How to keep your cool whilst moving house (or other stressful life event). (Hint: Meditation)

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Warr and I have spent the second weekend together in our new house this weekend. It’s been amazing to move into our own place. But it’s also been hectically stressful.

I thought I was going to write a very long in depth post about “how to keep your cool whilst moving house” – when I realised that it’s actually not complicated at all.

Meditation.

The answer is meditation.

And it is literally as simple as that.

Mediation has been the absolute greatest buffer for me in this change of environment, house, not-knowing-where-things-are, so much to do, not enough sleep, bad food, late nights fiasco. Meditation is the greatest buffer for creating some space between the current situation and the response to it. And to be honest I would never have had the same reaction (pause. breathe. little chuckle. make a plan) to things than if I hadn’t been exposed to this type of practice. So since the answer is literally so simple: (meditate), I thought I would rather share a little thank you and note of gratitude to my good ol’ dad.

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My dad got here on May 13th exactly one week before we were due to move into our new house. When he arrived on the Saturday morning we took him straight to our new house construction site and to be honest I think his initial (silent) reaction was “holey-cannnnoli… there is a SHIT-TON that needs to be done right here” I honestly don’t think he expected *quite* as much work as what greeted him that fateful Saturday morning!

WELCOME TO LONDON DAD!! (heart emoji)

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That very first morning he arrived – straight off the plane – he literally got to work and started sanding the skirting, painting the walls, and polyfilling holes in the plaster! And from that day it literally did not stop! And HE did not stop! Most nights he stayed up until WELL passed his bedtime – I would arrive to the new place after finishing a yoga class and getting home around 9:30 – to find he had just started on the evenings project! He worked probably until 1am every single night – and was awake early at 6am to get back on the grind!

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I will be honest there was a LOT to be done! Walls, ceilings and skirtings to be sanded, washed and painted, carpets to be laid, bathroom to be finished, cupboards to laid, old place to be packed, moved, sorted! It was SO insane. (CUE: MEDITATION). Some days we broke to eat an Indian takeaway dinner around 10pm when the paint was drying!

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The following Saturday we moved house – which is an event in itself! My dad was there to help cart carry, clean, sort and box everything from start to finish! He was a literal life-saver! He did SO much to help us that I couldn’t even really keep track of everything he was doing!! The first pic of Warr and him I posted in this blogpost is from the moving day – we met my dad for Pho on the Saturday of moving day – my dad wanted us to have our first night in our home alone together so he camped out in the old place with literally no furniture in it.
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My dad literally did SO much for us and I’m SO incredibly grateful. He told me (whilst we were building something or other) that the week of unexpected disruption when I was born (2 months prematurely), his own father come to my mom and dads house and finished painting their entire house for them, while he was in hospital looking after my mom and me – so he told me, he’s just paying it forward. I love that dad, and I promise I will pay it forward too.

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We had such a great time together – and even played a few pranks on Warren when we assembled the shelving unit above and sent a message to Warren telling him we had been given the reject-shelving. LOL, dad joke. He also sent in a dedication to a South African radio station – which was aired on the SA radio while we were working together!
My dad has made the BESTEST BESTEST office for me and I can’t wait to share the full before and after (you literally wouldn’t believe it!)

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But actually that wasn’t the only thing he did..
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So, I decided to make a list of everything my dad did for us in those very short 10 days he was here (brace yourself):

  • Arrived straight to a building site.
  • Polyfilled the bedroom, office, lounge, spare bedroom, passage walls.
  • Fixed a giant pipe hole in the skirting board in bedroom.
  • Reattached a loose skirting board in spare bedroom (including sanding and cleaning).
  • Washed the walls of the bedroom, lounge, office, spare bedroom and passage (which required balancing on a ladder perched on a stair case.)
  • Painted the office walls, lounge walls, passage walls (balancing on a dodgy ladder), kitchen walls, spare bedroom walls.
  • Painted all the above ceilings.
  • Oversaw the fitting of the carpets.
  • Siliconed old bathroom grouting.
  • Vacuumed the entire old place,
  • Cleaned old place oven.
  • Cleaned old place windows, bathroom, spare bedroom, lounge (moving heavy furniture)
  • (Did two loads of washing)
  • Helped pack up furniture and boxes from old house.
  • Helped cart stuff into moving van.
  • Helped offload on the other side.
  • Took doors off fridge, and oversaw fridge delivery to get it through the door
  • Built a giant mustard drawer set from IKEA.
  • Built another set of four drawers
  • Assembled an enormous wooden lounge shelving unit weighing 150kgs
  • Measured planned and designed a home office space.
  • Assembled two different bedside units with 3-drawers each
  • Built and assembled an entire home office including two hanging boxes, a deep hanging box shelving unit, a four drawer set, a base unit cupboard and a desk top.
  • Built an office tall standing cabinet.
  • Fixed a broken shelf under the kitchen sink.
  • Built a double kitchen cabinet, a single kitchen cabinet and four open shelves.
  • Grew a trendy hipster beard
  • Made friends with the neighbors, and basically everyone else in the hood. (Not kidding, Linda still asks about you, as does David across the road).

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Dad I cannot actually get over how hard you worked for us! You poured your heart and soul and blood sweat and tears into helping us (and into our carpets! ha!) I will forever be reminded of you in this house – and I’m so grateful for that. Thank you. 😛

He literally worked up until the last fifteen minutes of him having to get into the taxi to leave for the airport. That is not even a joke!
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Dad posing in front of his new cupboards in the kitchen, after he stopped drilling to take a shower and change for the airport! I asked him to pose with his handi-work and this is what I got –

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hahaha! SO many blood blisters – handy-work indeed!! Dad I don’t think you’ve worked this hard physically in AGES!!! Thank you thank you thank you!!

I am so incredibly grateful – and I think you know exactly how much it means to me with how emotional I was with you leaving. You are such a great dad and I am so honoured to have you as my father.
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Thank you. Thank you. Thank you – for everything.

I can’t wait to share some pics of my amazing new office (coming soon!)!  It’s such a dream to be typing this blogpost from this amazing new office.
You have literally given us everything we could ever need or ever want – we are so grateful.

Thank you for working SO hard, for getting so epically stuck in to everything to help us! It was amazing to spend time with you.

So… please give Senses Spa a call to book a time slot-  you deserve it… and…. they are expecting you. <3

Love you

xxxxx

 

Wedding Dress Adventures, India March 2017

I’m so super excited to bring you another edition of the WEDDING DRESS ADVENTURES! Half way through my yoga teacher training in Goa india – The Warr messaged (in the intermittent wifi) to tell me that he had booked flights to come and visit me at the end of training! I was having a bit of an emotional week on the training – so it was the best surprise knowing that he would be joining me in India for a little bit! Given the history of our wedding dress adventure story – of course we HAD to fit in another few snaps!

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On the day of our “Indian wedding” – I went across the road to a little kiosk shop to order some flower wreaths to wear around our necks. We had received some flower garlands at the end of our graduation from the training and I had actually saved them (hanging up in the shower) to try and use them – not knowing where I would be able to find anything like that in Goa! After a little bit of research (thanks Jack) I found that we could get some made right across the road for about 50 rupees- bargain! So that’s the first place we headed! Fresh flower wreaths on your wedding day, a definite must!

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Next we needed to fuel up on some breakfast at a local organic cafe… bride needs her breakfast ya’ know! We met some of “the team” at the breakfast spot and loaded up on smoothies, green juices and pancakes. One of the most challenging things about ‘snapping wedding photos around the world’ – is the issue of where to change into our wedding kit (mainly the awkwardness of trying to change into a giant wedding dress (which I can’t get into on my own) when we are out and about) – like that one time we had to try and convince a Parisian bar owner round the corner from the Eiffel Tower in broken english that we would like to use his bathroom (together) to change into a wedding dress. (what?). (He was VERY puzzled to see an ordinary couple go into his dingy bathroom and then a bridal couple step out, I digress.)

This time we were getting ready in STYLE!! For the indian edition I had a whole gang of gorgeous bridesmaids – who were all wearing indian princess dresses which we had bought/loaned each other for the grand occasion! We got ready in Marley and Mollie’s new room on the beach – which was the most retro-kitsch-stylish place I’ve ever changed with it’s purple satin valance and all. (In fact, something about this does really remind me of the decor at our actual wedding – which was Moroccan, copper/gold/bright coloured -themed! haha!
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It was DEFINITELY very cool getting ready with all the girls who were possibly even more  as much, into it as I was!!! We did all our make-up, put bindis on and got all the bridal-princesses ready. (Note: by “make-up”, I mean – “whatever will stick on your face before sliding off in the heat-wave” so… not much. lol).
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And then my gorgeous Indian princess bridesmaid led me down to my handsome groom!
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We decided to have a few “bridal party” shots outside the beach huts  –

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…and in fact the more I look at these gorgeous bright mish-mashed colours, the more I realise how IDENTICAL they are to the colours that were at our actual wedding day. SO perfect!

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And of course when you surround yourself with a bridal-team of epic yogis there is BOUND to be some yoga posing!!

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Next we decided to head off to the beach!

Being the yogis that we are – we had somewhere (around week 2 of training) ditched all our shoes. This is great for navigating everyday life, but definitely NOT so great at navigating blistering hot indian beach sand in the boiling midday sun. I have a GREAT video of this exact moment and it is punctuated with a LOT of crazy yelping, wild screaming, epic dashing and bursts of swearing!

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My feet were on FIRE so much from the sand that I ducked into the nearest door I could find – which happened to be the Dunes kitchen. Thankfully they could see our shoeless-plight and (being in a wedding dress and all) they happily let us sneak through their kitchen to avoid our feet-frying –
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Since we had just paraded through the kitchen we owed it to Dunes to have quick stop overlooking the beach!
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Soon we were back ready for action –

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At this point I would add that we had quite the entourage. Dan, who had unwittingly (and possibly un-requested-ly) been assigned the role of professional-photographer and Simon who had landed the ever-coveted role of second shooter.
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and of course – my favourite photo of all:
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Of course it’s natural to see a dude in a speedo surrounded by a group of indian princess bridesmaids and an india bride hanging out on the beach in the middle of Goa. Act casual.
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We ran back to Dunes to have a thirst quencher – because being an Indian princess bride is very thirsty work.
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(This pic definitely does give a new meaning to the phrase runaway bride)

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We finished off with some of my favourite pics yet –

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Once we said bye to our princess bridesmaids – Warren and I headed back to the main street.

A few days before Warren arrived I had some henna done with my friend Rose who works at the little shop. I told her that my husband was coming and that I was going to put my wedding dress on and have “a wedding day” so that’s why I needed some henna. (which didn’t last very long on account of all the sweating I think!). I’m not sure if it was the broken english or the random-confusement of the story in general (it is pretty bizarre after all), either way, I’m not quite sure she believed me – so I promised I would come and take a picture with her –
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She was SO dam delighted that I had come back to get a picture she got her husband to come and take some pictures of us on her phone too. Then she also told me I needed to have a baby soon. Thanks Rose. Warr and I then headed to a local temple to take some snaps

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And finally back to the Himalaya Yoga Valley – where we got some pics outside the shala where we had been practicing every morning.

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I’m not sure what this face is but it’s pretty special –
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(Thanks for the snap Bex!)
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This indian adventure was one of my favourite ones yet! Maybe because of being in India and for it being close to a place that has been so special for me, or that it was the first time in over five weeks for me to see Warren again, or the big girl-gang of excited yogi-bridesmaids, or just the magical-ness of India in general, or maybe it’s a combination of everything! I just love love LOVED it!

So much thanks and big love to all the gorgeous bridesmaids: Julia, Andrea, Marley, Mollie, & Adele! You gals were the best! And so much thanks and kudos to Simon and Dan who co-incidentally got roped into being professional photographers for the day! We appreciate it!

Looking forward to the next Wedding dress adventure already!

To see some of the past adventures – (Paris, Spain, Amsterdam, Sydney, South Africa, Northern Lights, Belgium, French Alps) click here or follow our “wedding dress adventures” instagram account.

To REALLY TELL ELLEN DEGENERES THAT SHE SHOULD HAVE US ON HER SHOW AND FLY US TO LA TO GET SOME ADVENTURES IN THE U.S of A THEN TWEET HER (repeatedly) HERE.

Happy Mother’s Day to my amazing mom!

I thought it would be a good idea this Mother’s Day to draw up a little cartoon dedicated to my lovely mom, because she’s just the loveliest! <3 She’s always encouraged us to give of our best, do our best, try our hardest, in everything we’ve ever done. I am truly grateful for that. I think that so much of what I have achieved, is due to the amazing grounding that she gave us. Having a school-teacher as a mom made being a school-kid that much more… interesting. School teachers, they just “know things”, right. Like that one time when I was in Grade 2 and my class teacher marked my whole report card as “average” – well my dear mom walked STRAIGHT back into that teachers office just to remind her that I am NOT average.

I remember when I was about 10 years old, in Grade 4, we were assigned our very first “school project”. I remember it VERY clearly: It was a history project, which I did in my purple-covered hard-backed book, where we had to research the San People. Your very first research project can be a very daunting thing. So much work to do. SO MUCH to do. I began the research work under the helpful guidance of my dear mom. She took me to the library (the old school way we used to do things) to get out some books on the San People. We checked out several books (and then, to be honest, I think my mom read every single one of them to ‘inconspicuously’ book mark all the relevant pages that I would find something good on). I then read the books and magically came across all the pages that very clearly answered all the research points.

Once I’d gathered all my research, I wrote out all my findings into proper sentences onto a test paper (as requested). Once my test paper was critically reviewed, revised several times (and appropriately approved), I was permitted to write it into my purple-covered, hard-backed history book. (At this point, might I add, I was becoming rather disgruntled with this entire “project” endeavour.)

FINALLY, it was time for me to write out all my findings into my book for “the real thing”. So I wrote out all my research into my book (as quick as I could so that I could get onto doing something else more fun/crafty/drawing-related no doubt). Upon “official review”, and seeing my ahem, “quick scratchings”, my dear mom had some things to say about that…

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It turns out, I was NOT so keen on this whole project thing after all.
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So I did my sentences again. All of them.
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… and so, in a swift-eraser-swoop, 90% of my re-written sentences disappeared in a flash.

Ché did NOT like where this was going.

It became a battle of wills.

Write one sentence in the 10-year-old-ragey-hurry.
Sentenced is erased. *scowling*

Rewrite sentence in slightly less, but still rather ragey, hurry.
Sentence is erased. *more scowling*

Write sentence neatly.
Sentence stays.

Let me tell you who has more will power:

My Mother.

And so we completed the entire project in this fashion. Possibly by the end I started seeing the light and began co-operating a bit more to save myself (and my eraser).

I will be honest, by the end of that project, I was quite into it. And I will openly admit that
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It was the greatest project ever. THE GREATEST.

There has literally never been a San project, and never will be, that has ever been as great as that project. It was SO neat and SO researched and SO beautiful and SO ALL THE THINGS.

I can literally still remember that, those little dots and lines and dashes in the margins – is exactly how I decorated my project. I also, funnily enough finished my project at least 3 days before everyone else in my class. (Which obviously did leave me time for the crafty bits I was rushing to get to.)

Finally, it was hand-in day.

And then, about a week later – we received our projects back.

I opened my book carefully, whilst sitting at my desk and flipped open to the teachers comment –

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4o/40!!!!!! Right there in giant red pen – with a DOUBLE GOLD STAR!!!!! FULL MARKS!!!!! FULL. MARKS.
NEVER before in my life, had I EVER seen a DOUBLE gold star.

This was not just a regular gold star – the most highly acclaimed star of all – but this was a DOUBLE gold star. DOUBLE. Two of them. Right on top of each other. I was sent straight to the headmistresses office to be HIGHLY COMMENDED.
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I showed everybody at school that day, which – in hindsight, was probably rather obnoxious.

But when you’ve got a DOUBLE GOLD STAR – you don’t care about a dammed thing.

I was so proud I bought myself TWO frozen splashes from the tuck-shop that day.

(Side note: I tried googling “frozen splash” to see if international people would know what I’m talking about if I wrote that. I couldn’t find anything conclusive or not but then I remembered: DOUBLE GOLD STAR, don’t care.)

I was definitely the MOST excited to take my project home and show my mom:
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I could just tell, something about her let me know that she was SO very happy about this project, I think it was because she had also never seen a DOUBLE GOLD STAR either…
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Maybe…. 😉

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Dear Mom
Thank you so much for caring enough to make us truly shine, in everything that we have ever done. Thank you for giving me the lesson of always doing things to the very best of my ability and encouraging me to go after all the things I’ve ever wanted. Over the years you have really given your whole life to Blake and I, and we are both so very grateful. You’ve put us first in everything and been the quiet force that’s continuously lifting us up and up. Thanks for loving us so much to protect us and guide us and give us the very best of everything. Years of taking me to libraries and art classes and ballet lessons and gym lessons and swimming and helping with homework (and projects!!) and room decorating, and clothes shopping and tough times and happy times and celebrating achievements and being a shoulder to cry on in failings and laughter and runs and wine drinking. I know your heart is SO very connected to ours and I think that is what makes being a mother so wonderful and what can also make it so hard! I remember very clearly in grade 8 when I was first introduced to Algebra and I just could NOT figure this shit out (English is English, Math is Math – why now is English in Math?!!) – and you went and bought a blank book and wrote out my very own easy algebra rule book that I took with me everywhere. To this day, I make my own little exercise books for every new project that I start!

So much of who I am, my creativity, my love of learning, my love for blank books, my love of reading, my desire to be fit & healthy, my love of double-gold stars (which morphed into washi tape and pens and stationery in general), my love of Wimpy coffee, my wanting to do spontaneous nice things for other people is attributed to you mom (just a pity I didn’t get your tidying-up gene). Mom I know how much you sacrificed for me and Blake – and I am forever grateful.

You’ve been such an amazing mom to the both of us.

Love you so so much!

x

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Find me on instagram here.

Creativity, Yoga and Self love journey

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During my time in India, I researched (as required for my portfolio) an ‘area of specialisation’. Actually, before I had even signed up to the training, I already knew what I wanted to research. The connection between Creativity and Yoga was such a natural choice for me – as I believe they are so closely intertwined and really – I feel like my whole life has lead me to the convergence of these two things. (Deep man, deep). I will be sharing more on my findings on creativity, journaling and yoga in the next little while (as you can imagine it is quite difficult to define those kinds of things in ways that are quantifiable, ‘science-y’ or researchable!)

For a few different reasons, I’ve felt that space has been created in my week in the last while and it has given me an amazing opportunity to combine these two things, and everything I’ve researched to create a kind of “creativity, yoga, self-love” journey-type-thing which I want to offer to two people as a kind of tester for this kind of work. I’m not exactly sure what to call it or what exactly “it” is really – as I do think it will be something that will organically create a life of it’s own as we go. I do know that it will involve journaling, creative prompts, meditation, self discovery, yoga, self loving, soul searching and getting your hands dirty. This creativity, yoga, self love course is for someone who feels they have lost a bit of connection to themselves, the person who feels creatively a bit stuck, the person who needs a bit more direction/clarity, the person who could do with a bit more self loving, self care, self inquiry and the person who needs someone to keep them accountable to showing up for themselves and living their own awesomeness.

I know what I am wishing to create and the journey I am hoping to take these two people on, and I have a host of practices, processes and exercises that I would like to guide them through, but I am also leaving space for things to develop as they go – which is a bit scary – not having every single thing all mapped out in it’s entirety. Apart from the exercises and prompts I’ve mentioned it will also involve a 30 min skype session with me every week for the 7 weeks of the course.

Warren has told me to look at this as a “kind of Asian adventure”

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The Asian Adventure being the idea of having the first few nights accommodation booked and knowing where you need to end up and then seeing where you go and what will evolve in between. For me it’s about having start date, an end date, the main places that you’d like to go and the modes of transport that you’d like to use – but then allowing the joy of the journey to move you in the direction and the pace that best suits you as a traveler, or in this case, a group of travellers. Although, I will be honest – Warren and I once met on holiday in Thailand – and we arrived in Bangkok at 4am, after not sleeping on a night bus for 12 hours with no clue about where to stay – which probably wasn’t the wisest idea ever. lol 😉

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Just as an aside: to whoever joins me on this journey – I promise not to lead you down a dark beer-smelling-alley of Bangkok hookers at 4am. (Maybe).

SO, basically

What I am saying (and I have already shared this on my yoga instagram account) if there is anyone who is interested in joining me on this “thing” please let me know by sending me an email to che.strawberries[AT]gmail[DOT]com. I will be choosing two people next week to start the 7 week course “thing” from the week of May 15th. I am offering my time/energy/love for these two people for free in return for asking that they are fully committed to the process and come with an open heart and mind. If that is you, please get in touch! If that is a friend of yours, or a friend-of-a-friend of yours – please send them this link! I’m REALLY excited about this process as I truly believe in the impact that it could have.

With love and great things coming!

Ché

x

Heading to India! How to choose a 300 hour advanced yoga teacher training?

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For those who have following the threads of my blog posts or instagram feed – you may have heard me mention a few times my intention to do more training in India. Well, I am happy to say after a few months of planning and prepping… it’s ALL HAPPENING.

