Everything Happens For A Reason

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I am a firm believer of “everything happens for a reason”, which is probably why the timing of yoga and pilates coming into my life was kismet.

I discovered Yoga in 2000 and in 2001, I was hit by a car whilst walking across a pedestrian crossing resulting in chronic back pain. In 2014, I became a certified Pilates Mat and Reformer Instructor and in late 2014 began complaining of severe hip pain. I feel so blessed to have had the skills to manage my pain with Yoga and Pilates instead of having to turn to pain killers. For me, daily yoga and pilates has not been a luxury but rather a  necessity.

It wasn’t until recently that a photoshoot went horribly wrong, that is, I couldn’t get my leg into the car without physically lifting it, that I realised something was seriously wrong with my hip. The next day I went to see a my Osteopath who said I was displaying all the symptoms of someone with a slipped disk in my lumbar spine. Of course I was very quick to tell her that she was wrong and that it wasn’t my back, it was my hip. I begged her to just give me a treatment and send me home but she advised me that I would need to have a scan and that she couldn’t help me until she had seen the results but in the meantime, I shouldn’t do any activities that involved any lumbar extension or flexion. As the tears began to well up in my eyes, I felt like a Heroin Addict who had just been told they had to go on the Methadone program. Over the last 15 years, yoga had been my drug of choice- yoga would make everything ok- physically, mentally and emotionally.

When I left my Osteo’s office I just wanted to go somewhere and have a big cry. I dreaded getting on my mat or on the Pilates Reformer as my mind was just boggled at the thought of not doing any forward or backbends. All I knew is that as a yoga and pilates instructor and a devotee, I couldn’t imagine my life with these tools- my drugs of choice. So the very next day I lay down on the reformer and began to move and then I then lay out my yoga mat and before long I was doing my full practice in neutral spine. I moved my body, not like I used to, but in a way that allowed me to maintain a neutral spine. And magically the next day, my hip felt so much better. It was then that I realised, much to my dismay, that my Osteo may be right! So I booked in for an MRI for confirmation (the results are pending). 3 weeks later I am still doing my modified yoga and pilates practice and to be honest, I have actually grown quite fond of my new practice. Having to modify your practice because of injury forces you to put your ego aside and really explore the postures and exercises with a fresh pair of eyes. It also has forced me to become a better instructor as I can’t demonstrate the postures/ exercises so I really need to give accurate instructions. And most importantly, it gives me empathy for my clients. Over the last 13 years I have often wondered when my back will stop being my greatest teacher but I have come to realise that I think it’s going to continue to guide me for the rest of my lifetime.

Being hit by a car 13 years ago was blessing in disguise. If it wasn’t for this life changing experience, I would be just another office worker complaining of backpain with no skills to relieve it. Instead, I have both yoga and pilates in my tool box from which I can draw from to heal myself and to help heal others. 

It got me thinking… it’s our attachment to the past, the way things were, the body that we had etc etc that brings us down. By living in the moment, accepting our current situation and adapting to our new state of being we can achieve real happiness.

Open Day: August 17

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Open Day: August 17

Join us for a Free Class, an organic cup of tea and snack and check out our new studio this Sunday, August 17 for our Open Day. Choose from Yoga, Pilates Mat, Reformer and Yogabarre.

To Book Your Spot OnlineClick Here

Please note there are several changes to the timetable:

9.30- 10am: Pilates Reformer (Beginners)

10.15- 10.45am: Pilates Reformer (Beginners)

11.45am- 12.15pm: Pilates Reformer (Beginners) NEW

2- 2.45pm Postnatal Pilates (no bubs)

2- 2.45pm: Restorative Yoga

Open Day Flyer resize

 

 

Putting The Little Voice To Rest

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After 3 long weekends, 50 hours of apprentice teaching, 50 hours of classes, 50 hours of observing classes PLUS “mastering” teaching and doing all of the exercises PLUS a 3 hour exam comprising of 2 hours of theory plus an hour practical (teaching and doing), I now have a Certificate IV in Pilates Matwork Instruction with a complete score of 95%!

