would deepen, become the cornerstone of my life and lead to tremendous growth and joy, as well as my fair-share of frustrations along the way.

I had discovered the art of mindfulness - the capacity of human beings to be mindful or self-aware. 

We all have an inner-observer. A part of us that is simply aware or conscious of what is going on around us and, that can also be aware of whatever is going on within us. It is widely accepted amongst scientists that the capacity to be self-aware is what distinguishes humans from other animals, yet its significance and importance is often misunderstood and under-valued, especially when it comes to our happiness and sense of fulfillment in life.

In fact, mindfulness is the essential ingredient of creativity, wisdom, authentic happiness and living to our highest potential. 

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness has several aspects to it. As we make our way through life it means to:

  • be aware of our thoughts, feelings, senses and physical experiences, moment to moment;
  • pay attention to our immediate surroundings;
  • be at ease and allow whatever is happening and;
  • be kind and intentional in our thoughts, words and actions.
The concept of mindfulness originates from the ancient Buddhist tradition and the Pali word sati meaning to remember. It is understood that without having some foundations of mindfulness, something to anchor our attention to, we simply 'forget' to be present. And this leads us to suffer and be unhappy.

Although mindfulness is a simple approach, and most people can understand it, it isn't easy and takes effort to put into practice. 

Unfortunately our conditioning and our habits, the things that we do mindlessly, get in the way. We've trained ourselves in unhealthy ways - with the help of things like Facebook, Thermomixes and a materialistic, complex and technologically-driven world - to have a fairly scattered quality of attention. Somehow, we've convinced ourselves that we feel good when we multi-task and get as many things done as quickly as we can, whilst often paying little attention to the details and to what we are thinking or how we are feeling in the moment. 

Because we tend to be two-steps ahead and focussing on the future (or 'shoulding' about the past) rather than in 'the now' we therefore 'miss out' on a lot of what's actually going on inside us. This means that we can't access our creativity, we aren't able to be in our hearts and fully connect with others, we miss the warning signs that our body isn't coping or all too often, we feel like we don't know who we are anymore. I witness many people who suffer from one or more of these symptoms - also known as a mid-life crisis.

Is this making sense?

Consider how mindful you are in a typical day. If you:
  • spend most of your time remembering or regretting about what you 'should' have had, said or felt and/or;
  • spend most of your time thinking, planning, hoping or worrying about what you're going to have, do, say or feel like 'next' and/or;
  • drive somewhere but once you arrive you cannot remember anything about the journey you've just taken and/or;
  • find yourself forgetting someone's name after you've just been introduced to them only moments before, then this would indicate that you are normal! But that you're not paying full attention in the present moment - you're not being as mindful as you could.
Mindfulness is not about perfection.

Sure, being mindful one hundered percent of the time is a challenging task and we are not seeking some impossible perfection! Part of the paradox of mindfulness is that it's about accepting and allowing ourselves and life to be just as it is, warts and all.

With mindfulness, there's a middle-path to explore, a way for us to create balance between accepting things as they are and putting in meaningful effort to create greater ease and harmony. Most of us would find we'd feel more naturally happy and satisfied with ourselves, others, our work and our life if we were more self-aware, more allowing and more mindful. 

The benefits of mindfulness.

Plenty of research compiled at the American Mindfulness Research Association shows that mindfulness reduces stress at work, improves heart health, enables us to better manage our food intake and improves the quality of our relationships. Being mindful or not can be the difference between: being stressed or being comfortable; feeling anxious or feeling at ease and; suffering in life or embracing life as it is.

When we become more mindful, we gain clarity about what's really important to us and we're able to peel away some of the unnecessary complexities of life. 

One of the best ways to cultivate mindfulness is through a regular meditation or yoga practice. These kinds of body-centred practice trains us to remain present and anchored to our body and our breath, as well as to be allowing and kind to ourselves, moment by moment. And anyone can learn these skills.

To learn more about mindfulness and how to practise it in daily life, we recommend starting with our Beginner's Meditation Courseand Beginner's Yoga Courses, run throughout the year at our centre in Melville.

