Yoga for bush fire relief
by Katie Brown, 13-Jan-2020
Many of us have struggled to wish people Happy New Year when a large proportion of country is on fire. It’s soul destroying seeing images of people losing homes, animals suffering and our beautiful flora being wiped away.
But what is heart-warming is seeing how the community has come together to help – and as yoga teachers, we can all play our part – offering our wonderful classes while raising vital funds and awareness.
This is what one IYTA teacher has been doing – Julie Atkinson was devastated when she saw the news footage of the fires, so at the weekend she held her first class by donation in Melbourne to help raise funds for Firesticks an indigenous organisation which teaches cultural practices to fire management.
Julie has been an IYTA member since 1989 when she completed her Diploma of Yoga Teaching. She’s been holding classes ever since and is also a shiatsu practitioner and qualified in Okido Yoga.
This isn’t the first time Julie has stepped up to help – after the Black Saturday fires in Victoria in 2009, Julie took her massage chair and made several visits to Kinglake – massaging volunteer firefighters and members of the community.
Julie says: ‘The weather forecast for this day was for extreme temperatures and strong winds and despite many warnings in place, 173 people lost their lives.’
Julie was so moved by the loss of life and properties that when a call went out for massage therapists, she jumped at the chance to do something to help.
She says: ‘Arriving at the camp set up near Kinglake -one of the most severely affected communities - at the nearby Whittlesea Showgrounds for the CFA & other emergency service workers just tore at my heartstrings. There were so many people offering their help, working behind the scenes ...an incredible amount of food donated and such a feeling of kindness and goodwill.
‘The people who came for the massages include firies, emergency service workers, people from the local communities & victims of the fire. Through your hands you could feel you were making a difference to tight overworked muscles and in relieving stress and other emotions. People were very grateful and appreciative of our help and the massages were very popular.’
Julie and her husband Roger a retired meteorologist, often take motorbike rides through the Victorian & NSW High Country – areas such as Mount Kosciuszko, Mount Hotham and Falls Creek – areas which have been severely affected by the recent bushfires.
She says: ‘We love all these beautiful places and communities and really feel for all those affected in so many ways. I usually sit on the back of the motorbike taking photos of the beautiful country that we ride through and can only imagine the devastation that has taken place. I remembered Black Saturday & wanted to do something no matter how small to make a difference.’
She adds: ‘I have friends making bat wraps & pouches for koalas and wanted to find a way that I could help. I feel that yoga is a wonderful way to help others who are not directly impacted (although we pretty much all are now with the hazardous air that we are breathing) are feeling overwhelmed with all the heartbreaking news.
Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches that anxiety, overthinking and sympathy are the emotions which affect our earth element and Okido Yoga offers various practices to help ground us and nourish the stomach and spleen - the organs and meridians associated with the Earth element. Its practices include partner and group exercises which help forge connections and a sense of community.
So Julie decided to take action and last Saturday held her first class. She says: ‘I was offered a room to teach, so I made up an event in Facebook. I didn’t know how popular it would be – but within a couple of days I had about 84 people interested and 12 people saying they’d come! It was a bit of a squeeze – but ten people turned up and the class went really well.’
Julie made a total of $230 from the class which has gone to the Firesticks.
She focused on helping people feel connected to the energy of the earth and poses to relieve anxiety and clear the mind. At the end the students did a heart opening visualisation.
Julie has now been offered space at the local urban farm & garden where she’ll be holding another class this Saturday (January 18, 2020). Details below:
If you are in the area, please join Julie in a practice of Okido Yoga in the beautiful grounds of Ceres Joe’s Market Garden this Saturday morning with donations accepted forWildlife Victoria.
The session will include practices to help ground us and relieve anxiety, nourishing our earth element. BYO Yoga mat & or blanket (I’ll have a few spare) & water bottle.
Afterwards you might want to grab a coffee or check out the fresh market produce on sale until 1pm 😊🙏
Contact Julie with any enquiries on 0481286079.