The secret to a life of tranquility and absolute peace

 
 

If you know me, you know the title of this blog is a pun if ever there was one. Whilst I would like to say I know the answer to a life of tranquility and absolute peace, the reality is – I don’t. And I don’t know anyone else who holds this solution either. Sorry.

This past week has been anything but peace and tranquility for me. And it seems for many of my students also. Uni has gone back, it’s been consistently hot weather (shocking for Melbourne standards)… Life is busy and stress levels are on the rise for people. Myself included. I like to write my blog as I feel something. As a topic of interest comes to me that I want to share with those who care to read it. But today, this week in fact, I’ve got nothing. I feel totally blank. My mind is scattered, and my practice is off. It’s just been one of those weeks. Nothing bad has happened, and I’m in no way dissatisfied with my life. All I can put it down to is simply just being ‘one of those weeks’!

The Type-A Overachiever in me tends to get really pissed off when I have a week like this. Actually, an unproductive day or even an hour can annoy me. I hate to waste time. I’m up at 3.30am every day and I make the most of every minute. If I don’t then the unhelpful, critical parts of myself begin to kick in and tell me to work harder, to stop slacking off. I often talk about being accepting of our own journey and the different paths we will take. To embrace the good and the bad, the tough times and the easier times. Well, this has been a week where I’ve needed to really take a leaf out of my own book and allow myself to be OK with the hurdles I’ve faced. My washing isn’t folded, the dishes are not put away and cooking – well, thank goodness my partner cooks or I would starve to death. I’ve lacked the motivation to really push as I normally would. It’s just been one of those weeks and that is OK!

At the end of the day, we’re all human. Our physical and emotional body will fluctuate. No two days will ever be the same and whilst we may have the energy to run a marathon one day it does not mean we have the same energy the next. I’m a classic example of someone who can quickly head toward burnout if I don’t pause and reflect, so I’m accepting that this time, this week has been an opportunity to do just that. Pause and reflect about where I’m at, where I’m heading and what steps to take next. Rather than being angry about this, I’m enjoying the process of being slightly more tranquil and a little more peaceful in my mind, achieved purely by granting myself permission to slow down.

If you’re feeling a little run down, be sure join our Sunday Restorative Yoga classes or a deeply relaxing Yin Class on a Monday and Friday evening. If you ask me, they’re always just what the doctor ordered.

Sending tranquil and peaceful hugs,

Jessica xx

 

Step away from the wine bottle! A simple, non-alcoholic way to relax

 
Jessica Dewar Yoga Paschimottanasna
 

How many times have you come home and just collapsed onto the couch after just a crappy day at work? About the only amount of energy you actually have left is to find the half empty bottle of wine and fill the glass to the brim. Sound familiar? I've totally been there!

Back in the corporate days, drinking a glass of wine (possibly two depending on how bad the day was), became my way of trying to slow down. I almost felt non-functional until the first gulp. Unfortunately... turns out this is not the healthiest habit to fall into. But whilst I completely understand the desperation to just chill out and unwind at the end of the day, alcohol is not a very effective way of relaxing the body and mind. If anything, we're just numbing ourselves to the dramas of the day just gone, or what might lay ahead. Believe me, I know what it feels like to be in this frame of mind.

What I've learned over the years (through a lot of trial and error with my body) is that alcohol is never a long term solution to stress relief. But we all need an outlet as feeling like you’re on overdrive 24/7 is just as unhealthy, if not worse.

You see, when our adrenal system is on overdrive, EVERYTHING starts to fall apart. Our eating habits are all over the place, we’re irritable, are short tempered and tend to snap at those closest to us… the list is never ending. Stress is also hugely responsible for heart disease, one of Australia’s biggest killers, hence the urgency to bring those cortisol levels down!

