What is Yoga? (Hint: It’s not just Pretzel Posing)

And What does it mean to me?

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Disclaimers:

  1. I’m slightly cheating with this post, as my teacher training assignment is to write 500 words on what yoga is – to me … as a multi tasker, 2 birds & all that.
  2. Yoga changed my life. Fact. Not going to wait to the end to wrap it up in some neat, life affirming, happy ending revelation. This is what it is for me, so if you don’t want to read ‘one of those’ posts, avert your eyes, now.

I came to Yoga for exercise, I came to stretch my limbs & push my body. I didn’t want to rest at the end, I didn’t want to Om and I didn’t want to chit chat with everyone in the class.

And Now?

Yoga to me is a way of life. It knitted all these little bits of my personality together that I could feel, but never really knew how they fit or how to explore them as a part of who I was.

In the physical practice; because I sit at a desk all day and to get outside, to run or walk, is a freedom to me. The asana of Yoga added new depth for me, new joy in understanding how my body could move, what it is capable of.

In the silencing of the mind; I love when people call it the ‘monkey mind’ – it’s so true, how it jumps & swings from place to place, sometimes without destination determined, sometimes spurred by a thought that brings another thought that takes you down a different rabbit hole of a million other thoughts. Be they new or old, useful or distracting, worthless or priceless. They pinball around the brain in a hectic fashion.

To come to my mat and bring my brain to a complete standstill, a peaceful refreshing pause – has made a gear shift in my way of being off the mat. I stop and take in the moment, the time spent with friends, my first (& only caffeinated) coffee of the day, the sunrise, the birds singing, it’s a weird sensation to know that I have enjoyed them all this time, but never really stopped to appreciate them & be grateful for them.

I feel present in today, in moments, I never felt I ‘had the time for’ before.

In accepting life is as simple as: Be good & do good. A simple mantra I see repeated by Yogi’s & in Yogic texts. When you are not only motivated by the fruits of your labour, but take action, do good deeds, just to do them. To be kind, to act in kindness. Resonates with me so much.

Not having a goal, a vision of what success looks like on a certain path and wanting a certain outcome, is not necessarily something I think I will ever get away from – ‘achievement’ feels ingrained in me, whether that’s my own doing or societies. But materialistic gains have waned for me and simple pleasures give me so much more joy. From eating a freshly picked sweet September ripened apple, to walking through a field when a deer leaps in, to hearing the laughter of those closest … I can’t pay for any of them, I can’t plan for any of them to happen ‘just so’ – they can’t be my goal.

I’ve volunteered at different points in my life, from helping patients in day care at my local hospital, to being a Trustee at a wildlife rescue centre … the need in me to give something, to do good, is always there. I pick up other peoples litter, I hold doors open for people & I ask strangers if they are OK when they are crying – nothing that’s going to change the planet, but hopefully in some small little way, is of use somehow.

Funny story – I once saw a hedgehog out in daylight hours & thought maybe it was injured, after a little while I went back to see if it had moved & was OK, it had gone & so I assumed it was fine, but on the way home ‘found’ a lost cat from my estate. I captured it, took it home (much to the dismay of my own cat) and duly went off in search of the nearest lamp post with it’s picture on. Only it wasn’t there, or on the next lamp post … the cat had obviously already found it ‘s way home & I had now just stolen it. I quickly let it out the back door …

What I’m saying is – it’s like Yoga tells me this is OK. In a world of bad news stories, hateful people, selfish people, people who would see what I do as weird or intrusive maybe; that hey I’m just trying to be good & do good, and maybe the world could do with a little more of that.

So it’s all good right? In a word, no.

Yoga makes me more empathetic & every news breaking horrific act in the world saddens me. It makes me grateful, to be privileged, to live in the space I do, to have my health & to be loved. But first it makes me feel sad and small & that nothing I can personally do could ever be enough to help, for those that want it.

Yoga has changed the way I see things and my perception of the world, which means it also tests and changes the relationships I have with the people around me. I judge less, I analyse less and I ‘care’ less, but that means I have moved slightly in where I am in the world and some people won’t get me anymore, I’ve not lost any friends or anything, but it was only when I came to my YTT I found a space I could really explore this ‘new’ me without judgement ‘on’ me.

It hurts. Not in practice, as it never should. But the soreness & DOMS (Delayed onset muscle soreness) is real, you are doing things to your body that it is not used to & so it rebels a little! & It’s not just the body. In my 1st week of YTT on the penultimate morning, my sinuses were stuck and banging, I felt sick and the only thing I could do about it was cry – this is what Yoga does, it opens you up, both physically & mentally. Our bodies store all sorts of germs, gremlins, un-dealt with emotions … and Yoga brings them right up to the surface, for you to deal with & move past. Whether physical or mental – this is not an easy part of the journey.

