September surrender.

Long, warm summer days are behind us and the crisp scent of autumn is in the air. I love this time of year but, while a new season brings new beginnings, September can also spark high levels of anxiety for some.

According to Bupa, September can be an unsettling month and often bring new worries. Dr Arun Thiyagarajan, Medical Director at Bupa Health Clinics, says: “It’s not uncommon for us to suspend our usual routine and habits during the summer months, which can make it harder to adjust back to normality.”

“Much like how we used to feel as children when September saw us going back to school, this period brings a sense of trepidation and naturally we may feel a bit unsettled,” he adds.

“While September isn’t officially the start of Autumn, it does feel like a change of season, which can also play a part in our mood and mental health. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern.”


Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that comes and goes according to the weather. Often in autumn and winter, many people suffer from “winter depression” caused by a lack of light.

“The exact cause of SAD isn’t fully understood, but the main theory is that a lack of sunlight might affect a part of the brain called the hypothalamus working properly, which may affect the production of serotonin, the hormone that affects our mood, appetite and sleep. The lack of sunlight and lower serotonin levels can lead to feelings of depression,” Dr Arun says.

If you’re feeling on edge, Bupa has this advice…


1.Know what you’re dealing with
One of the most common causes of anxiety is feeling overwhelmed, often without a reason behind it. Talking to a medical professional, or even to a close friend, can help you to understand why you are feeling this way. Even just a 10-minute conversation can give you clarity and the tools you need to tackle your anxiety.

2.Keeping busy
Staying busy is a great distraction and can help to keep your symptoms at bay. If you find yourself feeling down or anxious, why not arrange to meet up with a friend for coffee or head outside together for a refreshing walk? Fresh air and a chat are bound to lift your spirits.

3.Getting some vitamin D
It’s no surprise that soaking up some sunshine boosts your mood, so why not head outside on your lunch break or sit in the garden one afternoon? Spending time in the sun, preferably surrounded by nature, can help to relieve feelings of anxiety, as well as boosting your energy.

This can be an excellent tool to manage the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Carving some time out of your busy day to reflect, relax and meditate has been proven to have a positive impact on your mental health. If you’re not sure where to start, there are plenty of apps like Calm or Headspace available to point you in the right direction. Or, even better, come to a yoga class to help you to calm the mind through breath work and slow, mindful movement!

5.Know when to get help
With many of us battling anxiety on a daily basis, it can be hard to know when to seek medical advice. If you notice your symptoms persisting and not getting any better, then ensure you head to your local GP. Your health and wellbeing is incredibly important, so it’s imperative to speak to someone who can help you further.



Not too hot, not too cold…autumn is just right!

September is a time of transition in nature when we transition into autumn. The warm and humid conditions of summer give way to cooler, more changeable autumn winds. The once lush green of leaves hint at yellow hues and there’s a distinct change in the energy around us. A slower pace awaits us in the coming months. This is when the plants pause their growth, animals retreat into hibernation, and it once again becomes acceptable to add cinnamon to practically everything! Before autumn arrives however, there’s a period of stillness and a sense of nature preparing itself for what’s to come.

A Moment To Pause

The fraction of time between late summer and early autumn may not be recognised in modern western seasonal perspective. However, ancient wellbeing schools of thought like Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Tibb or Sufi Medicine understand that this time of transition into autumn is a special season all of its own. This time is known by the Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners as ‘Dojo and as ‘Ritu Sandhi’ (the ‘junction’ of two ‘seasons’) by Ayurvedic practitioners. During these times, the world around us is neither too yin or too yang. As we move out of the fiery pitta energy of Summer towards the colder, drier air energy of vata in Autumn, nature is poised for change.

Preparing For Change

Within this roughly two week period of pausing, the advice is to release any excess Summer energy. It’s time to clear metaphorical and physical space for the season ahead. Summer’s Ayurvedic quality is pitta, made up of fire and water, creating acidity and irritability. If you’re currently experiencing inflammation, skin issues, digestive problems or emotional instability, this is the time to focus on self care and protocols to address these aspects. Observe your current diet; have you picked up unhealthy eating habits from summer holidays? Are you consuming a lot of hot, acidic or sugary foods? Are you pushing yourself too hard physically or mentally, or is there a relationship issue you haven’t dealt with yet?

