The practice of yoga & mindfulness
We recently discovered Divine Flow Yoga, an inspiring, welcoming yoga studio on Sydney's Northern Beaches. This special studio was founded by Eliza Hayward. She's created an incredible community and space for others to practice yoga and self kindness, improving their mental health and happiness.
We just knew we had to catch up with Eliza to hear a little about her beginnings, why she gravitated to yoga and meditation and how she practices being mindful each day. She has a beautiful outlook on life and shares some really helpful insights and tips towards leading a healthy, fulfilled life.
My journey of self-discovery and personal growth began as a curious student of yoga and meditation stretching over the last 12 years. I was drawn to yoga as I felt it was the perfect antidote to tight muscles. Motivated to find freedom in my physical body, I was in awe of the mental benefits as a response. The more I practiced, the more I became aware of how good yoga made me feel. It was my sanctum after or before school and I really enjoyed that time for myself to continue my exploration of body and mind awareness.
When I decided to start my own yoga studio I knew I wanted to create something special and truly authentic that everyone could be a part of. For me, this meant all body types, ages, both men and women and brand new or experienced students. I felt strongly about removing the fuss or glamour that society painted on yoga. This meant everyone could come to a studio that wasn’t intimidating and felt like home.
I was brightened by the community that was growing at the studio and we continued to evolve as a brand. Fast forward to today, where we have just started our 24th ‘5 Week Beginner Program’, continuing to pave the way for anyone curious to come and arrive on their mat.
Yoga helps me to embody calmness, grace and vitality. It then ripples into all facets of my life. Being a wife, mum and business owner can be a lot at times, but I have noticed if I am practising yoga or doing my daily meditation there is more space to digest and think clearly. It helps me to combat overwhelm and without being reactive, I can find a suitable response because I have adopted mindfulness into my life. I strive for a conscious life and this means coming back to a ritual where I get to participate in self-care, self-awareness and peace.
If you’re looking to use yoga to improve your mental health it’s important you are creating a consistent practice, whether it’s at home or going to a yoga studio. Carving out this time for you to regularly absorb qualities like;
- Calming and centering the nervous system.
- Reducing stress by learning to relax and soothing the stress hormone cortisol.
- The practice of breath control, Pranayama, to help promote better sleep, cultivate more mindfulness, and enhance cognitive performance.
- Increasing the supply of blood and nutrients to the muscles.
Overall, helping to improve mental health as we bring harmony to our vessel and mind.
Some of the biggest changes I see in my students after they start coming to the studio is the rawness and joy. Sometimes I see it's like a relief for people to be practising. It's a sigh of deep gratitude as a smile widens across their face. The benefit is immeasurable.
The weight we carry in our external lives does not necessarily have to be carried alone. We can understand we can lessen the load by finding stillness and calm in the day as we unpack stresses or anxiety. I see students de-stressing, becoming stronger, becoming more awake and aware, softer and willing, vulnerable yet unchanging. It is the yielding we receive from.
To me yoga is a blueprint for living a deeply connected life. It’s helped me to integrate all parts of myself together, including self-kindness and being less critical. It is a gradual learning and something to wait for. There was a time I dieted, trained lots and would be hard on myself for putting on weight, until I realised how important my relationship to myself is. It was me that I needed to connect back to during those times and check in.
Being mindful is a daily practice that sometimes can look different each day. It’s a special mix that starts with my breath in the morning. I have a subtle Pranayama schedule that is followed by meditation and ends with a gratitude practice.
Mindfulness then ripples into my day. It doesn’t have to look a certain way to be right, it's how you feel as a response to the choices you make. It’s as simple as having quality time with my family and leaving my phone out of arm's reach whilst I play with my baby girl. I can then mindfully connect with her as we are both soaking up this uninterrupted time together.
I think becoming a mother has heightened my desire to become more mindful so we can be the conscious parents or spiritual partners our girl needs. I feel like the more awareness we cultivate of self and others, the more we are able to be mindful of the world around us. We can start to associate being mindful as a tool to transform and elevate the spheres in which we influence. Transforming personal prayer into planetary prayer! (Have you seen the latest David Attenborough documentary? We can be mindful as we clean our beaches! This is something I will be doing with my family when we can).
Some great ways to practice mindfulness and self-kindness at home include:
- Lighting incense and candles in the house to create ambience that reflects calm.
- Dry brushing to stimulate skin renewal and circulation.
- Journaling - pen to paper can be very therapeutic and creates clarity.
- Making a space in the house that is your meditation zone. Make this your sanctuary and sacred space.
- Painting - lets those creative splashes bring you joy.
- Time away from devices - I have a bag where my husband and I put our phones in called “coconuts”. This allows us to have time off our devices at night.
Some of my favourite tips for leading a healthy, happy life are:
- Practice gratitude daily
- Have some self-care rituals in place
- Have a close circle of friends that you can speak openly to
- Nourish yourself with wholesome meals
- Sleep well
- 'Device-free’ time before bed
- Lose yourself in a great book
- Be in nature as much as you can
Yoga means union, to bring balance to the mind, body and heart. I am forever a student to the practice of yoga and I can always access these ancient tools to find peace and calm in my everyday life. It always brings me home to my body in gratitude, peace and loving awareness.
Thanks so much to Eliza for sharing her story, insights and tips. We're a big believer in practicing kindness and self-care and yoga and meditation are two amazing ways you can do this.
For those of you who live in the Northern Beaches, you must check out Eliza's studio, Divine Flow Yoga - click here for more info on classes and their timetable. You can also follow them on Instagram here.