So Yoga to me is a way of life, physical on the mat, but so, so, so, so much more off of it, the good, the great and the grounding. Yoga is Home to me, where I have found a place to put the jigsaw pieces of my world together and be proud to display it for everyone to see. I wouldn’t have it any other way … well maybe the DOMS could do one.

Namaste 🙂

How to teach a (Down) Dog New tricks

Learning to be a ballerina … when you’ve always been an Elephant.

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I was a chubby child. Big boned as my Mother called it, to be polite? I was also a tom boy who shunned make up for maths and dates with boys for dates with my radio, taping the Top 40 on a Sunday afternoon, trying to edit out the DJ. Ahhh simpler times.

I never enjoyed PE (physical education), I fractured my wrist playing hockey and over egged my asthma to get out of swimming – I got to sit in the gallery watching with a hot chocolate, that you might say was clever! Cross country filled me with dread & I’d hang around at the back hoping for a pity short cut allowance. In fact the only time I remember enjoying physical exertion at school was Tug-O-War for sports day – big boned you see.

About one of the only things I ever wanted to do with my body, was ballet. My Sister did ballet. It was what the girls did, it involved music & dance, it was princess like & graceful and required you to be thin & pretty; or so my child mind thought at the the time. But my big flat footed hooves were never going to make the barre.

Then one day, only about 5 years ago now I decided to go for a run. I’d tried many times before and given up as soon as I was certain no one could see, normally within minutes of leaving the house. But for some reason it was really goading me, thinking this really simple action of walking more quickly was beyond me & so I was determined to prove to myself I could run.

I used one of those apps that builds you up from running one minute to 5K – a complete beginners guide, that talks to you whilst you’re doing it & I would pretend no one else was there, so that it didn’t matter when I stopped & walked. It wasn’t easy, but I’m pretty stubborn and so being able to breathe correctly to allow my body to run was going to be something I would overcome.

Once I’d mastered the 5K, I paced for a 10K goal and when that was achieved, was determine to stamp a Half Marathon … tick, tick, tick. Stamp being the operative word, heavy footed, flat footed, hard miles on the pavement. I didn’t do any of this agility & speed malarkey, I just got out there & stomped one foot in front of the other. Partially because I just like to crack on with things & partially because co-ordination is a mystery to me, just correctly getting left from right is sometimes a challenge.

If anyone’s every read the book ‘Born to Run’ by Christopher McDougall (& if you haven’t – it’s an awesome book, about running, clue in title) the ultimate goal to run well is shortened to four words ‘Easy, Light, Smooth, Fast’ … having challenged myself purely on the basis to run, a distance, none of those words applied to me. I did not find it easy, I was far from light of foot or smooth of flow and I was by nobody’s standard ‘fast’. I repeated that mantra on my runs and it did change the way I ran, I only ever mastered the easy part, but once I stopped trying to achieve something in my running, I enjoyed it a whole lot more. I’ll likely never attain the other 3 as a result & I’m cool with that.

And so running brought me to Yoga as I looked for new things to test my body with, new ways to push it and do what I had never pushed myself to do before.

To recap, my foot placement is heavy, I lack co-ordination, I need to make an L with my hand to remember it is the left one and I escaped PE including gymnastics (which I thought was torture at the time) at every opportunity. Just to add to this, I lack balance, have no upper body strength (if only secondary school had Tug-O-War) and I’d now developed super tight hamstrings from a relentless running regime. AND I WENT TO YOGA. It’s fair to say I didn’t know what I was getting into, or I might never have gone?!

That was the best part of three years ago now & what’s the difference?

Well, where to start …

  • When I flex my arm, there is a small bump that appears.
  • I can actually chaturanga into up-dog e.g. do the down bit of a push up & without needing to rest on the ground, roll over on my toes & arch my back to point my head towards the sky.
  • I can stand strong on either foot and balance quite neatly, sans wobble … at least in tree pose or some simple like posture.
  • I’ve fallen a little bit in love with my feet. These strong, grounding beasts, that connect me to the Earth & are all feeling. It’s fair to say I’m still a big stomper! My jump backs & forwards have required me to start practicing downstairs after a line appeared on the ceiling under the room I had been practicing in – Oops.
  • I still use an L for Left in my Clark Kent life, but on the Mat, you can be assured I notice when the teacher gets their sides mixed up!
  • And I’m working on my forward fold … my flexibility has a Long, LONG way to go, but with each millimeter I can feel my body wanting to give more and finding a happier place.

