Happy New Year readers! I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions, what they mean and trying to come up with new ones for myself. How many of you have New Year resolutions? Also, why do we only come up with resolutions in the New Year? Why are they called ‘New Year’ resolutions? Can’t we create resolutions at any time of the year?
I decided to look up who created it and when the first ever recorded ‘New Year’s Resolution’ was. According to history.com, resolutions date back some 4000 years to the Ancient Babylonians who began by making promises to their gods at the beginning of each New Year. In fact, every civilization and time period has been making ‘New Year’ resolutions throughout history since. However, as time has modernized, resolutions have become less about religion and more about self-improvement.
Interestingly statistics also say that only about 8% of people who make resolutions actually stick with them! What about you? Where do you fall? I’m definitely somewhere in the 92%.
However that being said, I am in the 92% if I make a NEW YEAR resolution. I find that I tend to make resolutions to change or improve myself over the entire year. When I do this I find I am more successful. I think there is something about the pressure of conforming to the idea of New Year resolutions that automatically makes me fail...or the off-the-cuff answer I give to people when they ask me what my resolutions are. Then I feel I have to stick to that comment, even though I’m not sure that’s what I wanted to work on.
I recently saw a post on Instagram from @balance_festival that suggested dividing a page into 3 columns. In the first write words that you want to embody. In the second, write ways you can actively embody each of these words. Finally, in the third, create a time frame for you to set these. It’s similar to a personal action plan. I should be ace at this as I wrote action plans all the time in my previous career!
Resolutions are just a plan to change aren’t they? So, if we were to actually sit down and make an action plan, then I think resolutions would be more readily achievable. So for example, this year instead of saying ‘I’m going to reduce my amount on social media sites (gasp!)’, instead I’ve decided to make a positive actionable resolve: ‘I’m going to read for at least 30 minutes every day’ and ‘I’m going to do at least 30 minutes of exercise every day.’ Notice I didn’t say I was going to try to lose 10 lbs or start running?!?
In fact, those are 2 of my own resolutions (reading and 30 minutes of exercise). In addition to these resolutions, I made a list of things I want to achieve this year- a set of targets for myself. Another resolution I’d like to set for myself is to be more fiscally responsible. So in order to do this, I’m going to set aside a certain amount each month for holidays, another amount for Christmas, continue my new found love of grocery shopping at less expensive stores. I’m also still working on last year’s resolution of de-cluttering, living a more minimalist lifestyle. I need to make more specific steps for that. If you have any ideas for me, please leave a comment below. I could use all the help.
Well, I’d love to hear back from you about any resolutions you’ve made- successful or not as well as any helpful tips you might have for me.
Thanks for stopping by to read.
It’s been a while since I last posted here- only because I’ve been busy teaching yoga, ferrying the kids around and most of all planning!
The nights are getting longer, days are colder and all we want to do is snuggle under our duvet and hibernate. I definitely feel more tired at this time of year as my primal instincts kick in. Thoughts of warmer climates and exotic destinations begin to appear as memories of this summer’s magical and spiritual Mexican retreat fade.
I love going on a yoga retreat for several reasons. I get to:
But, be sure to do your research carefully before booking onto a retreat. Questions to be mindful of include:
Watch this space!
Leave a comment below if you’ve been to Northern Thailand, been on a retreat before or any questions I’ve missed about what people should be on the look out for.
Last week I was asked to write a guest blog for the Better Birth, Better Motherhood Project about my experience with post-natal yoga and my upcoming Post-natal yoga classes. I was thrilled and honoured to write this post. Even though I began dabbling in yoga 15 years ago, it wasn't until I started ante-natal and post-natal yoga that I truly became hooked.
So, I thought I'd share my guest blog here as well for you to read. Also, if you do get a chance, go to Chloe's blog and check it out. bbbmproject.co.uk
I began my yoga journey almost 15 years ago. However, it wasn’t until I fell pregnant with my first-born, Sophie, that I truly began to see the therapeutic benefits of yoga. I started ante-natal (pregnancy) yoga at the beginning of my third trimester with Sophie. Even just a few short weeks of the practice helped me have an amazing delivery.
Naturally, when I fell pregnant with my second, I couldn’t wait to start another ante-natal yoga class. The instructor I found ran her popular class on the Isle of Dogs. But, what was better was that she also ran a post-natal class there as well.
So, having practised yoga diligently for 26 weeks (I never missed a week- even when my husband locked himself out of the flat, my phone was turned off!), I was itching to continue post-birth. At 6 weeks old, Charlie and I started attending weekly classes. Her classes were small, so pre-booking was essential. The small size meant more space for mums and babies. I was happy to see familiar faces week in and week out, and watch the other babies develop alongside my own.
