"Hi, I'm Yogi John, musician, writer, potter, diver, life and business coach and lover of life. But wait there's more, I could go on with the list, but I'll just say I am the wearer of many hats. Seriously, I have many many hats, in fact it would be a rare day if you saw me without one on.
At forty five I stepped on a yoga mat and began an amazing journey. What follows are my stories and experiences, the stories of Yogi John and the Man Mat."
A home Yoga Practice
Expanding time, and the benefits.
Recently Jo and I held a “Home practise” Workshop. For those who didn’t or couldn’t attend, and for those who did, I thought I would share again my experience of creating and maintaining my own daily Yoga practise.
I remember the exact moment when Jo first mentioned the notion that I should be doing a daily Yoga practise. It was three or so years ago, and I’ll tell you why I remember the exact moment when my man ego got a dose of “excuse me? Here I was attending two Yoga classes a week, touching my toes, loving partner, doing all my chores, cooking the odd meal, complete with my delightfully received (that was until the truth be known, a year later, that it wasn’t that delightful) infamous “Peach pudding”. Let me add too, cooked by the newly transformed Yogi John Falepau. Hello! Am I not enlightened, beautiful and perfect?
I pondered for a further three weeks, rebuilding and nurturing my fragile man ego piece by piece. Just as I was about to serve up another (still unknown to me, the “not again!”) peach pudding, Jo commented that ten to fifteen minutes of Yoga every day would be enough.
Now it was my time to
internally verbalize my response. “Really, honey, just ten to fifteen minutes.
That’s how long it takes me to prepare my peach pudding. Okay then!
Where in my already, busy every minute of the day am I going to find ten to fifteen minutes? Work, gym, Yoga classes, chores. My verbal response “Hhhmmm.”
I did think about it more. When Jo explained how it would be like enjoying the effects of class not just two times a week, but in fact every day, I put two and two together, and a daily practice I started.
When I looked at my daily activities and the time I had available, I could see there was definitely something not serving me as well it once did. Going to the gym every morning was a habit (a good one, yes) but it was the physical exercise that had served me as a competitive bodybuilder. I wasn’t competing anymore and I had no intention to in the immediate future. The effects and benefits from classes and our lifestyle stood above anything that I had done previously. Right then and there I found my intention and purpose, and instead of grabbing my gym bag at 5.30am, I grabbed my man mat.
Looking back now, three years
on, I have found not just the time for a daily Yoga practice, but time to do a
lot of things. I perform my healing chants as I drive in to town each morning.. I do neti there's an article a little further down the page on neti if your not sure what that is) while showering
every night, and there’s always time to play guitar and sing. At the end of
each work day I find five minutes to clear and tidy my desk ready for the next
morning. At night there’s always time to roll out my man mat and get my bowl of
Time is infinite, and it is what we fill each moment with that shapes our journeys. When it nourishes our selves’s, it nourishes our whole lives.
The benefits from Yoga are quite different to that of say, a coffee. While a coffee can give us a bit of instant zip, yip and go, the effects of Yoga can be seen more over the longer term. That calmness of the mind, with not a thought for miles, is how I well remember the effects of that first ever Yoga class. After thirty years of mind battles, it was no wonder I looked forward to the Yoga effect that would last for a couple of days after each class, until it got replenished from the next one.
Jo’s advice of making Yoga a part of my everyday has indeed had a dramatic effect on my every day. When I look back at where my life is now, compared to five years ago, I can start to list the effects and benefits that I enjoy from all my Yoga practises.
Just like an asana, I move in to each moment, with awareness and a breath. “Firm but comfortable” Jo says as she instructs us through each one. This is how I describe each thought and action I now undertake. Whether it being the start of a new tender, or dealing with a complex work issue. Whether mowing the lawns or painting the roof, each action is now as an asana. Finding the time and space to just be.
The calmness and grounding is my equilibrium in life. Not all days are easy, not all days am I a saint, but through the highs and the lows is my Yoga. The benefits are definitely longer lasting than a coffee, especially when done every day. Try it, miss a couple weeks. You’ll soon find yourself back on your mat, I do.
Every now and again the peach pudding makes a special appearance. I’m not as attached to it as I used to be, as I have more a lot more pleasures to share with family and friends. The biggest one, being myself and my heart.
I am humbled to be sharing my experiences with you all, and just like my peach pudding recipe, these are my Yoga recipes for life.
For a copy of the infamous Yogi John Falepau peach pudding email me.
For life recipes, you’ll have to wait for the book.
Yogi John Falepau
“Every moment is an opportunity for change”
© 2014 John Falepau
Are we really limited by our own minds?
Even though I have achieved a lot, sport, body building, business, three beautiful kids, now grown men with their own gorgeous kids (yes, believe it or not people, I am the grandfather of six, yep you heard me, six lil nippers). I still had many many limitations, physically, mentally and spiritually.
First was getting back in touch with my feet, not just by being able to see them again, being able to bend over and touch them. Trust me, once those competitions are over, you eat and eat and eat, and we know where that leads; from 86kgs in the photo below, to 120kgs at my heaviest, I never thought that would happen, have you seen my uttanasana? People, can I get a witness!
