The art of giving ….. and receiving.

“The universe operates through dynamic exchange . . . giving and receiving are different aspects of the flow of energy in the universe. And in our willingness to give that which we seek, we keep the abundance of the universe circulating in our lives.” – Deepak Chopra

As we approach the time of year where giving and receiving may begin to be at the forefront of our minds I wanted you to consider what is better, to give or to receive?

The answer may not be as simple as it seems. The action of giving and receiving has a powerful impact on our relationships, not only with others but with yourself as well. Are you better at giving or receiving? I know that I certainly favour one over the other…and it’s probably not the one you would think! Whilst I love buying gifts for others and make an effort to compliment others, I”m not very good at receiving either of those myself.

Receiving is as necessary and important as giving. While giving feels wonderful, it only works when there is a receiver. Allowing yourself to be a gracious receiver is a humbling experience and a true act of love because it offers a chance for others to give.

Receiving is not about expecting others to give to you. It is about receiving a gift without guilt or without feeling obliged to give back. Maybe you can’t receive gifts without negative thoughts popping up, such as, “I don’t deserve this” or “Now I feel like I owe her/him.”

How you receive is just as important to the giver’s happiness as it is to your own. To receive in a good way requires you to do away with the negative thoughts and instead pause and reflect on the exchange and what it means: friendship, support, love, etc. This fuels a great deal of happiness in both the giver and receiver.

Nature provides perfect examples of this dynamic exchange of giving and receiving that is necessary for the flow of life. You receive the gift of oxygen from trees, and you give them carbon dioxide. Insects receive nectar from flowers, and they give the gift of pollination. Symbiotic relationships are abundant in nature and are needed for the ecosystem to continue to thrive. Since you are also part of nature, you too need to both give and receive to stay happy and healthy.

Giving can inspire great positive change and healing in a world that needs it.

Spending more time thinking about ways you can give is often accompanied by feelings of peace and joy. Giving comes naturally to humans because it taps into that innate part of ourselves that gravitates toward connection.

Become conscious of your current relationship with giving and see how it can be improved so you don’t fall prey to the downside of giving too much (or too little) of yourself.

This is where self-care, in the form of being able to receive support, love, and encouragement from others plays a vital role in keeping the energy of giving and receiving circulating in your life.

Here are some small (free) ways you can strengthen the flow of giving in your life:
Compliment a stranger.
Send a message of appreciation.
Give a hug.
Say “thank you.”
Give a homemade gift.


Beat the Winter Blues

What do dormice, hedgehogs and bats have in common? They are the only 2 mammals which hibernate here in the UK. And, at this time of year, I feel like joining this exclusive club. Fatten me up, roll me in a ball and let me retreat to my cosy nest and, only wake me up when the first daffodils are raising their joyful heads towards spring! Sadly, we humans don’t have the luxury of undisturbed winter slumber so, instead, I thought I’d share some tips to make the shortening autumnal days as bright as they can possibly be. Enjoy!


Exercise Rich, Movement Poor

I listened to a really interesting podcast recently and, heard this term. (Check it the episode here as it was fascinating).

As you watch your parents or your grandparents’ generation age, you’ve probably noticed it yourself. Seniors who are physically active are generally just more mentally “with it” than those who are content to sit in the easy chair and nod off in front of Antiques Roadshow (NB, nothing wrong with a bit of vegging out so long as it’s not for hours at at time! I have a particular penchant for the Real Housewives!)

In fact, study after study has shown that people who move more don’t just have healthier hearts and lungs (and maybe better definition in the calf muscles). They usually score better on tests that measure memory and decision-making as well. There’s a reason that people in the health world sometimes call exercise “food for the brain.”

It is true that this kind of research usually relies on people’s own estimation of how much physical activity they get, which can be unreliable. However, the results from one recent study should banish any uncertainty. Scientists strapped accelerometers, electronic devices that measure movement, to nearly 500 people and tracked them for 20 years, to see how much they moved corresponded to how well they did on cognitive tests they regularly took for the length of the study. The conclusion was inescapable: move more; think better!

So now researchers are on the threshold of figuring out the hard part: what’s going on inside your brain when your body is in motion. In other words, what explains these almost (but not) too good-to-be-true results. Here’s the take-away to date:

Your brain gets better “irrigated”.  

