Coffee, a love letter (& a coffee tonic recipe!)

I love coffee.

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I can live without alcohol, added sugar, meat, whatever. But coffee, I love. This love of coffee runs in my veins. I remember the first coffee I ever drank. It was in Italian class in early high school. I would have been about 13 or 14 years old. Our teacher made it in a huge ceramic bowl. It was super sweet, and super milky… and I loved it. I loved it so much I started making it at home after school. The thought of this kind of drink makes me feel ill now.. it definitely had a little sugar, probably half a teaspoon of instant coffee and a bunch of milk. Mum had tried to make me drink milk for years and years on end with zero success, this was probably the first time I had ever willingly drank it – so I believe my new favourite after school treat was encouraged, despite the sugar and caffeine. A small price to pay for strong bones, right?

Eventually I graduated from instant and started drinking cappuccinos, but it wasn’t long until I realised the milk wasn’t making me feel too hot and it definitely was, as my childhood instincts had suggested, revolting. At the time soy milk wasn’t a thing in my beachside hometown, and although I don’t think soy is the devil, drinking a cup of non-organic soy milk every morning is probably not ideal… so I began the journey onto black coffee. It was in Japan that I discovered pour over, or drip coffee.

At the time it was definitely not a thing in Sydney. I like how this drip coffee tasted. It was somehow less bitter, and more delicate than the long blacks I had become used to, which were definitely hit and miss at the time. In a 2016 Surry Hills this seems like a laughable problem of the ye olde. So I bought a plastic (yes, PLASTIC) pink dripper cone from daiso for 100 yen (a little over a dollar) a pack of brown paper filters and off I went making the WORST drip coffee of all time, I’m sure. There was little to no information about it online, so I watched a terrible youtube video of some american guy in a dark room making a cup (no gooseneck kettle, no scales, no hand grinder, no beard) gave it a shot… and I LOVED it.

These days I think (hope) I make a little more sophisticated cup, with just a little more sophisticated equipment. I stand by pour over as the simplest way to make a nice cup, and the method with the most ritual, for me. Theres a handy little brewing guide here if you’re interested. It only takes about 10 minutes to prepare, but there is a real slowness to this method. Hand grinding the beans and slowly letting the water filter through really captures what I hold dear about coffee, the ritual. Learning a little about where the beans come from and the different characteristics of coffee too, is a nice way to forge a deeper connection with the one last ritual we seem to have in the western world.

The next step in my coffee is this. I’ve introduced medicinal mushrooms and tonic herbs into my life recently, after feeling called to do so (I have no other way to describe it) and doing a lot of reading and researching. This video really speaks to me in terms of coffee being the most widely consumed herb in the world – and that it really is a ‘tonic elixr’ that most people consume daily. It’s natural that we are drawn to this herb, but by consuming coffee and coffee alone, we’re throwing out the balance of our bodies. The below recipe is something I’ve been drinking regularly over the last month or so, and it really is amazing how nourishing it feels. I really feel as though the reishi and the he show wu get right into my cells…

Warm coffee tonic

1 cup pour over coffee
1/2 cup coconut / cashew / almond milk (or a mixture!)
1 tsp reishi mushroom
1 tsp he shou wu
1 tsp maca powder
1 tbsp nut butter
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 tsp mesquite powder
pinch vanilla
1 tsp cacao (optional)

To make this a sweet treat iced coffee add a half a frozen banana :)

I’ve been buying herbs and mushrooms from superfeast and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

10 Ways To Cool The Christmas Fire

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I shared on instagram recently that this is my first Christmas out of retail since I left high school. Needless to say, I’m thrilled. An actual break! Finally! I’m also a little shocked. I thought my absence from department stores and shopping centres would allow me to completely bypass the mania of the festive season this year.

I was wrong. It hit me just a few days ago. I live in the city, it’s not easy to dodge the collective energy of its people – no matter how hard you try! Christmas is here. Not in the sense of fragrant trees or gifts, but the energy of Christmas is well and truly in the air. It’s not a bad feeling, in fact it is an exciting and happy time – but truly yang and heating in nature and this is only enhanced by the weather in Sydney right now. Hot, humid and a little wild.

If you work in retail or hospitality you know too well that this can be a time of angry customers, complaints and really long days. Even if you don’t work in these industries, take a moment to notice if you have been feeling overwhelmed, hot and bothered.. or even a little quicker to agitate than usual.

I was talking to a few of the teachers at the studio it seems I’m not the only one feeling the end of year creep up on me. The children at the kids yoga class yesterday afternoon were all SO excited – screaming, laughing, running and kids pick up on this more than any of us!

Below are a few tips I’m trying to keep in mind for myself over the next few weeks, maybe you’ll find the suggestions helpful too.

1. Eat a sweet and cooling diet
Not always ice cream (although if you have not tried cocowhip yet, ’tis definitely the season!) I mean, it is Christmas, so eat whatever the hell you want, but it’s nice to keep in mind cucumbers, mango and coconuts will help to bring a little balance back to a firey system. At least more so than spiced holiday cookies, BBQ’d meat and beer, that increase the yang energy even more.

2. Drink herbal tea
Some of the best morning rituals are the ones that come naturally, after you’ve put in the work to make the others stick! For me, one ritual that seemed to effortlessly appear is blending herbal teas – I do it part on intuition and also what I have learned in books. I feel that this knowledge will continue to grow. I simply open my tea cupboard and fill the teapot with a little of this, and that, until it seems ‘right’ and I steep and enjoy. Herbal teas have numerous benefits but we often forget about them in the warmer months when they are just as delicious to drink cool! Some pitta appropriate herbal teas are chamomile, chrysanthemum, dandelion, jasmine and raspberry leaves.

3. Douse yourself in coconut oil
Straight out of the shower. Self massage and hydration in one hit. Coconut oil is sweet and cooling, and I find it helps to soothe redness on the skin too.

4. Practice yin yoga
Practice more yin, restorative and meditation to bring calmness and balance to an overworked system. When you’ve been running around all day from place to place in the heat, carrying bags and using your feet as transport – you’ve done your yang practice! On days like this, choose yin yoga over heated vinyasa and allow the muscles and the mind to unwind and reset. Even legs up the wall for 10 minutes while practicing mindful breathing can change the whole tone of your evening.

5. And keep practicing…
Your studio might be closed and you probably have less time than usual, but don’t let go of the practice. This is where it becomes really powerful. This is where we need it most. Cut meditation down to 6 minutes. Asana down to 10 minutes of sun salutations. Yin down to one reclining pose… whatever it takes – as long as it stays a constant during this time. As long as the connection doesn’t fade out, you will continue to feel the benefits.

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6. Diffuse soothing oils
Diffuse lavender, peppermint and jasmine oils in your home, or blend them into carrier oils and moisturising creams to slather over your body. I particularly like applying a good quality lavender oil directly to the soles of my feet. I find it quite powerfully grounding.

7. Go barefoot & barefaced (as much as possible)
Commit to walking barefoot on the grass or sand at least once a day. Even a quick walk around the park barefoot helps us to reconnect, reprioritise, and hopefully, suck up a little earth chi to re-energise. Barefaced because it’s hot and no matter how organic your foundation is, it’s not ideal to sweat through it, and because we might find ourselves wearing a little more than usual – to cover up tiredness, or for functions and parties. Post pill I have taken to wearing organic foundation occasionally and after years of not wearing it, it feels so wrong. Definitely an area of exploration for me.