So what’s the next goal?

Well, that’s the really good part. Yes there are poses I would like to master, Headstand is always on a Yogi’s list to attain, and yes I’d like to be more flexible, same with strength … but I know there isn’t a magic wand for these. I won’t see muscles appear overnight and tomorrow I won’t suddenly not need the wall when I flail my legs up with hope in a headstand, that’s why it’s called practice. But everyday is adding to the magic, every practice is easing my body into a new place it has never been before, every single day. How cool is that? So instead of goals, I’m enjoying the gains, everyday, practice, practice, practice.

New trick one: stopping trying to attain all the time and enjoy the journey.

New trick two: the body is as old as the mind allows it to be … it can learn & be flexible too.

So the moral of my story is, if I can start my ‘running career’ at 31 and Yoga journey at 34 … you can teach a semi young, definitely still 18 in my head, bad ass bitch, new tricks.

Namaste 🙂

PS: these are just the physical benefits too … the mental, for another time.

Photo credit: @Yogerina on Instagram – stunningly beautiful inspiration, check her out 🙏

The 3 C’s & why you need to STOP doing them, IMMEDIATELY!

I learnt this from Yoga, but gained most from it in my Clark Kent life.

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1) Comparing yourself to the person next to you

Whether it’s a stranger in a coffee shop twiddling their picture perfect curls whilst the rain fuzzed frizz pouf you are styling is scaring the baby at the next table. Or it’s the pert ass of the woman walking in front of you in her perfect hip hugging jeans, as you think about whether you can get away with undoing the top button of yours without anyone noticing. Or your best friend who just got a promotion but only seems to have been in her role five minutes, while you’re shattered from another long week in the office & the only thing your boss noticed about you lately is the day you left early … only to work the evening at home.

Not is all as it seems … this is just a negative view of the world & the only thing it’s doing is making you feel less worthy, less happy. You never know what someone else is going through, what they are living with, what trials they have run and how they might be looking at you envying you for something. Envy is a confidence crusher and success stealer. Stop it, stop it right now. You are not them, they are not you.

Trust me, having actively thought about this each time I did it & reversing it into something positive e.g. thank god for straighteners, what a great ass – but I love doughnuts more & when I wasn’t appreciated in my job: I changed it! The result? I am so much happier as a person. I celebrate other peoples successes, but more importantly I am proud of my own. This includes all the little daily ones too. Instead of if only I was more like, or wish I had her … I think, this is me, I’m going to own it & rock it!

Yogic learning point: In Yoga, the whole process is about looking in, at you, the inner you. Whether that’s in practice and letting the other people in the room fall away or just at home sat on your mat & not thinking about anything. In physical practice in class, of course I sneak the odd look at someone else, look at how what they can do is normally strong, flexible or just pretty cool. But the times I enjoy it most are where I just get completely lost, have no track of time, anybody else being in the room or what they can do and don’t even realise I’ve made it to savasana already. Those are the great days.

2) Caring what ‘everybody’ else thinks.

There’s a reason I say ‘everybody’ here. Sometimes it’s important to care what your lover/mother/brother thinks. Sometimes it’s important to tell them mentally to F@%k off while they dissect the last action you took; into minute painful, teeth grinding, eyebrow raising, Olympic fake smiling whilst nodding your head and envisaging face slamming them into the table detail. Telling them to actually F off is less successful.

But some of the people who you chose to let be close to to you, you trust with the things you find hardest to say & emotions that are most raw to you, will reflect something you need to hear, whether positive or at first hurtful.

Sometimes we see ourselves with rose tinted glasses & sometimes through milk bottle  bottom thick microscope lenses, where every crack & imperfection is magnified until we only see what is wrong within us.

Other people can help us gain perspective. Ground us when we are so far up our own arse’s, daylight is only visible through the mouth or lift us when we feel like we are the amoeba on the pile of dog shit someone else just wiped off their Hunter wellies. Pick these people wisely, know when to lean on the truth teller or the sympathy giver – you need both of these types of people in your life!

As for everybody else, ask yourself why do you care? The random person on the street who comments on what you are wearing (damn it they did see that top button undoing), the colleague at work who jokes about the time you left the office (can you tell this really gripes me), or the ‘friend’ who points out how much you chugged back your dinner like you were at a pro eating contest & yikes you’re having desert? Keep on walking, keep on smiling, keep on chugging.

Do you care because you want them to like you? Need their validation? Or believe without question what they say is right and therefore you are doing something wrong? It only really matters what you think of yourself and if this is only built upon what others think of you & pleasing them, you will never be happy, because, who are you?