Yin Season

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, we’re moving out of the ‘yang’ phase of Summer and towards a more ‘yin’ time of year. The element at play here is earth. Earth is linked to the stomach and spleen meridian lines, which need nourishing at this time and can be focused on with yoga postures that open the inner thighs, hips, stomach, throat and sides of the body.

The most important practice at this time is a connection to nature and a commitment to being present in everyday life. Notice what your body is naturally drawn to eating and doing. Opt for seasonal foods and time spent outside in the morning light. Spend time with those who balance and comfort you, consume meals in a mindful and quiet manner, and observe how the changes in nature are mirrored by the natural changes within ourselves on every level.

Good bye January resolutions, hello September solutions!

In her book, Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin writes: “Any beginning is a time of special power for habit creation, and at certain times we experience a clean slate, in which circumstances change in a way that makes a fresh start possible…” For me, September has this special power.

According to the calendar, September is just another month in the year. But according to our emotions, this time of year often feels particularly weighty.

With summer at an end, many people experience a pang of nostalgia for the good weather and days off (and sometimes regret that they didn’t make the most of them!) For parents and students, the back to school period is often a potent cocktail of relief, excitement, and anxiety.

But even if your summer was uneventful and you’re long past your student days, September often still feels important. After at least 13 years of experiencing the ninth month of the year as a new beginning, most of us have a hard time shaking the sensation that September offers a sort of reset button on life.

The scientific case for starting afresh in September.

‘Science of Us’ blogger Melissa Dahl has written an interesting post on the odd power of September, and there’s a good scientific reason why this should be so. Thanks to the academic calendar, she writes, September is what’s known as a “temporal marker,” a life transition when one era feels like it ends and another begins.

Even if a temporal marker is based on something flimsy like your recollection of your time as a student, it’s still a potentially powerful springboard for change, Dahl explains. Research shows that we tend to view these life shifts as a fresh start, a time when we have the freedom to become a new, better version of ourselves.

“People don’t just use these landmarks to organise the memories of their lives; we use them to organize memories of ourselves, too,” she says. “It’s a way of distancing your current, much more on-top-of-things self from past versions of you, who were maybe not so on-top-of-things.” In short, temporal landmarks, including the ghost of the beginning of school years past, are a perfect time to unveil a whole new you (even if just to yourself).

So if you’re thinking of starting a new routine, beginning a big project, or committing to learning something fresh and September feels like a natural time to get cracking, don’t think you’d do better if you waited until January. This month really does have its own weird power to help people begin afresh.

A word of caution.

One final word of caution, however: While the “fresh start effect” of temporal landmarks is scientifically validated and potentially useful, like that summer suntan, it does fade fast.

So while you can rely on that new-school-year feeling to get you started on your new project, don’t expect it to have enough force to push you through to its conclusion. Hopefully by then, you’ll be feeling the effects of your fresh start and that will be enough to keep you motivated!


The best is yet to come!

“I can’t do it.” “I don’t know.” “I’m not good at it.” “I don’t get it.”

From an early age, we are taught that our sense of self is inherently tied to a finite amount of innate talent, be it academic, athletic or otherwise. We are praised for exam results instead of effort, percentages over perseverance, with approval a currency only grades can buy. What this means is that, too often, we disqualify ourselves from a race before ever even signing up, having internalised a narrative that tells us there are things we can do, and things we can’t. That there are limits to our abilities that are as inflexible as our eye colour. These limits, we learn, are the hallmarks of our identity; the looming obelisks that serve as our qualifiers, and, more often, excuses.

“I’m not good at languages” is a hasty defence against a world of learning because, at some point, a struggle to conquer the slippery subjunctive or that rage-inducing rolling ‘rrr’became, not a signpost en route to achievement, but rather a warning sign of a chromosomal cul-de-sac ending in flushed humiliation.

