Moving into the New Year:-)

Moving in lots of ways

Coming up to Christmas ‘18, I created a number of videos designed to get us moving.

On Social Media, I often feel like videos are fun, and can be a great way to inspire us to try different ideas. What I also feel is important is some context and information on what is involved in the movements and why to do them in the first place.

The movements I chose are mainly inspired by what I see in classes and one to one sessions. They are movements that I feel almost everyone can benefit from and often we are not stimulating in our daily lives of sitting etc. For any of you that attend Yoga or Pilates classes, or are involved in other activities, the movements are also an idea of how to diversify and balance our movement capacities to improve strength and mobility. These movements will add to a more rounded experience in your body and are a sample of how we can start to challenge and stimulate.

I will give a little more detailed description for each of the video links below and you can play around with following these or adding in some more of your own. If you have any questions, please do let me know:-)

1) For Hamstring Strength:

Often in Yoga classes there are lots of poses aimed at ‘stretching’ your hamstrings, eg standing forward bends, seated forward bends. You might feel like you have ‘tight’ hamstrings and need to stretch more and more. However, without developing strength these areas of the body will become weaker. Developing strength in the back of our body is important for overall equilibrium and reduce risks of imbalances and resulting injuries or pains.

3) For Glute Strength and Stability:

This movement is great for feeling the muscles around your hip joint. In order to find balance and react to a loss of support from the lifted leg, the muscles have to engage. Often in Yoga or Pilates classes you may practice poses or movements standing on one foot, this is a great variation to focus more on the hip muscles without your ankle or foot helping support.

6) Pelvic Movement Awareness and effect on your spine

So often there can be a lack of awareness or connection to our pelvis. As a result in lots of movements in Yoga and Pilates, we force movements through our spine in order to achieve a pose or task. Often you may not realise this is happening. This can happen in Downward Facing Dog, Lunges, Pigeon Pose, or Back bending poses for example. what you can do like the video below is explore and even video yourself or use a mirror.

8) Mobility

This word basically means your ability to actively move into a position, control yourself and move out of it. Often again in Yoga classes, we may think of using our hands or supports to bring our feet or legs where we want them to go. This can help develop flexibility or your ability to move into a pose, but for long term sustainable benefit in movements, it is important to explore where you can move without an aid. You could like this video, try any variation of going down to the ground and getting back up again, and if you think this is just for young, sprightly folk, check this VIDEO out

10) For your core

This movement is super for developing the ability to stabilise your upper body while you move your lower body. there is strengthening for the hip flexors, abdominals and all over. It is a good progression from lying down core movements you may experience in Yoga and Pilates.

2) For Hip Flexor and Quad Strength:

Just like the Hamstrings, the front of the body and legs need strengthening. Again, there can be a feeling that these areas are ‘tight’ because of sitting at work or generally during our day, so we may feel drawn to more and more stretching. Again, strengthening is important and when paired with hamstring strengthening can provide a sense of balance and help with lots of other movements around your pelvis where we need to flex at hips or extend eg like squatting and lunging.

4) For ankle and foot strength

This movement is great for developing balance and ankle and foot strength. It is important to keep the heels high. When you lift one leg, it is helping further strength development from the movement no.2 and also stability from the supporting side. As a lot of us wear shoes all day, our feet tend to get weaker as they are supported all of the time, it is really important to spend time barefoot and encourage movements around the feet and ankles.

7) Glute and Leg Strength Progressions

In this video, I move through a couple of variations of standing on one foot and moving the other leg forwards, behind and then a one leg squat. The more you add in or try here the better:-)

9) Scapular mobility, shoulder joint health and strength

Our shoulder blades should move, they have the ability to elevate (rise), depress (lower), retract (squeeze toward the spine) and protract (spread away from the spine) If we do not make our shoulder blades move, they will lose their range of motion. I show in this video full circles with the shoulder blades in both directions, you can do this standing, sitting or kneeling.

Hanging is great for our shoulder joints, developing strength and resilience in the tendons and ligaments. Adding in the pull ups, helps develop and build strength in the arms and shoulder musculature. There are a lot of pushing movements with the arms in Yoga so it is great to balance that with some pulling.

Move to Myself

The slap that landed on the right side of my face came strong and fast.  The sting and pain that remained in its wake lasted much shorter than the long drawn out emotional confusion, mis understanding of myself and how to navigate inter personal relationships.

It was Christmas day more than 20 years ago.  I had tested the boundaries for it.  In my early teenage years, I was a bundle of anger, rage, hurt, fear and frustration.  The physical impact of hurt and abuse was not something I ran from in that moment.  I went right towards it.

I did not understand then why I stood in the direct line of impact, all I knew in that moment was that I deserved it and it was the only way to feel something, anything, that could take me out of the deluge of mental suffering and inexplicable reality that we were all part of.  It took me years to feel any sense of love for what I was trying to do, and who I was trying to be.

