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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”.

BE YOUR OWN PERSONAL RAY OF SUNSHINE

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.

THE LITTLE THINGS MAKE UP THE BIG THING CALLED LIFE

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.

LEARNING TO LET GO

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”.

TIME TO FOCUS ON OUR OWN DEALINGS

 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!

Biologically

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.

Emotionally

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.

Physically

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.

MUDITA CAN BRING MORE JOY TO YOU AND THOSE AROUND YOU

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!

Surviving or thriving?

Yoga helps mental health. It really does! I really value the sensation of personal freedom and spaciousness that I feel after practicing yoga. My cells somehow seem larger, bursting with energy and more vibrant. I feel a spaciousness in my joints. There seems to be space in-between the vertebrae where the bones used to be crunched up and hunched over. My body feels free to move, to take up space, to breathe deeply. And that very visceral, physical feeling of freedom changes how I think. I feel free and for me that means mentally healthy.

My worries seem to slip away. I’m able to get into the ‘zone’. I feel less anxious about big decisions and focus on making better decisions. I feel happier, wiser, saner.

The Game Changer

Physical movement of any kind makes us feel great. On one level, yoga is just a very effective way of making the body move in every different direction, strengthening and lengthening all at once. The joy of moving is one thing but when combined with very deep, conscious breathing, it’s a complete game-changer! Yoga is a work-in challenging the mind and body in ways that no other ‘fitness’ regime can touch. It allows us to get fit in body and mind. The breath, allows us to feel what we are feeling and to pause before we react.

Scientific research backs up my personal recommendation and your personal experience.  Here are five ways in which yoga can help your mental health.

1. Yoga Makes You Happier

In 2005, German researchers asked a group of ‘emotionally distressed’ women to undertake three hours of yoga a week for three months. Researchers saw a 50% improvement in depression, 30% in anxiety and 65% improvement in overall wellbeing.

The therapeutic effects of yoga have also been proven with psychiatric patients, sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder, and women experiencing the menopause or postmenopausal symptoms.

Emotional well-being is, of course, of utmost importance to our physical and mental health.

In another study, measures of positive and negative affect, mindfulness, perceived stress, and arousal states were taken in 24 people with an existing weekly yoga practice. Some of whom maintained their weekly practice whilst others started a five-times-per-week practice across a fortnight.

The morning daily practice group (five times weekly) showed significant beneficial changes in each of the measures including an increased ability to cope with stress. These findings, thus highlight the benefits of a daily yoga practice and might also prompt us to roll out our mats a little more regularly.

2. Yoga Helps You Sleep Better

Sleep is key to maintaining good mental health and affects our ability to use language effectively, our focus, our understanding and our hearing. It is the quality and not quantity of our sleep that matter and it’s a fact, yoga can help. Even if you don’t really have a sleep ‘problem’, the deep breathing, physical exercise and mindfulness associated with a yoga practice help calm the nervous system and improve your zzzzs.

3. Yoga Helps Reduce Stress

Research makes a link between yoga and the modulation of stress response systems such as a raised heart rate, high blood pressure and shallow breathing.

Everything about yoga, from the slow, steady breathing to the inversions, can help lower the amount of cortisol in your brain. Cortisol is the hormone that appears when you’re stressed; activating the brain amygdala, also known as the fear centre. Regular practice of yoga can cause cortisol levels to drop. As well as dropping cortisol levels, the practice of yoga can increase and decrease areas of the brain and releases beneficial chemicals. One of these areas is the hippocampus, which helps us to deal with stress and anxiety. The hippocampus in yogis increases compared to other groups in the study.

Boston University studied 34 individuals over 12-weeks, half of which spent one hour three times a week walking, while the other did yoga for the same amount of time. The researchers monitored levels of the chemical associated with decreasing anxiety and improving moods, known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). The level of GABA rose in the yogis by 27 percent. The walkers’ results were much less significant. Also, dopamine and serotonin, chemicals that help us feel more relaxed and ready to handle stressful situations, rose significantly. No wonder yoga has a reputation for giving you a natural high.

4. Beyond Physical Exercise

Do you feel focussed after yoga? This is because yoga helps increase the size of certain parts of your brain, such as the superior parietal cortex, which helps you concentrate your attention on specific things! This is great news for us multi-taskers who always have a million things to do and projects on the go.

The evidence suggests that yoga interventions appear to be equal to and/or superior to exercise in most outcome measures for people with various health conditions. This is because of the emphasis on breath regulation, mindfulness during practice, and the importance given to maintenance of postures. These key elements are those that most differentiate yoga practices from physical exercises.

