How to Stop the War on Yourself & Be Empowered by Non-violence 

11219120_10208130040558591_2277323543183753638_nWe all desire peace in the world, but then why do we wage war on ourselves? We all aspire to be non-violent, but then harm ourselves in subtle ways all the time.

Gandhi said, “non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind.” Last week as we explored how to actively practice non-violence in my yoga lifestyle programs, I was remind how truly powerful this principle is.

Ahimsa, non-violence, and the first principle of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, means so much more than just abstaining from violent acts, but means cultivating an attitude of kindness, caring and compassion toward all things. That’s right, ALL things! And this my friend includes the neighbour you detest, your cranky boss but most importantly YOURSELF!

Most of us think, “sure I’m non-violent, I don’t carry weapons or beat people up.” But those are obvious forms of violence that, while horrible, may have less impact than the insidious forms of violence we all tend to act out each day.

As promoters of peace in the world we must first remember that peace begin with ourselves. 

I know when I’m being highly self critical I tend to judge others more harshly. When I’m overly tired and not taking care of myself I don’t have energy to give to, care for and be as kind to others. When I’m battling with my body I rarely treat it well or feel my best in the world.

On the other hand, when I’m well rested, nourished and self loving I naturally act this way to the people around me. I have more energy for others and for my dreams. I’m more productive and creative and my positive impact on the world increases.

The opposite of self violence is self care and self love. 

When we are not caring for and loving ourselves we are actually performing acts of violence —small, subtle acts of violence that accumulatively have a massive impact on our health and the world.

The World Health Organisation now names lifestyle diseases like cancers, heart disease and diabetes as the number one killers in the world. It’s not war waged with guns and tanks, but a subtle war we all wage on ourselves when we choose lifestyles that harm us.

We see this subtle war on ourselves through poor nutrition, drug and alcohol abuse; through depriving ourselves of sleep in order to chase achievement and “success”; perfectionism and seriously damaging self criticism, eating disorders and body dismorphia; through pushing our bodies too hard or not listening to them.

Basically, through wearing ourselves out and not honouring and appreciating this body that carries us through life. This is the opposite of Ahimsa, non-violence, and it disempowers us as individuals and as a society.

The more we practice non-violence by taking care of ourselves the better we impact the world. 

The bazaar thing is that we often feel guilty about taking care of ourselves, like it’s a luxury. But if you really think about the cost of self neglect on your health, productivity, relationships, creativity and greater cost to society, you’ll realise this is no luxury — it’s a responsibility!

Start practicing non-violence and taking better care of yourself right now! Here’s how: 

  1. Identify one subtle act or habit of self violence that you’d like to change this week. This could be anything like putting yourself down, drinking that extra glass of wine that makes you feel drained, going to bed too late or over eating junk food.
  1. Think about what you get out of this self violent habit. We only do anything because we get something out of it, even if it’s bad for us. When we want to break a bad habit we have to replace it with something that gives us a similar benefit but doesn’t cause us harm. So get clear on what benefit you get from this habit. It could be comfort, stimulation, distraction, motivation.
  1. Pick a replacement that has a similar benefit but doesn’t harm you. For example, if I over eat to the extreme every night when I’m alone to feel comforted, I could choose to do a self loving and comforting practice like oil massage or reading inspiring quotes, or calling a friend before I eat dinner at night. That way I feel comforted by something other than food.
  1. Make a personal dedication to non-violence with yourself. For example, my dedications is: I am dedicated to believing in myself, loving myself and knowing that I am worthy of love no matter what my imperfections are.

Enjoy (and trust me you will, practicing this makes everyone feel so much happier)!!

Please share with us your personal dedication to non-violence with yourself! 

How to Find Love in a Bottle 

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Yes, you can find love in a bottle. And no, it’s not in a wine, spirits or beer bottle. Nor is it a magic potion. But keep reading, this might just change your life.

So where is this bottle of love? Believe it or not, you can find in on the shelves of most grocery stores (and no ladies, it is not a bottle of silky, raw, organic chocolate).

It’s a simple bottle of oil.  Well not just any oil. We’ll take organic ideally, either coconut, sesame, sweet almond, avocado or sunflower.

And how do we find love with this bottle of oil? By rubbing it all over our bodies on a regular basis!

