Our Bliss Baby Yoga Assistant and Social Networking Manager, Sophie Duncan, asked our Director Ana some incisive questions to uncover some things about Ana you may not have known.
What first attracted you to yoga?
Ana: My mother used to do yoga when I was a child and I’d tag along to classes and retreats with her. So in some shape or form, I’ve been doing yoga since I was a child. My mother used to take us through Yoga Nidra practices to help relax us. So I Iearned about the power of relaxation from a young age.
When I was in high school, I studied dancing, so I was naturally attracted to moving and stretching my body. I used to practise some yoga poses from a book when I was a teenager. And, then at university, I started going regularly to yoga classes that were offered at the student gym. That’s when I was hooked! I loved how yoga helped bring me into my body and out of my head. It was a great complement to the academic path I was on.
So how did you then get interested in yoga for women and then end up training women to teach in this specialized area?
Ana: Ah! Good question! Even from my university days I’ve always been interested in feminist issues. I did my Honours Degree in Japanese, and my thesis topic was: “Images of Women in the Japanese Media” – a cross-cultural, feminist analysis! I went on to score a PhD scholarship which involved studying female Japanese authors. As part of my background research I took some (Western) feminist-sociology subjects at university and my eyes were opened to the history of feminism. Even back then, the feminine-sensibility piqued my interest!
As you can see, as part of this journey with women’s issues there was an intersect with
Japanese history and culture. So, when I look back, it’s really no surprise that about 11 years after I’d left university to explore ‘the real world’, I found myself in Japan teaching prenatal yoga and natural birth to Japanese women! I loved working with the Japanese women (still do!); there is something so sweet and feminine yet strong about them. And I love to share ‘feminist’ ideas around empowered, woman-based birth, and honouring menstruation and women’s cycles, with them.
Tracking back to when I was pregnant with my son (about 4 years before I found myself in Japan offering Bliss Baby Yoga trainings), was when I was first captured by the idea of adapting yoga for women’s specific needs. The reading and self-practice I did during my pregnancy and in the early postnatal period blew my mind about the potential of yoga to support a woman physically, emotionally and spiritually during these key, uniquely feminine life transitions. From there I offered prenatal and postnatal yoga classes at my studio in Sydney at the time and the classes became immensely popular. I tend to think that where your interest and passion goes that’s what grows and what others pick up on – and you can’t help but be successful!
A few years after I sold my yoga studio in Sydney and moved up to Byron Bay on Australia’s north coast, I re-started prenatal and postnatal classes out of my home yoga studio here and also wrote a number of articles about yoga for women (as well as general yoga topics) that were published in national yoga and wellbeing magazines. From this exposure, women started asking me to train them in this specialized art of pre/postnatal yoga and it just naturally grew from there – Bliss Baby Yoga was born! Again, I truly believe when you following your ‘dharma’, your true life’s path, your ‘bliss’, success and fulfillment flow easily and opportunities come effortlessly your way.
What is your favourite self care ritual?
Ana: It’s yoga, of course! Without yoga I think I would go insane! I tend to do something yogically-nurturing for myself everyday. If I’m busy that might just be a single restorative pose – Legs up the Wall or Constructive Rest Position – or, a rejuvenating Yoga Nidra or some simple pranayama or yoga san-calpa (positive affirmations).
The transformative, alchemical qualities of yoga never cease to fill me with deep gratitude for this lifetime practice that accompanies me through good and bad times. It is a practice to celebrate me when I’m feeling strong and energetic with dynamic ‘full moon’ practises; likewise it is a nourishing practice to support me when I’m feeling stressed, overwhelmed, grumpy, premenstrual or menstrual; or, when I’m recovering from illness as I am now after a particularly bad case of the flu – with ‘dark moon’ practises.
I always finish my yoga self-care sessions with a ‘gratitude practice’ in which I contemplate one or several things in my life for which I feel deep gratitude. And so often it is yoga that bubbles to the surface as a self-care technique for which I feel eternally grateful to have discovered and harnessed for my individual needs. Bliss!
What is currently your favourite scent?
Ana: Frankincense. I don’t wear commercial perfumes anymore. Consequently I am more and more attracted to the purity, beauty and therapeutic qualities of natural essential oils. My naturopath recently prescribed frankincense to support my hormonal health and to balance symptoms of stress-overwhelm. It really helped. In the busy, stressful lead up to my wedding, I carried a tiny, precious bottle of this nectar in my handbag and sniffed it when I started to feel anxious and wore it on my pulse points on the big day. A divine scent!
I have also been enjoying good old lavender to help me sleep at night when my mind and nervous system is overactive.
Can you tell me one of the most life changing books you have ever read?
Ana: Oh there have been sooo many! Being a total bibliophile of both fiction as well as non-fiction, yoga / spiritual books, I’m not sure where to start! I can’t limit it to just one I’m afraid! So here are my top four, all-time, life-changing, non-fiction books:
- Shakti Gawain’s, “Living in the Light”
This classic book has given me a strengthened trust in my intuition and the flow of the universe that has contributed substantially to an inner contentment and positivity, helping me generate heart-felt affirmations that have manifested so many beautiful (and surprising) things in my life in recent years.
- Elizabeth Davis & Carol Leonard, “The Women’s Wheel of Life”
Another classic that has blown my mind, uncovering the fascinating archetypes that we move through as women in our lives. It has totally inspired and enriched my work around yoga for women’s health and life stages and is one of the books that deeply informs my book, “Moving with the Moon”, particularly in relation to our perimenopause and menopause phases of life.
- Ken Keys, “Unconditional Love”
Yet another ‘oldie but a goodie’, this little gem was lent to me a by a dear friend and I have since passed it on to a number of friends. It’s wisdom about accepting what we cannot change and mastering our emotional, ‘addictive demands’ has been very helpful in my personal life.
- Alison A. Armstrong, “The Queen’s Code”.
I credit Armstrong’s simple, powerful insights on the differences between men and women and how to honour and celebrate the men in our lives as enabling the beautiful new relationship, and now marriage, that I enjoy in my life.
Lastly, when can we expect your upcoming book “Moving with the Moon: Nurturing Yoga, Movement and Meditation for Every Phase of your Cycle” to come out?
Ana: This has been a long, slow birth! But I’m excited to announce that this baby is now out in the world! ‘Moving with the Moon’ was recently released in October 2018 – so you can get your copy now!