For many years I couldn’t work out why my weight fluctuated despite near killing myself at the gym 6 mornings a week, why I struggled with sleep and why I was unable to sit still for more than two minutes. Upon doing a complete overhaul of my life, I came to realise stress was at the bottom of everything. It wasn't until I realised this (after spending a small fortune over the years) that I began making fundamental changes - I’m talking leaps and bounds - in my life, for I knew if I didn’t, then something would have to give… and probably not in a good way.

Without feeling like you need to submit your resignation letter today to get out of a job you despise, I first recommend learning to draw your attention deeper inward. Because at the end of the day, it turns out there is nothing out there that can change the way you think, feel, behave. It all needs to come from within. Sounds simple enough right? Wrong! We would love to have a quick fix answer but truth be told it really does come down to mindset and breath. So often we go through the day without taking even one deep inhalation and exhalation. Our breath slows all the systems in the body naturally so it makes sense why we need to breathe more! This is your detox, your getaway retreat, you treat to self - breathing!

So with that said, a beautiful asana to help calm the mind and slow the breath is Paschimottanasana (see picture). A forward fold which naturally slows the heart by lowering it to the ground. Here, the whole body is given a chance to slow down. Don’t worry if you can’t touch your toes. What’s important is keeping the straight spine and then working to slowly fold the body. In time, when the back and hamstrings release, you can come to rest on your thighs and calves. After 9 breaths, when you come up, the whole body will have come to a much more relaxed state allowing you to continue functioning despite feeling like the world is falling apart. Done daily for a minute or two, you will begin to notice huge benefits in the body, breath and mind. Give it a try and see!

What’s your experience with stress been? And how have you learned to manage it? I would love to hear from you!

Sending huge hugs and relaxing vibes.

Jessica xx

24 hours later and a little more feral than normal. “Hello Kovalam!”

I left Mysore yesterday morning at 9.30am. Today, I arrived at my hotel, Jasmine Palace, at 9.50am. In short - buggered.

The 16 hour train from Bangalore was nothing short of ‘an experience’ to put it nicely. Dealing with people sitting on my bed, bumping me through my curtain, fart smells, men walking up and down the aisles yelling (I’m not joking - yelling) “coffee, coffee, coffee!” or “chai, sweet chai, chai!”, screaming children and snoring about sums up the experience. Not to mention the toilets. I swear to God I nearly died when I saw them. I knew they wouldn’t be good and in anticipation of what I would find I held on for as long as possible. But I was mortified when I saw the toilets.

Walking out from my carriage into the part which joins the carriages, I was instantly struck by the foul smell of urine and shit (excuse me, but it’s the truth). Those smells combined with hot, humid conditions were just revolting. Trying not to fall off the speeding train, (as all the doors are open and the train tilts at every corner), I steadied myself against the wall of the first toilet door. I opened the latch and saw an Indian toilet with a combination of water, urine and poo sloshing around on the floor. Jesus Christ! Slamming that door shut I went to the next one. Same again. In hope to find a western toilet I tried a third door but again the same story only this Indian toilet had tiny raised platforms for your feet to go on. By this point I knew I just needed to suck it up, do my business and get out. Thank God for my baby wipes and Dettol gel in my pack. Refusing to stand on the feet cut outs, for if I slipped my feet were going into the hole, I just spread my legs as far wide as possible and went. Where I went, I don’t know, but I don’t think it would have made any difference to how sanitary the toilet was. With wee spraying on my feet I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. Disgusted, I wiped and sanitised everything when I made it back to my sleeper (which now appeared cleaner than ever before compared).

I slept on and off all night, with my feet raised against my pack (mostly so I would notice if sometime tried to take it) and cuddling my small backpack which has my passport, wallet etc inside. My bed felt like a rock with a big hump in the middle of it. Let’s just say comfort doesn’t come close. However when I saw other trains pass us, similar to the one I was on, with people’s arms hanging out of barred windows, I was certainly grateful to be in the seat/sleeper I was in. The rest of my train would have been like this also - and 16 hours in ‘cattle class’ (as they call it) would have been nothing short of horrendous. It’s going to be interesting when I do the same trip but for 3 days straight to Agra! I will worry about that when the time comes.

