Because we can all do with a little more self compassion

 
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I went to write this blog thinking – “I really should write this about our upcoming Yoga in the Park event as an opportunity to promote these classes. I could write about how I started teaching in a park and the wonderful experience this was.” But then I thought – stuff it. That’s not what I want to talk about today. I want to share with people some of the deeper things I think about. The deeper joys and sadness I feel for humanity and myself. The real stuff that we tend to think about, get angry at ourselves about and feel ashamed to share because by confessing it, it will confirm we are in fact flawed.

So, if you would like to know more about the Yoga In The Park classes we are holding for the month of November – click HERE. We’d love to see you there!

So with that out of the way..

Why is it that we all seem to feel so implicitly flawed? That we are broken in some way? Not good enough. Not skinny enough. Not rich enough. Not popular enough. How is it that we have become so preoccupied with what we look like or who we associate with or what trinkets we possess that we have come to resent who we are? That we have forgotten, or never even got to know, the beautiful souls we are.

I’ve been doing a lot of work on self-compassion these past few weeks. With LOTS of things happening within the business, family dramas – exciting and melodramatic all at once (one can expect nothing less of my family), and personal health matters to address, I’ve been consciously making an effort to slow down and observe. To be a witness to my natural tendencies and those of others and to the language myself and other people use day to day. We can tell so much about a person by they way they hold themselves. How they talk, what they say. How they engage in eye contact, or look away. To practice self-compassion, I have become a more keen observer of myself.

When I look honestly at the areas of my life I would love to change if I had a magic wand, it would be to remove physical pain. I’ve never said to anyone that yoga heals pain. For some, it absolutely does. In my case, it is about pain management. But what I’ve come to notice is when I’m thinking my most negative thoughts, my pain is a hundred times worse. Why? Because I then eat like crap. I get lazy with my practice, how I stand, how I walk. I also fixate on the pain, which will make anything worse. Even if you’re someone without pain, you can create pain if you choose to think about it enough! The reality is, we can manifest whatever we choose to manifest in our lives when enough thought and energy is put into it. This means I need to get a hold of the negative thinking around pain that can be crippling at times. To do this, requires discipline and self-compassion – both of which do not come naturally to someone like me who has grown up with a feeling I am inherently flawed and not worthy.

To reduce pain, my mind needs to focus on and practice activities that will strengthen my body and mind. I must commit to and maintain various daily rituals that will help me to achieve this goal – rituals that are all examples of self-compassion and that I maintain regardless of what others think of me. To name a few:

- Maintain my daily practice but at a slower pace. In an effort to keep up, feel stronger or prove something (to who Jessica?), I tend to push myself a little too hard. So step one here is to pull back.

- To clean up my diet. Lets just say it’s been a bit shit lately and if I continue down this path, weight gain is the least of my worries.

- To stop hyper extending my knees when I stand – this hurts my back, whether I realize it or not. I do this when I’m being lazy. “Don’t be lazy Jessica.”

- To use a trolley for even some of the smallest shopping purchases at the supermarket to take the load of my back carrying uneven weights on either arm.

- To carry less in my handbag.

- To drink more herbal teas.

- To teach fewer classes. This gives me more time to breathe, plan, and relax a little (I’m not the best at relaxing. Thank goodness for yoga!)

- To think more lovingly about my body and my back specifically (this is the toughest one of all for me). To accept my body just as it is – pain, cellulite, freckles and all!

As I get older (and hopefully a little wiser) I’m becoming less and less affected by other people’s opinions of me and more aware that the only opinion that actually matters about myself is my own. So much of my life was dictated by trying to appear as though I had it all together.  No insecurities, no health problems, no financial strains. That I should always have the latest designer handbag, newest car, can dead lift 100kg at the gym because other gym junkies can so I should be able to too… (hello broken back!) That typical keeping up with the Jones’ routine. What a crock! Step one to a more self-compassionate life – LET THAT SHIT GO!

So with that said, I encourage you to have a think about different ways you could be a little more compassionate toward yourself. Life is about you and your life. Maybe write a list like I have, regardless of how insignificant the act may seem. Remember, using a trolley to carry my groceries instead of lugging my groceries to the car is on my list for self-compassion! (I even have my own mini trolley in the car!). And then to really commit to this new, self-loving you, I would love for you to share any items from your list with me in the comments below.

Sharing big, warm, loving hugs with you all.

Jessica xx

My experience with Peter Sanson

 
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Today was the final day of a weeklong intensive Mysore Style training with Peter Sanson. One of the original Ashtangis here in the west who lives in New Zealand, it was an honour to be guided by this man.

Training with Peter has been very confronting for me. It has raised many questions – all of which I have no definite answers for – and it has left me with a far deeper expression of compassion toward myself than I’ve ever experienced.