Growing up as a child of an alcoholic and in a home that was soaked to the bones in it brought a cacophony of unhealthy developmental mechanisms.  That Christmas day was not one filled with cuddles and teddies, laughing and love.

Everything I felt in my youth was out of my control.  What mood we needed to be in, what mood we were to expect.  How the day would unfold, would it be filled with tension waiting for the volcano to erupt or would be spending the day running from the hot heat?

I cannot remember what proceeded the slap that day, I remember vividly that moment.

I did not deserve to be treated that way, but I did not know that at the time, nor did I for many Christmas days after.

Winter and the season around Christmas can be hard for many of us, with memories, pressure, expectations and stress making a perfect cocktail for inner and outer turbulence.  The reasons or uniqueness of our own particular situations can vary but in the dark days of winter there can be a resistance to oneself and others.

Following the pain of loss, maltreatment, neglect, abuse or conflict, I know what it is like to place those events in a place I would rather not look at again.  

Our make up and navigation through life and ourselves is so complex and vast.  I spent years looking outwards, perfecting all in my life or striving towards perfection with enthusiasm and passion.  I used to dislike the winter a lot.  The sense of turning in towards oneself did not bring heart warming feelings or a sense of joy.  There were elements I was so ashamed of and believed were mine forever to be held secret.

I am not scared of the dark any longer, for in there I know there is growth.  It is so hard to acknowledge memories like that Christmas Day, and have a sense that it is not something that I need to carry any longer as my burden to why I am not enough, do not deserve more or cannot be at ease.  That is only one memory, I could list many more.  Memories that built up over years and years, imprinting themselves bit by bit on my psyche.

There is no meaning in those memories, there is no figuring out why they happened.  They are raw, most certainly un glamorous and not ones for sharing around the dinner table.

Where there is meaning however, is in how we find ourselves in all of our memories, our past and our present.  Can we look those memories right in the eye, and find a way to accept, understand, forgive or let go?

I needed to release the stigma, the knots I held in my stomach for years that I would be judged, or seen in some way negatively for the actions of someone else.  It is not my fault my Father was an alcoholic and it is not something I need to hide down in the dark any longer.  This is not easy.

Approaching this years Winter Solstice, I have at this stage of my life come to embrace the dark and shine a light in there.

Over the last number of days, I have shared on social media some fun and beneficial ways to move physically that can help us in our bodies.  These moves are great for sure and provide great benefits but the real moves we need to make in life may need to be some move towards ourselves deep down and getting to know who we really are.

This does not have to be tragic or full of woes.  For me it certainly has been hard over the years, trying to develop and gain a healthy sense of myself.  An important part of this process is going right in where I think it is darkest.

I believe that doing this is possible and that no matter what, we can find ourselves and find a connection to others in ways that help.  It takes work, the same way developing physically does.  We have to put in the effort and believe in the outcomes. 

Where we fear so much may hold the keys to us truly finding freedom in ourselves, where there is really only love and potential.


Your Mental Health

I have been reflecting lately what mental health means to me and what helps me when I notice a cycle of negative thinking or feeling.  All thoughts are my own and not prescriptive, below are some of my reflections and thoughts.....

When thinking of, or taking care of our mental health, I feel we need to remember that it is not just a phase we go through.

If we feel negative or are thinking negatively, it is not a problem, you are not weird, and it is not something you have to ‘get over’.

Our thinking brains have the capacity for negative thoughts just as much as positive thoughts.  These negative thoughts can result in negative feelings and vice versa. You can feel insecure or overwhelmed.  You can feel unsure of yourself or down.  You can feel doubtful of your abilities or you can feel unconfident.

These feelings and thoughts will surface from time to time, they will ebb and flow throughout our days and our lives.

That is normal, and even more than 'normal, that is ok.

What can be destructive or detrimental to our health, is the layers of secondary thoughts that we create.  Believing that having these negative feelings or thoughts is somehow weird or out of the ‘norm’.  The thinking that somehow we need to be fixed or cured can cause us to chase perhaps unrealistic ways of experiencing and being our true selves.

Of course, negative thinking and feeling can cause, over time, associated ‘problems’ or difficulties but the original source is not a problem as such.  Think of it like this, when you are hungry, that is only a problem if you do not have access to food at that time.  You may get tired, weak, tense or moody, but if you have food, being hungry is not a problem, you eat!  

So likewise, feeling negative or thinking negatively is only causing us excess problems if we do not have the skills and tools to become aware of them, to navigate them or we have no access to support.

It is absolutely a great thing that we are becoming more and more aware of Mental Health in Ireland and its importance in our daily lives.  I feel part of our awareness needs to address the language we use and the perspective we have on what is ‘normal’ and ok.