2005 Challenging my limitations
Did I ever think I would go a month free from having a herniated disc, not after chronic lower back pain for twenty years. Well, it took a year of Yoga, salad, and more salad and now herniation free for nearly five years, and I can see my toes again.
The more I learn about Yoga, the science that it is, and how that science then applies to my life, the more ease I have in both body and mind.
I now sing with joy publicly, that was huge for me, I am pursuing my love of writing, and have engaged on a course of study that I am passionate about. I have opened my heart to all that life has to offer.
The future looks promising and actually always was. It was just a matter of when, and that time is now, it's always now, not when and not if.
The possibilities are endless, the only thing that will limit me now is my mind, and with Yoga there’s no chance of that.
I've always been a dreamer, had ideas, visualized them and then had great teachers and coaches to help make them a reality.
I believe we all have the power and courage to do the same, whether it be in our lives, our relationships, our work, our play, or just within ourselves.
Do you have a wish, dream, or idea you want to turn into a reality? Through the coaching process we work together, setting you on the path to achieve your goals.
I am in my second year of study for this diploma, the course content is now moving toward practicing the coaching skills, and implementing the knowledge learnt over the first year and I am seeking volunteers who are interested in free coaching sessions. It all starts with a single step. My email address is below, looking forward to connecting with you.
"One is never too old to learn..........and discover".
Copyright © 2015 John Falepau firstname.lastname@example.org
Off the Man Mat and On The Road
"It is often said that if a young man wants to know what his girlfriend will look like in the future, he should look at her mother”. I googled. But my googling had nothing to do with wondering what Jo would look like in the future, it was more whether the same applied for men.
People, including my mother have always said I am so much like my father, and well I am. A best friend from college got in touch with me recently, and when he saw my picture, his comment was “ wow, you look so much like your father now” On reading that, my hand immediately started feeling the size of my nose. Jo says it’s our one body part that keeps on growing. She’s having me on right! Unlike Dad I still have a full head of hair, and for the past year my hair line has been a constant 49mm from the top of my eyebrows.
So apart from looking like my father, there are other things we shared in common. Our love of the sea, singing, music, and a spiritual deepness. A cheeky sense of humour to make people laugh, and seeing them smile, a loving heart and willingness to serve, and I better add the big appetite, hairy ears, nose and toes.
Yoga has added another thing I now have in common with my father, he wasn’t a yogi as in a practicing asana and pranayama type of yogi, though he did attend, and enjoy laughter yoga for some time in his later years, But he was a yogi in so many other ways, he accepted life exactly as it was, when it was good and when it was not so good, in fact, I don’t know if he even really differentiated between the two, life was just how it was at any given time, and he was happy.
Looking back I can never actually recall Dad being in a hurry, he always had time, to stop, wave and smile, so much so that he actually got a speeding ticket once, and it wasn’t for speeding. He was pulled over for driving too slow on a main highway! Much like the English language, he never really mastered driving. People would be tooting and waving their arms around at him, and Dad would say to me “Oe Shonny! I know a lot of people eh.” and wave back at them.
I am not in a hurry anymore either. Yoga has taught me how to slow down, I have created time and space in my life. Time to get something started, take action, and space to enjoy whatever it may be. Mowing the lawns, doing my practice, painting the roof, going for a dive, a walk or a day at work. What I have learnt on the man mat and at class is how to create spaciousness within my body and with my breath, and that has translated into my daily life.
As a Project Manager I drive in and out of town a lot, and I see a lot. Everyone is in a rush to get somewhere. Every delay, every truck reversing, road works, accidents, cars reversing in to a car park, people crossing the road, it all seems to get people really riled up. We toot! We look angry! We toot! We wave (wildly)! We shake our heads!
I’m now the guy letting cars in, stopping to let trucks turn, letting cars park, waving for cars to come out of a side street, and stopping to let people cross. I get tooted at and waved at, and like Dad, I must know a lot of people. Thanks to Yoga, I’m not in a hurry anymore, and its great, my new mantra is “Don’t Hurry, Be Happy” and don’t they say “Handsome men don’t hurry” or is that hairy men. Okay, I did just make that one up, but it’s a repeatable.
15 November 1930 - 14 January 2013
"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished" – Lao Tzu
Copyright © 2014 John Falepau email@example.com
“It’s Yoga Jim, but not as we know it”
Mention stress release, calming the mind or relaxation and pretty soon you’ll hear the word Yoga. Downward dog, triangle pose and “Namaste” are fast becoming part of our vocabulary. Don’t know your Trikonasana from your Padmasana? Chances are you soon will, or someone close to you already does.
Recent years have seen Yoga classes increase exponentially, there are over a dozen yoga studios just in Wellington central, not to mention all the yoga done in local halls, gyms, schools. Movie stars do it, pop stars do it, comedians and politicians do it. Yoga is everywhere. Overseas rugby and league teams have been doing it for years as part of their physical and mental preparation, even one of our current All Blacks has let us in on his “secret”, joining the ranks of noted Yogis.
Yoga is fast becoming recognised as the one stop health and wellbeing shop.