Peter has been practicing in Ashtanga yoga since 1985, so we can confidently assume this man has some phenomenal knowledge. To be in the presence of such a devoted practitioner is something else. We are surrounded by teachers who have completed weeklong teacher trainings and now call themselves yoga teachers – but the reality is, these people could not possibly know what it means to practice let alone teach yoga. And unfortunately yoga centers pumping out these courses are not helping the epidemic of missed opportunity. With back pockets and reputation commonly at the forefront of most teacher training courses (lets not beat around the bush here), these generic courses have sadly become more about the business of yoga. No student can possibly know themselves or what it means to practice yoga in a week, or a month, or even a year. What is yoga to these people? Any fool can get a teacher training certificate in yoga, but it takes something special to actually practice and experience the art of yoga. This man, Peter Sanson, is the epitome of yoga and what it means to live the life of a yogi. Humble, present, skilled, compassionate, genuinely non-judgmental, and excited about the possibilities the practice of yoga can bring each and every day. And this has not been achieved through an express course, I can assure you.

To be under Peter’s skilled eye, over the past week I've felt things I’ve never felt before. Some things good, others not so good. And each day I’ve spent quite some time pondering why I felt a certain way, what it meant, what did I do differently, what could I do differently next time, how does this translate into my life? As you all know, I’ve always considered yoga to be symbolic of how we live our lives and let’s just say my Type A personality was far from concealed from this man. Our first encounter is with Peter’s hands around my waist in preparation for drop backs. The only words spoken are by him and they are cues to guide me through the next posture - “inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, drop hands to the floor…. one, two, three, four…. inhale, come up”. Peter told me I was on a mission – he could feel the tension, determination and pride I was holding in my physical and emotional body. It was like I was unconsciously wanting to prove something to him about my capabilities to the point where he almost knew more about me through this single touch than I knew about myself. He could feel the strain I was inevitably causing myself, not so much in my physical body, but in my mind.

 
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As I drove home from that initial class, my clothes soaked in sweat, my eyes heavy and my body tired, I thought over and over about the comment that I was on a mission. What was I on a mission for? Where was I going? Why did he feel this?

It took asking myself some uncomfortable questions before I came to a possible answer. Whilst I can never know his true intention behind the comment, I chose to seek my own conclusion about what this means for me. That for as long as I can remember I’ve always felt broken, lesser than or not good enough. Chronic pain in my back coupled with sciatica leaves me feeling frustrated and disappointed in my body – on most days. I work hard to feel differently and that is a huge part of my journey, and the reality of it. So when I had the opportunity to be in the presence of such a master of yoga, I felt the need to not only prove to him that I can “do it”, but also prove to myself that I am worthy of being in his presence by “doing it”. Now that was some heavy, neurotic stuff right there! And I’m going to need to sit with this for much longer than a week – more likely the rest of my life – to try and unravel and let go of these feelings. But this is the reality of it. This is what yoga is teaching me, is showing me. These darker parts of myself that I must accept, befriend and keep under control. 

As my week continued with Peter, I worked hard to practice compassion toward myself more and more. I set very high standards for myself and I really need to let that shit go. Because the reality is, yoga is not about how we look in a posture, or achieving a posture. It is about how we feel in a posture. How we experience it and what we clear out of the physical and emotional body in doing so. This is yoga. And I am so grateful to this wonderful man for reminding me of this.

Next time you step onto your mat – let go of the idea of what yoga should be, and just let it Be.

Big hugs and so much love,

Jessica xx

Photos courtesy of @AshtangaYogaMelbourne, @tinainserra, Peter Sanson

Looking Up

 
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I spend as much time as I possibly can outdoors. Even if it’s the middle of winter, I like to sit outside, rugged up and admire the environment that surrounds me. About ten years ago, around about the time I was massively struggling with anxiety, a dear friend pointed out that I walked with my head down. That I never looked up. He was right. It wasn’t that I was intentionally trying to avoid my surroundings, I just didn’t realize my natural tendency had become to look down. I was shying away from the world. For whatever reason, I consciously or unconsciously felt the need to make myself small.

Ever since that day, I have always made a conscious effort to look up when I walk. To admire the birds that sit on the branches above me, to appreciate the sheer enormity of the trees and the cloudy or crystal blue skies that are their backdrop. I will never forget on that very day when I began to lift my gaze high rather than keep it low, how immediate my appreciation for life became. How grateful I was for the beauty I was surrounded by yet for years had failed to truly see. My perspective on life shifted in an instant. It is for this very reason, I have become a lover of the outdoors. I work outdoors when I can (I’m writing this blog in my back garden), I exercise outdoors and I will often meditate outdoors. To be among nature relaxes my mind and lifts the worries from my shoulders because it reminds me that the possibilities of life are endless. I just need to have the courage to be open to them.

Because of my love for the outdoors, and as the weather is just so lovely and is only going to get better, I thought it would be wonderful to practice yoga outdoors. To give all the students of Jessica Dewar Yoga an opportunity to relax among the trees. As such, I’m super excited to announce we will be hosting a weekly Yoga in the Park class at two separate locations throughout the month of November.

Barkly Gardens, Richmond

&

Edinburgh Gardens, North Fitzroy

Classes will all run simultaneously (including our regular studio classes) at 9.30am from 4 November – 25 November.  Should you like to get involved, be sure to sign up via the timetable page. There is no limit to the number of students who can attend but we do ask students register just like any other class.