It’s all happening on Sunday to be exact!!

It really has suddenly crept up on me after feeling like it was SO far away for SO long – but here we are and I fly to India on Sunday!

I’ve had a few different people ask me why I am doing more training on top of the 200 hours I already have. (A common question (from the older folk-en) is “will you make more money?” – short answer: no. But it really has nothing to do with that anyway.) For anyone who has done a 200 hour yoga teacher training or has been teaching yoga for some time, will I’m sure just “get” exactly why I need to do this. It’s a filling up the well kinda thing. You know what I’m talking about.

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about – let me try explain:

Teaching yoga is very different from practicing yoga. VERY different. When you’re practicing yoga, you are essentially completely coming out your head, and into your body. When you’re teaching yoga, you are mentally switched on; analysing for correct alignment, intellectually monitoring and intuitively adjusting both verbally and physically. It is a very different thing to practicing yoga. Part of the reason of me doing this training, and particularly choosing a training that is a 5 week intensive, away from London – is to fully re-immerse myself back into yoga and the practice that I love. Fill up my own well so to speak – because you can only really give fully to others when your own well is full. And definitely absolutely there is always benefit to doing more training and gathering more experience from which to draw on.

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How I went about choosing a 300 hour yoga teacher training

Timing:
For me, this was one of the most important factors – especially in considering a 5 week long training program away from London. Of course the training needs to fit into the right time in your calendar – but also for me, this training right now, fits into the right time of my life.  Warren and I are in the “to-be-or-NOT-to-bay-be” dilemma and if we do decide to have children – it is HIGHLY unlikely that I will be able to drop off a 3-day-old-minion with the grandparents in favour of yoga teacher training in India for 5 weeks. (Mom, dad, are you reading this?). I have no idea what the “official protocol” on abandoning your offspring is – but let’s just say that without children, right now is probably the safest bet. In fact for everything now is always the safest bet.

Course Syllabus:
I spent a fair amount of time researching various courses, both in London and out of London. 300 hour trainings can be broken down in a number of ways – some schools opt to do 3 x 100 hour modules which can be completed over time, others include the modules all together in an intensive/immersive training. Some schools offer yin/ restorative training, others focus on Ayurveda, some focus on chakras, some on mandala and shamanism, some offer research paper modules  -there are so many different areas of the practice into which this yoga path can take you! I specifically wanted a 300 hour course that would include some kind of research paper – which narrowed down the options for me. I’ve chosen to focus my research on the connection between creativity, yoga and the brain and will be developing a online art-journaling, meditation and yoga course based on my research which I’m VERY excited about!

Location:
Location was actually less important to me than the actual course content and syllabus. There were a few trainings that I looked at in Bali which did fit the course outline that I liked – but then figuring that we were going to be in Bali in July on retreat with Anna, decided to look at a few different locations! Although Goa is a bit lauded as the Indian-tourist-hot-spot compared with the more Northern parts of India, the training and syllabus of the course that I found out-weighed for me the need to be up in the mountains. Hopefully I’ve made the right choice! 😉

Cost:
The thing about being a yoga teacher is that when you are not teaching yoga, you are not earning anything. So choosing a location that can leverage your income is a good idea! Courses range in price and depend on what accommodation is like, what food is included, what materials are included and the length of time. (300 hour trainings which are broken into 100 hour modules – usually have separate payments for the modules). Training in Europe is generally more expensive than training elsewhere, but then you don’t have flights and accommodation to worry about. Most schools who offer training abroad will include some kind of accommodation package. I’ve decided on paying a bit extra to get a private room and bathroom – because, India, ya know.

Opinion:
I actually spent a good bit of time sending some messages to strangers on the internet whose names I had found as graduates of the various 300 hour schools I was looking at. The challenge with this is that no graduate has graduated from all the schools I was looking at so it’s a hard comparison to make! Each person I spoke to had positive things to say about their training. But there were a few who mentioned that their training could’ve had more philosophy. In my internet travels, I was pivoting between two different potential schools – the one seemed a lot more… “instagrammable” and the other (based on what I had read) seemed a little bit more… difficult. Difficult, in the good way. In the discipline and the structure and the process of it all. In fact, I actually came across a blog from a girl who was on the “difficult” training a few years ago – documenting her experience. Through her blog posts (which I became thoroughly enthralled in), I saw that someone on the training was actually kicked off the training half way through and deported for sharing something inappropriate about the training on social media. I’ve gone for the difficult school, in case you were wondering.

A Feeling:
I think more than anything, it has to feel right. Which, if many of the above things line up – it will. I sat on my decision over which training for a really long time before committing and I’m glad I did as it gave me enough time to properly process, research and look at a variety of available options, locations, budgets and course outlines. My biggest worry in doing a 300 hour training is arriving to repeat information and course work that I have already covered in my 200 hour training. Whilst it is ALWAYS good to do revision and re-capping of knowledge, I obviously want to go a deeper with this training. Since sending in my application, I have received a 20 page booklet from the school with revision questions and essays on anatomy, philosophy, pranayama and the energetic body in revision of the 200 hour training, to prepare before I arrive – which of course, has pleased the alpha-nerd in me no end.

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I think one of the most difficult things about this training will be being away from Warren for so long. It will definitely be the longest we’ve been apart since being married. (Although we did take 6 years apart to figure out our shit). I am really looking forward to this next big adventure and to all the learning that will take place. I have no doubt that it will be challenging – on a physical, emotional, mental and energetic perspective! Having had so much time to think and prepare for all of this, it suddenly feels like my brain (ego) is telling me I’m not “quite ready” for it. Having come off the back of winter, I” could have been a bit more physically prepared” for the asana practice, or “could have done more work on the research paper” up until now – or any other thing that is me telling myself I’m not quite ready. But I know deep down that I am.

Or at least, I am where I am right now, and that is enough.

I’m going to be trying to keep a travel diary on my yoga instagram account (wifi willing) using the hashtag #cheindiadiary – feel free to follow along in the adventure… I fly on Sunday!

5 ways to deal with the gremlin of self doubt

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So I’ve been in a funk of late. Call it the moon, or hormones or current creative cycle, whatever. In these moments of funkiness (albeit that makes it sound way cooler than it actually is) there is a tendency for that little gremlin of self doubt to creep it’s way into your head. You know what I’m talking about. It happens to all of us – well, except Donald Trump – that guy is obviously SURE ABOUT EVERYTHING. Anywhoo.

To help eradicate that little gremlin of self doubt, I’ve compiled a list of things to do to make sure that critter does not burrow it’s way further into your brain than it needs to. Refer back to this list whenever you feel the need.

  1. PUT AWAY YOUR PHONE. Put away your phone, your social media, your facebook, your instagram, your snap chat and whatever other platform you young fries are using these days. I would say that the number one cause of self doubt is comparison. Suddenly you see someone else who is doing something that little bit differently to the way you are doing it (whether it be how they feed their baby or how many people are liking-on their coffee-cup) and it can send you into a tailspin of self doubt. You have the power to shut it down. Really.
  2. TAKE YOURSELF ON A SOLO COFFEE DATE. Being with yourself is useful in reconnecting to YOU. Being in your own company reaffirms you, and your solo, uniqueness. Doubting yourself is a result of the stories that we impress on ourselves – “not good enough”, “not talented enough”, “not achieved enough” sometimes the stories we create are misinformed by external forces (people, parents, children, friends, likes, followers etc) – being on a solo date eradicates all that extra fluff.
  3. GET BACK TO YOUR “CRAFT”. Get back to doing what you do – whatever it is that you do – your job, your artistry, your sport, your craft, your teaching, your life path, your writing, your sharing. Getting stuck back into what YOU do, will help shift your mind back into the creator rather than the doubter state.
  4. MOVE. Movement is motivation. Yoga teaches us about the strong mind-body connection and sometimes we need to have a physical shift in the body to create a mental shift in the brain. Go for a walk. Take a yoga class. Dance around your living room – literally SHAKE it off!
  5. RECONNECT TO YOUR PURPOSE. Sometimes self doubt and general funkiness comes from feeling like we have lost sight of our vision or our purpose in what we are doing. Take out a piece of paper and write down at the top – “What do I want to be remembered for?” Once you have that question written down – take 7 minutes to write the answer to it.

So there you have it – some simple, quick effective ways to get you out of funky-town!!

To BE, or NOT to Bay-BE, that is the question.

I’ve always thought I would have children.

Like in the “first-comes-love-then-comes-marriage-then-comes-a-baby-in-a-golden-carriage” kinda way.

I mean, when I first had ALL-ROUND-ACCESS to the INTERNET (university), I couldn’t really think what good things I should use the internet-and-it’s-googling-powers for and so somehow settled on baby names. Yes, I literally had sheets of paper taped to my wall at university – a pink highlighted sheet, and a blue highlighted sheet: with all my favourite baby-googled names. (This is not a joke – you may ask any of the girls who lived in res. with me.)

I quite possibly did not *entirely* think it through –
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It’s kinda like I created my own anti-boy radar without even knowing. My dad would’ve been proud.
I can’t remember if The Warr was around in the era of the baby-names-lists or not – but if he was, he clearly passed the test.

So where was I?

Ah yes, deciding on the names of my unborn children.

It appears that I’m at that relationship-status/age where everyone is wondering (asking) when we are going to have children. I’ve seen many Facebook posts etc on how annoyed women get at being asked all the time what is going on in their uterus/utera/uterai. To be honest, I’m not really all that bothered about what people ask me. But I just don’t think that the answer I have for them (hmm../not sure/ maybe/one day?/I think so) is really the one they are looking for. Or let me be even more ambivalent in this and tell you that I’m currently on both sides of the fence.

Here’s the thing: HOT DAMN, I LOVE my life. I love the work that I do. I love that I get to hang out with Warren in the evenings. I love that we get to explore together on the weekends. I love that we get to spend time alone together. I love that we can spontaneously decide to go out for dinner on a random Tuesday because “it’s a wine night!”.  I love that if we wanted to we could take a sporadic weekend trip to Paris. I love sleeping in (actually I love sleep in general). I love that if I want to go to a yoga class, I can literally JUST. GO. I love that if Warren is fed, if I am fed, that is all we need to worry about. I love having money to spend on Warren, and to spend on myself (call me honest). I love the feeling of freedom and being able to do literally anything I wanted to, right now, if I wanted it. (Actually, right now – so perfectly timed, I am currently listening to a father upstairs shouting at a screaming toddler who is clearly VERY over today – just to give an image of my current milieu). I love that I don’t have to ask anyone else to relieve me from looking after someone. I love having my body to myself, I love where I am with my physical yoga practice and I love how my pelvic floor functions. I love that I can plan my day and it can go, pretty much according to plan. I love the dynamic of our relationship as husband and wife. I love being able to shower when I want and being able to wee without spectators. I love not being tied down and I love having the feeling of freedom.

Before I run myself into the box of being “anti-children” – let me just say that I LOVE children. I love babies and I love hanging out with kids. I find toddlers just adorable and I love the learning processes that are involved and the ways that we as “grown-ups” (lol) can help to shape a child’s world view. Trust me on this when I say that if we were ever to have children – I would totally be THAT mother that throws prize-winning-Pinterest-worthy-parties in the ‘NAME OF LOVE’. All of that excites me terribly.

Of course, it’s very difficult to have this ‘public-debate-with-myself’, without ever knowing what it’s really like to actually have children. Yes, I have baby-sat, au-paired, taught toddlers/children, pre-teens, etc – but I (obviously) have never had my own children. This does make the debate extremely difficult as it’s a bit like proclaiming that “I LOVE French fries! French Fries are hands down the best junk food ever!!” – when you’ve never ever tasted Pizza. Although here is the problem where this analogy breaks down:
Let’s say one day you decide to be adventurous and order that Pizza!
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You take a few bites (or maybe the whole slice) and then decide –
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Even if you get 3/4 of your way into that pizza, if you decide you don’t actually like it any more – you can very easily just send it straight back to the kitchen or push your plate aside and decide that you don’t want to ever be involved with Pizza again.

It doesn’t *quite* work the same in the baby realm.

Yes there are all the loved up hormones and yes IT’S YOUR BABY so of COURSE you will love the shit out of it –
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But there is also the very real possibility that you start to think about everything your life was before your love-baby-made-it’s-grand-entry –
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And the problem is that there is no way you can get a refund on that bébé or send it back where it came from. (Well, you could try – but public services would probably get involved and there’d be a lot of explaining to do).

Everyone who is a parent deserves a gold star because I know can only imagine, what a demanding role it is. The thing is, even if secretly you did really actually feel like having children was a teensy bit of a regret – one could never actually openly, honestly say that – because, WELL. They are your CHILDREN!!!! And you love them!! (Obviously!)

I have absolutely NO doubt that babies bring an incredible amount of joy and an indescribable love that I can’t quite yet comprehend. I am fully aware of how much your life will change once you have children. Change isn’t always a bad thing, it’s just a thing. And in this case it’s the complete unknown. Perhaps, the actual scary part is the idea of changing some things (our relationship dynamics, my business, extra finance pressures, my time, a sense of freedom, my body) that are currently functioning really well into something that we really have no idea what to expect.

But then again, I’ve just compared having children to eating pizza – so I’m possibly not quite ready to procreate just yet.

Many parents have told me that having children is the best thing they’ve ever done. Interestingly, there is a tendency for men to be a lot more enthusiastic about this, than women. Don’t get me wrong – mothers also have a lot of enthusiasm about it – but just a little more… um… exhausted-enthusiasm.

There is baby happening all around me right now. (Call it age, call it relationship status). We have had the literal suggestion of “just remove the goalie and see what happens!” (man comment). Maybe we are in fact just over-thinking the whole thing, but if Warren and I do decide to have children I’d like it to be initiated through conscious choice as I believe bringing and supporting a new life into this world is not *quite* the same as a virtual soccer game. I mean, I am all for just letting things happen naturally – but I think, if possible, the decision YES or NO should come first. I once asked an anti-baby friend what her reasons for not wanting children were and she replied with something along the lines of, ‘I’d rather get to my 60s and regret NOT having children, than have children and regret them.’

It is my secret feeling that everyone who proclaims the wonderfulness of having children, always leaves out a few key details:
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(Enthusiastic men)
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* * * *

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So yes – there are a lot of feelings (clearly) going round in my head about if having children is a definite thing we should do (I mean, I think so!). Or rather: if it was only a feeling that tripped the green light, it would be a no-brainer. But I feel that just as any relationship does not function based purely on feelings alone, raising children is a commitment (much more than marriage these days) that I don’t believe you should enter into (if you can avoid) just because you feel like it.

I’ve asked many different people (expecting parents, hopeful parents, new parents, old parents, grandparents) this same question: What is the purpose of having children?
Answers to this are completely varied. For some, it’s about giving grandchildren to their parents, continuing their bloodline. For others it’s about feeling close to their partners or families. For some it’s the joy of watching a child learn and grow. And others it inspires them to live better lives as example. Another common reason has been the idea that every generation evolves and is more evolutionarily developed than the one before it. Supposing this, another purpose of having children is for the evolutionary development of our species to higher forms of intelligence. (Part of me does want to debate this in saying that perhaps the evolutionary development of our generation (with all our “evolved intelligence”) is to realise that the world is already WAY over-populated as it is – but that’s a whole new blog post).

The other side to this coin is actual biology. I’m writing all of this not knowing if it is even possible for Warren and I to conceive. Perhaps I might feel very different (“I NEED A BABY RIGHT NOW!!!!!” *sobs*) if I was suddenly told that having children was totally off the table – perhaps not. I don’t know. (#aroundtheworld?!) Age is a factor, of course it is – we all hear that TICK TOCKING. (For the record it is a particularly loud tick-tocking when one is the only baby-less-couple in a crowd of chaos young families. But then we go home and have a bottle of wine and talk-shit-until-we-feel-like-it and forget about it pretty quick.) It is not a joke that three times in the last week I’ve had a conversation about the option of freezing my eggs. (Once with a person that I met 30mins prior). AM I AT THAT AGE ALREADY?!?! (Answer: yes).

I’m pretty sure that Warren and I would be good parents – (LOL!!! Doesn’t every single person who has never had a baby think they will be the BEST. MOTHER. EVER). But like, if I’m honest I do think we’d handle it together pretty well (thank goodness he will be the strict one). The narcissistic part of me is desperate to know what a baby with Warren would look like (green eyes I’m guessing and hopefully Warren’s teeth). But as I marvel in my mind at how wonderfully beautiful my non-baby is I suddenly get hit with the feeling that ALL THE GOOD EGGS ARE ALREADY GONE (panic) and what if we get stuck with a baby that is NOT. CUTE?!

I think there is a LOT going on in this day and age (for women particularly). There are career goals to smash, independent business-lady-vibes, the world to travel, places to explore – many of which generally wasn’t as readily available to our parents. They just got on with it and babied themselves up – and filled their days with love and joy and baby-milestones and chaos. Now days we are kind of expected to DO IT ALL. I don’t think there will EVER be the “right time” to have children so I suppose it has to be something that you want enough to let everything else take a backseat for a little while. Or maybe you don’t have to let having a baby dictate the way you live your life? I’m not sure.

So anyway, I have totally gone off on a tangent and forgotten the entire point of this blog post –

BUY MY YOGA GUIDE?!?!?!

No, that wasn’t it.

Although I could always put the proceeds into a baby-fund.

Maybe.

How to create a personal mantra or theme for the year

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Happy January (although it’s already nearly over)! And New Year! I’ve been wanting to write a post on this for a little while now as it’s something that I have been speaking about a lot in my yoga classes over the past few weeks: creating a personal mantra or guiding theme for the year. If the word mantra has suddenly got you feeling that this post may be “too hippy” for you –

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I’d encourage you to read on anyway, because you’ve arrived here for some reason and I’ve had SO much success with this approach for 2016 – that I thought I would share it and hopefully it can be of some use to you!

At the beginning of 2016, I decided to create a personal mantra for myself. A mantra is a group of sounds/ words/ phrases that you deem to be sacred which are repeated time and again. More “traditional” mantras may not even be words at all but rather parts of sounds or syllables. “Aum” or “Om” repeated at the beginning or end of a yoga practice is an example of a more “traditional” mantra – it’s not a “word” per se – but it is sacred and (to grossly oversimplify) represents an essence of universal consciousness. Whatever mantra you choose, choose something that works for you. It could even be to choose one word as a guide for the year.

I decided to focus on the theme of abundance as this is something I wanted to take note of, appreciate and cultivate more of in my year.

From that theme I formulated 3 different sentences with slightly different focuses on the different areas of my life. I then created the following mantra:

I trust in abundance.
I trust in the abundance of powerful connections and rich opportunities.
I trust in the abundance of spiritual growth and personal development.
I trust in the abundance of material wealth and personal riches.
I attract all these things into my life through being open – allowing a current of love to flow freely through me.
All these things manifest themselves strongly into my life in 2016 as I offer them back out to the world. 

I then wrote that down. Yes, actual pen and paper wrote it down –
 photo power-of-writing-stuff-down_zpshg1lnlrj.jpgIn fact, to be honest, I wrote it down several times. And I also shared it to instagram.
I then learnt it off by heart.

(Note: Even writing that out now above, came straight from my head).

I then began the year by repeating that mantra to myself every day. I started by saying it out loud.

(AND YES – YOU WILL FEEL WILDLY RIDICULOUS DOING THIS)

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For the first week or so I repeated it out loud to myself every morning before I practiced yoga/exercising. After that I began saying it to myself whispered under my breath (yes, you will still feel strange doing this), and then I moved to saying it in my head. (As a side note: isn’t it strange that words we say OUT LOUD to ourselves are “crazy-person-esque” but the exact same words we tell ourselves in our minds are somehow normalised) At the beginning of the year I repeated it to myself almost every day, or even as I was walking to the train station or catching a bus. (Obviously in public I was not saying it out loud like a lunatic – they put people away for that shit, see above).  As the year went on, I didn’t feel the need to say it in a “controlled” environment every day but revisited it every few weeks or months.

What happened in 2016 for me:
Rich opportunities and powerful connections:
Somewhere along the path of 2016 I reconnected with Anna Marsh – an amazing women’s functional nutritionist and mindset coach (Although I’d be more apt to title her as “women’s goal-smashing cheerleader”). She invited me to teach on a yoga + mindset + wellness retreat in Tuscany in 2016 with her coaching clients. It was such an incredible time that we are now going to Bali in July this year! (There are a few spots left if you’d like to join us!). Other opportunities have flooded in – from being offered nights at a luxury game reserve, to new private clients, to permanent studio classes, to ending up on the Ellen show. I have also connected with an awesome guy (thanks to a long time blog reader) who is helping me with my marketing for my yoga guide.

Personal Growth and Spiritual Development:
This year has been a MASSIVE one for both personal and business growth for me. I signed up to see a business coach who guided me through creating structure for my business and launching my first guide. I went to loads more workshops on anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, hypermobility and I began investigating further teacher training in India (more on that to follow). I’ve read so many incredible books over the course of last year, created systems, structures and invested in my self and my business and if I look back to the start of 2016 to where I am now I can really say it was a year of abundant growth – much of which is pretty difficult to actually put a finger on.

