Category Archives: Daily yoga

On Falling Off the Yogic Bandwagon…

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A.k.a. stepping away from your mat. Apt, we can probably agree, for my first post in what a very long time.

I missed this. And I missed my yoga practice. But there we go – sometimes we choose to do the things we know aren’t great for us. Six months ago, I was toting my mat around Ashtanga-ing my little heart out… then suddenly even the idea of inhaling whilst raising my arms made my head feel heavy and had me rolling out excuses rather than my mat. I was tired… I’d just eaten… I really needed 20 minutes more sleep…

My reluctance confused me. I’m not exactly famed for hesitancy. But there I was, frozen and stuck and kinda willingly gummed up. I tried to trick myself into a quick stretch by creating a beautiful, light yoga room. And whilst I only had to step in there to feel the good vibes soothe my soul, I couldn’t convince myself to really go in there, breathe and bend.

Fortunately, I cushioned my fall from grace with some great stories. When shallow excuses like being tired reach the end of their fairly limited lifespan, you have to shovel around for more of an X-factor grade yarn. And you know, I hadn’t just fallen off the bandwagon… I’d been pushed. Ouch! I wasn’t quite sure who’d shoved me hardest, but there were a few culprits in the line-up…

  1. the Korean anatomy teacher who told my ‘very large thighs’ were limiting my yogic ability – Ouch!
  2. my much-respected, guru-grade teacher who, on a 4-week long intensive, kept gathering my Chinese Ashtanga classmates around my mat to explore how owning a ‘stiff Western body’ affect asana practice. And my tetchy inner thighs got baddha konasana as homework when other people got HANDSTAND PRESS! Why was I even bothering? (Seriously, if you ever have a kamikaze-style urge to tango with your ego, go intensively Ashtanga in China).
  3. I suffered a massive whack of gross Bikram-esque unprofessionalism at the hands of my long-term teacher.

You get the idea. 1 and 2 were not my real problems. I like my (normally proportioned!) thighs! I like my practice. But given the choice between working through some sh*t or shutting down, I settled for staying unable to separate being wounded by some wicked bad stuff that had happened at yoga and yoga itself hurting me.

Which was a shame.

It wasn’t that I was falling out of love with yoga. I don’t think any of us on a hiatus from our practice do. Even if I didn’t seek it out, there wasn’t a day that went by that practice didn’t catch my eye with the spine of a book, an Instagram pic or the yum of a post-sofa stretch. Silent Sat-nams would sneak themselves beneath the inexorable rhythm of my breath. My fingers surreptitiously drummed out a Sa-Ta-Na-Ma as I walked.

And yoga holidays (not that sort) do have their hidden benefits. Yep, we might feel physically cruddy and emotionally numb, but the yoga’s gonna sneak in somewhere, whether it’s consciously breathing yourself to sleep or consciously questioning the actions in our day. This is good! Not just because yoga wants us and is always glad to welcome us home; it’s good to glimpse new facets of this vast physical and philosophical system. Stepping away from our pre-determined practice and seeing what seeps back into us cracks us open in all sorts of good ways.

Eventually, thoroughly bored with my own BS, I realized that the further I get away from my practice, the further I get from myself. Yoga lights things up for us and if we don’t like what we see, switching that light off might make things seem less ugly for a while. Especially if you throw in a few glasses of wine and a Netflix binge. Sooner or later though, that lack-of-intuition-and-mindfulness dark is only going to hurt your eyes and have you bumping into crap.

How dark it gets depends, but – be it a broken-on-the-bathroom-floor crisis or the daily grind wearing us a little too thin – the time will come to step back up to the mat. And when the time is right, we don’t even have to trick ourselves into it. Going to class is the obvious solution; one of yoga’s biggest blessings is the communities it provides us with. But if you’re too far away, too busy or too broken, there’s definitely no shame in YogaGlo. Or GaiamTV.com (if the whole YogaGlo class-copyrighting saga was a little too corporate for your tastes). Honestly, 30 miles from my nearest studio, these sites are my shepherds. I’m even attempting an Instagram challenge. And I used to think bad things about those. (You can see my efforts up at the top of this post, or for more IG-love, see the sidebar).

Now it’s just a case of taking it day by day, breath by breath.

