LiveYoga

A Mother's Guilt

By my daughter, age 5 and 5 months for Mother's Day. Beautifully drawn and imaginative.


Does it ever end? I remember one of my best friends telling me I would spend the rest of my life feeling guilty once my bundle of joy arrived. And 5 years on, you know what? She was right.

I’ve always sworn. A lot. Since the birth of my daughter I’ve understandably tried to kerb it. Mostly through lessons learnt, such as stepping in fox poo and blurting out, ‘F**k it!’, whilst my toddling daughter was happily pottering on the decking. Fast forward a few days she hits Daddy in the nether regions and on his startled reaction quite nonchalantly says, ‘Oh f**k it’. What can I say? Her timing was impeccable (that’s my girl), so with twitching mouths we of course knew this was not ideal and definitely wanted to avoid this parrot like behaviour in public (or anywhere actually). I quite sternly recognised the error of my ways. No harm done.

Now we all know our children push our buttons like no-one else. I consider myself to be a fairly patient person but I have a switch. My daughter started school a few months back and gained, how shall I put it, attitude. I can put up with attitude (I kind of like it), I can smile through it and talk calmly through the backchat, but only for so long. I lasted a few days this particular time. I can’t quite remember what happened but I’d had enough. It was soon after her birthday as her ‘stuff’ was strewn across the dining table. I literally lost it, shouted (with an expletive) and (movie style) swiped all her things off the table and ordered them to be taken to her room. This task was completed after several runs, very meekly and without back chat. The outcome? I gave myself ‘time out’.

I felt terribly guilty, what a horrible mother! What was I doing? How was this behaviour going to influence her, not just in later years, but now? Well, not very positively. Did I really want my daughter to grow up thinking that the best way to deal with difficult situations or the best way to handle anger is to lash out? No. Obviously not. I am a grown woman, a mother and I need to learn how to control my emotions.This is why I meditate. I did joke recently with a friend that, ‘it wasn’t b****y working’, but I know it is. I know that every time I sit for those 15 minutes, no matter what's going on in my life, it brings me back.

I do get lost sometimes, especially as a mother. Always feel I could, should be doing better. Do I let her watch too much TV? Do I spend too much time on my phone and not enough time ‘being present'. Do I choose to sort washing/clean the flat/empty the dishwasher over role play with Barbie? The answer, quite honestly, is yes. Oh, and there it is. The guilt.

I could spend the next few sentences spelling out how I'm going to be a better Mummy, do more role play, be more present, fly off the handle less. But I won't, because of course that's how I would like to be, and as all Mums out there know, we do the best we can and sometimes we should not be so hard on ourselves. Whether we're a working Mum or not, as long as we provide love, kindness, guidance, food and shelter then our kids are blessed as there are plenty out there who don't have their basic needs fulfilled.

What I can say with certainty however, is when I practice yoga and meditation regularly, I’m definitely more connected, more mindful and more present.

Yoga London film

 

Full-time mum AND full-time yoga teacher

Back in September I was approached by Rachel Wood of Yoga London and Zen Monkey (http://www.yogalondon.net/monkey/); Yoga London was celebrating their 5 year anniversary and wanted to shoot a series of short films, one of them being, 'The Making of a Yogi', and would I be interested in participating. With a brief moment of hesitation I replied with a resounding, 'Yes'.

Why the hesitation? Let's call it self doubt. With record speed, my self doubt manifested with questions such as, 'Will I be good enough?', 'Interesting enough?', 'Would my teaching come across well?', 'Would the classes be busy?', 'Is my practice strong enough?'. All that and more in a split second.

Realising these thoughts were serving no purpose, I decided to move out of my comfort zone and embrace the challenge, because, how else do you grow? I believe it is important to push the boundaries, to challenge ourselves and to not fear the unknown. More often than not, what we fear, isn't as bad as we build it up to be. If we allow it, the mind will happily take over and fight against our rational thoughts. It's sometimes hard to remember that our thoughts are not a sum of who we are and the more aware of that we become, the less caught up we get and the less effect our thoughts have.

So apart from a bloodshot left eye, a huge spot on my right cheek, (meaning I had no 'good side') and a fluttering of butterflies, I had such a fun day! Rachel and her team did an amazing job of putting a whole day's filming and me waffling endlessly at times, into 4 short minutes. My daugher was an absolute star as well! I actually think she stole my limelight....we haven't spoken since.

So just to say, thank you so much to those who were happy to be filmed as part of the classes, and Achieve Lifestyle and Akram Yoga for the use of their space. I really appreciate it, it wouldn't have been the same without you!

So with baited breath here is the final result. I hope you enjoy.

Please click on this link: https://vimeo.com/149887288

 

Asana Arse or Asana Art?

