Seasons of Change

I was in a luscious yin class* on Sunday – zoning into the ebb and flow of my breath and allowing my body just to be present when the teacher said this ‘just like the seasons change so do we’

Boom!…I really needed to hear this and be reminded of this, sometimes you just need that one thing said in a class to resonate with you and your whole perspective can change again. For the better!

Why do we think it’s not ok to not be ok? Or is that just me? I have been feeling quite low recently, mentally and physically, and I’ve been well and truly beating myself up about it…I should be grateful for what I’ve got (I am btw) and not be winging or feeling sorry for myself. I should look, as I teach, to the positives of the situation. But I’ve struggled. While meditation or crystals and my personal practice has helped temporarily I’ve slumped again when life stuff takes over. And then started to berate myself for it all over again, this constant loop of feeling low, then feeling annoyed at myself for feeling low….round and round it goes.

Until that comment, just a simple sentence that reminded me, we are not all firing on all cylinders all the time, seasons change, and so do you – I’m naturally a much happier person when the sun shines, so I suppose Summer is my season, my YANG time – time to be energetic and sociable and high, and I hate being cold so Winter is my YIN time, time to withdraw a little and become more introspective. The transitional periods of Spring and Autumn can bring the change with their equinox’s, preparing us for the next big shift. So use these equinox shifts and transitional times to go with the flow, accepting that the flow of life will have ups, downs, highs, lows and how you deal with it is the key to your happiness.

The same mindset can be applied to the physical, in the summer my body feels warm and pliable and I find the asana practice relatively ‘easy’ as the days get colder my body reacts with tension and stiffness that is a little harder to warm up and work with – accepting this and working with it is the key to not feeling bad about it.

So I’ve decided I’m going through a seasonal change, and that’s made me feel so much better. I can stop telling myself off for being grumpy, just accept the bumpy road for now and just accept that this feeling, along with everything else, is impermanent – so just ride with it!

I try to teach positivity and gratefulness in my classes, also accepting where you are (in the practice) but somewhere along the line I forgot to remind myself of this, and that its ok to have a little blip, to not feel like a whirling ball of positive energy, to to just accept where you are in the season of your life.

This week in my vinyasa and restorative classes I will be focusing on rooting and grounding, with of course, a sense of acceptance.

namaste

*thanks to Victoria Rose at Cheltenham Yoga and Pilates for a lovely Yin Class

 

How yoga changed my life perspective….

Boom! it’s a biggie, after a 5 month hiatus I thought a blog post was long overdue, and what better way to come back to the blog than with a very personal and bold statement!

People always ask me ‘so what is it with Yoga??’ oh man, if you need to ask then you need to get on the mat….yoga is 99% practice, 1 % theory (quote from Sri.K Pattabi Jois)

 

 

It’s an experiential thing, and to start, we start with the asana, the physical practice…of course. But then, once you sweated and huffed (yes Monday night crew I’m talking about you!!!) your way through the asana, you take a well deserved shavasana, and hopefully, after this (if I’ve done my job well) you experience a moment or moments of calm clarity…that my dear reader, is YOGA.

After you experience this, you may keep coming back to an asana practice, finding that the sitting and being present at the end of class is the thing that is really helping you mentally. I believe this is the thing that people return to class for, even if they don’t realise this to start with. Of course we have physical benefits from a regular asana practice, but you could get such results in any form of exercise, it’s the brain that is the big winner in yoga.

This brings me to my main point of today’s rambling, how yoga has changed my perspective, how, after many years of practice I believe yoga has helped me become a more positive person. Positive in my outlook to life and myself. And this is why I often state ‘yoga changed my life’

I wasn’t always negative, or riddled with self-hatred, but as we all know life throws us curve balls and they have an impact on how we view ourselves and the world…and for a while, I was stuck in a rut of self loathing and negative thoughts, I won’t go into detail here on why I had such a hard few years, and almost it is a moot point, as I’m trying to explain how yoga has helped me, and can help YOU regardless of the reason you might not be floating on a wave of positive thoughts right now.

