ACKNOWLEDGING MY WHITE PRIVILEGE

Following the racially motivated sickening killing of George Floyd I have awakened to the fact that not being racist is in itself simply not enough because it does nothing to help those who continue to experience racism on a daily basis. I am realising for the first time that I must use the white privilege that I was born into to contribute to the change that I, and the majority of us, want to see in the world. The post I wrote on social media about this a few days ago got very little interaction compared to the usual type of posts I share. I have no idea where many of my followers are at in terms of anti-racism. The lack of interaction could be because people who saw it are already actively engaging in anti-racism work so they couldn’t relate to what I was saying, or it could be that the discomfort around the situation makes it difficult to engage with, because lets face it these necessary conversations are not easy. I was unsure about posting anything publicly in fear of saying the wrong thing but realised that continuing to stay silent was helping no-one. Awareness and change cannot occur if these difficult conversations are never had and the fact is that black people have been and are continuing to be killed and suffer because of the colour of their skin, this IS NOT OK.

For the first 8 years of my adult life I had a boyfriend of African-American descent. His Mother had been born to a white Mother and black Father, who had arrived in the UK during the war. She told me many saddening stories about the difficulties she had experienced during her lifetime, involving unashamedly blatant racism, as well as living with the challenge of an absent father during a time that having a child out of wedlock was also seen as shameful. My ex boyfriend’s Mother was an incredibly strong and resilient woman but only with hindsight do I recognise just how deeply traumatic her life would’ve been. I feel sad that she gave me not only an education but also an opportunity to take a stand and say that racism is not OK but naively I thought that because things had become easier for her and attitudes generally seemed to be improving with each generation that eventually we would reach a point where it would no longer exist.

I now see this as a missed opportunity all those years ago and am not prepared to miss another, particularly now that I have a role where I have a voice and platform with which to use it. I am also incredibly fortunate to have the support of peers and teachers who are helping me to understand what I can actually do to actively help in the fight against racism. Writing this blog and starting to share my experience openly is just the beginning of small personal steps towards bigger changes. I am reluctant to do anything that feels like knee-jerk reactivity to make myself feel better and then continue to turn a blind eye so I am in the process of re-educating myself with material that has been produced in more recent years, which will help me to find a way to play a long-term active part of this new wave in the anti-racism movement.

If you’re wondering what this has to do with yoga – it has everything to do with yoga. Yoga is a practice of awareness, where we use the body and mind to connect with ourselves more deeply, it provides us with endless opportunities to shift energy, our state of being and our perspective. It is a practice of self-enquiry which brings what is unconscious to the surface, whether that emotional wounds, memories, or deeply ingrained ancestral beliefs. The movement and the stillness of yoga can give rise to discomfort so we get to see and acknowledge how we respond to that discomfort – can we allow it to move through us, shine a loving light on it? Or do we push on through it to make it disappear so we can go back to feeling comfortable with our familiar preferences and miss golden opportunities to do better and to be better. The choice of whether we acknowledge, learn, heal or suppress is entirely ours. This is the work, yet also the magic, of yoga because we cannot learn without some level of work and we will miss its transformative magic if we do not bring what is learned into our own lives and those of others.

Some of the resources I have found to be very helpful, some of which also have links to further resources:

‘Your Camera Phone Is Our Weapon’: Light Watkins on Why We Need to Talk About Racism

https://www.rachelcargle.com/

https://www.standuptoracism.org.uk/

If you have access to Netflix and haven’t watched 13th I highly recommend that too:
https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/80091741

RESTFUL YOGA WITH EASY PROPS

These simple supported poses are great to help you reset or restore if you’re feeling restless, tired or just a bit frazzled. Grab some cushions, pillows and blankets to ensure your body can feel really well supported. Each pose can be done for a couple of minutes or longer if you have more time/need to feel well rested. Obviously there is no need to do all of the poses, just pick what you feel drawn to or more comfortable with.

Child’s Pose
Kneel on the floor with a cushions/pillows or rolled/folded blankets vertically in front of you. Keeping the toes together, let the knees spread apart wide and lengthen your torso and arms forward over your cushions with your head turned to one side, then turn your head the opposite way half way through the time you’re taking here.

Reclined Butterfly
Place a pile of pillows or cushions on the floor, then lie down on your back onto the pillows (you may want an extra cushions or folded blanket under your head). Bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to move apart adding as much additional support (cushions etc) as you need under the outside edges of your knees/thighs.

