There’s yoga. And there’s yoga!

 
Jessica Dewar Yoga_Hanumanasana_Splits.jpg
 

There’s yoga. And there’s yoga!

There are days I get on my mat and feel totally disconnected. Frustrated and I’d even go as far to say I get bored. Especially these past few weeks with my back playing up like it has. I’m on my mat. Tick. I’m doing the moves. Tick. But am I really connected? Well, not always. Which is what makes mornings like this morning so vastly different and powerful in comparison.

My first forward fold of my practice is generally a good indicator of how my body is going to go that morning. For weeks now the fold has been excruciating, immediately putting me on the defensive. But not this morning. Like the sun finally showing itself after a month long rainfall, my first forward fold was an immediate forehead to shin. Yes, it was a little tight, but the pain was not there. Something had finally shifted. The tension had finally decided to let go.

In a sealed room with no airflow and only the sound of deep, focused inhalations and exhalations, the sweat quickly began to bead around my temples. And it was not too long before my entire body was soaked in sweat as I flowed through my 90 minute led practice. 72 jump backs and jump throughs. My body was bending, twisting, and lifting as though I had no back trouble at all. My mind was focused, my body strong and my intent pure. By the end of practice I was near slipping off my mat and the challenge then became remaining steady on a slippery surface, forcing me to focus even moreso.

This mornings practice was a welcomed reminder of just how clever our bodies are. I talk about acceptance and loving our body as it is, but I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a struggle for me at times. When I have flare ups like I do (and they are crippling), I can forget how freely I can move when the inflammation settles. How strong and flexible I can be when I am patient. Mornings like this morning leave me pondering questions like – “What is the lesson I can take from these experiences? From pain? From weeks of relentless pain and then suddenly a release?” Well, I think there are many lessons here. The first for me comes down to trust. Trusting my body will right itself in due time. To also trust I am doing the right thing by maintaining my practice even on my worst days, regardless of how gentle the practice needs to be. The second lesson is ‘yoga’ and the true meaning of the word. I didn’t practice yoga in just this mornings class. Rather, every single day, both on and off the mat, is yoga. Yoga = to yolk. The union between body, breath and mind. Pain is a wonderful teacher and it has forced me to take a big step back, a deep look in and accept it for what it is. A fluctuation that I have. And that it (pain) does not have me. This is yoga.

Remember, every moment of every day holds a lesson. We just need to take the time to pause, witness and reflect.

Sending happy, slightly more enlightened hugs to you all,

Jessica xx

Keeping an open mind

 
Jessica Dewar Yoga_Bharath Shetty
 

It took many years before finding a teacher I truly connected with. I'm pretty direct and I've never been a 'new-age' kind of person. As a side note - I find it disappointing yoga has been labeled as new age, which is ironic considering the practice is thousands of years old, but that's neither here nor there. Regardless of how yoga is labeled, new age or not, for many years I struggled with the practice. I kept with it as I knew there was something powerful within it that I was yet to unlock or experience (consciously anyway), but this didn't make it an easy practice to maintain. It turns out, one of the biggest barriers for me was my teacher. I've had many (teachers) over the years - my teachers varied as I moved house many times in my twenties. I was also quick to leave a studio if I didn't connect with a teacher. I found it particularly difficult practicing with teachers who behaved as though they were floating in a cloud of unshakable inner silence and pure elation. Whilst I have no doubt this state is attainable, and this is something we all work towards, I struggled with the voice that was so soft I thought the room would explode if my voice were to be heard in comparison. It wasn't me. And if you've met me, you know I have anything but a calm, serene, unshakable stillness in my voice. I'm loud, nasal and have a twang in my accent that no-one can quite pick, especially myself. I'm from Adelaide so maybe that explains something...

