The Magic 10 and Beyond

abhyāsa-vairāgyābhyāṁ tan nirodhah

“The cessation of all vrittis, of all thinking and modifications of the mindstuff, is brought about by persistent inner practice of Self-abidance, abiding in the ‘I-am’ beyond the body and mind, and by non attachment through discrimination”

– PYS I.12 Commentary by Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati

 

During the month of June and July 2018 the Jivamukti Yoga Focus of the Month is The Magic 10 and Beyond. Those who have spent some time in Jivamukti studios will be familiar with the Magic 10. The Magic 10 is a 10 asana sequence that Sharon Ji crafted as a balanced 10 minute warm up sequence which includes a downward facing dog, standing forward bend, squat, seated twists, table top, supported handstand, chest expansion, side bends and a standing spinal roll, in that order.

magic 10

Sharon’s latest work is a book called The Magic 10 and Beyond. What is beyond the Magic 10 that we know and love? Sharon writes: Magic happens when there is a shift in perception, perception of yourself, others and the world. For the yoga practitioner, that shift is a movement away from false identification with the temporary and towards that which is eternal. Every serious practitioner of any art or science knows that to become accomplished, to feel at ease with your art, both practice and humility are necessary. Ultimately Self-realization is a solitary journey inward and because of that we should develop independence—dependence inward. The journey within is the journey toward the eternal atman and so it is a timeless journey without end. The Magic Ten and Beyond is a practical book, offering guidance to the traveler of infinity. This is an abbreviated list of the ten practices that are outlined in the book:

  1. Gratitude
  2. Giving Blessings
  3. Feeding the Birds
  4. The Magic 10 asana sequence (pictured above)
  5. Dance
  6. Kriya: uddiyana bhandha and agni sara
  7. Kapalabhati and alternate nostril kapalabhati
  8. Samavritti pranayama
  9. Meditation
  10. Shavasana

The Magic 10 and Beyond is a pretty special sequence for me as I have learnt about the utility of other yoga practices beyond asana during my recent teacher training. Indeed I was blessed to be in the first Magic 10 and Beyond class Sharon Ji has taught, during my teacher training. Sharon writes: Through repetition the magic is forced to rise. For a practice to yield sweet fruit it must be done regularly—daily is best. It should become a habit, a good habit like brushing your teeth. And like brushing your teeth, a daily yoga practice doesn’t have to take all day. Do it first thing in the morning and allow the benefits to unfold throughout the rest of the day. But if for some reason you are unable to do your practice first thing in the morning then do it later in the day or last thing before bed. The important thing is that you do it. Over time with consistent regular daily practice, along with a sense of detachment regarding specific results, the benefits will accumulate on their own accord. Abhyasa means to sit with something for a long time and vairaga means detachment. To practice, all the while being unconcerned with the results of the practice, is the way of the yogi who knows how to let go and let God. Transformation is always subtle and gradual, but non-the-less inevitable, if you’re willing to commit to consistency in your practice and sincerely surrender its fruits. Do your best and let God do the rest.

I can honestly confess that my primary motivation for training to be a Jivamukti teacher was to become established in a daily home practice. It’s kind of uncanny that during my teacher training I learnt of a sequence that suits my lifestyle. I was encouraged to practice the first four practices each morning before arriving at class each day. I love having ritual to my life and their is something so sacred about having your first practice start at soon as consciousness arrives each morning. The gratitude and giving blessings practices are some of the most important for me, especially in times of perceived business they ground me into changeless reality from the start of my day. I certainly have a busy life, but that’s because its full of opportunities and privileges that are nice to take the time acknowledge and appreciate. Sharon suggests that to give blessings, one can bring a person in their life to mind, inhale and silently say “blessings, thankfulness and love to…” and exhale silently say their name. To make this practice even more powerful, it can be helpful to visulise writing the persons name you wish to bless on an envelop and imaging posting them the blessings, thankfulness and love you are sending them. The third practice, feeding the birds, has highlighted how domesticated I have been in my urban lifestyle. I have aspirations of crafting a bird feeder and putting organic seeds in for the birds this month. It can be nice to water my plants mindfully first thing after I get out of bed, as a way on connecting with the natural world in some way. I am now in the habit of rolling out my mat each morning and practicing the Magic 10, even if I sleep in, and it is nice when I can share this practice with my partner who is otherwise uninterested in yoga practice.

Yoga means to remember your connection to the Supreme Source, eternal happiness itself—the kind of happiness that is not dependent on any thing or condition. Yoga teaches that within each living being there is an eternal soul, the atman. Yoga practices enable us to reconnect to the atman and to understand that our mortal bodies are not who we really are—they are dwelling places for our immortal soul. Over time the practices alchemically transform our perception of who we are from the doer to the participant. The realised yogi lives in the world as an instrument for the light of truth. There are many yoga practices that can guide a person along the way to that magical remembering of who he or she really is—some of those practices are explored in this book in the form of mantras, prayers, blessings, affirmations, visualisations, asanas, dance steps, kriyas, pranayama, meditation, deep relaxation and feeding the birds.