There is a lot of Yoga to choose from, Iyengar, Astanga, Satyananda, Sivananda, Gitananda, Bikram, Hot, Power, Yin, Yang, Flow just to name a few! These are all styles of Yoga, which fall under the branch of Hatha Yoga. Most classes offer the physical practise, performing postures or asana on a Yoga mat under the guidance of a teacher, and in the case of Hot & Bikram Yoga, add in a room heated up to 40 degrees.
What you may not know is that there are other branches of Yoga, and one in particular that is becoming more and more popular is Bhakti Yoga. Bhakti related practises include Mantra, Chanting, and Kirtan.
I wrote about this in a previous blog on kirtan, and it hasn't changed since then! If you Google “Kirtan” (Keer-tahn) and watch some of the You tube clips, it may look a bit hippie dippy yahoo man, especially when everyone’s got their eyes closed, arms waving in the air, looking like they are under some sort of trance or narcotic. It could well be a scene from Woodstock.
What you aren’t seeing if you were to look from the outside is what these people are feeling and experiencing on the inside, in their hearts and in their minds. Kirtan goes where downward dog doesn’t, and it is said to be the fast track to enlightenment. It’s about liberating the mind, surrendering to the effects, and doing something for you, for your health and wellbeing.
Kirtan is also a lot of fun, music invokes a natural feel good response in us, we tap, clap, hum and move, we sing along, we feel good, be it listening to Lorde, The Beatles, Mozart or the latest Christmas CD. Kirtan is no different. The Kirtanist leads by singing a line or two and then the group sings the same lines back. Musical instruments include a harmonium, cymbals, sometimes a guitar and most definitely drums. Drums and the voice are the most important instruments, combined they create a vibration and energy. Kirtan can remain at one constant speed, but as energy builds so too can the tempo. A Kirtan in full swing is quite an experience, and for some, life changing. How, you might ask?
In life we are born without limit. As we grow we often become incredibly self-conscious, for many, our natural childhood tendencies of openness, freedom of spirit, movement and speech become constricted or shut down. Practices like chanting and Kirtan, reopen those channels of communication and spontaneous movement. In Kirtan we clap, we sing, we move as the moment takes us, and in doing that, we open up, to others, to ourselves and to life. We practice Kirtan together, in a group, and just like a great yoga class, or concert and even sports matches, where you can feel that incredible collective energy, this is what we create when we chant and sing together, a sense of unity, of oneness.
In the words of famous Kirtan wallah Krishna Das "Chanting isn’t about music at all, instead, it’s about engaging in a practice designed to bring you more fully into yourself. What’s being chanted is what’s called in India the ‘divine names.’ We’re calling out to our own true selves, our own inner nature … calling out to that place inside of us that is full and complete, the divine in us: who we are underneath all our masks, all our roles.”
Kirtan wallahs such as Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, Snatnam Kaur, Deva Premal, David Newman & Dave Stringer have been forerunners in popularising this ancient Yoga practise in our modern world, bringing this yogic practice to us in not only traditional and classical forms, but re-energising the practice, bringing in new instruments and a groove and funk feel to the sacred mantras and bhajans.
It is not only these masters that are sharing Kirtan with us. One group that is hard at work bringing Kirtan to our region is ‘Wellington Kirtan’. This dedicated group of practitioners hold regular Kirtan events in Wellington City and the Kapiti Coast, not to mention New Zealands first ever Kirtan Camp, held earlier this year, this was so successful there is another camp set for next year. To find out about the camp and where you can find a kirtan near you, visit Kalpataru Yoga.
As for me, you will find me at 5.30pm this Saturday 12th April at the Te Aro Astanga Yoga Centre in Left Bank off Cuba Mall, singing and playing my guitar and I would love to see you there too.
“Kirtan is a very powerful way of accessing the depths of your being and tasting a drop of the pure self, but what is more beautiful is that you share that experience with the group through the energetic expression of your voice… and we all can feel that.” – Chakradhyan
Copyright © 2014 John Falepau firstname.lastname@example.org
Creating A Habit
Who would have thought I’d be doing ten minutes of yoga every morning before a bowl of porridge and a cup of coffee?
I’ve always been an early riser, getting up and off to work. Not that long ago I got up to heave heavy weights before going to work. There’s still a heavy weight of sorts, throw in a yoga mat, and here I am.
Getting on my man mat every morning is the start of my day, and it’s what I look forward to when I turn in the night before. Create a habit, indeed I have.
Don’t ask me what day it is, I surpassed my Forty Days of Yoga months ago, instead ask me how I did it.
My answer applies not only to my Forty Days of Yoga, but indeed to a lot of things we want to do or start, and that is to take the very first step, and then each one thereafter with intention and purpose.
Our life journeys all started with those very first baby steps.
You probably don’t remember your own, but you know what I mean, those amazing first steps. Steps that start with a wobbly wobble forward, arms stretched out for balance, making a beeline for that smiling person in front of us.
We found our balance, survived the unknown, stepped into a warm embrace and never looked back. So much of life is just as those first steps.
And the thought of adding yoga to my everyday was a bit like that, especially first thing in the morning.
Could I commit to Forty Days of Yoga? Would I enjoy it? Could my yoga actually become a habit?
I thought of my forty days as an asana.
Each morning I’d settle in to my practice with ease, feel comfortable, stay present with determination, intent and purpose, release from it and then assimilate the effects, knowingly creating a habit in the process.
The first week was all about getting into a routine.
Each night I would pour my porridge in a bowl complete with brown sugar, set my coffee cup next to it, and roll out my man mat so it was there for me to see (trip over!) in the morning.
Pretty much everything in place, ready to roll.
The second week cruised by.
Doing seven minutes of yoga every morning, my body loved it, and my mind, wow! What started as a seven minute practise has evolved to what now serves me in ten or so yoga minutes every morning. As my experience grows so does my choice of asana.
I’m learning to listen and let my body choose my yoga practice.
Third week, day ? I realised I had stopped counting.
The effects that were a part of my day overshadowed any thought of what day of the forty days it was. Even now my ten minutes of yoga are as if my entire day is condensed.
As there is space on my mat, there is space in my day. My awareness of body, breathe, calmness and being present in the moment. Every morning it starts my day, and every day it is present.
By the fourth week a strange thing happened.
I was having fun, and going to bed looking forward to waking up to my man mat. Getting up, doing my yoga, getting off to work.
You could say it was habitual.
I’ve become very attached to my man mat, and actually have a close man bond to it, and dear I say it, I talk to it – in silence of course. It’s an important part of my life now and friend.
One morning I got up, walked past my yoga mat, and while I was in the kitchen I wondered.
What if I miss a day? What if I don’t get on my mat?
The next few mornings same thing, I’d get up, see it on the floor and tip toe around it. I would even look the other way, ignoring it. One morning I walked straight over the top of it.
Could I miss a day? Did I want to miss a day?
I would get my porridge and coffee ready, sit at the table and look back at my man mat in the lounge.
And every time, every single time I would get up, get on my yoga mat and do my practice.
I didn’t want to miss a day, and I had no intention of missing a day.
A yoga habit created? You bet.
Two hundred and something days on and yoga practice is my everyday.
My morning asana practice has become another part of my yoga and life.
It joins my Kirtan, Yoga Nidra, Chanting and Meditation. And it all started by taking those first steps and getting on my man mat.
Copyright © 2013 John Falepau email@example.com
What the nose knows!
We’ll go straight to the subject, my nose.
I neither like nor dislike it, how can I? I was born with it. It is a mixture of my genes, bestowed on me by my European mother and my Samoan father. From side on, it’s pretty much the norm. Taking the shape of a European nose, as it angles nicely down away from my face, with a subtle curvature on the end and nicely rounded nostrils. Hmm, maybe I do spend a lot of time in front of a mirror, largely convincing myself that it looks okay from any given angle. Sometimes my nose is all I can see, but god forbid it was one of those noses that people would stare at………well, I don’t think they do. From the front is where my mix of multicultural genes comes to the fore. It encompasses both the slenderness and bulkiness of my European and Samoan genes. It’s neither one nor the other; I like to think of it more as a perfect balance between the two. My girl likes it, often telling me how much she does. Handsome, she says, Romanesque.
So on the outside, my nose looks as if it should function like any normal nose should. My nostrils are large enough, and unobstructed given my meticulous cleansing rituals and checking to take in and release the correct quantity of air that my lungs require. Muscle tone is great, enabling me to flair my nostrils at will, although given the increase in girth this produces, and that it’s a known fact that the nose keeps growing throughout our lives, and my father’s nose was rather large, I do refrain from this form of exercise, preferring to open my mouth when a larger volume of air is required. The hairs that sprout out of the top and sides I can live with, as they pretty much get plucked out at the same time as I get my hair cut, and ears groomed. I’m not a hairy man, well I like to think I’m not. I don’t have a hairy back, just a lot of hair in other places, like on my toes, inside and outside my ears, (no fuzzy bear jokes please) and thankfully still on the top of my head. Jo says it’s because I’m very virile, she says all the right things.
The only function that my nose is incapable of performing, is smelling. Yep, that’s right, can’t smell a thing, not flowers, not food, not body odour, nada. The medical term for this condition is anosmia, yes; I have googled “no sense of smell” many times, and although it gives me a feeling of having something no one else does, there are a few thousand people without a sense of smell. Still, you could say I’m one in a million. Makes me feel somewhat special, almost unique.
When one inhales, the scent passes over thousands of little tracts sending signals to the brain that then process’ them into recognisable smells. Perhaps it is a more complex issue, like a dud connection to the relevant brain function, possibly explaining my lack of scholastic achievement. Surely not I hear you say, as I can indeed read, write and do math, so we’ll best put that theory to the bottom of the pile.
People have always had great ways of telling me if and when I smell.
Some subtle, some not so. My dad took the direct, no feelings spared approach. When I was still at home, I’d take my work boots off at the door, only to hear his Samoan / pigeon English accent say, “ pooorr shohnny, co wash your feet, aaacccchhh!!”. My best friend once left a bottle of listerene on my desk at work, with a pathetic attempt at a grin. He’s still my best friend. On another occasion, after months of consuming a high protein diet consisting largely of up to a dozen eggs a day, a colleague could be heard marching up and down the hallway between offices spraying a can of air freshener about, muttering how all the windows and doors were already open. Lucky I’m not the paranoid type, or my life would be obsessed with copious amounts of cleansing, brushing, showering, deodorising….. ok to be honest, it actually does consist of copious amounts of all of the above.
What’s life like without a sense of smell?
Its living in a world that has only one smell and the only word to describe that smell is bland. It’s not amazing, it’s not unpleasant, and it’s not beautiful, just bland. Hard to imagine isn’t it. Everything smells the same. What do I wonder about the most? Food. I love eating and so want to experience all that is associated with it, food being prepared, cooked, the smell of fresh bread, the kiwi roast, seafood (my favourite) fruits, fresh herbs, Jo still regularly shoves things out of the garden close to my nose and says, oh, you have to smell this, its amazing, so fresh, so pungent, and then the sheepish look as she realises, once again, it’s a no go. I have probably just dispelled a common myth too, that people who cant smell, cant taste - yes, we can (or at least I can) taste food, and I am a big foodie, hence the wish to be able to smell whats cooking.
It’s obviously a huge deal smell, just look at all the ads on TV. Perfumes, deodorisers, cleaners, all focused toward smelling great. On the other hand, there are times when I feel lucky, and people have told me so. I used to be a dairy farmer, and absolutely loved it; apparently not so much if I could smell. Changing the kid’s nappies was a pleasant chore, again not so much if I could smell. Preparing fish, going to the landfill, cleaning the toilet, all done without a whiff of anything.
Would my life be any different if I could smell?
Well, I never thought it possible, but thanks to Yoga, and Jo introducing me to the practise of Neti, amazingly I’ve had a little glimpse of what smelling may be like. I began doing Neti daily for the cleansing aspect of the practise, totally unaware of what else I was about to experience. A few months down the track I walked in to the changing rooms at the gym and Wham! Each inhale was filled with this overwhelming unpleasantness. I remember thinking how heavy and thick this sensation was. I realised then that this was a smell, and what I was smelling was an unpleasant one. Since then and with regular Neti it has happened again, on occasion picking up the smell of insence burning, lemon scented soap, and some cooking aromas to name a few. For most of the time I still cannot smell, but on the odd occasion, it happens and I cherish when I can.
My version of the Jala Neti practise goes like this.
I x Neti pot – it looks like a tiny teapot
¼-1/2 tsp salt - if there is too little or too much salt, there will be a stinging or buring sensation in the nostrils, when the salt content is correct, you cant feel the water at all.
Warm water (tepid)
Put the salt in to the Neti pot, and fill with the tepid water, stirring until all the salt is dissolved.
Tilt your head over to one side and lean forward slightly, open the mouth and breath calmly and normally, place the tip of the Neti pot inside the end of your nostril and tip the pot until the solution starts to run out of your lower nostril. Adjustment of the head angle may be necessary to create the flow. Be careful not to have the solution spill out of the pot. The tip of the spout should be sealed around the inside of your nostril without discomfort.
Let half the solution run though and then repeat the process on the other side, when both sides are complete, gentle blow each nostril in turn, and then both at the same time, bend forward when your doing this so any residual water can come out of the nostrils.
It does take time to master, but be patient. The benefits as worth it. It not only clears my air passages, but my mind as well, and in time who knows, maybe my anosmia.
Jala Neti is an amazing practice that has many benefits, not just for those of us who cant smell.
As stated in Asana Pranayama Mudra Bhanda – Swami Satyananda Saraswati
“Jala neti removes mucus and pollution from the nasal passages and sinuses. It helps prevent and manage respiratory tract diseases such as asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis and pulmonary tuberculosis. It helps to relieve allergies, colds, sinusitis, together with various orders of the ears, eyes, throat. Relieves muscular tension of the face, nervous tics and Bells Palsy and helps the practitioner to maintain a fresh and youthful appearance. It has a cooling and soothing influence on the brain and is beneficial in the treatment of epilepsy and migraine. It alleviates anxiety, anger and depression, removes drowsiness and make the head fell light and fresh.
Jala neti stimulates the various nerve endings in the nose, improving the activities of the brain and the overall health of the individual. A balance is brought about between the right and left nostrils, and the corresponding left and right brain hemispheres, including a state of harmony and balance throughout the body and the systems governing circulation and digestion. Most importantly however, neti helps to awaken ajna chakra”
For a deeper insight and more information on the healing aspects and applications of neti theres a good article here and another one here. Happy reading and viewing, the second article includes a good instructional video demonstration.
If you wish to try Neti, you can purchase pots from Anahata Yoga Retreat right here in NZ.
Hari OmYogi John.
Swami, Satyananda Saraswati, Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha,
3rd revised edn, Yoga Publications Trust, Munger. Bihar, 1996.
Copyright © 2013 John Falepau firstname.lastname@example.org
Getting on The Man Mat for Forty Days of Yoga
My yoga journey has very much been a progression of listening, learning, watching, inquiring, listening more, learning more, experiencing and assimilating the effects from yoga into my life and being.
A lot of what seemed daunting at first – asanas that felt uncomfortable, Kirtan (pronounced keer-tahn, with a slight rolling of the rrrrs), words that I couldn’t pronounce or remember – I am now mastering.
I feel the expansion of my ribcage as I inhale in downward dog, my sankalpa is repeated with conviction, Kirtan is sung at the top of my voice, and well, I have become Yogi John.
Over the last few months, getting on my man mat everyday has been another progression to my yoga and life journey.
Jo had been telling me (like ever since we met) that doing a yoga practice everyday would be good, yet I hadn’t yet heeded her words.
Was it my man ego not wanting to listen?
I was invited to lead a kirtan at Kara-Leah’s book launch for Forty Days of Yoga, which is all about breaking down the barriers to setting up, and maintaining a regular home yoga practise.
With my kirtan done, heart open, I came away inspired from what I had heard and been a part of.
It wasn’t long before Jo’s words of wisdom over the years resurfaced and I decided the time to do it was now. Get on my man mat everyday and do yoga.
Forty days straight creates a habit, and a habit I wanted it to be.
As a project manager, getting things done on time, all the time, requires a lot of planning, and I wanted the same with my yoga, so to make sure I was ready for my forty days straight, I decided on a regular time slot that was doable, and a practice that was “fit for use”.
Jo is always telling us in class that "The posture should be steady and comfortable".
So with that in mind I chose asana that made me feel great, were comfortable and I enjoyed doing.
A week later, with plan and practice mapped out, I got on my man mat for the first day of my own “forty days of yoga”.
My body intuitively let me know what postures it wanted to do, and what initially started as a seven minute practice has grown according to my body’s needs, and at six o’clock in the morning, apparently it has them.
After settling in to my breath and body, Pawanmuktasana unlocks my prana – it’s a latte for my hands and feet, then churning the mill, five to the left and five to the right, boat pose gets my core in action, and bridge pose tweaks my thyroid and parathyroid glands, releasing the feel good factor.
Cat and cow pose loosens my spine and hips for the movements of my day, my favourite downward dog, then plank, and now upward dog too, instilling strength and flexibility to my spine, and finally, five half sun salutes, a deep connecting finale to round off ten beautiful minutes of yoga.
That’s all it takes, ten minutes on my man mat, and now it’s a habit that leaves me feeling great and ready for the day ahead.
A buried thought no more, I’ve done it, not just for forty days straight, but everyday since, and loving it.
I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to do a daily practice, well I do really, it’s when my mind and body decided to.
And that’s become a huge part of my yoga, listening intuitively to my body, and look where’s it got me, on my man mat everyday, doing a practice that’s just for me, and thanks to Jo, Kara-Leah and Forty Days of Yoga it is now everyday.
Copyright © 2013 John Falepau email@example.com
Taking the Weight off my Man Mat
I would be proud to wear a T-shirt with the words “This body, mind and soul was created by Hutt Yoga”.
When I was body building I wore one that read “This body contains 100% natural ingredients. It does not contain any preservatives or artificial products” It drew a lot of interest……and questionable looks. I was a big boy, naturally a big boy, who ate a lot. That was then and this is the now, and it’s now my Yoga that I wear on my sleeve.
I bumped in to a couple of friends recently, on separate occasion. One had known me when I was a big beefy bodybuilder, the latter knew me from work dealings a few years ago. Both made the same comment on how good and trim I looked, and asked what my secret was. My reply to them both was the same "My Yoga practise and lifestyle”.
The effects and internal processes of Yoga are different for everyone. For me they brought on life transformations and self-discovery. I began to see myself as a whole person, a complete person, and I started to, well, love myself. The union of mind, body and soul had begun, and with it came an unconscious shift in the things I would choose to serve my needs.
How I saw my body was one of the first transformations. I went from being able to munch my way through $30 McDonalds sittings, to not wanting to go anywhere near one. Sorry grandkids, you eat salad with grandad now.
My body had at times, been sort of a temple. On the rugby field, on stage winning trophies and at work for that matter, but there was a downside. I had always put my body on the line, never a thought of what I was putting it through. Years of rugby had eroded my joints, lifting heavy weights had stiffened my muscles, the purging and then gorging of the body building years had wreaked havoc on my digestive system. My mind and body got used to being a certain weight too, the way I chose to satisfy that, eating high carb, sugary, fatty, hunger quenching food, and I’m not talking salad.
My saving grace, getting on my man mat. Just like I told my friends, that’s what did it. Not physical exercise but a mindful transformation, opening my heart to my own presence, my own space. It showed me my body in a different light, a body that had carried my soul, my being and my experiences on this journey so far, and that now was time to honour it.
You know that saying ‘You are what you eat’, I was that alright and it showed. I started yoga and that magic thing happened that you hear about all the time in yoga, I simply changed my mind. With each class, each relaxation, and through the practice of Yoga Nidra, I started to feel more alive, I became more aware of presence on the mat, and in life, and noticed a lightness developing within my body, physically, mentally and spiritually.