5. #BeBodyKind

Almost 1 in 3 adults feel so stressed by issues relating to their body image or appearance that they feel overwhelmed or unable to cope.  Low body esteem can result in isolation and pressure to meet other people’s ideals. Truthfully, how do you think and feel about your body?  Yoga is massively helpful in thinking about our bodies in more positive ways and with kindness.

Yoga allows us to accept ourselves for who we are.  By becoming more present we allow a more compassionate response to our bodies and our perceived limitations. Besides which, yoga also helps us to build a greater understanding about developing our strength physically and mentally. As we do so we can  begin to loosen our grip on unrealistic ideals and appreciate our bodies. Research has shown that the more comfortable we are in our own skin, the greater our general well-being with the result that we are less likely to indulge in destructive behaviour.

The theme for Mental Health Awareness week is Body Image which invites us to explore how we think and feel about our bodies.

I’d love to know how you feel yoga helps you keep body and mind connected and balanced.

Image result for mental health week 2019 images

Time to walk the walk!

So, life’s been a bit tricky recently when a nasty bout of shingles bit me on the bum…..literally!! Ouch does not even describe the pain of this horrible virus but, it certainly pulled me up short and made me think about self care and how best to nurture myself back to health when my body was clearly under attack. Turning down the painkillers, I turned to yoga and meditation to see me through the very long painful nights and helped to keep me positive in the day when it was very tempting to slide down that rabbit hole of self pity. But, that particular hole is deep with slippery sides so, I was forced to use all the tools in my yoga toolkit to stay focussed on getting well. Time to walk the yoga walk as well as talk the talk.

Self-care is tricky to define without resorting to language as sugary and ephemeral as candy floss. Practicality is my watchword, and thankfully healthcare organisations with a mind on actionable objectives more ambitious and necessary than selling aromatherapy candles have created clear and helpful definitions such as this one:

Self-Care is a part of daily living. It is the care taken by individuals towards their own health and well being, and includes the care extended to their children, family, friends and others in neighbourhoods and local communities. Self-Care includes the actions individuals and carers take for themselves, their children, their families and others to stay fit and maintain good physical and mental health; meet social and psychological needs; prevent illness or accidents; care for minor ailments and long-term conditions; and maintain health and wellbeing after acute illness or discharge from hospital.

It is important to note that self-care is not a solo trip to the spa, it is taking responsibility for one’s own wellness, as well as the wellness of the immediate and extended communities in which one lives. Self-care is a communal effort.

So we’re starting to get more specific and practical. It’s clear self-care and yoga can work well together, but still, the question arises, what do I do on my mat to take care of myself, aside from what I always do when I practise yoga? How do I know what is best?

Check-in

To know what to practise, you have to have a clear idea of what’s going on in your body, mind, and heart. You can check-in and monitor body sensations, mental focus, and anything else of relevant based on your current state. A check-in fueled by curiosity and patience will surely reveal something going on that requires your attention.

Set an intention of self-care

Once you know what’s going on, actively and consciously set an intention of self-care. Setting an intention isn’t as simple as silently telling yourself “I will learn gratitude from my perfect handstand today.” Intention setting requires skillful navigation of many regions of the brain. In addition to choosing the words of a relevant intention, we must counter the self-sabotaging thoughts that arise in response. This means we replace any negative voices or thoughts with positive ones, or reframe our internal dialogues with compassion and kindness. Working even deeper, we can summon positive memories and emotions of times the positive intention was realised, and spread the associated physical sensations throughout our body. Intention setting is a full mind, body, and heart event.

Choose your yoga for self-care tools

Fuelled by your positive intention, choose the desired outcome to which you can work. For example: perhaps you are feeling anxious and want to compassionately and kindly reduce your anxiety. Perhaps you feel that anxiety in the shortness of your breath. Might you then choose a technique that helps you slow your breath?

There are no general guidelines here and there’s no ‘one size fits all’.  Have a good think about how you respond to different postures and techniques. Then, based on your individual needs and intention, choose a few simple ones that work well and lead to outcomes relevant to your needs. Here’s the magic advice:

Practise short and simple tools often.

Here’s some of what you can choose from:

  • Asana/postures
  • Breath and rhythm (via specific breathwork or the rhythm of vinyasa)
  • Meditation
  • Restorative Yoga
  • Self-massage (with hands or therapy balls)
  • Self-touch (simply touching, breathing, and connecting)

You’ll notice that there is a lot here! There are so many incredible techniques to have in your toolbox. Use these yoga self-care tools by including them in your home practice or by choosing studio classes that teach them well and often.