Mental health just like our physical health encompasses the balanced functioning of our systems, our ability to perform tasks and to maintain equilibrium.

If we have a physical health issue, like getting injured or sick, it may knock us out of balance for a period of time.  We will notice symptoms, we can treat the symptoms, take care of them, rest and seek support.

With these physical symptoms, we do not assume we are broken if we get sick.  We do not jump to the conclusion that we are faulty or have done something wrong.  We do not necessarily think it is ‘weird’ to catch a cold or have a fear about talking about it.

With our mental health, we can do the same.  If we notice our thinking has become negative, or we are feeling down, we can begin to notice symptoms and take appropriate care.

It may feel hard to explain negative thoughts.  It may feel hard to describe negative feelings.  This is sometimes where we get caught and stuck in our heads not knowing what to say or how to say it.  Where it can feel straightforward to say you have had a flu for a few days, it can feel a little trickier to say you have being feeling insecure or down.  These caught up feelings and thoughts can begin to build up inside and then impact your work, your interactions with others and your activities or sports.

For years I felt the burden of locking my thoughts and feelings up inside. I held for a long time a deep shame that what I felt was weird or wrong and not at all the same as others. 

I grew up in with emotionally unpredictable and unstable dynamics, with fear and shame at the forefront of my everyday experience.  I became a master of the arts at hiding information from friends.  I learned how to tell white lies to make my life seem a little more ‘normal’ or appear better.  I did this for so long and so often, that at a certain point I didn’t even know how to be honest with myself anymore.

All of my buried feelings, all of my ‘real’ thoughts and experiences bubbled inside.  Unexpressed, they often turned to anger and I would lash out, causing hurt to myself and others.

What was wrong with me was not that I was ‘weird’ or that I had ‘a problem’ in feeling bad.  It was that I didn’t know how to express myself, I didn’t feel safe in expressing myself.  I didn’t know how to start those conversations, I didn’t know if I was allowed or if I would be accepted afterwards.  I didn’t know who to talk to, who would understand and I so much just wanted to feel ‘normal’.

What I didn’t know when I was younger was that I was normal.  The thoughts and feelings I was experiencing as a result of turmoil or negative relationship dynamics were absolutely normal and justified.

We all have thoughts and feelings.  We need to become aware of them.  We need to come to a place of understanding them and we need to learn how to navigate them and make healthy choices for ourselves around them.

We can learn to see our reactions and our habitual thinking patterns and begin to unravel out of what is unhelpful.  We can learn to sit with ourselves with out distracting or entertaining.  We can learn to talk or write to express ourselves. 

I have felt the clouds of internalising, feeling alone and stuck and I know how destructive and heavy that can all become.

Mental Health is the full picture.  Thinking or feeling negatively is part of that picture.  It is not part of us that will be eradicated forever or gotten rid of, but rather a part of our normal human existence that we can learn to live optimally with.

There is a lot of pressure in our current modes of living to overcome, to rise up, to be the best and maybe even be perfect.  We have to include in our perspectives of ourselves and others that whole and healthy means ups and downs.  It means achievements and failures.  It means maybe some boring and non eventful days even negative or down days.

There is nothing wrong with you or weird about you if you feel down or negative, if you slip up or even if you don’t know how to describe exactly what is going on.  What we need to do first for our Mental Health is include all of how we think and feel in the picture of ourselves, without any hiding or burying.

Yoga- Evolving with the times

Evolve- develop gradually.

Synonyms: develop, progress, make progress, advance, move forward, make headway,

mature, grow, open out, unfold, unroll, expand, enlarge, spread, extend

The only way to keep a culture alive is to keep practicing, otherwise it is lost and in order for a tradition to stay alive, it must adapt and evolve.  If you keep traditions as you see them they will eventually die out.

A sense of moving forwards, progressing, this is what most of us wish for.  Learning and growing.

‘Yoga attempts to create a state in which we are always present-really present in every action and every moment.  The advantage of attentiveness is that we perform each task better and at the same time are conscious of our actions.  The possibility of making mistakes becomes correspondingly smaller the more our attention develops.  When we are attentive to our actions we are not prisoners to our habits, we do not need to do something today simply because we did it yesterday.  Instead there is the possibility of considering our actions fresh and so avoiding thoughtless repetition.’ TKV Desikachar

 Yoga is a mindful practice that teaches us that if we can become aware, if we can align ourselves and connect to ourselves fully, we begin to recognise our true self.  We can know what it feels like to honour this true self and what it feels like to be unconnected or out of line with ourselves.  This feeling of being in sync, when you are aware of your thoughts and feelings, your physical sensations and movements, when you feel your breath in and out and you are connecting to creating a sense of harmony between it all. 

Yoga is giving us a practice and teaching where we can re-learn lost skills of listening to ourselves, when we can re-connect and re-align. 