A year ago when the idea of training to become a Pilates Instructor popped into my head, I really didn’t think I was good enough. I may be strong and flexible but that doesn’t come naturally to me. As a child, I was very shy, battled body image issues and had a massive fear of failure. I didn’t enjoy playing team sports as I wasn’t competitive enough. I didn’t enjoy dancing as I wasn’t skinny enough. I didn’t enjoy gymnastics as I wasn’t flexible enough. I didn’t enjoy Little Athletics as I wasn’t fast enough. Discovering the gym in year 7  changed my life. I loved aerobics and weight training as it wasn’t competitive and it was fun. In 2001 when I was hit by a car as a pedestrian, this love affair came to an abrupt end when the back pain I now suffered, was aggravated by these activities. This is when I turned to yoga which I  discovered 2 years earlier whilst living in Japan. Back then I was still complementing yoga with aerobics and weight training but with these activities no longer an option, I started practicing yoga daily (whether it was attending a class or doing Bryan Kest’s Power Yoga video (before the days of DVDs).

After battling back pain in my sedentary desk job, I decided to quit my day job and become a yoga teacher. My first training was an intensive and I referred to it as “yoga bootcamp”. Though my teacher was tough, he instilled in me a daily yoga practice for which I will be eternally grateful. My next teacher was also very strict and she forced me to practise no matter what was going on with my body (and let me tell you, there was a lot!). There were days when the pain in my body was so bad that I couldn’t get out of bed. I had to roll myself onto the floor and pull myself up. But the beauty of yoga is that there is always something you can do, everything can be modified to suit every condition. I have never ever said to myself after my practice, “Oh I wish I hadn’t practiced today”. It’s usually the days that are most challenging that are the most rewarding.

Whilst yoga will always be my one true love, I felt like something was missing and craved some strength training so whilst I was teaching Yoga at Elixr from 2005- 2009, I flirted with Pilates but wasn’t hooked. A few years later, I discovered Cross Fit. Whilst I enjoyed it (as it took me back to my gym junkie days) I was strengthening my superficial muscles (and in my opinion was looking quite masculine) but I desired longer, leaner muscles and to strengthen my postural muscles, my core and lower back. I wanted a form of exercise that complemented yoga, made me more functional in my day to day activities and would help me to age more gracefully. So I decided to revisit Pilates. Before long, I was hooked, balancing my daily yoga practice with Pilates Mat and Reformer classes. I was visiting the Osteopath less frequently and was much stronger in my yoga practice. Whilst Yoga will always be my one true love, I am thoroughly enjoying my love affair with Pilates.

I became so passionate about Pilates that this time last year, I decided to study to become an Instructor with Polestar which was exciting but scary at the same time as it took me way out of my comfort zone. After all, there was that little voice in the back of my head telling me I wasn’t strong enough, flexible enough, graceful enough or good enough to be a Pilates Instructor. I mean, have you seen some of those ex- Dancer Pilates instructors? They have the grace of a ballerina whereas I have as much grace as a baby elephant! I also felt that I wouldn’t physically able to do some of the exercises due to my scoliosis which I developed as a pubescent teenager. On top of that I had to apprentice teach 50 classes with my Mentors! The pressure of this in the past has literally brought me to tears on numerous occasions in my Yoga career.

But I decided at the tender age of 37, it was time to put this voice to rest. Despite completing a Double Degree and completing many yoga teacher trainings, I admit that I have never dedicated so many hours to studying, practicing and learning as I did to become a Pilates Instructor.

Through this process I learnt that the scarier it is to step out of your comfort zone, the more exhilarating the high at the end when you accomplish your goal. I also learnt that whilst I may not be graceful and eloquent in the way I move, I have the inner strength (physically and mentally) to achieve anything. But the biggest learning of all, hard work really pays off.

I hope you will enjoy the new classes on the timetable including Yolates (a combo of yoga and pilates) and Yogabarre (a combo of yoga, pilates, dance and aerobics).These classes combine all that I am wildly passionate about and I hope you will enjoy them half as much as I do.

I look forward to seeing you in class soon.

Love & Light,

Melissa

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Spring Clean Inside and Out

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With the warmer weather arriving early, I started my Spring Clean a little early. This year I decided to do a thorough clean inside and out and set about creating some new lifelong habits. I realised that by cleaning my apartment or doing a Spring Detox alone isn’t enough to change my life but instead, I needed to look at many factors that could be affecting my health. As Bryan Kest, my very first Yoga Instructor says, “According to a Harvard Study, 88% of physical disease comes from mental illness”. This link to stress and disease was re- inforced by Dr Karen Coates, a Doctor specialising in Women’s Health who uses alternative health practices with conventional pathways. I was fortunate enough to spend 4 magical days with Dr Karen at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat in the Gold Coast Hinterland for her Women’s Discovery Retreat. It was fascinating to learn about how stress can effect our hormones and our overall wellbeing. This was the kick up the pants I needed to clean up my act. I realised I needed to do more than just eat organic food, I needed spring clean inside and out.