The fifth practice is dance, wait, what? Before she was a yoga teacher, Sharon Gannon was a dancer. I have always felt I am quite an uncoordinated person and for that reason have never danced as a hobby as many of my friends did. The three dance moves in the Magic 10 and beyond encourage co-ordination of movement across the body. The sixth practices are kriyas, which are cleansing practices including uddiyana bhandha and agni sara. Most people, even people who hang out in yoga studios, are unlikely to have heard of kriyas but they are powerful yogic practices intended to cleanse various parts of the body and mind. I would suggest reading more about kriyas and being taught the practices by a teacher you trust until you become more familiar. I was very pleased to see Kapalabhati and alternate nostril kapalabhati as the seventh practice and Samavritti pranayama as the eighth, both are pranayama or breathing practices. Personally, I like kapalabhati as I have the most experience with it of all pranayama and due to the forceful exhalation it can be vary invigorating – a yogic cup of coffee if you like. Samavritti translates to “same fluctuations”. I like to practice samavritti pranayama in the evening, opposed to katalabati, as it has a relaxing effect. Like kriyas, pranayama are complex practices, it is best to read about the practices and be shown by a teacher to learn the intricacies of the practices.

The ninth practice is meditation. My meditation practice has been a street fight for many years, only since my teacher training have I found surrender in this practice, well on more days than not at least – it is a practice after all. The Jivamukti meditation steps are very simple:

  1. Choose a seat, make it one that you can commit to, feel your sit bones grounding down and the crown of your head spiraling up to the heavens
  2. Be still; invite stillness into the body so that the mind might become still, part of the practice is detachement from bodily sentations try to demand our attention
  3. Use the mantra “let go;” bring your attention to your natural inhalation and exhalation, on the inhaltion silently say “let” and on the exhalation silently say “go”. The sanskrit word mantra consists of the root man- “to think” or as in manas “mind” and the suffix -tra, designating tools or instruments, hence a literal translation would be “instrument of thought”. We bring our attention from our thoughts to our breath and hold this attention to our breath through the use of our mantra, or “instrument of thought”.

Finally, the tenth practice is shavasana, which literally translates as corpse. Shavasana is an opportunity to integrate the other yogic practices as well as practice dying. It is said that all fear stems from our fear of death. A yogi practices dying each day so that they relinquish the fear that they have in life and death.

The Sanskrit word sadhana means “conscious spiritual practice.” What distinguishes a yoga practice from a physical fitness exercise routine is the intention. When you engage in an activity with the conscious intention for it to bring you closer to enlightenment, then it is sadhana. Sadhana is never something you do for yourself. It is always about getting over yourself, your separate ego self, and awakening to how you are part of a higher Divine Self. But without the essential ingredient of bhakti, which means “devotion or love for God,” to help you relinquish doer-ship, your practices could keep you ego-centered and goal oriented, identified with your body and mind, tossed about by the ups and downs of life, bound in mundane reality and the pursuit of temporary happiness through material accumulation and forgetfulness of the real doer—the Supreme Self.

 

Blessings,

Meg x

The Magic 10 and Beyond is now available to purchase from all good book stores:
Magic-10-beyond_cf4cb8e6-81da-4ec0-a553-8bf96b6fc460_large

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Our Parents and Our Yoga Practice

Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu, Guru Devo Maheshwara
Guru Sakshat Param Brahma Tasmai Shri Gurave Namah

Our creation is that guru; the duration of our lives is that guru; our trials, illnesses and calamities is that guru. There is a guru that is nearby and a guru that is beyond the beyond. I humbly make my offering to the guru, the beautiful remover of ignorance, the enlightenment principle that is within me and surrounds me at all times.

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The Focus of the Month for May 2018 was written by Yogeswari, a guru from my recent yoga teacher training in India, much of this post is her exact words of wisdom with my ramblings interwoven. This focus of the month feels particularity sacred to me at this time. I start to write this late in the evening of the night before my 25th birthday. My birthday is often a time of great reflection for me. This week I have been reflecting on the love I receive from my friends who have given me such thoughtful gifts. On my birthday I often reflect on my life up until this very day; how wonderful my life has been so far, how grateful I am for the trails and tribulations which have stretched me – enabling me to grow. I find myself thinking about my parents, who by the way, despite their acrimonious divorce more than half a lifetime ago, continue to be my first and most beloved gurus.

Guru means teacher, the enlightenment principle. The Hindu Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva symbolizes the process of creation, sustenance and destruction that all of manifestation is subjected to. Brahma is creation and refers to the circumstances of our birth, our parents, the relationship between our parents, the emotions and energies our mother exposed herself to during pregnancy and birth, and the culture and socio-economic circumstances. In experiencing this mantra, we are invited to look at all these aspects as a teaching. In Western society, there has been an increasing trend towards individualization and single-handedly taking credit for everything we accomplish. We have forgotten the people who have opened doors for us, and we take any sacrifices our parents have made for us for granted. We have replaced gratitude with entitlement, and we no longer know the secrets of what holds an ecosystem, a community or a family together. We are all suffering in varying degrees from the disease of disconnect.

