In Defence of a Grotty Yoga Practice

You can and should make your yoga your own, in class and at home. Choose what feels great AND choose what feels grotty. “What? ” You may exclaim. “That’s crazy talk! I do yoga to feel better, not icky.” The answer is, yes, yoga will make you feel better, great even, but not always in the short term. Here’s the thing: there may be a reason for that ickiness. Finding and working the grotty every now and then might make you feel like gold.

“Grotty”?

I’m not sure how much this word is used outside of Commonwealth countries, so apologies to followers from farther afield if it’s a parochial term … you ought to be able to guess its meaning from context. In reference to a feeling or sensation, grotty means unpleasant or a bit unwell. I think of grotty as feeling bit ick without actually being sick.

Grotty is Different to Actual Pain

When I expound the benefits of feeling grotty in your yoga practice, I’m not saying do anything that produces actual pain. (Real pain as opposed to a little natural discomfort from working hard). If you have actual pain, STOP. Pay particular attention if pain is felt inside a joint. In yoga, we are strengthening and lengthening muscles and other connective tissue. Therefore, you should never feel discomfort in a joint itself. So, if you feel pain, especially inside a joint, stop immediately. Ease back to where you don’t feel pain. Check that you are undertaking the technique correctly. If you are not able to practice the technique correctly you may need to practice a variation or something different to build you up until you can work without pain. It might be that there are some techniques that are not good for your body. That’s OK. Work the body you have.

I think of grotty as feeling bit ick without actually being sick.

– Kate Hay, Founder – Yoga-2-Go

What Is Grotty Yoga?

Grotty yoga might give you a headache

When I say grotty, I mean you are not in pain but you’re definitely not enjoying yourself. Maybe you’re pushing yourself, but it doesn’t feel like you’re getting very far …. if anywhere at all. Maybe you feel jammed up as you try to move or twist or lengthen. Maybe you even get another more visceral response, such as nausea or an inexplicable headache.

Symptoms of grottiness may highlight an area that needs work. The human body is an incredible thing and it compensates quickly for injuries/near injuries. Then it keeps compensating. This ability to keep our bodies working even when hurt or injured used to prevent us from being eaten by lions, so it’s a good thing. Over time though, these chronic compensations cause weakness and imbalance within our bodies that we are so accustomed to we don’t even notice.

“I have a hunk of bone from the end of my femur floating around in my knee joint. This causes imbalance and weakness, physiologically and emotionally, between my left and right sides. I don’t trust my left leg. Over the 15 years since the injury, I have worked hard at consciously keeping the balance. Even so, I was astonished when a physio looked at me standing, with what I would have sworn was straight legs, and said – your left leg’s bent, I don’t think you’ve straightened it for years.”

– Kate Hay, Founder – Yoga-2-Go

In yoga, we do things in very particular ways in order to prevent the body from compensating and cheating, using the stronger muscles, taking the easy route. This is the body “cheating”, not the yoga student, so notice and correct, but don’t judge. As mentioned earlier, protecting the weak spots by using the strong spots helped us to survive on the savannah, so when the body “cheats” in a yoga technique it is protecting us in an evolutionary sense. It’s just not much fun to live long term in a body that’s been fixed by a home handy-man year after year on an ad-hoc basis and never had the foundations straightened out! So, the techniques that produce grotty feelings are often those where we are not letting the body compensate. This could expose an imbalance or weaknesses that the body has been protecting for decades!

Over time the muscles and tendons shorten, others atrophy. Sometimes your yoga practice might be a little like a sports massage, hunting out the knots and nooks, working them over, smoothing them out. Getting into those spots may be unpleasant and might even induce feelings of vulnerability.

The fascia tissue might be all knotted up, and it may be quite uncomfortable working it so the fibres are laying in an orderly fashion. Think combing out bird’s nest tangles in long hair … it can be unpleasant. With the fascia we can tease it out over time with movement and stretching and that’s part of the reason we move quite a bit in a Yoga-2-Go class – you can’t comb hair by keeping the comb still.

It might be that the meridians we are working with are jammed up. While blockages are cleared and/or new pathways built (perhaps we no longer have the organ associated with the meridian, e.g. a gall bladder?), our body starts to recognize and experience the meridian energy again. My Tai Chi teacher told me about a student of his who felt sick whenever she practised one part of the 8 Brocade. When they discussed it, it turned out that the student had had her spleen removed and the technique in question worked the spleen meridian. She kept practising the technique every day, as best she could. When she finally felt good practising the technique, she noticed she felt better than she had since her spleen had been removed. Working the technique had taught her body to build a new pathway for the spleen meridian, even although the student no longer had a spleen. (Obviously, we’re not talking about rebuilding the functionality of the organ itself, but the physiological, emotional and psychological functions of the meridian pathway.)

Even if you are lucky enough to have all of your organs, meridian energy can move too slowly or too fast (maybe too yin or too yang). This might be the result of the body not moving in a balanced way (as discussed above), or it could be caused by diet or stress, or be a natural tendency for you as an individual. Moving between seasons can often cause upset within the meridians as the emphasis moves from one element and set of meridians to another. For example, moving from winter to spring involves a move from the Water element and kidney and bladder meridians to the Wood element and gall bladder and liver meridians.