“I’m not sporty” – born out of an inability to do a push-up or run 5km – cordons off a universe of athletic potential, shutting down any interest we might have had in pushing past the trauma of a PE class to find the right exercise for us.

“I don’t understand maths” is a learned identifier from one test, one experience or one inept teacher, precluding us from the many strata of a subject that underpins our lives in all manner of permutations and undulations.

What I’m describing is the insidious phenomenon of a ‘fixed mindset.’ Enmeshed, ensconced, mashed into our identities since childhood, a fixed mindset is the perpetuated belief that our intelligence, capabilities or talents are limited to preordained amounts. This manifests in a myriad of ways – from avoiding challenges to giving up easily – and is consolidated in an internalised fear of failure or, worse again, being seen to fail at something. With intelligence and aptitude intrinsically linked to our identity – ‘languages just come easily to her’, ‘he’s a science whiz’ – failure to grasp something quickly or easily is construed as a characteristic, instead of a challenge.

Except, what if failure is a perception instead of a fact? What if it is subjective instead of objective? What if we could change not only how we approach challenges but also our ability to overcome them? Failure, meet the power of yet.

Yet. This tiny, seemingly innocuous three letter word pulverises the limits of a fixed mindset, turning ability into something fluid and malleable, instead of a predetermined boundary never to be crossed. It is the emblem of a growth mindset – a way of thinking popularised by Carol Dweck – that believes aptitude and intelligence are things to be developed. Transformative, empowering, motivational, yet welcomes challenge and destigmatises failure, embracing them as natural and essential parts of the learning process rather than a negative reflection of our ability. The singular power this holds to transform our lives is profound.

I’d like you to return to the beginning of this article and reread those phrases that are ingrained in our consciousness, vocabulary, and self-perception – “I can’t”; “I’m not good at.” Finish those sentences in your own words; customise them with the things you berate yourself over, pine for, dream of.

Feeling tied up in your own inadequacies by now? Pressurised and belittled and hyper aware of everything seemingly beyond your capabilities? Yeah, me too.

Stop. Breathe. Now, add ‘yet’ to the end of each sentence you’ve tattooed into that space of fixed understanding.

“I didn’t get that promotion…yet.”

“I’m not good at public speaking…yet.”

“I don’t understand it…yet.”

Different, isn’t it? This simple addition is the key to a world of possibility, opening doors we have shut for ourselves in learned misappropriation. An indulgent drama queen and over-achiever, I love nothing more than lamenting the things I cannot do, chastising myself over the aspirations never realised, without ever making any effort to undertake practical measures to achieve them. “I can’t run a marathon”, I find myself bemoaning more often than is necessary. However, adding the magnanimous power of yet transforms that marathon from an intangible dream dangling tantalisingly on the periphery of my vision to a finish line brought firmly into the realm of the possible.

This is because ‘yet’ necessitates a roadmap – it creates a clear destination that demands a strategy and a studied course of action. It provides direction, removes emotion and ends this problematic confusion of identity with ability. Suddenly, being unable to run a marathon is not a damning illustration of my restricted abilities but a pragmatic inevitability contextualised by logic. Of course I can’t run a marathon now because I haven’t put in the adequate time, energy or planning into training for one.

It is important to remember, if you’re a better human than I and have trained, that ‘yet’ doesn’t always mean try harder (or, in my case, just try). Sometimes, it is simply an acknowledgement of the fact that there are obstacles in our way, that we are fed up and, while we can’t overcome them today, we will begin again tomorrow. Essentially, and if you’ll forgive the hardly coincidental analogy, the power ‘yet’ holds is the potent realisation that the hurtle towards any goal is indeed a marathon, and not a sprint.

The adoption of this mindset in relation to how we view and treat both ourselves and others is far-reaching. Women notoriously underestimate their abilities, and have been shown to react to professional rejection more adversely than men. When we look at the ratio of male to female representation in positions of power – given their capabilities have been proven to be on par (women usually even outdo their male counterparts) – I can’t help but wonder if these learned insecurities could be somewhat alleviated by the inclusion of ‘yet’ into our everyday vocabulary.