Post-natal yoga was my weekly sanctuary. It was great to meet up with mums who had babies similar in age to my own, and it was comforting to see that those mums had rough days as well. I’m not going to lie and tell you that having a second was so much easier. In fact, it wasn’t. Some weeks I wondered why I was bothering to go as Charlie was so fussy; I didn’t feel as if I was getting much yoga for myself. However, post-natal yoga is just as much for the baby as it is for mum. Part of the class is aimed at mums bonding with their newborns through gentle exercise, carrying baby in arms and sometimes through the use of familiar nursery rhymes.
In hind-sight, I would say that was some of the most beneficial bonding. To this day, I still do Superman-flying with my now seven-year-old ‘baby’, and he still likes to show me some of the yoga poses he picks up.
I tried almost everything out there aimed at new mums: Buggy Bootcamp, Aqua babies, baby music, baby massage, etc. But out of all those experiences, post-natal yoga ranked number one for me. I do attribute my close bond with both my children, and their own keen interest in yoga, to my own practise with them. In fact, my older child has been practising weekly for over a year now at the yoga club I run at her school. Now, seven years later, I want to share that same experience with other new mums.
So why take up post-natal yoga for yourself, and why do I teach it? Here are my top 5 reasons:
1) Gentle exercise for the pelvic floor helps tighten those muscles (especially if you plan on returning to the gym, going to bootcamp or even running after your baby when they begin to toddle and not having your own ‘accidents’).
2) Asanas (poses) help strengthen your upper body and legs as well as stretch out tight muscles (hamstrings, hip flexors, backs, calves) from pushing and carrying baby around.
3) You learn routines which may help settle baby as well as encouraging you to have fun together. Occasionally, the instructor would take my fussy one off of me to use as a demo, or just give me some respite.
4) Pranayama (breathing) and meditation help you de-stress.
5) Small classes mean it’s easier to make friends with other new mums and support each other.
Post-natal yoga is great from 6 weeks (8 weeks C-section) to toddler. However, you should pre-book your space to avoid disappointment. I had already pre-booked mine before Charlie was even born, just so I knew that I could start. I’m not promising that your baby will become a yogi, but I am saying you will find a warm, welcoming place to de-stress, tone, bond and occasionally get advice (if you want it).
Beginning in September, I offer post-natal classes on Tuesdays at A Fine Balance Studio (Upminster) from 1:30-2:30 and Wednesday mornings at Fairkytes (Hornchurch) from 10:45-11:45.
The summer holidays are finally here! Can I get a ‘Woot! Woot!’? The weeks leading up to the 6 weeks holidays here are always crazy, and with this record-breaking heat wave I have really slowed down.
I’ve been trying to keep it cool in my yoga sessions lately, not only with the fans blasting away cool (ok, tepid) air, but with the practice itself. It’s also that time of year when we do a lot of walking and end up with tired, swollen feet and legs. Amazingly, and stupidly, I clocked 20 thousand steps the other Saturday....in flip-flops! Needless to say my feet were killing me. As well as that, I find that after carrying a bag all day filled with 3 different types of sunscreens, a wallet, bottles of water and the various junk the kids collect and hand off, my shoulders tend to really ache!
So with the heat and the walking in mind, I thought I would share with you some poses you can do while you’re on holiday yourself, or even just at home to stay fit and cool. I’ve included photos to see what I am talking about (see up top). Starting from the top-left corner, work your way around clock-wise.
1) Cooling breath- curl your tongue as you inhale slowly for a count of 4. Exhale through the nose for a count of 4. Repeat the process for however long you want, but at least 3 minutes.
2) Downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)- This is a great stretch for your hamstrings, and spine. Bend your knees or pedal your feet to really loosen those hamstrings. Make sure you are pushing that chest towards your thighs to really push the hips up into an inverted-V and get the most from the stretch.
3) Wide-legged forward fold with a twist- Another great pose for your legs with the added benefit of twisting your internal organs to help digest anything you might have regretted eating the day before (Extra large serving of bubblegum ice-cream or cotton candy, perhaps?) Keep your legs wide, fold forward at the waist keeping your knees straight (but don’t hyper-extend them), bring your right hand down to the mat, and as you exhale, reach your left hand up towards the sky. Hold for 3-5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
4) Seated Yoga Mudra- easy relaxing pose to soften the ache in your shoulders. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position. Reach your hands behind you and clasp them. Inhale and roll your shoulders back. As you exhale, fold forward at the waist and bring your arms up behind you towards the sky. Again, if you need to use a towel or strap to grasp your hands, then do so.
5) Seated Tree Pose (Janu Sirsana)- Stretches out your hamstrings. If you flex your foot upwards, then it stretches out your calves as well. Be sure to lead the forward fold with your chest and not your head otherwise you won’t feel the lovely stretch in your hamstring. If you can’t reach your foot, use a strap or towel to help you.
