Lisa Mitchell : Freelance Editor & Writer

Lisa Mitchell's Blog

Jan 25, 2011


Aboriginal Healing

Earlier this year, my mind hobbled over a few issues, I visited mind-body medicine therapist, Alison Corsie to find clarity. Among Alison’s modalities were some potent flower essences, not from the prolific fields of Britain’s Dr Bach, but from our own wildflower sanctuary of Western Australia. What excited me was that the developers had ratified the healing abilities of these buds by the indigenous Nyoongah people of WA who had been using them for the longest time.

It’s a large shame that that Australia’s indigenous medicinal mastery remains buried while we skull smelly herbal concoctions and welcome the incisive needles of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Since we’re already exploring the beauty and self-purifying rituals of Ayurvedic medicine and the healing vibrations of chanted Indian Sanskrit, why not the rituals, healing songs, ceremonies, herbal remedies our very own ancient tribes?

It seems we need to count on dedicated natural therapy seekers like Living Essences to unearth Australia’s botanical secrets.

Shamanic `tourism’ to Aboriginal communities has been the exception for an informed few for a couple of decades but, if I put my prescient specs on, I reckon India’s ashrams and Australia’s abundance of wellbeing retreats will one day compete for space with Aboriginal healing retreats where whitefellas invest their holiday time in the indigenous manner of holistic healing.

For now at least, the closest most of us are likely to get to Aboriginal magic is a 100ml bottle of goanna oil.

As with so much culture passed down only through oral tradition, the Australian Aborigines’ rich repository of botanical knowledge has been lost with the rava

ging of its population, particularly the healing practices of the southern and eastern tribes.

While the earliest record of Chinese medicinal plants was published about 3000 BC, the first recording of our Aboriginal medicine only found print in 1988: Traditional Bush Medicines: An Aboriginal Pharmacopoeia (Greenhouse Publications), with descriptions and botanic drawings of just 65 plant and five non-plant substances.

I suppose you could argue that their medicine, which is still practiced in remote communities, is hardly designed to deal with pervasive Western complaints such as back problems, cancer and depression, tailored as it is to snake bites, fever, stings, tooth ache and wound management.

Last year however, news website Adelaide Now reported that the Pitjantjatjara Ngangkari (traditional healers) were well in demand at Adelaide’s Native Titles Office where up to 16 people a day received the healing powers of touch and chant to relocate ectopic spirits and resolve various conditions.

As people filter off to integrated medicine and complementary therapies to fill the holes that allopathic medicine is unable to fill, let’s hope some of the wisdom of the world’s longest continuous survivingindigenous people becomes part of our forward healing.


Traditional medicine is a complex system that is entwined with indigenous culture, belief systems, social laws and knowledge of the land, flora and fauna.

Ngangkari, or traditional healers, are chosen. They are trained to restore the spirit (inner wellbeing) and reverse the influence of sorcery and evil spirits. Healing rituals included sucking, massage with potent substances, singing, manipulation of the body.

Plants are collected (often with complex ritual) at specific times to take advantage of varying chemical content according to maturation or season or soil type.

Different tribes use the same plants for completely different medicinal purposes.

Sandpaper Fig – leaves crushed, soaked in water to make a liquid used topically to relieve itchy skin conditions (eg: scabies, tinea).

Morning Glories – heated on a hot stone and applied to stings, skin infections. Antihistamine.

Latex – white fluid found in some plants (eg: fig trees) used in the removal of warts, corns or cleaning foul wounds.

Broad-leaved Paperbark – new leaves chewed for treatment of head colds or brewed for headaches.

Native Cowpea – roots eaten to relieve constipation.

Pale Turpentine bush – leaves brewed as universal remedy but especially tuberculosis and fevers.

Spilanthes or native daisy – a local anaesthetic for toothache.

Bitter bark – a tonic containing reserpine, a tranquilliser and anti-hypertensive.

Green plum – one of the richest sources of Vitamn C in the world , contains 100g.

Witchetty grubs – crushed, used for treatment of burns and wounds.

Sources: “Aboriginal Pharmacopoeia” by Dr Ella Stack; Australian National Botanic Gardens Education Services, 2000; “Traditional Aboriginal Medicine Practice in the Northern Territory” by Dr Dayalan Devanesen.

Jan 11, 2011


New Classes for 2011

A warm & wonderful 2011 to you.

I hope you landed softly & brightly.

I'm so pleased to offer a 2nd venue in 2011:

NEW!!! THURSDAYS - 6:30-7:45pm
Alma Road Community House
200 Alma Rd, St Kilda East
10-wk school terms, $160
Begins Feb 3, book now, limited places avail.
0409 473 162

Enjoy a slower, deeper practice, gently workshopping asanas through technical foundations & explore mindfulness-building techniques of yoga nidra, progressive relaxation & meditation.