I have taken the following 10 steps:

  1. De- cluttering my apartment
  2. Removing all sugar and processed foods from my kitchen
  3. Removing all Personal Care and Household Cleaning Products containing Toxins including plastic.
  4. E- Tox: No more email, internet, facebook before bed or upon waking
  5. Walking, Yoga and Pilates
  6. Getting More Sunlight
  7. Stocking up on Clean, Fresh, Organic food
  8. Making as much as my food from scratch as possible
  9. Daily Epsom salt bath
  10. Sleep

De-cluttering my apartment: The true motivation for me in doing this was when I misplaced a very sentimental and expensive ring and in my search realised just how cluttered my apartment (and my head!) was. What I thought would be mind- boggling, over- whelming, monotonous task has turned out to be fun, rewarding and time saving! When was the last time you looked at photos from your childhood or read old love letters and cards? I was inspired by Rhonda Hetzel’s book, “Down to Earth”. You can read more about her Easy Steps to De- Cluttering in her book or on her blog, click here

Removing all sugar and processed foods from my kitchen: I have attempted to quit sugar a few times now but found myself falling off the band wagon when I had a chocolate craving. But as of July 1 I have officially quit. What has made the transition easier is making my own chocolate which uses natural sweeteners like dates and raw honey. This is my favourite recipe, click here. I have having so much fun experimenting with natural, raw, organic sweet treats.

Removing all Personal Care and Household Cleaning Products containing Toxins: Our love of cleanliness may be predisposing us to allergies and illness. The US EPA complied a report on indoor air quality, showing that many homes had chemical levels 70 times higher than levels in the air outside. The results also revealed that common cleaning and personal hygiene products are three times more likely to cause cancer than airborne pollutants. Using anti- bacterial products is actually making us sicker as we’re not being exposed to bugs and therefore are more intolerant to them and weakening our immune system. So I have started making my own cleaning products using natural cleaners like bicarb soda, white vinegar, washing soda and soap. In Rhonda Hetzel’s book, “Down to Earth” she has some great recipes for Green Cleaners. In the kitchen I have either purchased glass storage containers or even better I have started re- using the glass jars my honey or coconut oil is stored in. Plastic containers and drink bottles leech nasty chemicals especially when heated or hot food is put inside. Read more here. The best investment you will ever make is a stainless steel drinking bottle. Dr Karen says that while some plastics claim they’re BPA free they may be ok but only until proven otherwise! Stainless steel and glass are best. I haven’t started making my own skincare products as I can’t go past Vanessa Megan Skincare which is natural and organic. Her philosophy is, “You should never put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t eat.”

Walking, Yoga and Pilates: . Walking is an old habit that died sometime ago but one I have embodied since my time at Gwinganna. As my teacher Bryan Kest says, there isn’t a more gentle way to get the blood pumping to keep your heart healthy.

Making as much as my food from scratch as possible:  besides Yoga and Pilates my greatest love (which is new- found) is cooking! That way I know exactly what is in my food and it’s made with love. Like most people, I am very busy so this takes some planning. I finish my week by choosing some dishes to cook for the following week and creating a Menu Plan and a shopping list. So then when I visit the Farmers Markets I know exactly what to buy, I have my fridge stocked for the following week and I plan when I will cook. Sunday is usually the day I make stock, soups and sweet raw treats and anything else that I can possibly freeze. So when I get home late at night I always have dinner waiting for me. It keeps me healthy and sane.

Daily Epsom salt bath: My favourite way to end the day! Epsom Salt contains Magnesium which helps the body regulate over 325 enzymes and plays an important role in organizing many bodily functions, like muscle control, electrical impulses, energy production and the elimination of harmful toxins. It helps to soothe tired aching muscles and prevents cramping! (good one for the pregnant mamas).  Whilst I’m there I enjoy reading a good, light- hearted book! Click here for some reasons why we need magnesium.

Sleep: I’m still working on this one! I am typically early to rise and late to bed. Lack of sleep or poor sleep can increase the production of the  corsitone (stress hormone) and decrease our production of melatonin leaving you feeling tired and groggy and can effect your fertility hormones. As my Naturopath says, sleep when the sun goes down and wake when the sun rises. This is a tough one but I’m working on it!

