Thursday, October 21, 2010

yoga shapes

My yoga teacher once said, 'when you start doing yoga it's all about making shapes with your body'. Later on you get into the deeper, more philosophical aspects of the practice - those come with time and consistent practice. But in the beginning, yoga is about making shapes.

One of the most well known yoga poses is trikonasana or triangle pose. I'm not going to go into a detailed explanation of how to practice this pose - you can read about it at Yoga Journal, or you can watch Rachel's Suburban Yogini tv where she beautifully demonstrates a variation of the pose (thanks Rachel!).
It's one of my favourite poses because even though I have been practicing it for over ten years now, each time I do it I learn something new about my body - about how placing my feet in a certain way, or working with props, or extending my arms, or pressing down my feet - can help me to achieve a deeper awareness of the pose, an experience of ' myself moving through space' and thereby a greater appreciation of what my body can do when I give it the love(=attention) and support (=props) it needs.
And this learning follows me off my mat and into my life.
To put it simply, I'm coming to appreciate my body not for its shape but for its ability to make shapes.

And for me this has been the greatest gift of yoga : the gift of awareness - of being able to enjoy the experience of being in my body, and to celebrate what it feels like to be human - no matter what shape I am in!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

the language of shape

'I found I could say things with color and shapes that
I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for'. Georgia O'Keefe

Pelvis with Distance (1943)
"I was most interested in the holes in the bones - what I saw through them - particularly the blue from holding them up in the sun against the sky".
(I found this artwork by Georgia O'Keefe here)
Thoughts for today:
What do you have no words for?
Is there a shape and a colour to describe it?
How can you use art and photography to express yourself?
Isn't this what art is all about?

Monday, October 18, 2010

the shape of my week

has prompted
us to pay attention
to shapes this week: I
plan to look at life a little bit
differently, to look for hidden patterns,
to experiment with rhythm and repetition in my
writing, to explore ways in which I might be able to change a
thing simply by turning it upside down or inside out; to change the way I think
by altering my viewpoint; & to change the way I live by adjusting my perception:
'To look at something as
though we had never seen it before
requires great courage'
Henri Mattisse

Friday, October 15, 2010

a few of my favourite things...

What would a week about 'heart' be without a 'things I love' post?
Here is my FRIDAY list:

Flat white - one a day, double shot espresso, with heart shaped patterns in the foam...
Red wine - a glass a day, sometimes two - any more and I suffer the consequences!
Internet - what did we do without it?!
Dogs - loyal friends, great walking companions, excellent doorbells
Apples, apricots, avocados, asparagus...
Yoga - keeps me sane, one asana at a time!

Happy weekend!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

open your heart

Most of us spend a large portion of our days bending forward, shoulders hunched - at a desk, over a computer, driving a car, doing housework, gardening...there are very few activities where we are actually required to stand up tall and throw our shoulders back! No wonder our lives start to feel compressed and closed in!

The backbend poses in yoga are all designed to open the chest, release the shoulders, and uplift energy levels. There is nothing quite like the feeling one gets after completing an intense backbend sequence. But if you don't have time to fit in a 90 minute yoga session you can start off with this simple chest opener. It only takes a couple of minutes (even though my description of it is quite long and detailed). It's a great way to start the day and can be repeated whenever you feel the need to lift your energy and open your heart!

Stand with your feet parallel, about hip distance apart.

Stand up tall with your hands by your sides and get a sense of your shoulders being positioned directly above your hips, and your hips directly above your ankles.

Press the feet down and lift the legs up, allowing the tail bone to extend down towards the floor. Draw the navel back towards the spine and lift up through the crown of the head. Feel yourself growing taller!

(This is called Tadasana - mountain pose - the most basic of the yoga standing poses)

Now take your hands behind your back and interlock your fingers, keeping the arms long and elbows straight. The hands should be resting on the buttocks at the base of the spine with the thumbs close to your body.

Roll the shoulders back and down towards the hands and lengthen the arms downwards.

Draw the shoulder blades together and into the back of the body. Lift the sternum up towards the chin, without throwing the chest forward.