‘Yoga is primarily a practice intended to make someone wiser, more able to understand things than they were before.’ TKS Desikchar

This does not mean we reach a perfected, pinnacle state for ever more and stop.  It is a continually, shifting, and evolving self-exploration, the person you were yesterday or last year or ten years ago is not the person you are today.  We are making efforts towards knowing our true self and expressing our true self, and developing a connection to the understanding that there is a power greater than ourselves.  (I see this simply in nature for example, I can understand and recognise there are forces in nature much greater than me as a human.)

There is a lot of literature throughout the years and years of Yogic texts that inspire me on these philosophical aspects of Yoga, that even as our times change, our problems differ, our societies concerns are varied, the yogic philosophies and teachings can still provide inspiration, reflection and even clarity on the way we choose to live now.

What does change however, as we gain more and more scientific knowledge, evidence, case studies and research, are the facts that we have acquired on our minds and our bodies.  How we can affect change, how problems are caused, how we treat problems or prevent them are continuously expanding in fields of science and medicine and psychology.  What may have been thought as best practice 100 years ago in medicine for example may be considered absolutely out of the question today. (eg electric shock therapy)

In Yoga, yes we connect to a sense of tuning in and listening to ourselves but sometimes what you think or believe may be ill informed, may be cross wired based on your previous experiences and what you have been told.  There is also the case of cognitive bias, where you want to believe something, or you believe something so strongly that you continually find ‘evidence’ to support your theories.

We cannot also stay stuck to the same thoughts, ways of seeing things, opinions and behaviours.  There has to be an allowable element of openness and discovery.

Yoga as a practice how it is taught today and how it is experienced has to evolve from how it was offered and taught hundreds to thousands of years ago.  This does not mean as a practice it has to change completely or just be given up, it simply means it evolves with the times.  What one person said was the exact way to do yoga thousands of years ago cannot always be substantiated in today’s world.

Yoga teachers for example cannot defend specific teachings with the argument with that is just how it is done.  We live in an age now with access to so much information, that as well as your own personal experience and practice there must be supporting facts and evidence to the benefit and reasoning behind your methods.

In Yoga, even though something like a ‘pose’ might feel good, there are still facts that you may not be aware of and you could be on the road to an injury.  You might believe one way to do a pose is the only way because that is how you have always done it and you simply did not realise or allow for other options.  Similarly, just because you read something or saw something online, does not make it true.  You might say what I was told for years, that I was ‘too flexible in my spine’ besides the fact this is simply wrong, it led me down a confused path in my body for a long time.

You might think as a teacher that certain poses are ‘unsafe’ but is that because it doesn’t feel good for you?  Is that because it has been scientifically proven on many bodies that we should not assume such a pose?  Is there a consideration for what bodies do in gymnastics or dance or martial arts or any sports, what is possible in those realms? 

You may think it seems necessary to modify a pose if someone is experiencing pain in a certain area, but does that mean the pose is the goal and that their pain area should not be addressed and healed?

‘Progress on the path of yoga means different things for different people.  We must not obstruct this progress by deliberately setting certain goals.’ TKS Desikchar

To move forward, Yoga teachers and the community and the individuals can learn so much from zooming out and looking at what we know and can learn from a broad view of current best practices and yes connecting to your own intuition and sense of what is right for your personal way of teaching or practicing.

If we do not evolve, all that we know as beneficial through Yoga, all that we have felt and experienced will die out.  Yoga does not have to be what it was 5000 years ago, but that does mean it has to be forgotten.  Yoga has to be what works for each individual today, and can be backed up and shown over and over again to work physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  

There has to be accountability on the part of teachers and on the individuals, continually questioning where are you going, why and how?  Evolving does not finish, there is no end goal.

 

What us 'adults' can learn from Teenagers:-)

Yoga for Schools, Dublin

This week I paid a visit to a school to teach a Yoga class to Transition Years.  Over the years teaching Yoga I have been to many schools and teaching teenagers is definitely a different game than teaching adults.

Friends often ask me now do I miss teaching in school (As I was a secondary school teacher), and to be honest the answer is multi layered.  There are aspects I miss and then, as I know in some capacity or another for my life I will always be a teacher it does not feel like I have lost anything.  I still get to teach and work in an area I love and I have brought all the skills and experiences I have had with me.  

Yoga for Schools, Dublin

I really enjoy teaching mainly adults now, however, there are some notable differences and what I feel is often over looked is what teenagers can actually teach us adults rather than the other way around.

Fresh Perspective

What I notice a lot with the groups I teach in schools is that they are not laden down by opinions or habits formed.  Sure, there are always exceptions and definitely I've had some groups or individuals who do have their own opinions! More often than not though, they have not experienced Yoga, they don't really have any thoughts on it and are open to the idea of something new.  It is refreshing to be around those with a clean slate and genuine curiosity.