Material Wealth and personal Riches:
Whether it is due to seeing a business coach, investing in an accounting system, through more wedding guestbook bookings coming from having done the National Wedding Show, launching products on Thortful and YogaMatters, a good year with Not on the High Street, or through new yogis coming my way, my income this year has just about doubled. There is also something massive on the horizon for us in this arena and will share more on that when we are ready!

Through the classes that I teach and the work I do, I try to add value to the people I come into contact with. I aim to give personal and spiritual growth to those who come to my classes and provide opportunity for connection and community both online and off. I aim to help people’s yoga businesses grow and bring them wealth by helping create strong branding and advice. And in this way to reflect my mantra and intention for 2016, I have offered everything back out into the world. I may not be the best at everything in the entire world, but everything I do, I do with love.

 If I reflect back on this year all I can think about is how wildly ABUNDANT it was.

To clarify this, I don’t at all believe that me saying this mantra or continually returning back to this theme suddenly magically made all these things appear in my life. (Ie: If you sit down every morning and say “I’m going to win the lotto” you will most definitely be horribly disappointed). But here is the thing and a little bit of science – because doesn’t the cynic in us love a little SCIENCE:

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To unpack this little graphic above – the subconscious mind can not perceive the difference between what is real and what is imagined. (This is science). A really good example of this is feeling emotional (happy/sad/excited/frightened) during a movie – of course, the conscious mind knows it is a made up story, but we still feel a reaction to it since the subconscious mind has no way of determining that it is not an actual real event. Similarly, if you repeatedly tell yourself “I am quite a pathetic loser” – maybe a teeny tiny part of your conscious mind knows that it’s not reallly true – but your subconscious mind has NO idea. In exactly the same way if you repeatedly tell yourself, “I am successful, amazing things come my way!” – your subconscious mind automatically treats it as truth – because that is all it knows. Our entire life is shaped by the things we do or the things we don’t do; and the things we do – our actions, behaviours, habits are formed from the things we inherently think and believe: cue subconscious mind.

There are many ways to term this: growth mindset, self-fulfilling prophecy, the law of attraction, The Secret, power of positive thinking, subconscious awareness – it’s ALL the same thing. It doesn’t mean that your situation will necessarily change, but your mindset to that situation will shift and that is where the power is. Adopting a new frame of mind gives you the opportunity to be open to new opportunities that you may not have seen otherwise. It’s our perception of a situation which creates it as positive or negative, not the situation itself. And sometimes we actually need to remove or reframe that perception to be more aware of what is actually already present. In other words, having this mantra to return to throughout the year – in some parts may have caused me to act in subconscious ways to manifest more abundance but actually more likely, it forced me to take note of how my life is actually already pretty freaken abundant as it is.

And to close that circle with a lovely little bow on top – when we give gratitude for what already IS in our lives, it creates space for more of it. And that is the subconscious mind at work! :)

I haven’t yet formalised my theme or mantra for this year – I’ve been thinking on it for a little while and deep down I know it should be focused on something like “organisation”. Although “organisation” is pretty un-glamorous so the conscious-mind part of me is still trying to resist it in favour of something more spectacular like ADVENTURE, or LOVE or EXPLORE.

Hmm… we’ll see who wins this battle… I’ll keep you posted. 😉

If anyone has ever used a theme/mantra/ word for the year – I’d love to hear what you thought of it and if you’ve decided to do it again!

Dear Ellen

Dear Ellen

Firstly I just wanted to say, a huge thank you for sharing my yoga fail video with thousands of millions of people. My parents were watching your show in their lounge in South Africa when your “epic or fail” game came on and the next thing, to their greatest shock and surprise, I popped onto their TV screen.

As you can imagine, seeing their daughter falling on her own face on international TV in front of literally half the world, created some very deep feelings and emotions for my mother and father –

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So I am truly grateful that you’ve helped me give my mother some well deserved bragging rights.

However, if I am honest, I will have to say that I have set the intention to get on your show for a very long time now. In fact, I have been sending some very strong messages out to The Universe in my morning meditations every day – although it seems that somewhere along the way, The Universe has mixed up my smoke signals.
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You see, at the beginning of 2013 (April 6 to be exact), The Warr and I were married in South Africa at the most incredible wedding in the whole entire world (I may be a little biased). We had an absolutely amazing day and were SO looking forward to getting our wedding photos back to relive our wedding day again and again and to see and remember all our friends and family gathered together for our incredible celebrations.  To cut a long story short: dog + hard drive + professional wedding photographer = catastrophe. In summary, we have no photos to show for the best day of our lives. (sobs).

SO – In an attempt to make lemonade out of a horrible story (and many hours of tears), we decided to “recreate” our wedding album all around the world in a “wedding dress adventure”!
So far we’ve got some big landmarks and counting –

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(Belgium, 2014)

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(French Alps, 2014)

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(Amsterdam, 2015)

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(Spain, 2015)

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(Australia, 2015)

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(The Northern Lights, 2016)

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(Paris, 2016)

So – in all my intention setting and smoke signals to The Universe, what I was really going for was  –
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And more specifically –

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So once again, I am just putting this back out into the ethers – hoping that The Universe doesn’t get its lines crossed again.

However, having seen how hilarious you thought me falling on my head was, I am also open to coming on your show and falling off the stage if you think that would be of better comedic value. Happy to do it in my wedding dress too if you think that might work.

I’m ALSO just putting it out there that I think it would be great if we could do some yoga together – as I see you’ve been practicing –

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Once again a huge thank you for making my mom so proud. We are looking forward to your call.

With love (and trust in The Universe)

Ché Dyer

x

Yoga Teaching and being a Creative – can the two work together?

I was asked this question a little while ago and I thought it would be a good idea to discuss it more of a blog format as I think it’s something potentially many yoga teachers have “inner turmoil” over. I’ll just get straight to it –

Can you be a Creative (artist/illustrator/painter/writer/knitter/songwriter/etc) and be a yoga teacher at the same time? How do you brand yourself then? How do you create a niche? How do you do it all? CAN you do it all?

First off I’d like to say that these questions have caused me many sleepless nights (see here) so I thought I would just share my personal journey and my thoughts and views on the idea of being both a creative and a yoga teacher. Straight off the bat, I would like to also say that I think there is a very definite link to creativity, spirituality (whatever that means for you) and yoga. The very word “INSPIRATION” is defined as “the act of drawing in  – particularly air into the lungs” ie yoga, and the word INSPIRATION is the very same thing used to describe creative sparks. I don’t think that they are as separate as we like to think they are.

In fact, humans have a VERY lovely way of needing things to separate into lovely neat little boxes –
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We are either a “yoga teacher” or an “artist” or an “illustrator” or a “blogger” or whatever your particular boxes may be. These boxes try to keep these facets of ourselves as separate entities, in a tidy package.
Because we as humans like things to be neatly boxed as small and efficiently as they possibly can be  -we create even more boxes inside boxes –
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This is what is known as “finding your niche” – and there are many books and hours and hours of content online that will tell you how detrimentally important this is. It’s not enough to just be a “yoga teacher” you have to be a specialised vinyasa-power-yoga teacher or a “restorative yoga teacher”, or it’s not enough to be “an illustrator” – you have to be a “illustrator that works with bold lines, bright colours, permanent marker and humour”. Now I am not saying that this is not important as finding a niche is often closely connected with your personal style or affinity for a specialised area in what you do, and that is great as it gives you focus and direction in your chosen field.
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HOWEVER, the problem with categorising yourself in to a certain box or very specific niche is that it may leave big gaps in your life feeling unfulfilled –
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And I think this may be particularly relevant to yoga teachers who also feel they categorise themselves as creatives, illustrators, song writers, bloggers, designers, artists, bakers, seamstresses etc. And who want to make a living doing both. I am very lucky in that I am able to both teach yoga and create illustrations, art work and graphic design for clients – but for a long time the question of “how to brand myself” and “how to run everything all at once” was a big issue.

MY STORY:
I first began writing a personal cartoon blog indieBerries – which then morphed into me creating custom illustrations and art works for people. Which then led to a stationery range and selling products on Etsy and Not on the High Street. Soon after that I did my 200 hour yoga teacher training and began teaching yoga classes. I also then started chedyer.com (where you are right now) – which I thought would be a yoga-focused blog/website. In my mind, (as conditioned by society-boxes, pictured above) I thought it would be great to have a completely separate space “indieBerries – for illustrations, art commissions, personal stuff and a few fun cartoons” and “Ché Dyer – the serious yoga teacher all about the GOOD HEALTHY LIFE”. And for a while that is how I ran things.

Over time though, I started feeling like I was wasting time with trying to create two separate pieces of content, because at the end of the day I am ONE person. One multi-faceted person. One person who loves yoga, who loves healthy living, but one who also loves illustrating, creating and getting out the red wine and going crazy with paint and canvases. For me it made sense to ask the question can I bring this all together? How do I brand myself as a yoga teacher AND a creative?

The most helpful/useful thing for me was to define or brand myself according to my PURPOSE. This is different from branding yourself as ‘a yoga teacher’ or an ‘illustrator’ – this is branding yourself based on the WHY rather than the WHAT.

What is your PURPOSE in being a yoga teacher? (If it’s just to ‘teach people yoga’ – I think you need to search a little deeper).
At the same time what is your PURPOSE in creating the art that you do?
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For me, in a very broad and super simplistic answer to this question – My purpose is to make people happy.

To unpack it a little bit deeper – in the yoga aspect – this is about getting people to reconnect back to themselves, to find that inner joy and peace that gets lost in the busy-ness of every day. ‘Happy’ may not be the best word to describe it – but it’s about finding that calm, present, embodied sense of well-being. In the creative/art world, this is about making people laugh, about doodling funny things, creating humorous stationery that gives a good belly-laugh between friends. And when you think about it like this – it really is all the same thing. The Feel Good Factor, inside and out. For any yoga teacher currently debating this over and over in their minds (been there) I’d really encourage you to do this exercise. Maybe you will realise that things for you really are very separate in which case – it would make sense to have different platforms and domains and be completely different in tone and brand. For me, it works to have everything all together.

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At the end of the day, as a yoga teacher YOU are the brand – and if you are a creative/arty person that will no doubt infiltrate into your classes and teachings – so why not let it happen? As I’ve begun to merge the two worlds together – my creative work has also been infiltrated by my yoga teaching – and my offerings have changed and shifted slightly – I now have a range of yoga-specific greeting cards, and I offer graphic branding packages specific to yoga teachers.  Even the yoga information I share on this blog are infused with creative cartoons and illustrated bits and pieces.

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Above is some of the recent work I’ve done for a rebrand for Helen Keates – a Kent based yoga teacher. By allowing my graphic work to flow towards the yoga world, it feels much easier for me to keep all my offerings in the same area of focus. I still LOVE working on non-yoga related creative work (I’m busy working on illustrating a tongue-in-cheek university guide for potential publication to give you an idea!) As in the previous example – for those instances I think it is important to have SOME distinction in the place where you direct clients. For example I am in the process of creating a design-portfolio-only site under indieberries.com -because I think that it is important that if you have a new (non-yoga) client asking about the work you do, it’s useful to be able to direct them to a place which showcases your work without them having to sift through yamas and niyamas. But for the most part my different services and offerings as both a yoga teacher and a creative are very much intertwined.

If you are set on keeping everything separate and distinct I do think it is possible – but it does require a lot of time management and structure into your day. (I think this is useful even if things are blended like mine and you are doing more than one “job”). I tend to block my days off into mornings that are for graphic work, illustration, client work, wedding guestbooks etc. Then in the afternoon I prep for my classes and teach in the evenings. If you are set on making a living through both then it does take some proper time management and being selective about the work you do and classes you teach. Rather than teaching every single yoga class that comes your way -ask yourself it will genuinely leave you with enough time to keep working on your craft. Remembering that teaching yoga for one hour – you also need to factor in the travel time and the prep time for each class. I teach yoga regularly every week day – this includes evening classes, kids yoga and private sessions. I LOVE the classes that I teach, and I’ve still been able to hold enough space for the creative work I do, by not over committing myself one way or the other. I brand myself as a (multi-faceted) PERSON first. Everything else flows from there.

At the end of the day – YOU are the freelancer and FREE-lancer means you are FREE to make any choices that feel best for you! Honestly, who cares about conventional ways of doing things if you are aligned with your purpose and serving those that you need to be? Do it your way!

For those yoga teachers who are also creatives, what are your thoughts on this? How do you brand yourselves? Do you keep things as separate as possible or do you mash it all up?

For those yoga teachers who have enjoyed reading this – I’ve created a 7 part series with all the things that I have learnt (the good, the bad and why IKEA will save your life) from my first years of teaching yoga, specifics on branding, on marketing and advertising, how to keep things going when you hit a slump and what I really wish I had known and done. It may be of some use to you! You can sign up below:

Inspired November: Seeing Red.

Seeing red
As part of the #inspiredNovember challenge that I’m currently running on Instagram, I decided to start with the root chakra. The root chakra is our sense of grounding and stability and is also associated with the colour red.
As part of the challenge I invited everyone to observe the colour red as they went about their days. The result of this always amazes me. (I did something similar with a creativity challenge I ran on my IndieBerries account a while ago.)

For most people, (myself included) when you are asked to ‘just observe’ the colour red, it suddenly starts to appear all over the place. Yesterday I saw red buses and red post boxes everywhere (obviously), but then I also started to notice other red things that were suddenly very obvious to me, that I had never noticed before. I have taken the very same path to a yoga class for more than a year now and I have never noticed the three red doors en route before. I also saw a bright red wheelbarrow, a red polka dot backpack, red poppies all over the street lamps, a bright red jacket, red street signs, red poppies pinned to people’s chests, red paint, red cars, red bicycles, red leaves, red prams, red fire hydrants  and almost as if it was some kind of joke- three different people wearing red trousers all standing in a row. As if by magic, RED was just suddenly EVERYWHERE. I was seeing it everywhere I looked and everywhere I turned.

The truth is though, that RED did not just suddenly appear out of nowhere. Those RED things have been there all along. (Ok, maybe not the three-trousered-people, but you get what I mean). Those red doors, red postboxes, red cars, red bicycles, red jackets would have been part of my day regardless – BUT having my awareness “switched on” to be receptive to them – made them suddenly visible amongst all the other riot of colour that makes up our day.

What makes this practice so powerful is that it is an example of many other (more subtle) things in our lives. Take gratitude for example: If we tune our awareness onto the things we are grateful for, (just as we tune ourselves to observe the colour red), suddenly the things to be grateful for begin showing up. And they show up again and again and again and again. And what is even more important to note is that these things are not necessarily suddenly sprouting into our lives – they have been there all along. Just as that red door has always been there. It’s our attitude, our awareness and our observance of these things that suddenly ‘bring them into being’. And particularly with a practice of gratitude, the effects are cumulative and compounding: The more we are aware of the things to be grateful for, the more they appear and the more things that appear the more we have to be grateful for, and on it goes.

This is the same for the practice of kindness, love, calm, peace, stability, security, patience, grounding, creativity – whatever it is in your life that you are searching for, know that it is already there. And then observe it.

I was sitting on the bus the other day thinking about this challenge, and then thinking about the next chakra which is orange and about asking everyone to observe the colour orange. I suddenly had this thought in my mind, “well orange is a MUCH less obvious colour, it’s not going to pop into everyone’s awareness as frequently and as easily as red does. What if this detracts from the entire thing I am trying to show?”  And then, as if by magic – a car pulled up right next to the bus with it’s indicator on: BRIGHT FLASHING ORANGE directly in my eyeballs.

ok universe, I got it.

By becoming aware of these colours and then suddenly seeing them can feel like this miraculous magical thing. When really, those things were there all along. It’s not actual ‘magic’ at all.

But I’ll leave you with something from Albert Einstein, which I had heard many times before, but only REALLY began to understand once I began to deeply understand the power of what is already within us:
‘There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.’”

I know which way I’d like to live.

Instagram Yoga: the conversation we need to have.

Let me start by saying that I LOVE Instagram.

No. wait. I find Instagram a potential dangerous minefield.

No. wait. Can I phone a friend on this one?

There are so many different thoughts that are running through my head abut the yoga culture we are creating on Instagram. I say ‘we’ because I am included in this sect as I also post and share bits of my practice on this visual media platform – and that’s part of the epic Instagram conundrum that’s been going around inside my mind.

On Wednesday I posted the following picture on Instagram with the following caption:
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THERE. I SAID IT. 😳😳 Instagram yoga has created a very blurry line between “yoga to support the body” and “yoga to exploit the body”. I see SO many yogis on Instagram putting their bodies in the most extreme of postures and positions and whilst I trust that they are fully aware of their own bodies, strengths, weaknesses and capabilities it’s still making me feel rather anxious! 😳
As an example, i randomly came across a feed yesterday (note: I originally tagged this yogi, but then later removed the tag) and whilst I think this person is a beautiful soul and absolutely gorgeous (😍) 97 out of 100 photos show very intense spinal extension with deep hinging in the lumbar spine. Whilst these shots do look beautiful, it did really unnerve me (which led me to an hours Internet research on yoga and injury). #dontgothere😳
I’m really curious as to what everyone thinks about this. (I actually have a whole blog post in my head on Instagram and yoga, but that’s for another time!) Has yoga become a way for us to exploit the body for ‘aesthetics’? Has this been driven by the@Instagram platform? Perhaps my aversion to deep spinal extension is due to my own ego, or the fact that my lower back is my personal weak spot- which immediately puts in my mind the sound of cartilage grating on cartilage every time I see deep backbends. 😱(but I also feel the same way about intense over-splitting and insane hip rotations)
Hannah if you read this – hello beautiful lady!! – I’d love to know what other things you do to maintain the longevity of your spine? Or if you have any other friends or yogis who also love deep spinal extension? What practices do you follow? I’m genuinely curious as to how you warm up, what you do and how you maintain the health of your spine without pain or injury? I’d love for you to share! 💕😍 #yogaforlife#yogachallenge #backbends #ukyogis#spinal #myyogalife

I’d like to fully unpack this picture and this post as it may have been misconstrued as a cultural nuance (as has been suggested in some of the comments). When I say, “freaks me out” I mean “Whoa, that causes me great anxiety and distress and upsets me”. Just as spiders and frogs  “freak me out”. And just as, (if you were someone who was neater than I am) – empty coffee cups left lying on your desk might “freak you out”. It has nothing to do with me thinking anyone is a freak. This has absolutely NOTHING to do with body shaming and I was genuinely surprised that some people read it as that. For those people who did read it as that and took great offence to it, I have apologised (8 times).

However I stand VERY firmly behind the argument that I am putting forward and make absolutely NO apologies for bringing these issues out into conversation.

I tagged someone in the caption of my picture as one example of the point I am making. This was not about calling anyone out specifically, it was one example of an issue which is WIDESPREAD on Instagram. If I am honest, had I known the girl I tagged was only 15 years old, I may not have actually tagged her. But, if I’m even MORE honest, I would say that this is EXACTLY the audience who needs to be made more aware of the things I’m proposing. (I have since been told that this 15 year old has also completed her yoga teacher training, so she “knows exactly the safety and risk behind what she is doing“.)

My entire intention of posting this was to open up authentic, honest and mature conversation and dialogue about a topic that I feel is extremely important and not spoken about enough, if ever, on Instagram. It came from a place of deep care and concern for the many (young) girls I see on Instagram repetitively putting their bodies into extreme postures. Are we creating a culture where is it ok to put our bodies into situations where we may be causing permanent (long term) damage for the sake of a few likes? Has Instagram-yoga moved from a practice that supports the body to a practice that exploits the body?

Instagram is a subliminal form of operant conditioning. Behaviours are driven by positive reinforcers, which in this case are likes and follows. (As an aside note: scrolling through some of these accounts, it’s almost eerie to see that the “deeper the backbend” the “more the likes” and based on the operant conditioning model (thanks, Skinner), I CANNOT stress enough how alarming this is for the young women who are posting them.)

For the most part, I received many comments from people who were genuinely interested in the conversation and the debate and it has been fascinating, interesting and thought provoking to read their stories and views. I have read comments from hypermobile women who have experienced torn hamstrings and other injuries from not knowing they were pushing too far (note: this isn’t a case of ‘not listening to the body’, this is a fact of hypermobility). I have read comments from women who now have hip and back pain due to participating in sports requiring intense spinal flexion in their younger years with little or no understanding of body biomechanics. I’ve read comments from yogis who in their early days tried to emulate those things they have seen on instagram, I’ve read comments from people on instragram who feel they aren’t good enough when they see/compare themselves to these types of poses on Instagram. I have read from physiotherapists who have concerns about degeneration of the spine and spondylosis and from Doctors who are also questioning the things they are seeing on this platform. I’ve read comments from yogis who have been pushed to the point of major injury from yoga teachers for the purpose of trying to achieve something ‘instagrammable’ and I’ve read comments from yogis who feel reassured by reading this type of post. I’ve read comments from yogis who have done research and analysis on Doctors reports with the rising cases of yogis and yoga teachers with hip replacements and spinal surgeries.