Keep the navel drawing back towards the spine, front thighs moving towards the back thighs, feet pressing down.

Look up slightly, keeping the neck relaxed and throat soft.

Now inhale and lift the arms away from the back, keeping the arms extended.

Feel the broadness across the front of the chest. As the ribcage expands allow the breath to fill the chest cavity, creating space around the heart and lungs. Hold for about 30 seconds, breathing normally.

On an exhalation, release the arms back down towards the back.

Now change the interlock of the fingers so that the other thumb is closest to you (this may feel like the 'unnatural' grip of the fingers). Repeat the life of the arms to open the chest again.

Do you feel a lift in your energy, a space around your heart, a feeling of lightness?

You may well find you spend the rest of your day feeling more generous and open-hearted!

p.s. this is even more beneficial when practiced outdoors :-)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

shape of my heart

I was trying to photograph this wooden heart given to me by a good friend a few years ago.. it sits on a shelf in the kitchen with some mugs. As I was taking the picture I realised that the handle of the mug formed the shape of a heart sliced in half..a sort of 'semiheart'.

And while we're talking about heart shapes do you remember that song by Sting called Shape of my Heart? Here are the lyrics from the chorus:

I know that the spades are swords of a soldier
I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art
But that's not the shape of my heart.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

home is where the heart is

I've often thought about this phrase and how it applies to me - in the last 10 years I've had a bit of trouble defining exactly where my 'home' is - where do I belong? Where do I fit in? Where is the place where I feel most comfortable, most able to be me - because that is surely what home is - a place where one can relax, a place of peace and quiet, where you are surrounded by loved people and things.

When it comes to cities, I will always think of Cape Town as home but as the years go by Auckland has also become a place where I feel happy and comfortable. My daughters were born here, my husband is from here - this is where our family was made and moulded.

As far as a roof over our heads is concerned, we have been living a rather nomadic life during the last 10 years, moving 5 times but our 'dream home' is within reach at last. We're renting a house while we look for some land to build a family home, somewhere we can spend the next 15 or 20 years, a place where we can plant a tree and watch it grow (I'm going to blog about this process at my new blog home sweet home!)

Through all these changes I've sometimes felt lost, anchorless, as if I am bobbing around in an ocean waiting to be washed up on shore. The things that have kept me afloat has been the love and support of family, near and far - and friends, old and new. And also the gradual deepening of my awareness of Who I Am - in a wider sense. I no longer feel that where I live or what I own or how I look or even what I eat will keep me safe.

I do know without a doubt that the feeling of Being at Home, is so much more about being comfortable in my own skin and having faith in the path of Life than about living in any particular place.

The world is an oyster and the pearl we so long to find is really the beating of our hearts, the air that we breathe, and memories we hold dear - the sum of every moment that has made us what we are today - right here, right now.
Wheresoever you go, go with all your

Monday, October 11, 2010

beginning again

I've been racking my brain for ways to inject some life into this blog. The August Break taught me that a specific theme/project/structure makes regularly posting easier - rather than waiting for inspiration to randomly strike (it seldom happens!).
So I'm going to start off with a weekly theme, and then use the theme to inspire my photography and writing: As I've mentioned before I'm taking part in Joanna Paterson's Treasure Conscious online writing & photography course (we're into week 4 now) - each week Joanna provides a prompt to guide our practice during the week - this week the prompt is heart. And so that I don't get myself confused and my attention split in multiple directions (quite easily done), my soul sisters theme for this week is also heart. The heart shape has always been synonymous with and has become the universal symbol of love...but the word heart is open to many interpretations and can be used in many contexts. I'm going to try and explore it from a few different angles this week.

“It is only with the heart that one can see clearly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

back in the Land of the Long White Cloud

We're back from our holiday in South Africa - it was everything I hoped it would be..and more! It is good to be back in New Zealand too, and in some ways the trip is now just a dream: the only evidence I have that we were actually away is about 1000 photographs and a head and heart full of happy memories!
I'm planning on becoming a more frequent blogger again, starting next week when school begins again.
Watch. This. Space.

In the meantime, here's one of my favourite Cape Town shots - taken at the magnificent
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.