Vulnerability

When trying something new, whenever I teach teenagers, the vulnerability in the room is so clear.  It may not be necessarily said but it can be felt.  I in no way see this as a bad thing and a lot of us adults could benefit from expressing our own vulnerabilities a bit more and spend less time trying to look like we have it all figured out, trying to cover up or deny our vulnerabilities.

Willingness to try

Even while vulnerable, even when faced with a new activity and a new teacher they may not have met before, most of the groups I encounter over time are willing to try and give things a go.

Joy

The other day with the group of transition years I taught some fun poses like splits, headstand and Crow pose and the pure joy some of the girls expressed at 'messing' around and just trying was so refreshing.  They were smiling and laughing and happy not just through achievements but through the process.

Honesty

In my experience, many of the teenagers I teach are not afraid to tell me what they think! I love this, if they don't like something, or think it is weird, they will tell me and even if it is not in words, the honesty in their faces and body language tells me I may need to explain something a bit more or go back a step or pivot.

Humility

Yoga for Schools, Dublin

The biggest lesson of all that I enjoy learning from teenagers is humility.  No matter how advanced I might become physically or in my teaching, no matter how many years I have been doing something, a group of teenagers have the ability to pull you up on everything and get you to reassess your methods.  They want to be seen, they want to learn, they want to get value from the session or class, they don't care how much I know or what I can do, it is about what I can help them do or feel.

Overall I'm sure there are a lot of exceptions but what can seem like a one way street of adults imparting knowledge or lessons to teenagers can actually be a two way process.  If we can keep as we get older some elements of our approaches when we were teenagers how would that help in taking up and learning new skills?  How would that help in our relationships and our life choices?  How would it help us stay fresh, young, open minded, willing and excited about our bodies, our lives and our experiences?  

Living the Dream takes Time!

Yoga Retreat with Naomi in Spain

I sit often, I reflect, I write, I think and I plan.  Being a teacher is one of those weird jobs where you often wonder how people are feeling, what they are experiencing, are the practices helping, are the methods suitable, are they feeling benefit, do they feel healthier, balanced etc?

Anything we do in our bodies and experience in our minds can feel so personal and can be so fleeting that it may be hard to put into words or communicate to someone else, so as a teacher I wonder often!

Climbing and Yoga Spain

I have myself felt for years the benefit of Yoga and (in my personal endeavours) Climbing for my body, for my mind, for my whole way of living.  I’ve felt these benefits and at the same time I’ve struggled within city life, I’ve struggled with the responsibility of self employment, with the ever growing list of ‘obligations’, with the mounting sense of pressure to be prepared for my future security, with daily chasing and rushing and deep down wondering where to?

Climbing and Yoga have always blended perfectly for me and answered a broad selection of wants and needs that I have.  They have given me an outlet for high energy, for enthusiasm and motivation, for drive and competitiveness, for adventure and excitement and complimented with relaxation pause and stillness, self awareness and mindfulness.  

It has always been a dream of mine to share both of these practices with others, when I first envisaged working in the area of Yoga years ago, I always thought of climbing along side and their perfect fit together.  Then the years go by and blend into the next and things get put on the back burner for a while.

As much as the internet and social media in particular might have us all believe, there is no quick fix to anything.  There is this illusion being sold that we are all supposed to grab our dreams and run with them and live ‘abundantly’ and then life will be ‘AWESOME’!    

I’ll be honest with you now, it is not easy and it has felt hard to me on more than a million occasions, first to admit to myself that I have dreams, then to even have a glimmer of belief in them and then taking time to put effort into them and perhaps moving towards fulfilling them.  And you know what, it is ok that it is hard.  I have felt that and I respect that.  Its just like in climbing, things might feel hard but it doesn't mean they can’t be done, or in Yoga it may feel like your body will never achieve certain postures but then one day something clicks.

I was not brought up to believe in dreams, I was not brought up with an unwavering sense of belief in myself.  I have worked extremely hard to over come doubts, to break habits that are deeply engrained.  What I believe is important is to be real about all of this, be real in the effort it takes to think about dreams and aspirations and go about finding ways to make them happen.  

People are not put into separate categories of those who can - the talented, the gifted and the blessed and those who cannot - the ones who don't get the breaks.  It is a matter of daily work, of showing up, of exploring what is possible, what fits, what feels right, what is attainable and believing.

So this year, for the first time, I got the opportunity to teach a Yoga and Climbing retreat for a small group in Spain.  It was so much fun!!! I am over the moon with how the week went and when I receive little reminders like the one below from one of the attendees, I remember that what started out as a tiny thought, what started out as a ‘maybe some day’ finally became a reality and I have to pinch myself.

‘…….The Yoga was amazing…the climbing was amazing too, totally hooked already!….last but not least, the vibe and the atmosphere and company was absolutely magic.  So happy you followed your dreams and made this retreat possible as a result.  I’m so grateful for this entire week and this experience.’