Excuse the uninspired observation but, in a society dominated by soundbites and snapshots, it often seems all emphasis is on an end result and none on toiling effort. ‘Slaying’, ‘winning’, ‘killing it’ – this hyperbolic praise only comes at the pinnacle of achievement and not during the long, arduous slog towards it. For all the insight we’re granted, for the reels of knowledge unravelling at our fingertips, all we see, fixate on, and worry over is the glamorisation of success – which is generally the smallest part of a much larger puzzle. The result is a pressure and existential anxiety that most of us mask by simply refusing to try. ‘Yet’ reminds us of the importance and beauty of trying – of the pivotal need to celebrate the journey of arriving at success, instead of fearing, dreading, and generally loathing it.

In this world of noise, introduce ‘yet’. It is the gift of time, of breathing space, and an allowance of understanding in a world of ‘now’.

A practical guide to succeeding better with ‘yet’:

Read Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success or watch her Ted Talk on the same.

Listen to ‘How to Fail with Elizabeth Day’ – a podcast dedicated to discussing how ‘failure is the condiment that gives success its flavour’.

Praise correctly. Bring the joy of ‘yet’ to your children, family, and friends by praising behaviour over result. Acknowledge their efforts to succeed, instead of the success itself.

Start small. Pick one example of where you have a fixed mindset in your life and apply ‘yet’ to it – notice the change and see how you can build on this.

Celebrate your achievements! Your journey belongs to you alone so, for one moment, stop looking forward and instead celebrate how far you’ve already come, and just how good the view can look from ‘getting there’.

When in doubt…do nothing!!

A friend of mine is taking early retirement from her busy job as a GP and, when I spoke to her recently, she was debating what to do with her new found freedom. She asked for my advice which was….do nothing!! This may have been something to do with the fact that I’d just read a really interesting article called ‘The Fertile Void’. This seemingly contradictory term, used in psychotherapy, really resonated with me as I’m sure it will be you.

Most of us seldom give much thought to who we are and what our life is all about. We manage to deflect any self-doubt, fears, and uncertainty by rushing about in ‘doing’ mode. We fill our lives with busyness, wearing it like a badge of honour.

For a time, this works . . . until the life we’ve mapped out fails to go according to plan or, like my friend, takes a new turn. We sense that something needs to change, but we’re not sure what. We may feel stuck not knowing which way to turn. In some cases, our life may go completely off the rails. We may unexpectedly find ourselves, for example, facing a major illness or the death of someone close to us. We may lose our job or our ‘life’ partner may leave us. Less dramatic but equally shattering, is the sinking realization that if this is all there is to our life, then we don’t want it. At least not in its present incarnation.

Whatever the circumstances that turn our world upside down, what eventually emerges is that, no matter how hard we try to hold on to what was, the life we’ve known will probably never be the same again. The next question begging to be answered is, “Now what?”

And the answer lies in not doing anything, at least in the short term.

For a culture on the go all the time, such a suggestion  may seem not only impractical, but also unachievable. Today, we measure our worth by what we do and how busy we are. Perhaps that’s why it’s so difficult to disengage ourselves from all manner of electronic gadgetry when we go on holiday. Losing touch with our workplace means losing touch with who we think we are.

Taking time out from our busy lives, then, particularly when forced upon us by circumstances, can be a truly unnerving experience. When we feel the familiar foundations giving way beneath us, this is usually a signal that some aspect of our life is changing or coming to an end. Fearful because the path ahead may not be clear, we feel out of control. Where we used to find stability in our ‘doing’, now we’re lost in a void that has opened up before us. And when we can tolerate the uncertainty no longer, our inclination is to act immediately, without plan or thought, filling ourselves up with people and things, and shaping our life into what we think it ought to be.