I am very passionate about this subject and it’s something I have been researching and enquiring about over the last few years. If you would like to find out more, join the Yoganic 30 Day Spring Clean which is designed to motivate you and give you the tools to integrate positive changes into your day- to- day life. For more info, visit: Click Here

Five Reasons Why Planning Your Nourishment Works

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The amazing Angie from Angie Gluten Free, our Retreat Chef will be hosting a workshop on Saturday June 8 at Yoganic called: Wholefood Lunch Box Creations. This workshop is for busy grown- ups who want to plan for success with our meals each day.- eating healthy, nutritious food on the go. Here’s what she has to say:

Being busy is not always just a snapshot of a day; it can often be a constant state that gleefully grips the back of our shirts as we try to run in the opposite direction. So how do we plan for ultimate health and an abundance of energy in the midst of a constant state of busy? When we are trying to save money, we plan for our budget. When marketing an event, we plan for our outcomes. And in gearing up for a busy day, or week, or month of life, we must plan for our nourishment.

The five reasons to plan are:

Higher level of nutrition

The nutrient content of the food that you make yourself is generally going to be higher in density, as well as better quality and fresher, than the food you buy on the run.

Better energy levels

Instead of waiting until you’re starving to eat something, or being caught in a place with no food options, your plan allows you to be ready with your meals and snacks as you need them, before your energy levels can dip.

Peace of mind

Within the structure of your plan comes great peace of mind in knowing you are supported in your day on a basic energy level, your food source.

Economical

By bringing your food with you to work or as you run about town, you end up saving money as you’re not paying someone else to make your food for you, nor will you be tempted to drop a few more dollars on an upsize of something you really don’t need.

Possible weight loss

If you’re looking to lose some weight, by creating your food at home you are much more in control of the ingredients that go into that food, as opposed to being at the whim of your café or takeaway options.

While there are undoubtedly some great, nourishing takeaway options in every city, we’re not always in the right time, place or frame of mind to take advantage of them. By planning ahead we can attack our responsibilities knowing that we are already one step ahead when it comes to refueling and looking after ourselves during those busy patches.

Here is one of Angie’s delicious recipes from her latest Newsletter:

Lentil & Vegetable Curry

Ingredients
1 medium onion
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp extra virgin coconut oil or ghee
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
Good pinch of cayenne pepper
3 cloves garlic
1 5 cm piece ginger
2 1/2 cups of chicken stock
1/2 can coconut cream
2 large carrots
2 zucchinis
1 cup sprouted green lentils
Salt and pepper
{Serves 3-4}

Method
Chop onion finely and fry with finely grated ginger in a teaspoon of coconut oil on a med/low heat until soft.

Add in spices and garlic and fry for about 30 seconds. Add in chicken stock and drained lentils and cook until lentils are just soft.

Chop carrot and zucchini into small dice and add into curry. Add coconut cream and salt and pepper to taste. Leave to simmer on medium heat for approx 20 minutes or until lentils and vegetables are just soft.

You can read more about Angie and find more of her recipes on her website: http://www.angieglutenfree.com

Lentil and Vegetable Curry

Yoga is Child’s Play

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As a child I didn’t enjoy after- school activities. My parents tried everything. They signed me up for ballet, jaz, tap, Physi, piano, Little Athletics, Tennis, Tee Ball, Soft Ball and Netball but I was never passionate about any of them. Reason being, I never excelled at anything.

It wasn’t until I moved to Japan after graduating from Uni that I discovered yoga. It was love at first Downward Dog. I loved the non- competitive nature of yoga. It didn’t matter how flexible or how strong I was.

I only wish I had discovered yoga when I was a child. Most people are aware that Yoga is good for adults, but they don’t realise that it has just as many benefits for kids. Unlike Yoga for Adults, Yoga for Kids is Fun! Classes are taught using stories, songs, games and poses to engage the children and keep their attention.