I also then received some comments from the girl’s sister in defence of her practice. Please note: in no part of my post was I judging her practice, I was simply asking in a very public forum (since instagram is the very public forum in which the images are shared) for some practical tools, exercises both pre- and post-practice that she utilises to maintain the integrity of her spine for longevity – so that we can properly empower other woman and young girls who may be viewing these posts. (Note: it is not necessarily about the person who is practicing these poses – if she believes she knows and fully understands the long term potential risks of this practice – then that is fine. It is to open up the dialogue for those other young girls who may be blindly following and attempting). I also then received a comment from an instagram-popular girl telling me my post (or bringing a 15 year old into it) was DISGUSTING and a LOW BLOW. (As an aside many people messaged me to tell me, “don’t worry about that comment!” Trust me – it does not affect me at all.) But it was very surprising to me as this comment came from a yoga teacher, who I would have presumed would be very pro having open and honest dialogue about the precautions, modifications, risks and associated exercises that would need to be done to counteract this type of practice.

If my post was construed as attacking or judgemental, then I do understand the need for these yogis to want to defend their friend/sister. But then, my even bigger questions is: What are they saying to this 15 year old? “Ignore her, don’t listen to her – just keep doing what you are doing, it’s great!”? I honestly wonder.

Yes, I don’t know this yogi’s personal practice, and yes I know that Instagram only shows a tiny SNIPPET of the whole story and that is exactly the point I’m trying to make. Without knowing a person’s personal practice we only see the tiny snippet of what is available: and let me be clear, I’m not starting this conversation for myself (or even necessarily for the girl in question). I know my own body. I am starting this conversation for young girls who will try and blindly emulate things they see on Instagram. Let’s talk about the precautions taken, the work, the risks, the other things that need to go along with this intense type of yoga practice that is all over Instagram. I am not here to make judgement on anyone’s practice. What you choose to practice is entirely up to you, but the thing I want to put forward is let’s start questioning the reason WHY we are in the poses we are in.

For example, (and I am using spinal extension as the example because it’s an easy one to demonstrate the point), the average range of movement of the spine in the plane of extension is 35 degrees in the lumbar spine, 25 degrees in the thoracic spine and 75 degrees in the cervical spine. (Sited from Yoga Anatomy, Kaminoff & Matthews 2012):
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(YES I KNOW the spine has three natural curves in it – I drew it with a straight line to make my life easier). Now, given that we spend most of our day with the spine in flexion – sitting over a computer, working, at a desk, looking at our cell phones etc – I think heart openers (aside from the energetic practice of connecting to anahata) are great to counteract this environmental flexion to bring the spine back into it’s natural range of functional movement. My question is: What is the PURPOSE of continuously bringing the spine into almost 180 degree hyperextension as we see so often on Instagram?  Looking at the thoracic and lumbar spine alone – that is more than 100 degrees (roughly) past the average range of functional extension. If that is in your practice, well done on the work that you must have put into getting there – but I do really want to know what is the purpose of being in this position?

And YES, I fully know and COMPLETELY agree that every body is different and no two bodies move in the same way – some people have more range than others, I AM IN TOTAL AGREEMENT WITH YOU ON THAT. (Wow it is exhausting having to clarify every sentence). Some people have hyper mobility which is another thing altogether. Whatever your range of movement, intense repetitive postures/movements will affect your body no matter how it moves or the range in which it feels safe for you to do so. So again, I ask – What is the PURPOSE of bringing your spine into hyperextension well passed the range of functional movement?

I am not asking this in a facetious or sarcastic way. For people who practice this on a daily basis, I GENUINELY want to know what the purpose of this is. I have tried to google it and I cannot find a thing. Why do you do it? Is it because “it looks good” or “it will be a great instagram pic” or “because you can” or because of “the physical challenge”? And if it is because of the physical challenge, what biomechanical knowledge or information do you have in order to know you are doing this 100% safely and without permanent (potentially life-altering) impact in the long term. I really want to know, as maybe I am missing something. (Really).

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In all seriousness, I genuinely do wish to hear from yoga practitioners who have these very advanced backbends in their practice and if anyone would like to help me out with why they practice those postures? I do KNOW that all yoga asana is relative: The yoga that I practice may seem very advanced to some people and the yoga that other people practice may seem advanced to me – so if this question comes across as ironic then I also apologise.

I think though for me, the concept of the physical yoga practice has shifted a lot. When I first began my yoga journey, I also had every intention to grab my ankles with my hands, to get as far into the backbend as I possibly could, to find oversplit in my legs, to do a headstand with no hands, to go further, further further further. (THANKS LARGELY TO INSTAGRAM). But I’m at a point now where I am questioning things. Just because something was once taught to some person 5000 years ago – should we be doing it today? And if that is all that this blog post does for you – brings questioning, present awareness into your practice then that is great! For me, personally I have a body type that I know if I practiced I would definitely be able to get to deep spinal extensions like those I have been using as an example, but my point is, I don’t see the biomechanical functional purpose of it. For me, it does not support the health and wellness of my spine/body to push that far. If you feel that it does support the health and wellness of your spine in the long term, then by all means, go ahead – It’s your body, not mine. (Thank goodness).

All I’m asking for you is to question the physical practice. And know exactly the reason why you are doing what you are doing and the potential long lasting effects it may have down the line. There are very interesting articles and interviews on yoga teachers in later years arriving with injuries because they DID NOT QUESTION THE PRACTICE.

We have also come to take the catch all, “It’s fine, when I practice, I listen to my body” to be the same as “the place where my body repeatedly let’s me go today has no bearing on what it will present 10 years from now.” Read that again: do not get those confused.

The broader problem I see with instagram yoga is that it creates an environment where we are continuously aiming to go further, get deeper, bend more. So whilst it is WONDERFUL to have physical goals – (I share comparison pics all the time!) to look back and see your own progress is really amazing BUT are we placing a very linear trajectory on a practice that is fundamentally about present embodiment?

Did I just get too deep there? Here, have a rainbow:

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Maybe I am just getting older. I am 31. I feel like I am on that very fine cusp of being young, but also at the same time being old. And if I am projecting my own “I’m getting older” issues onto everyone – well so be it then. I’m part way through a course from a Master of Science, Biomechanicist on the biomechanics within the yoga practice and it is very interesting. I do lots of reading and research into the body. I ask questions all the time and I encourage you to do the same. You only have one body and you have to look after it.

Instagram is a slippery slope because on the one hand it is a very inspiring platform and I use it (probably daily) to share bits and pieces of my practice – so it does feel part ironical to be so “hating” on a platform that I use myself, I totally get the irony in that. When I do share on instagram, I try and share the more real bits of my practice – the drills, the work, the falls, the failing. For me, yoga is about learning to live more presently, learning to live and create a more abundant, fulfilled and happy life. It is about being inspired to be a better person, it is about feeling inspired to bring that inspiration to others. I want to bring that inspiration back to my experience of instagram – and me sharing a picture of my foot up my left nostril, swung half way around my head doesn’t really cut it. I’m committing in November to have a month of #inspiredNovember – about creativity, about movement, about connecting to others, about nurturing, about coming back to the reason I practice and about self love. If you feel you’ve lost the instagram sparkle – come join me :)

What are your views on this platform? Is it inciting practice that is potentially dangerous? Is it changing the way in which yoga is viewed in the broader landscape? Is popularity on instagram becoming confused with integrity/qualification as a teacher? Are we encouraging people to push beyond what they are ready for? Are we compromising alignment for depth in order to get the better picture? Is it our responsibility (those who are social media sharers) to do as much as we can to prevent others from harming themselves? Should we just share blindly? Are we starting to classify those with more flexibility or hypermobility (or followers?!) as better teachers? Does yoga instagram culture fuel the concept of yoga as practice which needs results? What should we be sharing instead? How can we change this?

I welcome all your varying views, comments, opinions, analysis and debate about the instagram culture, provided they are mature, thoughtful and contribute to constructive debate. Leave a comment below or on my instagram account. It was really wonderful to read and engage with so many of you on that last post I shared. Let’s keep questioning and let’s keep the dialogue on safe practice and self love open.

with love

xxx

What really happens on a Yoga Retreat…

Taking time out to go on a yoga retreat is such a special and beautiful gift that you can give yourself. It’s an opportunity to reconnect to yourself, to deepen your yoga practice,
to connect with like-minded people and to nourish, restore and reset the body, soul and mind. There are a variety of “yoga retreats” and “yoga holidays” on the market these days
ranging from the super strict and austere to the good-humoured and fun loving get-aways from everyday busy-ness.

What you can expect on a yoga retreat is a lot of sharing, a lot of connection, a lot of interesting and stimulating conversation, a lot of learning and of course, (obviously) a good amount of yoga! Depending on the yoga retreat you choose, you may also expect a good amount of funny moments and a whole heap of laughter and love.

In July this year I taught on a yoga retreat in Tuscany hosted by Anna Marsh – a nutritionist, so I thought I would share a funny and super light hearted moment from our retreat – which had us all laughing until our sides ached.

So whilst lazing around the pool, soaking up the Tuscan sun I began chatting about the Chakras, and trying to (briefly) explain this intricate energetic system in a non-complicated way.
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Being a fairly new-to-yoga group, I had tried to keep the explanation of this energy system fairly simple – explaining the associated areas in the body, and the associated colours of each chakra.

Considering this was a yoga retreat hosted by a nutritionist who is all about the GUT HEALTH and a yoga teacher who is pretty into fuelling the body in the best way, it wasn’t long before all the ice had been
broken, and it felt like we were all old friends when the conversation turned to ahem… the correct shape, consistency and colour of… you guessed it: poop.

I thought I had nailed the chakra explanation until the poop conversation took a turn…

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It was such a lol and Dana had us in stitches for days! I’m SO looking forward to connecting with so many of these yogis again in Bali next year!

There are some spots still open from 29th July – 5th August – so if you are looking for a wonderful Christmas present treat to yourself – a week of soul, surf, sunshine, early sunrises, yoga, connection and a whole lot of laughter – this is it! Get in touch! x

Checking in: where I’m at right now

It just felt like I needed to check in here.

Maybe it’s to check in with whoever is reading this (hellooo? Who are you?) Or maybe it’s just to check in with myself. It’s been a mad busy summer and although I am SUPER sad to start feeling it getting that much darker in the mornings and evenings, I’m looking forward to a slight change of pace.

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Hooray though that it’s still relatively warm these days, WELL DONE LONDON!! #noddybadge
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I really wish I had more time to blog regularly/consistently. Although it’s never really a question of time, it’s a question of priority and in the last few months/year blogging has not been my main priority – so thought I would unpack everything else that’s gone on to keep me away from this beloved blog space.

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In July I launched my first Yoga Guide. There was a lot of work, effort, time and money that went into creating these guides and I’m super proud of the finished product. I have been really enjoying engaging with everyone on the Facebook group and have loved all their positive feedback about using the guides at home. I’d like to dedicate a little bit more focus on the marketing and sales funnels of these guides – this is totallllly not my forté, so it will be more of a challenge for me, but one that I welcome with open arms as it’s a product that I really believe in, and one that I know will help many people develop a solid home yoga practice. I have so many crazy-beautiful ideas to expand on this, but ya know… one step at a time.

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HUSBAND:
I am not sure why I decided to make this an entire topic, but I just thought I wanted to put out there that I’m continuously reminded of how lucky I am to have such an amazing guy choose me. (As I type this, I am actually busy sending him some clues which will lead to a postcode, which is where I will be taking him tomorrow night to celebrate some business goals I’ve smashed in this last little while  – but that’s a whole other blog post on it’s own.) We are in a good place ol’ husband and I, and we have a few (potential) exciting new adventures lined up in the next while. Eeeee!). We are a good team, especially because I find his habit of making sure that NOTHING ON THE DRYING RACK IS TOUCHING ANYTHING ELSE, NOT EVEN BY A MILLIMETRE rather hilarious and cute.

BUSINESS STUFF:
Mid September I’m heading to the National Wedding show to exhibit my bespoke wedding guestbooks indieLoveBooks. I’m rather nervous as I’ve never done a show before. I am presuming that the best way to get people to see your product is to literally step out into the galley way and pounce them with it. This style of guerrilla marketing is completely out my comfort zone. So, we’ll see how it goes… in any case, I’m going to work on my tiger leap in front of the mirror. Probably naked.

I have been working to shift indieBerries.com into a portfolio site with all my graphic work. When I say “I have been working” I mean, “the-guys-at-class-castle-have-got-everything-ready-for-me-but-I’ve-done-nothing-yet” . I have blogged for years over at indieberries.com and it was sad to take it all down, but it just makes sense for me to do it like this. I have been transferring some of the old content from indieberries over to this blog space under the “personal life” tab. I’ve been so grateful in the last few months to be working on exciting branding projects and graphics for some small businesses and I can’t wait to share what we’ve been creating together! Think: Occupational therapists, personal trainers, yoga teachers and baby-clothing lines. Speaking of which:

BABIES:
Is it just me or is there suddenly like a WHOLE lot more babies popping out everywhere? SO many pregnant people and people having babies (and even people who haven’t told me they are pregnant, but I just KNOW they are pregnant <- this has happened three times in the last month. I’m not even going to lie, I DREAMT that a friend was pregnant and it was so strong and so vivid and so real that I felt the urge to tell her: she was all like “LOL, oh hellll no! And then a month later she messaged me back to say, “oh, turns out you were right, that was a surprise! Could you dream me winning the lotto”. I’m all like:

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Actually though, when I found out that Rachel Brathen was pregnant, it honestly took me a few days to process it. Like, “No, she’s the young, carefree, travelling hippie-yogi – she can’t be pregnant! How can she be a mother?! I thought those things were mutually exclusive!??!” Are they not? Can you still have a life and have a baby? I’ve been contemplating this LONG and hard over the past few weeks. It’s such a difficult thing to weigh up, and how long do we have to make that decision, before the decision is made for us –  through ya know, age an’ all. So bottom line, babies everywhere.

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INDIA:
Those who are signed up to my monthly newsletter (link at the bottom of this post), may have read about my decision to study in India for a month at the beginning of next year… (CAN’T DO THAT WITH A BABY, CAN YOU?). I need to put all my thoughts, feelings, decisions into a whole long post about it all… but I’m excited… and a little nervous.. but mainly excited… but also nervous. I will be sharing the schools etc that I have looked at and the very specific reasons I am leaning towards the school that I am. I could um and aaaah about schools and trainings and things forever, but I’ve just decided just to get on with it and DO IT!

BALI RETREAT:
I am so incredibly excited for the Bali Retreat next year! This morning when I was doing a workout, a song came onto my playlist and I jumped up and thought “THAT IS A GREAT SONG FOR BALI YOGA!” So, level of excitement: I have started making yoga playlists 10.5 months in advance. Lol. There is such an incredible group of women joining us for soul, sun, surf and yoga – and I’m so excited for all the growth and love that will be happening in the gorgeous tropics of Bali! We have a few spaces left, and the first few have booked incredibly quickly, so get in touch if you want to join us for a week of awesomeness. (DO IT, see above.)

BIG CHANGES, (MAYBE):
There may (or may not) be a big change coming for Warren and I in the next few months. An exciting (scary) change which will take some adapting and some adventure… I won’t share too much more about it, until it’s all sorted out, but shifts on the horizon for sure… Excitement!

Warren and I also actually have quite a few travel adventures in the near future – every year Warren and his dad have an annual fishing trip and this year, his mom (after a few years of FOMO, I’m guessing) has decided to fly out Warren’s London sister and I to meet her and the South African Sister for a 5 day hiking trail along the Koeberg Mountains. I’ve already been measured for my hiking poles, if you must know. I’ve been trying to convince everyone that I don’t need ACTUAL hiking boots, like, running shoes will be fine – but they are not convinced. haha. Anyway, I’m really looking forward to it! And we are ending off with a treat of a spa break at Brookdale in the Natal Midlands. YAY!! :)

There are a few other little local travels around the corner for us, and after that I’m looking forward to things slowing down and gearing up for another year of intentioned living. I was reflecting back on the intention I set for myself at the beginning of this year and cannot believe how it has all manifested so strongly. Will share more soon.

With love

x

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How to start yoga at home

If you’ve ever tried to start a yoga practice at home, you may (at some time or other) run into the following ahem… “roadblocks”. Although this post is titled how to start yoga at home – (as I will share with you something I wish I had had when I first started practicing yoga at home), this post is probably more aptly titled, “What a REAL home yoga practice actually looks like”

Yoga Home Practice Roadblock 1:

 

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It’s been a long day, you get home and you’re exhausted. You promised yourself you’d practice yoga, but then in the distance you hear the couch softly whispering your name… in your imagination, the whiff of hot buttered popcorn suddenly infiltrates your senses and faster than you can say “Netlix-on-a-Thursday” -it’s game over:
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And so on… until it’s several Wednesday’s passed and that imprint in the couch is looking rather dubious. Wouldn’t it be great if your home yoga practice had some way to keep you accountable? Some way of following a certain schedule, giving you specific things to do each day or merely inspiration to keep you motivated to continually keep rolling out your mat?

Yoga Home Practice Roadblock 2:
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You finally make it onto your mat – you’re all fired up to have an awesome epic yoga self practice at home – without the guidance of a teacher! You get onto your mat – do your epic “Omming” that you’ve practiced so much in yoga class, and then…

Nothing.

You have no idea what to do, what comes next and how to even begin creating a yoga flow for yourself without a teacher.

Possibly you stand on your mat for a few breaths, trying to figure out which foot goes where and if any pose will pop into your head and then after a lack of sequencing knowledge and inspiration you give up….
ahem, did somebody say “Netflix-on-a-Thursday”?

Yoga Home Practice Roadblock 3:
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Maybe you’ve overcome the first two hurdles of creating a yoga home practice. Perhaps you’ve found a way to keep yourself accountable and maybe you’ve figured out the structure of the yoga practice and the general rules that govern a Vinyasa Flow – but then there is feeling safe whilst practicing. Knowing the correct alignment  – the correct foot positioning, the correct hip positioning and knowing the common errors to look out for when practicing so that you can do so safely and securely. Practicing with correct alignment is super important when we are practicing yoga at home.

Yoga Home Practice Roadblock 3:
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Distractions. Boy, there is nothing like a yoga home practice to bring up a mountain of distractions – dogs, cats, tiny humans, dishes, washing, TV, internet-in-general, Netflix-on-a-Thursday. 

I know what it’s like to try and start a yoga home practice. I’ve been there, done that, got the couch imprints.
It can be super tough trying to teach yourself yoga from the comfort of your own home without the correct tools or information.

This is the exact reason why I created the Ché Dyer Yoga Guides to help guide yogis through learning to teach themselves yoga at home. It includes detailed pose analysis, common errors and postural corrections. But apart from this it includes tips for staying motivated, a 10 week yoga scheduled diary with different exercises to do each day to slowly build you up into creating your own Vinyasa Flows at home. We look at the structure of a class, creative sequencing (with a list of 25 different exercises to elicit creative sequencing) and inspirational yoga flow charts. As well as this we look at Power Yoga and Restorative Yoga Sessions – so that you can start tailoring your home practice to exactly what you need.

If you opt for the full guide – you will also be invited to a private Facebook group where you will have access to me if you need support throughout your journey. So far in the Facebook group, I have shared detailed videos on the breath, music playlists and other useful tidbits to a growing community of awesome yogis!  I’d love for you to join us! Click here to purchase the guides!

Download a free Yoga Flow Chart!

Sign up to find out more about how to develop your home yoga practice including the 3 most important things to think about, the secret to creative sequencing and tips for staying motivated to keep practicing every day! When you sign up you'll receive one of the pages from my guide - an "Inspiration Yoga Flow chart"

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Yoga retreat to Tuscany: 10 random lessons I learnt

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It’s been a BUSY last few months! In fact, a CRAZY busy last few months leading up to the launch of my Yoga Guides (more on that to come!). June was packed filled with finalising Yoga Guides, Arm Balance workshops, graphic work, wedding guestbooks and a retreat to Tuscany with Anna Marsh of Anna Marsh Nutrition.

I’m so back-logged with things to do (3 miles long) and awesome things to post and share of what we’ve been up to (hint: wedding dress adventures) , but thought I would get this up before August ran away with me too!

Given that the retreat was a little while ago now, it’s given me a good bit of time to reflect on it all – so I’d love to share 10 random things I learnt from my first international retreat.

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Firstly I just wanted to jump right in there and say how very grateful I am to Anna for inviting me to teach on her Ladies that Lift retreat.  There is actually a huge amount of trust that goes into hosting an international retreat – (trust that the venue is not going to be a giant scam, trust that people will sign up and join, trust that people will all just get along, trust that things will go smoothly, and then trust that things will work the way they should – even when they don’t go smoothly) so thank you to Anna for trusting me to guide the yoga for you. I felt very privileged to be able to teach such an amazing group of women!

Anna Marsh is like a very wise ol’ Marsh Owl. (Although I’d say definitely slightly blonder, a bit more blue-eyed and not so conducive to being awake passed 10pm 😛 but the wisdom – man, it’s all there!) She has really cultivated such an amazing community of women through her ladies that lift program –
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I learnt so much on this retreat: from Anna and from the ladies on the retreat and I’m so grateful to have been part of it.