8. Digital fast
You know how some health blogs recommend the daily mini fast? Don’t eat after 8pm or before 8am the next day? Try a digital fast by turning your phone on flight mode (even better, turn it off!) I’m working with turning on flight mode between 9:30pm and 8am at the moment. I’m hoping to expand it much further with the few days over Christmas! This is a big area for me – I love instagram, blogs, podcasts and articles WAY too much. There is so much to be learned from the internet, and so much more on how to manage our connectivity mindfully. Bonus points for not waking up with an alarm. If you have days off work this holiday season try allowing your body clock some freedom…

9. Brew bedtime tonics
Preparing bedtime tonics is another Ayurvedic ritual I have brought into my life. This time though, it’s an evening ritual. Evening rituals are perhaps even more important than morning rituals in summer, helping us to wind down and prepare for a restful sleep. Mix herbal tea or water with coconut milk, feminine medicinal mushrooms like reishi, tonic herbs like he show wu and kitchen herbs and spices like turmeric, mint or rose. Allow to cool to room temperature before drinking.

10. Embrace softness & femininity
To balance yang, embrace the yin. The cooler, darker, softer side. This might mean wearing beautiful lingerie, anointing oils, taking a bath, journalling in a moon diary, listening to chants or performing self massage. Explore what it means to you to be truly feminine. Do you allow yourself this sacred time? Make it a priority.

What’s on your list for keeping cool at the year’s end? 

Image by Vienna Chen.

Vegetarian and Vegan Cafes in Tokyo

As part of a PR lecture in Yoga Teacher Training, the teacher asked us to write down what the one thing that people – from all different areas of your life, come to you to ask about. Some struggled with this, but for me it was easy. I’m going to Japan! What should I do there!? I am thankful this is my question (my answer could go passionately, for days) However, I’m still trying to work out how that will help me become a better yoga teacher… Anyway. I am asked a lot of questions about travelling in Japan.  A new one that has started to pop up a little more is “how do you eat healthy / vegetarian / vegan in Japan?”

“it’s easy!” I say, flipping my hair and laughing, “It’s not a problem at all!”

But that’s not actually true.

I do a lot of letting go around food in Japan. I try to do this everywhere I travel – and I encourage everyone to do the same. I feel that many of us have such a hold on our ideas of being “healthy” it can end up not that healthy at all… But I know struggling to find simple, fresh food can be challenging. When I was in Seoul, I longed so desperately for a green smoothie as I picked spam, once again, off something I thought was only vegetables and scraped what I can only describe as toasted sugared-glitter-butter off what I thought was plain white bread. It sounds hilarious and brattish now, but at the time, when making it through an entire day without my lunch coming back to visit me was to be celebrated, it was not so funny. Arriving back on Japanese soil after this particular trip, I literally cried with joy as I stepped foot into a 7-11. Bananas. Plain rice. Green Tea. Boiled edamame. The packing situation might not be ideal, and to be sure, msg makes an appearance more often that we might hope – but it is simple, easy, fresh.

My key to eating in Japan is this: I do dashi. Dashi is in everything. Either used as a stock or in powder form. At home, I make a vegan dashi stock from konbu seaweed and dried shiitake mushrooms. In Japan, unless you’re in one of the cafes below, the dashi is definitely not vegetarian. It’s worth pointing out – for better or for worse, a lot of dashi is the powdered variety and probably doesn’t contain a lot of actual fish. For me, making peace with dashi, is key not only to having a stress-free food trip, but also to enjoying the hell out of all the Japanese food you could ever want to eat. I should say that I don’t have a gluten intolerance (soy sauce is a big one for some people), and ethically, I would much rather eat dashi over commercial dairy. So this works for me.

It has now been 18 months from the last time I was in Japan (the longest I have been away since my first trip!) and I was only at the beginning of this health journey at the time. I was going out to the smoky izakayas by night, and practicing shaky asana as I woke up in the morning. Looking back, there were some interesting obstacles at this time (I have (luckily) never really been interested in junk food, except in Japan. And then there’s the cheap alcohol, the matcha flavoured everything, and so on.) Of course, eating healthy overseas takes a little prep, a little leniency, accommodation with a kitchen and the happy cow app, but today I want to focus on places you can go and eat delicious and healthy Japanese food. It’s worth going out of your way to find and experience these places. Because when healthly food is done in Japan, it is done really, really well. Really inspiring, and delicious stuff.

I wrote previously about healthy cafes in Osaka. Last time I was there I didn’t spend too much time in Tokyo, so I have asked the gorgeous Kamila Kunda, who lives in Tokyo, to share her recommendations with everyone. Kamila is perhaps my first real instagram friend (!!) Her account immediately caught my attention. She posts photographs of Japanese gardens, delicate teas and pottery, books and brown rice lunch sets accompanied by captions of poetry and her own insights. I love the personality that speaks through her images of daily life. I also admire her honesty in speaking about life in Japan (which many of us, myself definitely included, tend to over-glamourise) In particular though, I love the images of Kamila’s food. I love (LOVE) Japanese food and it is rare to see it captured through the lens of someone who has a similar outlook on eating well. Kamila, originally from Poland, has lived in many cities over the last 14 years (Sydney, Berlin, Oxford, London, Paris) and has now been in Tokyo for 3. She has very kindly allowed me to post a few of her favourite vegetarian/vegan restaurants in Tokyo, which I strongly recommend you check out (and are all on my list for next April!) ENJOY! x

Follow Kamila here.

Ain Soph. Journey

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This restaurant is one of very few purely vegan places, open for lunch and dinner. It seems that the owners are into shabby chic when it comes to interior design and especially in a little gritty Shinjuku this place is a refreshing haven for health-conscious customers. The selection of dishes is limited mainly to curries, vegan pancakes and some vegan desserts, and the pancakes are to die for. They are served with cream, ice cream, fruits and nuts – you can share them with your companion or if you feel particularly indulgent devour them all by yourself.
3-8-9 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku Tokyo

Eat More Greens

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The motto of this Azabu Juban’s restaurant is “All we need is love and vegetables”. Contrary to the image of the Japanese cuisine outside of Japan as being very healthy, Japanese modern cuisine is very heavily meat-based and many people do not eat vegetables on a daily basis. This restaurant has a mission to show the Japanese that vegetables can be very well incorporated in a daily diet and to cater to the international community living in this rather affluent neighbourhood. They serve a selection of salads and curries. 2-2-5 Azabu-Juban, Minato-ku, Tokyo Tokyo

Tamana Shokudo

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Tamana Shokudo is 100% organic and vegetarian. They serve a variety of dishes but their signature one, Tamana Teishoku, is most people’s dish of choice. It includes about 40 different ingredients and is packed with goodness. The dressing, sweet and salty fermented soy sauce rice malt, apparently takes 2-3 weeks to prepare and here it accompanies fried tofu. Brown rice sprinkled with black sesame and five kinds of nattō beans, pickled vegetables, a salad with tempeh and a miso soup are all parts of this delicious lunch set. 3-8-27 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku Tokyo