GOOD OL' TUESDAYS - 7:45-9pm
87 Tennyson St, Elwood
No bookings required, but these classes are already quite squishy.
0409 473 162

Gently progressive spiritual yoga.

By appointment. 0409 473 162.

By appointment.
0409 473 162. Develop a personal yoga program or enjoy weekly sessions.

By appointment privately, or small group courses (7-weeks).
0409 473 162.

Also, NEW Yoga-Me-Well website coming soon :-)

I'm so looking forward to sharing the journey with you this year.

Until then, cheery,

Yoga-Me-Well - it's about shinier people

Dec 6, 2010


Yoga Etiquette

Some yoga nights (and we all have plenty of them), your unwieldy attention flickers from the annoying jangle of someone’s bangles to the cut and curve of another’s new season Lululemon top, or maybe it’s the savoury pong of some predecessor’s footprint on your mat that distracts you.

BO, cascading boobs, too-teeny yogi jocks and unleashing your inner gas; let’s unleash the unspeakables that taunt every yoga class.


Mary Magdalene washed Christ’s feet and dried them with her hair in the most beautiful display of humility and service. Hosing off sock swelter or street patina from sandalled feet before class is a basic courtesy, and you’ll feel fresher after a busy day too.

If body odour is your nemesis, then a quick wipe ‘n’ swipe with a wet cloth and deodorant is hardly excessive class prep and, what’s more, it’s the sign of a compassionate yogi who cares for their mat-side practitioners. Consider loofah-ing your armpits each morning to eliminate odorous dead skin cells, and the rest of your body to maintain your largest organ’s good order.

At one school, we were even encouraged to refrain from eating garlic and wearing perfume, so highly sensitised were many students. The more you refine your practice and diet, the more delicate your senses become, so even a light mist of Calvin Klein’s “Eternity” is liable to punch holes in someone’s brain and zip-lock their lungs. Be whiff-aware on the woofy and pretty smells.


I turned up to my first Bikram hot yoga class in one-piece Speedo bathers and yoga `capri’ pants – hilarious. I was a yo-granny among skimpy-hip yogis strung with filaments of lycra. At least I wasn’t ‘winking’ at anyone like the girl crammed in front of me in her rump-and-crotch-skimming lingerie. My clothes also soaked a good portion of my sweat, unlike the showers rained upon me from bare-skinned practitioners either side. (Use a towel at least!) My friend, Sal, deplored the cheek of one guy whose sweaty see-through yoga jocks seemed even a tad disrespectful to her chuckling sensibilities.

Scoop-neck tops that barely contain boobs, bum cracks and threadbare pants are distracting, though if you really must, inquire underground about the nude yoga movement (yes, it exists).

Know when to retire your gear, including sweat-ingrained apparel that ignites a-new the scent of 100 yoga classes past. . . Ewww.

You know you’re out there Ms Jangly Bangles and Mr I’ll-Sound-Your-House-Down with my tornado-like ujjayi breath. The slim argument is that the rest of the class might benefit through learning to focus beyond clinky arm-wear and overdone breath work, but better to scrape ‘em off before you leave home and learn to ‘whisper’ your ujjayi.


Someone is going to cry. Now these might be restrained tears, or the clam shell of grief cracked wide open reverberating from wall to wall. Working regularly with your cellular structure will begin to release the emotional gunk. Have the heart to know that one day it could be you, and do your very best not to stare. Send a quiet healing prayer, offer a comforting hand if appropriate, or perhaps a tissue.

And yes, someone is going to fart. Loudly. In the quietest possible moment. The windy-popper will likely find it humiliating, and at least one classmate will found it hilarious. Teachers usually quickly move everyone past it with a barrage of instruction, but if they don’t, relax in the knowledge that the yogic fart is virtually an asana in itself – let’s call it “Wind -Releasing Posture” or “Organ Shifting Sequence”. The body must have its release!

Lisa Mitchell is a hatha yoga teacher, relaxation instructor and freelance writer/editor who specialises in holistic wellbeing.

Nov 15, 2010


Generation Yogi

Annalise and Mei walked into the community centre class, two wriggly, giggly pubescent girls. I smiled weakly and sighed. I sighed because I was tired and community centre classes are often demanding; they’re cheap and attract truckloads of lovely people who needs are vast and wide.