On the first day, we wrote down all our fears about the retreat, alongside anything positive that could be used to reframe it. Every day after practice there was time offered for journaling and reflective time of gratitude.

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There are a lot more funny stories that I want to share from this retreat – and they will come soon but for now I just wanted to share 10 (random) things I learnt from this retreat
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1. It is possible to drink more water
I am not great at drinking water, but somehow this retreat made me drink a WHOLE heap more water. Perhaps it was the increased heat (HOORAY, SUMMER AT LAST!!) or maybe it was the fact that I was seeing every other woman with a giant water bottle getting in their litres. It did motivate me to drink a whole bunch more H20. I’ve now tried to subliminally message myself at home by leaving water bottles lying all over the house. Husband thinks this is a *wonderful* thing.

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2. Metabolic Flexibility is WAY important
I did mention beforehand that Anna is like a wise ol’ Marsh owl. Most evenings we had a workshop of some kind led by her (and her brains). The first evening was on Metabolic Flexibility and I just hung out on the floor, hanging off every word Anna had to say – trying to soak everything in like an absorbent sponge-bob.
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Without going into too much detail the bottom line is: eat your greens. And then eat your reds, browns, purples, yellows and whites too. Don’t put on a jersey the second you get cold, let your body sweat a little before you blast the fan. Vary your meal times, try a fast once in a while.  Change up your exercise habits: sprints, slow, intense, fast, weights, cardio, trick the body. Keep your routine fluid, keep the body flexible. (For a more science (aka “legit”) version, I would recommend Anna’s facebook page)
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3. There is always something to be learned.

If I’m honest, I was rather nervous coming into this retreat. Apart from the fact that many of the women on the retreat have been working closely with Anna for some time now – I was slightly nervous that I had never met any of them before, never practiced yoga with any of them before, had never seen any of their bodies in movement before. It was also quite challenging for me (especially in the first few days) between trying to teach in a way that I thought Anna wanted/expected me to teach versus the way in which I would naturally teach. I learnt a lot about myself in that process.

Of course there are always things to be learned: science things, metabolic flexibility, biorhythms and mitochondria, etc – of course we can always learn about those things. But the learning I am referring to is something much deeper. The things we learn about ourselves. The deeper learning. The self knowledge that comes from viewing situations as opportunities for growth, development and constant self improvement. The learning that takes place when we are truly connected to others. Because when we are connected to others the way in which they step into challenges can inspire and light that fire in us too. We learn from others and we learn through others.

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4. Community is Everything

Find your tribe. And then support the shit out of each-other. Anna has created an amazing tribe of women through her program.

And that’s all I have to say about that.
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5. Gelato is Better in Italy

When the nutritionist says it’s cool to eat gelato in Italy – you eat the Gelato in Italy.
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(double scoop of delicious, if you please)

Speaking of food –

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Did somebody say gluten-free, flourless, pear and almond chocolate tart? Holy Cannoli, food on retreat was amazing!

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7. If you are not sure of the directions, do not walk there in flip flops in 1000 degree heat.
We walked to the “corner store”. Which we thought was around the “corner”.  We walked. And then we walked. And then we walked. And then we walked. And then we walked some more. We realised we might die in the wilderness of Tuscany with only one bottle of water for the whole gang and no cell phone reception to call the rescue choppers. I got blisters EVERYWHERE (which matched quite nicely with my mosquito bites, if I’m truly honest). But we DID saw a dead snake en route, so that made it all worthwhile.

Guess ya had to be there. Lol 😉

Note: we were on the longest walk in the world to find some semblance of cell phone signal… unrelated:



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8. Virtual unplugging is good for the soul

After realising how far the nearest reception-joint was, I quickly came to the conclusion that virtual unplugging is actually rather good for the soul.

But, jokes aside – having a week completely removed from technology, social media, notifications, messages and alerts is SO good for the soul. I spent more than a week without checking instagram, without posting to social media, without sending a single email. And you know what? The moon didn’t fall out the sky, the sun still came up, the world went on, and probably really no-one even missed me at all. (Except maybe Warren, haha). SO refreshing to take a break from technology. And very scary how quickly you can get sucked back in.

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9. You can plan as much as you like, but at the end of the day you’ve gotta be open to change.

I spent a long time in the lead up to the retreat going over class plans and things I wanted to teach in the classes and how I thought I would run them. But then I arrived and met everyone, watched everyone move as best I could and then had to make adjustments and changes to what I thought I would teach and the classes I had planned along the way. Yes, plan and prepare, but I also think it’s very important to leave yourself open to adapt to what comes. This is not limited to teaching yoga classes, but being open to  new situations, and life in general when things that don’t work out quite the way you thought they would.

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10 Always, ALWAYS keep pushing out that bubble of fear

Doing something for the first time is always scary. Hosting an international retreat. Teaching on an international yoga retreat. Signing up and attending an international yoga retreat. We’ve all heard the saying “every day do something that scares you”. And whilst I believe that is true – when it comes to something like the physical yoga practice I think it’s always good to work within safe boundaries. BUT, it’s important to keep expanding those safe boundaries. Work to the limit of those safe boundaries as if it’s a giant bubble that you are continuously pushing out, blowing out, expanding – making space for yourself to grow.

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Mornings filled with yoga, days filled with lounging by the pool in the Tuscan Sunshine, hikes, trips to the markets, good conversations, evenings filled with delicious food & wine, learning, sharing and laughing with an incredible group of women. I’m so thankful to all of you for being so open to me!

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Thank you so much for having me on your retreat Anna!
It was such an incredible experience of learning, love and growth.
You are truly a rockstar Marsh Owl.

xo xo

ps – most of these pics are mine and some are a mix from everyone who was on retreat – they’ve all been put into single dropbox folder so I’m not sure who took what to be able to credit individually – but I’m sending you some kudos for snapping them!

Creating your own home yoga practice

Sign up to find out more about how to develop your home yoga practice including the 3 most important things to think about, the secret to creative sequencing and tips for staying motivated to keep practicing every day! When you sign up you'll receive one of the pages from my guide - an "Inspiration Yoga Flow chart"

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16 things I learnt from giving up drinking for 3 months

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So, I’m not sure if you heard or not (it’s been a busy few months) but I gave up drinking for a quarter of the year.
The pic above was snapped on the recent retreat with Anna Marsh Nutrition – which was when I had decided to end my three-month-sober-stint.

What is is like giving up alcohol completely for 3 months?

Of course, at ones ripe age of 30, post three years of marriage, the first assumption people make is that one simply MUST be pregnant. There is no alternative to this scenario: If you are married, 30, and decline a drink, you WILL be asked if a baby is on the way. Sometimes I think it’s actually just easier to go along with it and say, “yep”. Than delve into the list of reasons why you aren’t choosing to slam a tequila down your face.

And in any case I think that people are generally (and honestly) more satisfied with the response, “because I’m growing a creature inside me for the next 9 months, that will radically change the course of my entire life” than the response, “because I just don’t feel like it.”

Alcohol is a funny thing. It’s one of those rare things that people like to Spanish Inquisition you on. It doesn’t happen with many things (except perhaps with the choice of eating less meat). For example the following scenario would never play out the way it does with drinking:
Sally and Sue go out to movies.
Sally orders popcorn and Sue opens her handbag and pulls out a bag of dried fruit.
Sally is shocked. This is an outrage! Something must definitely be wrong.
“Sue! Why aren’t you eating popcorn?” Says Sally.
“I just don’t feel like it” says Sue.
(We have already established this is not a satisfactory answer, so Sally persists.)
“But WHY? We are at the movies! It’s popcorn. At the movies. Are you feeling ill? Do you have a fever? Are you coming down with something. You must be pregnant. Are you? You’re pregnant, aren’t you? Have you had an allergic reaction? Are you on medication?”
“No” says Sue.
“But then WHY don’t you want to eat the popcorn?! You ate popcorn last time we came to the movies?! I just don’t understand!! You’re leaving me to eat popcorn all alone! You’ve changed.”

Sue does not feel like eating popcorn and THAT IS OK.

Sally can eat all the popcorn she wants. Sue not eating the popcorn does not affect Sally in any way possible. Sue is happy to not eat the popcorn. It is her choice. Yet, Sally must now definitely figure out for sure the reason why Sue is not eating the popcorn because to be honest, it is making Sally rather upset and irritable and she feels awkward eating popcorn alone.

Let me tell you a bit about my story:

Why did I decide to give up drinking?

At the beginning of April I decided to stop drinking. (Full disclaimer: I also decided that I wanted to celebrate my 3rd year wedding anniversary with my husband on 6 April. So that was my one day of grace.)

From April 7th until Thursday 30th June (the day we arrived in Tuscany for The yoga retreat with Anna Marsh) I intentionally cut out all alcohol. I have hired a business coach (Jen Carrington) over this time, I had big plans to get my yoga E-Course up and running (coming soon!), and I was intending to invest a little bit more time into my general health and fitness- adding in a little bit more weight training and cardio to supplement my yoga practice. With these three main goals, it just seemed like alcohol was a little bit of a hindrance. And to be honest, I was quite interested in the challenge of “can I actually do this?”

Before I paint myself into the picture of a raging alcoholic, I’d like to share my average drinking habits prior to this:

During the week, generally no alcohol consumption. On the odd occasion (“hooray, the sun is out!”) maybe a drink (or two) mid-week, although that would probably only happen once every 2-3 weeks.

Drinking over the weekends was generally more frequent- any social gathering that “required” drinking, I’d drink a glass or two (or three). Social events including: friends lunches, birthday dinners, engagement dinners, catch ups, farewells, reunions, house warmings, summer parties, Christmas parties, Halloween parties, Hen’s parties, weddings, Easter parties, barbecues, baby showers. There are a lot of social events ya know. (Sometimes these if these events occur during the week that would mean a drink on a school night). Sometimes on the weekend, if it was just a lovely day and Warr and I had taken an afternoon walk in the sunshine, we’d somehow end up at a pub with spot in the sun and a glass of wine in hand.

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I absolutely don’t believe that drinking socially like this is too bad for you, but I think it’s very interesting to see what a difference NOT drinking can have for you.

Here are 16 things I have learnt from giving up alcohol for 3 months

1. Alcohol is completely unnecessary.
You don’t need alcohol to have fun. I promise. You think you do, but you really, truly don’t. You’ll have to take my word on that if you aren’t willing to give it up. (See point 3)

2. Alcohol is also a lot of fun.
Although, after this little self-experiment I think alcohol is completely unnecessary, I have also come to learn that a (small) smattering of wine can be good fun between friends.

3. We rely WAY too much on alcohol as social lubricant.
When was the last time someone invited you out for a walk in the park? We have become so conditioned to lump socialising and drinking into the very same box that it can actually be quite difficult trying to separate them. Socialising is not the same as drinking. Drinking is not the same as socialising.

4. People are WAY more concerned with your decision to not drink than they should be.
This is such an interesting thing that came up for me. For the most part, I think people were very curious about my decision not to drink. And probably some people are still waiting for me to make a big baby announcement – (No, for the 17th time I’m not pregnant). People have a hard time dealing with someone who has made an active decision against (let’s face it) a rather big social norm. The fact that drinking is the social norm is largely part of the problem for people to wrap their heads around.

5. You may feel weird for not drinking in a social setting – it will VERY quickly pass.
In a social setting (birthday party/ wedding/ dinner/ farewell etc), where you may be the only one not drinking, you may likely feel a bit awkward at first ordering your soda and lime hanging out at the bar trying to be cool. Particularly when everyone is asking you for the 15th time why you are not drinking (see above). After your second “drink” (woohoo hydration!), when everyone else is also on drink number 2, everyone else has just reached that point when they no longer care that you are not drinking. They are headed to possibly a night of fun, possibly a night ending in tears and drama, but definitely waking up groggy to a headache, for sure. You on the other hand are more likely headed to a night of fun (since you still have full awareness and control of all your emotions) and you are definitely waking up feeling fresh and full of vitality. See below. The first weekend of April when I had decided to give up drinking was a friends birthday party out in a club and a hens night the following night (threw myself right in here), I probably felt a bit weird to start and then the more events I went to not drinking the less and less it bothered me, or the less and less awkward I felt. In fact, feeling comfortable with not drinking strangely made other (drinking) people more awkward about themselves drinking. (“What, she’s still not drinking? What is she doing? Why is she doing this? How is she enjoying herself with no alcohol? It can’t be that fun. Not drinking on a hens night for NO reason? Why?! That doesn’t make any sense”). Warren decided to give up drinking for about a month and a half while I was mid way through this – (of his own accord), if I’m honest I think he found it slightly more tricky in social settings to be the guy not drinking. I think maybe I had just already reached the level, I don’t really care what my not drinking brings up in other people. That’s their thing, not mine.

6. Your levels of energy without alcohol will be through the roof.
You’ll have to take my word for it – once you’ve caught me coming down from my hill sprints, obviously.

7. Your sleep will improve. Definitely.
We have already established how I am SO not a morning person. (see here). On an average weekend, prior to giving up drinking Warren and I would probably get up lazily mid morning around 9 or 10 and eventually make our way out of bed around 10 or 11 unless we specifically had somewhere to be. When we were both alcohol free, we just magically woke up around 7 or 8am on the weekends, bright eyed, bushy tailed and ready to CARPE THE SHIT OUT OF THIS DIEM.

8. You will have infinite more focus.
Productivity x 100!!!

9. You will feel less inclined to stay out until 2am swinging from the rafters.
Every birthday/ party/ wedding/ farewell/ engagement etc that we were invited to during this time – that we could attend – we attended. We had an awesome time with the special guest, we jammed, we chatted with them, laughed with them, socialised with other guests, we partied, we danced. Yes, we probably left the party around midnight rather than staying out until 3am, but to be fair most people around midnight with 5 or 6 (or ten) drinks in, are very unlikely to notice you leaving. And in any case – if I’m staying out until 2am drinking to “bond with you”, there is the very strong possibility that I’m not really going to remember much from 12 – 2am anyway. Just sayin.

10. Snapchats are more hilarious with alcohol.
On the other hand – if I’m honest, snapchatting is more hilarious with alcohol, so there’s that. Too bad you’ve missed the “I blame my mother” speech on snap chat last weekend. (Add me for future drunken escapades (maybe): che_dyer)

11. We create strong habits around alcohol.
These habits are often strongly linked with socialising and how social events often (unfortunately) tend to revolve around drinking. But we can also create these habits unconsciously for ourselves. Get home from work, have a glass of wine. The sun is out – (hooray!) walk to the pub for a glass of wine. The habit of drinking becomes ingrained. And when we ingrain a habit that anyway has an addictive slant, it’s a double edged sword.
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12. At some point you will probably feel like a strong drink.
Probably around the 2 month mark for me (when Warren had also given it up for some time) I had the VERY strong urge to just quit and have a glass of wine. Possibly coupled with a stressful week and a bad case of the PMS’s. I didn’t. Although looking back now, I think the fact that Warren was also not drinking suddenly made it feel like it was this entirely forbidden thing that we could NEVER EVER HAVE, EVER. Which obviously made me feel like I DEFINITELY NEED IT RIGHT NOW. I don’t really need it. That was probably the PMS talking.

13. Generally it is more difficult for others to come to terms with your not drinking than it is to actually give up drinking.
Man, this was the overriding thing that keeps coming back to me. After chatting about my experience with Warren after getting back from the retreat, he asked if I would continue drinking or not. My initial response was I think yes – I will continue drinking, but on the occasions that I want to. Not just because it is a birthday/hen’s party/ wedding/engagement. If by chance it is one of those occasions and i DO feel like drinking then I will! But otherwise, I won’t.

He replied with, “I think that might upset some people. As in – ‘why are you drinking on her birthday, but you’re not drinking on my hen’s night?'” – And THAT my friends, is EXACTLY the problem. We have come to use alcohol as a token of solidarity. What I choose to put in my body has such a strange effect on everyone else – who also have the same free choices. It somehow makes people rather edgy when you are standing confidently at a bar with your lime and soda having a great time whilst they are on their 3rd drink.  Your not drinking does not affect others one tiny bit, although strangely it really does affect everyone else. Why? What is it about my actions that makes you edgy about your own?

In fact during my “non-drinking stint” I had a lot of conversation directed at me (particularly when out with friends for dinners/parties etc) with, “We’ll have to come back here when you are drinking again”. Why? I’m here right now, having a good time! Making choices that I want to make for myself. I am perfectly capable of enjoying myself to the max without booze. Difficult to explain this to people who haven’t tried it for an extended period of time but alcohol-free-living-is-a-high-vibe-life!

14. You will at some point forget that alcohol makes you think you feel awesome, because you will just FEEL awesome.
Read that sentence again.

15. Alcohol is the gateway to bad eating.
When you feel good about yourself, you fuel yourself with amazing nourishing foods. Removing alcohol makes you feel really good: physically, emotionally, mentally. (#depressant) When you feel crap about yourself, you eat rubbish. Plus, nothing says hangover cure like half a pizza, a plate of greasy chips and a litre of coke. Am I right? Also as an aside, if you’re into calorie counting – take a google for “wine cals”. Holy Cannoli. (Side Note: you are likely better off eating three trays of cannolis than an average glass of wine)

16. At some point you will reach a deep knowing that you absolutely 100% don’t need alcohol and you feel so much better for it.
After two months of not drinking, I honestly felt amazing and really truly knew that I’m SO much better off without it. But I also don’t want to become too restrictive with myself because fek, I do enjoy myself a glass of wine (and the odd drunken snapchat).

Going forward…
This was such an interesting experiment for me. It taught me so much about myself, about my level of focus and energy and the way my body can feel when functioning optimally. I know what it’s like to wake up early on a Saturday with loads of energy and vitality and the weekends just got SO much longer when there isn’t a huge chunk of it spent lazing in a pub (or sleeping it off under the covers).

Going forward, yes I will still drink when I feel like it. And it’s not something I feel the need to restrict myself on. I will however be very cautious about creating habits with alcohol. Just because I’m at a social gathering will not automatically (habitually) qualify me to drink. If I want to have a drink, I will. If I don’t want to – I won’t. This may be tricky for people to understand – and it certainly won’t be a favouritism thing of “drinking at this event and not that event” but it will just be about me making conscious choices for myself to get the most out of this one little life we have!

What are your thoughts on drinking? How much would you drink usually? Have you ever given up drinking for an extended period of time? Would you try it? Could you do it?
(Since starting drinking ‘regularly’ around 18 – this is the longest period (1/4 of a year!) I have been without alcohol for 12 years and it was really enlightening!) I’m really interested to hear any/ all of your thoughts on this! Leave a comment or post something on my facebook page!

Can’t wait to share more about the retreat!

How to stay inspired: Friday Inspire Day – detox your drawer

Happy Friday ye folk of the internet!

Let me start this off by saying I am the first to admit that I am a messy cat. So today’s little ‘amp of inspiration’ may be totally irrelevant to you, but my guess is that everybody has some teeny tiny little gremlin they can use to shake up the inspiration factor.

This week, I made an effort to detox my make up bags.

Yes, that’s it.

Because here’s the thing – the environment in which we exist affects us on a subconscious level – and although I’m not generally that bothered by mess (my husband, mother and all former housemates can fully attest to that) – MAN does it feel great when things are spick and span.

I decided to start small. And I’d encourage you to too for this week’s challenge! I cleaned out my make up bags. There were three of them, overloaded with broken blush, pencil, smearings of eye pencil and generally pretty grubby, with loads of stuff. I cleared them all out. Washed out all the bags, hung them up to dry, threw away the rubbish and then ended up with make up that fitted into the one smallest bag.

This is the entire contents of my make up collection below – I have no idea if it is a little or a lot. If I was a beauty blogger, I would carefully label and highlight all the different products, but quite honestly I couldn’t be arsed.

So my challenge for you this week is to freshen up a space. It could be a cupboard, a shelf, a bedside table, or it could even be as small as a handbag or makeup bag. (I don’t know what the boy equivalent of that is – but we do have a man-drawer that is currently overflowing). SO that is the challenge.

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Physical Detox. A drawer, a space, a shelf, a zone. Clean out, clear out, get rid of unnecessary. Give away, throw away, make space for new. Wash it, cleanse it, scrub it clean. Wipe down, refresh, reset. Discover old things, discover long forgotten things. Use them, or toss them. Repack things, replace them in a meaningful, careful, intentioned manner. Start again fresh. – Pic snapped at home, Friday 3rd June 2016.

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How to stay inspired: Friday Inspire Day, morning unplugged.

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This Friday edition of ‘how to stay inspired’ is something that has been super helpful for me personally in the last little while. Let me first begin by telling you how much I love my bed in the mornings. It’s not that I think that mornings are inherently terrible, it’s just that my bed in the morning is so inherently wonderful. My ideal working hours would exist somewhere between 10am to 3am if I’m totally honest. Usually the thing that (eventually) gets me out of bed is my phone going off – my one-half-eye trying to open to push the snooze button.

(I’m generally very flirtatious with this little snooze button, and have been known to come back for more on several luscious occasions.)