So where am I headed with this? That's right, finding a teacher I connected with. It wasn't until I began practicing with Guiji in India that I began to feel more connected with the practice and with myself. There is absolutely nothing new-agey about him. He is strict, he is direct and he has no issue with forcefully pulling and pushing my body around to bring it into alignment. There is nothing soft about this type of practice. It is what it is and I like that. It's about the art of yoga, the discipline of yoga and maintaining a deep respect for what the practice represents. The seriousness with which the practice is taught has captured my full attention and is what draws me back to India each year.

But whilst it is wonderful I have a teacher whom I connect with and trust implicitly, I appreciate maintaining a self-practice here in Australia is quite limiting in itself. With the guidance of my teacher, my practice accelerates. A momentum that is hard to achieve when practicing on your own every morning. So I have decided it is time to venture out and seek experienced Ashtanga teachers, those who too, travel to Mysore. I shall seek out a teacher who shares this same devotion and respect for the practice. Someone who is about the practice, not the idea of it.

This is going to be a confronting experience for me as I've not given myself the opportunity to continue a regular practice with a new teacher in Australia. This is in part due to having struggled for so long to find a quality teacher I resonate with, and also if I'm honest with myself, is partly due to an arrogant mindset that no other teacher could measure up to Him. But this is a mindset that I know does not serve me. It prevents me from expanding my horizons and indirectly minimises not only the brilliance of many teachers out there, but also my own potential to be a brilliant teacher one day also. If I do not allow myself to connect and learn from others back here, then I shall be very limited in my long term potential and growth.

Moral of the story - we need teachers and we need to be open to what others can show us. This does not mean we take advice or guidance from just anyone. Be particular about who you practice/work with. But unless we give others a try, we can never know what potential we are missing.

Sending open minded hugs,

Jessica xx

Cellulite and all!

 
 

I did something yesterday that I haven’t done in over 10 years. Whilst to many it will not seem like a big deal, trivial in fact, to me it was a big step.

So, I am not a water person. I don’t swim. In fact I hate swimming. I was forced to do swimming lessons every summer school holidays and of course every class ironically fell on the coldest mornings. My memories of being in the water suck. The ocean – well, when I was young I did the whole jetty jumping, jet skiing, boat jumping thing – but come teenage years when I felt as insecure as anything about my body – this all ended. Mostly because I liked to wear make-up and feared all the cute boys seeing me without make-up on. I wore makeup because I was, and still am, a freckle faced girl. I was so embarrassed by my freckles. I will never forget the day my big brother told me, “Jessica if you get one more freckle on your face you’ll turn into one big freckle!” Way to boost the confidence of a 13 year old. Thank you Marcus!

So make-up was to stay, and water was to go. There is nothing worse than mascara running down your face when you’re trying to impress the cute boys.

Then came the transition from girl to woman. Ladies, we all know what this means! Yup, skinny legs and mini waists are no more. We start to fill out, bums get bigger and the spare tyre around the belly begins to appear. I had many weight related issues growing up. I was never a big girl. My weight sat around 58 kilograms and I’m now at 60 kg, but I began noticing what all women fear – the big C word – yup! Good old cellulite! I’ve lost weight dramatically and gained it all right back – in every case, cellulite was there to stay. I might have less of it through training and healthy eating, but regardless, it’s there. And despite knowing EVERY SINGLE WOMAN IN THE WORLD HAS CELLUITE, I hated seeing it in my body. Hence, this was another reason why I stopped the bikini’s and decided to be one of those people who only walks on the beach or sits by the pool with my feet in the water. Enough to cool me off without the humiliation of having to strip down and bare all.

I’ve always admired those women who were so confident in their bodies that they were quite happy to lay on a beach or walk around in their teenee-weenie bikini. I wanted to have that freedom but felt so restricted by my own insecurities that I never allowed myself to do this. In my mind, I needed the perfect model like, size 8 body with not a hint of fat on it.

But this is not reality. Having a photographer as a partner has meant learning all about the modeling industry and the level of work photographers go to to hide those lumps and bumps. I’ve seen myself turn from a size 12 to a size 8 in a photo using Photoshop technology. Incredible! But totally unreal.