Yoga, and of course meditation, helps put things in perspective. Being present is a wonderful tool. Accepting where you are right here, right now is the greatest gift I’ve learnt.

I’ve learnt to ACCEPT myself. And in turn, change my whole life perspective….this ability to see things how they really are (Vipassana) is a wonderful trait in humans, and it could literally change the world. Sadly it’s not that easy. So, if you can’t change the world, change yourself.

Start by accepting what you cannot change, and changing what you can. You can improve your mental and physical health by improving your diet (eat more veg! eat less animal products, cut out all processed foods and SUGAR) and starting an exercise regime (it doesn’t have to be yoga) you can start a simple meditation practice – simple guide here

You can edit out things and people from your life ‘who no longer serve you’ change your job, move, all these practical things can help, but for the things you can’t change you need to change your perspective…

I try to start each day with a yoga practice, followed by some mediation and some positive ‘affirmations’ being grateful for at least two things each morning, even so simple as ‘I am still alive’ ‘I am loved’ ‘I have a roof over my head’ etc…and every time you have negative thoughts, try to spin it so that you find some kind of positive in every situation.

You see dwelling in negativity is a selfish way to live…oh poor you, poor me, I want, I need, I don’t look like this, I don’t have this…it’s all so egotistical and self-absorbed.

Start becoming grateful for what you DO have – even if it’s as simple as breath, you are breathing, rejoice in that!

I promise you, that if you try to live this way and change your perspective, your life will feel better, you will FEEL richer, more fulfilled and content.

Of course, it’s always a work in progress, sometimes I get the blues, but I snap out of it pretty quickly nowadays…remember as Pattabi also wisely said…Practice, and ALL is coming

love and light x

Love the skin you’re in

January, the month of setting intentions….it’s boom time for the fitness industry,as everyone starts their year with the very best of intentions. But can you maintain it? Can you keep the motivation going into February, March, the rest of 2018, or for the rest of your life?

I’m not sure what the actual percentage might be but I’m going to hazard a guess that approx 70-75% of people do not stick to their new diet and exercise regime past March. But what do you think the reason for that is??? Because you’ve looked at the front of a magazine/Instagram post/sponsored Facebook post and seen an industry professional, fitness ‘athlete’ and you’ve thought ‘I’ve got to look like that’ and you are only faced with disappointment and failure when you don’t.

Which brings me back to the title of the post –

LOVE THE SKIN YOUR IN…

You are good enough right now* so start where you are and with the first rule of change – ACCEPTANCE

Don’t make an intention, or resolution to change your physical appearance when the change only happens within. Of course, I’m not saying diet and exercise don’t work, they can be very achievable for a short period of time, what I’m talking about is a long-term, permanent change.

If you don’t make the aesthetic the goal, then you can start to learn to accept and work with what you’ve got. This is a message I try to indoctrinate into all my yoga classes….being present in the moment, not comparing, accepting where you are RIGHT NOW. Because nothing is permanent…everything changes.

I can honestly tell you this is the best change in I ever made in my life, is to just accept myself for who I am.

And guess what? yes, I practice Yoga 6 days a week, I keep a 95% healthy diet (come on, let’s be real I like wine and gin and beer!) and because I do all these things I am in pretty good physical shape –  but I wake up every morning and I tell myself this is it, this is you, this is who you are right now, today, love it!

I honestly believe this is the ONLY resolution you need ever make to live a full and happy life.

You know, whenever I do get down, and I do get down, I can 100% guarantee it’s because I’ve felt I should be doing more than I am doing in that moment – I should be thinner, fitter, stronger, be able to get my leg behind my head, have a boyfriend, have more money, have a better place to live, be travelling again, have my own business….comparing and judging and critically assaulting my life!!!

And then I sit, meditate for a few minutes on the present and I feel calm and grounded again, and I can move on with my day. I have the ability to ping back fairly quickly from these downward spirals as I can accept them, and then myself, and move on.

So, you see, and I can testify to this whole heartedly, the key to making a change is to accept where you are right now, and

LOVE THE SKIN YOUR IN 

 

 

*unless of course you have been told by a medical professional to start to urgently exercise and/or change your diet, in which case please do so, but not before you accept your starting point, each day.