It can be easy to go from one task to the next, or one goal to the next and lose sight of progress or milestones.  When we do this it can always feel like we are never ‘getting there’.  So wherever you are, what ever your pursuits or aspirations, take some time to see where you began, take some time to notice the little progressions.  

Yoga and Climbing retreat with naomi in Spain

It took me some feedback, someone else calling it out to remind me that was once a dream had become a reality.

Yoga and Climbing Holiday with Naomi in Spain

Thank you to all the lovely ladies who came on the retreat last week, it was the best! And big thanks to Natalie and Marcus who invited me over to teach and have created a beautiful location for everyone to stay and kept our bellies full with delicious vegan meals all week:-)

Here’s to dreaming of the next one!

A Big Virtual Hug to Yoga Teachers and Students:-)

Over the last month I have seen more than a few things online that have caused me to feel uncomfortable, no more than anyone else I'm sure! But what bothers me the most is not what is global or on everyone's mind and spoken about at dinner conversations over the past few weeks.....what effects me the most is things I can relate to right in my own life and the lives of others I am surrounded by all the time.

What I really feel uncomfortable with is ill speaking, is negative name calling, is unreflective and unhelpful comments, is statements that offer no lesson learnt or positive insight.

Over the past month I have come across more than a few threads on the Yoga scene that have involved conversations about 'what is bad about a yoga teacher or a yoga class, or what is annoying about yoga students?'

However inclusive these questions are intentioned to be, I'm not sure the results of what is said is that inclusive.

When I was growing up as the daughter of a teacher, I always felt really uncomfortable when kids at school would mock, make fun of or tell stories about teachers.  I felt uncomfortable because I would think, 'Oh god, what if kids are doing that about my Mum?' I felt a sense of shame and also protection.  Now as an adult and a teacher, I feel not so much shame, not so much a sense of protection but a sense of discomfort because I feel the conversations are not productive, they are not necessarily providing the best example and are not helping anyone learn.  I feel discomfort because I feel there is no inspiration or warmth that I can take away.  I feel discomfort because I feel for the teachers out there who are trying their best and turning up every day, for all the students who are also trying and want to be seen and valued and appreciated.

Everyone is allowed to have any conversation they wish and I acknowledge that some discomfort for me is also valuable and a teaching tool for my own growth.  What I do not think is valuable though is conversation at the expense of someone else who has feelings, who has a story, who is doing their thing and getting out there.  And what I think is lost is the real gold for all of us as teachers and students is that if you give an opinion, if you are mad or frustrated, upset, or angry, offer us an insight to what you think would help, offer us a way you think would be better, offer us some self reflection as to why you formed that opinion, offer us something to contemplate for ourselves, offer us a way you feel you can change the situation for the better.

Knowing a lot of teachers and having trained teachers, I know how much effort it takes for those individuals to train and show up everyday.  Likewise for all the students I meet, they all have their own things going on, they all want a safe space to go to, to enjoy themselves, to connect and feel good.  To all those teachers and students, here is a big virtual hug:-)  Here is an acknowledgement that yes, sometimes we do not always get it right, sometimes we do not please everyone, sometimes we say the wrong things at the wrong times, sometimes we are silly and make mistakes and forget.  

Sometimes we are all just HUMAN!

There is a false illusion online that all the happy people are all fit and perfect and strong, and in Yoga can do all these amazing physical poses...but it is an illusion.  Happiness does not come as a result of those things and certainly does not come form judging others or seeing others as less than or not good enough.

As teachers, as individuals in our families, in our communities and in Yoga, it is our duty to speak truthfully, to take time to reflect and share.  We do not need more opinions, we do not need more reactivity, we do not need more harsh comments.  We need compassion, acceptance, kindness and most of all a good example to show us how.

Take yourself a step higher, spread a message of value to us, and again...to everyone out there doing it, GO YOU! 

 

 

For those times when you want to Kick Yourself....

What happens in those times when you mess up, get it wrong, repeat the same old mistakes?

Have you ever felt regretful, unproud of your thoughts or actions?  I know I have! 

There are times when it can feel like no matter how much I learn and read, progress and develop that I'll repeat some old habit, some old thinking pattern and feel like Im never going to learn.

Thinking and related behaviours become habitual and like with any habit we want to change...it is hard!  We become addicted even though you might be unaware of it or not fully conscious of it. 

When we do become aware, we can vow to change our ways and adopt new habits and patterns.  All goes well and then Bam! We fall off the wagon and we feel like we've lost the fight.

I had an occasion recently where I just felt utterly hopeless at my improvement.  It was a day where it felt like I'm always going to resort back to a certain way of thinking and behaving because of my habits, how I grew up, the conditionings that I have taken on....but where would that leave me?  If I give in to my shame or guilt, or internal beating myself up, I certainly do not feel good about myself and no one else will benefit either.

