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Mindful March Interview with KAI YOGA Co-Owner Elisha Young

In honour of Mindful March we caught up with Elisha Young, seasoned yogi and co-owner of KAI YOGA.

With 15+ years of experience and training with master teachers worldwide, Elisha offers intentional, informed, and creative classes in a safe and inclusive environment.



Join us as we explore her story and how yoga can transform our lives on and off the mat for Mindful March at The Botanist.


Here’s what Elisha had to say…


 

Can you walk us through a typical class at Kai Yoga, and what students can expect to experience?


Sure thing. You can expect to be seen and embraced exactly as you are by our beautiful community. You feel it as soon as you walk up the stairs and take in the sweet scent of incense… you can’t help but relax when you arrive!

We have a few different class styles on offer depending on what flavour you are after.

Our signature Vinyasa Flow class is a good balance between strength and flexibility, sweat and zen. Synchronised with rhythmic breath, the movement is dynamic and strong with an intention to create a sense of flow – kinda like a moving meditation. The way we align the body and shape ourselves into postures, not only strengthens the body but also has a profound effect on bringing focus to the mind. It’s such a potent recipe! The active part of the yoga class does eventually mellow out. This is where we relish in soothing stretches and explore the softer, more subtle side of the practice and ourselves. The Vinyasa Flow class helps to detoxify and uplift our energy. They are strong, yet a guided in a down-to-earth and friendly way to ensure everyone feels welcome. We often have a bit of giggle in these classes, sometimes it gets messy, we fall over a lot … but eventually we fly :)


If you are after something more chilled and gentle, we also have some lovely offerings for you – Yin Yoga and Vinyasa Gentle. These classes are like wrapping yourself up in the warmest hug! They’re all about soothing the nervous system, creating space and nurturing from the inside out.


How do you integrate philosophy and spirituality into your yoga classes, and what teachings do you draw from?


At KAI YOGA, we enjoy peppering in philosophy and spirituality in a way that is practical and accessible. We know, sometimes philosophy can be a bit of a turn off if it’s too ‘woo-woo’ or esoteric. Yet, there are so many pearls of wisdom within the yoga philosophy that can be super useful in our forever accelerating lives today.


In general, our Vinyasa Flow classes are based on ancient Hindu yogic philosophy. Our Yin Yoga classes fuse both Hindu wisdom with Traditional Chinese Medicine. In Yin we often speak to the Meridian Line theory and Qi energy. Compared to in our Vinyasa Flow classes, we might speak to the Chakra system, Prana and/or modern psychological science.


We try our best to introduce it within our classes in a way that is relatable, with an intent to spark curiosity and inspire. The philosophy helps to add depth to the movement, so that the movement is not just exercise but it is something much more meaningful and wholesome – for both the body and the mind.


What specific practices or techniques do you recommend for people who want to cultivate mindfulness in their everyday lives?


- Be mindful first thing. How we wake up can dictate the rest of our day eg if we’ve slept through our alarm and woken up abruptly, that feeling of needed to catchup can linger as we rush through the rest of the day.

- When you rise from deep slumber (preferable before the rest of the household wakes ie kids), start your day with a short meditation focusing on your breath (can be guided) or some gentle stretches. You only need 5 mins. This helps to set the tone for your day - starting from a place of presence, stability and calm, rather than from a place that is triggered and anxious (feelings that can arise if we choose to check our emails before we check in with ourselves – im definitely guilty of this, but it is worth resisting the urge to turn your phone on and breathe first)

- Eat your meals away from a screen

- An easy Ayurvedic practice I enjoy is starting with a cup of hot water in the morning and throughout the day. This helps stimulate the digestive fires and also feels very soothing for the inner body

- Connect with nature more eg going for walk on the beach

- Join a community and book yourself into a yoga class. Movement is medicine!

- If you cant make it into a bricks and mortar studio, there are some wonderful online resources out there… for example, the KAI YOGA On Demand Library. It’s jam-packed full of wonderful classes (of varied duration) plus guided meditations and breathwork that you can practice from the comfort of your home, anytime. We have a 3 week free trial offer. You can check out https://www.kaiyoga.com.au/kai-yoga-online

- Invest in rest. The more efficient our rest is the more efficient our productivity is. For me, this is an evening ritual of switching off the phone around 8pm, dimming the lights and eventually easing into bed by 9/930pm. Before drifting, it is nice to journal or reflect on what you are grateful for in your life.


In your experience, what are some of the most common obstacles or challenges that people encounter when trying to live more mindfully? How can these be overcome?