Yogic learning point: My Yoga Teacher Training group hold me in a safe space. I am humbled by their trust in me and how open & honest they are. In return I am more open to their friendship & their guidance. As a group of ‘trainees’ we are all hard on ourselves, that’s OK, but it’s also OK to be kind to ourselves too and this group of girls really encourage that. As they say, find your tribe, the ones who encourage you to be you & like you just that way.

3) Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it’s hindsight for a reason, if it was foresight it might cripple you into never doing anything. I have been guilty of over analysing a situation both before and after the event, to the time stealing, paralysing point of either not doing something I thought I would love or completely whitewashing the memory of something I enjoyed into a negative, sad, wrongly enjoyed event.

We all ‘coulda’ done something else in every situation in our life, in every simple decision we make or choice we take. So what? You made the choice you did, don’t ruin it by thinking how it coulda worked out different had you chosen differently. You didn’t. Move on.

Woulda – really? What’s your excuse that you didn’t? Or does it make you feel like a better person to have stepped into someone else’s shoes & profess you would have approached the subject differently. Or if your circumstances were different you would have acted differently? I doubt it. You made your choice – own it, they made theirs – leave them to deal with it.

Whether we ‘shoulda’ – we will never know the outcome of having taken that different path at that particular moment in time. Take 5 seconds & finish the sentence ‘next time I will …’ & do it. Stop wasting your time wondering if.

Yogic learning point: I dived head first into my teach training. I went on my gut instinct that it was the right time & the right course. Part of me thinks I shoulda done more research, I didn’t realise the time & shift it would require. I coulda have asked more questions, been more prepared, taken more time over the decision. But I know I woulda come to the same conclusion – so I’m going to suck up the lows, because the highs are worth it & my gut was right!

We have all been brainwashed by nature/nurture on how to & how we should act, stop living the way you think you should, stop following your ego & let your intuition guide you. You’ll soon find freedom in that.

Namaste 🙂

PS: Can you tell I just came off the back of a teacher training weekend AND finished reading a motivation book? Boom – get going, stop C-ing around.

Women Vs Women

As a woman, can I also be a misogynist?

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I just spent the weekend at my Yoga Teacher training course, with my all female classmates and female teacher & for this weekend only … a guest Male teacher. No one mentioned ‘it’, him being the only ‘him’ in the room, because it wasn’t a ‘thing’, in that moment, in that space, it was a complete irrelevance. He was a great teacher, it was a great weekend.

I have never previously been taught Yoga by a male teacher and whilst male’s are not absent from the many classes I have attended, they are always the minority & rarely is there more that one of them. It’s like a rare Zambezi sighting of two rhino’s in the wild at a Serengeti watering hole to find two of them in the same class – you have to look twice to check there are two & even then, check again to see if you are just seeing their reflection in the water/mirror, it is so rare.

The really interesting part for me however, is the complete reversal of this from my daily grind. I work in a male dominated profession in a male dominated industry. I have been surrounded, managed by and significantly outnumbered by men my whole career. I am the Rhino for the majority of my day and as I creep ever closer to the next decade of my life, I have been the Rhino for the majority of what has shaped my waking hours.

It feels somewhat serendipitous that this teaching comes at a time when I have been percolating on something a colleague told me the other week that has stuck & I’ve not known how to deal with. Not because it immediately struck me as sexist, as it had her, or because I am worried about her (I know that she’ll be fierce when she needs to be), but because my immediate thought was, am I so ingrained in the sexism in this world, have I been so numbed by acceptance of my own circumstance as the norm, that I just don’t really see the imbalance anymore? Am I so aligned to the male way of thinking I’m almost batting for the other side? Am I, as a woman, also anti-feminist?

The blow by blow details of the incident are not important – the short story is; she was the only female in a room where sexist, derogatory comments were made, about her, to her. My first thought when she told me was; and? Because that’s my daily norm: Sexist jokes and dick swinging competitions. So much so, I barely notice the comment on the boots I’m wearing or the girly nature of my dress (being the least girly girl of any office I’ve ever worked in, it’s akin to a national holiday when I do something different with my hair). & Is it wrong to enjoy a compliment about how I look good? Because I should be worried about people seeing my work as good? My sex should be an irrelevant tag?

In complete honest disclosure, I like being the minority, I like being, in some instances the only woman. I like having the door held open for me, I like it when it’s chivalrous, but also it’s practicality as I like to carry both a glass of water & a mug of coffee to a meeting. & I like being the only woman in a meeting & using my feminine charm to change a man’s point of view – it’s my more subtle version of a dick swing and actually requires use of my brain to deploy effectively (it never involves a short skirt!). So I am not going to apologise for that and I am happy to take the compliment on how I look, because a) I dressed this way to make me happy & b) I know I do a good job irrelevant of the sex I am & how I dress it up.