Once the snooze button has managed to defeat me and the bright screen of my phone has infiltrated enough into my brain to get my eyelids to open, then do I really wake up. And, well, since my phone is in my hand at this point, I guess it just makes sense to scroll through instagram.

This possibly isn’t quite the picture you had in your mind of the go-getter-morning-vitality-RISE-WITH-THE-LARKS-one-thousand-burpees-before-sunrise-kale-smoothie-yoga-teacher image you had in mind. Sorry about that. I am working on it. Summer does make it infinitely easier.

Over the last few weeks, I have bought myself an alarm clock. An actual alarm clock. With a ringer so loud, that I think I actually sleep half the night on edge, making sure to CATCH it before it wakes up the ENTIRE building. I leave my phone in the other room and wake up without the internet being the first thing I consume. So far it is honestly working wonders for me and creates such a different shift for me for the rest of my day – so I’d like to offer it to you as this Friday Inspire day….

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Buy an alarm clock. A real one. Make it loud, make it snoozeless. Figure out how to set it, (it takes a while). Remove the phone, take it out of the equation. Wake up unplugged. Wake up disconnected. Wake up more connected, to your body in the bed, to the breath in the body, to the movements of the day. Breathe in the day. Make the first movements of your day, without technology, without checking in, but completely checking in. Rise, Shine, set intentions for your day. – pic snapped @home, 25 May 2016 

Protein Powder Chia seeds and coconut oil protein bars

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Let me begin this post by saying that I am possibly the least “kitchen” person you know. I’d have a hard time telling a blender from a baster if it wasn’t specifically spelled out in letters.

But, given my new mindfulness of the food I consume, I’ve been slightly more adventurous (read: mouse about in the kitchen) with regards to trying to find some healthy snacks and alternatives to highly processed sugary treats.

We have a whole stash of chia seeds and protein powder at home, so over the weekend I decided I wanted to try mash up something that would use those ingredients. I did a bit of googling and found this recipe. (I’m so kitchen un-savvy that I literally had no idea what to even google – protein muffin? coconut bar? snack-seed thing?)

At first I thought I was going to be following the recipe exactly, but shortly after starting, I realised I was very quickly about to turn rogue. Here’s what I did:

Ingredients:
8 dates (pitted) – whacked in the blender
2 tablespoons of coconut oil, mix it into the date blend.
1/2 cup chia seeds – mix it in with the date and coconut oil mixture.

At this point, I had followed the recipe and ended up with a very tiny ball of stuff – which made me think that aforementioned recipe maker has got it all wrong. Enter Rogue recipe-hacking.

Add handful of linseeds (they were in the cupboard)

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Add one scoop of chocolate protein powder (everybody loves protein)

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Add a handful of pumpkin seeds (why not?)

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Add handful of sunflower seeds, goji berries and a sprinkle more linseeds (because, when you’re on a roll, you’re on a roll)

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Roast some almonds in the oven (because, HOLLA – FANCY)

Whack handful of roasted almonds in the blender
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Add roasted almonds to mixture.
Mix
Add about a teaspoon more coconut oil to bind it together.

Spread onto greased baking tray
Score with a knife into squares (slightly more tricky to score neatly when there are big chunks of nuts and seeds, but who cares about neat, right?)

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Whack into freezer for about 20 mins, or until set

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Break along the score lines

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Enjoy with your favourite cuppa!

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These are SO super easy to make and are full of whole foods, nuts and seeds. To me the chocolate flavoured protein powder makes them taste like chocolate squares and there is no processed sugar at all. Protein, nuts, goji berry goodness! The chia seeds also make them surprisingly filling – and they provide hours of post-eating entertainment as you try and fish them out your teeth.

It’s an all round win really!
Give it a go!

What recipes do you know that are healthy, (quick) and easy?! I’d love to hear! Please leave me any links in the comments below or let me know your favourites via instagram or post some on my Facebook Page – I’d love to test them out!

Dear Yoga Teachers, I’m sorry…

For the most part, my yoga practice began at home, in my lounge – (with the help of instagram). I practiced at home until I found stability in poses like wheel pose (urdhva dhanurasana) and headstand (viva practicing against the couch!). Once I had ‘practiced enough’ I made my first very brave steps into an actual yoga studio (which was oddly terrifying and not at all calming like I had expected! lol.)

On one of my first ever yoga-teacher led classes I heard the yoga teacher say, “If you practice wheel pose, feel free to come into wheel now. If you don’t practice wheel, then feel free to come into a bridge pose.”

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I looked around at everyone and silently thought to myself, “well this yoga teacher is a bit unfair – it feels like an either/or situation. Either you practice wheel. Or you don’t. What about all those people in this room who WANT to practice wheel but just don’t know how to get into it?” Surely if you’re one of those people you would be thinking, “How do I do wheel pose?”
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I knew pretty early on that I wanted to one day teach yoga and in that moment, I made a little note to myself that if I was ever a yoga teacher that I would never use the phrase, “if you practice wheel pose” or “if headstand is in your practice” or “if you have crow pose”. Because it completely cuts out the people who “don’t have it in their practice” but would really like it in their practice.

Fast forward a few years.

A little while ago, I was covering a class in a yoga studio – it was to a group of yogis I had never taught before and a collection of bodies I do not know. I had no idea where exactly each of these individuals are in their yoga practice, what they have learnt up to now and what they feel like practicing in this session. And, I realised, the most obvious (and arguably the most effective) way to offer this option to those people who have a good foundation of those poses already and would like to practice headstand/wheel/crow etc is by saying, “if you practice wheel pose, feel free to come into wheel.” Apologies yoga teachers, I get it now.

Because here is the thing – as a yoga teacher, I believe it’s important to give people the space to explore the postures they feel comfortable to do so. Everybody within the yoga class will be at different stages of their personal practice and by opening with “if X-pose is in your practice” it opens up the space for those people who are comfortable to explore it and signals to those people that they can get on with it, whilst it gives some time to the teacher to help those people who perhaps need a bit more help.

Simultaneously I also believe it is important that the phrase “if X-pose is in your practice…” is followed with “and if you are not practicing X pose today, but would like to at some point – here are several other alternatives W, Y and Z that can help you build strength to get into it one day.”

Another thing that largely frustrated me in my early days of first beginning to practice in yoga studios was the teacher saying, “… find Warrior One” or “we’ll make our way into Trikonasana, triangle pose” – as someone who was completely new to yoga – I had no idea what “warrior one” pose was or “triangle pose” was – and it seemed like everyone else knew what they were doing and where to put their feet, while I was trying to hustle it out. It frustrated me that the teacher just assumed that everyone knew what “warrior one” was. Looking back now – and particularly through the lens of being a yoga teacher – I should’ve realised the cue “find warrior one” – was not the cue that was intended for me – a complete beginner with no idea of the difference between my parsvottanasana and my parsvakonasana.

Even within a complete beginners yoga class, there will be some people in the room who have practiced several times and do know what a triangle pose looks like, whilst others who have practiced for the first time ever and have absolutely no idea what they are aiming for. The cue “come into triangle pose” is not intended for the complete beginner – but it gives a signal to the person who does know what it is – that this is where we are heading. The alignment cues for the complete beginner will usually follow (if the yoga teacher is correctly catering for all) with something like – “Come into triangle pose. Step the right foot out perpendicular to the top of the mat, left foot parallel to the short side of the mat…”

It is only in actually teaching yoga classes that I can fully understand and appreciate the complexity of managing a yoga class, the multitude of levels and body types present in every class and the need to keep the class flowing whilst still providing ample instruction for those who need it, whilst simultaneously creating space for those who need less instruction. To those yoga teachers who I judged in my early days of venturing to yoga studios – I’m sorry.

So the question is  “if wheel pose is not in your practice” and you don’t feel you have enough time within the class or enough alignment cues to help you figure it out – then how DO you ever ‘get that pose in your practice’? How do you practice wheel pose? How do you do headstand? How do you learn how to arm balance?

The first answer is to book a private yoga session with a yoga teacher you know/trust/like. They will very quickly be able to tell you any hindering factors that are slowing your progress and be able to give you specialised poses to assist you in your yoga journey based on your own needs.

The second answer is to book into a workshop. Yoga workshops are specialised days where teachers are able to “stop the flow” of a regular vinyasa class and fully break down specific poses through technical alignment, muscle group activation and provide more drill based exercises to assist in creating that space for growth targeted in a specific area.

But possibly, if I’m honest, the simplest answer is: practice. Keep returning to your yoga classes and see if you can tune into a second layer of instruction. Keep practicing. And then keep practicing some more.

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For those who would like to join me from 15h00 – 17h00 at an arm balancing workshop Saturday June 18th at Jiva in Wimbledon –
booking is now available via this website.
I’d love to practice with you!

How to Stay Inspired: Friday Inspire-Day

I have been thinking a lot about the purpose of this website lately. I have also been thinking a lot about the purpose and function of indieBerries.com (the personal/cartoon blog I’ve had for a long time now). There are big changes coming for both sites and I am feeling excited.

But let’s start with CheDyer.com.

For me, the purpose of this website is to be able to share the power of yoga. To teach yoga and it’s philosophy. To build a community of people who are invested in the things I wish to share and the way in which I teach. I want to share my experience of the connection between the philosophy of yoga and the poses that we practice on the mat in a way that makes a little bit of sense to the modern yogi. My aim is to show the impact yoga has had on my life in the hopes that it may inspire others to make space for it in their own lives.

My purpose for this website is to become a complete hub of yoga learning, of healthy lifestyle living and good dose of inspiration in the form of ideas, practices, new things to learn, activities to try, interesting things to implement, all with a little creative flair.

In line with this – I will be introducing a new weekly feature on this blog – “Friday Inspire Day”. Every week I will be sharing something small (or big!) to amp up the inspiration and keep you feeling inspired.

This first week, I’m sharing something so simple that it’s easy to overlook – The Solo Coffee Date
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Take yourself out for coffee. Alone. Go solo. Leave your headphones. Bring a notebook. Order something healthy, or order something indulgent. Sit Down. Really sit down – feel the weight of your body in the chair. Pause. Sip slowly. Turn off your phone. Observe. Draw lines. Become aware. Indulge in the luxury of just being. Resist the pull of Facebook/emails. Sip even slower. Be all in. – pic snapped at LuMa Cafe, Wimbledon. Friday 13th May 2016.

If you decide to take yourself out on a coffee date sometime this week – I’d love to hear about it.

 

5 things I’ve learnt from my first year as a yoga teacher

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In March of this year it was one year since I graduated as a new yoga teacher. In that time, (and even before actually graduating) I taught free classes in the garden and then on graduating, I have hosted yoga and Prosecco brunches, I have set up beginners yoga courses, and have taught more advanced yoga courses. I have covered classes in multiple yoga studios, corporate offices, community halls, Sweaty Betty stores and outdoor events. I have taught kids yoga classes and organised Christmas Flows with mince pies and mulled wine. I have taught private sessions in and around London and shared my knowledge and inspiration to the best of my ability. I have hosted and organised a weekend long yoga retreat, I have my first arm balance workshop coming up in June and at the end of June I am heading off to Tuscany to teach at my first international retreat hosted by Anna Marsh.

In the year and a half that I have been teaching so far I have learnt so much and I know that it is only the very tip of the iceberg of all the learning that is to come. But in any case, I thought I would share 5 things that I have learnt this far:

1. Finding the correct level to pitch a class is challenging
This will grow and change as your own yoga practice grows and changes, but it is something that I still struggle with. The style of class that you will gravitate towards teaching will usually be the style most suited to your own style of practice. Personally I prefer a more dynamic, sweaty flow (although this can change, depending on my mood/the season/the time of day etc), and as such, my practice has progressed physically. Through this physical progression I have had amazing ‘break-throughs’ (at the risk of sounding cliché) on a mental and emotional level and that is something that I hope to initiate in the yogis that practice with me. I LIKE to give physical challenges to the students that come to me because I believe that we are physically capable of SO much more than we think we are and I want students who practice with me to feel encouraged to explore that.

On the opposite end of that scale, you are possibly likely to end up in a class where you have five students who have the strength, stability and flexibility to move into more progressive poses and another three students who just want to GET THERE, regardless of where their body (strength, flexibility, support) is at right now. This can be an extremely challenging thing to manage – particularly if you are starting out and don’t have as much of an opportunity to separate classes into a beginner and an open level.
My advice: is to continually remind students to listen to their own bodies, to move with integrity and honesty in where they are at and to continually remind them that the “goal” of yoga is not the asana – it is just a tool to help us explore what is going on in all those layers underneath.
(Similarly it can be challenging if you have a group of students who have been with you for some time and have learnt and developed with you and you want to share more theory and philosophy and learning with them and then someone new drops into the class. Should you revert back to the fundamentals of the breath and breathing techniques (which you have already covered to the rest) for the new person or should you continue on with the more deeper philosophies you want to share?)

2. There will be times when you just don’t know what to do and you will feel out your depth
On graduating from your yoga teacher training you will have some knowledge of the body’s anatomy and the the structure and function of muscles within certain poses. And then you will get to a yoga class, with real people, real bodies and real energies and realise that you know very little. Students may approach you with various injuries/sprains/pains etc and you may not know how to help them best right away.
My advice: Know right now that your yoga teacher training is just the very beginning of a lifetime of learning. You are not a doctor (unless maybe you are), and it’s ok not to know everything, as long as you are committed to continual learning. (svadhyaya!) Many times things that you are taught as a ‘general cover all’ in a yoga teacher training are actually slightly different if you speak to physios/doctors/medical professionals. It is good to always keep your finger on the pulse of new debate and topics of conversation in this area. Stay current and dedicated to best serving your students.

3. Being a yoga teacher and filling classes of your own takes a certain amount of hustle
Teaching yoga and “being a yoga teacher” as an occupation are slightly different. Relying on teaching yoga to bring in an income definitely requires a certain amount of hustle. Particularly if this is the first time you are entering into the field of freelance entrepreneurship. You will need to hustle to find venues, to find clients, to market yourself, to create marketing material, to continuously keep people coming back to your classes and it can be hard work! You have to wear ALL the hats on your own and it can be tough.
My Advice: Learn to separate yourself as “the yoga teacher” and “the yoga business”. Dedicate at least an hour (or two!) a week to “the yoga business” – how are you getting new clients? What marketing are you putting into action? Who are you approaching? How are you getting your name out there? What else could you be doing? Is there some little bit of fear that is holding you back from something? Tap into that.

4. Doing yoga and being a yoga teacher are two COMPLETELY different things.
I would guess the story generally goes something like this: you arrive to your regular yoga class, have an amazing session and after a long indulgent savasana you sit up, gaze at your yoga-teacher in a starry-eyed-savasana-haze and think, “DAMN. What a life it must be to feel like this ALL. THE. TIME.” And within a few weeks you’ve signed up to do your yoga teacher training. Fast forward 200 hours and you’re teaching a yoga class – you are not at all focused on your breath, you are focused on making sure the guy at the back of the room is not torquing his knee into oblivion, simultaneously pulling back a hypermobile woman, whilst still trying to keep the flow of the class running as you adjust the volume of the music and try keep your eye on the clock. It is a very different experience doing yoga and teaching yoga – make no mistake.
My advice: Keep investing in your own practice to keep your love of yoga alive. When you suddenly start teaching multiple classes your perspective of yoga can shift from “this amazing thing you once knew” to “the-business-end-stress-of-how-am-I-going-to-pay-rent”. Keep coming back to the reason why you decided to do your training in the first place.

5. Find a system that works for you, and STICK to it.
I would say this was probably my biggest learning curve when it came to starting my own classes. I had a class pass policy that I was following with a 6 week beginners course with class passes paid up-front for a certain 6 week program carried over specific dates. It worked really well in the beginning – the classes were full and since it ran week to week with specific themes for each week, unfortunately if you missed a class, you missed out. Needless to say, very few people missed classes. I then began receiving emails from people to say that they would love to join a 6 week course, but that they were away for 2 of the weeks – could they carry over the classes? And then what about the person to mail me to tell me he/she is not feeling very well? Or the person who thought they might be (maybe) coming down with a little something on this sunny evening? Or the person who just didn’t really feel like practicing today? Could they transfer over their classes? This is a very tricky area and it can be very difficult when dealing with people face to face on this – but you also have overheads to cover to make ends meet. I am still learning.
My advice: find a system that works for you and STICK to it. Lay out all possible scenarios and have an answer for them before they arise. Sometimes you do (unfortunately) need to be a little bit hard so that people know to value your time and their own yoga practice. If you are running your own classes – you need to almost think of it like a gym. If you buy a membership to a gym for a month and don’t go – you wouldn’t exactly email the gym and ask them to please transfer it over to next month.

So those are five little things that I have learnt over this last year and a half. There are so many more things that I’ve learnt that are not on this list – the energy of people in a yoga class, the dynamic of a class, sequencing, class structuring, venue hiring, marketing – I’m going to be starting a section on this blog titled “Yoga Teacher Talk” where I will just be sharing my journey as a yoga teacher for those who are interested! I am also in the (slow) process of bringing over some personal content from indieberries.com (my cartoon/lifestyle blog) onto the “off the mat” category on this site –  so that everything sits together in a neat little hub. (Or so I hope, in my mind haha)

 

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For any new yoga teachers who are interested in working with me to create a branding package for your yoga teaching  – pop me a message [che.strawberries@gmail.com].
I am only taking on two people at the moment so that we can really hone in on exactly what you want and need for your yogi-business.

How to Win at Instagram Yoga

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The other day on my yoga instagram account, I received a well-meaning comment on the picture above – (which was snapped on holiday in Australia) saying,

“I love your drawings And i think you are very cool and cute and good at yoga. But I have to be honest with you, I really don’t like your drapes that you make a lot of your photos/videos in front. Your photos look much better when you have a background like in this one. Combining these kind of photos with your drawings and your nice comments, I think your feed will be much better. Loose the indoor yoga shots in front of the purple drapes, and you will have many more followers. Just my opinion, anyways…. I wish you all the best and I love following you all the way from Norway

GURRL.

I totally agree!

Unfortunately though, as I don’t live on a beach or in fact anywhere tropical at all, getting beach shots every damn day proves to be rather challenging. And, as I have come to realise through the world of instagram that –

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So, in a desperate attempt to prove my actual worth as a real yogi and obviously to GROW MY INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT, I decided to contact PartyRama and explain my extreme yoga crisis.

The lovely party-people at PartyRama understood my plight immediately (and by immediately I mean responding to my SOS-email within half an hour of me hitting send! holler, customer service!). They offered to send me some beach so that I can finally be a real yogi! HOORAY!

And they threw in some add-on palm trees – because WHAT is a beach without a palm tree?

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It was so quick and easy to build-a-beach that in absolutely NO time, I was doing my yoga things.

DAMN. It feels great to be a real yogi at last!

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But sometimes beach yoga is rather taxing and you just have to stop and do a bit of sun-tanning.

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I have to agree, yoga on the beach is MUCH better than yoga in front of my regular purple sheet. Although I do keep getting sand blown into my eyes which is a real hack, but it’s totally worth it as long as I get the shot.

Since this is the surest way to build my following (follow me) I have decided to think outside the beach-box and really just insert myself into any and all exotic locations – so that I can hashtag the shit out of myself.

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#waterfallyoga  #outdooryoga #yogaeverywhere #yogaonariver #exoticlocationyoga #realyoga #travelyogi #travelyogiinawaterfall #waterfallingyoga #waterfallpose #dancersposeinawaterfall #wateryoga #yogawater #chakras

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#mountainpose #itsnotreallymountainpose #ironic #badyogi #yogaonamountain #mountainyogapose #deathdefyingyoga #antigravityyoga #hikingyoga #tablemountain #huntergather #huntingandgatheringandyogaing #yogahigh #touchthesky #feelings

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#sunsetyoga #sunset #followme #likeforlikes #mylegisbisectingthesun #deepetchinggonebad #designerproblems #lols #paradise #inspirational #themostinspirational #inspirationalsunsetblossoms #blossomyourheartinthesunset #makeyourownhashtags #freespirit #freepeople #freefollowforfollow

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#yoga #yogaeverydamnday #yogaeverydamndayexceptonPMSdays #yogainameadow #green #eatgreen #eatclean #eatgrass #grassyyoga #snowga #dontworrynobodyreadsthese #outdooryoga #thesoundofmusic #thehillsarealive #followme

of course, for extra points always add in some lambs –

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#lambs #animalfriends #donteatyourfriends #vegetariansociety #vegetarianyoga #eatplants #yogaintheplants #moreplants #plantarfasciitis  #fascia #connectivetissue #connectivetissueyoga #yin #rainbowyin #rainbowinameadowyin

The possibilities are endless, really!

Party Rama have such a wide range of scenes that I think I might take my yoga to the wild-west next, what do you think?

* * * * *

PS – thank you SO much to the guys at Party Rama (and your epic customer service) for helping me validate myself as a real yogi.
I truly could NOT have done it without you.