When working techniques along meridian pathways that are not balanced, it is not uncommon for it to feel unpleasant. It’s also not uncommon to experience some of the negative emotion associated with a meridian while working that pathway in a technique, for example in a spring class you might feel inexplicably frustrated or angry. That frustration or anger may indicate you are practising “grotty yoga”, you are working the meridian pathway as it needs to be worked to get through to patience and balance on the other side.

Embrace the Grotty

Sometimes there’s a good reason for feeling a bit bad. Those reasons might be based in your muscles and connective tissue or in your meridians. Your body may try all the tricks in the book to avoid the problem area, and that’s where yoga with our very specific techniques (and bossy, particular instructors!) can be particularly useful for getting to the nub of the issue. So while it may feel like you don’t get “as far” by following the instructions, but you are actually getting much, much more out of the technique by being obediant!

All of these grotty feelings are reasons not to avoid the cause of the discomfort, but to work with it (never causing pain) within your personal tolerance range. If something felt a bit ick in class, maybe do some more at home. After class, revisit that technique in your head as you drive home … this visualization can help your body with the realignment, readjustment, untangling and pathway building work that gets kick started with the movement in class.

The body is an incredible thing, and so is the mind. And so are you. Work with what you’ve got on any given day and get the most out of it. Warts and all. Embrace the grotty with the good and everything will get better … eventually!

Warrior Tui

Introducing … the Warrior Tui!

Warrior II/Virabhadasana II

Warrior II (Virabhadasana II) is a fundamental standing technique, found in many flows and most practices.

This technique

  • Teaches coordination of breath and movement as well as correct alignment
  • Improves endurance, mental and physical
  • Teaches relaxation of the shoulders and arms while engaging upper body strength
  • Stretches out the upper and lower body
  • Teaches reaching down through the pelvis and the bubbling wells of the feet whilst simultaneously reaching up and out through the upper body
  • Strengthens the muscles of the abdomen, back, buttocks and legs – supporting the spine
  • Opens and stretches the legs, pelvic girdle and buttocks

Strength Stretched Out

Strength stretched out originated as the name for the running-centred classes I teach in Hamilton under the umbrella of Namaste Yoga NZ. As much as “Balance, Challenge, Chill” was perfectly OK for Yoga-2-Go, strength stretched out seemed to resonate with the Warrior II, the Warrior Tui and Yoga-2-Go.

Yoga-2-Go’s Warrior Tui

Artist Nicole De Barber creates amazing work picturing yoga techniques morphed with the animals or objects for which they are named. Working from her home in the United States, Nicole had to learn about our enigmatic Tui and more than did it justice.

More examples of Nicole’s work can be found here.

In the next few days, we’ll be working with more talented people to turn Nicole’s epic Warrior Tui into print-ready logos.

Keep an eye on the Yoga-2-Go Facebook page for opportunities for updates, new merchandise and maybe even some giveaways …

Tui with strength stretched out and some warrior tui

Reaching Flow, Part II

The first part of this series introduced the science of flow, the flow cycle and struggle, and this series comprises my reflections on some of Steven Kotler’s and Jim Kwik’s writing on flow. This post will discuss the second stage in the flow cycle – refresh.

Stage 2: Refresh

It is tempting to overlook the importance of TAKING A BREATH. If we just keep striving and striving in the struggle stage of the cycle, the flow state we seek keeps pushing further over the horizon until we burn out. That moment of refreshment, giving yourself a break, may seem like you are doing nothing. Actually, it’s critically important.

What is the refreshment? It’s not task switching – not checking your emails or doing something different. You need to retain that focus you build through the struggle stage to bridge into the flow stage. It can be literally taking a few breaths with your eyes closed, or appreciating the view from the top of the hill. It can be getting up from your desk for a walk – around the room, not around the block.

Taking a Breath between yoga techniques

You’re looking to consolidate the struggle phase so your brain recognises your achievement of the 4% and moves forward with the confidence to achieve your goals in the flow state. This is where yoga can be particularly helpful. Recognising the flow of Prana through the body, taking the time to not only breathe but watch the breath, these moments deliberately practice refreshing oneself.

In my yoga classes, we take frequent savasana (mini breaks) so the body and brain can recognise the work, recover and harness the energy built up. These breaks are different to the guided meditation at the end. Even a fast vinyasa will have you take a moment in tadasana, mountain pose, to breathe and watch, and ask you for 5 breaths in Face Down Dog, a recovery position. How many times have you struggled to achieve a modified technique, rested, then achieved the next advancement?

In running, often I reach a flow state having come down off a hill. The Swampy Saddle run I described in the first post of the series is one example. After the struggle up the Pineapple Track, take a breath and a drink, maybe eat a Jetplane (A type of chewy lolly in New Zealand) and look out over the harbour, then let yourself go down from the summit to cross the saddle. By the time you’ve reached the undulating saddle you feel rested and strong. Races I enjoy most, e.g. the Karetai Challenge, the Pyramid Challenge and King of the Mountain as well as the 3 Peaks (featuring the Swampy Saddle), have courses where a climb is followed by a downhill recovery, followed by a striding out to the finish! Maybe the “second wind” is where flow resides?