Brown Rice

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Omotesando area is pretty good when it comes to healthy and vegetarian/vegan food. Brown Rice is a minimalistic in design restaurant with the focus on simple cooking resembling what a traditional Japanese mother would do. Their signature dish, Monthly Brown Rice Bowl is a selection of various root vegetables, served with brown rice, a vegan miso soup and pickles. There is also coffee or hojicha (roasted green tea) served as part of the lunch set. Brown Rice also serves vegan Japanese desserts. 5-1-8 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku Tokyo

Pure Cafe

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This is another excellent vegan option in Omotesando, just one minute from the station. They have delicious breakfasts: smoothies, muesli with soy yoghurt, scones and muffins, toasts with peanut butter. Nothing fancy outside of Japan but in Tokyo such breakfasts are definitely not common. Salads and sandwiches for lunch are healthy and wholesome, however portions could be bigger.
5-5-21 Minamiaoyama, Minato, Tokyo

Island Veggie

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Going for a burger in Tokyo is usually quite frustrating for a vegetarian. Very few places serve a vegetarian option, therefore stepping into Island Veggie one can feel spoilt for choice. This Hawaiian macrobiotic restaurant in Hiroo serves a selection of eight yummy vegetarian and vegan burgers, served with French fries. If you are keen on acai bowls, this place is the one to go to to have the best choice. Finish your meal with a healthy smoothie and you may feel you have found your vegan heaven in Tokyo.
CAS Bldg 1F, 5-3-9 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku Tokyo

T’s Tantan

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This is a must for any health-conscious traveller passing by busy Tokyo Station. Plenty of favourite Japanese staples (ramen and curry included) are off-limits for vegetarians and vegans alike. This small and friendly restaurant is a bit hard to find at first in the maze of the station’s alleys (go to the end of Keiyo Street inside the ticketed area on the way to Keiyo Line platform) but when you succeed you will be rewarded with a delicious, reasonably priced and healthy meal. Vegan ramen (Chinese-style noodles served in a broth with sesame and peanut oil with tofu and bean sprouts) is my personal favourite, but the menu is pretty extensive and one can choose other varieties. There is a detailed menu in English and the staff speaks English, which is still rare in Japanese cafés and restaurants.
Keiyo Street, Tokyo Station, 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo Tokyo

Rainbow Raw Food

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This is a very unassuming and unpretentious gem near Ebisu station, serving 100% vegan raw food (cooked to 48℃). Most of the vegetables used here are organic. Bagels with lots of veggies are mouthwatering, but what is really rare in Japan is vegan and raw nori wraps – I believe the most popular dish here. They also serve good Mexican burritos and salads, desserts and healthy smoothies. Don’t expect a fancy decor – this is a good and honest eatery that every neighbourhood in Tokyo should be proud of.
Grace Aoyama 2F, 2-3-11 Ebisu-Minami, Shibuya-ku Tokyo

Thank you SO much Kamila for sharing your favourites. If you have anywhere to add, please do comment and let us know!

A mini guide to writing poetry for healing

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A few months ago I found myself without a job.

From my position now, it was the best possible thing to have happened, but finding myself all of a sudden without the safety net of a regular pay cheque, definitely clouded the ‘meant to be’ realisation for a while.

If you’ve ever lost your job, received a redundancy, quit on the spur of the moment – you’ll probably know it is all at once terrifying and liberating. And if you’re like me, you probably tried to silence the terrifying part by talking about and planning all the things you will do with your new found freedom, as if there is something to prove. As if being unemployed is some kind of gift from the time gods and if you do not use it productively you will be punished accordingly…

With every photo an opportunity for instagram, every thought a poem or blog post, I felt myself strangely overwhelmed by the pressure I had put on myself, to use these few weeks to create as much as possible… If not, then what would I be? Lazy? Wasting opportunities? Feeling the restrictions of no income, and the weight of having lost my job the way I did. I was certainly not in an ideal place to be writing the kind of content I wanted on this blog. I felt a little stuck.

However, it was in this space that I reconnected with the joy and healing power of writing. Just writing.

In a world where every sandwich is an opportunity for likes, there is a seriously deep pleasure in writing / making / doing just for the hell of it. I find with poetry in particular, in all the stripping back of words and layers and punctuation you’ll often find the very essence of your heart, sitting right in front of you on the page, when in your head it was still a confusing mess.

Yoga can be paralleled to almost anything, but I find strong links to writing poetry. In the stripping back to what is at our core. Getting there, facing it, letting it go. I believe anyone can write poetry, and everyone can find peace from putting words onto the page. During my period of unemployment I put together some concepts and then wrote a series of workshops I would love to facilitate one day, combining the power of writing and yoga. Below is an excerpt from one of those workshops and outlines how you can create poems as a form of self love, healing and growth.

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A brief introduction to writing poetry for self-healing

A lot of people wonder what to write about, or think they’re not creative enough to come up with ideas for a poem. If you are alive, you have a million things to write about. But the very idea of coming up with something can be quite jarring or off putting, so I’ve compiled a list of techniques we can use to tap into what already exists inside us.

Set the scene. Clear desk space. Make a big pot of tea. Light a candle or incense. Play some gentle, instrumental music or work with silence if you prefer. Perhaps choose a supportive crystal to have by your side.

Just write. Without regard for style, length, spelling, finished sentences, language, anything! Set a timer for 15 minutes and just go for it. Write a list, fragments of song lyrics, overheard conversation, anything, just get it down and out of your head. The bonus is that it can be used as a ‘database’ for more crafted poems in the future.

Give poetry a shot. Try the formula shown below as a starting point. I don’t work well with formulas generally, but I have to admit this works quite beautifully.

Line 1: An observation from nature
Line 2: Something from your life, your heart, your experience, your whole environment
Line 3: Something found, a word from a song, a feeling invoked from a painting, a snippet of conversation or movie dialogue
Line 4: A spiritual thought

for example

however blue outside
there is still a tightness
a time for being inside
alone with yourself

Get all the elements down on paper. Cut, paste and play as you please. Show no one. Show your mum. Share it online. Rip it into pieces and set it on fire. Everything has its place.

No matter where you start, after you get it all down and strip it right back, you’ll probably arrive at the same place, despite the words you have chosen. This is what separates poetry from other forms of writing. It is a picture. It is a feeling. It is a little expression of your soul.

On being sober for a year (and counting)

So, I’ve been sober for a year.

I could probably leave it at that, really.

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I didn’t think those words would have any weight for me. I didn’t have any ‘problems’ with alcohol. I have never blacked out and woken up in an unfamiliar place. I have never lost any belongings or pride. I rarely had more than a single beer when I was alone. In fact, most of the people I would socialise and drink with, argued I didn’t drink enough.

“But I’ve never seen you really drunk, Emmie.”

I would get those comments, occasionally. Usually from men. They didn’t ever see me really drunk because I knew when to stop. An instinct I now see as a precious gift. I always knew when my edge was coming, and despite having the occasional moment (lets just call those, finding where your edge actually is… 18th birthday, anyone?!) I would put down the drink and soon after, feeling completely bored, hope that someone else would have a similar revelation and offer to split the cab fare home with me.

