Melissa Hamblin Biggs has been practicing yoga for fifteen years and began teaching two years ago. Her classes draw on the ashtanga tradition, a love of adventure and a weakness for silliness to create a vivacious mix of balance, strength, flexibility and breath. She fully understands how daunting the graceful yoga asana can be (and is still struggling with handstands!) which has helped her develop a wealth of tips and tricks to support students enjoy and build on their own practice – whatever the starting point. Melissa loves getting out into nature to rock-climb, hike and swim as well as getting home to raid the pantry for impromptu dinner parties. Genuinely committed to yogic principles – both on and off the mat – Melissa seeks to find the balance that lets us live a flourishing life.
FIVE QUESTION WITH MELISSA HAMBLIN BIGGS
What do you like most about practicing yoga?
That we can be frazzled messes when we step onto the mat and half an hour later have tapped into a deep, calm ocean and feel absolute clarity of purpose.
What has been your biggest struggle with the practice?
Uh, this isn’t very glamourous – but sweaty hands and feet used to top my list of biggest yoga hurdles. They get drenched as soon as I so much as think of getting off the couch. When I first started to practice I’d be slip-sliding all over the place and feeling pretty frustrated and annoyed. I’m glad I found a good non-slip mat – I’ve lugged that thing all over the world! I also try to practice on a regular mat every now and then – changing the direction of energy mostly stops me slipping plus it’s good to try to grow my patience.
Practice is the main struggle with my practice though – how to give myself the space to fill up and focus on the important things. That goes for all the elements of yoga like the ethics of compassion, truthfulness, faithfulness, living simply; the need for self-discipline in things like contentment, optimism, perseverance and self-reflection; and making time for my asana (postural yoga), pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation practice.
What inspires you?
I’m passionate about social justice and the idea of trying to live both ethically and fulsomely. I am inspired by people who not only feel compassion but who actually act. There are the amazing and (rightly) famous people like Catherine Hamlin but also every-day, ordinary people who work hard to make a difference in their jobs or through volunteering or in their own daily actions and decisions.
I’m also endlessly inspired by travel and adventure – there is a great quote from philanthropist John G. Shedd that “A ship in harbour is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” The mystery and excitement of adventure is exhilarating – and inspires me to seek out that feeling even when I’m not travelling on halfway up a rock-face. It inspires me to play in my asana practice, skip down Pitt Street in a suit, really push on a decision at work that I think will help people or just decide that preserved lemon icecream might be a good idea (it is).
What are you grateful for?
Love. My partner, family and friends can drive me nuts but I fully recognise that I am unbelievably blessed to be surrounded and supported by their love and I am so so grateful for it.
What’s your favourite yoga philosophy?
My favourite mantra is Om lokah samista sukimum bhavantu which translates as ‘May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.’
It reminds me that while I may only be a tiny blip in scheme of things, my happiness and well-being are still important. They help me to take the opportunity to put light and joy and love out into the world – and that is a pretty special thing.
The mantra also reminds me that there is a whole world of people out there who want to do the same thing. They also want to radiate freedom and happiness into the world even if, when they nick your parking spot, they might have forgotten that for a moment.
My favourite life philosophy which, I guess, makes it a yoga philosophy is: ‘everything in moderation, including moderation’.
Living in simplicity, being peaceful and open to the universe, getting enough sleep, having a regular asana practice, munching on kale, and thoughtfully considering abstruse points of philosophy is all very well but sometimes what the soul really craves is an all-night dance party rounded off with a dawn dive into the sea. If that’s what’s needed, own it.