Self oil massage is an Ayurvedic practice that has changed my life. 

It has so many benefits but the greatest for me is that it’s helped me practice self love.  And if you don’t know this little secret about self love, practicing it means that it starts to overflow in all other areas of your life.

The more I’m connected to love and caring for myself, the more my heart is open and loving to the people around me and I fall in love with the work I’m doing.

According to Ayurveda, oil holds the same energy as love, and love is the vibration of consciousness coming into form. So every time we rub oil on our bodies it become a gesture of love.

Daily Dose of Love 

I used to slap lotion all over my body just to keep my skin moisturised, but when my Ayurvedic teacher taught me the practice oil massage, explained about the quality of love in oil and the shit contained in most lotions, my whole relationship to moisturising my skin changed.

Firstly, I only use oil on my skin now (read why below) and every morning or anytime I moisturise my skin I’m aware of this energy of love in the oil (even if just as an idea) and as I put it on I feel grateful to my skin and body. It puts me in a mindset of appreciation and acceptance rather than self criticism.

It’s become a ritual that changed how I look at myself. It makes me stop, even if just for a moment, and take note of how I feel. I might give my neck and shoulders a little extra rub, or my feet or hands if they feel sore. It doesn’t have to be a huge ritual, and just this little bit of self care can change my day.

Oil is also grounding and has the qualities of connection and cohesion. When I feel scattered, lonely, exhausted, overwhelmed or my heart feels a bit achy, taking some time to do a little oil massage is like putting myself back together.

It can be a lifesaver when you’re going through big things like breakups, moves, job changes, sickness, ect.

This can be a great time to set more time aside to and make oil massage a longer ritual where you really take time with yourself. Release the stress accumulated in your tissue, improve your circulation of blood and lymph, nourish your soul with lots of love and self acceptance and allow the nervous system to wind down.

Lotions and Creams are Crap 

Secondly, our skin is our largest organ and is a permeable membrane. Anything we put on it soaks in and penetrates our bodies. Ayurveda looks at the skin as ingesting the substances place on it, and for that reason says we should only put food grade quality stuff on our skin. Next time you grab a cream to rub on, ask yourself it you’d eat it?

Lotions and creams are a combination of oil and water plus emulsifiers to keep the two from separating. Because of that they don’t really nourish and feed the skin, but just coat it so it doesn’t feel so dry.

Many of them also contain fragrances and other toxic chemicals that can damage, clog or dry the skin. What did people put on their skin before these relatively new products existed? Natural oils!

For my face I use rose hip oil. It doesn’t leave you skin feeling greasy at all and it reduces the wrinkles that come from dehydration and sun exposure. I prefer sweet almond oil for my body on a regular basis because it’s lighter, and coconut when I really need nourishment and deep moister.

Simple Rules for Self Massage

  1. Listen to your intuition and just massage wherever you’re body is asking for it.
  2. Massage your feet if you don’t have time for your whole body. Reflexology has mapped the entire body on the feet so you’re still giving whole body love.
  3. Do long strokes on long bones, circular strokes around joints.
  4. Stroke moving from periphery toward heart to stimulate lymph and circulation.
  5. Do it somewhere warm, and use towels that you don’t mind getting oily.
  6. Be careful of slipping if you do it in the shower, and pore hot vinegar water down your drain every so often to avoid build up of oily film in pipes.

Benefits of Self Oil Massage Unknown

• Nourishes mind and body, grounding, connecting

• Rejuvenates the whole body, including the skin

• Increases longevity

• Delays aging

• Relives fatigue

• Builds stamina

• Promotes deeper sleep

• Enhances complexion and luster of skin.

• Enhances circulation and detoxification

• Releases stress

• Awakens the senses

• Recovers muscle fatigue

Join me April 1-7 for the Bali Spirit Retreat and let your spirit shine! 

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• Supports digestion, corrects blood pressure, and supports organ communication

• Shifts the attitude into positivity

• Teaches self-love + self-care

From Eating Disorder to Body Love

you are beautiful

Last night I was privileged to speak at a fundraiser for the Butterfly Foundation, an organisation that supports Australian’s experiencing eating disorders, and the topic of the evening was about body image.