Being Present (in this time of presents)

So at the start of December I posted a Instagram about how I thought that Christmas is the month of greed and gluttony…harsh words maybe, the ‘Grinch’ in me coming out, however I do find this season all a bit over the top, and quite frankly sometimes revolting.

I think we have lost touch with the essence of the season, a time for giving and sharing goodwill amongst all men. Instead, like Halloween before it, we have fallen under the trap of over consumerism and retail excess.

So, it would be great if you could take a minute before you buy another present, to think about what the giving of presents represents to you. How about you BECOME more present? How about we get back to the tradition of spending time with loved ones not just for Christmas but ALL YEAR round? How about you think about the impact all that packaging of those unnessecary presents will make on the environment? Give some of the food you will all over eat on Christmas Day to a food bank? Just a few suggestions for you to think about….

During a meditation and yoga practice you become more aware of how contentment and peace are found WITHIN you and not via external gifts, so do you really NEED more than one gift? Do you even need one? This year, I’m hoping that my present is that my whole family (and friends) are healthy and mentally happy – for a very long time. No virtual present required.
I’ll take time to BE PRESENT for all of them should they need me.

Isn’t it time we all reassessed our approach to this time of year and quit with the conspicuous consumption and revelry?
Don’t even get me started on the greed and gluttony point…eating your own body weight in mince pies is not cool people! I shall be over indulging in a delicious booze filled weekend with friends this weekend, not because it’s Christmas, but because I love hanging out with friends who are like family. Because, after all my wonderful travels I felt like it was time to BE PRESENT here with them and my family for a while.

I challenge you all to take some time on December 25th to stop and be grateful for everything you already have in your life. Spend a few moments just to become aware of the present moment. Observe the breath, the inhale and exhale and just BE PRESENT.

Slow down! Why we should start ‘slow living’

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Ever feel like there isn’t enough time in the day? Feel rushed all the time? Trying to juggle job, fitness, socialising, chores, and feeling overwhelmed?

But why? Why do we get these feelings of being overwhelmed, or anxious that you’re not doing enough, or you are happily doing one thing and then you get the dreaded FOMO?!

These days we simply feel pressured into it. We feel we should be multi-tasking superheros and documenting our perfect lives on social media whilst we do it….

So I’m making time in my life to SLOW DOWN

To stop and enjoy the simple things, like having a cuppa and reading my book, putting down my phone and actually WATCHING that TV programme. Saying NO to things, being present in each moment without worrying about what’s coming next.

It’s simple to write, but actually for a phone addict like myself it’s a lot harder than it seems to put into practice….because…well FOMO again!

How many of us doing at least three things at the same time? I can vouch for that I will be eating, ‘watching’ the TV, and checking emails/facebook/whatsapp all at the same time, so neither am I tasting my food, or absorbing what I’m watching or being present in thats whatsapp chat group…

It’s time to slow down and focus on one thing at a time. It’s probably time to give ourselves a break from being online and contactable 24/7 and just enjoy life, as it is, plain and simple.

I googled the term before writing this post and found a good description of it on wiki;

‘People every day are constantly living at a fast pace which is making them feel like their lives are chaotic but with slow living they end up taking a step back and start enjoying life being conscious of sensory profusion’

So, put down your phone/ipad/laptop (after you’ve read this post of course!!!) and spend some time doing something you love, read a book with a cuppa, go for a walk, listen to your favourite album…and that’s it! Don’t do anything else whilst doing those things, just enjoy the singular activity of doing them.

Give yourself an internet curfew – I thoroughly recommend downing tools by 9pm latest just to have a decent night’s sleep, and I also have found the ‘do not disturb’ button on my phone essential for a good night’s sleep. But how about a day/night with NO digital devices at all?

Spend more time WITH people that you love rather than messaging them.

Give yourself at least an hour off of all things by attending a YOGA class (yep, you knew that one was coming!!) – and of course, the ultimate in slow living, spend a little time each day meditating, trying to clear the mental clutter (tips on meditation for beginners here)

Let me know how your slow living is going by commenting here
Peace out!