Think of your gray matter as your own inside-the-body garden. And just like a garden, it needs to be regularly watered, or else patches here and there will wither and even die off. So goes the brain. It needs healthy circulation in the small vessels inside of it to bring oxygen and nutrients throughout the organ. And nothing promotes healthy blood flow and tamps down the production of vessel-clogging plaque like moving the body.

Your brain gets bigger.

Let’s stick with the brain-as-garden idea. In a well-nourished garden, your plants sprout new leaves and shoots. Same with the brain. Exercise promotes something called “neurogenesis.” Put simply, you grow more new brain cells. Blood drawn from exercisers is likely to show a higher level of a particular chemical, BDNF, that promotes cell growth upstairs. And the more your brain is able to generate new cells, the better it can respond and adapt to the changing world around you. (Ever notice that some seniors seem to be stuck in a past decade. Don’t let that be you.) Scientists have a fancy term for this: neuroplasticity.

The very latest research has even shown that the brains of people who move more are actually, on average, physically bigger! They have a thicker cerebral cortex, where the brain does most of its cognitive heavy lifting. (The hippocampus region, essential for making and keeping memories, is especially important here.) When we’re younger, a physically bigger brain doesn’t necessarily mean a smarter brain. But, as we age, shrinking brain volume spells cognitive problems. So get moving – and keep moving!

Brain and body fight inflammation together.    

For all the direct effects that exercise has on brain health, the indirect ones, via the cardiovascular system may be just as important. Moving the body eats up excess sugar in the bloodstream which not only keeps the heart healthy but keeps our muscle cells sensitive to insulin. We get more mileage with less insulin and that protects us from prediabetes and diabetes and ensures the whole body is running on an even keel (think, low-inflammation). That very much includes the brain. It’s now well established that people with cardiovascular and metabolic issues are at much higher risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s. For years, integrative doctors have thought of these neurological conditions as diseases caused by “inflamed brains.” And now brand-new research is suggesting that exercise may be tamping down brain inflammation directly by maintaining the health of the brain’s immune cells, the microglia.

A happy brain is a smart brain.   

I hope you‘ve noticed that when you’re getting more physical activity in your life, you usually just feel better, about everything. We know that exercise stimulates the production of a brew of brain chemicals that make us feel good, everything from endorphins to serotonin and dopamine. And new research suggests that it can actually increase the number of dopamine receptors in the brain, helping to keep us “receptive” to the fun things in life. (In other words, the answer to the “same old, same old” syndrome.) Movement also serves to keep our stress hormones in check. High levels of our primary stress hormone, cortisol, are closely associated with depression which is all too good at making your brain feel sluggish. We now know that exercise can be as or more effective than side-effect-laden anti-depression drugs in combating depression.

Grab Your Slice of the Brain Benefit Pie and try ‘Exercise Snacking‘ 

OK, this one isn’t brain science (except that it is): move your body. The government recommends at least two hours a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. Boring and dutiful-sounding, right? The antidote to that is to build movement into your everyday activities: take walks and climb stairs to get where you’re going; take a break at your desk and do some stretching; do anything other than sitting in one spot for prolonged periods of time. You may not consider these frequent mini breaks throughout the day a “work-out” but your body does. What’s more, your insulin metabolism will become more efficient and those brain-enhancing brain chemicals will begin to pump.

All that said, the research does suggest that some of the brain benefits of physical activity are enhanced when you move vigorously, working at higher heart-rate levels. That doesn’t mean you have to be down at the track doing sprint intervals like you’re training for the Olympics (but if that’s your thing, go for it). Try taking a daily long walk. Maybe you do half the walk at your normal comfortable soaking-in-the-scenery pace and the other half as briskly as you can, without breaking a sweat or into a jog. Like to swim? Alternate between sprints and laps done at a more relaxed pace. It all works, so don’t just stand there, move your body to support your brain!

The power of silence

Ah, September, time for my yearly ritual to escape for a few days on my own. To do some yoga, to explore a new place and, to be quiet.

Silence can be a very powerful antidote against today’s increasingly loud and busy world. Quiet moments throughout the day do not only ease our minds, but it also helps us to be in touch with ourselves and develop a stronger connection with others. Silence also serves as a bridge between feeling and response. By taking mindful pauses throughout our day, even just for a few minutes, we benefit from improved decision-making skills and enhanced mental clarity.

