In light of my two-week holiday coming up on Tuesday, it only feels right to encourage everyone to visit their happy place over the next couple of weeks (on and off the mat).
As we move through our yoga practice, we have the perfect opportunity to allow our imaginations to take us to those beautiful, relaxing and inspiring places that fill us with happiness and peace. Ultimately this will make our practice a much more enjoyable experience.
So relax, smile, take a trip in your mind, and I will see you all in a few weeks.
As always this week’s intention has arisen from conversations I have had with a few close friends, along with my own personal emotions, circumstances and situations that are presenting right now.
I’ve been feeling a little stressed, overwhelmed and anxious lately. I couldn’t even tell you why. There is no one thing I can pin-point as the cause of these feelings – tiredness, a hectic schedule, my general persona?! It feels as if my nervous system is in a constant state of fight or flight! This can be frustrating and difficult to admit when you’re meant to be an all-zen, chilled yogini! (NB: the irony is that one of my biggest fears is admitting to others that I feel anxious/fearful! The other is spiders. I’m terrified of spiders).
The amazing thing is that yoga not only teaches us how to recognise our feelings, but helps us to understand that ultimately those feelings aren’t actually real (they are constructed in our wonderful monkey minds). Our practice also provides us with the tools to help us feel calmer, clearer, more confident, courageous, and empowered so that we can be fearless and ready for anything.
When we approach our yoga practice, there can be things that we do on the mat that appear daunting at first, but with practice and patience much of it becomes accessible and easier for us. This is similar to how we approach certain things in our lives off the mat too. When we are feeling overwhelmed, we need to take small steps and deep breaths in order to begin to move beyond those feelings of stress, anxiety and fear.
See you there.
This week our intention is to celebrate “living in the moment”.
This follows on nicely from last week’s focus on “non-judgement”, because when we are being mindful about whatever is happening or presenting itself ‘right now’, we bring awareness and non-judgemental acceptance to simply ‘what is’. When we are living in the moment, we do not categorise experiences as pleasant or unpleasant or good or bad, but purely observe them.
The way in which our modern culture is structured orients our whole framework into future thinking. We always have places to go, people to see, and things to do. This goal-orientated approach to our lives (whilst sometimes important and useful) can cause us unnecessary stress and expectation – distracting us from the beauty of the ‘now’.
Some of us also live in the past a little bit and allow it to dictate our present and future. We may dwell on either painful, negative or possibly even pleasurable experiences, and use up so much energy focusing on these non-existent time-frames that again, we miss the peace and harmony contained in each and every fleeting moment.
Rather than constantly focusing on the past or future, learn from them when the time is necessary, but do not attach energy to them. We cannot control life, and no matter how much we want everything to be light, free and easy, we cannot escape the truth that sometimes life will be hard, heavy and laboured.
When we practice Yoga and mindfulness we learn to accept the reality of the present moment, whether it is painful or pleasurable. We learn to experience the present moment as it really is naturally unfolding in the field of our own bodies.
Every time I attend a yoga course or workshop, I am overwhelmed by the love and acceptance that fills the room.
This isn’t because I am surprised that there are kind and compassionate people out there, capable of emanating such fundamental principles of humanity; but because of the very common and natural anxieties a lot of us feel when walking in to a room full of strangers - will they even like me, let alone love me? Will they accept me for who I am/what I look like? Will they judge me on my physical appearance and/or “Yoga ability”?!
This weekend I went to London for a yoga workshop, and it also happened to be Pride festival. These events have inspired me to focus on the themes of love, acceptance and non-judgement in my classes this week.
Passing judgement is ingrained in our modern way of thinking - we “like” pages and comments online, we rate places we have visited, experiences we have had, and people we have met. Judgement is also our tool for survival – it is the natural means by which we determine threat and danger, so in some respects it is important to have a little bit of judgement in our lives. But sometimes, those things we judge as "wrong" or "bad" often bother us so much that they can have a negative impact on us, causing us to feel anger, self-loathing, depression, anxiety and many other unpleasant emotions.