Let’s talk about food

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It’s quite possibly my favourite subject after yoga!

I have always loved food, even in the days when I believed it to be the enemy (oh dance training how you scarred me!) but now more than ever I find I am super interested in what I use as fuel for my body, especially as I want this body to last a long time!

Maybe it comes with age, this desire to respect my body, or maybe it’s because I’m in the business of health and fitness? Whatever way you look at it, food is a necessity of life, and like in life itself we have choices….we can choose to celebrate life by giving our body the best nutrition we can, or we can abuse it by poisoning it with bad food choices.

I’d like to make a caveat here – I’m not trying to turn you all vegetarian, or make out like I don’t ever ‘poison’ my body, I’m just laying out what I find works for me to have a healthy body and leaves me feeling positive about my food choices. And if you’ve clicked to read this post I’m guessing that’s what you want too.

So – my top tips for staying healthy:

SUGAR IS THE DEVIL
No joke. That stuff literally breeds disease, it’s highly addictive and is responsible for most modern-day chronic illnesses. FACT.
Of course, sometimes it’s nice to have a dance with the devil, and I would do this with alcohol, it’s the only refined sugar I let into my body these days, unless someone has managed to talk me into a cruffin of course!
Don’t think of sugar as an ingredient that will make you ‘fat’ it’s way more serious than that…it can cause anxiety, depression, stress and of course can be linked with most chronic illnesses. Of course practice everything in moderation, it’s difficult to cut it out completely, but where possible stick to natural sources like fruit and the odd alcoholic beverage now and again!

CARBS ARE NOT THE DEVIL
And in fact we need them, especially if you are cutting out refined sugars, you will need to find an alternative carb (energy) source – from things like starchy and high fibre foods -whole grains, rice, potatoes, vegetables and pulses.
I was thinking about carbs the other day and how I have reintroduced pasta into my diet…and I’ve not suddenly bloated, or put on weight. When I was a student and I LIVED off tuna, tomato pasta and never a wheat or gluten bloat thought entered my head. So get back on the carb bus….it’s fine, you will be fine!

VEGETABLES ARE KING
Eat them in abundance – plant-based protein ROCKS. Colourful vegetable dishes look so.damn.pretty. (read instagrammable)
As previously stated, I’m not telling you to become veggie, but do EAT YOUR VEG, make it the star of your dish, get creative with how you eat them, blend, roast, griddle, saute them, there are countless ways, just EAT THEM!!!!

PREPARATION IS KEY
Organising a whole week of meals can be intimidating, and quite frankly, boring – who knows on a Monday what they want to eat on Friday? but bulk cooking is your friend…making larger quantities of meals and freezing or refrigerating will save you time and stop you falling into the takeaway rabbit hole…I’ve always got a couple of soups and curries/dhals in my freezer for those CBA moments. And humous. I seriously think my life could fall apart if i don’t have a tub of humous in the fridge – arguably the best healthy snack known to man!

Of course the main points to get across are to eat fresh, unprocessed food MOST of the time and don’t let food become an enemy, never label things ‘bad’ (except sugar, sugar is bad to the bone).
From time to time have a little of what you fancy – although be warned you might just start to ‘fancy’ kale!

To be happy and healthy, IT’s THAT SIMPLE 🙂

I’m no chef but I reckon I’m a decent home cook/veg manipulator so from time to time I’ll be adding some recipe ideas to the blog….

Losing myself to find myself – a confessional

back on the mat - a leave of absense

Dear wordpress…I have a confession….it’s been 75 days since my last post….

Wow, how did that happen? I haven’t sat down and written a blog post in forever. I didn’t necessarily not have the time, I believe you can always find time for the things you love…it’s just I didn’t feel motivated to, I had literally nothing to say!