Learning to recover on your feet, to settle the mind, settle the breath, particularly during an event or in the public space of a yoga class, is something that asks for confidence and comes with experience. It takes confidence to let go and let things rest for a few moments. The yoga concept of being “the Witness”, to observe without judgement is helpful here. If you beat yourself up for letting go of the challenge phase, then you will wear out and mastery will keep slipping back over the horizon.

“Be still like a mountain and flow like a great river”

– Lao Tzu

The first post discussed the longer training cycle of days and weeks and how this cycle mirrored the 90 minute cycle of individual flow. Those easy days after speed-work or adding distance, those consolidation weeks: they are refreshment. A yoga practice or other cross training can be lateralisation (see the struggle post for discussion of lateralisation) or it can be refreshment within the longer cycle. It can also be recovery, of course, and this will be discussed in the last post of this series. Are you using the alternate activity to avoid the target activity? Then it’s procrastination and you should look at whether you are actually passionate enough about your goal to keep with it or whether your challenge is greater than 4% and you have become fearful. Are you working at the 4% challenge level? Then it’s lateralisation and you need to make sure you spend some time refreshing so you don’t burn out. Are you consolidating your prior work, retaining your focus on the goal you wish to achieve? Then it’s refreshment.

Ok, we’ve taken a breath, it’s time to dive into flow itself … (coming soon)

Reaching Flow

From reading this blog, you will soon work out that I am a huge Jim Kwik fan, a “kwikist” if you like. Each new episode of the podcast, Kwik Brain, is a boost of knowledge and inspiration and I would encourage you to subscribe!

The recent episode (13 July, 2020) on Optimal Flow State with Steven Kotler caught my attention. I want to share it with you as well as my takes on the science of flow as a yogi and a runner. It would be interesting to share others’ experiences, too, so please comment on this post if you are so inclined.

Right, flow! Kotler over his career as a journalist and author has researched and curated a vast knowledge of the science of flow, aka being in the “zone”. For me, running in a flow-state is embodied by feeling of a stretch and strength in my quads while striding out, feeling little else but the breath. Things come easily, without thought. You feel detached from time and space and immersed in it, all at once.

I could often tap into flow on top of the Swampy Saddle, near Dunedin, NZ. Having recovered from the steep climb up Flagstaff on the Pineapple Track, it’s just me and the mountain. Each stride through the tussock grass times with the breath. The breath eating up the distance. Fly down one side of the gully, like a tiger. Spring up with other, a mountain goat on its toes. This feeling is why we run!

Most sports people know this feeling, as do dancers, writers, and musicians. Steve Kotler has analysed the flow experience and determined some ways to maximise our chances of achieving the flow state.

The Flow Cycle

Kotler says flow is really a 4 stage cycle. An individual flow cycle takes around 90 minutes, but that 90 minute cycle also operates within larger, longer cycles of days and weeks. The minimum 90 minute flow state includes time for struggle, refreshing and recovery in addition to the flow state experience itself. So, the four stages are:

  1. Struggle
  2. Refresh
  3. Flow
  4. Recover

The four stage process is evident when you think about the training rules of thumb. Over the days of a week, a program will generally like this: Easy, Speedwork, Easy or rest, Speedwork, Rest, Race/Clubrun on Saturday, Distance on Sunday, Rest. Training pattern over the weeks tends to look like this: build distance, consolidate, add speed/tempo, consolidate, taper, peak/race, recover. There’s the pattern: struggle, refresh (sometimes circling back through these), flow/peak, recover.

In yoga, we warm up usually with some sun salutes or similar. Then, we will push our comfort zone a little. This will be followed by some twists and reclining postures. Finally, there is savasana. Where is the flow? Keep reading, I have a (perhaps controversial) theory which I shall expound in the last post of this series. On the basis of the 90 minute rule, though, many modern yoga classes may be too short for students to experience a flow state during that session.

Let’s look at each stage in turn.

Struggle

Sorry, everyone, struggle is a requirement of flow. Let’s call it challenge, that sounds like less suffering! The quality of challenge is important. If it’s too hard, the mind and body do not relax and flow is never achieved. The mind becomes fearful and you are less likely to succeed.

If the challenge is too easy, or not a challenge at all, then it fails to fulfill the purpose of challenge within the cycle. The purpose is to focus the mind on the activity in which we wish to achieve flow. To achieve focus, the task must be difficult enough that the mind cannot wander, we must immerse ourselves and concentrate, pushing all other considerations to the side.

Indeed, Kotler has identified a sweet spot for challenge, that is 4% effort. Less than a 4% increase in difficulty and the struggle is insufficient to kick us up into flow. More than 4% and it saps our energy and our confidence.

Flow has its own name in running: the “runner’s high”. When you run, you can usually adjust the struggle with relative ease, by changing the pace, terrain or elevation. Thinking on so many rules of thumb we adhere to, I wonder how many actually tend to the 4% difficulty target. My old technical coach, Jim Baird at Hill City Harriers and Athletic Club, used to say you can’t expect to trim more than 10 seconds per kilometre off your pace in a race – that is, if you want to race at 4:20 mins/km, you need to train at 4:30 mins/km or faster. I wonder if that 10 secs/km approximately corresponds to a 4% difficulty threshold? Other rules of thumb, such as how much mileage to add per week or how much you need to train in a week to run an ultra in a day, how do they measure against the 4% struggle?