I did not plan to stop drinking completely. I didn’t ever imagine that I would. I did not see alcohol playing a huge role in my life. But at some point, things began to shift. I started to cut down. My reasoning was part money, part yoga practice, part something else I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Turns out that final part was what really mattered. After months of not drinking, it dawned on me that alcohol was, in some ways, ruling my life. At the very least, it was keeping me completely stuck.

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My drink of choice: green tea (or coffee)

Despite the fact I didn’t get really drunk, I drank often. I drank most nights. Outside of work, my friendships and relationships revolved around alcohol. Alcohol was the only way I got to know people, and most people only knew the me who’d had a couple of drinks. I felt ashamed of revealing my true nature to others. Alcohol was both a mask and a shield.

Despite my not getting really drunk I regularly suffered from terrible hangovers. I would have a fantastic time throughout the night, but the next day my dehydrated, often undernourished body would be headachy, sleepy and nauseous. I simply learned to function that way.

What I began to realise after drinking less and less and then not at all, is that I had been using alcohol to alter my personality. It was a shocking discovery. I have always been a very sensitive, quiet person and somewhere along the way I decided that was not an okay or cool way to be. When I was drinking, the alcohol didn’t make me angry or sad or crazy, like I had seen in other people. Like everyone saw in other people. But no one saw any of it in me. No one (except perhaps, my parents) would have ever suggested I cut down, or give the drinking a break.

Alcohol took a sneakier position in my life. Alcohol made me a more confident, less sensitive version of myself. A version who didn’t care as much. I’d heard of people using alcohol to numb, but as someone who didn’t drink alone, or suffer from depression or pain, I didn’t feel as though I could relate. But it was exactly what I was engaging in. Numbing my shyness, my thoughts and worries. It numbed me to the energy of people around me. Alcohol easily and quietly took me completely away from myself.

This realisation was confronting. Something happened in high school that had, in my mind, confirmed to me that the girl who drank, who didn’t care, who didn’t overthink, was far more fun and interesting than the real me. Over six years I used alcohol as a mask so effectively, I had forgotten the real me even existed beneath. So when I stopped drinking, I almost felt as if I was starting again. I felt pushed back into my awkward early teens. Luckily, or by no coincidence at all, my yoga teacher training came at a perfect time to help me see a lot of this. Through working with my body and meditation, and in a community of supportive women, it all started to come together.

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Abundance…

What have I experienced in a year of being sober? More money, more sleep, better general health, greater creative output, no eczema, no flus or viruses, more time and money to do yoga, the ability to really experience the benefits of yoga. And there is so much more. I could write a post on this in itself.

I’ve also experienced grief. Grief for old friendships, grief for that confidence I felt truly belonged to me. In a way, it has been grief for a part of myself. Not once have I craved an alcoholic drink, but I have cried a lot in letting go. I’ve felt fragile. I’ve had sarcastic comments, eye rolls, and a lot of you think you’re better than me?! But at the same time, I’ve never felt so strong or clear minded. I feel okay with being me. Most importantly, I feel okay with being me in front of other people.

It’s been a year and I’m still making progress. My quitting alcohol wasn’t a ‘dry July’ situation with a start and end date. I just stopped. And I have no intention of starting again. My life is more abundant without alcohol. The difference it has made to my life still shocks me.

With this post I don’t want to suggest this is a common experience with alcohol. I’m not trying to offer advice or suggest anyone give up drinking. I just wanted to share my story, as it has played a bigger part in my life than I ever imagined. And maybe it will reach the right person. I’m sure there is someone who needs to hear this, just like I did.

emmie xx

Meditation in the big city

Meditation is the best thing you can do for your health. It’s the best thing you can do to feel amazing. To explore consciousness. To create. To be happy. There have been two moments in the past year that really confirmed my love and respect for this very simple yet powerful practice.

 

The first was just over a year ago. I’d been learning to meditate for a month or so with the help of Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s meditation challenges. I wasn’t in a rhythm of meditating everyday yet, nor was I past the stage of feeling intense discomfort and anxiety at trying to clear my mind and sit still for 20 minutes. Due to the lure of bed in winter, it had been some days since my last practice, so I decided it had to happen. I draped myself in a hundred layers and sat.

This was the very first time I’d ever gone ‘deep.’ I don’t know how long it was for, it could have been ten minutes, it could have been ten seconds. But when I came out of the ‘deep’ I was crying. I could not only see, but feel the colour purple. It was the first time I saw the true power of the practice. It was mind-blowingly beautiful and I’ll never forget it.

The second time seems much less impressive, but in fact is much more profound. I was sitting on a balcony in the middle of the city. The sound of cars, sirens, chatter, coffee shops and offices completely surrounded me. But I was still. In mind, body and spirit. There were no colours, no feelings of intense joy or bliss or anything. Just stillness. In the middle of the big city. In the middle of a work day. And I was completely and utterly in love with what I had cultivated with so little time and effort. It blew me away.

I was very fortunate to recently complete a course in Vedic meditation. It has given me confidence in my practice and I haven’t skipped a day since. Below are a few tips from my meditation practice, greatly influenced by the Vedic tradition. Remember though, there are as many different ways to meditate as there are people in the universe. This is just the easiest and most effective way I have found.

Meditate every morning. Make it a priority for a week at first and see how you go. Twenty minutes is the optimal time for receiving the most benefits from meditation. It may (will) seem like an eternity at first, but it gets easier fast. It’s not advised to start with less than 15 minutes, but if you’re really struggling, start as small as you need, and add more minutes everyday. Cut back a little on exercise. Wake up earlier or make breakfast the night before. You can fit meditation anywhere into your regular morning routine, just make sure you shower or wash your face first to help the body transition from sleep, and leave eating and coffee for afterwards. The crazy thing is, once you start meditating you’ll find you have more time. So carving out that 20 minutes becomes a non-issue very quickly.

Meditate anywhere. I like this a lot. Meditate in regular places. Meditate with all the sounds in the world around you. It doesn’t have to be a secluded mountain, or even a special place in your home. It can be on a park bench, on the bus, in your (parked) car, wherever. The world will never stop being crazy, annoying or loud, but you can learn to cultivate stillness in the middle of it all. When you can create quiet and calm within yourself, things really start to shift.

Thoughts are okay. This is a huge one for me. Huge! This was me most of the time: Am I doing this right? I can’t stop thinking. OMG IM THINKING ABOUT NOT THINKING. Ahhhhhhh! But, fret not! Thoughts are great and normal and you’re absolutely not doing it wrong if you’re having them. In Vedic meditation it is believed that stressors and emotions are held within the body. As they are released through meditation they bubble up to the surface in the shape of thoughts. They can appear as anything from a grocery list to a distant childhood memory or the workday ahead.

Try ‘so hum’ as a mantra. In order to gently move into stillness, we need a mantra. I like to think of a mantra as a distraction for the mind. So Hum, a commonly used mantra is both a reflection of the sound of the breath and means simply, I am or I am that.

The practice. Sit comfortably, in whatever way suits your body and silently repeat So Hum without force or extreme concentration. Repeat it like a faint whisper in the back of your mind. If it starts to slip away, let it. When you find yourself lost in thoughts, smile and gently come back to the mantra without force and without worry. It can be in time with the breath or not. It can change throughout. Anything goes. Repeat for twenty minutes. Come out slowly and cautiously.