But is it the reason I don’t get it, because I am playing the game? Because I am utilising the tipped in favour of the male dominance & therefore male viewed scales of life? Instead of trying to tip them back. Have I lost sight of what being a woman is? Am I pushing against the course of feminism rather than pursuing it’s cause? I must stress here I see feminism as having woman on an equilibrium with men, nothing more, nothing less. Have I stopped seeing the abundant sexism in my workplace & accepted it? & What about outside the four walls of my job?

In my life before Yoga really took hold, I constantly compared and bench marked myself against the achievements of my female friends. I’m clever enough not to compare my self to celebrities & such, because I know I don’t have their money or their time to input into the stunning selfies and abs of pure dedication & willpower to forgo the cake. When I read somewhere you will never have abs if you eat sugar, I immediately decided I was happy to never have abs!

But my dearest friends, who I love & admire, those who know the good me & the naughty me … I compare myself to them. With every success I think of a reason they didn’t earn it e.g. well it’s OK for you, Daddy paid for that, or every happy milestone they achieve, I belittle it with why they are not really happy e.g. how many times have you slagged him off? So is agreeing to marry him any real achievement?

And its not just me, they are doing it too … ‘See you had a good night last night’, from the stylised, delicately placed but so it looks natural, designed picture of whatever I was drinking on my Instagram feed from last night #friyay and then they begin to talk about their child, but I wouldn’t understand, because I don’t want to have children & that life choice is lesser in their eye’s … & so on it goes.

But when I am with the women on my YTT, I don’t see them this way. I don’t look at how they can wheel pose like a boss & think something negative (I can’t even think of an example as I have never done it, which is a surprise even to myself!!). I don’t listen to them talk about anatomy – which I massively struggle to understand and find some chink to make me feel better about not knowing it by making them seem lesser for knowing it. I look at them & think: Go you!

The group of woman on my YTT are in a word beautiful … & I use that word in reference to the warmth & light that radiates from each & every one of them, the body in which they wear it, being completely irrelevant. This YTT has made me appreciate women in a different sense: their strength both physical and mental, their vulnerability, openness to it & how they own it, their hearts however empty; how they can still give or when full how loud they sing. I have found, surrounding myself with women in a non social environment, makes me a different person. It encourages me to be open & accept weaknesses, to not dwell in the negative questioning, to allow myself to be comforted and not just be the comforter. These women make me a better woman.

So this is what Yoga has done to me; Off the mat, it has seeped into how I think & feel about the world, and without knowing it, how I think & feel about My Sex. It’s starting to come together in a collision of my old world as was and the new path as my mind opens. It is making me think of how amazing women truly are and that in my male dominated working arena, a few more women shouldn’t just balance the boardroom but enable me personally to bring out the best in me.

Side note: I also listened to a ‘woowoo’ book called ‘The Judgement Detox’. After the first few minutes I wasn’t sure I’d see out the chapter, but I persevered on my next long road trip & once I got past the (& this is obviously far from a technical term) ‘woowoo’ element that just isn’t part of my make up, it really started to resonate with me. Basically all that bench marking was judgement. And why did I judge all the time? What was I really judging? Who am I to make all these judgement’s? What was it in me that I didn’t like? What previous experience was driving me to protect myself through judgement? The books by Gabrielle Bernstein, if you find you can be Judgey Mc-Judgerson – give it a try!

Oddly, as I think of best how to conclude this collision in my little sphere, I realise, I have never actually compared myself to a man, not at work, not on my mat; is that because I have never seen myself as an equal? No, because I see myself as different but that’s not equivalent to unequal. I don’t see myself as physically strong like I do most men & personally I have no issue with this, no arm strength, no problem – I’ll buy the screw top. I see men as dominator’s & have no desire to be one; I have no issue with standing up for myself & making myself heard, but I am also comfortable with what I say being my opinion & not THE opinion. I don’t have a dick & have no desire to swing one.

So in Conclusion: I am happy to be a woman. I am proud to be a woman.

I will stop (begin trying to stop!) ‘competing’ with the women in my life.

I should and will do better to champion other women.

Feminism = equality, nothing more, nothing less. You can be different & be equal.

Feminism starts with me, it starts now & I really must do better.

#whatyogahastaughtme

Namaste 🙂

Picture credit: David Adams ‘Rhino Pose’.

Do only Smarties have the Answer? Part II

Part 2) Trust in a ‘Guru’ to guide you.

