Holidays again :)

It’s my last day of being on holiday, and when I woke up the clocks had gone back and it was raining A LOT, so me and the puppy snuggled up with coffee and yesterday’s rugby on the laptop. It’s a real treat to spend a Sunday morning in such a relaxed* and decadent way.

*Only relaxed once the game had finished, of course.

The child, the GTS and I went to stay in a friend’s caravan at Hillend on the Gower for a few days this week. It was such a blessing to spend chilled, relaxed time together. We played Scrabble, walked the dogs on the beach, drew, ate, drank, and even watched a bit of telly!! Compete bliss. The child and I even managed a bit of a surf, and she’s now completely obsessed and wanting to do LOTS MORE surfing- something I’m always up for, even if it means putting a cold, damp swimsuit onto my bed-warmed body on a morning!! We popped into PJ’s surf shop in Llangennith and saw the man himself- I remember going in there for my very first surfboard when the shop was still in a shed further down the road through the village. Legend then, legend now and a lovely bloke.

To be fair I didn’t take this particular photo on this trip. I didn’t take any photos this time! I tried hard to ignore the phone, had a bit of a social media detox, though only a bit… but anyway, this is from last autumn when we were there. Gorgeous.

Tomorrow I’m back to work and yoga classes re-start with Gentle/Beginners’ Yoga at Slimbridge Village Hall at 6pm. We missed the one before half term because the child was invited to an open evening for a high school that she wants to go to, so we went there instead (today is the last day for secondary school applications, so we needed to visit it before the holiday). I’m really looking forward to seeing the Slimbridge group again and will be planning a nice gentle flow today, with not too much up and down but a good range of mobility-enhancing postures and movements. On Wednesday it’s Vinyasa Flow in Stinchcombe, and next Sunday morning it’s Vinyasa Flow for Everyone in Frampton- check out the classes and about pages for more information.

In the meantime have a lovely Halloween Sunday!

Overwhelm and restorative practices

Autumn is a beautiful time of year, one which I really love. However, for anyone with children at school, or who works in education, it can be such a busy time that it’s easy to become overwhelmed. We’re going into week six on Monday, with another two weeks until half term, and for many people it’s a routine of early starts, scrambles from one activity to the next, and lots of work. Although we’re having a really mild, sunny weekend right now, the nights are definitely drawing in, the damp is creeping, and it can all get rather much.

While having a yang yoga practice is great (I love a strong flow), and getting out running, cycling, boxing or any other sport where we work the muscles, including the heart; it’s also good to balance that with a yin practice, or restorative.

I’ve posted before about yin and restorative- they’re a very different way of working to most people’s ideas about a physical asana practice. My own preference is to make the poses really snuggly and comforting, allowing gravity to work, and giving myself permission to let go of thoughts which circulate and persist in my mind. Even if it’s just for an hour, even twenty minutes, it can be a wonderful way of taking a proper, soul-soothing rest. Combined with a practice of yoga nidra as well, it becomes beautifully refreshing and relaxing.

My yin, restorative, and nidra class takes place by candlelight. I invite people to bring as many pillows, cushions, and blankets as they can carry, and come in for an hour or 90 minutes of just letting go. Why not give it a try? It’s an excellent way of banishing that Sunday-night feeling of dread or tension at the week ahead!

Yin and Restorative Yoga at Frampton Village Hall

Balance

It’s all about balance, isn’t it? You want to follow your chosen path, so you work at that, but you also need to pay the bills, so while you’re learning, or building, you need to earn money in some other way, and then you find yourself dashing about between jobs, activities, commitments and tasks. When do you find the time to unwind? Do you sacrifice sleep for relaxation? Can you even sleep if you don’t relax?

The new school year started two weeks ago, and my new classes started at the same time. I am really enjoying teaching yoga- it doesn’t feel like work at all. Classes are showing signs of picking up, and I am starting to feel that there is a demand and I’m able to share this wonderful practice with people who are seeing just how amazing and beneficial it is. It is the first time in nearly eleven years that I’ve worked anything like full time- although to be fair it’s not all work, it’s college and yoga, as well as my three jobs for other people, but it is commitments on six days of the week- and I’m aware that my stress levels are quite high at the moment juggling all the balls.

