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Summer Solstice Reflections 2019

The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year. It is often seen as a doorway into the second part of the year and into the Summer. Summer is said to be a time of renewed energy and optimism – a time to celebrate what you have done over the last 6 months and to look ahead at what you would like to achieve in the next half of the year. 

In my Summer Solstice themed classes, I asked my Yogis to reflect on 3 questions before we began our practice and, like last year, I thought I would share some of my reflections in this blog. 

What are you grateful for so far this year? 

  • I am so grateful for all the wonderful people in my life. There are too many to mention, but this beautiful bunch of people includes my Husband, close family (especially my gorgeous niece Poppy), my Yoga family,  those colleagues that have supported me through some low moments at work, my close friends…I just love you all. There’s perhaps only one thing more precious and important than time and that’s who we spend it with.

  • This links to the above, but I am grateful for everyone who has helped me on my Yoga journey so far – your support has been so appreciated and so needed. 
  • I am so grateful that my wonderful husband’s health is improving. In March this year, they found a Blood Clot in his lung and it’s been a difficult few months which took its toll on his mental health (and mine to be honest). He is in a much better mental and physical space now which I am so very grateful for.  I am eternally grateful for my husband and his support, hugs, and encouragement in all I do. 
  • My Tuesday mornings at home. Since having some difficult times at work, I have been allowed to go into work a little later on Tuesday mornings. I can’t describe what a positive impact this has had. Just to have a little time to recover from a late night of teaching on Monday and to have a couple of hours to me to relax and prepare for the week has been life-changing. I am grateful to the member of staff that allowed this to happen. 

What in your life needs nurturing right now? 

  • My diet. I realised this weekend that due to teaching all day and most evening, my diet has started to suffer. There often isn’t time to eat between school and Yoga classes, so I find myself eating Miso Noodle pots or just grabbing some fruit between classes. I very rarely cook at home anymore and when the weekends roll around, I find I am eating out much more often and I am craving lots more cake / dessert / sugary treats. I do meal prep on a Sunday to ensure I have 1 home-cooked meal each weekday so that’s a positive. However, I am also starting to experience a lot more guilt around what I am eating, which really isn’t healthy. 
  • My ability to stay present. When I am teaching Yoga classes I am fully in the moment – immersed in my students and my teaching. However, outside of this, I often find it very difficult to stay present. I am always planning ahead – thinking about what I need to get ready for the next day, what classes I have coming up, what my to-do list is, etc – this often leads to me becoming overwhelmed and means I am not experiencing the moment as it is. 
  • My sleep – I have been listening to a lot of podcasts that talk about the importance of getting your 8+ hours sleep – I usually manage 6-7 hours and I worry about what impact this is having on my well-being. 
  • For the next 3 weeks and 3 days, I will need to nurture myself as my 10 Year school teaching career comes to an end. Whilst I know this is the right decision for me at this stage, it’s not been an easy journey – I plan to write a post about this once I leave. At the moment, it’s so strange hearing everyone talk about plans for the next year, people saying to me things like “This is your last parents evening!” etc. Whilst I am excited about moving on, it’s also so sad and I am experiencing really mixed feelings at the moment! 

What are you excited about? What are you looking forward to? 

  • I am excited (and so so nervous) about starting my Yoga business full time in just over 3 weeks! I have so many questions, so many worries, but I am trusting that things will all fall into place with time.
  • I am looking forward to (hopefully) having a little more time to slow down a little – I am excited about developing new routines with my exercise/ Yoga / food / Meditation etc. and maybe even having time to read more, go on more walks, etc
  • I am hoping to dedicate some time to set up my own Yoga retreats and to continue to hold Yoga events on top of my regular classes 
  • I am excited about going on holiday to Iceland with my hubby in September 
  • I am looking forward to spending more time with friends and family 
  • I am looking forward to (hopefully) passing my Exercise to Music course and using that to teach a range of classes and to explore further courses to develop my knowledge and skills in this area (perhaps resistance training) 

Take some time to acknowledge how far you have come this year. Notice the achievements you have made, and any lessons learned. What do you want the next 3 months to bring you?