Yogi DIY: Yoga Studio Candles

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No one ever really tells you all the hidden little expenses of running your own yoga classes. (In fact, that’s a blog post on it’s own). Since I hire two different more “generic” venues to teach yoga in Wimbledon, I like to light scented candles during our practice to make it a teeny bit more ambient and cozy. The other day, my husband – (repeat, MY HUSBAND) announced, “I think I’m going to try make some scented candles”.

Husband initiating any kind of craft activity is a rare occurrence – so I jumped right in there with my washi-tape blazing before you could even say, rub-a-dub-dub-three-men-in-a-tub.

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This is what you will need:

1. Americana Decor Chalk Paint (I used this to paint the candle jars, so it is optional in the candle-making part, but it does give a cool effect!)
2. Essential Oils – variety of flavours (We used Fresh Skin lavendar, vanilla, vanilla + lavendar combo and rose.)
3. Pyrex Jug
4. Glass jars – we used old gherkin jars!
5. Candle Wicks
6. Coloured Wax crayons (optional)
7. Soya wax flakes  (2kg made 3 big candles and one medium candle!)
8. Paintbrush
9. Washi tape (optional)

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Step One:
Put a pot of water on the stove to boil. Pour the soy wax flakes into the pyrex jug and place the jug of flakes into the pot of boiling water to allow the wax flakes to melt. We used roughly 500g of soy flakes per giant candle.

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Step Two:
At this stage, add the essential oil of your choosing into the wax flakes. We used about 20ml of essential oil for about 500g of wax flakes. (We also used fragranced oil (opposed to essential oil) but found we had to use more than 20ml per 500g to get the same strength of smell).  If you want, you can also add a little bit of coloured crayon wax. The wax dries much lighter than it looks – so don’t be too afraid of the initial colour! We used about 1.5cm of wax crayon.

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Step Three:
Since it was Warren in charge of the candle making business, I decided to hop onto the glass jar decor. I taped a strip of masking tape around two of the jars and then used a chalky white paint to paint the jars.

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Some jars I painted halfway, others I painted the entire jar.

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Step Four:
Once the wax flakes have melted with the essential oils, and the glass jars have dried (if you are painting them) pour the liquid wax into the glass jar.

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The jar above was a red colour crayon we used – it dried much more orange/peach than the soft pink we were hoping for!

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Step Five:
We had two different methods that we tested for inserting the wicks into the candle jar. Warren’s method was to wait until the candle was semi hardened and then place a thin metal skewer down into the candle and then slide the wick in. For this, you obviously need to catch the wax at exactly the right time and you will also need something that is of similar size to the candle wicks you have.
Me: “Warren, by the way, where you did get this metal thing from?
Warren: “Oh, I fashioned it out of a metal clothes hanger.” – so there you go.

You also need to make sure you can get the wick all the way down to the bottom.

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My method was to glue the candle wicks to the bottom of the glass jar (above) and then pour the hot liquid around them and wait for it to dry. Doing this method, you will need to keep the wicks upright (with pegs and pencils etc) since the wicks are coated in a thin film of wax and when you pour melted wax onto them, they loose all their stiffness and just collapse.

I would say, (and it truly pains me to admit this) that Warren’s method was perhaps better than mine.

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Step Six:
Once the wax has fully dried (takes a few hours!) peel off the masking tape – (if you used any/decided to decor your jars). I then washi-taped the join between the paint and the glass jar. Because, HAVE YOU EVER SEEN ME DO A DIY WITHOUT THE USE OF WASHI TAPE?

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Step Seven:
Light up and enjoy!
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This was such a quick and easy Saturday-afternoon DIY. We did a quick price breakdown and have worked out that for the 2kgs of soy wax flakes, plenty of wicks, the essential oils (the main cost), the glass jars (technically free) -it worked out to about £5 per gherkin jar sized candle – we made three big candles and a smaller medium sized candle with those things and still have essential oils left over – such a bargain! And you can obviously blend all the flavours that you love!

I’ve been proudly showing off these candles in all the yoga classes I’ve been teaching saying, “THIS WAS ALL WARREN YOU KNOW!”

When he found out I was proclaiming his fantastic candle making skills to everyone, he has now decided that perhaps it’s not the manliest thing to be doing on a Saturday afternoon, whilst drinking tea.

So I am assuming he will be feeling the need to concoct a testosterone scented candle
– coming soon.

The Power of Practice

The other day someone came to one of my beginner yoga classes in Wimbledon. It was her first ever yoga class.
At the end of the class, I went up to her and asked her how she found it.

Me: “You did really well this evening! How did you find it?”
Her response:
“I don’t think yoga is for me…”
Me: “Ok, so.. is there anything in particular that you would…”
Her: “Well… I just think I need something that is going to improve my flexibility.”

Me: *blank stare*

I think this can be a really common feeling among many new yogis.

Let me elaborate: New Yogi goes to one yoga class and sees some other people touching their toes (or whatever it is they are doing). New Yogi tries to touch toes and ends up half-a-ruler-above-knee cap. New Yogi thinks, “Damn. Yoga! I’m not flexible enough for this shit.” New Yogi quits yoga. The world cries.

Now, whilst I will STRONGLY (and loudly) argue that touching your toes has VERY little to do with what yoga is (read here for more clarification), I would say that the whole scenario I’ve elaborated above, plays out in yoga studios around the world over and over.

To give you an analogy of what that scenario is like, I’ve decided to illustrate it in a point that we can probably all relate to or understand or have experienced at some point in our lives –


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* quits running. quits healthy eating*

((Facepalm))

The practice of yoga, and particularly the physical practice of yoga is exactly that, a PRACTICE. The body opens, through time – with practice, practice, practice. Yoga will DEFINITELY one hundred percent improve your flexibility (if that’s the reason you have been drawn to it), but it requires a continual practice. All our bodies are different and therefore take different times to open and find space. The process IS the practice.

My first consistent yoga practice was through Bikram Yoga – a sequence of 26 postures, which always stay the same. One of the poses in this sequence is a toe-stand and it is entered through a half-bound-lotus forward fold.

{Before I continue, I would like to mention that I have terrible knees. TERRIBLE knees. I have dislocated both knees more times than I can count. The patella, literally slides right on off the patella groove and hangs out somewhere on the side of my leg, waiting for me to manually push it back. It is NOT pretty. And as you can imagine, it is pretty freaken painful and extremely freaken unnerving. (One time I dislocated it, it wasn’t actually my fault, my brother “ankle tapped” me in the swimming pool. Note: jury is still out as to whether it was an “ankle tap” or a full blown kick. Anyway, I digress)}

When I first started with this Bikram Yoga, I remember being in a yoga class and hearing the teacher cue the entry into the half bound lotus forward fold. I picked up my foot and tried to bring my knee down to the ground and it just would NOT move. Then when the teacher continued with, “and then forward fold” I literally thought, “Wow, this woman is insane. There is no way on living earth I will EVER get down there. EVER. My knees are just genetically not going to allow me to do that.” I watched (in awe) as some of the other yogis in the room folded forward (Drishti, what?). I remember thinking, “How are these people even doing this? That looks like the most painful thing ever!” and “Are they not scared their knees will pop right off their legs?!”

I decided there and then, that the “half-bound lotus forward fold” was just never going to be something I would be able to do.

And that was that.

(Spoiler Alert: I was wrong)

I took the thought of that posture COMPLETELY off my radar. Not in the ‘yogi-sense’ of “let me non-attach to the end result of this posture and revisit it at a later stage of my journey”, but in the sense of, “I’m not wasting my time with this useless posture, because I know I will never be able to do it.” (#commonthoughtsofnewyogis)

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So anyway, I practiced. And I practiced. And I practiced. And then I didn’t feel like practicing, but I practiced anyway. I didn’t practice this posture necessarily specifically, I just practiced, practiced, practiced everything else – And allowed my body the time to open on in it’s own, to slowly build strength and slowly release the fear of, “holy-fuck-if-you-try-bend-your-face-to-your-thigh-in-this-position-your-knee-is-definitely-going-to-explode”. Which to be honest, is the hardest thing to release, of all.

And THAT is where the yoga happens.

In the release. In the connection between the thoughts we hold in our mind and the thoughts we hold in connection to our bodies. To what we think we can do and what we are truly capable of. Both on and off the mat. It is that union of what our body knows, in sync with the mind that controls it. Our bodies already have everything they need, it’s only our minds which lock it tightly. Our minds that fix everything into inflexibility. Whether that means the feeling of not being “flexible enough” or “good enough” to join a yoga class, or the fear of postures that first seem impossible, it’s that tightness in the mind that is released on the mat.

And yes, sometimes that comes hand-in-hand with touching your toes, but for that, you’ll need a bit of practice.

xo xo

Ps – I’ve shared a pic of one of the first times I’ve ever gotten into the half bound forward fold up on my instagram account (a little while back) for anyone who is interested.

How to become a vegetarian?

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Before I start, I’d like to just clarify that the title of this post, “How to be vegetarian” is largely misleading, because although I eat a largely plant based diet, I don’t really consider myself a “vegetarian”. I do eat fish on occasion. However, I’ve had quite a few messages and emails from a few different people asking for any tips or tricks they can try to have a more plant-based diet and I thought I would answer them here but writing a title “Tips and tricks for how to eat less meat and a more plant based diet” just seemed a bit too long. But basically this isn’t a post about how to turn vegetarian, this is a post about how to include more freshness into your life. Along with a few little tips and tricks that have worked for me.

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When I started my yoga teacher training In January of 2015 (read about it here), we were told that since our training was taking place in a Buddhist Centre, we were to please refrain from bringing in meat and meat products into the training centre. (There was also an amazing cafe in the Buddhist Centre which made the most delicious veggie curries and dishes!). We trained for 3 weekends out of the month, so for those days – I didn’t eat any meat products definitely over breakfast and lunch time and in the evenings, it depended on what my lovely husband was cooking up for us. (Thanks husband).

Before this, as my personal yoga practice had deepened, I began to start thinking differently about meat. I was still eating it, but for the first time in my life (ever), I started really thinking about it. I will be completely honest, 5 years ago I actually remember having conversations with a Canadian Vegetarian friend of mine saying, “I know where meat comes from, I know what it is and how it gets to my plate, and it really doesn’t bother me.”
So for the first time in my life I had really started to question it all.

I actually remember sometime before Christmas 2014, I was tasked with going to collect the Christmas Pork from the butchers for a party of 15 people. Warren had given me his empty back-pack to put this giant Christmas pork in and off I went to the butchers. I remember feeling a bit weird when I walked into the shop, but I handed over the money and the butcher went into the back and brought out half a pig. Literally, half a pig. We made the transaction and I put the giant pork into my backpack. I stepped out the shop into the sunshine and swung the backpack over my shoulder.

As the giant half-pork in the empty backpack swung round and hit me in the back, I had the most overwhelming unnerving feeling. An actual fucking piggy-back. Right outside the butchers shop, in broad daylight, in front of everyone, I suddenly had to get this freaken thing off my back – so, on autopilot, I did a few wild-spider-web-esque-arm-slices combined with some very fancy footwork and a small yelp. Backpack plus pig-load dropped to the floor and I didn’t stick around to wait for the butchers no-doubted amused reaction.

I hurriedly (and with great embarrassment) picked up the backpack at arms length and rushed around the corner to phone Warren and tell him that, “I don’t actually think that I can carry this home!”. The backpack was literally too heavy for me to carry in my hand and I still needed to get some other groceries from the shop. After I had gotten off the phone with Warren (partly him consoling me, and partly me informing him that I have indeed lost my mind), I took off my scarf and made a barrier in the bag between me and the pork. I have no idea why this sticks out so much to me, but it does. I have never experienced such a strange physical/psychological reaction to meat before.

But yes, I did eat pork that Christmas. Sorry piggy.

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My teacher training commenced then from January to March of the following year and weekends became relatively meat free. Even the dinners that Warren began cooking in the evenings were less meat based, after I had started expressing how I was feeling about it all. (Just “weird” in general) Sometime after my training finished, I decided on a whim that I would see what it felt like to do three days in a row in the week completely meat free and just observe how I felt.

The answer is, I felt amazing.

I had way more energy, my digestive system was functioning so well, my body felt cleaner and lighter and I just felt like an all-round amazing human* (*results may vary).

The main thing that I got out of those three days was becoming MUCH more observant and aware of the foods and types of foods that I was consuming. Even grabbing a sandwich from the local Pret suddenly involved a bit more than “Ham & Cheese” or “Bacon & Egg”, suddenly I had to explore different things. Menus at restaurants actually (strangely) started opening up for me, because I was suddenly looking in veggie sections that I would never usually have looked in! Food was actually a bit exciting again!

Since then I have adopted a largely plant based lifestyle. I don’t call it a plant-based diet because it’s not. In fact, you would probably be rather surprised (once you become really observant about what you eat) at how many more calories are in a tiny piece of meat than there are in several hundred other vegetables and grains. Again, this is not a diet and it’s not about calorie counting – it’s about the work the body needs to do in order to break it all down and the type of food that fits well with the body.

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So for those interested in making some changes to your lifestyle eating patterns – here are some of my tips:

  1. Start with small manageable changes. For most people, eating a meat-heavy diet one day and then waking up and deciding to be a raw vegan the next, I’d say is pretty unsustainable. Make small manageable changes and monitor how your body responds. Adopt a meat-free day once a week, or meat free dinner times.
  2. Change your mindset. I think one of the hardest things to change can be because we have become so conditioned to thinking of meat as the ‘main attraction’ to a meal and the vegetables as a side dish. To take a line from Masterchef, “start hero-ing the vegetables”
  3. In line with the point above, experiment with meat-free recipes that mimic meat recipes. For example, this zucchini and pea burger is one of the first meals I made from Deliciously Ella and it really felt great because it “felt” like I was eating a hamburger (a traditionally ‘meat’ meal). There are loads of these from lentil bolognaise and lasagnes to nut-based “meat balls” and veggie rolls.
  4. Up the quinoa, lentil, legume intake. Protein: it’s a tricky one – the more you delve into it, the more you may see that we actually need way less “protein” than we have been conditioned to believe. Yes we need protein and amino acids for cellular repair but the amount we need is largely inflated. (Did somebody say, meat industry?!) And protein in some form or other exists in all foods. (As a rough idea: 26g of protein in 100g of black beans and 14g of protein in 100g lean beef). If you are interested in maintaining good nutrition especially if you are an athlete, this is a great site! (Thanks Rhianne)
  5. Bulk up your breakfast smoothies – I used to be a raging cereal-holic (I still am in theory, I mean, I would never turn down a good granola. But after seeing how much sugar goes into so many of them, I should probably rather just eat an ice-cream for breakfast. Anyway, I digress.) I have changed to include more smoothies in the morning and I love to bulk them up with protein powders (this is a great vegan one) and nuts and avocado to get all the feel good fats in there! Definitely whack in some spinach to your smoothies to get some good ol’ fashioned Popeye-iron. Simple Green Smoothies is a great resource for smoothies!
  6. Do your own research. Nobody knows your own body better than you. Do your research and figure out what works best for you and your needs. And if your choices help out a few animals and the environment along the way, added bonus. This is a really interesting TEDtalk (non-gory) on how the way in which we consume food has changed over the years – staking a more environmental and social angle.
  7. Get your partner on board. This can be EXTREMELY tricky to navigate with people who live (and cook) together who share different food/lifestyle goals. Have an honest and open conversation. Ask if there are areas where they would be interested in testing out with you or what they would be open to (one veggie supper a week?). If the partner won’t budge at all and you’d like to give it a go, then yes cooking will be slightly more tricky than before. But for example, making non-meat patties to freeze, makes burger night relatively easy; this patty for you, this patty for me. If you think about it, I’d say it’s usually only dinners that partners eat together, so maybe adopt a less meat approach to lunch and breakfast! A great way of convincing them though is point 3 above.
  8. Don’t beat yourself up. For anyone who is making these changes for health or dietary reasons, I think that it can be pretty difficult at first to navigate it all. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip up or eat something that your mind is telling you, you shouldn’t. We all have those days where we fall off the band-wagon. Just jump back on. For anyone who is making the changes for health reasons – (creating an anti-inflammatory diet – Kris Carr is a great resource for recipes and inspiration)
  9. GET EXCITED! Feeling excited about the changes you are making is, I think is the best way to stay motivated. In London, there are loads of really great vegetarian, vegan and whole foods restaurants – so browse around your home town for the same. There are also great websites with amazing recipes that you can make at home – like Thug Kitchen or The Vegan Stoner  – (love the doodles in this one!). I do think though, that once you see and feel the difference that these changes can make to your body – it will also be very motivating!

Warren and I eat meat free dinners together during the week. Often now, if say, we buy separate soups from Tescos, he will opt for a meat free one of his own accord. I eat plant based during the day, and Warren eats whatever he wants whilst at work. This works for us. At the moment, I have been trying to cut back on caffeine and dairy milk – (I still have coffee with milk over the weekends so it’s not out completely!), but I have been substituting it with rooibos tea and coconut + almond milk during the week. Although… just typing that last sentence thinking about that cup of coffee….

ok guys, coffee break.

Gotta go.

xo

NB: Please note, I am not a nutritional expert or dietician, the thoughts shared above are solely my own experience and a bit of the (tons of) research I’ve done online. If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them! Either drop me a comment below or leave a comment on the Che Dyer Yoga Facebook Page.  I’m interested in those who have clicked over to this post, do you already eat a largely plant based diet? Are you toying with the idea of making the change? What are your reasons?

T-shirt to Yoga tank DIY (quick and easy!)

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I wanted to share a SUPER quick and SUPER easy DIY tutorial for turning an old baggy T-shirt into a yoga tank top! This DIY will literally take you 15 minutes and all you need is an old T-shirt (size doesn’t matter- so you can totally steal one from your husband’s cupboard) and a pair of scissors! I used a zebra-print ribbon that I had lying around the house to tie on at the end, but you don’t need it to make the tank at all!

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1. Lay your shirt out and cut out the neck (front and back). You could choose to cut either a round shape or a V shape. I did a V-shape to follow the existing line of the shirt – but you could do either!

2. Cut out the sleeves. Don’t make these too wide to start – you can always cut more, but you can’t put it back on once it’s cut! How far you start the cut underneath the arm pit will determine how open the sides of your tank top are – so bear that in mind when you cut! You could opt to have a really wide open tank – but I cut quite a tight semi circle around the sleeve.

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3. Lay the sleeve that you have just cut over the other sleeve. This will help you get both sleeves as symmetrical as possible. Mine definitely aren’t exactly symmetrical – but it’s really not that much of a problem! It’s a DIY yoga tank top that is designed to be sweated in – so don’t sweat it!

4. Cut the second sleeve off your T shirt.

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5. Cut a long strip (front and back) off the bottom of your shirt. If you wanted to make a DIY yoga crop top, then you could cut it much higher up! You will end up with a circle of material – cut this so that you have one long strip.

6. Turn the T-shirt over and cut a deeper V in the back of the shirt. (Cut into the back side only).

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7. Thread the strip of T-shirt material (the one you cut off the bottom of your shirt) through the back of your shirt in through the arm holes. (I’ve threaded the zebra ribbon through in this pic just so that it’s easier to see)

8. Bring the strip down to the bottom of the V and then tie a knot. I wrapped both ends of the strip around the sleeves on the inside and then back to the outside and then tied another knot. I continued doing this up the length of the T-shirt arms until the strip of T-shirt material was finished. As I reached the end of the strip of material, I threaded the ends back into the knots. You could also wrap the strip, or secure it with a different coloured ribbon or bow of some kind! To finish it off, I tied a bow using some zebra print ribbon I had at home!
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I don’t really like practicing yoga in shirts that are loose and baggy because of how they ride up when doing inversions, but I was honestly pleasantly surprised how tight this (once baggy) T-shirt feels! The knotting at the back of the shirt makes it feel actually quite tight and secure!

I think the whole thing would look actually really cool with some ombre-dip-dying -(ya know, so that it really looks DIY’ed) so I might try that at another stage!
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I have another T-shirt DIY thing that I want to try out soon, but I think it would work better on T-shirting material that is slightly more stretchy, will give it a go when I next do a cupboard clean out!

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Yoga DIY Tank tops –
Because Lululemon, who?

My top 10 tips for running your first half marathon for beginners

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For those who didn’t see the news last weekend – I ran my first half marathon on Sunday!

To be fair, I have “run” one other half marathon before – it was about 6 years ago with my mom. Although, there was a ‘bit’ of running, a lot of walking, a ton of swearing, a boatload of pain and let’s just say, that by the end of it – my mom and I were NOT friends. So I’d say it doesn’t really count. On Sunday though, for the first time ever – I ran 21km without stopping. SOMEBODY GIVE ME A MEDAL.

Oh wait, I already one.

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I thought (for those people who are NOT “natural” runners – ahem, me) I would share my journey from 0 – 21km with a few little tips I learnt along the way.

I signed up to the marathon (on a partly drunken night out) with 6.5 weeks to go. I had been thinking about signing up for a marathon for a while and having something to work towards and then when Shelly randomly mentioned at a party one night, “by the way I’m running the Palace Half Marathon”  – I was all like “WAIT, WHAT?!? SIGN ME UP!!!”

And so the next day, I signed up.