I lost myself for a while back there, and I’m only just finding my way back now. Those of you who know me, or follow the blog, will know that I have returned to the UK to try to stay grounded and rooted to one place for a while. I love love love the travelling yogi life, but I felt like I wanted to be home, spend time with friends and family and feel connected again. I forgot HOW HARD it is to live in this country! Props to those of you who have been doing it forever…

I’ve been trying to work out just why, is it the cost of living? Is it the depressing unstable weather? Is it the work life balance? Or is it that as Brits we just like to grumble???

I know that for me it was finding a work/life balance that was the struggle, I landed back in the UK and immediately got a job, which although I enjoyed, had super long hours and I just felt too tired to do ANYTHING, yes, even my practice, at any time I wasn’t working. I lost my diet (being too tired to cook after work), my practice of yoga and meditation declined (I literally had to force myself onto the mat 3/4 times a week rather than my steady 6 day a week practice)

I felt inclined to write about this as I wonder how many people live like this all the time? Just working to pay the bills – or working so hard you’ve got no time to enjoy your hard-earned cash?

So, my answer to this was to cut my hours and start teaching, and practicing again. Yes, I’m going to be broke, but each day I will remind myself that being rich isn’t material anyway. I have already made plans to catch up with friends and family, do some classes and workshops and also start to build my own classes back up.

On a positive note, my body has fully healed now from its injuries, and so I am now able to practice full primary series again, and will be making time to meditate everyday so I don’t lose myself again. I’ve realised just how important that the practice of mediation has become to me as I have made some questionable, erratic, decisions in this time of transition!

So, by way of confessional I bash out this post with haste – and hope that, for those of you who follow or subscribe it acts as an apology for my leave of absence!

I’m hopefully back now to spread the love and light of positive thinking and other inane banter with you all – if you’ll have me!

Everything becomes equal

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“You should not be practicing to have a ‘good’ practice, but instead to keep steadiness within yourself. Practice happily regardless of whether it is ‘good’ or not. Sometimes some postures will not be possible, but when you accept the good and the bad and everything becomes equal for you, that is yoga.” – Sharath Jois, 2017

 

So I’ve had to really embrace these sage words over the last month. I’m injured in two places and practice has been tough. As a yoga teacher I felt an immense pressure to be able to ‘perform’ in front of a class, and certainly don’t want them to think that (Ashtanga) yoga is dangerous and will lead to injury. It doesn’t just my own stupidity and pushing myself too far that did that!

I’ve also had the busiest week of my life for a few years – I moved house and started a new job (because in the UK it’s tough to survive just as a yoga teacher) and worked 7 days straight with barely any sleep.

I didn’t practice for 4 days, then had 1 short practice then nothing again for 2 days. And I felt terrible. Not only did my body really miss the physical side but my head was buzzing and not feeling very equanimous. But why on earth did I feel so bad? Why am I my own worst competitor?

 

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Let’s re-read Sharath’s quote – ‘Sometimes some postures will not be possible, but when you accept the good and the bad and everything becomes equal for you, that is yoga’……so this has to become my mantra for now. Accepting the good AND the bad. Accepting where you are right now, and being content with it.

– It always leads back to this!

Whilst on the mat yesterday, doing my first practice after a few days I suddenly had yet another ‘epiphany’ of just how what happens on the mat is a reflection of life.

I felt bad, guilty, and disappointed in myself for being injured when I felt I was really beginning to see progress in my asana. But I have to accept that I need some time to step back, slow down and quash the ego once again.

This is exactly what is happening in my life right now, I’ve come back, not stepped back necessarily, but I’ve had to start over, new job, house, car etc. This is not a negative, in fact I feel that just like when I left a high paying sales job to teach dance for a pittance – I am taking a few back steps so that I can LEAP forward.

And that is why I have an arrow tattooed on my arm:

 

 

– An arrow can only be shot forward once it has been pulled backwards.

Oh, yoga, you’ve done it again. I bloody love you.

 

 

Aparigraha – let that shit go…..

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Yep, last and by no means least of the Yama’s (First Limb of Yoga) is Aparigraha, or non-attachment. The art of letting shit go!

 

*I am not condoning just walking into the sea and leaving it all behind!!