I have had an intense personal experience of this, in my relationship with both my parents and my step parents. So angry was I that my family did not fit within the parameters of what I considered a normal family to be that I spent years at a time without any contact with my parents. Now that I am training to be a clinical psychologist, my childhood experiences and attitude towards my parents is again at the forefront of my consciousness, indeed something I spoke to a colleague about today after our therapy for therapists session. Then eerily, after our lunch break, my teacher held up the discarded notebook of one of my colleagues which read:

“If first you don’t succeed, blame your parents”

Some years ago, respect became confused with punishment and oppression, instead of an attitude of deep love, reverence and appreciation. We began to reject expressions of respect towards our parents, teachers and elders, and have stopped teaching it to our children. When yoga students are asked to reflect on their parents, the mood tends to become very quiet, solemn and tearful. So many of us have heavy issues with our parents, and often have stopped talking to them altogether. We continue to live with unresolved pain and hurt lingering under the surface, until it is too late. A parent falls ill or dies. Misunderstandings, unskillful communication or abusive patterns are left in a puddle of darkness, confusion and regrets. Some of us are in our eighties, our mother or father has been under the ground for 25 years, and still, day after day, we are making ourselves miserable thinking about what horrible things our mother or father did to us. We are still waiting for the deceased parent to apologise or somehow fix the situation, not realizing that the only person, who can relieve us from all of that suffering is us.

Yoga practice teaches how to reconcile the relationship from our end. The physical presence of the other person may not even be required. We train ourselves to be humble, get over false pride and see strength in making the first gesture towards reconciliation. Often, it is not even a matter of a huge drama or catharsis, but just a small energetic shift, comparable to actively engaging the spiraling movements in our thighs, lifting our inner arches or pressing our big toe mounds into the ground. These are small, almost invisible adjustments that will create a ripple effect through the whole body and bring the whole pose into balance. In the same way, a small internal shift brought about by setting an intention to look at one good quality in each of our parents, can totally change the relationship. Remember: any rift with our parents is a reflection of a rift within ourselves.

In learning about karma, I have come to realise that the fluctuations of conflict and tension with my parents and family more generally are karmic cycles, perhaps from previous lifetimes ago. The body is made up of karma’s. If you have conflict with your parents it is said that your base chakra (Muladhara chakra) is unbalanced, which may mean that you have a general instability within your life, typified by instability in relationships with other family members, career and money – read, other things that provide stability. How do we overcome this? Something Sharon Ji said on my teacher training still rings though my ears to this day, “You should wake up with a desire to get on your mat and work through your karma’s”.

Harmonizing the relationship with our parents and our teachers is the key to managing all other relationships. We need to stop projecting outward, stop blaming, stop looking for fault and start by generating an energy of gratitude. We have to stop making exceptions that Yogic teachings only apply to certain situations, but not to others. We need to assume our responsibility in the conflict, and see it appearing from of our own projections. In responding to any form of abuse, resentment will not lead us to liberation. Forgiveness is the only thing that will allow our hearts to become light. Forgiving is not so much about letting the other person off the hook, but it is about dropping the darkness that makes us sick and stops us from moving forward. Forgiveness is essential for spiritual growth. A famous quote by Martin Luther King Jr. says:

“I have decided to go with love, hate is too heavy a burden to bear.”

I can certainly speak to the burden of hate, as well as the grief, anger and despair that comes with having an un-harmonious relationship with my parents. For years it plagued me and I have been in psychotherapy because if for much of my life. However, I can also speak to the liberation I experienced when I decided I could no longer bare the burden of hate. I realised that although many of my experiences of parental figures were ugly, complicated and even abusive, I could be free of this if I wanted to be. And I really, really, wanted to be free. My desire for liberation from the bondage of parental conflict meant that for the first time in my life, my desire to be right was less important to me than my desire to be free. I forgave my parental figures, all four of them. This was greatly facilitated by the psychotheraputic practice of writing down each significant trial in my life and what I learnt from it. Shortly after this I was accepted into university, moved interstate (far from my family of origin) then found and fell in love with Jivamukti yoga.

“Psychotherapy is for getting you to a place of normalcy, yoga is for enlightenment” – Sharon Ji

When we are young, we see our parents as perfect, and when we grow up to be teenagers, our parents look like everything but perfect. Yet, our expectation of perfection remains and creates a constant friction with our criticism. Can we perhaps accept that our parents always did their best, but may not always have been able to do this skillfully, because of the difficulties and suffering they encountered? Perhaps, if we ourselves are now a parent, we can see that being perfect all the time is an impossible task? Sometimes parents forget that a child cannot be forced into the mold of their unfulfilled dreams. Sometimes, a mother is incapable of nurturing a child with maternal love, because of her own trauma. Still, she is doing her best. We may wish to see ourselves as totally different from your parents, but as we age, we may realize how much we are like them; we are a continuation of our parents, and our ancestors.

Certainly my psychological mindedness and training got me to the point of understanding the factors that account for some of my parents behaviour; their relationship with their parents, their childhoods, their traumas, their dreams. I truly believe that at any given point in time, any given person is just doing the best they can, with what they have. I apply this principle to people who are considered some of the hardest people to understand – people who are addicted to drugs – so its only fair I would extend the same kindness to my parents. Having said that, they still irritate me, I still am hypersensitive and overly reactive at times to what I perceive as provocation. Although, I have learnt that this is less about others, especially my parents where this experience is most salient, and much more about me and my sadhana (discipline of routine spiritual practice). My karma means I chose my parents. And they chose me. I continue to choose them as my first and most beloved gurus. Although some days it is easier than others, I humbly bow and give offerings to my gurus, my parents. I give thanks to my parents for birthing me into the world, this time 25 years ago. I thank them for allowing me to experience the beauty and the ugliness of life. My parents, were the gurus that were near, every day they nurtured and cared for me and in doing so allowed me the opportunity to have a lot of opportunity. I had the opportunity to find Jivamukti yoga and in doing so, the opportunity to resolve my karma’s through yoga practices. I have the opportunity, as we all do, to experience the enlightenment principle (or God) that is operating around me and within me at all times, the guru that is beyond the beyond.