“If you’re not skiing on your head, you’re not skiing”

– My Dad, purveyor of helpful advice!

Where is yoga in the 4%? In yoga, as in running, the intensity of the challenge is easily adjusted by the practitioner. Knowing to aim for a 4% struggle may help shape your practice – always extend yourself, but don’t over-reach. The ways in which we can find challenge in yoga techniques are many and varied: balance, flex, strength, aerobic fitness, bravery: one more sun salute, try a slightly more advanced modification, pull your hip back a little more in Warrior II, 2 more breaths in Dancer. Every practice should help you extend your comfort zone in some way. Try to find the sweet spot for your own struggle for your body and mind, today.

Finally, of note is the reason for struggle: to focus our attention. Um … isn’t that what yoga is all about: practising embodied mindfulness. So, if we can achieve sufficient focus via practising embodied mindfulness in yoga (or tai chi), is the 4% challenge still required for flow? Or is the 4% challenge required over time to achieve the practice of embodied mindfulness, which is itself followed by flow? At this point, I’m not sure if the science of flow has asked these questions, let alone answered them, but it would be interesting research. If any readers are aware of research on point, please share in the comments!

Side-stepping: lateralisation

Sometimes, no matter how you adjust the steepness of the slope ahead will always be greater than 4%. This is where cross training, what Kotler calls “lateralisation”, can come in handy. This is where you can utilise strength and ability gained in an alternative activity to reduce the struggle in your target activity to attain that 4% sweet spot.

For example, tightness in your body makes running too painful: the struggle is more like 10% than 4%. You might learn some yoga to lengthen your tight muscles and experience less pain, bringing you into the zone and the ability to experience flow. Or you might lack the upper body strength to manage sun salutes in your yoga class. You might do some wall push-ups at intervals during the day or intermittent kneeling salutes with mini-cobras until the full sun salute is open to you.

In this context, lateralisation is cross training specifically aimed at lessening the struggle in the activity in which you wish to experience flow. So, you need to identify the particular aspect of your chosen activity that you find especially difficult and see if there is some other activity that can build strength in that area.

Yoga is a particularly good lateralisation tool to enable you to step up another activity when you may have hit a wall. Dare I venture that it may be the ultimate tool? Why is that?

Stamina, strength, flexibility, focus, breath and balance!

I mentioned above the many ways in which you can extend your 4% struggle within the yoga practice, challenging stamina, strength, flexibility, focus, breath and balance. Within a yoga session any of these (or combination of these) can be built upon to lift you up in any other activity (and not just physical activities). Further, the yoga practice is likely to be a complete flow cycle in itself, helping your body learn about and yearn for the flow state. But I get ahead of myself – more on that later.

In the next post, we’ll talk about the second stage in the cycle, Refresh. See: Reaching Flow, Part II

The House with No Nails

A barn born from a cyclone finding its place in a pandemic.

Written by Kate Hay , photography by jen@housewithnonails.com

Dewi and Jen, the maker and the storyteller

The Barn Born From A Cyclone

When the gales of Cyclone Bola finally quietened, Dewi, a local farmer originally from North Wales, looked around him.  He saw the broken things, the modern houses blown inside out, the fallen trees.  But he didn’t see hopelessness or loss.  In that moment, he saw a special kind of home for his family.  The kind of home that would sway with the wind, but never break.  A new home that was centuries in the making.

So, Dewi talked to the farmers about helping them with their downed tree “problem”.  He got himself an Alaskan Mill and set to work milling the beams right there, in the fields.  Dewi and Jen didn’t have a lot of capital, so they paid in sweat instead.  Dewi milked cows for a local farmer during the day.  At night, he worked his timber in the farmer’s workshop.  With mallet and chisel, he shaped every joint in the house.  Every piece was pre-cut and premarked with a Roman numeral in an ancient practice of prefabrication.

Every piece of the frame was fitted for its neighbour.  Every piece with a purpose.  The central structure of the barn are the four “Bents” that curve from the central spine enclosing the home like a ribcage.  Just like our ribs, strength is derived from the curve and the flex of the timber. Every join is secured with a hand-whittled oak peg. On barn raising day, the community gathered and the entire frame was assembled and raised from dawn to dusk.  That night there was a dance and a feast between the beams, under the stairs. 

Once the skeleton was up, next was what Jen calls the “loving exercise of filling in”.  Jen and Dewi took their time and used their hands.  The external and internal cladding is timber, of course, rendered with a red clay and lime putty and lime wash, both handmade on site and brewed in the ground by the couple for the purpose. Jen wrote to Jocasta Innes, the English  interior designer, for the lime plaster recipe, which was provided in return by way of blue  Aerodrome letter.