Try it in the afternoon, too. The best practice of Vedic meditation is twenty minutes, twice a day. I know how massive this sounds, but once again, if you make the initial steps to carve out the time, you do find that you have it. Perhaps you are working more efficiently or you need less sleep. It just seems to appear. Start with the morning practice and feel the benefits of that first, then try adding the afternoon or evening slot in too. I personally find I go much, much deeper in the afternoon, so it is quite a special time for me.

Anyone can meditate. This is why I love meditation. Anyone can do it. You can’t do it wrong. You’re going to have thoughts. I personally have a lot of thoughts. But afterwards, I feel amazing. As the weeks of my daily practice go by, the longer this feeling of contentedness lasts. And I notice things like the colour of the sky and the weird incredible magnificence of my life. Things worry me less (a huge step). Decisions are easier. I am more myself. My self-confidence is steadily growing. I’m more creative than ever before. My focus and memory have improved. There is a deep sense of clarity and calm.

It’s very very good for your health. There is only so much kale one can eat. I believe a healthy diet and light exercise is super essential to feeling amazing, but it’s honestly only part of the picture. We are more than just a physical lump of blood and bones! An unhealthy mind will influence, greatly, the physical body. So many people I know have problems with their digestion, even though they eat very well, exercise, and include probiotics and fermented foods in their diet. My understanding is none of it will make much difference if you’re constantly stressed and living in flight or fight mode, and therefore constantly putting huge strain on the digestive system. We can’t stop the stress of the world around us, but when we meditate,  can learn to cultivate silence and peace inside, allowing the body to work in the way it should!

Do you meditate? What’s your favourite way to practice?

for more images by the sweet + lovely shirley cai. <3 

8 ways I am learning to love winter

Life in Australia is beautiful, simple… and totally disengaged from the seasons. We have no cultural markers of these powerful changes in the environment, and we continue on, month after month, following the same patterns, doing the same things, eating the same vegetables and trying to completely deny the existence of winter.

It was once again, in Japan, where I started to think about living in tune with the seasons. Every season has a dedicated feel in Japan, with specific celebrations and a variety of snacks, meals and produce that are unavailable at other times of the year. The onset of winter is met not with dread, but with steaming ceramic nabe of nabe, fresh yuzu and mikan, and evenings spent around the kotatsu.

How can we appreciate winter without knowing what it is all about? In winter we move inward. Our hands go into our pockets, heads down, chins on chests, shoulders curling forward to protect us from the cold. Winter physically coaxes us to go within. To sit with ourselves. And most of us tend to struggle with that, so we push it away instead of letting it sink in.

Winter also suggests we slow down. But with our tinny old heaters cranked up to 100, long sleeve t shirts six layers deep, we keep charging around. We beat ourselves up for not getting to the gym as often, for eating more, for sleeping in. When this is exactly what the season is asking we do. Take a break. Recalibrate. Reflect. Plan. Create.

Colds and flus abound in winter as a forceful reminder to take a step back when we haven’t listened to the world outside. By listening to the seasons and accepting winter as a time of rest and creativity, for taking stock of where we’re at, we may even begin to appreciate – or love – its existence.

the first (and only) time I've ever seen snow...

How to love winter

Cook. Winter is less about throwing something together and more about involving yourself in the process of cooking and creating. Make stocks. Toast and grind spices. Slowly roast vegetables. Have a go at making a wide variety of fragrant soups and curries. Bake. Make bread and olive oil cakes and oatmeal cookies. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen in winter. With the oven and hot plates on it’s often the warmest place in the house.

Connect with plants and flowers. In the city we can lose touch with nature in the winter months. Most of us don’t tend to swim in the ocean, or take our shoes off to feel the grass beneath our feet. To maintain a healthy connection to plant life, bring flowers and indoor plants into your home. Tend pots of fresh herbs in your kitchen or on the balcony. Connecting with these plants daily will keep that contact alive.

Love your home. Winter is the time to be in your home. Spend time making it look beautiful, decorating, cleansing, clearing. Light salt lamps and oil burners with beeswax candles and fragrances like cinnamon, citrus and sandalwood. Create soft, comfortable and warm spots in your home that fill your heart with joy, and use these places to read, write, draw, meditate and drink tea.

Blend teas. Blending your own tea may sound intimidating at first, but it can be quite easy! Try making your own chai, with a rooibos or dandelion base, or add dried rose or lavender flowers to green tea. A simple one I often make on cold days is 2 cardamom pods, a little cinnamon bark, 2 cloves and a slice of ginger simmered for about 10-15 minutes and then strained. It’s lovely and sweet with a teaspoon of liquorice tea, too.

Write. The word ‘journaling’ has a somewhat uncomfortable ring to it. Perhaps it’s the association with those hardcover lockable diaries from the nineties, or the image of a khol – eyed teenager who ‘nobody understands’, but really, it’s just about writing, with complete abandon, as if nobody is watching. And it feels really good to not care about sentence structure, or spelling or punctuation and just get it all out. Burning notes afterward is of course, totally optional.

Watch the sunrise (and set). In winter’s shorter days we see less of the sun, so it’s no wonder people have a tendency to feel depressed during this time. Watching the sunrise allows us to connect with the warmth, light and energy of the sun. It’s not only beautiful to watch the sky dip and dive through beautiful colours but it’s also invigorating and energising, especially in the winter months.

Start a home yoga practice. If you practice yoga regularly, try starting a home practice. It allows you to exercise without leaving the comfort of home and you will find yourself forming a deeper connection to your practice. Start by practicing a few sun salutes, or poses you have tried in class and would like to play around with a little more. You may surprise yourself! Remember to take a long and luxurious svasana too.

Walk. In winter, a lunchtime walk in the sun may be the most beneficial exercise of all. In the warmest part of the day, take a walk around the block and get some sun on your face. Vitamin D and movement in one hit, it’s the perfect immunity boost.

How do you celebrate winter…

Where to go in Japan

I went to Japan for the first time in 2009. I still remember the moment I got the call. I was on the floor of my apartment in the inner west. It was my first rental place ever. I lived with a friend from high school. We listened to records then. Rodriguez and the stones, mainly. We lived off boxed wine and chickpea curry made in a $15 rice cooker from kmart. It was the kind of time where an avocado and a fashion magazine were my greatest luxuries.

When mum said we were going to Japan, as a post high school celebration, I think I stopped breathing for a second. At the end of our trip, when we were on a bus out of the city to the airport, I cried. I guess at that point I knew I had started something serious.

Since that trip I have been back to Japan at least once a year, occasionally more, sometimes for months at a time. I go back to recalibrate. To write. To visit friends. To feel good. And I keep exploring this connection between homesickness and a place that isn’t home.

Being fairly vocal about my affair with another country, I’m contacted at least once a month or so by someone going to Japan wanting advice and opinions. Because I can’t help myself with this stuff I spend ages writing back, checking links and getting excited. And then I do it all over again next time. So I thought I’d start a little Japan guide series on this blog. If there is anything in particular you would like to know about visiting Japan, please let me know and I’ll see what I can do!