On the other hand, if we can resist the urge to rush into figuring out what’s next and simply sit with the confusion of not knowing, we may find ourselves in a void that is actually fertile with new possibility. Rather than being a contradiction, the fertile void is in fact a source of pure potential.

Think for a moment what it’s like to be stuck in the car during a traffic jam or on a train stopped between stations. In both instances, you most likely don’t know why you’re stopped or when you can expect to start moving again. All you know is that you are where you are – in the car or on the train – and there’s very little that you can do except wait. Being in the fertile void can feel like this. When we’re stuck or undergoing a major life transition, we’re plunged into this in-between place of not knowing what’s next; the space between two different destinations.

Rather than control and shape what you hope will happen next by imposing tried and true habits and beliefs, try letting go of ‘doing’ and enter into a place of just ‘being.’ This means paying attention to what you are experiencing right now in all its discomfort – the anger, the grief, the confusion, the overall sense of not having any control about what is happening. There is much to be gained by trusting that the ‘now what?’ will emerge from the creative energy of the fertile void.

When we consciously enter into these chaotic feelings from a perspective of not knowing what’s next, we allow the possibility for something new and fresh to emerge. In other words, in letting go of preconceived notions and expectations about how things should be, we open up to what might be. When we empty ourselves of what we think we know, we make space for the emergence of other possibilities and choices. Although experiencing our confusion to the utmost can be painful, something inevitably shifts in the process. The response to ‘now what?’ becomes clearer.

This is not to say the clarity we seek will come quickly. The fertile void is essentially a time of waiting, not acting. Of stepping outside our busy “doing” to rest in the stillness and quietude of our being. It is a time to become exquisitely aware of everything calling for our attention. It is a time to re-examine aspects of our life and let go those that no longer feel right. Ultimately, the fertile void is an opportunity to reconnect with the essence of who we are and how we want to be in the world.


Dirty little secrets….and why they are important!

Every Friday, I set off to teach my regular class, weighed down with my usual yogic paraphernalia of speaker, iPhone, lesson plan…..and a cake tin! For Friday is ‘Feel Good Friday’ when the class is treated to a home made slice of something yummy after their equally yummy practice. So, what’s the secret? I keep one back, ready for my return, when I sit down, kick back and indulge in a coffee and cake. If it’s sunny, I take my treat into the garden and sit, basking, lizard like in the sun and savour every moment. Do I feel guilty of taking time away from my mat, computer, family, cat?! Not now but, it’s taken a while not to allow that wave of guilt to wash over me for daring to sit still and simply be.

Too often, we set impossible standards (or allow society to set them for us) that can only ever result in failure. Aren’t you sick of it? Of lugging around this unidentifiable guilt that gnaws at you for even thinking of desiring something we’ve been conditioned to believe is “bad”, be that a delicious pastry, time alone, a long luxurious bath?

This may sound a cliche, but I believe the answer can be found in embracing the thing we are most scared of – the “bad” foods, the night off, the pyjama day. Time to step off the hamster wheel of negativity because, in embracing it, in bringing shame out into the light, we are taking control over it. Demystifying it, normalising it, and, finally, allowing ourselves to enjoy it. Setting one small ritual a week – in my case, a coffee and biscuit, alone with my book – holds the potential for rippling change as it returns enjoyment to us, and brings stability and tranquillity back into too-busy lives.

Indulgence is too frequently equated with negativity and deprivation with achievement. The result is an internalised narrative in which a biscuit is “bad”, and its consumption is akin to the one-night-stand you swore wouldn’t happen again: a brief moment of masochistic pleasure followed by shame, regret, self-loathing, and invariably, indigestion. What a waste of chocolately heaven! My solution? Taking ownership of that shame and turning it into something joyful, anointing it with status, time, and love. Twisting this act of private failure – failing at being a perfect wife, mother, friend, failing at resisting temptation – into a positive occasion,  et voila, ‘Feel Good Friday’ was born!