However, despite knowing these photographer tricks which are designed to heighten our insecurities to market a product or experience, there is still that deep, dark insecure part that stops me from accepting that I don’t look like one of these models.

Until now. After a long enough time of wearing skin tight clothing – and my goodness can yoga tights be all revealing – I’ve learned to really love and accept my body as it is. Sure, there are days when I would like to shave off a bit here and there, but feeling comfortable in my skin is a really lovely place to be. I use my body to demonstrate twists, turns, inversions – movement in all directions – and having such huge issues with body image over the years, it turns out this has been one of my best therapies.

And with this newfound confidence, I decided to try something I haven’t done in over a decade, and that’s go swimming at the local pool. I pulled out my Roxy bikini from a million years ago – basically still brand new as I wore it about thrice – and headed to the local swimming pool. The bikini bottoms were a little tighter than 10 or more years ago but of course the top fitted perfectly. Why does all the fat head for the bum and not the boobs?!

Feeling a little nervous at first, I stripped down. Looking around me at all the other women in their bathers, I realized just how beautiful we all look - just as we are. It also came to my attention that no one is pointing and laughing, or looking on with disgust. No one cares! The fear is mine and mine alone. My body is just like everyone elses and there is nothing to be ashamed of. I was here to swim and swim I did.

Turns out, I’m a terrible swimmer and was done within 45 minutes of being in the water. At the point of sinking more than swimming I decided to call it quits for the day. I think a few lessons might be in order… But that is a side point here. The message is that we are beautiful just as we are. And the neurotic fears we have about different problems like weight, skin, hair etc are just that – neurotic. In challenging those fears we can come to know ourselves a little more and expand our horizons exponentially. Whilst I doubt I will become a regular swimmer, as it’s still not a favourite pass time, experiences like these are teaching me to be more accepting of, well, Me. Even with the lumps and bumps.

On a closing note, ask yourself if there is something you’ve avoided in fear of ridicule. I challenge and I urge you to face this fear. You never know what pain it may release and doors it may open.

Sending hugs from me (cellulite and all),

Jessica xx

 

Imperfection is perfection. Embrace it.

 
Jessica Dewar Yoga
 

Chatting with a beautiful soul today, another yogi, I was reminded of how valued honesty and vulnerability is in the world. How refreshing it is to read content from another human and know it’s completely 100% authentic. That it hasn’t been toyed with to suit what other people want, but rather that it gives people a window into another persons life and all the ups and downs she faces within it.

My intention for this blog was very clear from the beginning. Be truthful. Be real. Be me.

This was important to me for two main reasons.

1)   I tend to get through the tougher times when I write them down. It helps me to clear my mind and somehow gives me the strength to keep going. My partner ALWAYS know when I haven’t been blogging or journaling. My thoughts become scattered and irrational. This is not a peaceful way of living. So getting it out – whether on paper or computer – is really therapeutic.

2)   I can’t help anyone unless I’m completely transparent and authentic. I don’t know about you, but reading stories where nothing goes wrong and is somehow perfect – is not only boring, but it’s complete shit. LOTS of things go wrong in my life, and I’m not afraid to be upfront about being human. It’s in the going wrong where I learn my most valuable lessons, so I do my best to embrace the good and tough times equally. It’s a humble and calmer way to live.

I personally don't like the photo I've used for this blog and truth be told - whilst we're on the subject of honesty! - I wasn't going to show it to the world. But me being me, and being too dam stubborn to let the ego take over and delete it from the blog, I decided to share it. You see, in this picture my technique is very poor and I cringe every time I look at it. My shoulders are slumped, my core is weak, my feet are barely off the ground and my body is too far forward. I recall having a lot of nasty little rocks under my palms when I attempted this asana and it really affected how I came in and out of it. Whilst I look smiley and happy, because I was having a huge amount of fun doing this shoot, I was also hoping any lacerations to my palms wouldn't get infected... Infection is not ideal at the best of times, let alone when you're in India. What I've come to accept (not easily I might add), is who cares if the posture wasn't perfect?! If another practitioner looks at the image and sees how imperfect the posture is - who cares? I don't. Because it says more about them at the end of the day then it does about me.

