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10 reasons why you should NEVER do yoga!!

Thinking of taking up yoga for the New Year? Read this before you do as, yoga may seriously change your life……………..

You know, we yoga fanatics tout the benefits of yoga like it is going out of style. For most of us, it is because yoga has so profoundly changed our lives that we want to shout about it from the rooftops.

Some of us actually DO shout it from the rooftops.

But the truth is, yoga does have a dark side. There are some legitimate reasons why someone may want to consider avoiding starting or maintaining a practice. In order to save you from any pain or suffering, here is the list of reasons why you should skip practice.

1. It Will Ruin Chili Cheese Fries

When you have a regular  practice, you are going to notice the effects that the foods you eat have on your body on a whole new level. To the point that you may actually feel like giving up some of your oh-so-tasty but oh-so-stomachache-inducing foods. If you are a foodie, you may want to steer clear of the yoga mat.

2. It Will Put A Downer On Your Late Nights

Getting on your mat after a late night out, or a night filled with one or two too many Netflix episodes may become so unpleasant that you turn into an early bird – both in rising and in going to sleep. Your party days may be slightly numbered.

3. Love Drama? Skip Yoga

It is pretty difficult to maintain a life of drama when you have a dedicated yoga practice. In fact, you may become someone who so enjoys peace that other people stop wanting to talk to you, because you just don’t get sucked into their dramas anymore, let alone your own.

4. It Will Make You Have To Take Responsibility

The mat is generally a mirror for people, and this means you are going to notice all the places you are blaming other people for the things that are going on in your life – and you may discover that it is not really their fault at all.

You may even come to the conclusion that you have the power to stand up and make the changes in your life that will make you happier. If you really like blaming others, yoga may not be that great for you.

5. It Will Suck The Fun Out Of Judging People

Again, where pointing out the faults of others used to be kind of fun, now it just feels mean. You are most likely going to want to spend more of your time talking about all the amazing things the people in your life are doing – which may be a real downer for some of your friends out who still enjoy a gossip fest.

6. It Will Ruin Your Wardrobe

You used to have nice things. Now you just have 1,000 pairs of yoga pants. What happened to you?

7. It Will Make You Cry In Public

If you are not into public displays of emotion, then yoga is most likely not for you. You never know when the teacher is going to say just the right thing, or when you are going to go into just the right heart opener and the water works will be turned on.

8. It Will Make You Feel Your Feelings

Getting in touch with your body means you will get more in touch with your mind, which inevitably is going to lead to your emotions. If you are someone who wants to run from how you feel, you should most likely run from yoga.

9. It Will Open Your Hips, Your Shoulders And Your Heart

The softer your body becomes, the softer your heart is most likely to become. You will be opening the stiff parts of your body, along with the stiff parts of your deepest self. Yoga is steeped in tradition and spirituality – most hearts do not make it out still hardened.

10. It Will Ruin Your Relationship With Anything That Is Self-Destructive

And yes, this includes even the fun, self-destructive things. You are going to connect in with yourself, and start to notice how all your habits are affecting you. This may just ruin all your desires to drink, smoke, swear, stay up late, eat fast food and drive really fast. If you love your life the way it is now, then don’t take up yoga.

Hopefully, you can sense the jest of this post! Of course there are yoginis who still drink, smoke, swear and eat less than optimal food—they just tend to be a lot more mindful about it.

In all truth, yoga can and most likely will change your life. However, you are still in the driver’s seat and can take it at a pace that works for you. Happy Bending!

Why I feel for Cheryl Cole

Whilst admitting to never having watched an episode of The X Factor in my life, I did feel a degree of sympathy for Cheryl Cole who apparently has been watching her recent performance on repeat after dividing opinions on her singing.

MY INNER CRITIC HAS BEEN VERY BUSY

My own inner critic has been very busy as I’ve just co-hosted a big event and found myself, just like Cheryl, replaying my yoga class over and over and asking myself ‘Did they enjoy it?’  ‘Someone yawned….were they bored? (It was a restorative class, designed to release tension and aid relaxation!)’ ‘I’m sure I wasn’t as good as the others’.