The premise is simple: self-love instead of self-sabotage. I decided if I was going to feel guilty about eating something I considered “bad”, I wouldn’t eat it. Not because it really was bad – either for the environment or for me – but because this negative attitude was inhibiting the enjoyment it should excite, which made the eating pointless. If I could promise myself that I could have something without then self-flagellating over my supposed “indulgence”, then it was mine to savour.

The result was surprising and far-reaching. In the manoeuvrings of my everyday routines, choice and the power of ‘no’ – or ‘yes’ – were bestowed once more upon me as I realised, and forgive me if this is something I should already know, that I could choose either option without an agonising crisis of identity. I didn’t have to seethe with resentment as I ploughed through packed lunches and chowed down on lentils as I hankered for pizza, I didn’t need to spend the entire day  riddled with self-loathing over the gym class I skipped; I could delight in a ‘night off’ without the incumbent guilt.

I was anchored by the ritual and the promise of mouth-watering delight. My mindful treat returned awareness to not only the decisions I made on a daily basis but rather how I felt about those decisions. It was no longer about restriction but about ownership and, in being fully cognisant of how I was treating my body and why, guilt dissipated, and happiness began.

However, the pastry itself (delectable and delicious as it is) is only half responsible for this transformation. Turns out, it’s the holistic experience of the ritual I’ve found myself craving week on week. In life’s hectic chaos, enjoying the basic machinations of routine is fast slipping away from us – a mindful pastry affords me a return to the simple pleasure of time.

Time to sit, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends, and take in the world unfolding around me. Time to shake out life like a clean linen sheet, wringing it of usual worries and ironing it smooth into an altar of experience. Time, in the frenetic rush of breakfasts gulped over a keyboard and unread emails, dinners hashed together in one-pot frenzy, to be fully present in the act of nourishing my body. It is a gift both liberating and anchoring, sustaining me through difficult weeks and freeing me from that which no longer serves. How often do we dedicate ourselves and allocate our time completely to joy, untethered from preoccupations, guilt, panic? Without checking our phones, without wondering if everyone else in the café thinks we’re sad, without the urge to freefall into frantic to-do lists or look busy?

It is a rarity becoming an oddity and yet it is vital. The art of enjoyment – pure and unadulterated and without inhibition or self-consciousness – is being diluted, forgotten but it is there to be reclaimed in the bubbled layers of pastry.

Let’s celebrate our efforts not with self-sabotaging recklessness but with mindful self-love. Embrace indulgence, whatever shape that takes, and carve it with care and love into your week. Anticipate it. Look forward to it. Treasure it with rolling eyes, inappropriate groans, and hand-wringing reverence. It might just change your life.


Here comes the sun!

Light. Fire. Heat. Intensity. It’s summertime! Do you worship long days of bright sunlight? Do you welcome a renewed feeling of energy after the gloom of winter? Maybe you just can’t get enough of the hot summer temperatures. Or, do you dread the heat and go out of your way to avoid the summer sun, hugging the shadows and dodging the sunshine like a vampire?!

Summer, like each of the seasons, arrives with its own distinct personality. Depending on your constitution, summer may increase your internal sense of harmony, or it may aggravate one of your innate tendencies. For example, a hot-natured individual who prefers a cool climate may love the winter, but will feel hotter than most—to the point of discomfort—as the heat of summer intensifies. On the other hand, someone with chronically cold hands and feet (yup, know that feeling!), who never seems to be able to stay warm in the winter months, will experience exactly the opposite: long, cold winters will be a challenge and they will relish the heat of summer.

Ayurveda; the science of life

One of the fundamental principles of Ayurveda, which roughly translates as ‘the science of life’,  is that our habits, routines, and dietary choices should ebb and flow with the seasons. We can support an improved state of balance throughout the year by making a conscious effort to live in harmony with the cycles of nature and by regularly adjusting our lifestyle and habits to accommodate the arrival of each new season.

Opposites attract

In Ayurveda, it is said that like increases like and that opposites balance; this helps to explain why summertime stirs something different in each of us.