One of my all time favourite chick flick movies is Bride Wars. The other is Bridget Jones’ Diary. Officially the best movies in the world and I could watch them on repeat (and have done so many times) day in and day out. I just love them. So, in Bride Wars, after all the malicious attempts to ruin weddings, Kate Hudsons character (a successful lawyer) shares her realization that she doesn’t have to keep everything together all the time. That it’s an exhausting way of living. Now, whilst I appreciate this isn’t the deepest of movies, at the end of the day this message really is quite poignant. Because the truth is – not only is it exhausting and stressful trying to have everything together all the time (because you fear what others might say if you have a hair out of place), but it’s also impossible. I know I’ll never make a Stepford Wife?! (I can’t help but grin as I write this, knowing my partner will read it and be like – “Yup! You got that right Jessica!”).

Women in particular can be very harsh with themselves in this way. We get promoted and fear it’s only a matter of time until we get caught. We feel undeserving of compliments, success and often love – real love. But the truth is, we are the right person for the promotion – it came to us because we worked for it God dam it! We are deserving of all the compliments, success and love that comes our way. I know this to be the case with men also, just not as strongly as it is for women. We spend WAY too much time worrying about what others are thinking about us rather than just being present in the moment.  A really stressful way of living and I’m super guilty of this. I work hard every day to alter my thoughts to ones that are life giving rather than life taking, as this is. Yoga has been such a powerful tool in my life for this very reason.  

I share my ups and downs with the world, firstly for me. Secondly, I hope that in doing so I encourage other men and women to be OK with not being perfect. To be OK with always being in suck mode. To having a stressful day and not having your shit together all the time. To trust everything will work out even in those stressful everything is falling apart times  – because it will. At the end of the day, my journey is my journey and I can either choose to enjoy it or be stressed out of brains trying to perfect it. I know what path I will choose. Which shall you?

Sending love and worthy vibes to you,

Jessica xx

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

What a day. The energy of the day just felt off. From 4.30am in the morning when a friend from class pointed to a gathering at a home where someone had just passed, everything from then just felt uncomfortable. Chanting Om for half an hour this morning seemed easy when you realise you’re alive and breathing.

The exam was fine. I flew through it which was fantastic. There was the odd question I wasn’t sure of, but overall it was great.

I noticed during the exam Brittany wasn’t there but she arrived 20 minutes late, sniffling and and covering her head with her shawl. She was clearly upset. To be honest I thought she may not have passed the course and had just been told the news. I feel totally crap now that I know what really happened. After an Ayurveda class, which immediately followed the exam, Bharath told the class Brittany’s mother had passed away. The death was unexpected and happened while she was sleeping - as I understand. By the time Bharath told us, Brittany would have been on her way to Bangalore where she was booked to fly home to California at 8.00pm tonight. How terribly sad. I can’t even contemplate how she must be feeling right now. We sat in silence for a minute and chanted three Shanti’s for Brittany’s mother. The silence was deafening. We all felt sick with the news. How tragic.

After lunch with the group at the Royal Inn, as a mini celebration for finishing our studies (the group wanted to try and keep up their spirits), I rushed home to speak with Owen. A blubbering mess, we talked about life and death. How death can throw people into the present and remind them they only have now. At any time we could get a similar call, as morbid as it sounds. We just don’t know. My struggle to accept this fact makes it even more terrifying and I’m the typical westerner who tries to ignore this reality. But at the end of the day, this is the reality. None of us can stop it. I guess this is why I’m so committed to living my life how I dream. To follow my heart. To enjoy every moment to the fullest. Because at the end of the day, this is all I/we have. Moments.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti