April 30, 2017
Wrapping up the month on synchronicity and listening to your intuition, we’ve secured yogi Nicole Belliveau from the Byron Yoga Centre to take us through her little tips and tricks. Nicole started yoga at a young age now is a host and teacher at the Byron Yoga Centre. She also trained as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and is passionate about all things health and wellness.
So let’s get into the interview!
Nicole can you tell us a little about your background and how you wound up at the Byron Yoga Centre?
I am a Canadian who grew up with an active lifestyle but poor quality food. Somewhere in the transition from mcnuggets to quinoa, I took a leap and studied Holistic Nutrition. While learning about food science and the healing benefits of whole foods, real transformation happened. Now as a Holistic Nutritionist, I have a much healthier relationship with food and nourish myself with an organic plant-based diet.
I started practicing yoga at a young age almost 10 years ago. It started off as another form of physical exercise but slowly I started to feel the benefits on deeper levels. On my mat was the first time I truly connected with myself. It is where a lot of my healing and self-love happens.
In January 2016, I arrived at the Byron Yoga Centre to study and become a yoga teacher. After the course finished, I asked to volunteer for a few weeks to soak in all the knowledge I gained and the beauty of the centre. Over a year later, I still haven’t left! I now have the privilege to be one of the Retreat Hosts; I teach some yoga classes and wellness workshops, ensure the retreats run smoothly and most importantly that the guests are happy and relaxed. I feel blessed every day to be in a position that allows me to grow in a healthy environment surrounded by like-minded people.
Wow what a journey to end up there permanently. It’s funny how life takes us to the places we need. How do you keep balanced and centred with so much going on? What’s your secret tip?
I don’t have one specific tip but rather a combination of habits that make up a healthy lifestyle that invites vitality and clarity to take the best step forward. I make an effort to eat nutrient-dense living foods, practice meditation and yoga, ensure adequate sleep, spend time in nature and fill my mind with content that inspires me to be and live better. Some days I slip off the health wagon but i’ve learned to accept this and not be too hard on myself. Reminding myself what I am grateful for, to breathe deeply and be present helps me stay positive and get back on track.
It’s nice to know that even yogi’s can fall off the bandwagon – makes us mere mortals feel a little better! We’re talking a lot about synchronicity and intuition this month. That can include things like finding your own tribe with similar interests, listening to what your body needs for nutrition, choosing the movement exercises that work for you, and finding time for yourself. Can you tell us a little bit about how you have tapped into your intuition?
For me, tapping into our intuition is connecting to our true self, in the present and using it to guide our thoughts and actions. When we are aligned with this inner wisdom, it is easier to recognize what will serve our highest good and purpose. Our intuition always speaks to us but sometimes there are distractions that get in the way.
When I feel disconnected, I make an effort to get out of my head to reduce the noise it creates and get more into my heart. Often this takes place with eyes closed, breathing deeply, focusing on my heart space on my mat, immersed in nature or reading with a lit candle and herbal tea. Books such as Rebecca Campbell’s Light is the New Black and Caroline Myss’s Anatomy of the Spirit, have helped me see the world in a whole new light and tap into parts of myself I didn’t know existed.
Getting out of the “should” mentality and more into exploring how I truly want to feel, helps to gain clarity and be in the flow of life. I also find that when I let myself write organically in my journal, I connect to what I need to be reminded of. To stay true to my authenticity, I will add that I am still working on all of this. The more I practice these rituals, the more I spend time in connection with my intuition and synchronicity happens.
It seems like continuing to learn and grow is so important for all of us. So from a yogi’s point of view, what are the best ways to being open to and listening to your own intuition?
Patanjali’s Yoga sutras teach us to apply the principles of Ashtanga (8 limbs). Included in these steps are how to live a meaningful and purposeful life, compassion for self and others, self-discipline, mindfulness, pranayama (breath exercises), meditation, asana and eventually for some, enlightenment. His teachings are very in depth but some key points are mindfulness, deep breathing, reflecting before reacting, and moving the body to eliminate stagnant energy. When the limbs are practiced, openness and intuition can flow with ease.
That point you made about the “should” mentality is a trap many of us fall into! We need to really disassociate ourselves with that and focus on what we really want. So finally Nicole what would be your top three tips for a corporate worker trying to align themselves with their future goals and vision?
1. CLARITY: For true alignment to happen, the goals need to be in sync with our true desires. Once we get clear on how we want to feel, we can use this as our compass rather than what we “should” be going for. Having clarity on HOW to reach the vision is also essential to achieving the goals. There is something powerful about writing on paper our goals and the actions step necessary to make them happen. Being realistic, taking it one step at a time and writing a date to have them accomplished by will help the transition towards the end goals.
2. PERSONAL GROWTH: “To have more than you’ve got, become more than you are” –Jim Rohn. By investing in ourselves with books, podcasts, documentaries and people that stimulate us to grow and change our mindsets, our lives change radically. Happiness is an inside gig – Our perceptions, thoughts and beliefs are what shape our lives. By changing our internal world, the outside world becomes aligned with our energy and the grass gets greener.
3. SELF-LOVE: To remind ourselves that we are GOOD ENOUGH. To have compassion and kindness towards ourselves along the journey. Even if the process doesn’t go as planned or we make mistakes, all is well. Underlying the actions, there needs to be love and trust. Self-love also includes taking time for ourselves and resting (which is very different to laziness). In our busy go-go-go lives, we need to create balance by slowing down and recharging ourselves. Learning to receive, saying no to the things that do not serve us and putting ourselves first are also part of this loving process.
All points that I need to remind myself of!
Thanks so much for your time Nicole it’s been a pleasure.
Photo credit: Simon Hunter simonhunterphotography.com
This will be the last blog post for 2016! So I thought in the spirit of Christmas I’d give you access to a guided meditation that you can listen to over the holidays (see link below).
Whether you’re a guru meditator or a first timer, meditation brings a unique and different experience to everyone each time. The Western world is finally starting to catch up with the scientific benefits of meditation that the East has been preaching about for centuries. As a consequence, meditation is no longer reserved for just ‘hippies’ (see my other blog on famous meditators!) and is becoming a more common practice among many.
While there are countless benefits of meditation, I’ve covered the top 9 below. If you’re not meditating, these are the 9 things you’ll be missing out on!
1. We all face stress at one time or another. Stress can SOMETIMES be a good thing. But not all the time. Research has found that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs may help manage stress. A systematic review of 17 MBSR studies found the program to be effective in reducing stress in participants ! So when you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed this Christmas, turn to meditation.
2. Anxiety is often a by-product of built up stress and can get a real grip of you if you don’t have ways to manage it. A systematic review of meditation training found that 69% of the studies analysed highlighted that meditation alleviated the symptoms of anxiety .
3. Sleep is one of the biggest issues that my clients come to me with. We all have so much on our minds all the time, and little time throughout the day to switch off. The plethora of technology available at our finger tips makes going to sleep at night a challenge for many. A meta-analysis of randomised control trials among those with insomnia showed that eight weeks of meditation training significantly improved sleep quality . So if you’re mind is racing as soon as your head hits the pillow, try some relaxation meditation to help you drift of more easily.
4. Still on the topic of sleep, the holiday season often means that sleep is the first to be sacrificed for parties, shopping, and other appointments. Among practiced meditators, time spent meditating is now correlated with a significant decrease in total sleep time needed . Some have even said 20 minutes of meditation is the equivalent to a one-hour nap. So if you don’t have time to be napping during the day, find a quiet space for 20 minutes and zone out to feel refreshed and energized!
5. Meditation has now been shown to have significant impacts on our cognition. Scientists investigated the effects of a meditation training program and found that meditating for just four days is enough to improve novice meditators’ working memory . So if you’re struggling to remember all those new names at the latest social gathering, try a meditation and you could be remembering the most important of names…
6. While December usually isn’t the month for colds and flus, having one in the blazing heat and humidity is less than pleasant. On top of that, all the late nights, less healthy food and extra alcohol all wreck havoc on the immune system. A study from Harvard Medical School showed that individuals who practiced yoga and meditation developed a higher immunity . The last thing you want Christmas Day is to be blowing your nose and all puffy from a cold, so practice some mindfulness techniques throughout the month to keep the immune system strong.
7. Christmas time is often when feelings of loneliness start to rear their ugly heads. A study on mindfulness meditation training showed that meditation helps decrease those feelings of loneliness . You don’t have to live alone to experience loneliness. Practicing meditation is one of the best ways to get comfortable with your own company, plus it gives you a hit of those feel good hormones, which Loneliness doesn’t like to hang around with.
8. Show of hands if you think you’re NOT creative (my hand is up). I like to think of myself as the more logical and problem solving type. Though since starting my own business I’ve HAD to become more creative. Research shows that meditation has positive effects in creativity and divergent thinking . There is no better place for me to come up with new ideas and services for my clients than during a meditation. If you’re looking for some creative inspiration for what 2017 will hold for you, try just shutting down the eyes and tuning into your intuition – it may surprise you.