Benefits of Yoga for Kids*:

  •  Non- Competitive
  •  Builds Self- Confidence and a positive self image
  •  Inclusive- there are no winner and no losers
  •  Strength & Flexibility
  •  Improves Balance and Co- ordination
  •  Improves Body awareness
  •  Improve Focus & Concentration
  •  Teaches children to respect and pay attention to their bodies
  •  Nourishes creativity
  •  Increases awareness of breathing and effects of breathing
  •  Teaches kids how to relax and reduce stress

Children who practice yoga may not only be better able to regulate their emotions, manage stress and calm themselves, studies now show that they may also choose better foods to eat and engage in more physical activity than children who do not: http://www.yogachicago.com/mar07/yogachildren.shtml

Research to suggest that yoga is of great benefit in the classroom: http://www.yoga4classrooms.com/supporting-research

Benefits of yoga in childcare centres: http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/new-twist-in-childrens-welfare-stretches-to-pirates-and-mermaids/2007/07/21/1184560101177.html

The effects of curriculum based yoga on children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: http://addriya.com/learning-movement/resources/yoga-research-yoga-children-with-special-needs/

Research reports that yoga may help benefit kids with autism: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elaine-gavalas/yoga-autism_b_1858166.html

Yoga is for Kids of All Ages: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/lifestyle/six-week-old-kids-chill-out-with-yoga/story-e6frf00i-1225902757839

Yoga improved students’ behavior, physical health and academic performance, as well as attitudes toward themselves: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703386704576186463216602684.html

Melissa Knapp is the Owner of a Yoganic, a Yoga studio on Sydney’s Lower North Shore specialising in yoga for Crawlers to Teens.

 *From Rainbow Kids Yoga Teaching Manual Image

Surviving the Terrible Twos

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As I reflect on the last 3 years I remember back to how this journey began. In 2003, shortly after I completed my first yoga teacher training, I wrote a business plan and entered it in a competition for young wanna- be entrepreneurs called, the ”Shell LiveWIRE Young Business Start Up Awards” and was awarded 2nd Prize in NSW & the ACT.

However, I didn’t feel confident enough to open a studio just yet as I felt I needed to gain more teaching experience. By 2009 I was teaching up to 24 yoga classes a week in various studios and gyms all over Sydney (including Mosman, North Sydney, Sydney CBD,  Bondi and Rose Bay) and I was tired of all the travel and wanted my own space so I could create my own vision.

So one morning I sprung out of bed (without a shower,  breakfast or a plan) and drove to Lane Cove. I walked into the first Real Estate Agent and asked, “Do you have anything available that would be suitable for a yoga studio?” They went on to ask me a series of questions such as, “How many square meters do you need?” and “What is your budget?”. To which my answer to both of these was, “I don’t know!” It had been 6 years since I wrote my business plan and it was busy gathering dust on the shelf in my home office.

As a Bondi local, I didn’t know the Lower North Shore well but I did know that opening ANOTHER yoga studio in Bondi would be a death wish and it appeared to me that what was lacking in the North Shore, were Yoga Studios. 

On my way back East, I decided to stop at “One Earth Cafe” on Willoughby Rd for lunch. As I walked past a building “For Lease” I suddenly became very excited. Although I couldn’t see the upstairs space, I knew I had to see it. I raced home and emailed the Agent and arranged with him to see the space the following day. When I entered Level 1, 551 Willoughby Rd, Willoughby, I knew that this was it! Once upon a time a friend of mine said to me (after meeting his Wife- To- Be), “You know when you know”. I always thought this was a Cliche but that day I knew exactly what he was talking about.

I went home and said to my Partner, “I found my yoga studio”. To which he looked quite baffled. As an ex- banker who is 100% risk averse (as opposed to me, 100% Risk Taker), he thought I was crazy. He tried to convince me that I should look around, open a studio closer to home, open an Ashtanga Yoga studio (after all, why do kids, babies and pregnant women need yoga?!?), save more money or have kids! This only made me more determined to do what I set out to do back in 2003.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am one of the most stubborn people on earth and nothing motivates me more than someone telling me I can’t or shouldn’t do something that I have my heart set on (my parents are still recovering from the stress I caused them as a 15 year old).

Upon reflection, him playing Devil’s Advocate was a gift rather than the curse that it felt like back then. Whilst I liked to focus on all the fun stuff like the colour scheme or designing the bolsters, he forced me to think about the not so fun stuff like, could I really afford to open a yoga studio!?! But I had a back up plan, if all else failed, I would live in the studio (along with my 2 cats!).

In the first week after teaching a bunch of classes with only 1 person (and sometimes none), I convinced myself that living in the studio wasn’t such a bad idea! But on January 2, when 12 pregnant women showed up to the Saturday morning class, I felt my luck had changed and I knew that everything was going to be ok!

I truly believe that when you put your heart and soul into something you believe in, the Universe gives you all the support and the resources you need to make it happen.

At this special time, I have so much gratitude for all my students. I want to thank you for making my dream a reality because without you, Yoganic is just big empty room.  It is you that fills it with love and joy. So THANK YOU! Image