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  1. xP_AGmeEa6s

    I recently started teaching yoga and a beginner in my first class asked "What is yoga really?". Well of course, there is literally hundreds of websites and articles out there that describe what yoga is but I figured perhaps giving you my take might be an easier starting point in that I can share with you the things I wish someone had told me when I first started out. 

    The first is that the media gives us the impression you need to be slim, young, female, flexible, drink green juices and like tight clothes to be "into yoga". That stereotype undermines what it is really about which is learning to love ourselves, and I mean EVERYTHING about ourselves, including the nasty bits we are too ashamed to even vaguely admit to ourselves, let alone anyone else. The idea being, when we see others behaving dishonestly, we can still treat them with genuine understanding of the fact we are all simply human and not so dissimilar when it comes down to it. We all have shadows.

    cCkheI30Jd4Being on your yoga mat is important but it is kind of like the swimming pool practice and real life is like swimming an ocean. Yoga postures help you grow self-awareness of your body, but to me more importantly, awareness of your emotions and your thoughts.

    I dare not even try to recall the number of times I heard the voice in my head say "I can't do it" and how long it took me to retrain and replace that thought with "I can do it" and what do you know? Suddenly I could. Yoga gives you time and space to see what your thought patterns are when faced with easy things, challenges, the opportunity to show off, embarrassing situations and situations that make us want to storm out of the class; we get the chance to figure out how the hell to manage all that in real time. 

    Being on a yoga mat gives you the chance to focus on now and only now. It opens you up to be willing to experience pain as you learn not all pain is the same and it is not all bad; it always passes and often it is simply your body giving you a message. Yoga showed me that every pain I ever had was associated with some sort of emotion that I had buried or situation I couldn't face and that when I got the emotions out by crying or screaming or finding the courage to face the things in my life I was terrified to, those pains literally vanished. Like magic. 

    Yoga shows you it is ok to fail and fall, to be able to laugh at yourself, to push yourself a little harder and get back up. You realise most people are too busy worrying about how they look to even notice your trials and errors. Some of the hardest lessons for me were not to look around. Not to compare my body with other people who to my mind were inevitably slimmer, fitter and more beautiful than me. That we all have postures that we do easily that look impressive to other people, but these are not actually where we make most gains. The ones that infuriate you, that make you cry, that you think you will never be able to hold for more than a millisecond - they are the ones that make you grow. But you have got to be willing to show up, EVERY TIME, and try again, and again, then let it be for a while and suddenly you will be in that posture you never thought possible. 

    gI7zgb80QWYAnd the breath, wow, I literally never got that when I started (for like maybe 9 years...!). But if there is one thing that is the easiest to take from your mat into daily life it is that breathing, big, deep, long, slow belly breaths as often as you remember to. Try one or two now and you will get what I mean. Instant STRESS RELIEF.

    I also never got meditation, I used to spend so much time thinking, “I am still thinking, this is a really long meditation, right? God! why can't I stop thinking, just for a second or two, to have a rest, you know? Relax. Ok, so I am focused on my breath, inhale, yes, exhale, no. I am thinking about dinner, and all the things I forgot to do at work today that I MUST remember tomorrow....and oh good! Thank God that is over!”

    I can't say it is the same for everyone but somewhere along the way my mind changed. I was willing to let go, to trust I didn’t have to run the show and it was ok to step back and let my thoughts come and go. That I wasn’t them. And now meditation feels utterly amazing. There are still thoughts of course, and my overactive imagination runs wild, but I let the visions come now. I let the energy expand beyond me and I send love into the world and I get it back; and I feel good and whole and happy.    

    So, if I could give any yoga newbie some advice it would be this: SHOW UP.

    Your journey and mine may well be completely different but I promise you that joining a class will bring you benefits you can't even imagine yet. And, it will not be a straight line; sometimes you will feel amazing and other times completely floored. You will get new injuries and pains in places you never even knew you had before. One day a posture you used to fall into with ease will suddenly become a nightmare. You will put on weight after working so hard to lose it and find muscles in the strangest of places.

    But you will learn something else about being in a body and about living this time around that you never saw before. And if you can learn the lessons your mat is trying to teach you, swimming in the ocean one stroke at a time becomes easier, and not only easier, it starts to actually be enjoyable. And then you realise you had everything you ever needed inside of you all along and the only thing left to say is thank you. 

    IMG_2247For a brief history of yoga you can visit here. I believe it is well worth understanding something about chakras which are the energy centres in the body that yoga postures work to unlock and balance – you can find out some more here.

    The ashtangas or eight limbs of yoga  documented by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra’s are also an invaluable tool for living life. They start with the yamas and niyamas, which are a bit like the 10 commandments of yoga and the positive gems that are the genuine heart and purest intention of all faiths and religions worldwide. 