9. This one is especially useful over Christmas. How many times have you finished a Christmas meal and felt totally and utterly STUFFED?! Scientists now believe that Transcendental Meditation (with a mantra) helps to manage emotional eating . When we’re more mindful about what we’re putting in our bodies consciously it transfers subconsciously into our everyday behaviour.
There’s so many benefits to meditation but even if you just experienced ONE of these, imagine how much better off the end of 2016 will be and the potential for 2017.
Click HERE for the guided mediation to start
 Sharma, M., & Rush, S. E. (2014). Mindfulness-based stress reduction as a stress management intervention for healthy individuals a systematic review. Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine, 19(4), 271-286.
 Chen, K. W., Berger, C. C., Manheimer, E., Forde, D., Magidson, J., Dachman, L., & Lejuez, C. W. (2012). Meditative therapies for reducing anxiety: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. Depression and anxiety, 29(7), 545-562
 Gong, H., Ni, C. X., Liu, Y. Z., Zhang, Y., Su, W. J., Lian, Y. J., … & Jiang, C. L. (2016). Mindfulness meditation for insomnia: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 89, 1-6.
 Zeidan, F., Johnson, S. K., Diamond, B. J., David, Z., & Goolkasian, P. (2010). Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and cognition, 19(2), 597-605.
October is World Mental Health Month. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as the state of well-being in which every individual with their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to their community. Nearly half (45%) of all Australians will experience some form of mental illness during their lifetime, and those that don’t will likely know someone who does. I have several close friends who suffer from anxiety and depression, and while they often can present as a fully functioning adult, there are times when they are crippled with it. The worst part is, this health issue is almost invisible. There’s still a lot of stigma and confusion around mental health, and that’s where this years theme of Learn and Grow comes in.
Suffering from a mental health issue doesn’t necessarily mean being locked in a room 24/7 refusing to leave. My friends usually meet the WHO criteria above, except its not consistent, and there are days when they don’t want to leave their house. It is a weekly and sometimes daily struggle for them to be productive at work. The stress of work, home life or their own self-confidence makes acting as a ‘productive human’ much more difficult.
That is why this year in particular is so important for mental health awareness, as the theme is encouraging people and communities to learn more about mental health and use that knowledge to grow personally and empower individuals to be in control of their mental wellbeing. The social network surrounding people suffering in their mental health is crucial for support. The workplace is one of those key areas.
Stress, daily demands, and burnout are all key precursors in the workplace for a potentially negative impact on workers mental health. Those that ‘work the hardest’ or ‘work the longest’ are often championed and praised for their dedication. But at what cost?
Beyond the emotional and physical toll it takes on the individual, mental health conditions present substantial costs to organisations. My previous blog breaks down the costs of absenteeism, productivity loss, and turnover, of which mental health conditions are a significant contributor. However, through the implementation of an effective wellness program to create a mentally healthy workplace, organisations are showing a positive return on investment.
In light of this, Energy|Body|Mind are hosting a free Mindfulness event in Sydney at Observatory Hill on October 31st. It’s during your lunch break on a Monday from 12.30-1.15pm so come along to engage with some stretching and powerful postures, learn some breathing techniques, and undertake a short meditation. You will leave feeling recharged and re-energised! Registration details below.
So what are some of the ways that you can start to integrate a healthy work environment to help you and your colleagues to reduce and prevent the ill-effects of mental health issues?
This is an important issue, and one that seems to be on the rise. But we can do something about it, and taking action in the workplace can be one of the best methods for this.
Registration for the Mindfulness event is from the Home Page of this site. Spots are limited, and the first 10 to register will receive a special gift! Look forward to seeing you there.
Ever wanted to go to a wellness retreat? Be it yoga, meditation, massage, holistic health, the choices are endless. Retreats can be an expensive expedition, and you often feel amazing while you’re away, but then come back to reality and forget to implement all your learnings into your everyday life. Before you know it, your phone is again attached to you like a third limb, your mind is wandering all the time, and you’ve been to yoga only once this week.
I recently spent a long weekend up at the Byron Yoga Centre. In light of that retreat, I wanted to share how I’ve learnt to create my own retreat here at home, and how you too can create your own oasis to escape anytime you like.
If you’re currently experiencing an overwhelming urge to pack your bags and permanently escape reality (while a supported idea!) there are a few ways to bring the retreat to your life here, and prepare you to confront the world refreshed, renewed and revitalised.
Set Aside 4-7 Hours A Week for YOU
While the movie “Yes Man” taught us a lot about embracing new adventures, society has almost gone too far in saying “yes” to everything. When was the last time you said “yes” to something, but really didn’t want to go? Learning to say “no” is both empowering and one of the main ways to help you recharge. But it is also hard! Having scheduled downtime is key to rebooting the system and making sure that everything you have said “yes” to is enjoyed. Schedule time in your diary for YOU that you treat like any other important meeting – it is non-negotiable and cannot be moved. This may just be 30 minutes before bed where you read your latest book, or an hour on Saturday mornings before heading out for brunch. Use this time how you like it and sometimes to do NOTHING. It is amazing what an hour a day can do for your overall wellbeing.
Give Yourself a Technology Detox
While in Byron, I turned off my phone for a whole 56 hours (not that I was counting!). It was blissful. Not having to answer to anyone. Not feeling the desire to check what I’d missed on all social media channels. Not needing to take a photo of everything I was doing. Heaven. It’s probably not realistic for us to all throw our phones away and revert to snail mail to communicate. However, you can integrate a technology detox into your day. Have set hours where your phone is OFF. 8pm-8am. They are my new hours. I am uncontactable in that time. I do not access any social mediums in that time. My brain is switched off from technology. Giving yourself the permission to switch off is like your own recharging time. See what hours you can play with and start to build it up till you have 12 hours of detox a day.
Work On Your Sleeping Patterns
With all the time you’ll now have away from your phone you can use it to work out your sleeping patterns. I used to be a night owl, up all hours, but felt terrible waking up in the morning. The retreat had us up every morning at 5.30am which was a big shock to the system! But its a trend I’ve continued in my daily life, and its revolutionised how I spend my time. That’s not to say everyone should be waking up at 5.30am, but it is a good reminder to look at the quantity, quality and patterns of our sleep. Figure out what your ideal hours are and stick to them like an appointment!
Integrating Meditation and Yoga
Coming home after spending four hours a day practising yoga and countless hours in the depths of meditation, I vowed that it would cross over into my life at home. None of us have the time to be spending hours in the strength of Warrior 2 pose or on a grassy patch meditating with our thoughts. But we can find small snippets of time. I now meditate on my commute – 20 minutes on the bus ride in and 20 minutes home. There is something tranquillising about the hum of the bus, and with my earphones in and sunglasses on, no one else knows the better! You also don’t need to join a prestigious yoga studio to feel the benefits of a daily practice. Even the franchise gyms have caught on, and places like Fitness First have LOADS of yoga classes. Once you know a few moves you can integrate this into your daily routine (now that you’re getting up so much earlier) and throughout the day in your breaks (see my previous blog on how to integrate movement into the office). Little additions here and there quickly add up till you find yourself managing to fit an hour of meditation and yoga easily into your schedule.
Take A Look At Your Eating Habits
I am going to make it clear up front – I am not a vegetarian. When I learnt that the weekend retreat was ONLY vegetarian food, I immediately thought I’d be eating lettuce and fruit for the weekend. The food turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. The chefs creatively prepared some amazing dishes for our meals, and without the ability to fall back on the flavour from meat, the fresh ingredients could stand alone and be relished. While the weekend hasn’t turned me vegetarian, it has made me more creative in my own cooking, and curious as to the mixture of texture and flavours that I can produce in a vegetarian meal. I now take three days a week meat free. Try it for just one day – you’ll be amazed at the flavours.
One Day A Month
When I’m feeling extra indulgent, I allow myself a whole day to do all of the above. That is really bringing the retreat to you! Once a month (usually on a Sunday but sometimes a Monday) I go into full retreat mode. No phone for 24 hours. I go to yoga classes twice a day. I meditate throughout the day in little 20 minute pockets. I prepare delicious and creative vegetarian foods that I don’t have time for during the week. I read parts of my favourite books. At times I do NOTHING. Send your better half out for the day. If you have kids send them to a slumber party. Pets are allowed. Really allow yourself to have the space and the mindset to reboot. Trust me, your family / friends / colleagues will be asking you how you look so young, refreshed and zen all the time.
Sometimes you just need to get away and go on a retreat. And you should. Research where you want to go, the classes and options they offer you, and different cost scales. Set an intention for your retreat so you really get the most out of your time away. Then dive in. Head first. Give it your all. Retreats are like unicorns; they occur rarely and provide little nuggets of gold. So embrace them and then bring everything you’ve learnt back home!