I would love to hear your answers to one or all of the questions above!  

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I’m not THAT busy

Right now, I should be sat at my desk at work, reading emails and drinking a cup of tea ready to start the first day of the new half term. Instead, I am lying in bed, writing my cover lessons, feeling guilty for having taken the day off. I woke up at 4 am this morning feeling sick and ended up collapsing on the bathroom floor. After a couple of hours of sleep, I did feel a bit better and had already decided that I would be going into work as normal. My husband, thankfully, convinced me that I needed to stay home and focus on getting better. I reluctantly agreed and now sit here with the guilt of not only missing the first day back at school but also 2 Yoga classes this evening. I know that there is nothing to feel guilty about putting my health first – I know the school will continue to run without me and my yogis will still get a great class with another teacher – and yet the feeling is still there.

I spent a little time reflecting on why I felt ill this morning. I often have bad reactions to food and had eaten out a lot over the last couple of days, so it’s most likely that. However, my husband thinks it might be my bodies way of telling me to slow down. I have just come to the end of a wonderful, but very busy half term that included teaching 8 Yoga classes over 2 days, teaching a Yoga workshop and a Yoga brunch and attending a Sober Rave in London (which was amazing!) among the usual half-term to-do list (MOT, class planning, house cleaning etc). Whilst I did find some time to relax with my husband, he did point out to me that I just don’t know how to relax. I cram my schedule with so many things and feel this urge to be busy all of the time – almost to the point of showing off and feeling pride in just how busy I am. Whilst I do love all the things I am doing and all the incredible opportunities that are coming my way, I am realizing more and more the importance of just slowing down and taking a few moments to breathe and to just be a human being, not a human doing!

During a long chat recently with my wonderful caterers, I realised that in my head, I was responding to their concerns about my wellbeing and my packed schedule with the phrase “I’m not THAT busy”. So that inspired me to sit and write out my schedule for a typical week. Whilst it may seem obvious to most people, that activity made me realise that I am essentially doing two full-time jobs and leaving myself very little ‘me time’ to just relax, catch up with friends, or most importantly, spend time with my husband.

I actually find it very hard to relax. During the half term, I agreed that for just one day, I wouldn’t do anything ‘work-related’ including yoga class planning, organising events, etc. After a beautiful walk with my husband, I came home and immediately my mind switched to “I could just do a load of washing” and “I could make a start on that Exercise to music coursework” etc – I obviously decided to do none of those things and relax on the sofa with my hub – but as I did this, I realised my mind was not in the present moment and was instead thinking about upcoming events, ideas for Yoga workshops, when I was going to get the shower cleaned, what I needed to pack for London, etc! I wonder why I find it so hard to switch off?

I read a quote in the book I am reading that really struck a chord with me:

Most of the time, most of the people we meet are at best only partially engaged in the moment. And often we find people (or ourselves) lost in thought or reverie—barely here at all. How often we miss the moment simply because we’re not here. We tune out much of the world—and much of ourselves as well…And generally we don’t even realize how removed we are from what is going on

This is so true for me so much of the time. So often my mind is focused on the future – planning yoga classes, booking in my next event, worrying about the assembly I have coming up etc. Planning is important, but I shouldn’t be focused on that all the time – the present moment is the only moment there is and I don’t want to waste that away by always living in the future. One of the few situations in life where I am fully present is when I am teaching Yoga – I am fully in the moment, enjoying the process and the connection with others. I guess that’s one of the ways I know I have found my true passion! I find doing my own Yoga and meditation practice really helps me to be present too, though I am finding it increasingly more difficult to fit this into my daily schedule.