You chose exactly the perfect parents that your soul needed to experience for your spiritual and personal development. If we love our parents, we don’t have to say anything; our love is enough, and when they pass away, the love will continue, and there will be no regrets. Michael Franti gives us this beautiful contemplation:

Your father is just an ordinary guy who fell in love.

Blessings,

Meg x

My Jivamukti Satsang

Sat-sangatve nissangatvam nissangatve nirmohatvam

Nirmohatve nishchala-tattvam nishchala-tattve jivanmuktih

Bhaja govindam bhaja govindam bhaja govindam mudha-mate

Good and virtuous company gives rise to non-attachment. From non-attachment comes freedom from delusion. With freedom from delusion, one feels the changeless reality. Experiencing that changeless reality, one attains liberation in this life. I-AM is the ocean of awareness. Realizing this, one feels, ‘I am not the body and mind, although I have a body and mind.’ Realize Govinda, realize Govinda in your heart, O wise one! – Shri Adi Shankaracharya from Carpata-Panjarik

You are the company you keep. Although I always knew this it became especially apparent to me during my recent yoga teacher training. Jivamukti yoga is a global tribe of spiritual seekers, being part of this community benefits our own personal studies, practice and raises our vibration personally and as a collective. I’m so inspired by the Jivamuktas in my life, I thought I’d share some of their amazing work with you so you can become part of the satsang if you’re not already. And what better place to start than with the cofounders.

Sharon Gannon, affectionately known as Padma (translates to flower), is forthcoming about what her intentions were in founding a yoga method, which was to create another platform for vegan activism. I was blessed to be trained by Padma during my teacher training, she is passionate about people understanding karma, chakras and other ancient laws and wisdom. She inspires me everyday.

David Life David created alongside the Jivamukti Yoga method alongside Sharon. The method focuses on teaching and practicing yoga as a means to enlightenment. David is a certified Advanced practitioner of the Ashtanga Yoga method of Shri K. Pattabhi Jois. His interest in yoga is supported by his artistic, literary and metaphysical studies. At my teacher training, Sharon shared of how David likes to say in regards to the yogic obligation to take accountability for your actions, “Yoga ruined my life”. Although Sharon and David are not active on social media, you can have access to their teachings on Instagram by following @jivamuktinyc and @whatisrealmovie

Jules Fabre is the nephew and student of Sharon and David. I have been fortunate enough to be taught by Jules during his annual visits to Melbourne and Geelong, he has an incredible understanding of yogic teachings and practices. You can access some of his teachings by following his inspired account on Instagram @hiphopasana

Yogeswari has been a student of Sharon and David for many years, I enjoyed her teachings during my teacher training especially her incredible knowledge of the Buddhist tradition. Yogeswari facilitates Jivamukti yoga immersion’s all over the world for students and teachers alike to enhance their knowledge and practice. Yogeswari also has a not for profit called AZAHAR foundation, which promotes cross-cultural non-violent conflict resolution. You can follow Yogeswari on Facebook and Instagram @yogeswari

Moritz Ulrich is a doctor, musician, owner of Yoga Peace Berlin and facilitator of Jivamukti Yoga Teacher trainings. I am learning harmonium via Moritz online harmonium course, which is so enjoyable. Moritz has a broad range of teachings to offer which you can be enlightened with by following him on Instagram @downdogberlin

Closer to home, Adrienne Stevens is the owner of Jivamukti affiliated studio, Yoga Dojo Geelong. Thanks to Aidrenne Jivamukti yoga has a home in Geelong. I was introduced to Yoga Dojo by a friend, primarily as stress management, several years ago. I instantly fell in love with the method and the studio, I knew it would become a lifelong practice. I have so much gratitude to Adrienne for making it possible for me to find the Jivamukti method and have the privilege of teaching it to our satsang. Visit us on Instagram @yogadojo or at the studio on 21 Melbourne Road, Drumcondra. The class timetable is available via the MINDBODY app by searching Yoga Dojo.

Simone Fitzgerald is a senior Jivamukti teacher at Yoga Dojo and one of the most gentle souls I’ve met. Simone is a quiet achiever, previously owning a hairdressing studio, not to mention being a mother of four! Simone is also a yin yoga teacher and her understanding of lunar cycles is unparalleled. You can find Simone’s Jivamukti and Yin classes at Yoga Dojo on the MINDBODY app or by following her on Instagram @justmewith

Jess Bourke, otherwise know as Death Roll Doll, is a counsellor, motorcycle and rollerderbie lover, mother and Jivamukti teacher – all simultaneously, as pictured! Jess and her husband Damien completed their teacher training a few years ago in India. Jess is slowly but surely teaching more and more classes at Yoga Dojo, to check out the MINDBODY app for her classes or follow her on Instagram @deathrolldoll