Every part of the House with No Nails has a past that is honoured – the stones around the Inglenook fireplace  from the Paeroa hills, the mantel is an old Totara fencepost, the stone in the bathroom floor from the Haast, the handforged  copper kitchen sink reclaimed from its agricultural roots (from a cowshed), the antique clawfooted bath picked up from a paddock, rusted from the years of cow licks. The iron work has all been forged by a local craftsman, Brian Searle. “This place is about making,” Jen says.  They are passionate about the objects made and remade.

The Rhythm of the Land

The House with No Nails has in a real sense grown from the land in which it stands.  On the plains at the base of the Kaimai’s, the House with No Nails is watched over by Mount Te Aroha to the North and Wairere Falls to the South.  Te Aroha has always been recognised as a special place.  For local iwi, Te Aroha means “love flows inland”.  The Waihou River, a water highway, has long been critical to travel and commerce and that continued after the arrival of Europeans.  Jen tells me that Te Aroha was New Zealand’s first formal tourist destination as the Victorians travelled here to “take the waters”.

The Barn may be rustic, but this boutique bed and breakfast oozes comfort.

A Place in a Pandemic

The House with No Nails evolved from a family home into a bed and breakfast, with Jen and Dewi hosting so many travellers around their table. Their position near Te Aroha, Hobbiton, the Waihou River and Wairere Falls and their uniqueness made this little boutique B&B pretty popular with international visitors. Then came 2020, COVID 19, the lockdown, closed borders. 

The House with No Nails has made its own place in our changed world.  Unsurprisingly, this place is within its own story and as a place for others to tell their stories.  Rather than a spot for cyclists and weary tourists to lay their heads (although cyclists and tourists are always welcomed), the Chief Carpenter’s Barn is becoming its own experience.  From boutique opera performances to Agentinian, Polish and French immersion weekends, weddings and reunions to full well-being experiences, the building that has always been more than a barn is becoming much more than a bed for the night.

In the central solarium, rests a long table open to the character kitchen and with an open ceiling that vaults all three stories of the barn – truly, the heart of the home.  Jen caters for guests with incredible food and warmth.

Visitors may be treated to a long table candlelit feast, followed by mulled wine and tall tales around the fire.  Maybe an Indian banquet?  Maybe an Argentinian fiesta around the asador grill? 

The choices of how to spend your day range from cycling the Hauraki Rail Trail to kayaking the Waihou to hiking around Te Aroha or Wairere Falls and Wairongamai to indulging in luxury at the mineral spas (as those Victorians used to do) to fossicking around the historical town of Te Aroha … and much more!

You can be assured that upon your return from your adventure the House with No Nails will welcome you back …

You can find out more about the House with No Nails and how to take your place in its story, here.

If you would like to find out more about a Yoga-2-Go mini-break at the House with No Nails, use our build a mini-break form and be sure to tell us you want to stay at the House with No Nails!  Or just get in touch, here.

Spring: A New Beginning

Written by Kate Hay , photography by jen@housewithnonails.com

A Well-being Experience in Te Aroha
25 – 27 September, 2020

Brought to you by House with No Nails and Yoga-2-Go.

From just $550 per person.
Add amazing Saturday activities for $195 per person or enjoy finding your own way exploring or relaxing.

Spring is about drawing oneself out of the hibernation of the colder months, stretching out, feeling the warm sun on our faces and the brisk breeze on our cheeks. In yoga, it is a time to develop flexibility, mobility and adaptability, getting ready to face the faster seasons with patience and purpose. Yoga-2-Go has joined up with one of our unique accommodation partners, the House with No Nails to bring you a very special well-being weekend to help you bloom in the new year.

You will be staying in the unique House with No Nails, which is 10 minutes’ drive from Matamata, 4o minutes from Tauranga, Rotorua and Hamilton and 2 hours’ drive from Auckland Airport. Everything about this rustic boutique barn has been handmade or assembled with love. The comfort and beauty of your surroundings will take your breath away. (Don’t worry Yoga-2-Go will put your breath back where it belongs!) Find out more about the House with No Nails, here.

Yoga for a New Beginning

The Yoga for this weekend is a combination of classes and short stretch sessions. It will be focused on the wood element relating to Spring, which includes the gall bladder and liver meridians. Physically, the gall bladder and liver meridians relate to your tendons and joints, eyesight and the metabolisation of fats in the body (so great for weight loss!). The wood element is also associated with foresight, decision-making and organisation. Spring is a time when the energy in your body expands and you need to harness and develop flexibility and mobility to meet the season with patience and purpose.

Kate teaches with Namaste Yoga NZ and her classes are a fusion of Hatha (traditional Indian style) and a Japanese style yoga, based on meridians. No prior yoga experience is needed and the classes are designed to accommodate different levels of ability and fitness by having a graduated structure. The class is divided into three 20 minute sessions with a short 10 minute meditation rest (savasana) between each, enabling people to choose join or leave the group as is appropriate for them. The first session is easy and gentle and appropriate for most people. The second session will be moderate and will challenge most people, but most people should find it achievable. The last part of the class will be more intense and suited to those who hanker after a challenge. All group participants would benefit from all parts of the class: those who are more competitive may learn a lot in the gentler techniques; those who struggle in the challenges will benefit hugely from the attempt, regardless of “where they get”.