 
There's quite a lot in yoga news at the moment about teachers/practitioners plastering themselves over social media in mostly challenging and (considered to be) unattainable postures (asanas). Those for, and those against. Which bracket do you fit in to?

I personally am for, which as a teacher I'm sure you won't be surprised about.

I think once you begin practicing yoga or any type of exercise that requires a certain amount of strength and flexibility can you really appreciate the hard work and dedication that goes into achieving these asanas. Most of those you see have had a regular practice for years or have a background as a dancer or gymnast, where they also spent years perfecting that particular specialism. So when I see someone in a striking pose, I simply think, 'Wow!' I have a total admiration for their motivation to keep returning to the mat day after day. I consider it to be a skill that is mastered over years.

I often say to my daughter, 'If you want to be good at something it takes practice. Lots of it. It's the only way.' So I want her to see me practice, as regularly as possible, to instil in her that you don't get anywhere in life without hard work and focus. And yes, some days I show her a new pose that I've been working hard at because I know where I began 4-5 years ago and where I am now. Still only a smidgen into a yoga practice that lasts a lifetime! There's still so much to learn and strive for and that's what I love. So keep posting these beautiful works of art!

I believe with regular practice (over many years), we can attain many of these postures which, by the way, is different for everyone. For some it may simply be achieving a strong and comfortable Utthita Trikonasana aka Extended Triangle. Each body is different and has its own limitations, so physically we may hit a wall with some poses that our body will never be able to do. So move on to the next one, there's plenty to choose from!

On another note, yes, you can't deny there are some that do like to show off and shout, 'Look at me, look what I can do?' But who cares? Surely that is a reflection more on the person bothered by it?

Let us be inspired not irritated.

Would love to know which side you're on and your thoughts on this subject which regularly splits opinion.
 

Angry, Impulsive Yoga Teacher?

As published by HuffPost - GPS for the Soul

Anjali mudra, meditation,  mindfulness


Ok so that's a bit of a harsh title and definitely a sentence you don't usually see, but if I'm honest, I absolutely have aspects of these behaviours in my nature.
I've always had a tendency to be impulsive and hot-headed. I would often react to situations instead of pausing then responding. My Mum's words ring in my ears from a young age, “You must think before you speak!”.
 
I can't deny that in the past I've had a bit of a love/hate relationship with this side of me as it has definitely brought me both laughter and tears. There's always been a sense of needing to control and then finding myself agitated when things haven't quite gone my way and feeling frustrated at not managing my emotions better.  I realise in hindsight the only person affected by this is me. These days I'm so much more aware of these traits and how unhelpful living like this has been for me, because there is no freedom in it, just limitations.
 
So let's get to the crux of it. We all have parts of our personality, if we're honest, we don't love. However I truly believe that we should accept the good with the bad as no one is perfect. Let’s not quash these personality traits but learn to manage them to bring out the best in us, not the worst. Through teaching yoga and practising mindfulness, I definitely find these aspects of me easier to manage.
 

Becoming mindful about the power of our words 

 
With all this to consider, the mind can be a pretty powerful force if left to run wild. In the words of Gandi, “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” The more we accept this, the easier it is to focus on catching those thoughts early on and turning them into something positive, or certainly to stop us reacting in a negative or sometimes hurtful way.
 
I'm much more aware now of my emotions, especially the negative ones, and I'm learning to stop, just for a moment, to assess the path I'm about to take. This gives me more control over my thoughts which allows me to make more positive choices which in turn benefits those around me. Realising I have the choice to be more present in my interactions and decide on my next thought, word, course of action and so on, creates freedom and space in my mind. Easier said than done sometimes, especially when my mind jumps around like a box of frogs, but through mindfulness I'm learning how to control it.
 
What are the most effective ways you have found to control your thoughts, emotions or change unwanted behaviour patterns. I’d love for you to share advice by commenting below. 


 

Brought Back to Life by Yoga by Anthea Benelisha

 

Yoga first came into my life in 2000 whilst on a training course in Brisbane, Australia with the Zen Zen Zo Physical Actor Theatre Company. I found myself carried away on a journey that by the end had me dancing to “I’m so horny”, shaving my head and feeling as though something profound had happened that I couldn’t explain to anyone outside the experience. One afternoon we were led into a studio to learn Ashtanga yoga as a means to centre and ground ourselves, which could then be carried over into our performances. I had never heard of Ashtanga before but went along with it, as I had done with everything else so far. To begin, they had us on the floor, asking us to imagine that we were inside the womb and about to be born. Encouraging us to shed our old body and emerge renewed. I knew for some this would be traumatic and for others positive. Some people sobbed, though I remained silent in the uncertainty. Was this for real? Then we all stood up and began yoga…
 
In some ways yoga can be seen as a kind of re-birthing experience. It might sound bizarre but each time we engage in the practice we are invited to awaken our bodies and attempt to loosen ourselves from the ties that bind. We are then asked connect with different aspects of ourselves. The child, for example, pure and uncomplicated and the warrior who is proud and strengthened by life. Yoga helps us to practice being in the moment and can be like a form of self-medication. It teaches us to be mindful of the outside world but to look inward as a place of sanctuary. It is a process of simplification. Focus the mind and strengthen the body, that’s all we’re asked to do and the rest is up to us. In my experience, the challenge comes when I’m conflicted in some way by the stuff going on outside the room.
 