Legs Up the Wall
Place some pillows etc horizontally a few inches from the wall. Sit on the floor and turn onto your right side, propping yourself up with your hands. Arrange your lower back on the pillows. Lift your legs up and inch up closer to the wall until the back of your legs rest on the wall. Adjust your position on the pillows so that the lower back feels lifted and supported. You may want to place a folded blanket under the neck and head.

Tools for challenging times – Covid-19

What an interesting time we find ourselves in, for many of us it is a time like no other and one that will go down in history for so many reasons. Firstly, I have to acknowledge the great sadness and loss that this pandemic has caused and is yet to cause and for those of us that are not key workers we are being asked to comply with a simple request to stay at home in order to save lives. I do hope that all of us who can are doing so.

On a wider scale it feels as though mother earth has pressed pause whilst humanity takes part in a collective worldwide meditation that none of us knew we had signed up for. I feel that these unprecedented situations bring out the best and worst in humanity, as does meditation, because when we sit quietly to meditate it allows space for our subconscious patterns, behaviours and habits to rise to the surface in order for us to work with or release them. I’ve been practising and teaching meditation for several years and often remind myself and those who attend my classes that sitting with ourselves is not always pleasant or easy and blimey aren’t we now witnessing that on a global scale? Behaviours such as stock-piling food, forgetting how to be kind to ourselves and others and frustration & anger of feeling as though our freedom is being stripped away are fine examples of how attached we are to our habitual and patterned behaviours. None of this is anyone’s fault, some of this stuff is deep-rooted programming that many of us have lived with for a very long time so the mania it creates is unsurprising and very difficult to face.

We are collectively navigating a different way of living for an unknown period of time, our nervous systems are being tested in ways that many of them have never been tested before but the good news is there are plenty of ways in which to support ourselves in order to do the same for others. In the past week I have experienced feelings of sadness, overwhelm, helplessness and utter despair times and others where I felt calm, grounded & focused. I’m sure that these fluctuating feelings will continue in this way as our current reality evolves, however I understand that this is my nervous system adjusting to and accepting a new kind of normal, it takes time and I have used pretty much every tool from my box of resources in order to steady the ship so that I am able to continue showing up for myself, my family, friends, yoga community and the rest of humanity. I will be sharing many of these tools online over the coming weeks (send me your email address if you would like access to this) but whilst I finalise navigating the technicalities of doing so I thought it would be helpful to share some of the resources I have used in order to maintain some sense of equilibrium in these tricky times:

(Disclaimer: these are written in no particular order and are in no way proclaimed to be clinical advice, I am simply sharing with love my own experiences in the hope that it may be helpful to anyone who might read them. It’s also worth noting that wherever you’re currently at some of what I have suggested may not feel appropriate at this particular time.)

Journaling
I am journaling every day at the moment, writing down thoughts and feelings, I find the process of releasing these onto paper very therapeutic. It doesn’t need to flow or make sense, just let the contents of your mind pour onto the page.

Conscious Breathing
Simply pausing to be aware of the fact that you are breathing, hands resting on the sides of ribcage and slowing the breath down to a comfortable pace which is soft and easeful.

Mindful Movement
Yoga – sometimes moving very slowly, sometimes a little more dynamically depending on my energy. Focusing on really small movements and feeling into the body and breath takes me into a greater sense of awareness.

Tapping & shaking
Sometimes even yoga teachers don’t know what to do when they arrive on their mat so to help me shift some energy and get into my body and out of my head I find these techniques super helpful. Literally just tapping the whole of my body with my hands and then having a good old shake out, even a minute of this can make a real difference. (‘When in doubt shake it out’ is a motto I live by at the best of times!)

Meditation
Not necessarily in the sitting still and quiet ‘traditional’ way, unless it feels right for you to sit in silence, perhaps focusing on your breath or repeating a mantra in your mind if either of those feel helpful you. I sometimes say to myself ‘breathing in’, ‘breathing out’ with each inhale and exhale or repeat to myself ‘I am here’. If you do have a bit more time on your hands than normal look for ways in which you make daily tasks a mediation. Maybe sit down and savour every mouthful of your meal or sip of a drink, gaze at clouds or trees moving in the wind, massage your own hands or feet or weed the garden if you have one.