April used to be a beloved Yoga Dojo teacher before she was called to the big smoke of Jivamukti Sydney. I was fortunate enough to be April’s housemate a few years ago, a memorable testimony to elevated company and vegan households. April is loved for her vegan activism and mindblowing assists, you can check out her schedule at http://www.jivamuktisydney.com if you are a Sydney-sider. Alternatively you can check out her recorded classes at http://www.aprildavisyoga.com or follow on Instagram @ay.diddy

Doug Whittaker is the owner of the only other Jivamukti studio currently in Australia, Jivamukti Sydney, he mentored me through my teacher training. Doug is a level 10 chiller but obviously a high achiever. Doug’s parting words with us were “above everything you’ve learned, just be kind because without that, the rest is irrelevant”. Our mentor group misses you Doug Ji! You can check out Doug’s classes, workshops and retreats at http://www.jivamuktisydney.com and follow him on Instagram @jivamuktisydney

Sandy King is a Jivamukti goddess with several years experience. Sandy and her partner Sas live and work in Vegan Capital of Australia, Newtown Sydney. I’m lucky to be visited annually by Sandy and Sas having just done a weekend-long series of kosha workshops last month. Sandy’s has a website with generous resources including playlists and class recordings at sandyking.com.au, you can also follow her on Instagram @sandykingyoga

Sas is a scientist, lover and Jivamukti teacher of about four years. Sas is as quirky as she is humble and though I’ve spent precious little time with her it feels as though I’ve known her a lifetime. You can check when Sas (or Sandy) are teaching at Jivamukti Sydney at http://www.jivamuktisydney.com or follow @sas_stephens

Mel Rossini, I didn’t mean to fall in love with her but that smile and Sanskrit scholarship had me hooked from day one. Mel is an environmental activist and has a big Italian heart. To find out where Mel is teaching in Sydney follow her on Instagram @meow_like_a_cat

Kane and Bianca are two of the highest vibrational individuals I’ve ever met so it should be no surprise to hear that being in their presence is bliss. This power couple teach in Cambridge in England, you can check out their website at http://www.ybyk.co.uk or follow them on Instagram @beautifulsoulhenna and @its_yogi_kane

Isabel Lancaster is the reason I did this post. Another little pommy cracker, her laugh is absolutely infectious. Issie has a gracefulness on the mat that she carries with her off the mat. Issie has a beautiful website which she is about to add resources to about veganism which you check out at https://www.idyogauk.com/

There are seventy other incredible holy beings that I trained with as well as millions more jivamuktas around the world, that I would love to share with you in time.

Find your tribe, love them hard.

Blessings,

Meg x

March Madness

“As Swami Beyondananda says to promote his product – (an empty box labeled “Nothing”) – No matter what your problem is, Nothing will help; Nothing is known to cure baldness; Nothing gets out those impossible stains; Nothing is completely safe to eat; Nothing lasts forever; Nothing beats sex; It’s the ultimate enlightenment tool because the secret to everything is Nothing; if you understand Nothing, you understand everything.” The key to understanding Nothing is to break down the word into it’s components No-Thing, No-This, No-That will help your problem. Only in realizing the wholeness of everything will you find fulfillment and contentment” – David Life

Today is one of the last days of the Jivamukti Focus of the Month, which this month is March Madness. I don’t know about you but its been a pretty mad month for me; going back to university, starting to teach yoga and learning how to strike balance again in a new, busy lifestyle – an un-fancy yoga home practice has been the foundation. I was recently listening to a TedTalk by Carl Honoré who wrote a book called In Praise of Slowness. I think it speaks to the focus of the month and was something that really resonated with me:

A world obsessed with speed, with doing everything faster, with cramming more and more into less and less time. Every moment of the day feels like a race against the clock. To borrow a phrase from Carrie Fisher, “These days even instant gratification takes too long”. And if you think about how we to try to make things better, what do we do? We speed them up, don’t we? So we used to dial; now we speed dial. We used to read; now we speed read. We used to walk; now we speed walk. And of course, we used to date and now we speed date. And even things that are by their very nature slow — we try and speed them up too. So I was in New York recently, and I walked past a gym that had an advertisement in the window for a new evening course. And it was for, you guessed it, speed yoga. So this — the perfect solution for time-starved professionals who want to, you know, salute the sun, but only want to give over about 20 minutes to it.

But there’s a very serious point, and I think that in the headlong dash of daily life, we often lose sight of the damage that this roadrunner form of living does to us. We’re so marinated in the culture of speed that we almost fail to notice the toll it takes on every aspect of our lives — on our health, our diet, our work, our relationships, the environment and our community. And sometimes it takes a wake-up call, doesn’t it, to alert us to the fact that we’re hurrying through our lives, instead of actually living them; that we’re living the fast life, instead of the good life. And I think for many people, that wake-up call takes the form of an illness. You know, a burnout, or eventually the body says, “I can’t take it anymore,” and throws in the towel. Or maybe a relationship goes up in smoke because we haven’t had the time, or the patience, or the tranquillity, to be with the other person, to listen to them.

Right across the world, people are doing the unthinkable: they’re slowing down, and finding that, although conventional wisdom tells you that if you slow down, you’re road kill, the opposite turns out to be true: that by slowing down at the right moments, people find that they do everything better. They eat better; they make love better; they exercise better; they work better; they live better. And, in this kind of cauldron of moments and places and acts of deceleration, lie what a lot of people now refer to as the “International Slow Movement.”