I’ve been a professional body worker now for 12 years, and have worked therapeutically with thousands of people through the medium of physical touch, body awareness, movement and connection.

The topic of how we perceive our bodies, our body image, is one that’s been at the heart of my professional exploration for a long time. It’s also been central to my personal growth, struggles and breakthroughs.

What I’ve come to learn over the past decade is that cultivating a positive body relationship is intrinsic to our health.

In fact, let’s leave out the words positive and negative and just say cultivating a relationship with our body is intrinsic to health.

Do you feel connected to your body or disconnected from it? 

When I think about and observe negative body image in myself and others I get a sense of real disconnect from the body.

A lack of seeing the body as something to engage with but instead seeing it as an object that we just happen to be stuck with.

Weight and good looks are always in the forefront of body image issues, but body image is so much bigger than that.

I see negative body image expressed in both women and men in phrases like: too fat, too old, too thin, too stiff, too flexible, too weak, too short ect.

In phrases like, “My shoulder just won’t work.” “My hips always give me problems.” “I”m always getting sick, my body just isn’t that resilient.” “I have terrible skin.” “I’m just too old.”

The comments always are about being too much or not enough or stuck in some pattern.

In this paradigm the value of the body is placed on how it looks and what it can do for us, and our self worth and identity are attached to that.

The yoga system tells us that this approach to our existence leads to suffering, and I can tell you from personal experience that it does.

I grew up doing ballet and dancing since the age of 5 and was very much influenced by the feminine ideal of thin and delicate.

I had the role modelling of older dancers exchanging tips on diet pills, laxatives and it wasn’t uncommon to hear someone purging in the studio toilets.

When I was 16 my body attacked itself. I got an autoimmune disorder that attacked my endocrine system and hormones, I rapidly put on weight, and had to deal with a number of symptoms that left me feeling exhausted and unwell.

I cursed my body for not functioning like it should. I felt ashamed of how my appearance changed and inability to dance like I used to. And I felt lost without my identity as a lithe ballerina.

I spent the next few years trailing hormone therapies that had worse side effects than the actual autoimmune disorder and tried to escape my body, anxiety and misplacement of self worth through eating disorders.

AKA: Suffering! 

When I was 19 I quit Uni and decided to go to massage school in search of something more meaningful. I was on a quest to heal and understand why my body attacked itself and I knew that the high stress environment of achievement was not the path.

This is when I started practicing yoga and I began to learn about a whole new value system.

Identity

I think the greatest lesson Yoga taught me was that that our true identity is the pure light within us. It’s called purusha and can be likened to the word soul. It’s the light in our eyes that connect to the light in other people’s eyes, that knows without saying, that we see illuminated in innocent children.

This is the part of us that does not change. Everything else through life changes, our appearance, our relationships, our work, or health everything else changes, but the light within us stays constant.

The Yoga Sutras tell us that identifying with that which changes leads to suffering. We therefor need to learn to identify with our light, our purusha, that does not change.

The Body Speaks 

Secondly, this system teaches us that our body is not just a machine to do tasks or a mask to live behind, but an expression of a deeper truth and a fascinating and complex sensory organism giving us information about ourselves and the world around us.

It is a microcosm of the macrocosm, a dynamic ecosystem containing the mysteries and laws of the whole universe. The yoga system teaches us that everything we need to know is within us, and we simply need to look inwards and listen.

Rather than just looking at my body, I was slowly learning how to look into my body and listen to it. 

And this is what I mean by developing a relationship with our body.

When we’re connected to our body we learn to dialogue with it, when we’re disconnected from our body we place demands on it.

Breath body practices, especially ones with mindfulness involved, like yoga or chi gong, thai chi teach us how to have a working relationship with our body and then the way we value it begins to change completely.

I see two major disconnects that trigger negative body image:

  1. One is that we think more about how we look than how we feel, and 
  2. Secondly we think more about what our body can do for us rather than what it’s telling us.

Awareness of our body is the gateway into who, what and how we are right now in this present moment. It’s a system full of feedbacks and information telling us exactly what we need.

Look at your body as a book full of information about you and giving you information about the world around you. Your body is not just a car carrying your mind around, but is an expression of a deeper truth, it is a manifestation and expression of our beliefs and ultimately our inner light.