Taking a moment to find stillness, but then “needing” to capture it for social media 😬

I’m trying to put the Yamas and Niyamas into action at the same time, which looks a bit like this:
Ahimsa, do no harm. Making sure I eat well and sleep enough and limit my alcohol days. I took two weeks off alcohol recently- nearly three in the end, because the new rules mean one bottle of wine a week, so after the official fortnight ended I was dry until that Thursday- and was a bit dismayed to notice quite such a difference in my energy levels and how I feel generally. After the last twenty months or so (lockdown and my mother’s illness and passing), almost daily alcohol became quite normalised, so having that break was a really useful tool for me, breaking the links between downtime, tiredness, celebration, relaxation, and alcohol.
Satya, truthfulness. Really seeing what is going on in my head, really noticing if I can’t cope or am masking anxiety or depression, or if fear of anxiety and depression is leading me to project and exacerbate my stress. Recognising what I need, practising what I preach, asking for help, being honest and maintaining my boundaries- saying no when I need to, rather than saying yes and then resenting it, or withdrawing it and letting someone down.
Asteya, non-stealing. Sharing the practice of yoga (which doesn’t belong to me) as openly and widely as possible. Being aware of the needs of others- giving the dog plenty of walks and cuddles. Playing with Violet, reading her stories, taking an interest in her life, making sure I’m not too busy or too wrapped up in my own stuff to be there for her. Reaching out to friends and letting them know they’re in my thoughts. Giving the GTS* plenty of love and respecting his boundaries around his time and energy.
Brahmacharya, not being obsessed with sensual pleasures. In practice this might mean being selective in choices of reading material, for example- so for me, maybe staying off social media, or being more mindful while eating chocolate so that I enjoy each square, rather than polishing off a whole bar and barely noticing that I am.
Aparigraha, non-grasping, letting go of that which doesn’t serve me or which isn’t necessary. Cobwebs- do I really need to clear them today? They can stay (for now). The boat doesn’t need to look perfect. Food shopping- can I do a quick little shop? Do I need a stash of twelve tins of tomatoes? Probably not, Brexit or no Brexit. Pushing my body into the strongest variations of the asana- do I really need to do that? Isn’t it better to accept that today I need a bit more nurturing or rest, in order to be strong for tomorrow?

These five ‘rules’ or guidelines can really help when life is very busy. Keeping an eye on them can certainly help to make things more manageable.

*Gorgeous Tree Surgeon

Busy, busy, busy

School started yesterday. I worked in the health food shop, and the child had a boxing class after school. Then I re-launched a beginners yoga class. It was a really nice day, but there was a lot of rushing about in between the different activities. And then at 4:15 this morning there I was with my head buzzing with Things To Do.

It’s a common issue but one I haven’t suffered with for quite a while- a benefit of lockdown! It’s one of those things that I now fear and the fear of sleeplessness can itself prevent sleep… so a vicious circle is established. This time I put on a yoga nidra and that helped me drift off- somewhat perversely, I seem to need the ‘permission’ offered by the teacher to let go and relax. I’ve found that before with stressful times and taking a restorative class, or even allowing tears to come, I can’t do it on my own but need someone else to say ‘yes, it’s ok’. Is this something that resonates with you? I certainly hope I can bring that ‘permission’ and create a space where people feel able to let go once my Yin & Restorative class starts on 19th September.

I’m feeling the fear also of being overwhelmed by Things To Do- again, in itself a likely cause of my stress and anxiety levels rising. I’m meditating on the balance between pushing too hard and giving up too soon; possibly like someone who damaged ligaments and is wary of repeating the injury, I’m wary of pushing my mental health too far.

Hopefully with plenty of breath work and bedtime Nidra practice all will be well. And also hopefully, I will get sufficient income from my classes to be able to reduce the hours I work PAYE. But it’s a balancing act. What’s your tightrope?

Back to school

I’ve been planning a relaunch of two classes- one in a new evening slot- and a brand-new one. It’s really exciting to plan for gorgeous yin and restorative yoga, sorting out battery candles (real ones aren’t allowed in the venue), write a nidra script…

There’s definitely an autumnal feel to the evenings and the early mornings just now. We’re all getting ready to go back to school, in a way- the swallows are gathering on the phone wires, the politicians are gathering in Westminster, and anyone involved with education is preparing to start the new term, whether teaching, attending, or on the school run. It’s a time of change and transition, a time of new beginnings just as the natural world looks as if it’s starting to shut down.

Resolutions can be made in September, it’s a kind of new year after all, and for me the autumn has always been the time to make new starts. I’m rested after the holidays, ready to get back to being productive, and often inspired by the hours of dreaming in the warm sunshine. (It doesn’t feel like we have had very much warm sunshine, but with a couple of trips in the van I have had plenty of time to dream anyway.) So this autumn, I’m looking forward to getting back into college, to starting new yoga classes, and to resetting my own routines and habits- shedding (or trimming, at least) the bad, and making more of the good.

Santosha can be loosely described as contentment. I’m in a good place at the moment and am finding santosha in much of my life. I feel more and more that I am working within my dharma, fighting less to fit into a mould that doesn’t suit me. My resolution this autumn is to stay on this path, to make it more and more viable, and to enjoy and appreciate the journey. What’s yours?