If you start counting the times that you hear other women say, “Oh, but I don’t want other people to think that…” in my experience, you soon run out of numbers to count with. Or you can even count the number of times you think it to yourself without saying it out loud. “Oh, but I don’t want other people to think that… I’m stupid… I’m fat… I’m out of my depth… I’m a bad mother… I’m not experienced enough for this job… I don’t know what I’m talking about… I’m greedy… I’ve got no friends… I’m desperate… I’m getting above myself… I’ve got a big ego… I’m too self-promoting… I’m big-headed…” Basically, insert whatever insult for yourself you’ve dreamt up here. We all have our own different ways to end the sentence, “Oh, but I don’t want other people to think that…”

You get the message. There is no end to the things we don’t want other people to think about us. And not only do we not want them to even think these things, but, also, we want to control the likelihood of them thinking them at all. So, often, we censor ourselves completely from doing the things that might mean other people would think these things in the first place.

So, you don’t say what you wanted to say in a meeting, in case someone else might know more than you. You don’t book the weekend away, because your mother-in-law will raise her eyebrows. You don’t apply for the dream job, because you don’t fit every single last word of the job spec. You don’t ask for the raise, because you already had a small raise two years ago (even though you just found out a colleague is on a lot more than you). And you change out of trousers into a skirt, because the trousers made your thighs look extremely large, indeed.

The trouble is, we don’t listen to ourselves when we say either out loud or in our heads – “I don’t want other people to think that… (I’m greedy/I’m up myself/I’m too demanding/I’m selfish…)” If we were listening carefully, we would hear the first part of the sentence: “I don’t want other people to think.” Say that again to yourself: “I don’t want other people to think.” How strange is that? We actually harbour a secret wish that other people should have no thoughts whatsoever, that they should not be allowed to think anything. If we could control them, we would want them to think only good things about us. As we can’t control them, we just don’t want them to think at all.

NONE OF US CAN EVER STOP ANYONE FROM THINKING ANYTHING.

It’s fantastically useful to focus on what a crazy wish this is. None of us can ever stop anyone from thinking anything. They may think all kinds of wonderful and terrible things about us. They may think that finally someone has said what needs saying in those interminable pointless meetings. They may think that you’re brave and assertive to take a break from parenting and that you’re fostering independence in your kids by leaving them for a weekend.  Or they may think that you are the most terrible person they have ever had the misfortune of encountering. The point is: there is no point in trying to control or influence the thoughts of others, as they are entitled to think what they like. And, actually, their thoughts have very little bearing on us and we often won’t even find out what their thoughts were.

LET US STOP INWARDLY TROLLING OURSELVES

The moment we think, “Oh, but I don’t want other people to think that…” is a moment when we are actually trolling ourselves before anyone has even had a chance to say or think anything. Let us stop inwardly trolling ourselves. Let us stop imagining that we can anticipate, prevent or control the thoughts of others. Bring on the next workshop!!

Wabi-sabi; nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect

Embrace the perfectly imperfect

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese philosophy often described as appreciating the beauty in imperfection. Like so many words which are lost in translation, it’s hard to distil wabi-sabi into a single definition or translation which does justice to its nuances. But, broadly speaking wabi-sabi embraces the following 3 ideas;  ‘nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect’.

In Japanese, the meanings and connotations of wabi and sabi have evolved over time. Wabi was associated with a specific kind of loneliness and solitude. Imagine what it felt like to be a hermit, living in remote nature. Sabi was associated with withering, rusting, tarnishing—the natural progression of things. This thought has developed over time where loneliness and solitude were seen as wise and freeing, and the imperfections resulting from the natural progression of life and things were embraced as the beauty of change.

The lessons of wabi-sabi

Wabi-sabi is often associated with a sense of peace with the natural progression of life. Accepting that life and things are impermanent allows us to appreciate the beauty and melancholy of it. For example, a wooden table that has aged over the years may seem decrepit and ugly. Discovering wabi-sabi is to see the beauty of imperfection and change.

But it can also teach us much more about ourselves and how we view the world around us:

– Instead of focusing on what could be, wabi-sabi focuses on appreciating what is—the ordinary, old and incomplete.

– Suffering or pain, the ugliness of life, are just like the imperfections of an old table. They are a natural part of life that requires acceptance and appreciation.

Wabi-sabi in everyday life

Wabi-sabi in daily life doesn’t require us to be an expert in design or philosophy. It’s a shift in perspective from one that chases perfection to one that appreciates what is. It’s up to you to decide how wabi-sabi fits into your life. It could mean being more accepting of your flaws, practising gratitude, listening more or finding beauty in the ordinary. It could also be as simple as appreciating the autumn leaves or making peace with the stains on your carpet.