The most striking characteristics of summer—the heat, the long days of bright sun, the sharp intensity, and the transformative nature of the season—are directly in line with pitta or ‘fire’ energy. But, summer is also a time of expansion and mobility—traits more characteristic of vata or ‘water’.

Negotiating a Blissful Summer: General Recommendations for the Pitta Season

Your primary focus through the summer months will be to keep pitta balanced by staying cool, mellowing intensity with relaxation, and grounding your energy.

But summer has some distinctly vata characteristics as well, so you’ll also want to stay hydrated, foster stability, and balance vata’s natural expansiveness and mobility with quiet, restful activities.

In yoga, opt for grounding, restful classes to counteract the firey energy which can overwhelm (and overheat!) some of us. Whatever you choose, make the most of the summer season. Blink and we’re back in winter woollies!!



Where attention goes, energy flows

Officially the first month of summer, June sees us rolling towards more daylight and warmth, and subsequently more time outdoors, a reconnection to nature, and a reconciliation with our environment. If you’ve spent the past few months hiding indoors and stuck in your head, for your June intentions try stepping outside more often (in between showers!), and engaging with the world around you.

A long time ago, June and July were collectively named Liða (pronounced lee-thuh), Old English for ‘calm’ or ‘mild’. With longer hours of daylight, more opportunity to linger in the sunset, coupled with perhaps the opportunity to retreat on a much anticipated holiday, it seems these months were indeed made for down time. The thing is, even when you’re away, it can be difficult to take a holiday from your own head, which is why this month, our collective mantra or sankalpa should perhaps be; “I direct my attention towards what matters. I make peace with what I cannot change”.


Our attention could be thought of as a light – our own personal ray of sunshine – so what we shine it upon tends to grow and flourish the most. Where focus goes, energy flows. Where our thoughts are directed hugely impacts how we feel in every sense. Perhaps pause for one moment and think about the three most prominent things you’ve been focussing on recently. Do they bring meaning to your life? Do they enhance your physical and mental health? Do they contribute to healthy and balanced relationships? If the answer is no, then it might be time to shine your light in a different direction. Your ‘light’ is your energy and your spark – it’s important to look after it.


Author Paul Dolan – who describes happiness as “experiences of pleasure and purpose over time” in his book Happiness By Design –also notes that it’s not the overall ‘snapshot’ of our lives that we should look at when reflecting upon happiness, but the ‘film’ of our everyday moments. The little things make up the big thing called life. Our every moment makes our every day. Every day combines to make a year, every year soon becomes the story of who we are.


As a practical exercise for your June, try writing down three things in your life you absolutely cannot control, and make a pact with yourself not to dwell upon them for more than ten seconds. If you can contribute to changing it in any way, do what you can and then let go of the outcome. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita; “Be intent on action, not on the fruits of action”.


 When we realise that the things we have no business with are really none of our business, we find more freedom to focus on our own dealings. When our light is no longer scattered and deflected in all directions, we’re able to really illuminate what matters most. So maybe this month, as the sun in the sky shines a little brighter on all of us, we could practice shining our own light on what really matters and contributes to a happy, calmer and fulfilled life. We could practice focussing not on the snapshot of life, but on the film of those everyday present moments. Where attention goes, energy flows.

A yogi measures the span of life by the number of breaths, not by the number of years. -Swami Sivananda

If we breathe automatically and hardly think about it during the day, why is breath emphasized so much during a yoga class? And how is it even possible to breathe incorrectly?

These questions are common among beginner yogis, and they’re worth discussing! Awareness of breath, as well as synchronizing breath to movement, is an integral part of  yoga and what makes it so much more than an exercise routine.

Mechanically speaking, the act of breathing can be either automatic (an unconscious, involuntary behavior) or deliberate (a conscious, voluntary behavior). By making an automatic behavior deliberate, we begin to affect our neurological programming through a state of intentional awareness. This conscious breathing affects us biologically, emotionally and physically. And now for the science!