Cleaning & Clearing
There always seems to be a cupboard or drawer in our house that is ready for a good old sort out! Cleaning is something I’ve found myself doing a bit more of in the past few days, which for me has been therapeutic. Although I have to be honest I did find myself in a cleaning frenzy the other day when I had quite an urge to spring clean the whole house in the space of a weekend but soon felt chore overwhelm – why did I do that?! I wasn’t sure either but after sitting with that scenario for a while realised that a very old pattern of mine (which I thought had vanished for good!) is that cleaning is something I can use to feel in control when so much of what is going on around me is completely out of my control. It was an interesting observation so I’ve now written a list of things I’d like to do around the house (as well as another list of fun things I’d like to try/learn/investigate) and am trusting that a time for everything will unfold.

Input & interaction management
This has been vital for me over the past week, finding a way to remain informed but not overloaded with information. Not just from the news but what is being shared on social media. I have felt saddened by insensitive memes, seeing people actively trying to profit from our current situation etc. but my heart has also been warmed by wonderful NHS workers returning to the service, the existing workers doing an absolutely incredible job under this huge strain, many people sharing offerings of help and support from the heart in so many ways. BUT I have had to be cautious with everything – feeling inadequate when I see the good being done as well as angry about the not so good, which has been a stark reminder that we cannot filter what is being shared but we are completely in control of what and how much we choose to digest and who we are following etc. Staying informed and connected is so important but setting a limit in terms of time and choosing sources wisely can be very helpful.

Cold showers
These have been game changing for me since I started a couple of years ago. I don’t spend ages in them, just long enough to do what I need to but they have a very positive effect on how I feel and have been great for building a sense of inner resilience. HOWEVER they are not for everyone, particularly for those with heart conditions, high or low blood pressure, a weakened immune system and many others reasons – if in doubt don’t do it. If you do want to give them a try I started by very gradually turning down the temperature over a period of time.

Singing or humming
Literally raises our vibration, you don’t need instructions or guidance from me on how to do it, just do it!

Dancing
Same applies as singing! Nothing quite shifts my energy like a good old dance around to some ‘dance like no-one is watching’ music!

Connecting with nature
However you can with whatever you have. I realise not everyone has a garden but if you have or can get somewhere to feel your feel on the actual earth, smell some flowers, hug a tree, sit quietly outside, there is no better medicine in my opinion.

Furry friends
If you have one or many, hug them often! They are also a great meditation tool, just sitting and watching them go about their business, and they are a great example of beings that unapologetically live in the moment.

Eating well
Seems simple and easy right? For me it is something that can slip when I need it the most. You may also be in a position where you have time to learn to make something new or experiment with recipes, this in itself can be a great meditative activity.

Staying hydrated
Again seems simple but I have noticed that it’s easy to forget to drink regularly when the mind feels like it’s overflowing with thought and emotion.

Creativity
Sketch, paint, doodle, colouring books, arts and crafts, making music, writing, knitting, sewing, card making. Let your inner child be free, another great medicine in my opinion.

Focus on elevated emotions such as joy, love & gratitude
Spending some time focusing on what we already have to feel grateful for, who we love and are loved by or what helps us to experience joy can make a huge difference in counteracting fear. Writing these down on a note that you can look back at any time is something I have found useful. Even the simplicity of remembering that if you are able to read this and connect with others online you are not truly isolated. Laughter can seem like a distant memory in difficult times but we all know how wonderful it is for lifting spirits so I do hope that where we can and when appropriate we can continue to smile and laugh together.

Taking it easy on yourself
Not everything needs to be done today and today doesn’t need to be productive. This has been such a lesson for me in the past week, I started to panic that I hadn’t acted promptly enough to support my community, that I should be doing more or wasn’t doing enough but quickly realised that I cannot pour from an empty cup. I had to take a few days to adjust and remind myself that if I’m not resourcing myself in a helpful way I will absolutely useless trying to help anyone else.

Relaxation
It took me a long time to understand that relaxation is a skill that needs to be practiced, not something I could force upon myself at free will. I’m sure many of us at the moment have a desire to feel more relaxed and almost everything I have already mentioned here is helpful for taking ourselves into a the parasympathetic nervous system (rest/digest/restore), meaning we move further away from the sympathetic state of stress response (flight/fight/freeze). Having a bath, watching an uplifting or funny film or programme or sitting with candlelight can all induce feelings of relaxation so they can be good places to start but when you feel able to I highly recommend lying down anywhere you can supported with lots of cushions/pillows with a blanket over you. If you’re comfortable to put something over your eyes (a folded flannel or an eye pillow if you have one) that can feel soothing but possibly best to do only if you already feel quite relaxed. I have found one of the most soothing acts of self care over the past week to be wrapping myself in a blanket and curling up on the sofa.