The effects and feelings started to connect and influence my food choices. Slabs of meat that had once clogged my digestion and mind were replaced with salad, big macs were replaced with tofu burgers, and as more lightness came to my man mat, a lightness came to my life. Weights on my shoulders started to lift, burdens in my mind cleared, gasps of air turned in to long full breaths, and with that a desire to satisfy my hunger with good clean food.
For me, the equation “calories in versus calories out” never really worked. My body was heavy because my mind felt heavy. As the transformation took hold, it was not just food choices that changed. The way I saw myself and presented myself to the world did too, and that’s another chapter in this journey.
Yoga has shown me that beautiful things are indeed made from beautiful things. When I started to feel this connection within myself I put beautiful things in to my mind and body and here I am, a very happy Yogi John. Slimmer for sure, but its not actually about that, its about everything else I lost by bringing yoga into my life, the negativity, self doubt, and self sabotage all dropped away and I am now savouring every day, and though I never thought you would hear these words from me, I not only savour every day but I savour and love every salad!
Copyright © 2013 John Falepau firstname.lastname@example.org
The Day the Earth Stood Still
I wasn’t meant to be at Yoga that Monday, but as I have learnt, yoga finds me and before I know it, I’m on my man mat.My day started like any other work day. I got up, put the jug on, did my morning practice, ate my porridge and went to work. A usual day wasn’t in store for me though, as a series of earthquakes had shaken Wellington’s bones and the city was in shut down. I arrived to a scene out of an armaggedon movie, near empty streets, barriers, closed buildings and emergency services. The job we had planned for the evening was cancelled, which meant I could now attend yoga.
When I told Jo I was coming to class, she was so happy, saying she had a feeling it was going to be a special class, how could she have known what was to happen. It was already a special day, being Guru Poornima, the moon was full, and the earth had been rockn and rolling, there was a lot of intense energy in the atmosphere.
As class began, I settled on my mat, closed my eyes and surrendered my being to the practice, straight away I felt that something or someone was wrapping their arms around me and entering my consciousness. My mind soon settled and became calm, solely focusing on Brumadhya, my eyebrow centre. I became completely aware of my body on my mat and felt a solidity and grounding, a wholeness in my presence. Each inhalation was as if I was breathing in my life, my soul, my love for myself and others. As I chanted aum, the sound was coming from my mind, and body as well as my voice. My movement in to each asana seemed effortless, body combining with breath.
Within the embrace of the environment, our teacher and the other students, I was completely connected and present, I felt safe and able to release further into the moment. The meditative tone of the class led me further in, to a deeper sense of stillness.
The final asana (posture) of our practice was paschimottanasa, my fingers reaching not just my toes, but my hands wrapping around the souls of my feet. My mind, my body and my breath were close to being as one, but I didn’t know it yet. I was feeling the release of my body with every exhalation, the release of my mind, surrendering further and further.
Yoga was about to bless me with its deepest love and meaning. I lay down in savasana, prepared my body for yoga nidra, and it wasn’t long before I surrendered to the practice and let go. You know when the teacher says let go of any tensions with your exhalation, let the body sink into your mat. Well I actually felt it, I completely let go, all of my tensions, physical, mental, emotional, they just fell away and my mind slipped into a relaxed bliss. As I lay in savasana, still and at peace, everything that I am, who I am, my love, my breath, my mind and my body all united bringing a feeling of wholeness and incredible beauty. My presence on my mat had a completeness.
My journey had brought me to this place, had reached a destination, a place that I had yearned for, searched for and I had arrived. I felt wrapped and secure in Yogas embrace. It’s a beauty that I find difficult to convey in words, it all happened in what seemed to be one very special moment and has stayed with me since, even as I write this.
Yoga is a union, and a beauty that cannot be described until you experience it. The glimpses I have had up until now on my man mat have allowed me to continue with my practice with faith, discipline and a deep inner knowing that there was even more to come than I had already received.
I have trekked a winding road, climbed mountains, and sunk to depths, searching and yearning, and here I am. Mondays nights class was the culmination of those experiences into something so deep. Yoga is life, and I am breathing it in.
Copyright © 2013 John Falepau email@example.com
Kirtan - Finding My Voice
If you google “Kirtan” (Keer-tahn) and watch some of the You tube clips, it may look a bit hippie dippy yahoo man, especially when everyone’s got their eyes closed, arms waving in the air, looking like they are under some sort of trance or narcotic. It could well be a scene from Woodstock.
I didn’t google before going to my first Kirtan, so I really didn’t know what to expect, and being new to yoga, I was nervous and felt a bit out of place. I was so self conscious of not being able to sit cross legged, let alone in lotus pose, and oh my lord there’s singing!
There was a little too much going on for me to really let go and enjoy the experience, but something about it stayed with me. A seed had been planted.
There are things you need to know about me and singing, I love it, when I’m on my own and no one else can see or hear me. In my wild youth and some not so youthful years, I have been known to attend a party or two, guitar slung across shoulder, belting out the best from the 70’s and 80’s, of course there’s a catch, never ever did I do this sober. I was too shy, always felt like my voice wasn’t good enough, my guitar playing wasn’t good enough, and really that me, as in I, wasn’t good enough.