Shift into a more positive body image right now!

  1. Remember your true identity is the light within.
  2. Ask how your body feel, rather than how it looks.
  3. Ask what your body is telling you, rather than what it can do for you. 

What has helped you cultivate a positive relationship with your body? 

Self-harming Yogis

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When I hear the words “self harming” I think of teenage girls cutting themselves or monks and religious fanatics practicing castigation. I picture extreme cases of physical self mutilation or deprivation. But recently in my reflections about the first moral precept of yoga, ahimsa, or non-violence, I’ve begun to see a different picture of self harming that may be even more frightening than the extreme cases. 

Ahimsa is often translated as “non-violence,” but in the yoga tradition implies so much more than simply abstaining from violence. It means to approach all things with an attitude of non-harming, compassion, kindness and love.

In the 30 Day Yoga Evolution this week we’ve been reflecting on how to practice non-violence in our lives, and one thing quickly becomes very clear about this practice; when we don’t have an attitude of non-harm, compassion and kindness towards ourselves it’s nearly impossible to have this attitude toward others.

When I think about when I’ve been my worst to the people around me (over demanding of my partner or over critical of my mother), I also see those are the times in my life when I’ve been most critical and hard on myself.

It’s not just negative self talk that is an act of self-harming, but it’s also how we take care of ourselves. When I jam one more thing into my day and ignore my signs of fatigue or eat something I know will deplete my body or have one drink too many, I’m harming my body. And overly tired, hung over or malnourished people don’t tend to be poster children for non-violence, compassion and love!

At the end of the day, practicing non-violence has to start with ourselves. 

The opposite of self-harm is self-care and self-love. Sadly, so many of us see self-care practices as luxuries and even feel guilty for doing stuff like getting a massage or taking time out for ourselves.

But if we stop and look at the big picture we can see that these acts of self care ripple out to our loved one, community and society. All we have to do to see this is think about the costs to our lives of not taking care of ourselves.

Firstly, there is a cost to how we feel, our energy levels and creativity. When we’re over taxed and tired we don’t function optimally, and as a result our work suffers, our relationships suffer and our health suffers.

Not only does this effect our individual lives and the lives of our loved ones, but if we stop to think about how much the nation spends on healthcare to treat lifestyle diseases we see that self care (or lack there of) has a massive impact on our society.

WebMD estimates that 75 to 90 percent of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.

So how can we take care of ourselves better? 

Firstly, remind yourself of the greater costs of neglecting this healthcare practice, and stop feeling guilty about relaxing and pampering yourself.

Second, make it a priority and actually schedule some acts of self care into your calendar. Literally write it down like you would an appointment with your doctor.

Third, listen to what your body is telling you it needs. We so often over-ride the indicators of fatigue by having another coffee, or we respond to them in a way that isn’t really self care. Like having a glass of wine at the end of the day to release physical and mental tension rather than doing some stretches or taking a bath. Ultimately, the wine will just dehydrate our tissues more, disturb our sleep and keep us in a cycle of self-harming.

More Ideas for Self-care

  • Long walks to clear the mind, move the body and have some “you time.”
  • Take a bath, add some epsom salts to nourish your muscles and read a great novel to nourish your soul.
  • Foot massage is a great thing to do at the end of the day before you hop in bed.
  • Yoga stretches get you out of your head (and stress) and into your body and relaxation.
  • Legs up the wall is especially good for people on their feet all day and also boosts the immune system.
  • Pack a healthy lunch to avoid the pitfall of eating low quality food simply because that’s whats around.
  • Meditate for even 5 minutes in your day to re-boot your energy levels and give the old gray matter a break.
  • Listen to a Yoga Nidra as a way to improve sleep, clarity of mind or simply take a break. It’s been shown that 15 minutes of mediation or yoga nidra is equivalent to one hour of sleep.
  • Massage both professionally or giving yourself a massage improves circulation, muscle tension, mood and refines our ability to listen to what our body needs.

One of my favorite daily self care practices is self oil massage after my morning shower. Not only does it make my skin really nice, but according to Ayurveda oil holds the quality of love, so I feel like it’s an act of appreciation for my body. This has helped me so much with my issues of self criticism and body image. What is one of your favorite self-care practices?