LOVE OVER FEAR – WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

YOGALAND – TO STAY OR GO?

Today’s musings are about the sometimes confusing place that is ‘Yogaland’, which is obviously the arena in which I spend a lot of time and the platform from which I put my work into the world. I find it confusing because much of what has happened (and continues to do so) in the yoga world doesn’t align with its roots which saddens me. Most concerning are the cases of sexual abuse by well-known and respected yoga teachers. There is also the strange manifestation of how the traditional trusting and valued teacher-student relationship has been watered down into some kind of hierarchal offering that at best can be patronising but is also convincing many eager participants to believe that there is only one way yoga should be practiced, leaving many feeling a sense of lack and believing that they need to stick with a particular way in order to eventually obtain either a sense of achievement, relief or enlightenment! There have also been times when I have found myself dragged into a weird popularity contest party that I didn’t accept the invite to with people inflicting their likes and dislikes about mine or another teacher’s style of teaching. These are some of the reasons why I have questioned countless times whether I still actually want to be a part of Yogaland and whether there is really a place for me there. I have had several conversations recently where I have been told that people are either too fearful to walk into a class in the first place as they already feel a sense of not being good enough because they don’t own a pair of sparkly lycra leggings, have no idea what any of the ‘styles’ of yoga actually mean and feel that even if they did yoga for the rest of their days they would never look anything like what is often portrayed as ‘#yoga’ via social media. This accompanied by another story from someone who actually went to a yoga class to spend the duration of it feeling completely intimidating by the show boating that was going on at the front of the room by the ‘teacher’. This sounds like more of a performance rather than someone sharing anything remotely helpful to the rest of the room. Of course this could’ve been that they may have unknowingly entered an ‘advanced yoga class’ where there was some expected level of prior knowledge or existing practice but this wasn’t made clear at the beginning and it put the attendee off ever returning to a yoga class. This kind of stories really do make me feel sad and questioning where my place is amongst all of these goings on BUT having contemplated further I feel strongly that there is important work to be done in Yogaland and who am I not to do it? I believe that there is a way to keep the fundamental philosophy of yoga alive whilst exploring the practice in a way that is inclusive and accessible for our modern bodies and minds. Ultimately, I will never be your teacher if your desire is to learn to stand on your head with your hands in prayer position. Having said that I do feel there is a place for challenging ourselves physically because it can be a great way to work with the mind and the process of self-enquiry but it’s knowing what is driving our desire that is most important. I love feeling strong in my body because it helps me to feel stronger in my mind too. It doesn’t matter what someone wants to get from a yoga practice and there are plenty of ways to explore it but if we know why we are doing what we are doing then we are more likely to be able to utilise the practice as originally intended, one of healing. There may be no desire to ‘heal’ or to experience a deeper connection with ourselves, it is ok to practice just because we want to or to feel good. I don’t believe that yoga is the answer to everything but I do believe in it as a practice and in my experience if the healing or awareness doesn’t come directly from the practice itself then yoga can be a way for us to find clarity as to what will. Of course I would like Yogaland to exist without the pain and sadness it has caused and minus the weirdness but that’s like the world itself isn’t it? Most of us hope for equality, less division and more compassion don’t we? Therefore it is important for teachers (especially those of us that feel as though we’re going against the grain) to be putting their work out there to lead the way in another way. Walking away from the field of work that I am passionate about would be like saying I no longer care and I DO CARE! It is an important time to be a yoga teacher and to be of real service to the world, whether it’s weird or not, it’s still wonderful at the same time. I love sharing sustainable mindful movement that helps maintain, improve & strengthen physical health and care deeply about sharing what I feel can support & promote good mental health with practices that strengthen the nervous system. I feel a collective call for support in feeling well and I know I can help with that so for now I’m staying put in Yogaland to do my bit of important work with a great deal of love for what I do and those I connect with.

Hello 2020

I wrote a little post on my social media pages earlier this week about how I was patiently waiting for my mojo to appear this year!  I certainly haven’t arrived in 2020 with a sense of get up and go, more like I’m peeking out from under a cosy blanket to see how the start of this new decade feels and wondering what I’ve got to bring to the party.  Although I’ve not set resolutions for some time I still had a habit for many years of allowing myself to feel some kind of pressure to enter a new year with goals about what I needed to change or do differently, however having that type of mind-set in January feels really quite jarring because what I actually want to do is use my energy wisely by showing up to be of service and do my work to the best of my ability, resting in between and pondering what I might enjoy doing or look forward to during the year.  I already know that I’d like to have fun & adventure, do something I’ve never done before and visit somewhere new this year, what any of that will look like or when it will happen I have no idea.