All the yoga sessions, especially the informal stretch-outs and the restorative sessions, are accessible to people coming from all levels of yoga experience with modifications offered for beginners and the more advanced. The restorative and meditation portions of the weekend will be beneficial to all and will help carry you forward from winter into the busier parts of the year. A special treat is the yoga nidra session late Saturday afternoon to round out a big day with some deserved self-care.

The Wellbeing Weekend features

Friday, 24 September

  • Snacks and refreshments on arrival late afternoon/early evening and a short stress buster yoga session for the shoulders, neck and back
  • Long table feast in the barn followed by mulled wine by the firepit
  • Restorative yoga and guided meditation session

Saturday, 25 September

  • Yoga session to start the day focusing on the body’s needs when transitioning to Spring.
  • Breakfast
  • Free time to relax or explore the area. Optional activities include
    • E bike along the Hauraki Bike Trail to the Old Forge Cafe for Lunch (cafe lunch not included in package price). There will be short pre- and post- cycling stretch out yoga sessions.
    • Guided Kayak on the Waihou River. There will be short pre- and post- kayaking stretch out yoga sessions.
    • Into Te Aroha proper for an op candlelit mineral spa experience.
  • Return to House with No Nails for a guided Yoga Nidra session
  • Dinner is an Indian vegetarian feast prepared by an Indian chef who lives locally.
  • Restorative yoga and guided meditation session finishes the evening

Sunday Morning

  • Yoga session to start the day focusing on the body’s needs when transitioning to Spring.
  • Breakfast
  • Drive to Wairere Falls Track and enjoy the walk up to view the spectacular 153 metre high waterfall, the North Island’s highest waterfall. There will be short pre- and post- walking stretch out yoga sessions.
  • Pop up lunch in the landscape (weather permitting – otherwise return to House with No Nails for lunch)
  • Travel home

This special weekend is yours for $550 per person and includes:

  • Accommodation (shared rooms) for Friday and Saturday night at House with No Nails.
  • 2 x Continental Breakfasts, 2 x Dinners and Mulled Wine, Lunch on Sunday. Cafe lunch on Saturday is not included. Tea and coffee at any time is complementary.
  • Yoga & Meditation: 2 x Spring Yoga Classes 90 minutes, 2 x restorative yoga classes and guided meditation, several activity-related stretch outs, 1 x guided yoga nidra
  • Wairere Falls track walk
  • Optional Saturday Activity Package add $195: E Bike 1/2 day hire and self guided ride on Rail Trail, 90 minute guided kayak tour, Romance Package at Te Aroha Mineral Spas

Places are limited so register your interest to secure your spot. If you have any questions, contact Yoga-2-Go or House With No Nails. If you wish to build your own Yoga-2-Go mini-break at the House with No Nails or elsewhere, please let use know your thoughts using our mini-break builder form.

NB: The weekend will only go ahead if there are 8 people booked and paid. If the weekend does not go ahead due to lack of bookings, anyone who has booked and paid will be refunded in full.

Techniques for Balance & Chill

Unpack Some Self Care

Originally this piece was part of a larger post dealing with my dog being attacked by another dog, but I decided to split out the techniques into their own post, separate from the story. Yoga helped me through that terrible day, read about how, here. When I got home, I got on the mat and unpacked some simple, very gentle restorative techniques, which I now share with you.

Kidney Stretch

An essential technique in my classes. This stretch works the kidney meridian, associated with fear. It also works the kidney organs and, importantly, switches off the adrenal glands. Working the length of the legs and focusing energy into the pelvis, helps to drain the energy out of the upper body (where tension tends to get tied up when we are under stress). Deliberate relaxation of upper body and shoulders whilst tucking chin in helps with moving into parasympathetic nervous system. Pressing into the Kidney 1 point on the foot helps with stress and fear. This is not an easy or comfortable technique, to be honest, but it is very effective and the level of mindfulness required was very useful at the time to tune my mind out of the day and into my practice.

Kidney Stretch
Seated Twist

Twists are great to calm the body. We know that when we are stressed we have a knot in our guts. Ironically, wringing out those organs can help untie that knot. It lets everything settle. Squeezing into an area pushes out the old blood, fluids and toxins and this is replaced by the fresh. Again, this seated twist involves a bit of full body concentration to get right: inhale and pull up through the spine, exhale turn the belly button around, deliberately relax your shoulders until the shoulder blades slide down your back, relax your buttocks and thighs but keep both sit bones on the floor.

Dynamic Child’s Pose

Still using full body engagement – engagement in seeking relaxation! – by moving on the breath. Starting in tabletop and moving through cat/cow, I began a pendulum with my torso forward and backward on the breath to open and close myself to the world and to the breath more fully. Long fluid breaths. Long fluid movements. Mind in the belly. Finally, I was gliding from child’s pose up to almost a face-up dog.

Child’s Pose

When I was ready, I paused back on my heels. Child’s Pose can be practiced many ways. This time I brought my arms back alongside my body, backs of the hands to the floor. Forehead on the floor, shoulder blades stretched across the back as gravity draws heavy upon them. (My shoulders were shocked and sore from the beating I had delivered with my umbrella – filled with fight and flight hormones – to try and save my dog). Breathing into my belly, I noticed the gentle massage of the breath while cocooned by my body. I was ready for stillness now.