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I’m an introvert. It’s very easy for me to sit behind this computer & put pen to paper (so to speak), because I can hide from the response, or lack there of, to anything I write down. There is less fear to how what I am saying might be received and if no one reads it, well I’m enjoying it, so that doesn’t worry me either.

So if I had realised I could have gone onto You Tube or any well known Yogi’s own website and found some guided yoga to enjoy, then I likely would have grabbed it with both hands & flailed around in my living room not having a scooby what I was doing.

But I guess that’s the reason to go to a class … the not having a clue part, because, and I do struggle with this, that whilst there is no right or wrong way to do Yoga, well there is. The right way being to actually feel the benefits of it & the wrong way being – to really hurt yourself, I mean you used to do handstands all the time right, so why not just hop up right now? Cue doing some kind of damage, if not to yourself, then likely something you hold some value to that you killed in the wake of your crashing back down to the ground in a very undignified heap.

Fun fact: I sprained my wrist 7 times when I was younger, the first time doing a cartwheel & to this day they still scare me!

So, having not known the stay at home option, off I went in search of classes.

If I could only give one tip on Yoga, to anyone deciding whether to take their first step onto the mat, or back on it – it would be this: find a real life teacher you enjoy. There’s no prescription for that, perhaps you like structure and knowing what’s going to come next, perhaps you just like to move or sit in silence, perhaps you like the option of chanting & spiritual readings. Just try a few – I can pretty much guarantee they will really vary & how you feel, in my experience comes a lot from the teacher.

Two simple reasons why I personally think this is the number one mantra:

Firstly: For my mind to be present in the practice.

This is a daily struggle for me. I really thought I could multi task until someone pointed out I was just switching between two tasks & independently giving them my full attention (I would beg to differ when I am both peeing & texting!) but nonetheless , for however long, it is just switching & not truly multitasking.

If I can complete X tasks in Y time I am totally up for it. What can I dash & do when boiling the kettle? Whilst I wait in line at a checkout I will check my e-mails, whilst I am in a meeting that I really think I am neither giving to or gaining from – I can do all sorts of mental meanderings (of course none directed at what I could do to my boss).

So being present is the opposite of my natural state – Yoga is the antidote! & there is something about doing it at home sometimes, seeing the dust under the cabinet, or that out of place cushion on the couch (my OCD is a real havoc player for mindfulness!). But when I am in a class, I’ve prepared for this brain downtime, I’ve given myself permission to switch off from everything that exists outside. A mental close down of my on board computer ensues, welcome; Bliss.

Secondly: So my body understands what the hell it’s meant to be doing.

In Yoga speak this is called ‘adjusting’ where the teacher verbally or physically cues you to move.

In my teacher training we have talked about why we might adjust & my teacher said it is not because the person is doing anything wrong but to help show them how they might enjoy it more, or help show their body the way if they can’t get into a pose, as our bodies rely a lot on muscle memory. I like this. Even though every time we do Mysore & she say’s ‘What are you doing’ in her authoritative tone & I know she’s caught me making it up – because I am meant to be following & doing a certain set of postures in a certain way.

Every time I get adjusted, I learn something. Whether it’s to move my feet to allow my hips to move, or to try a variation, someone else guiding my body in a way I would have never thought to do myself or before, always feels better & it imprints on my memory, muscle & brain so much deeper for next time.

I wouldn’t get that from You Tube or my TV, or even a mirror (which my teacher has encouraged me not to use – one for another day). They can’t tell me that my hamstrings are tight (& more importantly what to do about it), they can’t lie on me in a seated forward fold and ease my body that extra cm into feeling the full pose and they certainly can’t encourage me in the same way, be it either with a carrot or a very light, light, light , light, more feather esq. stick. The warmth that comes from another human being, moving you into a new space for your body that you just can’t explore on your own, makes me smile. Every time.

I’d also, whilst I’ve got you, like to bring it back to something else you might have heard of in the Yogic space: Guru’s. & demystify them a little in relation to what I’ve just said.

I’d heard the word Guru before coming to Yoga, but through my YTT they seem to pop up in abundance, lots of reading about Guru’s, people who follow a guru, the need to have a guru, trusting without question in a guru.

I’d always thought of Guru as a higher being, someone of worship-worthy ness … God like. But the literal Sanskrit meaning is teacher & in Indian tradition goes further to describe them as an ‘imparter of knowledge’.

My teacher, & I guess therefore in some ways my Guru (though I know she would wince if I used that term) has been practicing many years & I do put my absolute trust in in her. Yet as a teacher, with all the time she has had to build knowledge, with all the experience she has gained … she welcomes us & our thoughts with the same value as her own. We may not always be 100% right (or on topic; certainly that conversation about liking wandering around the house naked was not on topic), but she never dismisses our thoughts & would never say we were wrong. My favourite phrase she say’s is ‘Hmm, I never thought about it like that’ & she smiles.