Setting goals / resolutions can bring a sense of feeling that we aren’t already enough and send us down a rabbit hole of needing to be or do more.  It can be easy to get swept away with wanting to do something new or different because we have reached another year but sometimes the simple act of pausing and remembering how fortunate we are to be here for another year is enough!  I’m not suggesting we should never want to change anything about or for ourselves, change is a good thing and without it we wouldn’t learn or grow and life could become pretty stagnant and boring but it’s also a skill to be able to recognise wanting to change something for the sake of it and stopping to ask ourselves why.  Life is pretty full on for most of us and comes with a fair bit of pressure already so why do we sometimes finding ourselves piling on more?  Wanting to lose a few pounds or do more exercise is great but does it really matter when or how it happens?  If it does then take action, if it doesn’t trust that it will happen when the time is right.

I find that a helpful way to look at what I’m asking of or saying to myself is to consider for a moment whether I would ask that of or say the same thing to someone else?  If the answer is no then I know I need to reconsider!

I feel that 2020 will be a year of taking action, Mother Nature is telling us in no uncertain terms that we need to change the way we treat our planet.  But considered compassionate action can’t always happen at lightning speed, small realistic and do-able changes are likely to make the most difference.

 

If you’ve got nothing worth saying…..

Over the past few weeks I’ve taken an unintended break from public writing, having had the feeling that I had nothing much to say. I have written lots in my journal but nothing that felt worthy of sharing but there was an underlying feeling that I should have something relevant to say or share with those that read, like I’d laid a foundation of expectation from others who were waiting for me to send my regular email or write a blog and that if I wasn’t writing something honest, thought provoking or meaningful people might think I couldn’t be bothered. I almost slipped into the realm of sharing something on social media just to maintain a presence, for who though exactly? Why did I need people to know I was still around, despite feeling like I had nothing to say? That was an ugly ego moment! It’s weird how social media pulls us into this odd world where we need to decipher what is real and what isn’t and make choices about who we want to connect with based on pretty pictures. Fluffy sounding quotes and aesthetically pleasing yoga pose pictures are not my thing so I decided to stay quiet and the reality is that those of you that do read what I share have been occupied with your own lives, rather than having the time to notice whether I had written anything or not! No-one other than me puts any kind of pressure on me so it was my choice to find myself getting caught in a loop of self-inflicted pressure and overwhelm, so I started to contemplate why I had managed to fall down this contradictory rabbit hole of wanting to have something to say but needing not to. The saying ‘if you’ve got nothing worth saying then don’t say anything at all’ is one that’s been with me for a very long time. It’s been very useful at times, certainly in helping me to stop and think before I speak in challenging situations, to question whether what I want to say is helpful or kind and it’s definitely gone a long way towards keeping ‘teacher babble’ in check by overcoming the need to fill every silent space with words when guiding people through their yoga practice. The flip side of living by such a mantra has seen me swallow my truth on more occasions than I wish to admit and saying something because I thought it was what someone wanted to hear, or to ‘crowd please’ when teaching. All of which have led to itchy & scratchy feelings of frustration and anger because I didn’t have the courage to say what I felt. As with everything this is work in progress but I am less inclined to swallow or sugar-coat my truth these days, having learned that sharing it isn’t anywhere near as scary as I used to imagine and that for as many people my truth doesn’t resonate with there will be just as many that do relate and might even find it helpful or reassuring in some way. Sharing innermost thoughts and feelings is exposing and brings with it a sense of vulnerability but if we all decided to keep everything in we wouldn’t be of much service to the world would we? There are so many ways to share, it can be deep and meaningful & touch the heart of another or it could be amusing and bring a smile to someone’s face. There is no right or wrong to connect with others & how we choose to communicate is a personal choice, it’s the ‘why’ that matters, not the ‘how’, isn’t it?