Love is….the absence of judgement – Dali Lama

October’s intention of non-judgement is subtle, after all, judging a comment, a person or action are things that happen within a split second. Before we know it we’ve created a belief or a habitual thinking pattern that can be hard to shift. Thankfully, the practices of yoga and meditation can help us figuratively slow things down, so we’re able to take a step back and observe our emotions, thoughts and reactions. When do we judge others, and why? How does judging affect us, and how can we overcome it? Read on for some inspiration on living your yoga in the world this month, and infusing your actions with the intention of non-judgement.

To Judge Another….

We’ve all been there; judging another person based upon how they look, what they say, or what they’ve done in the past. Judgement however, is only based upon our own perceptions and life experience, and entirely made up of our own personal thoughts and opinions. To judge another person only limits our life experience, closes us off from making a connection with them, and ultimately prevents us from experiencing reality.

The primal act of judging does originally come from a useful place – once used for deciphering whether a plant was safe to eat or an animal safe to approach, our judgements are now reserved for comparing ourselves to other people, and how we might measure up to them. Judgement and comparison go hand-in-hand, and these reactions stem from a place of lack, fear, and essentially not feeling grounded and comfortable with who we are. The barometer for measuring ‘normality’ is entirely inaccurate – how do we know what ‘normal’ is, or how ‘normal’ we are compared to another? Should we even all desire to be ‘normal’ anyway?

Forgoing the act of judging altogether may take many years of mindfulness and practice, but there is something we can do when we catch ourselves judging another; we can choose whether to let that judgement blur our experience of reality, hinder our ability to be fully present and open to new experiences, or we can choose to observe our thoughts and emotions, and approach the situation with fresh awareness. Non-judgement is like taking off a pair of smeared glasses; we’re able to see a person or situation for what it really is, experience it as it really is, and be in the moment for what it really, really is.

Some questions to ask or journal when you’re feeling judgemental:

·     Do I know the full story behind this person / event / object?

·     Through judging this person / event / object, how do I decide to react?

·     What does this judgement reflect about myself?

·     Through judging this person / event / object, what do I miss out on?

Live Your Yoga This Month

October 10th marked World Mental Health Day, opening our eyes to the reality and suffering many people go through on a daily basis.  We all have mental health, it’s just a case of how healthy our mental state is, and just like the rest of our physical and emotional health, it can change constantly. The current statistics tell us that there are about 8.2 million cases of diagnosed anxiety in the UK, with depression being the most predominant mental health problem world-wide. Practice living your yoga in the world this month by casting judgements aside and putting compassion, acceptance and a friendly face in its place.  

Don’t know your asanas from your elbow? Read on!

I’m always being asked to describe my yoga style to prospective clients and, I must confess, it’s the hardest question to answer. Truth be told, I’m just not sure!

Even though I spend my working life in front of the class, I have always made time to reverse the role and become the student. The experience is totally different; in the former, I’m responsible for the wellbeing of others while, as a student, I’m solely responsible for myself.

LIKE A YOGA MAGPIE, I COLLECT SHINY IDEAS

And, the teaching of others informs my own practice and how I deliver my own classes. So, if I’ve been to a particularly fiery vinyasa flow, my planning may reflect that the following week. Similarly, after my weekly yin class, I may tune in to this sense of calmness and teach a chilled out practice, focussing on turning the spotlight inward using more meditation and pranayama. Like a yoga magpie, I collect shiny ideas to feather my mat with; ideas drawn not just from other teachers. The natural world, poetry, loved ones…the sources are many and varied. Life offers a rich seam to be mined.

YOGA OFFERS SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY….AND EVERY BODY!

Whatever style of yoga floats your boat, this helpful article describes just some of the options available. Yoga offers something for everybody….and every body!

https://www.theguardian.com/freedom-to-move/2018/oct/22/from-yin-to-iyengar-a-yoga-glossary?

 

 

Just let it go!

As we transition into Autumn, this junction point of the year which marks the start of a new season, it is the perfect opportunity to make time to consciously let go of something,  anything that no longer serves you. Here is a short meditation practice to support you in the process…

A meditation to let go

To start, find a comfortable seat – somewhere that you can sit for a few minutes. (Use props to support you and perhaps a blanket to cover you in case your body temperature drops.)

Close your eyes and soften the muscles in your face. Take a few deep breaths and feel the contact of your body with the ground. Allow your sit bones to drop into the ground and the crown of your head to reach towards the sky. Taking a few moments to arrive and settle into your body.

Bring to mind something that you’re struggling with, something that you’re finding difficult to let go of. As you do this, notice where you feel the struggle in your body. For example – your chest. Now, place a hand on your chest and notice the comforting warmth of your hand on this part of your body.