If there is anything I have learned over the years, it is how important it is to take time to just be present with nature. We can learn so much from these experiences when we do.

Big hugs to you all and I hope to see you all at Yoga in the Park next month!

Jessica xx

It's In The Little Things

 
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I love candles. Growing up we weren’t allowed to burn them as my mother feared we’d burn the house down – fair call – but as an adult I can’t get enough of them. I burn candles all the time and at night I have at least eight tea light candles burning in different rooms of the house. Not to mention the incense I always have burning away beside Ganesha.

Last night I had one of those moments. A moment I cannot keep and can only be present to.  As Owen was preparing dinner, the dogs were at our feet waiting for extra food and I was lighting my candles, there was a moment of absolute joy.  A stark realization that - if ever anything were to happen to one of us, or if I’m away in India - these are the moments I would crave for. That I would give anything to do again. As you can see we weren’t doing anything extraordinary. It was a Saturday night, we’d ordered take out and we were planning on watching a movie, which is a weekly treat. But this was and is perfect for me. Spending time with my family, in our home, which is full of love, is simply - perfect.

I tend to have existential crises often. I think that’s what keeps me as focused on the here and now as I am. I never allow myself to forget about the finite life I, and everyone around me, leads. That it doesn’t matter how much money I have, how big my house is or how many new pairs of the latest yoga pants I have, it means nothing at the end of the day. Because these things, these material things, do not bring happiness. They can facilitate a temporary happiness and make life more comfortable – sure – but they do not create genuine happiness.

We spend so much of our lives looking for things out there to make us happy. We read books and go to seminars.  And whilst it is fantastic people are searching for what brings them joy, the reality is, true happiness cannot be bought. It cannot be taught. It cannot be handed down. True happiness is something that comes from within. Nowhere else.

I’ve bought new clothes, travelled the world, and sat among inspirational people. But to merely do these things is not enough. It does not bring me joy to achieve such things. Rather, it is in the presence of these experiences. The noticing of how I felt in those moments of walking through a temple, talking with my teachers or even trying on a new pair of pants I’ve worked hard to purchase. It is when I am truly present, just as I was last night as I lit my candles, that I feel absolute bliss. Happiness is in presence. And it is a choice. I choose to notice the little things. This is where my joy is and if you were to ask me, it is the little things that make life great.

Much love, Jessica xx

Thank you All For Sticking By Me

 
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This morning, following my classes, I sat in the centre of our empty studio, legs crossed in padmasana (lotus pose) and just smiled. I smiled because I could feel the energy of our students even though I was alone. I smiled because we are, together, creating something profound. Something that is helping others to get through some of the toughest struggles life can throw at us. I smiled because every student who comes to practice brings the most wonderful presence, a presence that makes our studio what it is today.  I began Jessica Dewar Yoga with a dream to make yoga accessible for all in pursuit of a kinder world. Turns out, I’m not the only one with this dream because one year on, here we are – still going and stronger than ever.

Every single day there are new challenges, new hurdles to overcome. I’ve made MANY errors over the past 12 months (and I think you’ve all read about my latest error. Fail is probably the more accurate description…) and still you all stand by me. Let’s just say I’m extremely grateful for having such a forgiving community! Never could I have anticipated the journey ahead when I decided to let go of my career and start my own business. Seriously people – I had NO IDEA! I read so many business books before starting on this journey but the reality is, nothing prepares you for real business. For working with real people. In a business no one has attempted here in Melbourne. Eek!

But upon reflection, I wouldn’t change a thing. As yoga teaches us stern lessons through our practice, business does too. I can absorb only what I am ready to hear, just as I can perform/practice asanas only that I am ready to practice. The learning is constant. The ebbs and flows are relentless. But this is the reality – not just of business or of yoga, but of life. And rather than see this as a negative, I’ve chosen to see every experience as a positive one – even if it’s me sleeping through my own class (I honestly don’t think I’ll ever live that one down).

I know my yoga practice has been fundamental to my growth as a business woman. It’s helped me to breathe through the challenging times, appreciate the little moments, laugh when I stuff up, cry when I should probably be laughing. I’ve been all over the place over the past year – physically and emotionally – and I’ve learned more about myself through this experience than I have in my entire life.

So whilst I receive many thanks from the community for making the studio accessible to all, really it is me who wants to thank all of you. Your ongoing support makes me want to be a better person. You make me want to do bigger and better things in the world because you’ve all welcomed me and my philosophy so warmly. You’ve encouraged me to keep going when times have been tough. Whilst I may be the teacher for many who read this blog today, I am equally your student.

So to all the students, teachers, local businesses who sponsor us, media who have helped to spread the word, suppliers, my partner, mum, my (to be – I hope) parents-in-law, my pooches…. and everyone who has shown support for our studio, from the bottom of my heart – “Thank you.”  For without you, reaching our first birthday would not have been possible.

Here’s to many more happy years ahead.

Love and gratitude to the max!

Jessica xx