Breaking down barriers – March 2019

I ran (it was more of a plod!) my first half marathon last Sunday – typing those words and saying them out loud still feels quite surreal. I had been a keen casual jogger for several years but 10K was the furthest distance I had ever ran and the last time I did that was in 2016. My running efforts came to a standstill for most of 2017, when for several reasons I became so depleted I barely felt I could run for a bus. During that time I would never have believed that less than 2 years later I would manage 13.1 miles without stopping.
Around this time last year I developed a knee injury which meant that for most of 2018 between physio treatments my running efforts were fairly sporadic to say the least. Around September last year I was speaking to one of my mentors and found myself telling her that I would like to take part in a half marathon once my injury had healed. I couldn’t quite believe I was saying it, although I had always enjoyed running I had never believed that I had any long distance in me, believing that was something that other people did and saved for those who were good at running. That was the story I had continued to tell myself for many years, until that conversation when I was advised to listen to my heart, ask myself what I needed to do to prepare for a half marathon and start believing that this was an opportunity to awaken a new level of mastery within myself. My heart told me that with a healthy knee and positive attitude, along with supportive nutrition I absolutely had a half marathon in me and a new chapter was ready to be written.
In January this year I discovered that a friend of my cousin wanted to take part in the Bath Half Marathon but was keen to do it alongside someone. There was also an opportunity to raise funds for The Grand Appeal, a charity very close to my heart that my cousin has chosen to support following the sudden death of her 9 month old son in February 2018. There was no better reason to sign up, so with 8 weeks until race day our training began. Naomi (my cousin’s friend) and I live about 20 miles apart so we became virtual running buddies sending messages of support and encouragement to each other. It was great to have that support and someone to chat to when the training felt tough but we both felt honoured to be able to take part in memory of Baby Lance whilst raising money for such a great cause and it was that which kept me going on the days where I felt tired or the weather was awful. The generosity and kindness people shared before the race was incredible but I wasn’t quite prepared for the sights I would witness on race day. I found myself amongst a sea of people coming together to test themselves in the name of raising awareness and funds for so many wonderful causes. That in itself was inspiring, let alone the amount of different charities people were running for, some of which I’d never heard of – a reminder of all the great work that goes on in the world. There were people dressed as cows, some wearing head gear and wigs that looked almost impossible to keep on whilst running and a guy wearing a human-size rugby ball! One of the most inspiring sights was a man being pushed in his wheelchair by another guy who looked so happy and honoured to completing such a feat.
It was an overwhelming and emotional experience on many levels but most of all a reminder of how we really can break down our own barriers when we truly start to believe in ourselves.

TRUST

Several events in the past few weeks have led me to contemplate what it means to trust. Trust who? Trust what? It’s very easy to say that we should ‘trust the process’ and that ‘everything happens for a reason’ because that feels impossible and those sentences seem so empty during tougher times. What I’m referring to here is having the ability to know what feels right in our heart and having the courage to let go of what doesn’t so that we can make space for what we are meant to be doing. I had fallen into battle between heart and head for many weeks about one of the events mentioned above, a class I had been teaching for some time that was no longer feeling right. There were so many reasons why I wanted to continue but more reasons why I knew I shouldn’t. I have a habit of sticking with things to ensure I’ve ‘given them my best shot’ for far longer than I really need to because I fall into the old trap of feeling that it’s my fault that something isn’t working and there must be more I can do to turn it around. I even knew I was doing this, I was witnessing my own battle and still couldn’t stop it! Another pattern of mine also appeared, which is to over-talk the situation as well over-think it, so my poor fiancé had to have the same conversation with me repeatedly! The bottom line was that I was clinging to something that wasn’t working, I needed to not only get out of my own way but also remove myself from the situation so that the person who was right for the job could step into it.
As helpful as it can be to talk things through with others sometimes it just isn’t necessary, particularly when you feel like a broken record because I was having the same conversation with myself in my journal as the one I was having aloud with my fiancé. It was all starting to get a bit boring!
When you think about it the concept of trust is only complicated by us, when we allow ourselves to be distracted by our own thoughts, patterns and habits, or the external world we can so easily fall into the doubt trap.
The message from my heart was quite clear, if you trust the natural unfolding of life there are an abundance of infinite possibilities awaiting. Within a week of walking away from what wasn’t working I had 2 offers of other work, both of which really excited me. A reassuring reminder that if we stay connected to our truth and act from that place we can’t go too far wrong.

The Subtle Power of Yin Yoga – Jan 2019

In November 2018 I was lucky enough to finally take part in a Yin Yoga Teacher Training.  I had spent a couple of years prior to this visiting studios to meet teachers and researching various yin yoga training courses but none of what was on offer had felt quite right so I stopped searching and inevitably a few months later the right training opportunity presented itself.  When I least expected it I received a recommendation for a Yin Yoga teacher who I’d not heard of before and wasn’t easy to check out as she was based in Canada, but after a small amount of online research I knew I had found the right training.  (There is a reason for me being particularly fussy about what training I undertake and why but that is a whole different blog of its own!)