As silence is so much more than just the absence of noise, but about slowing down and quieting the inner chatter, here a few tips on how to carve valuable moments of silence in our everyday lives:


Notifications have become embedded in our everyday lives. While it’s impossible to ignore, it’s not impossible to escape. From completely disabling alerts and notifications to setting ‘do not disturb’ hours on our devices, we are ultimately in control of how much input we want to allow. it is equally important to remember that we don’t have to available 24/7 either. Not every mail or call needs to be answered immediately.


Make it a habit to enjoy a daily activity that does not involve a screen. From reading a book to enjoying a short series of restorative yoga poses, taking a break from the screen does not only help quiet a busy mind, but it also helps the body relax and release tension.


Are you having a hard time finding silence spontaneously? Carve moments of solitude by blocking it on your calendar. By making it a priority, it will become an indispensable part of your routine.


Creating space for gratitude does not only invite us to be more present, but it also brings the fullness of silence. From keeping a gratitude journal to expressing our appreciation to others, we can practice gratitude in many ways. If you are not doing it yet, you can start by thinking about three things you are grateful for each day.


Not everyone can keep still and sit quietly with their thoughts. If this sounds like you, put on your shoes and enjoy a stroll. Thanks to the repeated movement and the steady rhythm of your footfall, walking naturally allows your mind to go quiet. Not only is it good for clearing your thoughts, but it also is a good way to get your body moving too.


Spending time outdoors is a powerful way to cultivate stillness. From observing the vivid colors of the sunset to enjoying the cold winter breeze, spending time outdoors activates our senses in ways that we don’t experience indoors. It invites us to be fully and truly present.

Time to have fun!

There’s a very simple but very brilliant piece of art by a talented man called Mr Bingo that I often think about. It’s a 14cm-high gravestone with the words “Don’t forget to have fun” engraved into it. It’s the perfect alternative to your aunt’s “Live Laugh Love” cushions and I absolutely adore it.

His is one of the few accounts on Instagram,  that actually makes scrolling enjoyable. Fun for the sake of fun. He is also beautifully cynical about life, which is also my default when I’m not wearing my cheery yoga hat. It’s important to have different hats, by the way. But that’s for another post.

There has been a bit of friend sadness that I’ve been dealing with the past few weeks, and it made me think, maybe I should write a post that we can all go back to when things get bleak and it will remind us all to find the fun when we can.

Or maybe at least to find some time in the darkness when we really need it. I know it’s hard to find at the moment, though. Right now, the world is metaphorically, politically and literally on fire, so when you find some fun, grab on to it, dear. Grab on to it with all your might.

Apply this to a friendship, a relationship, a job, whatever. You are allowed to laugh way more than you are, even when things are hard. Have you, in all the sadness and madness of the past few years, forgotten the fun?

Call up your friend and plan a long overdue night out. Do something spontaneous with your partner. (This can be as cringeworthy and silly as you wish!)  Single out the not-awful people you work with and spend a bit of time with them out of the office. There might be a brilliant new friend waiting for you.

Prioritising fun once in a while should not leave you feeling guilty.It gives you the energy to carry on going when things feel hard. Grant yourself permission to have a break from it all. And please attend to your own fun first before helping others with theirs…because you’re important too!

We’re all going on a summer holiday!

After the chaos and uncertainty of the last couple of years, it’s hardly surprising that so many of us feel in need of a break.

Whether you’re feeling stressed, need an escape from the news cycle or are struggling to juggle all your responsibilities, the chance to spend a week relaxing on the beach or exploring an unfamiliar city is just what the doctor ordered.

The only problem? As much as you might feel in need of a break, switching off might not prove as easy as you expect it to be – especially if you’re used to being busy all the time.

Being in a relaxing environment certainly helps, but if your mind is still preoccupied with a million and one things, it can be hard to reap the benefits of spending time away.

Of course, the last thing you want is to feel wired the whole time you’re on holiday. Everyone deserves the chance to relax, unwind and enjoy some time away from the buzz of everyday life – and that’s where this article comes in.