In this post, I’m just talking about the basics. The best (and easiest) places to go, where to stay and what time of year I like the best. I’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible.

Tokyo. Obviously. On my first trip to Japan we arrived by Airport Limousine bus into Shibuya at night. It was incredible. It’s an experience I recommend to anyone going to Japan for the first time. We stayed in a hotel right at the crossing that night. Winding around the loopy highways coming in over the city, and stepping out into Shibuya is something I remember with great, wide-eyed clarity.

That being said, these days I prefer staying in the suburbs over the middle of the city. It’s cheaper, less insane and when you stay in out of the way places you discover amazing little shops and streets and izakayas you’d never have a chance of finding otherwise. I wouldn’t worry about staying a few stops out of the big cities like Shibuya and Shinjuku because trains in Tokyo are really amazing. Everything is very well connected (and in English.)

For the last few years I have always stayed in Air BnBs in Tokyo. Again, they’re cheaper. You have a kitchen. You’re staying with a host who knows all the crazy directions to the local places and the apartments are more authentically Japanese. The one thing with Air BnB and Tokyo is that the best places do get booked out very quickly. A little fluidity when travelling is fun, but I do recommend pre-booking your air BnB place in Tokyo, at least for a few days. And if you’re going to see the Sakura it is an absolute must!

Kyoto. To go to Japan and not visit Kyoto is, in my opinion, completely insane. Kyoto is a completely different universe to Tokyo, and it’s a must-see (even if you’re not into temples) However, Kyomizu-dera might just change your mind.

My favourite thing to do in Kyoto is walk. It’s harder to get lost there because the streets are gridded and actually make sense (unlike anywhere else in Japan) In Kyoto, you’ll find new and old Japan totally intertwined. It’s a great place to explore old-style cafes and bars, produce markets and amazing drip coffee and well as all the beautiful, spiritual places you can’t help but love. Walking the steep, skinny streets to the temples is often as enjoyable as seeing the temple itself. Especially early in the morning, or late at night, when it’s quiet and still, with just a touch of magic. You might feel like you’ve stumbled into a Ghibli film.

Osaka. I have written about my first trip to Osaka before. I spent a couple of months there last year, and fell so completely in love with the place. Osaka is packed with authentic, hilarious people, amazing food and relaxing times. If you’re into going out at night, Osaka is definitely a place for you.

If you’re travelling solo, only have a couple of days in the city or don’t mind sharing rooms and limited kitchen space, I highly recommend UK OSAKA guesthouse. It’s a 3 bedroom apartment, with two of the rooms converted into mini dorms, 2-3 beds each. I’ve stayed there a bunch of times and it’s always been great. Masa, the host is super lovely too. I also love the Umeda area, over on the other side of town. It’s a different vibe, and a lot of newer buildings, shops and cafes are tucked between alleyways of old bars. It’s definitely worth checking out or looking for a place to stay there, too. Umeda station is the hub of the Osaka railway, and you can go in any direction from there.

If you have the time…

Kamakura. Ahhhhh Kamakura. It’s such a very charming place. About an hour out of Tokyo, you will feel like you’re miles away… and twenty years back in time. A friend was saying recently, with the recent push for slow living, it has become popular for tokyoites to escape the city and make the move to Kamakura. And I can see why. Spend a couple of days here. There’s the beach. Slow, healthy food. Friendly people. Beautiful views and temples and gardens and places to ride around on rental bikes.

Kamakura guest house is another shared room kinda of place, so it may not appeal to everyone. But again. It’s a beautiful place to stay for a very good price. It’s in an old, traditional style house. There’s a big kitchen. You sleep on futons on tatami floors. There’s tatami floored sitting room with a kotatsu and a pit in the ground for roasting sweet potatoes and cooking nabe. You can hire good quality bikes from the guesthouse too. When I arrived in Kamakura I sat in the sun on the floor and wrote so much poetry and had one of those “how is this my life” moments… I can’t wait to go back. There is a magic here, too, that you may have seen captured in the films of Ozu.

Uji. Uji is a good day trip from Kyoto. The best quality green tea is produced here and the streets literally smell of it. It’s so beautiful. My one sugar weakness is green tea flavoured anything and everything so this place is quite dangerous for me. There is every kind of green tea sweet in the universe available here. You can partake in a foreigner friendly tea ceremony, stock up on the best green tea ever and take a walk over the river and below the mountains of trees.

Nara. As the first capital of Japan, the oldest and largest temples and treasures remain in Nara and there is definitely a strong energy present. There are also a lot of deer, which may or may not take a liking to you. Nara is a lovely place to spend a night in a ryokan or traditional inn. After dark the day trippers leave and it is very still and peaceful.

Okinawa. Okay so Okinawa is a bit of a stretch. You can’t get there with your rail pass. Naha is about a two hour flight from the Kansai area. And it’s best to hire a car once you’re there. But if you’ve got the time, go! It’s a totally different world down in Okinawa. People speak different. Everything looks different. The food is different. I haven’t been to Hawaii, but I get a Hawaii feeling when I’m there. It seems very tropical island Japan. A very cool, relaxed place. I’ll do an extended post on Okinawa soon.

Should I get a rail pass? If you are only in Japan for a short period of time and want to see a few places, I really do recommend it! You can use it on all local JR lines, too, which you’ll probably be taking a lot in Tokyo. If you are not doing much moving around, or you have plenty of time to explore (and take the slower trains) then it is probably not necessary to buy a rail pass.

What time of year should I go? Anytime! But, December to Feb is very, very cold. If you like very, very cold (or you like snow) then go at this time! July is hot and very rainy. April is lovely, but it can be expensive and busy. If you want to see the sakura, you can check the sakura forecast but it is always a little bit of a gamble. I personally love September in Japan! Remember the temperature will vary greatly depending where you are in the country.

These are just a few places I like to visit in Japan. I also recommend Naoshima, Tokushima, Miyajima and Hiroshima, but I’ll save those for another day. Please let me know if there is anything else you would like covered! xo

Shakti hot chocolate tonic

I am sitting at my desk at home. It’s a cloudy day outside. There is rain. I have lavender melting into the air from the oil burner in front of me, some psychedelic blue and purple flowers from Aldous to my right, a couple of quartz crystals here and there, and my notebooks.

It has been an interesting time the last few months. The last two years. The last two days. Life gains speed, then there’s a pile up. And once I’m past the rubble it speeds on again, faster, stronger, higher.

And now, post pile up, I find myself sitting at my desk like this for the first time in months. Without a hint of urgency. With an unreal stillness. It feels a lot like bliss.

There is a lot stirring at the moment. It’s still beneath the surface, but it is rising. And I am sitting here, in the middle of it all, writing. And writing some more. And thinking. And planning. Holding onto positivity with both hands.

choc1

So, it is from this place that I share a special tonic that has supported me over the last few weeks. I started blending it every morning to support my hormones – I recently came off the pill after ten years – and everything is… flowing freely now… but more on that soon.

In her book Well and Good Nat Kringoudis, doctor of Chinese medicine, herbalist and women’s health guru, talks about the best foods for women’s overall health and fertility. I include three key ingredients from her book in this drink, cacao, maca and coconut. The combination of these ingredients, all super supportive to the female body, with the addition of warming spices as little sparks of fire, is why I call this my Shakti hot chocolate. It is tonic for feminine energy.