I guess, in this respect we all have the responsibility to be the imparters of knowledge? However big or small. A good guru/teacher/‘Smartie’ to me, is someone who is always a student too & I think that maybe that is what I like most about my teacher.

I hope, that whatever the rest of the journey my YTT takes me on, whatever path it leads me to next, if I do become a teacher, may I also, always be a student 🙏🏻

Namaste 🙂

(The Pic above is me being adjusted by my teacher … for show on how to adjust … I’ll come back to how that really makes me rabbit in a headlights as an introvert!!)

Do only Smarties have the answer? Part I

Part 1) The Dark side of Tamas (I’m just trying to be dramatic here).

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I was walking a familiar route down a country lane not far from my house, it’s idyllic, beautiful, full of farm smells & birds rustling (& scaring the crap out of me) in bushes. I walk/run/cycle it often & even after 3 years of living at the end of it, happily take the same route. It’s particularly nice at sunrise as it has a wonderful view for miles … at the top of a steep hill of course.

But on this day I was maddened by the sheer amount of rubbish thrown carelessly & left abandoned at the side of the road. From people who had purposefully wound (OK pressed a button) to open their window & consciously not give a crap about anything else but their own selfish desire to rid themselves of something that no longer served them.

Arrrggghhh – how long was it really going to be before you reached your destination? Whether at home or not THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN A PLACE FOR YOU TO DISPOSE OR EVEN BETTER RECYCLE YOUR CRAP.

& What possible reason for not doing so? Answer: Laziness. We humans are inherently lazy, so much is spoon fed & given to us, marketeers rub their little hands at how easily we are pleased when they do something so small to make our ever busying lives that bit more convenient.

The nano second of inconvenience it would have taken for that person to deal with their rubbish for the sake of the entire world other that themselves. Pure, selfish, laziness … and it’s an epidemic.

In Yoga it’s called ‘Tamas’ which literally translates as ‘darkness’. It’s one of the Guna’s (qualities/attributes) which means inertia, inactivity, dullness or lethargy. We all possess a certain element of this, whether it be another snooze of the 6 am alarm, or 1 more episode of QE when we really ought to have ticked that thing off the to do list that we never seem to have the time for.

& Rest is a good thing, listening to our bodies and letting them rest, or moreover our minds from the crazy amount of neuron zapping that occurs by the second in our thought patterns – all of this is OK. In fact I encourage you to watch QE & not feel like it was 50 minutes of heart warming time, well spent.

However when it brims over into pure, inexplicably, undeniable selfish behaviour that has the potential to impact others harmfully, then being Lazy is an inexcusable wrongdoing to your fellow inhabitants in your community.

You don’t have to be smart, you don’t have to be the World’s number one authority on recycling, or the environment, you don’t even need to really think for a split second; to KNOW that discarding YOUR leftovers at the side of the road doesn’t serve anybody but yourself.

My pet peeve is Laziness (can you tell? Ha ha) and littering is one of the most blatant and selfish forms of it.

Ranty … it’s made me angry just writing this …

Before Yoga became a true part of my life, I would have still tutted, maybe shook my head or commented on, but now (when I realise angry gets me nowhere, or sorry I remember Yoga tells me anger gets me nowhere). I do something about it … I pick the rubbish up or tell somebody they dropped something. If they don’t pick it up, so what – I will – do good & be good.

Being good doesn’t require intellect, ‘the smarts’, a university level education – we can all be clever & do the ‘good’ thing without being traditionally ‘geek’ smart. Equally lack of knowledge is no excuse here, the inherent understanding of right & wrong is within all of us – it’s just how we act on it that separates us in reality.

I can’t change the world, but I can change the way I see it & how I help it. I can get over my anger (I doubt I’ll ever stop it & sometimes it’s a good fuel) and the best way to do so is to take a positive action, however small and however unnoticed.

I personally might not be able to change McDonald’s packaging, I might never even change the view of a single person on littering, but if I hold that expectation, require that outcome, then I might think it reason not to do anything at all & that would be true laziness, because I absolutely have the power to affect me. To chose to be good. & Actually ‘being’ good comes through action.

What will you choose today?

I needed to get this off my chest! Tomorrow a different view that I took with this picture on smarties on my Insta account @You.yoga.now … if you want to read ahead … you geek 😉

Namaste 🙂

5 Things I wish I knew before I went to my 1st Class:

& Why you shouldn’t let them Stop You!

