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48 hours in Ubud

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I wrote most of this a few weeks ago in the midst of our family holiday in Bali. I know it probably sounds a bit melodramatic, but I feel as though this brief, but very intense experience really changed me.

Here we go.

My idea of bliss is a yoga retreat. Imagine one of those magical locations in a tropical forest in the mountains, a huge open air bamboo hut, gentle mystical music drifting through the trees, tranquility infusing the air. Perfectly peaceful…bliss.

I’ve been green with envy in the past, when friends have announced they are off to Bali on a week long yoga retreat or detox of some sort. It’s a dream I’ve had for some time…and now I’ve done it. Mine wasn’t exactly a retreat, and it wasn’t exactly a week, but it was blissful all the same. I’m calling it my 48 hours in Ubud.

So it came to be…two happy yogis in the back of a Bluebird taxi, waving farewell to a gaggle of children and a pair of Dads. Heading to the mountains for an intensive yoga, meditation, food and relaxation camp. An extra special side trip to a family holiday, which fell serendipitously into place only a week before it actually happened.

We arrived at the beautiful home of one of my best friends an hour or so later. The house just happened to be essentially vacant while we were there, and it served as a fantastic base, and place to sleep. The same lovely friend had given me a detailed list of all of the best places to go, to eat, to drink and most importantly, very explicit directions to The Yoga Barn, a yoga Mecca in these parts. We went straight there, and essentially mapped out a plan to do as many yoga and meditation sessions as we could. We also booked in to see the Cranio-sacral therapist/healer my friend had raved about. I’ll be sharing some thoughts about that soon. So we sat, we ate, and then we started…and it was incredible.

I think a kind of honesty of the soul occurs when you focus so much of your energy on quietening down everything inside of you. There’s nothing but calm. The energy just flows…it doesn’t take any actual physical or mental energy. The experience of being a Mother is generally the antithesis of this. You become connected and tuned in to your little people, and aware of yourself, but not deeply connected to yourself. That’s my experience anyway.

Before kids, I wasn’t into meditation, and had limited yoga experience, so they are both relatively new interests for me. Doing both activities so intensely made me feel as though I was exploring a whole new part of myself in Ubud. I can’t really describe it adequately, but I’ll give it a try.

All of my senses were heightened. My intuition was heightened. I knew exactly how I was feeling, and what I wanted at every moment of the day. I knew exactly what I wanted in my life! It felt very raw, as though every thought I had was a small life epiphany. Truth flowed through me. No crap. Just pure, honest, truth. I was completely connected to who I really am, and acutely tuned in to my body, and my mind. Everything just felt so right. Now every time I meditate or practice yoga, it’s as though I’m building on something which started to evolve in Ubud. I’m still quite stunned by the fact that I continue to feel so transformed by a simple two day experience…but that’s just what happened.

Linked to With Some Grace for FYBF

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goodbye overwhelm, hello calm!

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I’ve been fascinated for quite a while with how stress affects my body, and with all the incredibly simple things I can do to change that. One of the practices which is right up there on my list of amazingly simple ways to relax yourself, is alternate nasal breathing or ALB.

It’s a cleansing and calming yoga practice, which recreates the natural alternating nostril breath pattern which should happen over the course of the day, but which happens less and less frequently as our bodies age and become more diseased.

This is how it’s done. Hold your right hand in front of you, with your palm towards your face. Block your right nostril with your thumb and inhale slowly through the left nostril. Then move your thumb away, and block the left nostril with your little finger, exhaling through the right side. Once you’ve exhaled, breathe back in through the right side, keeping the left blocked, and then exhale through the left, with the right side blocked. Repeat this for as long as you can, with a breath rate of around 5 per minute. Ideally you do it for at least 15 minutes, but I often use it as an emergency manoeuvre where I do it for about a minute, and it brings pretty much instant calm.

Because it’s almost impossible to really think about anything else while you’re doing it, ALB becomes a meditation in itself. As with all relaxation techniques which involve slow deep breathing, ALB has an instantaneous effect on your heart rate, slowing it down, by stimulating your parasympathetic, or calming nervous system. There is a bucket load of research out there on the practice, and how it affects your nervous system and your cardiovascular system, but something which interests me is the idea that the effects are not just temporary. They are at their peak in the first 15-30 minutes following practice, but there is evidence to suggest that if you practice long term, then your parasympathetic nervous system is essentially trained to become more dominant.

That sounds like a dream come true to me…a sea of calm! I’m going to perform an independent study on myself, and see what happens. I’ll keep you posted!

Linked with Essentially Jess for IBOT

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with love from Bali

The villa in Sanur
The villa in Sanur

For me, and for most people I suspect, a holiday equals slow living at its glorious best. Days filled with oodles of space and nothingness. Swimming, sunshine, eating, reading and plenty of time for contemplation. For the past week, I’ve been doing just that with my family in Bali. I always find that when I stop completely, that contemplation leads me to ponder some of the tweaks I want to make to my regular life. Some of the tweaks are deeply personal, some are not. Some are just habits I’ve let drift away without thought.

In Bali, which has been our holiday place since we had our first son nearly 7 years ago, the aesthetics of the gardens, and the interior design of the buildings is so tranquil and enticing, that my thoughts inevitably drift towards how I can make our home and garden even more peaceful and beautiful. Our first 3 nights were spent in a villa in Sanur, which had a relatively compact garden surrounding a stunning blue tiled pool. Within that garden, there were 6 separate sitting areas, all different, all secluded, all draped in lush tropical greenness. Of course being able to grow tropical plants in a water rich region makes a huge difference to the feel of a space. I just happen to live in a desert, but none the less, I feel very inspired!

Amazing yoga space
Amazing yoga space

On our 4th day of holiday peacefulness, we moved to a resort in Seminyak, and each morning since, I have woken and done a yoga class. On the second morning as every muscle in my shoulders and arms screamed with pain, I realised that it’s been over 4 months since I stopped my regular yoga practice. I’ve been running a lot over the winter, and feeling good that two birds are being killed with one stone every time I hit the road with Bob, the ultimate slow living dog. His fitness is just as important to me as mine, especially as he ages, so I feel good when we run together. It’s also been a habit of 9 years which I cherish. We ‘talk’ a lot during each run. He barks madly at certain points of the route, and he smiles up at me happily as we run along. But my lower back is very tight from just running, and even some of the most simple yoga postures were hard to stretch into, after no practice for that long. I also feel that yoga helps to inject an extra session of meditation energy into my life. There’s no down side to doing it really, just time constraints. It’s something my ageing body needs me to factor in more regularly. So I will.

Slow living dog
Slow living dog

My last point of inspiration is about having fun. After an hour long game of ‘it’ in the pool today, I was reminded yet again that I need to get deeply involved with the kids and their play. The excitement they get from having us be a part of their games is so evident, and it isn’t going to be there forever.

The other person I need to make more time for fun with, is my man. We don’t go out very much together, often opting for date nights at home with a special dinner and a movie. I think that needs to change, with us exploring more of the cool and interesting stuff happening around Perth after dark. We are still stuck in the pattern of life we had when the boys were little babies, and the truth is that now we have a pair of young boys, who need to have interesting parents just as much as we need to BE interesting.

So after much contemplation, I have something to create, a habit to re-instate and a reminder to be playful with all of those around me. I love holidays.

Linked with Essentially Jess for IBOT