Listening to this really hit home for me just how important it is to slow down, no matter what demands the world appears to be putting on you in any given moment. In application to our asana practice, there is nothing that we like to speed up like vinyasa. But as I learnt recently during my yoga teacher training, vinyasa is meditation in motion. It is said that when we master strict vinyasa, when our breath, intention, bandhas and gaze guide our continuous movement, we lose all fear of death and life.

Whats the rush?

Enjoy the stillness,

Meg x

References and Resources

In Praise of Slowness: https://www.ted.com/talks/carl_honore_praises_slowness

Slow Your Home Podcast (one of my favourite): http://slowyourhome.com/the-slow-home-podcast/

 

What is Towards Zero Waste Geelong?

“Perhaps if we could popularise through the techniques of branding and consumerism, a different idea, a different narrative, perhaps the world can change. After all it changes constantly and incessantly, it’s just the perceptions that we have are governed by people with self-interest and are not in alignment with the health and safety of us as individuals or as a planet” – Russell Brand

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If you’ve been with me since the beginning of this personal blog, over two years ago now, you are probably familiar with a mystical green thumb called Katie. Well, over the last few years Katie and I have grown to be very fond of each other, she has taught me a lot about gardening and many-a zero waste alternatives, as well as inspired me to be more active in the zero waste movement. If you follow me on Instagram (@thethoughtfulvegan) or Katie (@seedblog) you’ll have seen that after the War on Waste aired that we did a Responsible Cafes flyer drop down the main street in Geelong West, asking cafes to offer an incentive for people who bring their own cup rather than using a disposable coffee cup. The support we received from this was mind-blowing, almost all the cafes that we spoke to put the flyer up in their window straight away, offing discounts of as much as 50c off – even the local bakery got on board!

This was such an empowering experience, we were so motivated to generate change of a bigger scale. The War on Waste had gotten the ball rolling and we were keenly pushing it so that it kept momentum. We wondered whether anyone in Geelong would be interested in learning about how to transition towards zero waste so we approached Katherine at Valerie’s Pantry, who graciously offered us the space in which to hold the workshops. All forty seats for each of the two-part free workshops booked out within three days. Any doubt that we had about whether there was a demand for workshops quickly evaporated and we jumped head first into the workshops, which ended up being so much fun and so inspiring to be a part of. We decided that these workshops are important for us to continue and so together we became Towards Zero Waste Geelong. We are not sponsored, we don’t have any affiliations, we are just two health professionals who happen to be friends and get excited about people making positive lifestyle changes, especially ones that reduce waste footprints. As proud vegans, we wish to acknowledge that food choice is the single biggest way to reduce your waste footprint, any other lifestyle choice is secondary. Although no effort is ever wasted, we encourage intention over perfection. If you’re only doing Meat Free Monday at this stage, we salute that effort!

Since our first workshops series in January we have kept the conversation going in our Towards Zero Waste Geelong Facebook group, which is an open groups were everyone is welcomed – even if you’re not in Geelong! This is a supportive space where there is always someone available to answer a personal question you have about transitioning towards zero waste.

Due to the demand we received, we will be doing more comprehensive two-part Towards Zero Waste Living workshops in June and October this year. These workshops are suitable for anyone who has made some changes and just wants to gain more tips and tricks in an interactive, informal environment. We aren’t sharing anything that you couldn’t already find yourself on the Internet (that’s what we did back in the day) but the beauty of these workshops is to see, hear and experience the simplicity and beauty that is living a zero waste lifestyle, as well as connect with others who are doing the same. We split the workshops up over two 90 minute sessions on consecutive evenings. The first is focused on the kitchen, where most waste is generated and the second on other household waste. We do demonstrations of how to make your own household products and you will be electronically sent a hand out that covers all the practical steps covered during the workshops, as well as where you can get more information.

If you’re still contemplating whether this is too hard for you or feel overwhelmed with where to start, never fear, we will be doing a Towards Zero Waste for Beginners workshop where we start at the very beginning including how to break our conditioning about disposables and simple things to try to start reducing your waste.

We also hope there will be interest for a Zero Waste Advocacy Workshop, for those seasoned zero wasters in our community who are keen to spread the zero waste movement to their workplaces, schools and broader community.

In the Towards Zero Waste Living workshops we cover the importance of composting to reduce waste but in our Composting and Worm Farming workshop we will cover the intricacies, including getting your hands dirty with hands-on demonstrations and how to troubleshoot common composting problems.

Finally, during what is sure to be the month of peak waste generation around the world, we will be doing an exciting Zero Waste Christmas workshop with all our tried and tested strategies to reduce your waste footprint over the silly season.

Below are the details of all our proposed workshop dates for the year:

Towards Zero Waste Geelong Workshop Calendar 2018

Zero Waste Beginners                   April 9th 7-8:30PM                          $15

Towards Zero Waste Living         June 25th & 27th 7-8:30PM            $15 for one $20 for both

Zero Waste Advocacy                    August 13th 7-8:30PM                     $15

Towards Zero Waste Living        October 22nd & 24th 7-8:30PM      $15 for one $20 for both

Composting & Worm Farming    November 12th 7-8:30PM               $15

Zero Waste Christmas                  December 3rd 7-8:30PM                  $15

*All dates, time and prices are subject to change. All workshops are likely to be held in meeting room beside Valerie’s Pantry located at 138 High St, Belmont. Tea and vegan nibbles provided.