Self-care and self-compassion

Self-care can easily be co-opted into beating one’s self up. So we need to ensure it is all done from a place of love. I love these words, offered by Jodi Strock:

My concern with the current popularization of self-care is that it feeds into a societal conditioning that we are supposed to feel good all the time, and to strive at all costs. We are a culture of scarcity aka not enough. As a result, while well intended, I am watching perfectionism and improvement make their way into the concept of ‘self-care.’Self-care then becomes a fluffy term to assign to the unsustainable diet, exercise plan, meditation, resolution, or general schedule overhaul that feels urgent in any given moment. Many of us actually engage in self-harming behaviors while believing we are engaging in self-care. Often, our efforts at self-care become the inner critic’s latest whip when we fall short of whatever unsustainable promise we made to ourselves. True self-care is deeply felt because it is free of the aggression of self-improvement. It feels more authentic than an affirmation (that can feel like a lie you are trying to convince yourself of by repeating it again and again). True self-care is not driven by an effort to become more or better. It meets you right where you are, just as you are. 

I may be over the shingles but, the memory lingers and I think it’s for the better. I’ve learned not to take my own health for granted; to practice daily self care such as making time to eat nourishing food, prepared and eaten slowly and with pleasure. And, to practice gratitude for my health, my family….and a pain-free derriere!!

 

 

Come with me into the woods

‘Come with me into the woods where spring/ is/ advancing, as it does, no matter what.’ – Mary Oliver

Come with me into the woods. It’s quiet there, except for the chattering song of birds, and the swishing of emerging leaves. You can hear your own calm footfalls on the path, mixing with jumbled half moons of horseshoe prints pressed into the mud.

Come with me into the woods and see the starburst twinkle of wood anemones along the banks, their pale petals reaching out from a huddle of feathery leaves. Spreading beneath the trees and into the distance is a shadow-striped carpet of vibrant wild garlic, its scent permeating the air.

Come with me into the woods and spot the iridescent green of freshly unfurled leaves reaching up towards the light. On the edge of a clearing, a haze of scattered bluebells shimmer.

Come with me into the woods and hear the unexpected rustle of a fluffy-tailed young squirrel, clutching a nut close and skittering up the trunk of a tree. Here in the woods, spring is advancing- it has already arrived. Come with me, let us walk the path together.

Sometimes, it’s the little things!

I turn 50 later this year and, I’ll let you into a secret. I don’t want a big bash, nor do I feel the need to dye my hair pink, get a tattoo (ticked both those boxes a while back, thank you!!) or drive Route 66 on a Harley (but, now you come to mention it!?)

WHY CAN’T WE CELEBRATE THE SMALL WINS?

It’s not that I’m a party pooper but, I like to celebrate the little things. Who says we need to wait for a big occasion in order to celebrate? Why can’t we celebrate the small wins – the ‘little successes’ – that happen as we head towards the larger markers like birthdays, graduations, engagements and so on?

Well, I say we can, and we should. Why not shift the focus in your life onto the maximising even the smaller occasions? We often lament over the bad things that happen, blowing them up in our minds until they are larger than life, so why shouldn’t we shift some of that focus onto the positives? Yoga encourages us to live in the moment and, in the midst of our busy lives, it’s time to take that to heart and celebrate our small victories as and when they come our way.

LIFE IS NEVER SMOOTH SAILING

Life is never smooth sailing and when the sea is calm or the horizon breathtaking, it’s important to take a moment to just pause, reflect and feel grateful. Celebrations don’t have to be heaving parties where your floorboards shake and your fridge is emptied, sometimes they can just be intimate dinners, a well-deserved pamper session or a glorious laugh-filled catch up with old friends.

I love a mini moment celebration, which is why, when we heard that more people than ever were Googling ‘mini moment celebrations’ I couldn’t help but get involved, to try and spread the message far and wide – THIS IS LIFE, LET’S CELEBRATE.

How do I celebrate these mini moments though, I hear you ask. Well, I have a couple of suggestions…

LIGHT A CANDLE AND JUST PAUSE

Candles are synonymous with celebrations; we light them on a cake, set the scene at a dinner party and use them as table-centres at fancy events.

I love this quiet and simple way to just step out of the bustle for a moment, acknowledge the present and connect with yourself. It’s a calming ritual and one that marks the occasion in a mellow way.

Light candles around a bath or simply sit by one and just breathe for a little while.

CRACK OPEN THAT BOTTLE YOU’VE BEEN ‘SAVING’ AND WEAR THAT ‘BEST’ DRESS

We always seem to save the ‘nice stuff’ for a big occasion, but why not a smaller one?

It always feels like a celebration when you’re drinking a fancy bottle or wearing your best bib and tucker. We don’t need to save things for the huge moments in life, often it means we don’t really notice them anyway, sometimes really savouring the good things in a quieter moment always us to enjoy them more.

Plus, once you start saving something, no occasion ever feels big enough anyway.

So, splash on your favourite smell, put on that favourite outfit which has been languishing in your wardrobe and raise a glass to life…and to all it’s glorious muddlesome moments!