With much love, as always, S x

P.S. Feel free to comment or share below – any thoughts on building yoga communities in remote places would be especially appreciated 🙂

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5 Ways to Let Go of Whatever Held You Back in 2014

I worry that people aren't allowed Colin Caterpillar cakes for their 30th :(

I worry that people aren’t allowed Colin Caterpillar cakes for their 30th 😦

I woke up on Sunday with what I perceived to be a huge problem. It was my birthday. I had turned 29 while I was sleeping. 29!! One moment I was happily blundering along being 28 and then… BANG! I found myself perilously close to turning 30.

Because in my head 30 is when the magic happens. 30 is when I will become *horrified gasp* a fully fledged GROWN UP.

So, Sunday marked my own little New Year. The start of my 365 day dress rehearsal for responsible adulthood. I needed to hone my focus, turbo-charge my super-powers and rid myself of some demons. I thought the easiest way to start would be to read something inspiring and/or spiritual first thing in the morning, instead of just dopily pushing the glowiest buttons on my generic smartphone.

Either the fates approved of my plan or I got myself a happy coincidence, because I opened my inspirational text (Rolf Gates’ Meditations from the Mat, incase you were wondering) straight onto a passage about aparigraha.

Aparigraha is yoga’s 5th yama (ethical code). Traditionally defined as ‘nonhoarding’, I’ve always found this translation to be kinda useful, but mostly reminiscent of those trashy programs on Channel 5 where people who probably need professional help not having their bones picked by a documentary crew, live entombed amongst of piles and piles of really, really crazy shizzle. i.e. it’s really easy to think you’re already don’t hoard and give aparigraha the slip.  Continue reading

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Om is Where the Heart Is

om tatsatiti nirdesho brahmanstrividhah samratah - 'OM, tat and sat has been declared as the triple appellation of Brahman, who is Truth, Consciousness and Bliss', The Bhagavad Gita

om tatsatiti nirdesho brahmanstrividhah samratah – ‘OM, tat and sat has been declared as the triple appellation of Brahman, who is Truth, Consciousness and Bliss’, The Bhagavad Gita

Om  

noun

  1. The supreme and most sacred syllable, consisting in Sanskrit of the three sounds (a), (u) and (m), representing various fundamental triads and believed to be the spoke essence of the universe. It is uttered as a mantra in affirmations and blessings.

Arriving in China to study with John Scott, I chanted more Oms than you could shake a proverbial stick at. And it gave me lots of opportunity to really think about – and more importantly to feel ­– what Om means. I know when I first started yoga, I tended towards sitting out the chanting and hoping nobody noticed because their eyes were closed. Now I’m teaching it seems that a lot of people initially do. Maybe that’s because we (not unreasonably) don’t want to say stuff we don’t understand and are not 100% behind. Om sounds kinda magical. We don’t want to start singing it and end up accidentally affiliating ourselves with black magic, the wrong religion or even any religion, if the G-word isn’t your cup of chai.

But we shouldn’t panic… Although for many people chanting Om does resonate with their idea of ‘God’, the Divine or that which is greater than ourselves, if you push out your feelers into what is a surprisingly vast subject for a 2-letter word you’re certain to find an interpretation which sits comfortably.

A mantra of Hindu origin, Om is often described in yoga as ‘the sound of the Universe’ or the primordial sound of creation. Great if you’ve already know what you’re om about (sorry…) but otherwise, it’s a little vague. How can one little Om be the noise that represents everything, everywhere, ever?

The first way to think about Om is to break it down into the way our mouths form the sound: AUM.

Here, A, the beginning of the sound – made at the back of the mouth – symbolizes the beginning of the Universe.

U, the middle of the sound – resonating in the middle of our mouth – symbolizes the ‘maintenance phase’ of the Universe; the bit we’re enjoying right now.

And M, the end of the sound – made at the front of our mouths with our lips – symbolizes the eventual end of the Universe.

Another way of thinking about Om and the Universe is that each and every little piece of the Universe is constantly resonating with the sound of it. That stone on the path? It’s vibrating with Om. The earth and the flowers and the leaves that surround you? Also vibrating with Om. Each and every cell in your body? Also Om-ming along in a tiny-but-sublime cosmic harmony. Because it’s all, essentially, the same. We are all the same. Formed from (admittedly second hand) stardust stemming back to the Big Bang and the beginning of time.