Waiting for the train to arrive in Kochuveli, I sat in my sleeper stretching my legs and doing some forward bends, like Paschimottanasana and Marichyasana A. It was nice to try and get the circulation going again. That’s definitely a benefit of yoga. It can come with you anywhere.

Arriving at the Kochuveli train station, a tall Indian man dressed in the whitest of white shirt and pants, with contrasting back leather shoes, immediately came to me. I think I’d been off the train for about 5 seconds before he approached me. Clearly I was the only white person on the train. I followed him to his gold sedan which had seats covered in white towels, smelled of incense and was nice and cool. Everything about this man just seemed clean, which was so refreshing after the trip I had just been on. I suddenly noticed a ‘poo’ like smell in the car. I wondered if it was something in his car, or something one of us may have trodden in? I wasn’t sure. But then I suddenly worked out it was me. I stank. When I smelled my clothes up close, they smelt fine. But I think there was a combination of smells (collected via my 24 hour journey) coming from my hair, armpits and clothes which created a concoction of ‘poo’ smelling Jessica. I was utterly embarrassed. Hopefully the smell didn’t waft into the front of the car…

We traveled for about 40 minutes to Kovalam, where my hotel, Jasmine Palace, is located. Travelling down a steep, unkempt narrow lane, we arrived at my hotel. I was so relieved. Step 1: Shower Step 2: Food. After check in I was taken to the most stunning, large room which overlooks the pool. What a change in sleeping arrangements! The bed is big enough to fit 5 people in it! And the view is just magnificent. I felt instantly relaxed. WIth a quick check in back home to Owen, so he knew I was alive, followed by the best shower of my life, with wet hair I ran downstairs to the closed restaurant who agreed to make me breakfast. Toast and jam has never looked so good. As mindfully as possible, I scoffed my toast and fruit salad. I then took some time to enjoy my black ginger tea whilst admiring the pool and grassy outdoors. I was completely calm and enjoying every second of just being.

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I spent the afternoon walking along the seafront admiring the beautiful coastal town Kovalam is. Westerners were lying on the beach in bikinis which was an odd sight to see, but clearly accepted here. Indian’s swimming fully clothed, in their saris and jeans, was equally as odd for me. How vastly different cultures can be.

I moseyed up to the red and white striped lighthouse which stood on the edge of a far cliff. As a foreigner I have to pay three times what the locals pay to walk go inside the lighthouse. Ridiculous! But ok. After one scary vertical ladder climb to reach the very top of the lighthouse (did I mention I’m scared of heights) I was speechless by how beautiful the view was. Coloured homes drowned in coconut trees lined the beaches, there were multiple coves and in the far distance was what looked like a palace from Aladdin. It felt truly magical. I sat up there for some time, just being present, enjoying everything about being up there. It’s incredible what you notice when you just stop.

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After climbing down, holding onto the rails for dear life, I walked along the beach with my feet in the warm water. It was so lovely to be by the ocean. I don’t tend to swim, but I do love the view of any beach. Hungry, I stopped at Malabar on the oceanfront and ordered dal fry, coconut rice and plain naan. An odd meal to have by the beach, but when in India! The meal was divine, as was the view. I sat there for sometime, enjoying not having to be anywhere, before walking to a lookout to watch the sunset. By this time Kovalam was beginning to glow. There is such a beautiful, relaxed atmosphere here which I really enjoy being a part of.

This evening has been spent committed to re-packing my pack - which I did an awful job of the first time - and just relaxing in my room before a big day tomorrow. My alarm is set for 5.00am to practice yoga in my overly large room. I’m quite excited by this. It will be my first proper self practice since finishing class on Monday. Nervous and excited!

Namaste xx


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