Friends of Marrickville Yoga August Newsletter
The Olympics are wrapping up but this month we get to hear from our very own Olympian – regular student Judy. Don’t miss her magnificent photos!
Johanna catches up with us about her yoga practice and shares a few of her incredible paintings with us – what a treat.
As always its been busy here at The Centre with the Bach in the Dark performance from Rachel a definite highlight. We hope you enjoy the chance through our Friends Newsletter to find out a bit more about those around you on the mat!
We’re excited to be heading into Spring and we’ll be warming up in the coming weeks with a focus on Backbends – stay tuned and keep warm.
The Team at Friends of Marrickville Yoga
Another Olympic year rolls around again. It prompts me to reflect on how much my identity was formed as a youngster who spent hours in the pool, chasing a stop watch. My life as a young teenager revolved around a highly disciplined daily routine of training, eating, school and sleeping.
It was a very regulated existence and I responded well to competitive success and the hard slog of training. I was known as a ‘good’ trainer who pushed herself, often the last to leave the pool, after repeating another set of sprints. I trained in a tidal pool at Watsons Bay, still there today, so training times really fluctuated depending on the tides and the movement of the pilot boat.
After winning the National Titles as a breaststroker, I was selected and represented Australia at Mexico (68). I was in the Medley Relay winning Silver. I was 15 yrs old and still have some amazing memories of it all. Two years later I was injured and did not swim to my best so missed selection for the Commonwealth Games, despite holding both Commonwealth breaststroke records. After a tense time at home I ‘retired’ from competitive swimming and concentrated on completing school and going to Uni.
I left swimming for some time, and without the help of any sport psychology made my way into adulthood. I guess I grieved and carried a very poor body image as my shoulders are broad and my muscle bulk is more developed than was fashionable then for young girls. I carry a lingering sense of failure that I was unable to achieve my full potential.
I grew to understand that the ‘spiritual’ side of myself was highly under developed and at times through my 30s and 40s flirted with Buddhism and eastern philosophy. I dabbled with yoga which appeared to be good fit for me and my reliance on physical health. I took up ocean swimming as a way to get fit and strong again in the water. Being in the ocean introduced the element of luck, plus I love its social aspect and it gave my pool training a purpose. I carried some injuries though from decades before and at times the old body got hurt from poor technique or a big swell.
I came to Simon and Hasu’s yoga studio at a time when I was seeking to understand and manage the loss of my younger brother to melanoma. I was also aware that I needed to learn to stretch and complement the repetitive strain injuries with other activities. However I was also searching out avenues to train the mind and settle or at least try to find greater balance emotionally.
I felt very at home with Simon’s approach, his background in PE and his overt skill in pushing us all to go further in our practice. Much of my yoga journey is about unlearning what I have always done. The simplicity yet rigour of the asansa and the need to focus on the breath has been significant for me. In class you may hear a teacher remark ‘breathe Judy’. The breathing in yoga is so different to what I was trained to do in the water.
Learning simply to let go and not push through the asanas is an enduring struggle for me. Just to exhale and to move slowly into position is an ongoing journey. I am learning to be more aware of my default position and strengthen my mental capacity to resist falling back into that way of pushing.
I don’t have a favourite asana. I find that I reach a level then need to recharge my practice and mental focus to move more deeply into the moves. I don’t practice well at home which I think comes from a lack of confidence and reliance on being told what to do! The inversions were challenging in the beginning. I am aware that my attention can waiver and retaining my balance in Ardha Chandrasana is still problematic. I have become aware that Fear plays a large part in my life and this blocks me from not just improving my back bends and bunny hops but taking risks. It limits my capacity to maintain focus and to be ‘lighter’ with my practice.
I am learning that all parts of my body can be stiff at different times and that forward bends have become just as challenging as back bends. Regular practice has heightened my awareness of my body and calms my mind. I really do have greater clarity after a practice and the things troubling me before class appear to have lessened in intensity.
Iyengar yoga has helped me turn from the outward to the inner. Competitive sport is so outward looking. For me yoga is disciplining my mind to focus on the very small changes in my body. I learnt a great deal about the thinking and philosophy underpinning Iyengar yoga last year when I did yoga teacher training. This has helped me become more compassionate and mindful in my relationships. This is still a work in progress. Through the readings and asanas, I am trying to discard the judgemental and critical younger self and replace her with a more positive, calm and generous person.
Certainly the ability to grow in ones practice despite ones age, intrigues me as I try to transition into an older self. Physical health and strength has been a core aspect for me and yoga brings a special way of both accepting these changes that are part of the aging process whilst challenging me to maintain a healthy and harmonious balance.
I find the studio such a welcoming and healing place; so different to the harsh training environment I grew up in. It is great to share a joke and a laugh with others. I have utmost respect for the incredibly high level of skills all the teachers demonstrate when leading classes. Its simply so nice when others before class smile and greet me. It is a lonely old existence following the black line with ones head in the water. I always leave class feeling more composed and love feeling those little aches that come from moving further into an asana. Each class I am surprised by different aspects, even the foundations, however I always feel pleased with my incremental improvements and yes it’s not a race!
Reflections on Yoga
How long have you been practicing yoga at MYC?
I started practicing at MYC in October 2012 when I moved to the Inner West.
What is your favourite pose for winter time and why?
Setubandha Sarvangasana: It is a resting pose which opens the upper front body, it gives my whole body a warm feeling and I think the extra blood supply to the brain makes me feel alert afterwards.
What is the most challenging pose for you and why?
Virabhadrasana 1: It challenges my arthritic left hip, stiff lower back and weak upper body all in one go
Have you noticed any changes as a result of yoga in your life/health/wellbeing?
My first ever yoga session was in February 2000 at Chatswood Yoga Centre. I knew very little about yoga but always knew that one day I would have to discover it, and then I was hooked. I was lucky that it was Iyengar Yoga, as I was already nearly 50 years old, had some old injuries, and arthritis in some joints, and therefore needed props. With time, most of those complaints have improved. I benefit from the discipline of regular weekly classes and I have learned to be happy with small improvements. Some sessions can be very challenging particularly when you are not feeling your best, but then I always remember how good it feels when it is time to do savasana.
I know I benefit immensely from yoga, I believe it teaches me discipline in daily life, it teaches me awareness, it keeps me flexible. It teaches me patience.
What is the most surprising aspect of yoga at MYC – something you really didn’t expect when starting out?
I love it at MYC for many reasons. The space is beautiful and airy. The teachers pay very close individual attention to the students. I need a lot of props because of previous injuries, arthritic joints and my age. I benefit from having different teachers during the week as each one brings another dimension to the class.
Outside of yoga, I paint. All my adult life I have been painting and have had many exhibitions both here and overseas. My work is inspired by nature and to keep up my creative spirit I do a lot of bushwalking, my eyes always wandering to spot the birds and wildlife. Over the past 7 years I also completed an Advanced Diploma in Ceramics. I am married with three adult children and 4 grandchildren which keeps me busy.
Want to see more of Johanna’s work? http://www.jhildebrandt.com.au/
Bach in the Dark Live Performance
At the beginning of the month we were lucky enough to have regular student and musician, Rachel, perform for us at the studio.
Such a wonderful experience for all as we grabbed bolsters and blankets and listened to some Bach in the fading light – special thanks to Rachel, what a gift!
We do hope to open the studio for more events in the near future – stay tuned for a film night and, we hope, an art exhibition coming soon.