Quietly say, “My peace is worth more to me than this. I choose to let this go”.

Repeat this process as many times as you need until the struggle or tension in your body begins to ease.

When you’re ready to bring your practice to a close, simply take a few deep breaths and slowly open your eyes. 

Make it ‘Easy, always, always, easy’

This is a practice you can come back to any time. And remember to make it “easy, always, always, easy”.

I want to leave you with this very special poem written by Safire Rose that has recently inspired my own process of letting go. For me, her words beautifully capture the quiet, simple process of surrender and I hope they can inspire you too…

She Let Go

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of the fear.  She let go of the judgments.  She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.  She let go of the committee of indecision within her.  She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons. Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask anyone for advice. She didn’t read a book on how to let go.  She didn’t search the scriptures. She just let go.  She let go of all of the memories that held her back.  She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.  She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go. She didn’t journal about it. She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer. She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper. She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope. She just let go.

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go. She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter. She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment. She didn’t call the prayer line. She didn’t utter one word. She just let go.

No one was around when it happened. There was no applause or congratulations. No one thanked her or praised her. No one noticed a thing. Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort. There was no struggle. It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad. It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be. A small smile came over her face. A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.

SEPTEMBER IS THE REAL NEW YEAR!

After a long hot summer, September has finally swept in with its cool air, crisp leaves and back-to-school excitement – it’s the perfect month to get going again

Finally, I’ve been anticipating it for ages. Don’t get me wrong, I adored the heady heat of August – I’m as partial to seaside swims and sandy sandwiches as the next person. But there’s something innately hopeful about September. Spring may be the season of hopping lambs and blooming buds but, for me, after the hen-dos, holidays and hedonism of high summer, autumn seems like a wonderful time for renewal.

Perhaps this is paradoxical given nature is in fact shutting down for the year – but with the change in temperature, comes a change in temperament. One crisp morning has the clarifying effect of an ice bath – and I’m suddenly prepared to tackle to the projects I’d been putting off for months.

Summer isn’t the season for studiousness – it’s all sun and sand and sea – and good god it’s great. But now I’m tanned and I’m tired and I’m ready for change. It’s a symptom of living in a perpetually precipitous nation – feeling we must soak up the sunshine whenever it strikes – because we never know when it might be back.

BUT NOW I’M TANNED AND I’M TIRED AND I’M READY FOR CHANGE

So, the recent heatwave, while phenomenal, did put something of a dampener on any plans to be productive. “I must make the most of it:” words I said daily for the duration of July and August: “If I don’t enjoy the sunshine now, I won’t get another chance until next year.” But on and on the summer went, glorious sunshine after glorious sunshine.

Unremitting loveliness which made productivity non-existent. But I’ve eaten one too many magnums and now feel the overwhelming need for soup, a new pencil case and a fresh notepad: a clean slate.

Oh, the joyful symbolism of a new notepad: a new school term: a chance to reinvent yourself, or at the very least, your handwriting. I think we got New Year wrong. January is a terrible time to suddenly uphaul your entire life – when you have half a fridgeful of leftovers and 10 hours of The Crown to get through. It should be now, after the buzz of beach life – when we’re all brimming with ideas stored up over summer and still have residual tans from our week in the sun.

The ensuing months will be darker and colder, but September is all ephemeral light and rust coloured leaves and jacket potatoes and Bake Off being back on the telly. It’s still warm enough for skirts but a woolly jumper wouldn’t be completely out of the question and the hedgerows are jewelled with ripe fruit, so crumble is always on the cards. Crucially, it’s time to go back to school. And as the kids reluctantly return to the classroom, now is the time for us to get back to work too.

It’s time to start tapping away at those goals we set nine months ago, without Christmas specials to distract us. It’s time to opt for fresh vegetables and hearty stews, instead of bread rolls and barbeque food. It’s time to start afresh.

So, while friends lament the declining hours of sunshine, I welcome cloudy days and drawn-out nights with open arms. To me, the cold and dark are comforting. Perhaps now I’ll finally get something done.

BE FILLED WITH A SENSE OF JUBILANT OPTIMISM THAT THIS YEAR JUST MIGHT BE YOUR YEAR.

After a long summer, September, is the time to reset: to feel the crunch underfoot as you walk through the park, welcoming the crisp breeze as it intermingles with the warm air and the auburn leaves as they float down towards the baked earth.

It’s time to give that thing you wanted to do another go, to turn to page one of your new notebook, write your name in your neatest handwriting and be filled with a sense of jubilant optimism that this year just might be your year.