So we notice, we observe, we take a step back and even smile- a bump in the road, a little receding in your progress and efforts, it is all ok.  How long would you say physically it has taken you to learn a specific new skill?  How often would you say you might fall out or stumble in a Yoga pose, or have to start walking on a run, take a break or turn back on a long hike?  We don't need to kick ourselves or beat ourselves up for these occurrences, we simply say, thats ok, I'll try again.  So it is the same with our mindset, our thinking and our behaviours.  We strive to be the best versions of ourselves, the versions we desire and feel true connection to and when we hit set backs and our own human foibles, we begin again.

'On this path, effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure.' Bhagavad Gita

Meditation with Elements Yoga

Meditation

Take a comfortable seat with an upright spine.  Sit on a cushion or against a wall if you need.  Set your timer for 4 minutes.

Soften your shoulders, your jaw and your breath.  Feel your spine lengthen and your sit bones ground down.

Bring your eyes softly closed.

Become aware of your breath, your inhale and your exhale. When you notice your mind wander or you begin to follow thoughts, bring your awareness back to your breath.

Begin to visualise a time where you have felt frustrated at yourself.  Notice your feelings and thoughts as a witness without judgement.  

Begin to visualise a warm light surrounding you and comforting you and we each breath you feel this warmth.

Bring your awareness then back to your great and repeat to yourself, 'I do the best that I can in any given moment.'

Once you hear your timer sound bring your awareness back to your body, notice your sit bones grounded and your spine lengthened and you can open your eyes.

Reflections

Following your meditation, journal about your visualisation, thoughts and feelings you observed.

Read back over your writing.

If you were listening to a friend tell you what you have wrote, what would you say to them to comfort them?  

How would you reassure and give them support?

Write down your thoughts and read them a loud to yourself.

Create a mantra for yourself for the next time you feel frustrated at yourself, the next time you feel disappointed or hopeless....have this mantra written somewhere you can see and remind yourself of it often and when you need.

 

 

Pursuits and Perspective

If you are involved in any sports or activities and particularly if you have been for a number of years, you’ll be aware that you can go through phases.  Phases of high intensity, high motivation, high performance and similarly low motivation, low intensity and low performance.

What is significant here is that these changes are a natural ebb and flow.  Changes in circumstances, life duties, family, friends, work and finances can all influence your participation.

Acknowledging this you can begin to recognise that sports or your activities are a big part of your life, a big part that can have a huge influence on you, create opportunities, offer success and become a part of how you see and identify yourself in the world.

But…they are not your whole life.  yes, you cannot imagine life without them or you feel low when deprived of them but they are one segment of your whole life.

This is not in any way meant negatively or to diminish the importance of your chosen pursuits, in fact quite the opposite.

If you took a few moments to establish and connect with your priorities in life, how many would you list?  As we grow older and life events open our eyes, we get afforded opportunities to establish what is important to us.  It may be your lifestyle or your family, your partner or your friends.  It may be your career or your service to others.  It may be to be healthy, o be injury free and to be able to enjoy life.  Whatever is on your list can help you connect to the any things that make up your happiness, give you a senseof grounding in yourself and life.

Your Psychological Needs

In our lives we have to address our psychological needs as well as everything else.  In our pursuits this concept is as valid.  Addressing just physical needs for example may leave you feeling out of sorts and not fully content.

The psychologist Glasser stated that we have 4 Basic Psychological needs, Love and to be loved, Power, Freedom and Fun.  When these needs are met, we can enjoy a sense of stability and psychological well being.  If some of these needs are not met or are lacking, there can be a sense of being out of sync, feeling disconnected.  Our psychological needs are no different to our other needs-Its like if you had not had a good meal in a few days , you may feel slightly lacking in nourishment, a part of you would be craving and signalling to you to source a healthy meal.

Obviously at certain points in your life sacrifices will need to be made and some areas may not get addressed as well as others but in the overall ‘big picture’ it would be important that you feel you cater for everything well.  

Can you see how your pursuits serve these psychological needs or how you can address them in other aspects of your life around your pursuits?  This perspective can remind you of your original motivations in your pursuits, you original intentions and help you to make better serving choices and decisions.

Clarity

Having this clarity, this sense of knowing why you are involved in your pursuits can help feed back into your efforts.  It can help you see past specific set backs, obstacles, losses or failures to remind you of that ‘big picture’ concept.

To do specific sports or activities for a lifetime there must be an acknowledgement of the internal rewards you receive, the aspects of growth you feel, the positive effect on your psychological well being, your view of yourself, confidence etcWhen you can see all of this, no matter what the results are on paper, your endeavours are worthwhile and integral part of you.  If you are solely chasing numbers, it can be fun, but it can be short lived an unsustainable.