And so it is (!) that we are reminded of the whole reach of existence in this one crazy little sound.

(Note: There are, as the dictionary definition mentions, a plethora of other ways of thinking about Om. I’ve the parts described as representing waking/dreaming/deep sleep/transcendence. Or lower body/middle body/upper body/head. Maybe you prefer one of these ideas – you don’t even have to be exclusive! – they just don’t vibe with me so much at the mo.)

Not, of course, forgetting the ‘…’ , or the silence after the last ‘mmm’s are done buzzing. This is where the real magic happens. This is the space, the emptiness, that which comes after and that which we always return to. Because without the silence, Om cannot be repeated.

Love and good vibrations,

S xxx

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Mirror Mirror…

Kathryn Budig told me to write ‘I am beautiful’ in Sharpie on my bathroom mirror. So I did.

Not just because if Kathryn Budig told me to chakrasana (Sanskrit translation: basically a backward roll) off the edge of a cliff I’d whole-heartedly go for it, but because I loved the idea behind it. Every morning, I’d stumble bleary eyed towards the shower and just as I was about to get critical with my reflection, I’d be confronted with this rather stunning statement and remember how totally true it was.

I’d have no need to pinch my podge, smush my unruly eyebrows, jump up and down to see how much of me wobbled or ponder the age-old conundrum of exactly how it is that a girl can be starting with wrinkles before she’s outgrown spots – to Olay or Clearasil? Nope, now this most important of daily affirmations would be literally staring me right in the face.

Instead, I’d happily tousle my wild-woman hair and remind myself how bed heads are badass, write off my blackened toenails and terminally grim boot-feet as exciting scars (because my day job is so exciting that massive horses occasionally stand on me) and resist the urge to poke my wobbly bits because actually, they’re called my hips and they’re hot.

Happy days.

At least until about day three. When I very sadly realized that:

a)    I’m not Kathryn Budig

b)   I don’t get along too swimmingly with affirmations

But I did really want that first thing in the morning smash-in-the-face reminder that my life and I are superlatively wonderful.

So, over the next few days (while I researched how exactly you get permanent marker back off your landlord’s mirror) I had a think.

And this is what I came up with…

Instead of a statement that sometimes made me feel like a white-hot vixen and other times just pissed me off and made me feel like a big fat yoga fake, I decided to write something else up there.

I went with the words that I wanted to squeeze from my day. Feelings that give me that gin-and-tonic rush of happy but without the need for alcohol. Non-toxic intoxication.

Et voila… 

Wild. Divine. Love. Adventure. Every day.

Wild. Divine. Love. Adventure. Every single day.

I might think my day is going to be flat, square and dull as beige knitwear, but now I have a scaffold to riff off and make my heart beat a little truer. Take LOVE. Maybe I’ll chase it this morning by showing it where I least expect to (who doesn’t have colleagues that make us want to think bad things, or entirely amazing people we completely take for granted?) and that will make me feel good.

Making these words happen makes me feel beautiful.

Our intentions may be great, but we don’t always have time to transition gently into our day with some meditation, a stint on the yoga mat and a green smoothie. Somehow, we find ourselves with just under 16 minutes to get dressed, feed the dog/kids/man/lady, inhale some toast and coffee, pack up some lunch and get our selves out of the door to a job that may well drive us crazy. But that’s okay.

The mirror trick gets us to pause for a few precious little seconds. It’s a compass for the day. Centre yourself, get grateful and remind yourself why you’re here. To be happy. And to shine that back out at the world from that solid, quiet, inescapably beautiful place inside yourself.

And so, as utterly cheese-balls as it sounds, I completely and 110% encourage you to go and write on your mirror. Maybe you want to go with a bold ‘I am beautiful’, and more power to you if you can believe that every morning! Maybe you want to stick with those feelings that make you zing, if only you’d remember to chase them. Whatever suits. Just go say ‘good morning’ to yourself.

Namaste (and wild, divine love :p)

S x

P.S. Don’t worry too much about the marker. Google will help you get it off again.

P.P.S. Don’t worry too much about other people seeing your message and judging you… Yep, maybe they’ll think you’re a sandwich short of a picnic. But maybe they’ll think you’re sweet and fall a little bit more in love with you. And maybe they’ll take your words to heart and have a better day.

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