Before deciding that I wanted to develop my understanding of what Yin Yoga was all about it had been on my radar for some time, although not in a huge way.  It certainly wasn’t part of my daily practice and I didn’t go to a regular Yin class but there seemed to be a persistent pull towards it and I would find myself reading about it and taking part in online classes, particularly if I was having a difficult time.  During one of those more challenging times a couple of years ago I managed to completely deplete myself physically and mentally, a situation that enforced some time off work and a re-evaluation of how I was living my life.  My regular running and yoga practices ground to a halt so my options for a daily practice were very gentle and slow movement and meditation, neither of which were particularly appealing at the time due to my overly busy state of mind!  However, I do believe that we’re given what we need when we need it so I went with those options and found myself once more drawn to Yin Yoga.  Having not done that much yin yoga and having minimal understanding of the practice at the time the appeal was what looked like getting your body into fairly comfortable positions and lying or sitting still for a few minutes in each position, how difficult could it be?!  Quite a few online yin videos later I realised that the practice wasn’t as easy as it looked (much like many other styles of yoga!) and my mind found it quite challenging to let go into the stillness of the practice.  Although it wasn’t easy there was something supportive about the practice and the stillness helped me to learn to sit with some truths that I had been avoiding, so without the ability or energy to keep running I sat with my stuff and the insights started to arrive about what needed to change.

This sounds very deep and I am not suggesting that Yin Yoga is to be saved for when you find yourself in a muddle or having a tough time etc.  It is a very nourishing and grounding, yet rejuvenating, practice that can be beneficial for anyone and this is what I experienced on my training.  I went along to the course trusting that I was in the right place at the right time and with very few expectations, other than to learn and absorb the knowledge I needed in order to share the practice with others.  I was also lucky enough to be at a point in my life where I felt at ease and peaceful and very ready to join up the dots between what I had experienced for myself and what is actually going on internally when we practice Yin Yoga.  We had the most incredible teacher (Angela Jervis-Read) who had the ability to impart knowledge in a way was easy to understand and digest in a short amount of time, which fortunately meant that the dots started to join up pretty quickly.  The days of training and evenings of homework flew by and I was driving home before I knew it, with a huge sense of responsibility to share this work with others.  I don’t believe that there is ever only one way of doing things and I am certainly not suggesting that Yin Yoga is the answer to everything but I wholeheartedly believe that it has something for everyone and it makes a great complementary practice to any other movement practice and is also a great tool when working one to one with people, which is why I’ve started incorporating it alongside my massage therapy work.

As usual I didn’t intend for the blog to be this long and after all this writing I still haven’t offered an explanation of how Yin Yoga works and what it actually does, so if you’re still reading here goes!……

It is a very inward style of yoga that brings an opportunity to connect more deeply with your inner landscape.  This is achieved with longer held poses and support for your body with the use of props such as blocks, bolsters, blankets and straps.

The idea of the longer holds is that they help to release fascia (connective tissue) that becomes stuck around our joints for many reasons, including poor posture, repetitive strain or injury.  When the fascia has become stuck it restricts our movement so releasing it helps to improve our mobility.  There is a myth around Yin Yoga that you ‘hang’ in your joints but the joints are actually always supported so there is no ‘hanging’ and the fascia releases slowly during the minutes you are in the pose.

Although fascia is similar to a web in the way it weaves through our whole body some of it does also follow certain pathways, known as fascial lines and theses line happen to correspond with some of the meridian lines, through which energy flows.  The meridian lines in yin yoga are those from Traditional Chinese Medicine, which relate to our internal organs and systems.  Therefore, when releasing the fascia we are also releasing blockages within our energy and enabling the pathways that it moves along to become clearer, which in turn helps to give our internal organs and systems a boost from the inside out.

So with the help of gravity and your body weight we are affecting our energy and physiology at the same time.  You would expect to feel sensation around the area that is being released but it is important to choose an appropriate edge with which to work because the sensation may become stronger as you stay in the pose.  It is important to point out that Yin Yoga is not a practice of endurance to see how long you can sustain an uncomfortable position or level of sensation, it is however a practice that requires patience, which is the meditative part of the practice and our ability to sit with ourselves when things might feel a little less than ideal or unfamiliar.