Acute back problems, specific injuries, chronic conditions, inflamed emotions, exhausted mums, self-conscious concretised men, the vital and enthused, the depressed and disillusioned  and on this tired night, I knew I couldn’t span the chasm.

“What is it you’d like out of this class?” I asked the girls, who were coming for the first time.

“Fun,” they said.

I explained to them, and their poor, frazzled, over-worked mother, that while they were welcome to attend, they’d enjoy a richer experience at a yoga class tailored to the Yogi Generation. Mum was offended (overtired). How dare I presume her children were lacking the intelligence to grasp the spiritual concepts of an adult class.

“Sigh”. It’s not about intelligence. Yoga for kids and teens is different to yoga for adults. In fact young kids, in particular, are much closer to their spiritual ‘womb’ or inner self because of their all-embracing perspective. We life-worn adults are the ones with steely-bars of unhelpful attitudes and beliefs blocking our way.

Age-appropriate  and developmentally appropriate  yoga can be delivered as the magic it is because children have the imagination and openness to explore yoga’s spirituality. Why shoe-horn a young person’s radically different state-of-mind, emotional and physical being into an older class when passionate teachers are tailoring yogic adventures for 4-7 year-olds, 8-11 year-olds, 12-15 year-olds and higher teens?

Some people question whether kids need yoga at all. What have they got to be all knotted-up about? Ask any primary school cherub and the answer could be “plenty”: missing time with dual-income parents; cyberbullying; parental divorce; loved ones with cancer; sibling rivalry; friendships turned sour; plain old not coping (yes, already).

Here are a few reasons to seek out an age-appropriate class for your beautiful blossoms:

Storm breaker
At a time when teens most need reassurance and support, a yoga teacher makes a terrific storm-breaker. He or she can be a non-threatening, significant source of perspective for beleaguered or confused teens who are trying to work out their place in life. No matter how good the parenting, it helps to have an independent adult (who isn’t emotionally invested) whose soul job (awful pun, but intended) is to recognise, nurture and uplift their individuality.

Competing for gold

Healthy competition is gold for establishing essential qualities like motivation, focus and discipline, but ruthless on self-esteemless others who compare themselves endlessly, and fall short despairingly, of the Chris Judds and Giaan Rooneys of this world. Yoga’s consciously-created, non-competitive space teaches kids that they’re a winner as they are: “You are unique for a reason; no one can ever be a better `you’; and only you can do what you have come to do in this life”. Yoga encourages kids to accept everything they are, the positive and the negative.

Kids’ rapidly evolving bodies are strapped into heavy school bags and plonked on seats far too many hours a day, compressing delicate spines and ceasing muscular activity (and therefore vital internal processes). At home, it’s more of the same at the PC or TV. Osteopaths, chiropractors and Bowen therapists must rub their hands in glee at the security of this income stream. I’m often astounded at how much kids lack in reasonable flexibility and strength.

Wise l’il souls
Imagine if someone had told you at an early age that your potential was infinite, that you had all the resources within you to cope with anything life threw your way, and then showed you how to tap those resources. Yoga teaches self-awareness, self-responsibility (for life and your actions and reactions to it) and how to draw upon intuition and deeper layers of wisdom by connecting to the inner self. That’s one ‘imaginary’ friend you want by your side.

Shhhhh, can you hear it?

Kids rarely hear the sound of silence. One of life’s speedier lessons is “You’re weird, or a geek or a nerd” if you enjoy time alone. How many kids do you know whose extracurricular activities rival the diaries of Blue Chip executives? We’re creating a generation of burnt-outs before they’ve had time to bloom. I had one VCE student who came to class all floppy, and I let her flop in bliss because it was the only place she was allowed to. Yoga for young ‘uns nurtures a reflective, contemplative, clear-thinking generation.

Keep your eyes peeled for flyers.
Google “children’s yoga Melbourne”.
Search or or to find a kids’ class near you.

Visit for a sensational book and CD on mini meditations by Janet Etty-Leal, a wonderfully accomplished meditation teacher who runs her highly successful Meditation Capsules program in schools all over Melbourne.

Check out this excellent boxed set of cards for under 8s (“Creative Yoga Games for Kids”) as well as a guided relaxation CD for teenagers at .

Lisa Mitchell is a hatha yoga teacher, relaxation instructor and freelance writer/editor who specialises in holistic wellbeing.

Nov 3, 2010


The Buddhist and the Black Hole

It’s a relief to know that this ochre-and-orange robed monk was once hospitalised for depression. If you want advice on how to dig yourself out of a black hole, you need a man with a spade on the inside.