To give you the tools you need to enjoy a restorative holiday this summer,  psychotherapist Laura Duester shares her top tips for switching off. Here’s what she had to say.

Switch off work messages

As tempting as it may be to check in on work while you’re away, doing so will only add to your stress levels and make it harder for you to relax in the long run.

“It’s impossible to relax on holiday if you’re constantly checking and responding to work messages,” Duester explains. “Before leaving, hand over important issues to your colleagues, set a holiday voicemail and email autoreply (including your return to work date), and inform any important contacts or clients. You can then turn off your notifications and leave your work laptop and phone at home.

“Alternatively, if you can’t completely switch off from work while you’re away, plan to log in once a day at a set time, limit how long you spend checking messages and only reply to the most urgent/pressing issues.”

Decide your holiday priorities

To remove any holiday-related stress, Duester recommends setting some priorities for your trip before you leave, so you know exactly what you want to see, do and experience.

“What’s the priority for your holiday – do you want relaxation, family time, sightseeing, sporting activities or something else?” Duester says.

“There’s never enough time to do everything, so work out what’s most important to you and prioritise that. It might help to imagine how you’ll feel when the holiday is over – what will you want to remember that you’ve done and enjoyed?”

Put your worries on hold

If you’re someone who struggles to put their worries aside, this simple technique is a great way to give yourself space to unwind.

“Even when you’re on a sunny beach or exploring a new town, real-life worries can pop into your head and be hard to ignore,” Duester says. “Try writing down anything that’s bothering you and then mentally put your concern(s) on hold.

“If the same thoughts pop up repeatedly, gently acknowledge them and let them go, telling yourself you’ll have a chance to worry about them later. You can return to your list of worries, and decide on what actions you need to take, when you get home.”

Let go of unrealistic expectations

The process of going on holiday can be stressful and it’s likely you’ll run into a few roadblocks along the way. However, the way you think about these issues can make a world of difference to your ability to relax.

“From flight delays to forgetting your hairbrush, there will always be things that go wrong on holiday,” Duester says. “While this can be frustrating when you’ve spent a lot of money and want everything to be perfect, the best strategy is to accept and manage any problems as they arise.

“Let go of stress and expectations, take a deep breath, see if you can find a different solution and try to find the funny side (if possible).”

Ditch the guilt

Our fast-paced lifestyles have made us feel guilty about taking time off – but don’t let that feeling stand in the way of giving yourself the break you deserve.

“In today’s fast-paced society, slowing down and enjoying yourself can provoke serious feelings of guilt,” Duester explains. “Remind yourself that it’s your holiday and you’re allowed to take a break. If you want to ignore social media, have a siesta every day or read Mills & Boon novels, give yourself permission and enjoy it!”

The body keeps the score

A while ago, I read a fascinating book ‘The body Keeps the Score’ by Bessel Van der Kolk. The title underscores the book’s central idea: Exposure to stress or trauma fosters the development of a hyperactive alarm system and molds a body that gets stuck in fight/flight, and freeze. Trauma interferes with the brain circuits that involve focusing, flexibility, and being able to stay in emotional control. A constant sense of danger and helplessness promotes the continuous secretion of stress hormones, which wreaks havoc with the immune system and the functioning of the body’s organs. When someone who has experienced either of these emotions feels safe; to inhabit their bodies; to tolerate feeling what they feel, and knowing what they know, they begin to heal. This may involve a range of interventions (one size never fits all), including various forms of therapy including meditation and yoga.

Holistic chiropractor Dr Bradley Nelson claims in his book ‘The Emotion Code’ that emotionally charged events from our past can haunt us years down the track. He believes that these ‘trapped emotions’ can create physical aches and pains in the body. Norwich-based health kinesiologist Monique Thapar explains that the body can store positive and negative energy from our day-to-day experiences, which can lead to us feeling physically and mentally well – or not. “Using indicator muscle testing as a communication tool, we can allow the body to guide us on where and how to release tightness at a cellular and tissue level,” Thapar claims.

“While we may have a very good idea consciously where there is an issue, things like muscle memory helps to guide us on a subconscious level where there may be concerns.”

There is a school of thought among some yoga teachers that some yoga postures and sequences can help to release stored emotions. These yoga teachers refer to tight hips, jaws, shoulders and the neck as potentially being an indicator of not only stress but also trapped emotions. 