Standing back from the details of winning or succeeding helps you to see why you might continue something indefinitely and how that can be possible and with that sense of ease you will actually have more energy and enthusiasm without pressure and you'll find your performance improves.

'I've yet to see a guy lose his card/status or form from under practice.  they all lose it from over practice, making golf the most important thing in their lives, losing perspective....the simplicity and joy from the game is lost and its a straight downhill from there.'- Paul McGinley

Heart and Mind

Our pursuits, sports or activities can be passionate fuelled endeavours.  By their nature they pull on our heat strings and this can be a great thing.  We love our chosen activities.

There is an importance in being smart, in not getting ruled by our hearts.  We may love chocolate or cake but eat it all day everyday and we can feel sick!

Recognising the value of your mindset can help you make smarter choices for training, it can help you assess, evaluate and plan more clearly.  It can also help you to walk away or re focus when needs be.  Listening to your heart is important for sure, and it brings us great joy in life, its just a matter of not being ruled by the heart to the detriment of everything else.

Remember to play

At the end of the day, we need to play and have fun in our lives.  We need to feel power which can come through succeeding and achievements and we need to feel a sense of belonging which can come from our teams or communities.  When we address all these needs we will feel at most ourselves, settled and content.  

When you find the ego gnawing away at you with negative feedback, when you feel pressurised to perform despite your better judgement.  When you feel at unease with yourself or situations it is time to reassess, to remind yourself of what is important.  

When you are most grounded in yourself and your choices, your pursuits and your whole life will flow with greater ease and success.

Anger is ok.....

This week we are looking at Anger.  Even the word probably summons up an initial feeling of resistance and fear.  Anger can often be seen as bad and unproductive but if you listen and pay attention to anger it can often lead you to where you want to go and stay aligned to the person you want to be.

However we need to look at anger differently.  We need to stop resisting anger as something that needs to be driven away or diminished and embrace it as something we will always have to live with and consider the positive and productive outcomes to anger.

Anger can be felt through wanting change, wanting justice/fairness/equality.  The need to felt heard or validated can cause anger and anger can be felt from a desire to be independent, to feel strong or to feel like your individuality matters.  These ideals in and of themselves are warranted and needed in the world and for you and others.  I'm pretty sure we have all felt all or some version of the above list in circumstances in our lives.

What we need to do with these inner ideals and basic values is to recognise the egotistical tendency to get consumed by the need to be right, the need for external control or power, the need for external validation or recognition.

You may not believe it about a super calm Yogi! But I have had my fair share of interactions, debates, and clashes with my own inner anger for my whole life.  In my childhood and teens this anger was highly expressive and as I got older the anger remained as I learned to function a little more effectively in the world.  As an adult I became aware that expressing anger was not always useful or beneficial but it didn't get rid of the anger I had inside.  So what have I learned to do?

The original causes or thoughts that lead to your anger need to be addressed.  Your anger needs to be listened to.  Why is it there?

When you feel anger, it is important to know why is it there so you can address that issue.  In the heat of anger you do not necessarily have the best judgement for long term outcomes so it is better for you to return to a sense of calm before decision making or plans of action.  In the short term, getting out of situations, getting fresh air, cooling down is important.  In the long term meditation can be a hugely powerful tool.  Being able to sit and notice that thoughts are just thoughts, being able to remain anchored and steady in the rhythm of your breath, finding yourself in the present and immediate moment and recognising that you are ok.  Being able to establish a sense of self and appreciation for yourself from within.

With anger it is your job as an adult to become more finely tuned and refined about your relationship with it and the effect it has on you.  Anger is not something to get rid of, it is not bad.  What anger can do is take over and lead a domino effect of destructive and harmful thoughts and spiral out of control.  For your own mental health, take time to become more aware of anger, when it sparks, what thoughts it leads to, what effects it has on you and others.  Start to ask yourself how anger can benefit you more and help you manage and deal with situations in a better way.

Meditation

Find your seated position.  This week your Meditation duration will be 15 minutes.  Set your timer and attempt at least 3 seated meditations this week.

As you begin, make sure your body is comfortable, notice any sensations, any tension or discomfort and adjust or often accordingly.

let your awareness come to your inhale and exhale and it remains here for the time.  As you notice thoughts, that you have been thinking or your mind has wandered, bring your awareness back to your breathing.  You may have to do this once or 1000 times, it is all ok.

Reflective Journalling

Write down 3 occasions, situations or interactions with people where you felt angry.

Why did you feel angry?

What happened when you felt angry or how did you express it?

What feelings or emotions did you feel afterwards?

Acknowledging the reasons for your anger, can you write 3 positive words to describe your anger.

Can you write 3 perspective on the situations or issues above besides your own?

Can you think of ways you would like to now move forward and deal with the above or similar issues in ways that benefit you, that you feel calm and collected about and where there are positive outcomes.