Culturally, things are moving much faster, our days are busier and there is always more to attain and accomplish. Technology has also blurred the line between work-life, social-life and home-life, so that now, many of us bring the pressures of work or social media into the home. What does this mean for our health and wellbeing? Well it can mean we forget how to ‘switch off’. Just like we need to close the Apps and switch of our phones to recharge them, we too, as humans need to switch off and re-charge. The side effects of always being ‘on’ can be a sense of scatteredness and an inability to remain focused for lengthened periods of time. We then may find ourselves more reactive or anxious, plagued by stress and feelings of inadequacy. This isn’t good for anyone’s spirit.


So how do we overcome these challenges, how do we create more stability and stillness? How can we fine tune our attention? I think its about committing and creating space for self-care. You have to commit to your self-care and prioritise it, otherwise life’s busyness will quickly take over. Planning is handy! It might mean sitting down with your calendar and scheduling in that yoga class, that walk on the beach, or that time to meditate. Be flexible though! It’s important to not get cranky if things don’t go to plan.


Mindfulness isn’t only limited to your yoga mat or sitting in Lotus pose for a formal meditation – you can practice mindfulness when being with your children with undivided attention, going for a walk and feeling your feet articulate with the Earth or chewing your food a little slower to savour all the flavours and textures exploding within your mouth. We can enhance our life and relationships by apply mindfulness to any aspect of our life.


Mindfulness is about slowing down enough to find the spaces in between. It’s about investing in practices that rejuvenate our energy rather than deplete it. Mindfulness is personal and also multi-dimensional – it takes into consideration all that we do, think and eat and how these habits harmonise (or not!) to create flow and ease in our lives.


How can people stay motivated and committed to a mindfulness practice, particularly if they are busy or have many other demands on their time?


- Always come back to your ‘why’

- Keep it simple

- Be realistic with your timings

- Find a teacher or a community for guidance

- Prioritise consistency over extremes eg 5 mins a day dedicated to mindfulness each day, and then gradually increase

- Don’t throw the towel in if you mess up the routine or miss a session

- Be kind to yourself

- Invite a friend to participate with you – it’s much more fun plus a friend can help keep you motivated and accountable


Can you offer any tips or advice for people who might be new to yoga or mindfulness practices, but are interested in learning more or getting started?


First of all, let me clarify – you don’t have to be flexible to start yoga. But yoga will help you to become more flexible – in your body and also in your mindset. Now we have that out of the way :) If you are looking to start physical yoga classes, most yoga studios offer beginner yoga classes on their schedule. Start with a beginner’s yoga class so that you learn the fundamentals and can progress from there. Id recommend visiting a studio rather than jumping online if you are brand new to yoga so that you can be guided properly by a teacher. Without this in-person guidance we tend to unconsciously pick up habits that may be detrimental to our practice in the long run.


It’s important when starting a new practice that you stay open to it. At times you may be taken out of your comfort zone, unusual sensations can percolate, or unexpected emotions – rest assured, this is all normal! These sensations are evidence that stress is leaving your body and mind. Getting rid of the old to make room for the new.


If you are unsure, ask a teacher, reach out to them, email them, seek them after class and they can support you on your mindfulness journey.


Can you share any success stories from students who have practiced at Kai Yoga and experienced positive changes in their lives?


The beauty of the practice is that it always manages to give you what you need. And this is very individual. Every day we turn up on our yoga mats, we are different. This means there is no one way to practice yoga, it’s multi-faceted and diverse. We come as we are and take what we need from it, whether that is physical, spiritual, or mental.

Particularly, as we come out of the intensity of the Pandemic and are adapting to this new way of living, many of our students have shared how their yoga practice has been their life line during such turbulent times. It has kept their body’s strong and supple, yet at the same time has helped them deal with the difficulties, often unexpected, with more grace and acceptance. In this way, the practices of yoga and mindfulness are rather helpful in removing some of those unnecessary road blocks and help to create more ease, stability and flow in our lives – longer hamstrings and stronger biceps are simply bi-products of the practice!


We often hear how the practice has helped our students deal with difficult work colleagues and demanding bosses. Or how they’ve noticed they don’t sweat the small stuff so much all the time… or how they finally summoned the courage to give Crow Pose a shot without caring too much about what they looked like. These small wins make a huge difference in our mindset and our ability to self-regulate when we feel triggered or doubt. You can receive the benefits of a the practice almost immediately. And the funny thing is, often our external circumstances don’t change much, but our inner perspective does… and this changes everything.




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