Over time, mindfulness allows us to suffer less and to love more. It leads us inwards, back to our heart, to the greatest ease and joy that's available to any human being. Are you open to it?

Wishing you well in the moment!
Natalie

Why do we give up on yoga and how to stay on track

Natalie Snooke - Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Why_do_people_give_up_on_yoga_momentum_coaching_yoga_perthWhy do we give-up on or struggle to get back to yoga, even when we know it's what we really need? 

Helping yourself and finding the answers might be simpler than you think!

Yoga - when we apply ourselves to its practices, its positive values and approach to life - brings great health, happiness, wisdom and love.

Yoga (including the practice of meditation) can cure disease, reverse the effects of ageing, balance the nervous system, connect us to our loving heart and bring us vitality and emotional resilience to live life to the full.

The benefits of yoga are there for everyone - ask anyone who's been practicing for a few years and they'll tell you how it sustains their life. 

Yet paradoxically, it's often the case that many of us start yoga, with the best of intentions, enjoy it's benefits for a short time, even grow to love it and then let it go. Often without ever really stopping to question how or why. Sound familiar?

Know that everyone faces challenges with yoga and that's part of the journey.

The truth is that everyone encounters problems with their yoga! Yoga's systematic, inside-out process is cleverly designed to test us out. To coax each of us to reach our best potential by rising above whatever challenges us, both on and off the yoga mat. 

We can expect that there will be negative circumstances that have the potential to get in our yoga's way - if we let it.

Usually within the first three months of starting yoga, and regularly thereafter, most people will run into something that challenges them to keep up their regular practice. 

Challenges come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they're obvious - like getting sick. And sometimes they're more subtle and show up in our thinking or attitude.

Momentum_Coaching_Yoga_Melville

When we find ourselves challenged, we need to take a moment to stop, be honest and notice how our thinking and behaviour patterns are contributing - this is part of yoga.

Rather than giving-up, we summons our wisdom, strength and courage to meet the challenge.

  • We gently persevere.
  • We shift our thinking or attitude.
  • We get some support or;
  • We modify our schedule or approach. 

The secret to happiness and freedom through yoga (like life) is found in how we overcome our challenges.

 Those who benefit the most from yoga are those who find a way around their obstacles and continue to practice - consider this common scenario. You've had a particularly stressful day at work, where nothing seemed to go your way and just before you're ready to leave, your boss gives you another project to add on to your already-over-loaded workload.

You normally go to a yoga class after work but today you feel totally over it.

Your mind is numb and you don't feel like doing anything else apart from crashing on your couch with your favourite glass of cab sav. Somehow, you know that yoga would really help you out but today you feel like you've had enough. What do you do? 

How_to_Stay_on_Track_with_Yoga_Momentum_Caoching_Yoga_PerthFirst of all, you acknowledge and accept that you're being challenged! 

No problem. Rather than react and give-in to frustration, you could take a moment to pause, take a deep breath and decide to make a start on your new project in the morning, when you're fresh. 

You could listen to your wisdom (that you'll feel better by doing your yoga) knowing that it will uplift you and shift your gloomy mood. You could put-aside the tempting thoughts to bail-out and decide to leave work on-time ,to get to your yoga class. 

When you get to your class, chances are you'll find that your teacher gives you just the right words of encouragement you needed to hear to help you put things into perspective. You'll feel happy again and you feel good about yourself having made the effort.

And the next time it happens, having gained some inner strength from last time, it's that much easier not to give-up your yoga for the sake of a challenge.

There are ALWAYS thoughts, feelings and attitudes that we can work throug. There are always wise, helpful choices that we can make to help ourselves when it comes to yoga - or anything else for that matter.

The Most Common Obstacles

The good news is that you don't need to spend too much time problem-solving your yoga challenges. Yoga philosophy takes care of that. 

The recognised authority on yoga, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali written around 2500 years ago describes the obstacles and mental distractions (as well as solutions) that are likely to arise on the yoga journey. They are common to everyone.

They are a natural, predicable part of the yoga process so we can take some comfort just by knowing this. 

Here are the six main obstacles to be aware of and ways to overcome them.

1.  Sickness - any sickness or disease means there is energetic instability in the body/mind and yoga is about recalibrating and balancing this.

If you are unwell, it can be easy to assume that you shouldn't start or continue yoga. On the contrary, some yoga will generally benefit. Yoga can take many forms and with a skilled teacher, can be effectively targeted and safely modified to suit a range of illnesses and ailments. As a guide, if you have a headcold/flu, continue to practice gently, unless the symptoms are in the chest. 

2. Sensory Overload - the colours, sights, sounds and responsibilities of modern life draws our attention continuously outward, external to our body. Living this way takes up a lot of energy and our nervous system remains on hyper-alert.

Practice moderation. Too much of anything becomes an obstacle to yoga practice. Moderation in eating, drinking, talking, working and exercise, as well as sleeping and rest is important. Notice the areas of your life where you tend to over-do things and start to bring it into better balance. 

3. Lethargy 
A lack of energy or feeling of inertia happens to us all from time to time. When you notice this, first of all it's important that you adjust your routine and make conscious choices to manage your energy inputs and outputs - eat regular, nutritious meals, get a good night's sleep, have a good balance of work-rest-play and reduce your social interactions. 

Yoga postures, movement, breathwork and relaxation is designed to replenish rather than reduce your energy, so bear this in mind. The sooner you can start or return to yoga, the better you'll feel. Don't be tempted to wait for life to be perfect for yoga, as it often isn't! 

4. Doubt
Thinking things like "Yoga won't work for me or or I'm not flexible enough for yoga" or "I don't need to do yoga today" are very common mental misconceptions.

Doubt arises when we don't have faith in ourselves or trust in the potential of yoga. Most doubt is not true and is just a veil of the mind that can be proven otherwise.

To address your doubts , talk to a trusted friend or yoga teacher to allay your fears. Draw on your courage to try, practice and keep practicing, until you see through your doubts.

5.  Haste
Being impatient, careless or hasty with your approach to yoga can also be an obstacle. Doing so may mean that you injure yourself or because of high expectations, feel disappointed and don't continue. Remember that yoga is a journey, with many gems along the way, so consider having a realistic long-term approach. 

Be prepared to go carefully and to take things step-by-step. Remember the race between the hare and the tortoise? The tortoise always wins the race in yoga too.

6.  Apathy
Having a defeatest attitude towards yoga can be one of the more subtle obstacles to yoga that lurks away underneath the surface. Check your attitude on a regular basis. Remind yourself of the things you have to be positive about! Remember how far you've already come in your yoga (and in your life) and call on the support of your family, friends, fellow students and yoga teacher. 

If you choose to be positive, then positive benefits will flow to you.

Freedom from sufferin g is one of the basic tenets of yoga. And it is often our suffering and lack of well-being that first brings us to yoga. By gently persevering through our challenges we can and will experience greater freedom in the body, mind and heart through yoga - but we have to trust and give the process of yoga a real chance.

After 10+ years of practice myself and having stepped through many challenges, I can honestly say that the rewards are totally worth it! But more about that another time...

Best wishes as you meet and overcome your yoga challenges.
Namaste.
Natalie

 

How to practice authentic yoga

Natalie Snooke - Friday, August 14, 2015
Despite the modern popularity of yoga as a form of exercise, asana or the physical postures, form just the tip of the yoga iceberg.
 
And whilst I don't mean to scare anyone or bombard you with mystical mumbo-jumbo, whether you're trying yoga for the first time or the hundredth time it's important that you know if what you're practicing isreallyyoga or not.And therefore realistically what you can expect to get out of it.

Authentic yoga is spiritual in nature. Yoga is a process of self-discovery and awakening to our highest Self. Authentic yoga involves mental discipline and a philsophical commitment to yoga as a way of life that leads to inner happiness and freedom.
 
Beyond all the hype of sexy postures on yoga magazine covers, adorned bodies and lofty promises that say yoga is all sweetness and light, it's important you know that the true gifts of yoga require real work, and are worth working for.
 