Yoga in the park, yoga nidra, and the effects of a meditation practice

With the beautiful warm weather we’ve been having, I’ve been lucky enough to have people join me to practise in a local park. The sessions have been fairly mellow the last couple of times as it’s been so hot, and we had to miss most of May because of the rain, but practising in the fresh air is such a lovely experience. Feeling the breeze and the warm sun on your skin, smelling the scent of freshly-cut grass, hearing the birds… Fi also has been coming along with her hula hoops teaching us some moves after the yoga (although some people [me] have been very slow at learning how to do them- apparently yoga needs far less coordination than hula hooping!!)…

My yoga nidra course was really interesting too. I learned a lot about the brain, I got to experience some wonderful nidra states, and I’m even more full of enthusiasm for it than I was before- to the point of being slightly evangelical, oh dear!!

Some lovely yogis accepted my invitation on Tuesday for me to try out my new skills on them, and they seemed quite happy by the end of the practice. I intend to record some out in nature, and then share them on this site- another new challenge for my IT skills!

On that subject, increasing my yoga nidra practice and meditation practice has had a noticeable effect on my moods and also the cravings I sometimes get for comfort foods, like chocolate, crisps, and wine. I feel better regulated and am able to make healthier choices more easily. I’ll let you know how that goes. I’ve always started practice with some breathwork, usually breathing for heart rate variability, but after the nidra course I’ve introduced nadi shodana (alternate nostril breathing) both in class and for myself, and it is also having quite the effect on me. It helps with grounding and reducing stress, and like the counting breath practice, it takes concentration so you have to be mindful and in the moment.

Further teacher training :)

I’m really excited to be signed up to complete 30 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) in Yoga Nidra. The training is run by Melanie Cooper (who was my teacher trainer for my 200 hours certificate) and Jennie Wadsten.

Yoga Nidra, or ‘yogic sleep’ is a beautiful, restful practice that I find wonderfully restoring. If I’m short on sleep, or suffering from night-time wakefulness, a guided yoga nidra can either refresh me far better than a nap, or get me back to sleep so that I don’t have to watch the small hours tick past. However, that is only one small part of the art- so I’m very excited to learn more about the different styles, the science, and the history behind yoga nidra.

I can’t wait to be able to offer yoga nidra as part of my classes, and to share the benefits with everyone who wants to try!

New beginnings

In-person classes could restart on Monday 17th May, and I kicked off with a beginners’ class in Slimbridge. It was a simple, straightforward routine designed for people who haven’t done yoga before- slower so that everyone could find the pose, work out how their body needed to approach it, and have time to find integrity in it. We worked on breathing with the movements, and ended with a lovely long savasana. I really enjoyed teaching the group, and I hope to see them all again next Monday- along with some others who’ve previously thought that yoga wasn’t for them!

I haven’t yet managed to get to an in-person class for my own practice, but I hope to very soon. Life’s been pretty hectic lately and my body and soul are both craving mindful movement with somebody else directing me!

Yoga and hula hooping in the park

On Sunday 25th April we braved the chill and enjoyed the sun as we moved through a simple vinyasa flow before getting some expert tuition in hula hooping from Fi Lewis.

The fabulous Fi demonstrating yoga while hooping!

The yoga flow was offered with different options for the different bodies, from a gentle vinyasa with knees down, chest down, baby cobra; to a full plank-chaturanga-upward dog. We moved into different lunges, Warrior poses, a balance flow, and some hip-opening and side-stretching postures.

Fi tutored us into walking in a circle while hooping (well, some people did that. I found it way too challenging!!) before a sequence of catching the hoop mid-spin and spinning it the other way.

In the beautiful sunshine, a yoga flow followed by the fun of hooping left me glowing both inwardly and outwardly!

What does yoga mean for you?

For many people, their mental image of yoga is of an impossibly bendy person holding a really challenging pose, but actually the asana are just one ‘limb’ of the eight in classic yogic thought. For me personally, yoga is a way of grounding myself, reconnecting to my body and being mindful, and fully in the moment. It can reset my mindset and make me feel peaceful. Other people see it as a way of getting fitter or stronger, more flexible, or even achieving those challenging asana as a form of validation. While all of those things are very individual, the image of yoga often seen on social media is, in my opinion, very superficial and often doesn’t consider the philosophy or the aspects of yoga aside from the postures. That can be off-putting to the beginner.

To anyone thinking that yoga is a thing that thin, bendy people do- I would say, give it a try if you struggle to be mindful or grounded. Have a go to benefit from increasing physical strength and flexibility, but appreciate the process and the journey because that is where the growth is to be found.

This image, shared by Om Magazine, really sums it up for me.