Ancient yogic wisdom teaches us that our suffering does not actually come from the things we dislike in and of themselves, but from attaching our judgement to them. So the simple practice of non-judgement has the power to transform the way we see and experience the world.
London pride was like nothing I’ve ever seen/experienced before.
A bustling sea of rainbows and glitter! Lady Gaga, Queen and ABBA pumping out of every parade float! But above all, the sheer quantity of people in one place not only celebrating, but rejoicing in the uniqueness of every individual being, with love and acceptance (without judgement) was a breath-taking thing to behold!
It is so important to practice these qualities because it means that we can begin to embody our true selves, and experience our life and our relationships more deeply and with more vibrancy. In turn, we will be mentally and physically healthier, love ourselves and others more honestly, and welcome more joy and peace into our lives.
So the next time you catch yourself passing judgment towards yourself/others or a given situation, start to take note of how much emotional energy it takes to embody this emotion - being defensive or aggressive causes the body to contract, creating unnecessary tension, and therefore more emotional struggle. When we begin to express love and acceptance instead, there is a growing sense of freedom and lightness – of expansion. When we stop beating ourselves up and criticising others humour, fun and laughter replace the heaviness of judgement.
As you have probably noticed, I much prefer fun and laughter in my classes over seriousness!
Let’s love and accept one another this week, always, and forever!
Sorry boys, but this week it’s all about who run the world… girls!
In honour of our mothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends and any other female figure in our lives, we will be focusing on our feminine energy (Shakti) in class this week.
But don’t worry men; I’m not excluding you in the slightest…
We all have both masculine and feminine energy within us. This is the balance between our yin and yang sides. Masculine is the sun and is guided by strength, and feminine is the moon and is guided by nurturing qualities. Masculine energy is on the right side of the body (pingala) and is felt when we are extremely proactive, ambitious, planning, driven and competitive; and feminine energy is on the left side (ida), and is present when we are able to go with the flow, embrace our feelings, slow down, be creative, and indulge in our senses.
Remember a couple of weeks ago our intention was to focus on balance in our practice? Well, if one of these energies is more dominant than the other, you will feel the effects of that imbalance - which is why it is important to cultivate both of them.
However this week I feel it necessary to work on our feminine energy.
Here are the reasons why:
1) I have always found myself surrounded by girls and women. I do seem to attract that type of energy - probably because I am very feminine-dominant in my energy most of the time (glitter, chocolate and prosecco are life!!) I have virtually no male friends, and have always found it difficult to understand men - but that’s a story for another time!! So I’d like to celebrate the women in my life this week – my Mum (aka “Ma”), my Sister (aka “poops”), and my girlfriends who are always there for me – through the good and bad times!
2) That being said, a lot of my practice and teaching style is fairly masculine – harnessing strength, power and heat, rather than soothing, calming and cooling. For many of us women, modern life has encouraged us to inhabit our masculine side in order to be independent. We have a lot of opportunity to seize power in our careers, our relationships, and our lives. This is obviously fantastic! However, it can be to our detriment when our softer feminine side is not able to express itself. Sometimes, we still find ourselves lacking confidence, courage, and real power in certain situations; and a lot of us have fallen into the trap of approaching our yoga practice in the same way that we approach our lives - with control, tension, force, and an emphasis on alignment and achievement. So this week I want to cultivate the feminine energy within - tapping into our grace, poise, resilience, sexuality and compassion!
3) I find it hilariously ironic that, like most things in history, classic yoga was a male-only philosophy and practice. Now it is totally female-dominated! So let’s celebrate our first lady of Yoga, Indra Devi, for paving the way for women to even be allowed to partake in this wonderful practice!
In light of all this, it is certainly not my intention to put any of my regular (or new) male attendees off class this week – we won’t be talking about “girl stuff” I promise!! But as I said, you men also have this feminine energy within you, so go with the flow and allow it to flourish in your practice this week!
Maybe in a few weeks we’ll do one for you boys!