After all, authentic Yoga is powerful, beautiful and profound. It has the potential to blow your mind without needing to give you the best body, or anything else for that matter, other than to reveal the natural, loving essence of who you really are. And you deserve to enjoy the entire fruit of yoga and not just to eat the skin and throw away the flesh!
 
Yoga's Traditional Roots

Yoga has its roots dating back to the Indus civilisation some 5000 years ago, where ancient texts such as the Vedas, the Upanishads and later the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali described highly evolved rituals, mantras and practices in order for one to overcome the limitations of the body, the delusions of the senses and the pitfalls of thought. As such, Yoga is recognised as one of six classical schools of Indian philosophy. Meaning that 'Yoga' is a complete system, for attaining higher consciousness and liberation from ignorance and suffering - and reaching one's highest potential.

Only in relatively modern times has the role of yoga asanabeen over-emphasised to such a misleading extent that the phrase 'doing yoga' and 'yoga class' have become common mainstream expressions albeit used incorrectly. Asana is a small, though quite useful part of a much bigger system that is designed for spiritual liberation, and actually not for just a healthy, strong or flexible body.

Yoga is a spiritual system with a physical component, and not the other way around.

As Swami Jnaneshvara of the Himalayan Yoga Masters Tradition states "To understand the recent devolution that Yoga is only a physical exercise program is one of the most essential steps for the modern seeker of authentic Yoga."
 
That is not to say that the practice of authentic Yoga is reserved for Indians or those wishing to give up their life and meditate in the Himalayas! Yoga is a timeless system that surpasses creed and culture, although it must be practiced carefully and patiently over a long period of time if it is to be truly effective. If it is to bring us any long-lasting ease and inner joy.
 
Authentic Yoga
 
The main objective of Hatha Yoga (the branch of yoga that is most widely practiced in Australia and other Western countries) is to create an absolute balance of interacting activities and
Yogi's celebrating sunset
processes of the physical body, mind and energy. When this balance is created, the individual's consciousness naturally expands beyond their usual limitations. Increasing depths of love, creativity and joy are all the natural byproducts of the process of liberation. However if Hatha Yoga is not used for this purpose, then it's true objective is lost.
 
On an authentic Yoga path, under the guidance of an experienced and knowledgeable teacher, a yoga student follows a number of different aspects to bring about holistic self-development:
  • Relationships - building relationships with others and contributing to society through values and practices (known as yamas and niyamas) such as non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing and non-possessiveness. This means taking responsibility for our behaviours and actions towards others, and actively cultivating qualities that make us a more compassionate, understanding, peaceful and well-rounded. Which all makes life much easier for us.
  • Senses - training the senses in order to consciously and positively regulate them, known as pratyhara. This means monitoring cravings (or attachments) and getting away from what we don't like (aversions), knowing full well that unless we train ourselves we're likely to live like on a pendulum, swinging from one attachment and aversion to the next, without finding a natural balance in the middle. Yes, it is possible through authentic yoga!
  • Body - working with the body through postures and movements so as to make it flexible, strong and steady, called asana. Then the body can sit still for the deeper practices of pranayama and meditation.
  • Breath - training the breath to make it smooth, slow and serene, also known as pranayama. From a serene breath naturally comes a serene mind.
  • Mind - dealing with the mind and emotions at all levels, including concentration (dharana) meditation practice (dhyana) and overcoming the habituated patterns of the mind and emotions which show up in everyday life that lead to dissatisfaction and suffering. Then reaching a state of mental clarity and expanded states of consciousness.
The overall goal of Yoga is beyond each of the parts. If a balanced approach is not taken, and one part is emphasised over the others, then we will only encounter further obstacles to their self-growth and not be able to reach their full potential.
 
Progress on the authentic Yoga path is characterised by life becoming generally easier, the heart becoming more open and the mind becoming generally quieter, although there will be ups and downs along the way.
 
I remember my very first idea of Yoga. To me it meant 'hippies putting their legs behind their heads'. And I couldn't have been further from the truth. After 10 years of solid practice and teaching, I can honestly say that the limbs of Yoga keep working away to smooth out my rough edges and create deeper stillness and clarity than before. From this experience, I know that authentic Yoga works and that I am still a work-in-progress.
 