Lama Marut, formerly Brian K. Smith, is just the bloke. He’s the favourite sports coach you had when you were five: big like a bear (in a reassuring way), direct, fun and with an American accent that curls around his forthright southern charm. Last month [subs: September] at The Breathing Space studio in Prahran, he delivered a lively and provocative talk on “Depression: The Real Causes and Real Cures”.

For the millions of Australians who emerge time and again from the muck to consider their options - anti-depressants, big bucks on talk therapy, self-help books, and diet and exercise - a wise guy like Lama Marut has some straight answers for fearless seekers.

Get all the help you need, he says, work out what the “real conditions” are around your depression, like a dead-end job (“Why don’t we work as hard on our spiritual lives?”), or the inherited doldrums gene, but ultimately, you need to ask the big questions to find the cure. Why am I here? What’s my purpose in life?

We’re living a consumer capitalist nightmare, he says, so overstimulated and busy entertaining ourselves for fear of boredom that we’ve lost the capacity to be still and to contemplate.

His condensed wisdom and wit on the subject spans the acquisition of patience, the opposite of the “anger turned inward” that lies at the nub of depression, according to Lama Marut (and Freud), and the value of an “ego-ectomy”.

“You pay therapists to make you feel better about yourself. Religion, offers free the idea that you should feel worse about yourself. Spiritual life is about being ego-less . . . if you want to be happy, stop worrying about your own happiness and start worrying about the happiness of others.”

“Real causes” of depression, he says, include the isolation experienced through not appreciating that we are all connected; not following through on spoken intentions and commitments; revelling in other’s misfortunes, and that ol’ consumer-capital chestnut, Envy, where the iPad-elated plunge into iPout Envy (Prius Envy, whatever) with ever-increasing obsolescence cycles.

In two entertaining hours with Lama Marut, how obvious the truth of the matter seems, and how simple applying the Buddhist antidote might be if only you didn’t have that nagging depressive tendency to feel like a cheese wad for not getting all this in the first place and then becoming consumed by fear that you never will! While diet and talk therapy lifted my grimmest turbulence, it’s spirituality that dissipates my recurring storms.

“Buddhists say regret is the only useful negative emotion because it encourages change. Foster good, healthy regret, but not guilt, which is just beating yourself up. Maybe if I beat myself up enough, I won’t have to change!” he responds with that lopsided grin, like a bear trying to smile. He knows all our cheats.

To avoid depression, he recommends accepting responsibility for your own happiness. Adopt the law of Karma (cause and effect)  “what comes around, goes around”, “you reap what you sow” (see reading list below). It empowers you to wield your free will through the understanding that your present actions create your future reality. Handing your life over to a god “to micro-manage” or to the random hand of Fate is one sure-fire way to feel helpless.

Perhaps the easiest curative measure to cultivate is a daily practice of gratitude, he says. Give thanks for the man who fixed your blocked sewer, the farmer who grew your broccoli, the dog that adores your very being. “You are the recipient of so much good will,” he urges, it helps to acknowledge it, continually.

Remember, too, your Buddha nature (you don’t have to be Buddhist to have one): “You have infinite potential to change”. When in the mire, know that “this too shall pass, you won’t feel like this forever”. “Change is the reality. The way to be a happier person is to embrace change. Expect it. Don’t resist it”, he says.

Learn to be more giving. Start slow, and give what is easy to give. Learn to think about other people’s welfare as much as your own, and then, perhaps one day, more than your own.

And finally, cultivate the supreme wish: “that everyone be free of suffering and that I be free of suffering so that I can be free to help others”.


The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness
, by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal and Jon Kabat-Zinn. These psychologists, psychiatrists and scientists distil the anatomy of depression in a brilliantly accessible way and offer a clear process for beating depression. Includes a CD of mindful practices.

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, by Deepak Chopra. Excellent beginner’s guide to living by the Universal Laws (eg: Karma).

The Mood Cure, by Julia Ross. Never underestimate the effect of a bad diet and poor sleep to ignite, and fan, depression.

Lisa Mitchell is a hatha yoga teacher, progressive relaxation instructor and writer/editor who specialises in holistic wellbeing.

Sep 25, 2010


Unwind & Restore - 8 wk course

Hi Everyone,

I'd love you to join me on this special 8-week course - a journey into restorative yoga practice and relaxation - ideal for those who tend to deplete themselves in the gallop toward Christmas.

This is an intimate class of just 9 for more individual attention to develop your yoga.

Learn a set sequence of gentle, slow-moving vinyasa to deepen your experience.

Finish with a 25-min progressive relaxation (PR).

PR moves the body into a deep sleep state, while you remain conscious and alert.

It offers full energy restoration.

Cocoon within your quiet space and replenish your energy reserves.