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I figure now is as good a time as any to actually impart some practical advice … unless you just subscribed to this for a bit of light relief, in which case – skip to no.1.

In a countdown style … in at:

No.5: You’re going to get lost.

Potentially just to get to class, as they are often held in church halls & random rooms in a centre you never knew existed. But, I’m actually referring to being in the class, understanding what you are being told & converting that into where your hands or feet should be at any given time. Like you’re playing a giant game of twister, only you can’t see the colours & you’re not sure if the person spinning the wheel is playing by the rules.

You look around & you’re pretty certain every other person is in some synchronized dance and you’re the only one who can’t hear the music, but, that’s OK because:

No.4: You’re not alone.

I can guarantee there is at least one other person in the room, who is either lost, stuck, doesn’t know the move (or doesn’t like it & is avoiding it) OR they’ll be some know it all already onto the next thing, making some entirely different shape to everyone else. It’s just your fear telling you anything else.

Whatever you think, however you feel – it’s totally, 100% normal & the secret is, it’s a safe space, because:

No.3: No one else cares what you can’t do.

I’ve never had someone comment that my Downward dog is unbalanced, or my twist not … twisty enough. Comparison is in general non existent in class. It’s your practice & if that means you’ve come to your mat to lay on Child’s pose & not move for an hour, good for you. & If someone does catch a sneaky peak at you, because they’re looking back at you through downward dog, or looking rabbit in a headlights directly at you to check what the hell ‘Virabhadrasana I’* is (yes I googled to ensure correct spelling), to copy you, it’s a compliment. I have only ever looked at someone else & thought – wow that looks good.

& This is where it gets a little more daunting,

No. 2: It’s Hard!

Everyone thinks of Yoga as this cool Zen activity, where you chill & stretch a little, maybe go for a mocha-chino after. Well, I remember how hard that 1st class was, I certainly gave it a good go, but god did it show me … and it continues to do so.

I study Ashtanga which is considered a ‘strong’ type of Yoga & people walk out of those classes dripping in sweat, every time. The heat it builds inside your body, ‘your fire’, you have to give it a go to believe it. & Holding a pose for 30 seconds – that’s not long right? Just see how much you wobble & shake … & to start with count in the hope you are somewhere near the end all of 5 seconds in. Again, totally, 100% normal.

& The truth behind all those beautiful, graceful, easy looking artworks of poses we see on Instagram, is years, sometimes decades of constant & consistent practice. That’s why  it’s called practice! & That’s just a snapshot of a split second in time … I’ll bet you now you won’t find a Yogi who can’t without the need of a second thought, tell you something they find hard in their practice, & as in life – that’s where you should go & focus on, not shy away from.

For me this is Pigeon pose – it is my nemesis, for one, the lack of cool name upsets me (my favourite pose is wild thing 😉 but it goes after your hamstrings & my tight runners hammies do not wanna play pigeon!

So, you don’t know what you’re doing, you get the fear it’s just you, you stop & think f@#k it – I’ll wing it – only to realise touching your toes in the 1st pose was tough enough, how the hell are you supposed to balance on one leg whilst doing it?! & Then:

No. 1: You let rip!

Now I can’t speak for the men here, but I don’t just mean in the normal bum sense, but ladies, I’m talking from the front (down there) too! It’s much worse in my home practice, I guess because I feel much more comfortable … I actually wonder if, through the theory of the butterfly effect, any of the more recent storms have been caused by me coming down from a shoulder stand?

But one of the purposes of the practice is to cleanse; mucus, bile … wind. Trust me, you will have to put zero effort into helping that last one along! I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise with how we are moving & twisting our body & especially when we go upside down, how that moves things around.

& The old adage is true – it is better out than in. The only comfort I can provide, is that I have genuinely never heard anyone else! Snore yes, giggle – a plenty (99% of the time at the snorer), fart no. So everyone’s doing it, but there all so concentrated on there own, they’re not hearing yours.

Anything new is scary, we can always find 100 reasons not to in a matter of seconds. Doubt & fear is our natural protective state.

But if I can leave this on a positive, I went back. I keep going back … I actual am now in training to be able to do it myself.

No one else in the room is judging you. They’ve come to take that time out for themselves, to shut off the outside world … & flow … & breathe … & just be.

So if the above is as bad as it gets, well we’ve all faced worse right? & I promise you, the scales are definitely tipped in favour of why you should go, & go again – I promise to share those with you sometime.

But for now – I’m off to practice … Aerial tonight (that’s a picture of me doing Aerial above) … lots of inversions – Oh well, I see a storm coming!

Namaste 🙂

*Sanskrit name for pose: Warrior one … google it, give it a go, I challenge you not to feel empowered in this pose!