Yoga was never more necessary than after coming out the other side of Primary, Stage 2 Breast Cancer. Diagnosed aged 36 in 2012, two weeks after my daughter's 1st birthday, I underwent chemo, lost my hair, lost my fertility and upon discovering a second type of cancer trapped in the milk ducts, unreachable by chemo, I had a mastectomy as well. The removal of the cancer and breast reconstruction was six weeks before my 37th birthday. I had four drains coming out the side of my body to direct the fluid away from the huge wounds surgery had created. My battle scars were visible for the world to see. My goal was that on my 37th birthday, I would attend Lindsey’s Saturday 8.30am yoga class at Addlestone Leisure Centre. It was to be a defining moment, a new beginning, a re-birth! It was to mark the end of being seriously ill, the beginning of getting well and hopefully having the opportunity to see my little girl grow up. I remember arriving to the class full of excitement and enthusiasm that the air seemed to sparkle. If only I could capture the sparkle that was in the air that day and maintain that feeling of renewal all the time…With a lot of support, I’m working on it.
 
Fifteen years after Zen Zen Zo, and a lot of life experiences in between, yoga is still with me and it’s a discipline I will carry with me for life. I don’t practice as often as I would like but I know when I need it, it will be there, like a pair of old boots or the wheat pack you drag out of the cupboard to warm yourself when the dark of winter approaches.
 
Apart from my daughter who is now 3.5, nothing can restore me to life like yoga.

 

Life, Curve Balls and Yoga

As published by HuffPost Lifestyle

It's only recently I've realised my yoga practice goes a lot deeper than I first thought, because although I've been practising for about five years, it's only in the last year that I've started to question what it really means to me and the impact it has on my life.

I took up yoga in early 2010 when I was pregnant. I wanted to exercise but without the cardio stress and I knew the breathing would help me stay focused and calm on the big day. Soon after the birth I discovered Ashtanga and was completely hooked. Before I knew it, I'd booked myself onto a wonderful teacher training course with YogaLondon (http://www.yogalondon.net) left behind my career in fashion recruitment and with a six month old, launched myself into a brand new way of living and working, without a second thought.

I remember a conversation at a summer wedding in 2014; an old friend was there who's also a yoga teacher. During our catch up she was impassioned that she didn't respect teachers who solely taught for the physical benefits rather than delving deeper into the philosophy and meditation aspects. Up until now this was me. This struck a chord because I didn't want to admit that my connection with yoga was mostly physical. I taught power yoga and attracted those who were solely interested the power aspect over the yoga; mostly because their knowledge of yoga was limited and at the time I didn't offer them anything further. So I casually agreed but came away from the conversation questioning my relationship with yoga, and wondering if I had room for a little soul searching.

So now a few months later, here I find myself in unusual territory, suddenly feeling a little (dare I say) enlightened. Something has clicked for me and I've begun to realise that yoga is a way of living. Looking back, my click went unnoticed until early 2014. I was in the midst of a break up after ten years, with a child in the middle, and I was more focused and determined than ever to keep our lives calm and peaceful.

Not an easy task day-to-day, let alone coping with the fallout of a ten year relationship ending. But by working together we've kept our daughter the main focus. If we get distracted by negative thoughts or emotions we come back to her and always find something positive. It's helped us not to look back with regret or judgement, but instead with a grateful heart and happy memories.

This life changing situation has made me realise this is how I want to live my life every day. Not in the past, not judging or being critical, just accepting and moving forward with my eyes wide open and trusting in what lies ahead. A word to encompass all of this is mindfulness.

Yoga is very much about being present, on and off the mat. By leading a more mindful life, the aim is to change the way we think about our experiences; being more aware of each moment, more accepting and less judgemental.

I'm still not the classic spiritual yoga teacher. I don't offer chanting or ring bells (although if I'm in a class that offers this I absolutely get involved because I love to experience something different) but I teach in a way that is real for me. In my class you can expect a practice that will challenge you mentally and physically, but it's light-hearted too - a reminder not to take things too seriously. As my life absorbs this new-found mindfulness it's weaving its way into my teaching, and hopefully encouraging my students to recognise the freedom of being present and to realise that the physical practice plays a small part in the yogic way of living.