6) Side Lunge (Skandasana)- Another fabulous pose, although a bit trickier, to help open up your hips and hamstrings as well as work on your core and balance. If you find it tricky to remain balancing, then start with both your hands on the floor. As you build your balance, then you can release the hands and bring them up into prayer mudra. Try to keep the foot of your outstretched leg flexed to increase the stretch. Hold the pose for 3-5 breaths, before switching sides.
7) Cow face pose (Gomukhasana)- Helps soften the hips and legs as well as the shoulders. Sitting on the floor, bend both knees. Bring the right foot over top the left leg and place the left heel next to the right buttocks. Extend the right arm up into the air, then bend at the elbow and reach your right hand down to grasp the left hand. Bring your left arm behind you so that the palm is facing outward. If you cannot clasp your hands together, use either a towel (as shown in the picture) or a strap. Hold for 3-5 breaths, then switch sides. To intensify the stretch, fold forward at the waist.
8) Wide-legged forward fold
9) Extended child’s pose with hands in prayer- This is my go-to for sore and tight shoulders. Start on your hands and knees. Place your elbows on the floor in front of you, bring your hands into prayer with the finger tip pointing up to the sky. Sit back slowly onto your heels, bringing your forehead to the floor as well. If you want to intensify this stretch, use a block (or a thick book) to place your elbows on. Again, bring the forehead to the floor in front of the block.
10) Legs up the wall (Viparita Karani)- Caution: This pose shouldn’t be practised if you have high blood pressure or if you have eye problems. (no photo for this one)
Bring your buttocks close to the wall (against it preferably) and extend your legs up the wall as you lie back on your mat. You can choose to have your arms lying next you with palms facing up, or have them take a cactus shape. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Great for swollen ankles as this brings the blood flow back towards your heart. Stay here as long as you like up to 10 minutes. If your legs begin to go numb, bend your knees and bring them down to your chest.
I like to finish my practice with a cool shower, and peppermint cream or petroleum jelly on my feet to keep them soft.
Hope you find this useful to stay cool in the heat!
I’m back! And Thank YOU for coming back as well!
I spent last weekend on another Yoga Teacher professional development course- Restorative Yoga. It was LUSH! Other than getting extra rest each day (I even took a 15 minute power nap during the break on Day 1!) I learned a whole lot.
I adore a good workshop or course. I know the thought of school or learning scares people, but not yoga courses. There are so many things to love about a course. Not only do I love the fact that I get to spend the weekend in the heart of London (and get to visit Borough Market on a weekend- such a pre-children experience!) I love meeting new people and learning about their history with yoga. I love learning something completely new, even if you thought you knew something about it before. I usually sign up for a course because I’ve had some exposure but I’m curious to learn more. And usually, I find out that what I thought I knew, I didn’t, and I feel like a whole new world is opened up.
I love hearing the wisdom and tips from the course leaders, and being bathed in their aura. I know this is true as I found a photo of me on Instagram this weekend. I had put #restorative into the search bar and up popped a familiar photo. Not familiar because I had taken it, but familiar because I had been there. I recognised the photo from the course, and sure enough in the background, there I was sitting with the biggest grin on my face enjoying the course leader teaching us. There’s the proof I love learning: an un-rehearsed photo of my natural reaction to something that I am clearly enjoying.
“What is restorative yoga and how is it different from Yin yoga?” you might ask. Both are equally relaxing. Both require you to hold the pose for a period of time. However, while Yin allows you to still push yourself to the edge, restorative uses soft bolsters, comfy cushions, fleecy blankets, eye pillow and other props to completely support you letting you relax deeply for the entire time. A restorative class will only have 4 or maybe 5 poses in the entire hour. That hour just rushes by as you focus on your breath, and let your muscles and deep tissue completely relax and melt into the floor. There is no pain, no twinges, no aches, no pushing yourself to the edge. In fact, you could probably do restorative yoga in your onesie if you wanted. However, the trick is to not fall asleep...you don’t want to be THAT character that starts snoring in the class. (Not sure which is worse: snoring or farting in a silent yoga class?)
Restorative yoga is perfect to help you de-stress and relax after a hectic week. In fact, I’m going to be practising one restorative move a day for myself just to unwind before bed. (Right after I finish this blog of course! And get the kids ready for school...) It’s the yoga we all think of when someone says they are going to yoga. Patanjali’s yoga sutra even says “Seated posture[s] should be steady and comfortable.” There you have it! Yoga should be relaxing and comfortable- not always stretching, twisting and pushing ourselves to the limit. There is a time and place for that- don’t get me wrong, I am Ashtanga trained after all- however, we should all make some time for ourselves to re-connect and just chill out.
So, if you haven’t tried a restorative yoga class today, I am telling you to try it out. You won’t regret it! Why are you still sitting there? You should be Googling your nearest restorative yoga class now! Well, of course unless you’ll be coming to my class...