So, I guess the take-away from all of this is I need to learn to slow down. I accept that my schedule is busy and there is little I can do to change that for the next few months, but within that busyness I need to learn to be present, to enjoy each passing moment and be grateful for all the wonderful opportunities that are coming my way. I need to learn to not fill all the gaps in my calendar and do more of the activities that help me relax, unwind and appreciate the simpler, slower-paced things in life.

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Letting go of Attachment to Material Objects

Last weekend, we watched a documentary called ‘The Minimalists’. It looked at how our modern, consumerist society is leading us to a place of extreme unhappiness and unfulfillment through a constant grasping and striving for material things.

We are lead to believe that the ultimate goal in life is to be successful and the ultimate trophy of this success is to have money – money that, through constant advertising, we are then encouraged to spend on the newest iphone, another pair of shoes or that new car, with the promise that these new things will make us happier.

Buying that new iphone, for example, does provide a short burst of happiness – the excitement of waiting for the new phone to arrive, the fun of opening the box and discovering the new features, showing your friends etc – but this happiness is short lived and soon enough the phone becomes just another thing we own. It’s not long before the newer version of the phone comes out, and we are suddenly left resenting our phone, the thing that once made us happy, as it doesn’t have the latest technology or newest feature.

When we have money, or have material possessions, these are often not enough and leave us striving for more.

This made me reflect on my own purchasing habits. I used to be obsessed with clothes. I would love nothing more than to spend my weekends browsing clothes shops and trying on the latest styles. I would feel so great coming home and lying out all my new purchases on the bed, planning where I would wear my newest dress. And yet, many days I would open my wardrobe and feel a sense of anxiety – would this top be appropriate? Is this dress too dressy? Why don’t I have this in black? I knew I should have got this in a smaller size etc…..ultimately, these purchases lead to a sense of unhappiness and I always ended up wanting to go out and buy more clothes as those I had were just not good enough!

This obsession with material possessions has become truly shocking in some instances- think about those black Friday videos where people are physically assaulting each other to get the latest gadget at a reduced price – forgetting their basic, human morals of kindness and compassion just so they can have that new thing! It’s just disgusting!

And what about the environmental impact all this consuming is having on our planet? Think about all the fuel needed for that same day delivery, all the plastic packaging being thrown away!  

I had my attachment to material possessions tested this week when I lost my necklace. This necklace was presented to me by my wonderful bridesmaids on my wedding day as a surprise gift from my husband to be,  who I was about to marry just minutes later. When I realised I had lost it, I was distraught – this necklace means the world to me! But then after a chat with my hubby, I realised that yes, the necklace was beautiful and I loved wearing it but it is the meaning behind the necklace that really counts and I still have the memory of sheer happiness and excitement from the moment that it was given to me. I had confused the attachment I felt for what the item represents with the item itself.

We spend so much of our time working, often in jobs that are super demanding and stressful, or in some cases, jobs that we don’t enjoy, to ensure we have enough money to be able to buy the things that will enable us to have a ‘happy, successful’ life. We deserve to buy that new dress as we worked so hard for it! We need that latest giant TV as we deserve to relax in front of it at the end of a long day.

Take a moment and think – what value / purpose do our possessions actually have – do they actually bring us joy or happiness? Do we need to buy that nice, natural wooden kitchen table when the one we have works perfectly well and is way too big for just the two of us anyway? Am I buying this just for the sake of spending the money I have worked so hard to earn? Will that new purchase actually make me happy, or am I striving for something more? Is there something else missing in my life?

We are often scared to be sat, alone with our thoughts. We feel a constant need to be ‘busy’ – always checking our phones, browsing social media etc- we always have something to distract us from how we truly think and feel. I am not saying that all material things are bad or meaningless, just that  If we were more mindful of our spending / buying habits, would we actually want that nice new ornament for the front window? Do we need that new celebrity endorsed perfume? Do we actually know what we want anymore?

Perhaps this constant yearning for material things is actually a sign that we are failing to focus on the more important things in life – time with friends, family, being in nature, love, our health etc – perhaps these are things we should be using as our measure of what makes a ‘successful’ life?