Course commences Fri 8 Oct - 3 Dec.

Phone bookings only 0409 473 162 by Fri 1 Oct.

Course fee: $120

Looking forward to sharing this time with you.

Sep 20, 2010


The Big Business of Being Well

Ten years ago, it was the triple bottom line - People, Planet, Profit. Now, the Corporate World is strategising over Wellness. What is it and how to deliver it?

Working in the media for 20 years, I commonly found workplace cultures that bred low morale and chronic illness. There were simply too few people doing too many jobs under relentless pressure. Staff were treated like oranges to be juiced and tossed because the allure of media endures, though it frazzles many a young enthusiast.

In recent years, I worked for a bank that offered “high performance mind” sessions to executives. That’s corporate speak for “meditation”. It gave me hope. Now big business is offering movie vouchers and belly dancing to keep staff happy.

The trend toward corporate wellness programs, like the triple-bottom-line before it, is here to stay. Wellness, it seems, now begins at school (Stephanie Alexander’s school gardens project) and at work, rather than home. And corporate wellness providers are everywhere, from entrepreneurial individuals to broad spectrum organisations offering preventative health measures to help us yoga, meditate and work/life balance our way back to sanity.

Michael Stone was well before the crest of this wave in 2003 when he founded the Holistic Services Group Australia (HSGA), and is still there in his acknowledgement that tailoring services to individual employee needs is the next challenge for this nascent industry.

HSGA’s service range is extraordinary: clowning, drumming, tarot reading, iridology, office feng shui and healthy cooking (much in demand thanks to Masterchef) beside traditional offerings of health education, corporate wellness events and stress management and relaxation workshops. It has collated several hundred contractors around Australia to service about 500 clients in seven years.

Organisational psychologist Joanne Abbey of Grow Corporate Wellbeing echoes Stone’s view about personalising services. Companies need to deliver what employees truly value. While massage at your desk is great, a supportive environment that cultivates healthy work relationships is better.

“Culture is the main obstacle to improving wellbeing at work. The first step in a change program is to accurately identify what wellbeing means to employees . . . from there, initiatives can be targeted and results can be quickly measured,” says Abbey, who is researching wellbeing in the private sector. “Wellbeing is more about the quality of connectedness.”

So how do companies find out what employees want?

Australian Unity’s Sharon Beaumont, group executive for human resources, runs regular engagement surveys which ask some1400 staff what’s working, and what’s not. As a result, the company recently launched a 50 per cent subsidy on health insurance for staff who sign-up for approved health products 0as part of its wellness offering and extended paid parental leave.

Stone says that self-managed employee assistance programs are also a good way to gauge what’s hot.

“Ideally, these are funded by the company or subsidised. AMP established a slush fund where staff contribute between $5 and $8 a month and they choose what services they want. It’s completely staff managed and driven, with a participation rate of about 82 per cent,” he says.

Moula or massage?

Sometimes, money talks, says Stone  when IBM offered a $150 cash rebate to employees who attended the company’s physical activity programs, participation rates soared from 10,000 to 100,000!  but not always.

When Delta Airlines offered staff a $45 cash incentive to take a health risk assessment, the response was underwhelming, but raffling 25 gift certificates for a year’s health insurance had them scurrying to the doctor’s suite.

A study by Monash University for TravelSmart Victoria, “Measuring the Benefits of Corporate Health and Wellbeing Initiatives”, found that corporates were implementing programs because it was the “right thing to do” and often failed to monitor and evaluate the value of initiatives.

On this point, Abbey agrees: “It would be very difficult to measure wellbeing because it’s not conceptualised [that is to say]. . . how do you measure something you don’t know how to define?”

The study also found that: “Rigorous scientific studies have failed to prove reduced absenteeism and increased productivity are direct (and measurable) benefits of health initiatives, but the weight of evidence suggest that they do contribute to these goals.”

Enter Stone, with a battery of research that shows wellness programs are making quality inroads.

A Harvard Business Review study into workplace wellness found that work/life balance programs were returning between $3 to $5 on average for every dollar invested. Coca Cola attributes savings of $500 per year per employee.

Stone also quotes research from PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute, done in conjunction with the World Economic Forum, which discusses how employee wellness bolsters the bottomline. It says that the economic case for prevention “is overwhelming”.

In the future, employees who refuse to take ownership of their health through preventative measures may well find employers forcing the issue.

Stone says companies in the US are beginning to reject applicants who smoke or have a high health risk, and legislation currently allows it.

Lisa Mitchell is a hatha yoga teacher, relaxation instructor and freelance writer/editor specialising in holistic wellbeing.

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