Childs Pose
Childs Pose
Forward bend on a chair

After a time, I settled into this kindest of forward bends. Still stretching the back body, but gravity does the work. The chin tucked in for the parasympathetic system and the head supported. Still safe but more open than in child’s pose.

Legs up “wall” on a chair

Even kinder than legs up wall, is legs up wall on a chair. This is the last of my restorative sequence. Legs above the hips, everything is easy. A gentle inversion, the weight of the femur rests into the hip joint. The body is supported by the floor. No effort is needed. Close the eyes. Just breathe.

Guided Meditation

Even if you are well practiced in self led meditation, sometimes I just let myself be taken on a journey. I don’t need to make choices. I just need to listen. I just need to breathe. I just need gentle kindness.

A Terrible Day For Yoga

Close up of Blue
This is Blue

What Happened …

So, yesterday our family had a very bad day. It started out pretty OK. Yes, it was cold and raining, but I still popped my two dogs in the car and grabbed my umbrella. Rain doesn’t change their needs for a walk, afterall.

First stop, tai chi. Our teacher was back after an absence of a week due to his partner being unwell. We all celebrated the fact she had come home from hospital. We worked the Qi Gong technique of the 8 Brocade in detail. I found lots of little bits and pieces fell into place for me and I acquired a better level of understanding. Class was followed by cups of tea around a table and a chat. I love our tai chi classes.

Next up, we visited a potential venue for yoga classes in town for runners. After that, grabbed supermarket supplies, just a top up shop. Last thing before home, walk at the dog park.

As we arrived the dogs started whining. They enjoy this park: there are open fields to run in, the river to paddle and patches of bush to snuffle. They often meet friends here to play with. It’s a good wet day option as the paths are paved and my shoes don’t get muddy. I stay reasonably dry under my umbrella.

This dog park is a favorite

We had been walking for about 20 minutes, when we turned up a set of stairs. We always go up here to make our circuit. Blue lingered at the bottom sniffing, checking the pee-mail, as all the dogs do at certain landmark locations. I was up the first maybe 20 stairs and on a landing, when behind me I heard a deep growl and a scream.

Before I had time to react to the sound, Blue was beside me on the bush bank and a large white and tan dog was on top of her back biting. It happened very fast, as I approached the handrail between the stairs and the bush and went to go under, Blue managed to partially free herself and the two of them fell down the bank onto the lower track we had just been walking on.

From there on the stairs, I saw my dog on her back and her much larger attacker – at least 3 times her weight holding her by the throat. Shaking. I saw the dog’s owner for the first time approaching from the other side of the stair entrance. My dog is screaming and screaming. I screamed “your dog’s killing my dog”. She began to run along the path.

We both arrived at the attack site at the same time. The white dog owner says to me “she’s never done that before” as she grabbed her dog by the collar and pulled. I was vaguely aware this was not a recommended thing to do – it causes more tearing from the bite and puts the human hand at risk of being bitten. Both, as it happens, occurred. I beat the attacking dog across the back with my umbrella. All the while, poor little Blue, lying on her back, screamed. Finally, the jaws loosened for a moment and my dog disappeared up into the bush.

I asked the woman for her details to help with the vets bill. She demanded to see my dog, who had scarpered. After a moment, in a moment of shrewd cunning she said, “I think it was your dog at fault.” I started taking photos of her and her dogs. She pulled the hood of her jacket over her face and took off as fast as she could.

I began the hunt for my dogs. Neither one was in sight nor coming to my calls. As the adrenaline seeped away, terror replaced it. I couldn’t breathe. I called and searched. I recruited a couple of other walkers to help me. They did. Bless them.

I tried to run back to my vehicle in case that’s where my dogs had gone. Fall shock had set in. I couldn’t draw breath. I couldn’t run. I’m a runner, but right then I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other.

There, beside my van, a lovely young man had my other dog – who had fled in fear at the start- by the collar and was looking for an owner. Thank you whoever you were, you probably saved a member of my family from going under a car. He wasn’t wet and wasn’t wearing a jacket so likely came out of his vehicle or home to help. Bless him.

My other dog secured in the vehicle, I went back into the park to search. I texted my husband “braithwaite park now emergency”. It took a long time for my shaking fingers to input the message. The rain didn’t help.

I remembered Blue on her back, her neck in the big dog’s jaws. I imagined Blue bleeding out quietly, alone under a bush. I went back to the van and got my other dog on lead, in the hope she might help me locate Blue.

I rang Animal Control, in case someone else picked Blue up. While I was speaking with them, their call centre received a report of a found dog matching Blue’s description. Blue had run back to the hall where we do Tai Chi. The people there brought her inside, made her comfortable, rang Council. Bless them.

I used Facebook to put out the word to help find Blue when she was missing and to help locate the white dog – who needs to be in a muzzle in public. The response was huge. So many people responded and shared and sent best wishes. Bless them.

Now, Blue’s story is less dramatic (although more expensive) – vets, medication, snugs on her beanbag under her blankie. She has had surgery and with the expert and professional care from the vets she will be OK. Bless them.