During most of the day when we’re breathing unconsciously, our breath is controlled by the medulla oblongata (the primitive part of the brain). When we switch to conscious breathing, it stimulates the cerebral cortex (the more evolved areas of the brain). It’s in that moment that the magic starts to happen! Activating the cerebral cortex has a relaxing and balancing effect on our emotions, which leads us into the next benefit of intentional breath.


When you begin to tune into your breath like this, emotional stress and random thoughts vanish. Your whole system gets a break. Your body’s energy begins flowing freely, disrupting any emotional and physical blockages and freeing your body and mind. This results in that “feel good” effect you experience after a yoga practice.


In our physical yoga practice, the breath works side-by-side with our structural alignment. Our natural tendency is to hold our breath or use stress-induced breathing (short and shallow) while holding a posture, especially in a challenging pose. This creates stress and tension in the body. That’s why you always hear yoga teachers reminding students to continue breathing intentionally during the toughest poses and sequences.

Still not convinced about the power of the breath? Try taking deep breaths for the next 30 seconds. You will realize the calming effect deep, controlled breathing has on your nerves, stress, and muscle fatigue. Even the one you hadn’t realized. Pranayama yoga makes you habitual of breathing deeply, and being in control of your breath. As a result, gradually, you become and then remain more aware, calm, and relaxed at all times. So, shoulders back, head up….and breathe!

MUDITA – why knowing what it is will bring us all joy and longevity.

There is no word in English to describe the emotion of being happy for someone else’s happiness. We have envy but not the opposite. We borrow the German word ‘schadenfreude’, which means taking pleasure in others’ misfortune. Awful (and sharply on the rise since the 1980s according to Google’s book search). When you consider that language and thoughts are inextricably linked, this gap in our language becomes tragic.

Mudita is a Sanskrit and Pali word. It means ‘vicarious joy’, that is joy for someone else’s joy. In this post, I hope to convince you to help me bring mudita into our vocabulary.

English has more words than any other language. Estimates vary but it’s at least 170,000 and possibly well over a million. While we don’t have a word for mudita, we do have one for ‘resembling an ostrich’ (struthious), one for ‘the legal right to cut turf or peat for fuel on common ground’ (turbary), and another for ‘the plug by which the rectum of a bear is closed during hibernation’ (tappen).

I’m not saying those words aren’t needed (I’m sure there are scientists who have devoted their entire careers to the study of tappen — brave people indeed), but it’s odd that we don’t have a word for mudita.


Research shows that word choices don’t only reflect your emotional state — they influence it too. Thinking and especially talking about positive things makes you happier. Through neuroplasticity, (the brain’s ability to strengthen connections and form new ones) using pathways of joy and happiness strengthens them.

Plus, your happiness impacts the happiness of people close to you. Incredibly, this has been shown to extend out three degrees of separation — to the friends of one’s friends’ friends (in addition to being mind-blowing, this also presents an opportunity for careful apostrophe use). Here’s a quick sketch to show the effect.

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The research shows that if a person (e.g., you) is happy, then it increases the chances that everyone in this diagram becomes happy. The study showed causation, not just correlation. To keep the picture manageable, I assumed you only have 3 friends. You probably have more than that, and the effect multiplies exponentially. If you have 10 friends and they each have 10, and so on, you can reach 1,000 people with your happiness. That’s a big deal. It’s also a lot of responsibility: if you have 1,000 Facebook friends, and you post a humble brag that makes them feel less happy about their own lives, that negativity could spread through them outwards to many thousands of people.

Mudita was taught by The Buddha. He said,“I declare that the heart’s release by sympathetic joy has the sphere of infinite consciousness for its excellence.

Here’s my suggestion: ask your friend what is making them happy at the moment, and tell them “I have mudita for you.” Explain it to them and see what they think. I encourage you to experience and discuss mudita, and through this let joy multiply within us and ripple out as we spread it among our friends, families, and communities.

I promised you joy and longevity. Being more happy and less stressed leads to better health and longer lives (this seems obvious and it’s also backed by research), so adding mudita to your vocabulary really could extend your life. Especially if you help your friends to add it too!