Well, the man mat and I have come a long way on our yoga journey and I can now tell you of my experience of Kirtan, and what it means for me. Kirtan is a yogic practice of singing and chanting sacred mantras, where we sing, play instruments such as harmonium, drums, guitar & flute, and come together as a group and as a community. Kirtan is practiced in a call and response manner, the kirtanist sings a line and the audience sing it back. I can now google, watch and know what people practicing Kirtan are experiencing. Its called happiness!
Three years on my man mat and I’ve had an another amazing yogic experience and discovery. Through practicing asana and pranayama, my chest has expanded, giving my heart more openness and room to share and receive love. All I needed to find was a way to verbalise these effects, and I did, or rather it found me. Since that first Kirtan three years ago, I have been to a few more, and as I grew confident with my yoga practise, space was opening up for new experiences. We held a Kirtan jam at our house , and things were so different, the stage fright experienced in the past when I had tried to sing or speak was nowhere to be found. Closing my eyes, sitting on my man-mat, guitar under wing, leading a rendition of the Kirtan Sita Ram was a proud and loud Yogi John. Kirtan had found me, only this time I was open and ready to receive the beauty of its grace, and surrender myself to the practice.
An invitation to lead a Kirtan at a yoga centre came, it was a big step away from the comforts and security of home. I practiced a new kirtan, singing and playing for weeks leading up to the event, all the while pondering on what transformations kirtan was bringing into my life. When my feet left the ground, in the form of “Should I acquire a Pavaroti scarf and perhaps request a rider” my beautiful partner would lovingly reground me, reminding me that Kirtan is not a performance but a practise. So I’m guessing the Bee Gees one piece is out too?
The night came and I could feel my stage fright resurfacing, but on the other hand a powerful sense of calling came over me. I was meant to be here for some reason. I settled into my space in front of the microphone, my eyes closed, I started, and what came out was a voice I hadn’t heard before, a voice full of love, soul, and devotion. I was fully connected with the moment and feeling the beauty of kirtan. I was singing and celebrating, loud and proud, I was sharing yoga. I felt completely at one with the music and with the people singing with me.
Since that night I have gone on to take part and lead in quite a few Kirtan jams where I have played and sung with that same openness and sense of joy. I have just participated in an Akandha Kirtan, six hours of unbroken chanting of the Maha Mantra. There has been mention of a twenty four hour one, the man mat and I will be there for sure.
Come to kirtan with an open heart and open mind, it’s not what you see on the outside or on google, but what you feel on the inside.
Copyright © 2013 John Falepau firstname.lastname@example.org
About me & Yoga
Three years ago I was introduced to yoga, I’m not sure if I found yoga or yoga found me, but it has become a huge part of my life journey.
It was inevitable that our paths would eventually cross, as I was always aware of something more meaningful and deeper than just the world I was seeing through my eyes, I just didn’t know what it was.
I've lived a lot of life, played a lot of sports, lifted a lot of weights, and pushed my mind and body to the extremes. My work has always involved organising, scheduling, meeting deadlines, 24/7, go, go, go. It couldn’t last, it wasn’t living, more just surviving one day to the next. I needed to breathe, I needed time out, but how? I didn’t have the answer, but my mind and body did.
My life had been cracking along at breakneck speed, which inevitably resulted in a major meltdown. My mind and body had said enough is enough. The next chain of events would bring me to yoga and into the present, where it has indeed transformed my life and the person that I am now yet always was.
After the first few classes I was hooked, with a yearning to know more. What was yoga?, its purpose?, the benefits? Would I ever touch my toes, and why haven’t we tried to put our foot behind our head yet?. Through reading, listening, googling, and being on my mat I have found the answers, not all of them, but enough to know that there is something really special about the benefits of yoga, and yes I can now touch my toes with ease, and no its not about putting your foot behind your ear. My life now has a deepness in appreciation, love, purpose and meaning.
The most profound effect that yoga has brought into my life happened after a few months of performing asana (yoga postures) at least once a week and yoga nidra (a form of meditation). My being began to be influenced by my experiences on the mat. The settling in of the breath at the start of each class now precedes each new activity and action of my day. With a deep inhalation and exhalation my breath grounds and settles me into action, I clear my mind ready to focus on the task, and feel the beauty of the process at hand. The solidity, and strength of the standing asanas, Tadasana, transend into my day, connecting me with the earth, the stability of my leadership and confidence. The endurance and power of the warrior poses, showing in my determination and conviction to complete a task, to stand by my decisions. Balancing asana, being level headed and focused to do things well and to stay aware. The close of class, the relaxation, in my day taking a breath, reflecting, and assimilating all that I have done and been a part of, and yoga nidra completes the amazing process. A powerfully internal personalised meditation where the being and existence I desire is brought to life.
I have my good days and I have my bad days, as we all do, but I now have a balance and solidity to cope, enjoy and breathe.
I feel a love I have never felt before, I see a beautiful world I had never laid eyes on, I feel a happiness and appreciaton of all that is, and I am aware of my actions, spoken word, and my presence.
For me yoga hasn’t changed my being, but rather, it has enriched who I already am.
Copyright © 2012 John Falepau email@example.com