The other night I attended a Yin Yoga and Sound bath session led by Toma (from Toma J Fitness www.toma-j.com). It wasn’t my first session, but I so love sound baths. I decided it was time to explore what it is about a sound bath that I love.
What is a sound bath you may ask? Well, it doesn’t involve water, that’s for sure. (Unless you decide to drink it) But, it does involve being ‘bathed’ in a variety of sounds from singing bowls, gongs, chimes, hand bells, etc. whilst you lay in savasana.
Why do it? It’s great to help you focus. If you have a hard time meditating or keeping your focus while in savasana, then this might be the solution for you. Your attention is brought to the sounds around you. Usually the sound leader travels around the room bringing the sound to you. Occasionally they may place the singing bowl on top of you so you can feel the vibrations of it. There is no melody or song so your brain can’t predict what’s coming nor can it sing along. Random sounds help you focus, allowing your brain to simply turn off. Occasionally your brain will wander, but then it will hear a pitch or frequency that seems to re-awaken it, startle it and bring it back into focussing on the sound, hence bringing you back into a meditative state.
I spoke to Andrea Moretti afterwards (from Pinguru.cave) about his choice of instruments and the effects of the sounds. He used a variety of singing bowls, a gong, wind chime, Tibetan chimes and small bells. The combination of wind chime and small bells took my mind to the outdoors and reminded me of my childhood. He later explained to me that the sounds from the bath used binaural beats (auditory brain-stem responses which originate in the superior olivary nucleus of each brain hemisphere. They result from two different auditory impulses or sounds, heard from opposite ears. From www.mindfithypnosis.com/about-binaural-beats) and affects our REM, helping us to relax even further. Apparently one hour in a sound bath is equivalent to 4 hours of a good night’s sleep!
Further research suggests that sound baths can reduce blood pressure, reduce heart rate, elevate your mood, enhance your sleep and reduce stress. (Tamara L. Goldsby, PhD1,2, Michael E. Goldsby, PhD1 , Mary McWalters, BA1 , and Paul J. Mills, PhD1, 2016) Personally, I went home, ate some ice cream (I told you I’m not perfect; I had been thinking about Ben & Jerry’s during the session) and then had the most amazing and restful sleep. Sure I had some crazy dreams (work related!) but woke up feeling rejuvenated and creative, hence my need to write and plan some more amazing yoga classes and how to incorporate my own singing bowl and chimes into them.
So, if you’ve never tried a sound bath and are looking for a new way to relax, I highly recommend it. If you’re local to me, then check out Toma’s website to see when she is hosting the next one. Or if you want to experience some singing bowl action, why not try out my Tuesday night restorative yoga class?
Namaste my friends!
Heading down a new path...
So I’ve been toying with the idea of a blog for a long time now. But I always fall back to “Who will read what I write?” and “Do I have anything more interesting to write?” In the end I’ve decided I don’t know. But I’m glad you are reading me now. I’m not sure if I have any profound advice to give, but isn’t advice simply one’s own life experience being presented to another. So here I go...
I handed in my notice at my school at the end of April stating that I would cease to teach there at the end of this school year. Funny how when you tell other women, they are all happy for you in following your dreams whilst the men all seem to be concerned about where your income will come from. (I still haven’t told my dad!) Take DH for example. He’s been freaking out ever since telling me that we’ll be losing a third of our income, blah, blah blah..... I keep needing to remind him that I WILL still be getting some form of income from teaching.
I’ve been thinking about quitting for a while. There was no work-life balance anymore. I never seem to be able to spend time with my kids. And then when I do, I worry about what other work I should be doing.
Currently on top of teaching in the classroom 5 days a week (50 hours a week!), I am teaching 2 adult classes that I hire space for, 1 children’s club and a Friday night candle lit flow class at a local studio. I’ll be starting to teach a 6-week beginner course in June which I am really excited about. So really, I’m not leaving teaching, I’m just heading down a new path of teaching.
But the other venture which has me excited is my upcoming workshop at the studio. My workshop is aimed at yogis stuck in beginner mode. You know, when you are starting to get bored with yoga and don’t know how to make that leap into intermediate? Or when you are in a yoga class but too nervous or too intimidated to try that difficult pose? Well, my workshop is aimed at that yogi. I thought with the right environment where everyone is pretty much the same level, and the right ‘Steps to Success’ anyone can achieve those more intermediate poses and take that leap. I’ve seen it in my own class already, so I thought why not offer it out as a workshop. The first workshop is set to happen on the 14th July called ‘Nail your Chaturanga and Kakasana’. Fingers crossed people sign up. I’ve already got the perfect yoga shirt lined up!
Well, you’ve made it this far; thanks for sticking it out. Do you have any tips for me for advertising? Bragging or talking about myself has never been one of my stronger points. Anything you’d like me to focus on or write about? Any other questions?
Until next time,