So next time you're tempted to explore yoga or to try and take a short-cut, remember what authentic Yoga is all about. I encourage you to dive-in. Find good teachers who you resonate with. Ask questions. Practice breathwork and meditation. Develop a home yoga practice. You won't be disappointed and your potential will probably surprise you!
 

With blessings,
Natalie

Five ways yoga strengthened me in pregnancy and as a mother

Alison Hilton - Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Pregnancy_Yoga_Course_Momentum_Coaching_Yoga_Melville

There are many false claims about what yoga will and won't do for pregnancy and motherhood. 

Pregnancy yoga won’t determine whether or not you have a natural birth, a caesarean birth or anything in between. Yoga won't make you a miraculous super-mum able to be eternally peaceful. Pregnancy, birth and the unique motherhood journey are all events that unfold very much outside of our control. 

The biggest gift that practicing yoga will provide you is a way to face and accept everything that comes from being a mother.  Yoga offers the loving arms to hold you when things are tough, the strength to endure sleepless nights and a space to remember how amazing you truly are!


Here are a few ways I used yoga to handle some of the tougher moments I've encountered whilst pregnant and as a new mum.

1. Pranayama (Breathing)

My baby needed surgery. It was a difficult situation - but I knew what to do to give myself support. I used my breathing techniques as a shelter to create calm. While it was still such an emotional time, I wasn't just being blown around in a storm of that emotion. I could come back into myself and create moments of stillness with breath. At a time when circumstances were so out of my control I found I still had the power to help balance myself.

2. Chanting and Positive Intentions

As a yoga teacher, you might expect me to be really “into” chanting! And yes, there were certainly a few beautiful Sanskrit chants which nurtured my tired and aching body and lifted my spirits. But even simple intentions and positive phrases like “this too shall pass” or “breathing in, breathing out” were of immense value - especially late at night with a baby who hadn’t yet learnt the difference between night and day.

3.  Relaxation

If you are a person (like me) who could never sleep during the day, then deep relaxation is definitely for you! Resting while your baby rests; even if you don’t actually sleep is crucial. Sleep deprivation is awful; it has a huge physical and emotional effect on the body. Unfortunately, there is the temptation (or guilt or expectation) about “getting things done” whilst pregnant and when you are a new mum. Pregnancy_Yoga_Course_Momentum_Coaching_and_Yoga_Melville

Yoga practices help with relaxation by teaching you the difference between feeling tense and letting go. Tuning into the need to unwind and relax is one of the most important lessons you can teach your baby, and an amazing gift to yourself.

4. Being in the Moment

Throughout all the challenges and new things to learn, learn to stay present and enjoy the moments! 

The first flutters of the baby moving, hiccups in the womb, the first touches of birth, smiles and baby fingers around your hand are all amazing moments. Enjoy the beautiful moments, especially if things have been a challenge. Pregnancy and motherhood are not smooth sailing all the time, nor are they guaranteed to be. By keeping focused on the present (rather than dwelling on the past or being impatient for the future), you can remove many of the pressures and expectations.

5. Asana – The Physical Postures

Carrying a baby around in your womb for nearly ten months is a huge physical undertaking. Your body will get tired and sore at some point. By learning and actually practicing the different asanas (physical postures) you can help relieve some of the aches and pains.

I was surprised after birth how much I needed asana. The challenges of breastfeeding and holding a baby all day created soreness and stiffness in my shoulders and neck that I simply was not prepared for. But take it easy, with your asana practice, your body is ever evolving and changing and sensations in the body may be quite different from day to day.

During pregnancy, we spend considerable time focusing on the health and wellbeing of our babies, being conscious of what we eat, drink and how we exercise. It’s logical to be aware that these things can affect our unborn baby.

However remember too, that the relaxation and yoga practices that create calm in you as a mother, can instill a calm in your baby's psyche that goes well beyond their time in the womb. 

If you'd like to learn how to bring these empowering yoga techniques and perspectives into your experience of pregnancy and birth, then check out my upcoming Pregnancy Yoga Courses. 

Enjoy the exciting journey ahead.

Alison Hilton


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