 

The sutras state that:

‘When one is steadfast in non-possessiveness or non-grasping with the senses (aparigraha), there arises knowledge of the why and wherefore of past and future incarnations.
(aparigraha sthairye janma kathanta sambodhah)’

 

STUFF. We want stuff, all the stuff. But stuff is just stuff. It’s definitely not the important stuff.

We don’t ‘own’ anything, yet our western culture and society insists that the more you have of ‘it’ (it being that stuff again) the better/happier/more successful you are.

WRONG

None of the stuff is going to make you happy long term, like a sugar fix it only gives you a temporary high, and then your crashing again and searching for the next fix.

Aparigraha teaches us not only do we not need so many material possessions but that we need to practice non-attachment from the things that we perceive we have…it’s about letting go and not holding on to things that we act possessive towards or hoard (erm, hello my trainer/yoga pants/bikini collections). Try living out of a backpack/suitcase for a couple of months, you’ll see just how much you actually need.

What about the non material? We should be letting go of all the negative parts of our past – we can’t do anything about that, it’s been and gone, so let that shit go.

How about social status? Ever feel the need to ‘keep up with the Joneses’? or thought to yourself ‘my life should look like this right now’ – seriously, let that shit go RIGHT NOW. You will be your happiest and most content when you don’t compare or judge yourself.

How about toxic friends/family, you know your ‘frenemies’ yep…they can go too – no need to have people in your life who bring you down (by the way it’s YOU who are allowing them to do so). So surround yourself with people who love you for you – let all the others go.

Take stock! Have a look around you and just imagine how much simpler and carefree life would be if you JUST LET ALL THAT SHIT GO. The physical, non physical, mental and material. Let it go and feel at peace.

In Buddhism, more specifically in buddhist meditation, the art of detachment (from all things) is the path to self realisation. It’s a method I learnt in my Vippasana training (more on that here) nothing is permanent, so don’t attach yourself to anything as it won’t last, everything is constantly changing.

The Dalai Lama says:

‘Attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering’

More on this kind of philosophy can be found in the books by Ekhart Tolle ‘The Power of Now‘ and ‘Start Where You Are‘ by Pema Chodron

I urge you to begin to practice this Yama, along with all the other Yama’s and you will start to feel a lighter version of yourself. A more content and happy person. And who doesn’t want that?

Let that shit go – a useful mantra for your mala meditation!!!!!

 

 

 

Brahmacarya – self restraint

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Brahmacarya is often described as celibacy – that by being celibate the practitioner is saving their prana (energy) or ‘virya’ (strength, power). The sutras do explain it as this, but also that sex should be moderate, in a ‘marital’ relationship, with only one partner. In Hinduism it is said that this is the first stage of life, that a person should spend the first 25 years of their life in celibacy so that they can focus on their studies…yep, remember how you were doing so well in school and then ‘boys’ happened?

However, Brahmacarya can also be practiced by controlling or restricting all our desires, not just sexual, but what about other kinds of desires? You desire an extra slice of cake/glass of wine/new pair of shoes…practicing everything in moderation can also be a good use of bramacharya, and one that is probably more relevant to our western lives.

That extra slice of cake/glass of wine/retail purchase is stimulating whilst it lasts, but doesn’t give us a lasting feeling of joy – no matter how much you think it does, I promise you the joy will fade and you will be looking to satisfy your desires again. It’s like eating sugar or taking drugs – a quick high followed by a lull and then the desire to have more. By controlling the ‘urge to splurge’ we are using our will power (or self restraint) – and this is a strong use of conserving energy and placing into something more fruitful.

So, if we look at Brahmacarya as how we use our energy and how we control our desires, it is said that in this way we can move deeper into knowing our divine selfs (which, if you remember, is the whole purpose of yoga!)

So, look at this yama as self-restraint and/or will power, rather than celibacy, and apply that to any part of your behaviour you feel you need to.

Focus on using your energy in a better way, cultivating more meaningful and lasting relationships maybe rather than one night stand’s. Spending time with loved ones rather than wasting time online. Spending less on material things and more time on self-development and inner contentment.

 

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