    They help you realise that yoga doesn’t happen on your mat. It happens when your child does that thing again that literally makes you want to explode. When a family member leaves dirty laundry on the bathroom floor again. When your neighbours are noisy and when your dog won’t stop barking. When someone pulls out in front of you or cuts into the queue you have been standing in for ages. When you don't get what you want. That is when yoga is most valuable. When you can take what the world is showing you and know YOU are responsible for your reactions and your reality.

    And one more thing to keep in mind, once you start this journey it won’t end. Yoga is a bit like Alice following the rabbit into the hole. The more you learn, the more curious you become and the whole world shifts and asks to be rediscovered. Because in truth, yoga is not about the destination (do aim high and reach for enlightenment by all means!) but is only ever about this moment RIGHT NOW.

    So, enjoy your beginning!

  2. Have you ever felt alone?If you answered yes, I assure you the feeling is very real, but the good news is you aren’t alone in having that feeling. These past years we have felt more physical separation than ever before, but it has been the emotional, psychological impacts that we felt most. For some it has been the perfect opportunity to go deeper inside ourselves but if you haven’t found your door way in yet don’t worry!

    Ask yourself “when did I first feel alone?” If you dig deep, it is likely there will have been a moment from your childhood where you felt abandoned and without the love you needed. I know for me it was when my dad left home, and my mum was so emotionally devastated I felt they had both left me. I was a young teenager, my body was changing, boys started to show interest in me, I had exams on the horizon that I believed would dictate how the rest of my life went and three younger siblings who also felt alone. I was overwhelmed and felt like I had no one to turn to. I felt completely alone.

    I made the decision to lock away my own emotions, stay on track and keep working hard because I knew it was my way to manage the pain and my way into the future I wanted.  Feeling like I couldn’t depend on anyone, I needed to make sure I could depend on me. Studying and achieving things gave me something to hold on to, made me feel a bit better. I looked for the love and self-worth I was desperate for in boyfriends who were unable to fill the gapping hole of abandonment I felt.

    woodland-2816801_1920Thirty years later I see the track I set myself on and that I went into survival mode. It got me through but cemented me into a lifetime of feeling alone. When we don’t reach out, or share what we are going through, and don’t allow ourselves to really feel stuff, we feel alone. We see ourselves as different from those around us instead of recognizing how we are similar. We avoid the pain of being human but in doing so we cut ourselves off from the pleasure of real connection. And locked in our own cage of isolation no one can reach us.

    The first step always takes a little bravery. You have to admit how you feel and share it with someone else. So today, find just a little courage and do just that. You have in your hand the key to your own cage. If you don’t know who to share your feelings with, share them with me and post them below. I suspect by the end of the day we will all realize being alone is not so lonely.

  3. do you ever say yes when you mean noMost of us want to believe we are good people, honest at heart and a source of love and support for those important people in our lives. The truth we have to face when we start to look more deeply is that in many ways we aren’t as honest as we would like to be.

    Take it a step further…when I first began to look into my shadow I realized just how manipulative I could be. Now I am no professional trickster believe me you can read my facial expressions like a book, but I am the kind of person who wants to make people feel good. That means I used to go out of my way to help people, I wanted to be seen as the good girl, dependable and positive. It meant I would often say “yes” when inside I was saying “NO!” it meant I would often put other people’s needs first before my own…maybe this sounds familiar? Have you ever been a people pleaser too?

    Now there is nothing wrong with be being helpful but there is something wrong in overstepping boundaries, your own or other people’s and lying to ourselves and others about how we really feel about doing something. Let me explain the subtlety of why…

    When we help out of a need in us, perhaps it is the way we get love and appreciation in life, it means our intention is not totally pure and even if it is subconscious other people pick up on this and don’t receive your “help” so well. Quite often I noticed I used to attach subtle conditions to my help as well, I do this thing for a person and keep a score, they owed me, so my help wasn’t given unconditionally, it was never spoken about, but the energy meant the other person would feel it.

    sunset blossomWhen we help others, we are also assuming they can’t help themselves and even that they aren’t able to ask for help when they need it. This assumption, where we put ourselves in the role of the savior, disempowers people and means we can easily slip into a cycle of dependency. It isn’t healthy for either party in the long run, it is a short-term fix that makes everyone’s egos feel better until they need the next injection of love or appreciation.

    So how do we break the people pleasing cycle?

    Firstly, stop assuming people need help and you are the person to give it. Change your perspective to one of trust and respect for everyone around you. And I mean everyone, your kids, your parents, your friends and neighbors. When we put people in an empowered frame, just that shift in energy can help others move into a place of their own power. If you perceive someone might need help you can ask instead “what support do you need right now?”, then follow their request, it carries a totally different energy.