From an Ayurvedic perspective this tonic is very supportive to vata dosha, which can be quite imbalanced in the winter months. It is deeply warming and grounding in the morning, and easily turned into a sweet treat with half a teaspoon of raw honey, although I find the coconut milk is sweet enough.

The recipe below is basically just a list of ingredients. I’m interested in the idea of intuitive cooking. It is how I cook, and how I get the most from what I make, as our bodies truly know what they need. Play around with the a pinch of ingredients and see what works best for you. My only tip is be generous with the cinnamon, cautious with the rest, and adjust to taste. Trust your instincts.

Ingredients

1.5 Tbsp. raw cacao powder
1 tsp. maca powder
1/4 cup hot or boiling water
1 cup coconut cream or milk

and a pinch each of
turmeric
pepper
cinnamon powder
cayenne pepper
ginger powder
turmeric powder
cardamom powder

Blend your spices in a small saucepan on the stove. Add the water and whisk to combine. Add the coconut milk and whisk continuously as it heats. In the winter months I like to spoon the coconut cream off the top of the can of coconut milk and add it in at the end for a seriously creamy drink. If you’re using honey add it after pouring into the mug, as you do not want to over heat it.

I hope you find this drink supports you when you are thrown off course, warms you when you are cold and inspires you to cultivate your powerful feminine energy… xo

Cleaning as a spiritual practice

Tidying expert Marie Kondo says “discard everything does not spark joy”

And with that, I’m in love.

Last week, I shared 10 simple practices for joy. Today’s topic is more of a work in progress.

We all know the feeling a calm and clean house brings. But when you have a nice free morning, and the sun is shining, or your favourite book is calling, what would possess anyone to actually want to clean.

A sad fact. For a long while I have been thinking “I want to get good at this cleaning, uncluttered thing.” So I put out a call to the cleaning gods. And just like that, Marie Kondo (or konmarie) came into my world.

“In order to tidy your house, you must tidy your mind.”

I’m not surprised that Kondo first started her life as an ‘organising consultant’ working in a temple. And its no surprise that Kondo meditates (and drinks green smoothies, too). To me, meditation, yoga, enjoying fresh food and keeping your space uncluttered all coincide. And the more I practice cleaning my mind (through meditation) and my body (through yoga and food) the more I crave a clean and simple space. Not to say I want to live in a bare walled, ‘minimalist’ apartment. I love my crystals and salt lamps and books. But I want this stuff to be there for a reason. And all in it’s right place.

One of the niyamas from Patanajali’s yoga sutras is Saucha. A rough translation of this word in English is “cleanliness” and “keeping different energies distinct.” When things are in their right place, they flow. This can be throughout all parts of you life. Energetically, emotionally, and… in the depths of the kitchen cupboard.

At the core of all this, is practicing cleaning and tidying as Sadhana. Sadhana is ‘conscious spiritual practice.’ And helps us to live the otherwise mundane through new eyes. Below are some points I am introducing into my home to help keep my space clean and comfortable through conscious spiritual practice.

Make tidying a ritual. Burn incense as you clean, listen to music, chant or sing.

Make the bed every morning As an act of gratitude for sleep, a place to rest, and starting a new day.

Wash the dishes after cooking Finish what you started, to close loops in the day and avoid cleaning hangovers.

Why not clean for yourself. You know how you clean when people are coming over? What about the person who pays for the rent or the mortgage.. and for all the furniture, the food, and the bed. They are the most important person to be cleaning for.

Love your stuff. Have stuff. Buy stuff and love it. But as konmarie says, if it does not spark joy, discard it. Simple. Why else keep it around as another thing to clean?

Don’t buy stuff to organise your existing stuff. There’s no reason to add even more to our already too-full lives. Cupboards and shelves are enough. Keep it simple.

Reward yourself. Make a tea or coffee afterwards. Take a moment to sit, read, be in your clean environment, even just for 5 minutes or so.

“Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.”

These are some simple things I am starting to practice to love my space. And as I said, it’s work in progress. It’s a practice.

emmie xo

Simple priorities for joy in every day

My yoga teacher training course has come to an end. Before I graduate on Thursday, and slowly go into more depth about the course and my beautiful experience with learning, healing and growing, I want to share a few simple practices I have added to my life since the course began. At the base of it all is self care, love, and slowness.

1. Meditation: I meditate for 15 to 20 minutes every morning and it completely changes my day. In a week’s time I am being inducted into the Vedic style of meditation by Tim Brown. I can’t wait to introduce this practice, a twice daily mantra meditation, into my life and share this experience with you.

Before my teacher training, I would always prioritise physical asana over meditation, however, I now respect meditation as my most powerful practice for wellness. There is rarely (if ever) a day where I do not move myself physically, just by being me (crazy, frantic vata). Carving out time for meditation is the only time I have to switch off, to observe my mind and just be. It’s beautiful.

2. Cook something everyday: In Ayurvedic terms, cooked food that is over 24 hours old has lost its prana, or essential life force. The food becomes tamasic, rather than sattvic. In other words, it becomes dull and lifeless, rather than bright and energetic. It is also thought to lose all medicinal qualities.

However, this is a hard one for me. I cannot deny that a couple of jars of soup or dahl in the freezer are absolute lifesavers. As much as I believe what Ayurveda says, I also believe a frozen green soup is better than a takeaway curry. So for now, my take on this is to make sure I freshly prepare and cook at least 2 / 3 meals of my day and try to keep leftovers to a one day minimum, always adding something fresh, like soft herbs or baby spinach to the reheated meal. And save the freezer soup for emergencies.

3. Practice bhakti: Create a sacred space in your home. Light a (beeswax) candle, a high quality natural incense, an oil burner with an appropriate scent, or a salt lamp when you wake up. One of my teachers shared that the first thing she does every morning is light a candle, and it remains as a devotional, quiet space in the home all day (even when her four sons are running wild.)

4. Slow down: Practice yin or restorative yoga. There is a huge misconception that yin yoga is easy. For me, yin yoga is on the border of physically excruciating, for others it can be challenging emotionally. In yin yoga you cannot hide, from your emotions or your hamstrings.

The practice of yin yoga applies light stress to the tendons, fascia, and ligaments of the body, with the aim of increasing circulation in the joints and improving flexibility. Yin yoga is more connected to the Chinese system and is designed to improve the flow of qi through the meridian pathways for organ health, immunity, and emotional well-being. And it’s probably safe to say the less yin appeals to you, the more you need it.

5. Buy local, organic produce: The farmers market is one of my favourite places in the universe. When you shop at the produce market you very quickly understand the importance of eating seasonally. Supermarket produce sections begin to feel a little… off. And they are. If markets are out of reach, or you work on Saturday, you can order a box delivery from a co-op or local farm. I used to think I would be spending way too much money but it’s not the case at all. Fresh, organic produce has numerous physical benefits, but energetically and spiritually as well. And I usually get a weeks worth for the same amount as I used to spend on three drinks at the pub.