Make today a Pomale day!

I love words and, today I’ve discovered a wonderful new one; and it’s perfect for lazy summer days!

Pomale, also spelled Bumale, Bumali or Pomalo is a term from Southeastern and Central Europe. It describes a moment of relaxed happiness, a feeling of ease and lightness that comes along with a profound sense of peacefulness and the knowledge that everything is alright and life is good.

It’s similar to the experience of quiet joyfulness that sets in after a yoga workshop, movement class, or long massage treatment, while being deeply engaged with a creative project, during a trip to the ocean, or on long hike through the mountains.

Pomale can be the response to the question “how are things going?” or “how’s life?” If you are relaxed, happy and in the flow of life, the response would be “everything’s pomale”.

Pomale can also be used in the context of slowing down. Saying “Pomale! Pomale!” means “Hey, slow down, take your time.”

Pomale always comes with a profound sense of peacefulness and the knowledge that everything is alright and life is good.

You can do things the pomale way, which means that you do things slowly and you enjoy the process. So, make today a day when you adopt a pomale approach to life. The sun is out and everything’s pomale!!

Want to be a weaver? Don’t buy a monkey for a pet!

“If a man is interested in weaving, he shouldn’t keep a monkey for a pet.”

So says the Indian proverb.

That advice has me imagining monkeys speedily undoing the threads on looms with their little monkey fingers the very minute their owners turn their backs. While The Yoga Sutra and their commentaries are often inscrutable to me, I think I get what Satchidananda means here; there seem to have been countless times when I’ve prepared my “loom” by setting a resolution, and then went right out and got myself a monkey; a distraction.

ADOPT A LOYAL PET

But not all pets are distracting and mischievous. Might there even be some that help us weave the tapestries of our resolutions, rather than tearing them to shreds? I wonder if sometimes, when we fail in our resolution-keeping, it’s because we self-handicap ourselves with monkeys rather than adopting loyal pets—the people, activities, and approaches—that might keep us inspired and help us to further our goals. No one said we had to go it alone.

 

Perhaps when we close our eyes and sit in a comfortable seat for meditation, we could not only invite fewer monkeys in, closing the door on the thoughts that disrupt us, but also invite in the pet of the breath. The pet of the candle flame. The pet of a mantra. And for a few minutes, things may grow quiet enough that we can see a new pattern emerging in the warp and weft of the mind’s loom.

 

Are you sitting comfortably?

Traditionally, yoga is a preparation for long periods of sitting and the lotus position would have been a comfortable pose to remain in whilst meditatingfor very many hours.
But most of us humans have subjected our bodies to the rigours of sitting in a chair since childhood, so we no longer spend long periods of time in a squat or in a cross legged position, which is how humans would have more ‘naturally’ relaxed when not standing.
And the trouble with chairs is that they have chronically tensed our hips. We’re addicted to chairs. Many folks drive to work in a chair, sit in chairs at work (if you work in the office), come home and sit on the sofa. Our chair addiction is pretty out of control.
You may say, well, they are comfortable. And yes, we have trained our bodies to find comfort in this position. But do you ever wonder why children at first wriggle when put in a high-chair? Our bodies are made to wriggle, to move, to change positions.
Our hips are made to be open and flexible. Squatting and sitting cross-legged retains that flexibility and also encourage a straighter spine. Chairs tend to encourage rounded shoulders, rounded lower back, weak core, stiff hips. No wonder statistics say that one in ten suffer from lower back pain and that studies say that back pain is the leading cause of disability.
Surely, as well as most of our chronic lack of movement, being stuck to a chair for most of our waking hours is a massive cause of that back pain.
Of course, after all the hours sat at chairs, in our usual slack core, tense hip pose, it won’t be a good idea to hop straight into poses that require flexibility or much mobility of the knee-joint. But if, every day, we start to sit in chairs less, we start to squat and sit cross legged more, we move and mobilise our knee joints as well as our hips, and hamstrings, we might find that our backache is reduced.
So this week, perhaps pay extra attention to how you sit, not only on the mat, but off it. Are you comfortable? Are your shoulders down, your core subtly engaged, your chest open, your hips feeling free? And what can you do to change that?
And what of props? Those with tight hips find sitting still for ages hard and a recipe for pins and needles .. if this sounds like you we would  recommend a prop. This can be sitting against a wall sometimes for a long meditation.. or a wedged type block… or a bolster​ or even just a cushion.. Many folks find trying these things can give access to sitting on the floor for longer. And don’t forget a soft blanket under any boney ankles out there!