We hope you’re as excited about our workshop calendar as we are and that there is something on there for everyone! If you enjoyed our first Towards Zero Waste Living workshop and know of a friend who would be interested, word of mouth is always the best referral.

After you’ve competed the workshops we hope to have you input in our Facebook group. This is the space that our monthly-ish meetings will be organised. These are very informal and will often include craft beer, but after our first meeting we are pleased to say they are definitely at least three times more productive than any other meeting you’ve been too. After mine and Katie’s success with promoting the Responsible Cafes in Pakington Street last year, we were keen to become ambassadors for The Last Straw. This is a campaign, similar to Responsible Cafes, which asks consumers to refuse straws and venues not to hand them out unless requested. The people that attended our meeting a few weeks ago came up with some fabulous ideas about how to further this wonderful campaign in our community, some of which is already been put into action. There are of course several other zero waste campaigns we will passionately endorse in due time within the group. We hope you will join us or just come along for the sweet, sweet vibes generated by being around people who dare to care.

Join us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram (@towardszerowastegeelong) for more details about workshops and campaign meetings.

Thanks for reading,

Meg and Katie x

What’s the deal with B12?

“Carnivorous humans and paleo-enthusiasts may say that taking a supplement is unnatural and that you should eat more meat. However, consuming the amount of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol found in meat is unnatural for humans, who are best suited for a plant-based diet. There is no health reason to eat meat. Given that one in six meat eaters is also vitamin B12–deficient, they might be wise to take an oral supplement themselves” – Shivam Joshi, MD

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When I became vegan, I felt so good for it that became a bit complacent about nutrition. When my best friend and long-time vegan asked if I was supplementing for B12 I honestly didn’t know what she was talking about. She told me about how vegans are recommended to supplement B12 as it’s hard to get it from diet. I bought an online supplement, then proceeded to forget to take it every day as recommended.

So, what is B12?

Anyone who knows anything about vitamin B12 will tell that the best source of B12 is from animal products. But vitamin B12 is produced by bacteria, not animals or plants for that matter. Vitamin B12 can be found in bacteria-laden manure and unsanitised water and also in the human intestinal tract, but these sources are inedible or insufficient to meet our nutritional needs. Many animal products contain high amounts of vitamin B12 because animals accumulate this bacteria during their lives, which bioaccumulates in their bodies. Livestock are often supplemented with vitamin B12 in their feed, sometimes through other animal’s manure. Historically, vitamin B12 from bacteria was naturally and reliably present in plant foods. However, with soil being exposed to more antibiotics and pesticides and modern sanitation practices, most plant foods are no longer reliable sources of B12. There are plant foods contain some vitamin B12, including certain mushrooms, seaweed, green powders and nutritional yeast. Others sources such as cereals, non-dairy milks, and nutritional yeast are often fortified with a crystalline form of vitamin B12. The crystalline form of vitamin B12 is actually thought to be preferable to the protein-bound form present in animal produces because it’s easier for our bodies to absorb.

What is B12 deficiency?

In one study, vitamin B12 deficiency affected 86 percent of all vegans. Vitamin B12 deficiency is a serious condition which can cause anaemia, nerve damage, neurocognitive changes and even paralysis. If you’re transitioning to veganism, one thing you should be closely considering is your vitamin B12 intake. The Vegan Society recommends one of the following:

  1. Eat B12 fortified foods two or three times a day to get at least three micrograms (mcg or µg) of B12 per day
  2. Take one B12 supplement daily providing at least 10 micrograms.
  3. Take a weekly B12 supplement providing at least 2000 micrograms.

I have taken an oral B12 supplement over the last four years, as I said though I struggle to remember to take it daily as recommended. I have seen a steady decline in my B12 stores from blood test results over that period, even with oral supplementation. I decided to try B12 injections recently, even though my doctor had previously deferred me from it. Similar to iron, B12 is a difficult to absorb, but getting an injection means it is absorbed straight into the blood stream. Unlike fat-soluble vitamins that accumulate in your body and can have side effects in excess, B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning your body only absorbs a small amount and the rest is excreted through urine. The range for B12 stores is large from 150-800mg with less than 150mg being an indicator of deficiency. A blood test is the only way to diagnose B12 deficiency. My previous blood test indicated my B12 stores were at 180mg – in the low range. I recently had a course of four B12 injections done as a cosmetic procedure, my blood test results this week showed my B12 stores were around 800mg. B12 injections can be done cosmetically, or as I learnt this week, you can buy three ampules for around $10 over the counter at a pharmacy. You need access to a needle and syringe and someone trained to be able to inject it for you correctly, of course you can take it to your doctor to do it for you. My plan is to get a nurse in the family to give me an injection every six month or so. Of course, this is my personal choice to get B12 injections, usually they are only required when you are deficient. If B12 is a concern for you or if you are interested in learning more be sure to raise it with you doctor.