While we can easily blame the tension in our bodies on activities such as sitting at a desk, scrolling through our mobile phones and driving, sometimes it feels as though the tension comes from carrying the weight of the world.

If we think about how we can feel guarded when experiencing difficult emotions, it makes sense that we contract different parts of the body to protect ourselves from being hurt further. According to yoga teacher Jay Johal Davies, it is these constant contractions that can cause the body to store emotions. 

 Research suggests that our emotions are electrochemical signals that carry messages throughout the body and are then either expressed, experienced or stored in the body and mind, where they can influence the cells in our bodies,” Davies tells Stylist.

 “The symptoms of traumatic stress, for example, can manifest physically because the brain associates an area of the body with a particular memory – often on a subconscious level.


Take the backbend, for example. The movement is counter-intuitive to our typical posture of sitting forward when typing, texting or driving. In yoga, backbends are often referred to as “heart openers” – an apt name when we consider that emotions may have remained dormant around our hearts simply because of our lifestyle choices. The same can be said of hip-opening postures that move the hip in a range of motions that far exceed those of simply sitting.

After 45 minutes of bending, stretching, tightening and tensing muscles in new ways, it’s unsurprising when we come to relax that our emotions are more likely to show up. For yogis, this is usually during savasan at the end of the class. 

You might feel nothing. Or you could start crying, feel angry or experience the urge to laugh. The workout lowers our guard and we become both physically and emotionally vulnerable. This doesn’t just occur in yoga, of course; whenever we are deeply immersed in doing physical activity (such as running, for example), we might feel intense emotion.


“Yoga offers time and space to reconnect with our bodies; moments where participants pause throughout the class to set intentions – to feel, think and reflect,” Davies adds. 

 “Students are encouraged to not only bring their bodies to their mats but their mind and hearts also; to pay attention to feelings in the body and mind, labelling these and then reflecting on them afterwards.” 

Breathwork should also be considered,” Thapar contributes, “as when you breathe into those areas of tightness and tension, that’s really powerful and can involve an emotional release and shifts in energy.”

 Additionally, yoga offers its participants a sense of community whereby the activity isn’t focused on competition but on being in unity with others and the self. This environment provides a feeling of safety that can be conducive to emotions being easily expressed.

“Yoga offers time and space to reconnect with our bodies; moments where participants pause throughout the class to set intentions – to feel, think and reflect,” Davies concludes. 

 “Students are encouraged to not only bring their bodies to their mats but their mind and hearts also; to pay attention to feelings in the body and mind, labelling these and then reflecting on them afterwards.” 



Mental Health Awareness Week 2022

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and this year the Mental Health Foundation’s focus is on loneliness – raising awareness of just how many of us are affected by it, the impact it can have on our mental health and, importantly, what we can do about it.

We have perhaps never needed to focus on connection more than now. A survey highlighted by the National Academy for Social Prescribing found that while the majority of people interviewed said it is important for their mental health to feel connected to their community, more than half said they are now taking part in fewer social activities than they did before the pandemic.

We can all admit to having felt lonely at some point. What can trigger it? It may be external influences such as a relationship breakdown, bereavement, dysfunctional friendship, moving location or a change in role personally or professionally.

But there is also an internal aspect to loneliness that we don’t speak about much: not spending time understanding who we are, not living a life aligned to our own unique self, ignoring our need for time on our own and for space to get to know ourselves.

And this is because loneliness is not always the same as being alone. Loneliness is the feeling you get when you don’t feel connected – to others, to yourself, to the world. When you don’t feel heard, valued, listened to or seen, or when you don’t recognise any part of yourself within others, when you feel no one cares about or understands you.

Why does loneliness cause us so much hurt? Ultimately, because our need for connection is innate in us. Way before the pandemic, the statistics about how many of us felt lonely were staggering, and the ripples are still being felt. What we have to ensure is that the conversation that started getting more prominence around loneliness during the pandemic not only continues, but actually gets acted upon – through connection.

Find out more using the link below:

How to breathe better!

Taking a deep breath is meant to be a catch-all cure for a multitude of ills.

Feeling stressed, angry, upset, tired, nauseous? Take a deep breath. It will help.