I absolutely haven’t side-lined my usual movement practices of yoga, running and cycling to just practice yin, (because I believe that daily movement is key to maintaining good health and wellbeing) but what I am grateful to have discovered is how the regular use of yin yoga alongside everything else I do has helped me to take better care of an old injury, as well improve my ability to meditate, which for someone with an inherently busy mind can never be a bad thing!

 

Anchoring into Autumn – Nov 2018

Typing this under artificial lighting with the curtains closed before 6pm is a certain reminder that we are now anchored firmly into autumn.  I have always appreciated the beautiful changing colours of autumn but as late September approached there was also an underlying dread of the colder air (being naturally lizard-like enjoying the feeling of warm sun on my skin!) and shorter days.  I had experienced a difficult and stressful time during the autumn many years ago so the transition into this time of year almost served as a reminder of those darker times and that association had sunken quite deeply into my psyche.  I believe being able to associate with tough times is a good thing as it can help us realise how far we have come but my connection to long nights and dark times had become fairly unhelpful once I started to realise that it was wasting a lot of my precious energy and time due to being pre-occupied with an old story.  The cooler winds and damp days also used to leave me feeling quite restless and ungrounded, which often led to a weakened immune system and another expectation of feeling under the weather at this time of year.

As you can tell the story was quite repetitive and boring, so it was time for another chapter to be written, which was one of embracing the longer evenings to spend time doing things I did less of during the summer months, such as reading more books, learning a new craft, painting/sketching, practising guitar or finding an interesting series to watch on TV, and of course lighting candles and having a long soak in the bath.  Self-care is a huge part of keeping myself healthy and well during autumn so the opportunity to spend more time with myself is one I now cherish, but as ever it’s something that is continual work in progress!  Just this week I realised that I’d been ignoring some sure signs that I needed to slow down and actually spend more time doing the things that nourish me, rather than just have the intention of doing so.  I was beginning to feel restless, tired and a little under the weather because I hadn’t planned my week very well and kept running out of time to do everything I had set myself to do, meaning my energy and thoughts had started to become scattered.  This is a huge anxiety trigger for me and my old story says that it’s safer to stay busy and run away from the unpleasant unsettled feelings of anxiety, but this time I decided to be grateful for the warning signs and stay put because with practice I’ve learnt that by doing so anxiety starts to lose its power very quickly, meaning I can become much more present to enjoy life, as well as the shift in the seasons.  For those of you that relate to what I’ve mentioned I have included below some tried and tested methods that have helped me to stay well, present and embrace all that is autumn:

  • Include grounding foods in diet, such as root vegetables, pulses and oats, think warming soups, pies, stews, porridge.
  • Reducing my intake of cold foods and drinks, replacing salad with soup, having more milky drinks and warm water.
  • I do still have cold showers because this is massively helpful in maintaining a healthy immune system (if you’re new to this I recommend starting by turning the temperature down at the end of your shower gradually for 30 seconds).
  • The cold showers are complemented with long warm baths at the end of the day, which I put in epsom salts, a few drops of lavender with a small amount of grapeseed oil (any carrier oil will do).
  • Feed your soul – do what you love to do, if you have a ‘summer thing’ find a ‘winter thing’ to replace it with, anything from painting, drawing, writing, music, reading, studying something new, have fun discovering what feeds your soul if you don’t already know!
  • Grounding activities – staying present whilst doing anything that helps to feel our connection with the earth…… really feeling your feet on the ground whilst you walk or your seat on the floor if you meditate.
  • Treating downtime as importantly as work and allocating space for it in my weekly schedule. This could be reading, enjoying the company of others, having a coffee, going for a walk, or simply just time to do nothing (in our society there seems to be a really weird guilty pleasure thing associated with time spent just ‘being’ doesn’t there?!  I discovered though that by liberating myself from what can feel like a competition to see who has the busiest life is one of the best things I’ve done for my wellbeing)
  • Finally and I would say a game changer for me (something else I’ve had to train myself to enjoy but has very much been worth it!) it simply lying down on the floor for 11 minutes (I’m not sure why 11 minutes feels like the magic number for me – I think because it’s long enough for me to reset without being too long to fall into a deep sleep and wake up with that groggy day time sleep feeling). Just lay down with no agenda, get as comfy as possible with blankets, cushions, bolsters, relaxing music, whatever you want and let your internal systems have an opportunity to rest and restore, this little gem never fails me!

If you have any tips to share with me please do and if you choose to try any of mine let me know how you get on.