Thanks for reading,

Meg x

References and Resources

Why Every Vegan and Vegetarian Needs Vitamin B12: https://www.forksoverknives.com/every-vegan-vegetarian-needs-vitamin-b12/

Vitamin B12 Questions Answered: https://www.forksoverknives.com/vitamin-b12-questions-answered-2/#gs.pt9c=RI

What Every Vegan Should Know About Vitamin B12 (The Vegan Society): https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/nutrition-and-health/vitamins-minerals-and-nutrients/vitamin-b12-your-key-facts/what-every-vegan-should-know-about-vitamin-b12

Iron and the Anaemic Vegan Stereotype

“If you are not your own doctor, you are a fool” – Hippocrates

This time last year, I learnt I was iron deficient, again. Often when I tell people I am iron deficient they assume it is because I don’t eat meat. The truth is, since puberty I have struggled to maintain healthy iron levels. Before a blood donation in grade 12, I found my haemoglobin was so low I was refused donation and advised to consult my GP. After some blood tests I found that I was not only iron deficient, but anaemic. That year would have been my heaviest year of red meat consumption, two years prior to going vegan. According to the Australian Health Survey data, I am not alone in this:

“Females were much more likely to have inadequate iron intakes from foods than males, with one in four (23%) not meeting their requirements compared with one in thirty males (3%)”

We are often told that being vegetarian or vegan is a risk factor for iron deficiency, despite various studies which indicate that while veggos tend to have slightly lower iron stores, they are no more likely to be iron deficient than meat eaters. I feel that I am living proof of this. As iron is important in many bodily functions, this association can lead people to believing that a vegan lifestyle is an unhealthy one, one which must include deficiency and sickly looking anemia.

But first things first, what is iron?

Iron is an important mineral that helps transport oxygen around the body in red blood cells, playing a vital role in producing energy, supporting immune function and supplying oxygen to muscles. Hemoglobin tests, such as those done at the blood bank, are the most commonly used measures to screen for iron deficiency. The last stage of iron deficiency, called iron-deficiency anemia (IDA), occurs when the proportion of red blood cells in blood by volume are low. Hemoglobin concentrations which are lower than 13 g/dL in men and 12 g/dL in women indicate IDA.

There are two sources of iron; heme iron derived from blood and muscle and non-heme derived from plant-based sources.  Dr Michael Greger describes iron as a double-edge sword, non-heme is not as easily absorbed but heme iron is strongly associated with several diseases including cancer, stroke and heart disease. Therefore, non-heme iron can be considered safer in that it is less likely to cause disease.

When you eliminate heme-iron from your diet you may notice your iron stores decrease, or like me, your iron stores may significantly increase! Shortly after going vegan, having previously been refused at the blood bank, I went in and my haemoglobin reading was the highest it had ever been in about five years of donations. Though my iron stores have remained in the low range over the years I have been vegan, I haven’t again been anemic since I was as a red meat eater. This is not unusual as a vegan diet is rich in non-heme iron and vitamin C, meaning that many vegans are able to get adequate iron from their diets alone. However, in the years since I have returned to a baseline in the low range. I have accepted that low iron is something I will have to manage for the rest of my life, particularly during menstruation and pregnancy.

Plant-based foods that are good sources of iron, such as spinach, have low iron bioavailability because they contain iron-absorption inhibitors, called polyphenols. For this reason, a common nutritional recommendation is to combine a plant-based iron source with a plant-based source of vitamin C, for example add a tomato or the juice of an orange when sauteing leafy greens. Although due to consuming only non-heme iron some recommend vegans aim to consume 1.8 times more iron than is recommended to non-vegans (which by the way, is 18mg per day for women aged 18-59).

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There are many great plant-based sources of iron, however iron is a one of two vitamins I choose to supplement (the other is B12, stay tuned for this post). Anyone that has been iron deficient or anemic would be well acquainted with Ferro-Grad C, an iron supplement commonly prescribed by doctors which can be fortified with vitamin C to assist with absorption of iron. I have learnt a lot about iron supplements over the years.

Not all supplements are made equal.

After watching a Four Corners report regarding the safety of supplements I am reluctant to use them, however due to my predisposition to anemia I feel obliged too. The trouble with supplements such as Ferro-Grad C is its low bio-availability. Bioavailability for dietary supplements can be defined as the proportion of the administered substance capable of being absorbed and available for use or storage. For a time I tried liquid iron supplements ingested orally, which were effective in managing nutritional deficiency but tasted horrible. I have recently started using BioCeuticals Iron Sustain, which provides 24mg of highly bioavailable iron, activated with B vitamins and vitamin C. However, even more recently a friend has told me about iron infusions and how well she felt after receiving just one infusion. I will be seeing my doctor soon to get an iron transfusion, with is 100% bioavailable given that it is administered straight into the bloodstream.

I hope you have a little more insight into this very important vitamin and the vegan lifestyle. Even though I could be the epitome of an anemic vegan at times, many vegans have no problem maintaining healthy iron stores but if you do, at least there are plenty of means in which to manage deficiency.

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Meg x

References and Resources

iron – Better Health Channel: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/iron

Iron and the Vegan Diet: http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/iron.php

The Safety of Heme vs. Non-heme Iron; http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-safety-of-heme-vs-non-heme-iron/

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013). Australian Health Survey: Usual Nutrient Intakes, 2011-12. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.008~2011-12~Main%20Features~Key%20findings~100 (Iron)

Iron – Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional

Four Corners Repoort into the dangers of supplements: http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/supplements-and-safety/7409646

To read more about iron infusions: https://www.niim.com.au/clinic/services/iron-infusions