Breathing keeps us alive. We breathe in and out about 22,000 times a day, and we do it without thinking. But what happens when our breath rhythm is off? And how can you tell if you’re doing it wrong?

Experts believe that measuring our breath rate could be more important for our fitness, concentration, stress and even life expectancy, than tracking heart rate or steps. But research by smart wearables brand Amazfit shows that 68% of us do not know what a healthy breath rate range is – or how to monitor and control it.

So, how does breathing actually work? Understanding the mechanism is key to improving our technique.

The process of respiration provides the body with oxygen and removes carbon dioxide as a waste product, and the number of breaths we take per minute can be a marker of how healthy we are.

Breathing too quickly could contribute to problems including high blood pressure, stress and anxiety, while too slowly could indicate problems such as sleep apnoea or depression, due to the lack of oxygen and higher levels of carbon dioxide in the body.

Breath rate is also increasingly important this winter as breathlessness is noted as the second most common symptom for those suffering from Covid and Long Covid, according to the Office of National Statistics.

Scientists at the University of Rome found that measuring breath rate is ‘superior’ to tracking other vital health statistics, including pulse, but this metric is often overlooked.

Another study published in the European Heart Journal found breath rate was linked with heart attack mortality for those at high-risk. Heart and circulatory diseases cause a quarter of all deaths in the UK, according to the British Heart Foundation.

Even those who are fit can optimise their physical performance and concentration by monitoring – and responding to – their breath rate. Studies show that slow-breathing exercises can help alleviate symptoms of depression, as well as reduction in blood pressure for patients with hypertension.

Meanwhile, current research at the University of Sheffield is underway to monitor more than a hundred people who have had Covid symptoms, including monitoring patterns with their breath rate.

‘We know breath rate is an extremely useful measurement in a hospital setting, but until now we haven’t been able to measure it in a home environment,’ says Professor Allan Lawrie, from University of Sheffield.

‘We aim to track over a hundred individuals to remotely monitor changes in their breath rate in combination with heart rate and activity to find out what we can learn about current and future cardiovascular and respiratory health.’

Dr Punam Krishan, an NHS GP with a special interest in lifestyle medicine, adds: ‘Life gets busy and taking time out to pause can often seem impossible. Learning to breathe effectively can become a powerful and effective tool that can be used anytime and anywhere to help restore calm, focus and clarity.’

Two simple breathing exercises to try

The anti-ager: Waterfall

‘Our metabolism produces toxic by-products, including carbon dioxide and other free radicals, and unless these are cleared, they can age our body. The key to this breath is a neurotransmitter called nitric oxide. When we breathe through our nose, the nitric oxide it creates has proven to take pressure off our heart, dilate blood vessels and even promote healthier chromosome lifespan.’

How to:

  1. Breathing only through your nose, bounce up and down on both feet for one minute.
  2. Coming back to standing, fold your upper body towards the floor (or as far down as you can). Let your head, neck, shoulders and arms hang loose.
  3. While in this position, breathe towards your tailbone. This fires up the diaphragm (our most efficient breathing muscle).
  4. After about thirty seconds of breathing upside down, slowly come back upright. Place hands on your lower belly and, still breathing through your nose, breathe gently and fully towards your palms. Practice letting your belly expand on inhalation and relax on exhalation. Breathe this way for five minutes.

Sleep-booster: Rising Tide Breath

‘This works by soothing our internal fight and flight mechanism and replacing it with what our body needs to rest and digest. What sets this technique apart is how it stimulates the yawn reflex, which helps prepare our body to make the change in state from active to sleepy.’

How to:

  1. Shut your eyes and take a breath deep into your lower belly. Hold your breath and contract every muscle in your body for as long as you can.
  2. Exhale and relax. Repeat this breath-holding-contraction two to three times or until your muscles begin to soften.
  3. Let the next inhale be slower than the one before. Filling from your lower body up to the collarbones, feel it stretch every part of your lower torso before expanding each rib in turn. As this wave-like sensation meets your collarbones, imagine the inhale to continue upwards. Placed currently, your soft palate will feel to broaden (like a yawn).
  4. Pausing at your inhale’s peak, once again, squeeze your entire body. Use the exhale to shed yet more tension. Continue breathing this way for ten minutes.