    Secondly listen to your own needs first.  You can’t fill the cup of others from a cup that is empty. It is ok to say “yes I can help you and I can do it on Wednesday” rather than dropping everything for someone instantly. When we drop our own plans what we are actually telling our inner child is you don’t matter, what you need is not important and it keeps us in a place of needing love from outside of ourselves. Check in first…do I have the energy to really give unconditionally to this person right now? If any part of you is doubt don’t do it right away give yourself space to consider your needs first. Fill your cup. Give as it spills over not before.

    Thirdly get honest with yourself about why you like helping others. We all lack love and appreciation in our lives sometimes, and that is ok. You can ask for what you really need, maybe it is a hug or a kind word or some admiration from someone. You can also acknowledge the f*ck out of yourself “I am utterly amazing I just got all this done and cooked a healthy dinner for my family, hell yes! Go me! I rock!”. The more you are your own saviour, your own source of love and appreciation the less you will feel the need to have others rely on you so you feel good.

    I am not saying these steps are easy but every time you break the people pleaser cycle you empower yourself and those around you. Your break the chains of ancestral neediness that bind us unhealthily to one another and mean our sovereign selves cannot be seen. Be brave today and please yourself, I promise you are not being selfish you are being honest and better still as all our cups start to overflow we all get to share in the happiness, empowerment and trust that creates between us.

  4. do you ever avoid how you really feel

    Don’t worry it is something many of us do! However, in that moment when something uncomfortable bubbles up for us, we often push it aside or deny it saying “no, no I’m fine” when our truth is very different and that is where the trouble can begin.

    Physiologically any emotion unexpressed stays trapped in the body. Emotions are “energy in motion” and when we stop them moving inside us, avoid and hold them in, we live with the consequences. Many ancient traditions recognise this fact, unexpressed emotion overtime grows into pain, stiffness and disease.

    Let me share with you how I found my way out of what I believe can become a destructive pattern…

    I realised about 10 years ago I had become a master of repressing how I felt and had actively chosen this for myself. It was triggered when my dad left home when I was 14 years old, as I was the oldest of four children, I felt I had to be strong, especially as my mum was devastated. I decided to bury my own feelings, it was all too much to handle and I built three rock solid allies to avoid how I truly felt.

    Firstly, I distracted myself with achieving, at the time it was school grades, but later it became the next promotion, the next pay rise, buying a house, a car, you get the idea!

    Secondly, I found escape when I wasn’t working in substances, chocolate and alcohol, which led to sex being added into that mix. The chemicals either masked or overcompensated for my emotions but overtime these sticking plaster responses stop working and pretty quickly gave me other problems to deal with.

    My third ally was taking care of others, always being the strong one, the advisor, the calm stable one who was there for everyone else. Nice distraction from what was really happening on the inside within me!

    Most people play out these avoidance patterns in some way and perhaps you recognise some of this in yourself?

    8uB5kFKWWkkThe difficulty we face of course is that these coping mechanisms, while getting you through the really tough bit, if you allow them to become how you live, start to bite back. Your health suffers, I certainly put on a ton of weight and needed physio for the injuries I caused myself using a laptop for too many hours a day for decades. I hit my physical low at 30, thankfully the wake up call I got then of my joints being under so much pressure walking was painful triggered me to seek out answers that no one was giving me at the time.


    Now my path to healing took me down the long road but yours doesn’t have to. The biggest thing I wish someone had told me and I had really believed sooner was that saying exactly how you feel, being radically honest, is not only the key, it saves you and everyone around you, a hell load of time, energy and heartache!

    Imagine for one second just how liberating it would be if you dropped all your overly polite bs manners and just said what you felt. “I feel shit today because…” “I am feeling really fucking angry because…” “I feel really sad right now because…”. You can master how to do this as a way of authentically expressing yourself and make sure those you are expressing to don’t feel lashed out at. The difference is taking responsibility for those feelings and knowing while that energy in motion in our body is real how we put it out into the world is our choice.

    Dqx4XWuXu7wThe brilliant thing is once you get the hang of this your world starts shifting. Mine did. My old feeling avoidance allies started to hang out with me less frequently. I simply didn’t need them anymore and putting me and my feelings first gave other people the permission to do the same. And my body also started to respond because it wasn’t weighed down by old stuck emotions anymore. And yours will too.

    So today I invite you to get bold, and when someone asks you the question “How are you?” don’t brush it off with the usual reply. Take a deep breath and honour the question with a real answer.

    I promise you that you will be amazed how much better you will feel and how you will connect at a new level with the person asking.

    So, how are you today? Post below and be radically honest! Let’s hear your truth…