By Shirley Cai

6. Fresh flowers: This is a very new one for me. Flowers have always seemed like such a decadent, over the top purchase (funny how we quantify these things) but over the last few months I was constantly drawn to the flower stall at the markets… and finally, I jumped over the mental barricade I had created and bought some. A small bunch from the market is usually no more than $5 – $10 and they’ll last the week. There have been multiple science-y studies on the positive emotional impact fresh flowers have on humans, as well as physical health, creativity and productivity. Bonus points for pesticide free roses you can then turn into tea or raw chocolate topping, too.

7. Pranayama: Just prior to my meditation practice every morning I practice a few rounds of Nadi Shodana. This practice purifies the energy channels in the subtle body (nadis) through alternate-nostril breathing. It does this by balancing the flow of vital energy, or prana, through the ida (the left, or moon) and pingala (the right, or sun) nadis, as well as the flow of breath through the right and left nostrils.

8. Freedom in food. This has been a big one. I don’t want this to be a focus of this blog, but I have had a battle with the consumption of animal products for the last few years. I knew where my heart was, but my body was sending me signals I couldn’t ignore. Finding some leniency and discovering my own beliefs on this front has been truly rewarding, spiritually and physically.

9: Grind your own coffee beans: Preferably by hand. I have this hario hand grinder, and when it first arrived, I was in absolute shock at how sloooww it was. I thought it was defective. Mother Maya talks a lot about using less machines in the kitchen in the Path of Practice. She focuses specifically on the vibration and sound interactions between electronic devices and our food, and the act of chopping / smashing / cutting and its effect on us as musical, vibrational beings. There’s a reason why stoneground, small batch and hand poured everything is becoming popular at the moment. It’s been removed from our lives, and we need it back.

I first came across pour over coffee in Japan in 2009 and fell in love. Perhaps due to a life long hatred of milk and a few too many bitter long blacks, but perhaps for another reason entirely. A lot of people will roll their eyes at this trend, but slowly pouring water over freshly ground beans is a beautiful ritual. There’s a real simplicity in it. And I believe the hand drip method energetically slows down the rush we generally associate with coffee. I no longer buy coffee on the way to here or there. It is not a drink, but a moment, to sit with and check in.

10: Say no: I’ve saved the best until last. Perhaps the most liberating thing I have learned to do in the past five months. We as women, are so filled up with this idea we have to be nice and be liked and say yes to everything. Or it seems. I was in a terrible habit of saying “oh yesssss sure, I’d love to!!!” to just about anything, then agonise how i was going to get out of what I agreed to. Sound familiar? Now, I just say no. And for those who truly care about and respect you, will not even ask for an excuse. Keep these people close. They are truly precious.

Images of me and my home by Shirley Cai. Check out her gorgeous instagram. <3

xo

A quick guide to starting a yoga practice

Since my life became extremely yoga-ish, people have been asking me a lot of questions about yoga. How to start, what to expect, and so on. In this post I’ll list a few of my personal suggestions, however, everyone starts differently, and there is no right or wrong way about it. But if you take just one thing from this post: Don’t give up. Give it a really good shot before you decide you don’t like it.

Start with a beginners course: Please! In Sydney Sukha Mukha and Jivamukti both offer beginners courses. Did I do this? No. But thankfully, I started my teacher training so early into my practice, I was able to fix my (millions of) bad habits before they became totally entrenched. In a beginners course you’ll usually have a small group and a really hands on, supportive teacher who will demonstrate everything. I did the Juivamukti beginners class because I could pay week by week instead of a bigger sum at once. If money is an issue, I strongly recommend finding somewhere in your city that runs a weekly beginners class if you just can’t fathom paying for a whole course. Attend for as long as possible.

It’s an investment: A lot of people say “I can’t afford to do yoga” as if it is an exclusively rich people thing to do. I’ll admit, turning up at a class and forking over $22 can be hard at first. It was for me. However, I have made minimum wage (or less!) for the last 3 years and since starting yoga 2 years ago I feel my financial situation is more abundant than ever. Most studios offer a heavily discounted class each day, great deals if you practice on a regular basis, or karma yogi schemes (odd jobs for free classes) – so there’s always a way! Remember you are paying for more than a workout. At first it might seem like a shock, but soon enough, you’ll find you’re not losing out financially (or any other way at all.)

Find your type: There are so many types of Yoga. Names of classes are often helpful in dechipering what you’re signing up for, but one vinyasa class will vary greatly from the next. Vinyasa is the style I’m training in and predominantly practice. It’s a flow of postures linked with breath. It can be quite strong. It also can be like a dance once you get used to it. You’ll almost certainly do a few rounds of Surya Namaskar. Classes will differ immensely based on studio and teacher so try a few to see what works for you. There’s also restorative and yin, which I have started to add to my practice and love so much. Yin is floor based work with long holds on poses, working with the Chinese system of meridians. It might sound ‘easy’ but it can be quite intense emotionally.. and also physically if you’re a little tight like me. Restorative is a beautiful experience of surrendering. Most of us probably need more of this than we think.  Other types to explore that I haven’t tried are Iyengar, Ashtanga, Kundalini, Bikram and so on.

Find your teachers: This part is pretty important. There are some teachers you just will not like. It doesn’t mean they’re bad teachers, or the style of yoga is bad, but you will definitely find some teachers are not a good fit for you. Hopefully, you’ll find more that are. Whatever kind of yoga you’re into – something super strong and fitness-y or totally devotional, you’ll find a teacher who fits the bill.

It’s probably going to be really hard: No matter how fit or unfit you are, some part of it will be mind bendingly hard. Breathing and moving and then – what being still (?!) oh my god why am I just laying here!??!. People often say to me “but I can’t even touch my toes!!” Who cares? Touching your toes has nothing to do with anything, and once you get deeper into the practice, you’ll realise the physical is just one small part of it all.

The ohm’s will get easier: The spiritual side of yoga is often something people find confronting. It was quite foriegn to me at first. I remember trying not to giggle during my first ohm. I was a pretty quick convert though, after the first class I was hooked, and my connection to the spiritual side of me has been steadily growing stronger ever since. It’s something severely lacking for most young people in Australia. I find it plays a huge part in overall health and wellbeing.

There’s no such thing as being Good At Yoga: And if there is, it’s not something anyone can see. Don’t compare yourselves to others. Having the perfect looking posture doesn’t mean anything. There are a lot of ways to ‘cheat’ into good looking asanas, while not getting the full benefit of the pose, or putting your body at risk. So turn away others and focus within.

Wear whatever you want: I usually wear leggings and a singlet.

It might not change your life straight away: You might feel a lot of things after your first class. You might feel stressed out, you might feel sore, you might feel emotional, you might feel nothing. Hopefully, you’ll feel giddy and light as a feather. Like it’s just what your body has always needed. I did.

Best of luck with your yoga journey! There’s so much more I could add here. These are just my experiences and thoughts. Next time I’ll write about books to read, music to listen to, and simple practices to bring home with you.

xo

Why are we so stuck in the future?

I’m feeling inspired to write after teacher training today.

At the end of class this afternoon we had a little check in to see how we were travelling two months in. This itself is a great practice, right? Imagine a job or study situation where you sit down with a small group with a teacher / boss / mentor to talk honestly about how you feel.

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