Where was Yoga? Everywhere

Even in the moments of extreme trauma and stress, yoga increased my resilience to help my dog in the fight and to stay calm when interacting with the other owner, enabling me to get some photographs.

When shock hit, yoga helped me recognise what was happening in my body. I was breathing in the upper part of my chest only – causing hyperventilation. I was grasping forward to where I thought I needed to be – down the road at my car – instead of focusing on where I was and what I needed to do – on the path, putting one foot in front of the other.

Yoga helped me when my hands were shaking so much I struggled to operate my phone. As I hit the wrong letters and rain splotched the screen, self talk emerged “I can’t do this” “It’s too hard” “What if …” Yoga helped me recognise this self talk as unhelpful. Yoga helped me take a breath, wipe the screen, try again. Take a breath. Try again.

Yoga helped me remember the embodied experience of the attack clearly and concisely when recounting it to my husband, to the Council Inspectors, to the vet.

Yoga helped me recognise the good beautiful people all around me, who I didn’t even know, who’s first instinct was to help a stranger and an animal in distress. Yoga helped me have the presence of mind to articulate the problem and to thank them. To bless them.

Where Was Yoga? On the Mat

Through the two hours or so of action, it was the mental element of yoga – built through a combination of physical and mental techniques – that I drew upon. Once we got home and tucked poor wee Blue up cosy and warm, and after I had had a warm shower (I’d spent two shivery hours soaked to the bone), I got on the mat and unpacked some very gentle restorative techniques for self care. This short practice is set out, here.

So, Where Was Yoga?

Yoga helps you to approach difficulty from a place of compassion, understanding and pragmatism.

Yoga is difficult, so it helps you when you need to do difficult things.

Yoga is mindfulness, so it helps you when you need presence of mind.

Yoga is equanimity. Coming to this situation from a place of empathy, meant that my adrenalin filled body was not angry with the dog or the owner. Anger in those moments would have robbed me of the ability to focus on what was important. Nor am I angry today. The other dog owner will be afraid for her family member, I wish her no ill will. I would like preventive measures to be taken to protect everyone, including her, such as use of a muzzle.

Yoga is compassion. As we pour love and compassion into our little dog, it will not only heal her, but me and my family also.

Yoga is gratitude. I am grateful for all the people that helped. I am grateful Blue is OK. I am grateful for vets with knowledge, kindness and expertise to ease suffering. I am grateful for Council and the Inspector for helping us achieve a speedy, just and fair resolution. I am grateful for a community on social media, some of whom I know and some of whom I don’t and all of whom tried to help.

There have been many good days for yoga. The yoga from those good days wrapped me in its arms when I needed it. And it was there when I needed it on my terrible day for yoga.

Yoga-2-Go teaches classes, holds workshops and hosts mini-breaks.

Just a Mum and so much more!

It’s my absolute pleasure to introduce one of our food partners – Just A Mum.

The name Just a Mum is a bit tongue in cheek – none of us are ever “just” a mum. Specialising in that delicate balance of indulgence and health, Amy at Just a Mum produces amazing Keto treat boxes.

Some of Just a Mum’s treat boxes

At Yoga-2-Go we love local and we love “handmade with love”, so we’ve partnered with Just a Mum as one of our morning and afternoon tea treat providers!

Full flavour, no sugar, low calorie, high taste is what Amy is all about. We can’t wait for our mini-break yogi’s to reward themselves with such deliciousness as this …

If you are in the Hamilton area, do go ahead and follow Just a Mum for her amazing treat boxes. Go on, treat yourself! You deserve it!

If you think you could use a yoga mini-break with some of Just a Mum’s amazing deliciousness added in, then you’re right! Build your mini-break, here

Destination Redwoods, Rotorua

Whakarewarewa, otherwise known as the Redwoods, has to be one of my family’s favourite places to go. What we love is the mountain biking and trail running and walking. The facilities have changed a lot over the last few years, but the feel of the place remains – a true kiwi adventure hub!

Renowned for world-class mountain biking trails, there is something here for every ability of rider. Loops of Tahi and Dipper are within most people’s capabilities and enjoyable smooth trails – I’ve encountered little kids on those yellow plastic motorbikes navigating these! For the more adventurous, the choices are vast with trails winding and wending their ways through the forest and over the hills. There are even shuttles and buses to give you an assist on the climbs (just remember to turn off your Strava!).

If you’re keen for biking, we’ll tailor our yoga warm up and warm down for that. There are bikes for hire and if you wanted someone to show you the trails as part of your Yoga-2-Go Minibreak, we can sort that for you, too!

If you prefer your feet on the ground, the walking and running in the forest is amazing! We can set you off to explore on your own or take you for a run or a walk, whatever’s your thing.

Of course, there’s the famous Treetops walk to do day or night or day THEN night!

If you want, we’ll even organise a nice soak in a hot pool and great food and coffee at the end with Secret Spot.

Of course, this is just what’s available in the Redwoods – there’s heaps to do and see in Rotorua.

But that’s another story …

Build Your Mini-break with 2 nights in Rotorua with yoga sessions designed especially for you and including bike hire and trail guide plus hot pools from $575 per person

Whakarewarewa – The Redwoods Rotorua. Magic adventures await …