Five tips to control and improve your breath rate

To help you put all of this advice into practice, Dr Punam has shared her top tips to help you breathe better:

Become aware of your breathing

‘Often we breathe fast and shallow, which isn’t effective, so it’s important to become conscious of how you breathe,’ says Dr Punam.

‘Practice breathing deeply by taking deep breaths in through your nose with one hand on your chest and the other on your belly, feeling both hands rise and fall as you breathe out through your mouth.’

Dr Punam says this deeper breathing will ensure better airflow and more oxygen into the body.

‘If you’re using a wearable device, you’ll notice your pulse and heartbeat instantly slow as your stress levels reduce,’ she says.

Use pursed lips to breathe

‘Pursing your lips when you’re short of breath can help you relax, and slows the pace of your breathing by using less energy,’ says Dr Punam.

Comparison is the thief of joy

A new student came to class recently. Like so many newbies to the mat, she was anxious about not being able to keep up with the class; not being flexible enough but first and foremost in her mind was the fear she’d look foolish. I get it. I’ve been there too and I often fear that as I”m a yoga teacher, I’m being judged even MORE critically! No matter how experienced a yogi you are, it never does any harm to remind ourselves that…

1) No Two Yogis Are Alike

What’s your favorite yoga pose? I’m willing to bet that if you surveyed the group of yogis that practice alongside you, each person would have a different response. For example, while some people’s favorite time during their yoga practice is savasana, I find this to be one of the most challenging poses in my practice because I tend to have a difficult time clearing my head. You are different from everyone else in your class: your body is different, your level of experience is different, and your strengths and weaknesses are different. The things that make you unique make you as a yogi completely incomparable to any other yogi.

2) Your Practice Is Entirely Your Own

Why do you do yoga? For some people it is for fitness, for some it’s for relaxation, and for others it may be spiritual. We all have our own reasons for doing yoga and our journeys have all been uniquely different. Allowing yourself to compare where you are on your journey with those around you requires you to assume things about your fellow yogis that you just don’t know. Such comparison is unfair to yourself and unfair to those around you. Allow yourself to embrace where you are on your yoga journey, with the knowledge that your mat is there just for you.

3) Your Fellow Yogis Can Add To Your Practice

I would by lying if I told you that I never let my eyes drift to those around me during yoga class. Especially during challenging poses, I sometimes like to see how others are making the poses their own. But an important lesson that I’ve learned during my yoga journey is that those around you can inspire, rather than detract from your practice. When I see my fellow yogis courageously take on poses that I’m not quite up for yet, I feel encouragement to continue in my practice and to challenge myself to meet new personal goals.

4) Comparison Can Steal Your Focus

Theodore Roosevelt spoke one of my favorite quotes, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Nowhere have I found this more applicable than in my yoga practice. Being able to take time for myself to practice yoga brings a great deal of happiness and balance to my life and I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity and physical ability to practice. Comparing yourself to those around you and competing with your fellow yogis can take away from the reasons you enjoy yoga and can shift your focus in a way that detracts from your practice. Keep your focus inward – where are your own thoughts today? What do your muscles feel like? Have you been listening to your body? If you’re focused on comparing yourself to those around you, you’re stealing from yourself some of the benefits that yoga can bring you. For that short amount of time – bask in the joy that yoga brings you as an individual.

5) You’re Part Of A Community

Competition involves rivalry. It involves trying to push past others and of course, to win. Throughout my yoga journey, I have never once felt that I was practicing alongside a rival. In fact, even when I’m in a room full of strangers practicing yoga, I always feel as if I’m amongst friends. One of my favorite things to do when I’m traveling is to drop-in on a yoga class at a local studio. It’s always a wonderful experience and I’ve never once felt like the “new kid” or an “outsider.” Yogis make up an incredibly diverse and welcoming community, one where competition would simply be out of place, and I feel honored to be a part of it.

6) There Is No Finish Line

There is no “perfect” in yoga. There’s no getting to the “end” of your practice. There are always ways to continue to grow and continue to learn. Therefore, I’ve come to understand that there is no need to compare where I am in my practice to where others are. There’s no rush – yoga is not a race. This ever-changing journey always has something more to give us, and I look forward to practicing alongside each of you as we continue.