I began searching for a training schedule (with 6 weeks to go) and from my research I found that a good training schedule needs to include gradual increase in mileage, interval and sprint training, rest days, and varying speed training. I found this one via popsugar (It had all the things I knew to look out for, but mainly I liked it because it had the word “easy” in it).

So let me highlight my training schedule given that I had 6 weeks almost exactly till race day! Mixed in with this, every Monday, Wednesday, some Thursdays and a few private sessions here and there, I taught yoga. I also practiced yoga personally in these weeks and made sure to do yoga after my runs.

Week before training schedule commences (the week I signed up):
Thursday: Went for a 20 min run round the block. Felt not-so-great.

Week 1, 6 Weeks to go! Week 1 of Training Schedule:
Monday: 30 min jog (Yeah!! I’m doing it!! I’m running a marathon!!)
Tuesday: 20 min jog (AWESOME!! this is getting easier!)
Wednesday: Rest (I LOVE marathon training!!) 
Thursday: 20 min jog (Whoa, this is probably the most I’ve ever run in one week)
Friday: 30 minnnnuuu – CALF INJURY. (WTF. THIS IS THE WORST THING EVER!!! I HATE RUNNING!!)
Saturday: Crying. (supposed to run a 5 mile/8km)
Sunday: More crying.

Week 2, 4 weeks to go! Abandoned Training Schedule:
Monday: Resting the calf, and feeling bummed.
Tuesday: Still Resting calf injury
Wednesday: Consulted my physician (Warren) who suggested I rest up properly otherwise injury will just flare up again. (Taught yoga)
Thursday: Rest. Feeling like I hate this running thing.
Friday: 25 min jog (Tentative steps)
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Rest

Week 3, 3 weeks to go! (Decided to revert back to training schedule week 1):

Monday: 30 min jog (Can’t believe I’m fucking doing this again)
Tuesday: 20 min jog (Well at least my calf doesn’t feel so bad)
Wednesday: Rest. (Damn, I like rest days)
Thursday: (Husband’s birthday) 20 min jog. Went out for dinner (all the wine)
Friday: in spite of all the wine – 30 minute jog. No one got injured. Hooray. Husband’s birthday party in the evening.
Left birthday party early (still after midnight, don’t fret) so that I could do a 8km run on Saturday (yes you read that correctly).
Saturday: 8,4km run (I’m a machine!! Look at me running with all this alcohol in me)
Sunday: Rest

Week 4, 2 weeks to go! (Got sick)

Monday: 35 min run ( 5 min short of the training schedule) Woke up not feeling great. (Possibly all that running-with-alcohol) Taught a lot of yoga.
Tuesday: Woke up feeling really crap. Sore throat, blocked nose, headachy. Rested.
Wednesday: Rest. Feeling very sorry for myself. (Taught yoga, in spite of NOT feeling like it)
Thursday: Still feeling very sorry for myself. Took the day off work. Which is a really weird thing when you freelance.
Friday: Complained a lot. Several hundred times to Warren about how I now had to fit a 6 week training program into 2 weeks and all the irritating setbacks I’ve had!
Saturday: Crying.
Sunday: More crying

Week 5, 1 week to go! (Still feel like shit):

I’m not even going to document this week, because I did fuck all running, feeling very sorry for myself. Opted for carbo-loading instead. Which I’ve heard is also the thing to do. Lots of complaining and such.

Week 6, marathon Sunday!
Monday: Run a 5.21km. First run in ages (I have no idea what the fuck to do or how long to run because I’m so out of this schedule! SOBS. Logs run in Nike + app with the single word, “FUCK”)
Tuesday: Feel completely lost, because it’s one week to go and I haven’t done any real mileage and now I have no proper schedule to follow. Decide to try run a 12km, on a whim. Get a massive knee pain at 10km, hobble home. Cry.
Wednesday: Feeling bummed, no running. Taught yoga. Booked a physio appointment.
Thursday: See physio, she does “ITB muscle release” on the offending knee-leg. (Ohhhmmmerrrgheeee WOMAN ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME?!) Straps knee + leg to offload offending muscle. (Make jokes with physio about my hairy knees. BECAUSE HAVE YOU EVER TRIED TO SHAVE A BONY KNEE?)
Friday: Toy with the idea of going for a run to test the knee. Decide against it.
Saturday: Feel fucking nervous. Go to a Patrick Beach 3 hour arm balance workshop with husband, which is probably not the right thing to do the day before a marathon. Ate a giant burrito with beans and rice and gaucamole and cheese. Because obviously.
Sunday RACE DAY: Feel even more fucking nervous. Warren re-straps offending knee. And then also straps the other one, just for luck.

So RACE DAY arrives and I decided that for the first 8km I would just run as tentatively as I possibly could – not really knowing how this knee is going to flare up (I’ve always had very bad knees and it was actually the thing that caused all the drama with my first “marathon”). I got through the first 8km (letting every granny pass me) but miraculously with no pain. Decided that if I could just get to 12km (which is the distance that caused the issue in the first place) without pain, then I would be ok. Get to 12km. See Warren on the sidelines cheering at this point – tell him I’m feeling awesome!! Don’t stop for a chat, continue running. Next 3km get a bit tough. (Because 8km to go is still a fucking long way). Mind plays tricks on me and I think my knee might flare up again. But it doesn’t. Still running quite slowly, monitoring. If I can just get to 16km…. Take two painkillers just in case at about 17km. See Warren again just after that. Decide that I feel good. Run the last 4km with ALL THE ENERGY! Finish in 2 hours and 19 minutes.

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(At the finish line – have you ever seen anyone so happy to see the finish line?)

So. I did it. My entire goal for this marathon – was just to run the whole thing. I didn’t have a time in mind or a time to beat, I just wanted to run without stopping – and I did. So I definitely feel very proud of myself!

So here are my top 10 tips for running your first half marathon for beginners:

  1. Find a training schedule to follow. It needs to include a very gradual increase in distance, running at varying speeds, interval training and rest days. A training schedule will really help you feel like you know what you are doing, even if you don’t.
  2. Give yourself at LEAST an extra two weeks within the training schedule. I had wanted to enter this race feeling prepared, but given the set backs I had with my calf injury, getting sick and knee injury at the end – I didn’t have enough time to follow the plan as I would have liked. Sometimes shit happens that you can’t plan for – so give yourself a buffer of time for all those unexpected things!
  3. Do not book yourself into a crazy arm balance workshop the day before your marathon. (That was not wise). (But also booked ages ago).
  4. Eat a delicious protein packed meal the night before. We had burritos with beans and brown rice, loaded with guacamole and all the good stuff. Opted out of dessert that evening, because WE ALL KNOW WHAT SUGAR DOES.
  5. Stay well hydrated, especially the day before! Warren was my champion water-boy on Saturday night!
  6. Make a cool playlist for yourself! I just LOVED all the music I ran to! Some of it was from old school times and some modern and some from our wedding day! Also try some “operant conditioning” – as I was making my playlist I told Warren who was lying on the couch, “Ok! You have to cheer me on!”
    Him: What, now?
    Me: Yes! Then when I hear this song, I will think of your cheering!!
    I mean, whatever works, right? Also – I would suggest not choosing songs with too much of a fast beat, it may make you incidentally run a bit too fast! Edit: another amazing tip I learnt was DO NOT START OFF TOO FAST! I read this over and over again and I listened to it. It can be quite tricky, because of the race buzz and all the people around you! Go at the pace you know you can maintain. It’s a loooong way to go!
  7. Definitely incorporate some conditioning work like yoga, to complement your training. I have absolutely NO doubt that I would not have even finished this race (with the lack of training I did) if it had not been for all the yoga I do. Although yoga is in no way as jarring as running, it definitely helps condition your body to move. Thanks yoga.
  8. After the race, DO MORE YOGA. STRETCH. FOAM ROLL THE SHIT OUT OF YOURSELF. Also ask your husband nicely if he will give you a leg massage. Make no mistake, I was still on Monday (and Tuesday) but it was no where NEAR what I thought it would be – and I think all those things definitely helped!
  9. Make (force) someone to come and support you on race day. It makes the world of difference to know that just around the corner, your friend/boyfriend/lover/husband/BF/dog/wife could be there cheering!
  10. Book a yummy lunch! After the race, we had booked a pub lunch to celebrate – and it was really nice to have something to look forward to! Plus, you totally deserve ALL the fries. And all the wine. And all the pizza. And all the chocolate brownies. Really.

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So grateful for all the love and support and leg massages and operant cheering from this guy!

Join me for the next one?

x

Get the Look: The 3 Yoga Looks to shop

As much as I’d love to tell you that I’ve transcended all earthly desires and wants for material possessions, the honest truth is, that nothing excites me more than the thought of new yoga gear. (Satya, after all). There is just something completely motivating about buying a new pair of yoga pants. Or, if you’re anything like me, whenever I practice in a new yoga kit, my practice suddenly becomes just THAT much more epic… it’s as if I’ve somehow managed to convince myself that I have to earn my bum into these new yoga pants I’m sporting. But maybe that’s just me.

So today I’m super excited to share with you 3 of my Yoga Looks from Evolve Fit Wear (and there’s an awesome give away at the end  – so stick around!)

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It’s the weekend and you can’t wait to get your Oms in at your local studio. Followed shortly thereafter with some green juices and chatter with the gurl gang. Here is my selection of gear that will take you straight from studio to side orders of pancakes.

YOGA TO BRUNCH:

  1. Moto Jacket from Alo Yoga
  2. Organic Earth yogitoes Headband
  3. Faded Legging from Electric Yoga
  4. Rhythm Maker free flow yoga tank
  5. Climb a Moutain Legging Marah Hoffman
  6. Project Social T from Ventura Henley
  7. Sacral Chakra Mala

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It’s Friday, and there’s some local ‘get together dinner’ on the cards. But, it’s your FAVOURITE yoga teacher’s class and well, you’ve paid your membership so you’re not going to waste it. This look is the perfect thing to get your Friday night yoga-endorphins in and then throw on your styled jacket and head straight out to dinner. Granted, you may need an extra squirt or two of perfume and you may arrive 15 minutes late – but my guess is you won’t even miss a thing.

YOGA TO DINNER

  1. Forest Moss Pursuit Leggings
  2. Frost Splatter Tank
  3. Heroine Jacket
  4. Thigh High Leg warmer

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The Yoga Festival is the time for things to amp up! Bring out your brightest yoga pants and your favourite malas! These two looks are great for practicing yoga, chilling, slurping smoothies and just generally getting in the relaxed festive vibe!

YOGA FESTIVAL

  1. Wolf Legging from Sadhana
  2. For Keeps Tee
  3. Dancing Tassels Necklace
  4. King of the Jungle Legging
  5.  Moto Jacket from Alo Yoga
  6. Cielo Feather Cuff

So those are the yoga looks to love! Evolve Fit Wear has such an awesome range of yoga clothes and brands – (it was actually quite tricky selecting only a few outfits!) AND! For one lucky winner they are giving away a $50 voucher to their online store!

To enter: Head over to Evolve Fit Wear and have a browse at their epic range! Leave a comment on this post below telling me what your favourite item is and where you would wear it!
You can also follow Evolve Fit Wear and indieYogaLife on Instagram

Evolve Fit Wear Ship internationally – so it is open to all!

Competition will close Sunday 13th March and the winners will be decided at Rando and announced on Monday 14th March.

9 inspiring reads for yogis

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Since there was such a good response to the previous post I shared with 11 recommended reads for yogis I thought I would share a few more books I’ve enjoyed recently if anyone is looking for something inspiring to dip into!

  1. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
    This book comes from the same author as Eat, Pray Love and Committed (both of which I really loved). Big Magic is about choosing to live a creative life, being brave and finding inspiration. I really loved this read for the easy story-telling type narrative. Elizabeth shares her own journey of living a creative life – both her successes and her stumbling blocks and how important she believes it is to continue to keep creating. I found it really inspiring to read about all the other hundreds (and thousands) of things she created and write and submitted and submitted and submitted, before her big explosion of Eat Pray Love.
  2. Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: Revised and Expanded Edition: The breakthrough programme for conquering anxiety, depression, anger and obsessiveness
    This book is written by a leading neuropsychiatrist about the chemical make up of the brain and how it is affected by stress, exercise, food, drugs and all sorts of other things! It is a very interesting read as it digs quite deep into the science of the psyche. However, since it is written by a neuropsychiatrist, quite a number of the “solutions” that he expresses for the various brain changes are to go straight to medication, whereas from a yoga perspective I think that a large number of these things (stress, anxiety etc) can be aided through the practice of meditation and yoga. The concept of neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to change itself) is something that is mentioned in Ruby Wax’s book Sane New World (also a great read) and supports the idea of more alternative therapies before heading straight to the Zoloft.
  3. Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism (Shambhala Classics)
    A super interesting read – although it does get rather deep and “out there” half way through, where you have to read the same sentence several times to make sure you’ve actually got it correctly. It is crammed with very insightful and powerful thoughts and ideas on spirituality. (I read the first paragraph and then had to stop for half an hour to make a thousand notes). The premise of this book is that there is a tendency (particularly in this modern age) to attach ourselves to spirituality – or to the idea of ourselves as spiritual beings which in actuality defies the entire purpose of spirituality. As we move down the spiritual path we may find ourselves identifying with this new version of ourselves or our lives – which is in essence the ego in action, which negates the spiritual path. This book takes a look at cutting through this spiritual materialism in a kind of meta way. Have I lost you yet? Look out for the bit on the monkeys in the room with five windows. #deep
  4. The Happiness Project
    A lawyer turned author decided for one year to commit to making a new change to her life every month, focusing on a different area of her life, to see if she could make herself “happier”. It chronicles each month and the changes she implemented and the results she saw in her own life. It talks a lot about creating good habits and she shares a lot of “yoga-type” concepts like mindfulness, meditation and gratitude, but from a non-yoga perspective.
  5. Yoga Girl: Finding Happiness, Cultivating Balance and Living with Your Heart Wide Open
    Before I begin, I would just like to tell you that I have a signed copy of this book, thank you very much. (I was away in South Africa when Rachel (we’re clearly on first name basis) visited London, so my friend Holly got her to sign a copy for me! With my name and all!). ‘Yoga Girl’ the book is very simply written and you will literally finish it in a weekend (or a night). Rachel shares a bit about her life and her journey to yoga. Part of me wishes she had shared a little more and gone a little deeper with everything (this may have been a strategic move pending book number 2!) but it’s also filled with some beginner yoga sequences and yummy veggie recipes. So apart from the fact that many photos are repeated from instagram and the writing is beautiful (although simple), I am literally Rachel’s NUMBER ONE FAN GIRL, so obviously I can’t fault this book at all. I’d lend you my copy, but since Rachel has actually personally touched it, I don’t let it out my sight at all. Sorry.
  6. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
    I was recommended to read this book by three different people and I’m really glad I did! Brené’s TED talk I think was the thing that has put her on the map. She is a sociologist who studies human connection, interaction and our need for belonging. She looks at the concept of vulnerability being a defining factor in us being able to live lives that are whole hearted and fulfilled. A really interesting read with loads of scientific case studies and interviews. I found loads of correlation with this book and A New Earth: Create a Better Life, although Brené comes from a much more research-based approach.
  7. The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice
    This is a great read for anyone wanting to read a little more about the philosophy and practice of yoga. I love how the tone of this book is simultaneously modern and ancient. Ancient in that the concepts are not dumbed down or reduced for a modern audience, but they are presented in a very friendly and engaging manner – so that it feels like it fits right into the modern yoga studio.
  8. Hatha Yoga Pradipika
    This book looks at the physical (or Hatha) practice of yoga. It’s a whopper of a book so not an easy one to slip into your handbag! They look at various asanas from a philosophical point of view as well as dig a little deeper into the practice of kriyas (cleansing practices), the breath and the physical aspects of all things yoga.
  9. Mudras: Yoga In Your Hands
    Mudras or hand gestures are part of the more subtle yoga practice. It has been said that the flexibility of the fingers is a direct indication of the flexibility of the body and this book is an exploration of those various finger and hand gestures which aim to aid certain issues from a holistic healing approach. There are so many different ways to look at or explain mudras that sometimes it can feel a bit frustrating that there is never a “this is why this mudra works” answers – but I think it’s partly one of those things where some degree of belief is required in the mind in order for it to be effective. The book has plenty of diagrams with different mudras that you can practice to aid various different ‘conditions’ both physical and mental.

 

Note: If I’ve done this correctly (which is dubious) then this page contains affiliate links – which means if you purchase any books through the links on the page, you pay the regular price you would, you get the book, and I get some commission. Win, win, win. (Granted, it took me several hours to figure out how to install it all – so we’ll see.)

How to make Protein Balls

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Ah, Protein balls. They are all the rage aren’t they?

Protein-packed-super-food-enriched-chia-seed-fiasco-nuggets. Of course they’re all the rage.

So I’ve been wanting to try out some of these protein balls for a while now and in fact about two weeks ago we bought an entirely new kilogram of protein for this exact purpose. That weekend, Warren got his chef on and blended up some delicious protein balls – which lasted about 2 days. I have over the following two weeks casually dropped the line, “I really want to make some of protein balls again” meaning, “Please Warren could you make some of those protein balls again.”

After two weeks of unsuccessful hinting (boys: clearly not good at subliminal messaging), I decided to take matters into my own hands. At this point it would be interesting to mention, many people who have followed my life online via my very first blog indieBerries will already know how shit I am in the kitchen but for those who have only really known me as “Ché-the-yoga-teacher” – see here for reference.

I knew (from observing the husband) that all I needed was a blender to make these protein balls. (Yay, less washing) So I put on my pink apron –  (since our blender tends to be quite messy ever since I accidentally blended the lid into my smoothie last year) and got to work.

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For anyone wishing to make PROTEIN BALLS, my first recommendation is – FIND A RECIPE.

I just went gung-ho and started chucking anything I felt like  into the blender – protein powder, nuts, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, chia seeds, coconut oil etc – which is clearly not the correct method.

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When I felt like I had added enough stuff, I thought, “ok, it’s time to roll these bad boys” – only to stick my hand into the blender (switched off) to retrieve some mixture and find that it wasn’t sticking together at all.

At this point, I tried to recruit the help of husband – who had suddenly become very intent and “busy” with trying to find something in the bedroom. Fine. Texted Lulu who suggested honey. Added in a few teaspoons of honey and half a bag of dates for good luck.

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Eventually after more blending, they began to get little stickier and easier to roll although they weren’t completely sticking together when I rolled them out – they have really firmed up and stuck together nicely now that they have been in the fridge for a few days! Once I had rolled them I dusted them a little with cocoa powder.

So here is my “recipe” (but I would suggest finding one that actually works):

  • Dates
  • Sunflower seed mix (I used this one from Munchy Seeds, both in the blending and then also rolling the mixture in so that some stayed whole)
  • Chia Bia Chia and cranberry mix
  • Linwoods Milled Flaxseed and Goji Berries mix
  • Two scoops of protein powder
  • 3 walnuts that were hanging out in the cupboard, because what else are you supposed to do with 3 walnuts?
  • A sprinkle or two of pumpkin seeds just because I could reach them in the cupboard.
  • Coconut Oil (“fuck, this isn’t sticking”)
  • Honey (when times got tough)
  • More dates (as above)
  • Cocao Powder + a bit to dust over

Blend. Roll into balls. Put into Fridge. Eat. Feel Smug.

So really, what I discovered is that you can add anything you like to your protein balls! In my limited experience, I do have a few tips for if you’d like to make them at home (and trust me, if I can, you can):

  1. Make sure you have enough sticky ingredients – these could be anything like dates, apricots, coconut oil, nut butters or (for when things get outta control) honey.
  2. I would start with the sticky ingredients. I started with two scoops of protein powder and all the dry stuff and I ended up having to add quite a lot of dates to get it to bind. I would start with the wet stuff and gradually add the dry ingredients/seeds etc.
  3. The mixture needs to be quite sticky, but it doesn’t need to bind together completely – it will firm up in the fridge!
  4. Find an ACTUAL recipe.

You can achieve this recipe with only using ONE blender. (HOORAY!) I was VERY proud of myself of having only one thing to wash that I refused to pour the mixture from the blender into a bowl – leaving myself to try and scoop the crumbly mix out the blender with my fingers to make balls, which actually inevitably led to way more mess to clean up than washing one bowl. Anywhoo. There you have my un-recipe for smug little protein balls. You’re welcome.

5 tips for choosing a Yoga Teacher training abroad

Since completing my yoga teacher training, one of the most common questions I have been asked is, “Do you know of any good places where I can do my yoga teacher training?”. From my own experience of completing my 200 hour teacher training, I can definitely say that once the first 200 hours is under your belt, you will most certainly be instantly searching for more knowledge, more information, more inspiration, more training. I’ve had a few emails in the past few weeks from various yogis around the world asking about my advice for various yoga teacher trainings in exotic locations – I mean, who doesn’t want to practice in the birth-place of yoga, right?
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So I thought I would compile a list of my top 5 tips for choosing a Yoga Teacher Training abroad:

  1. If you are planning on choosing a yoga teacher training in India, it’s important that the school you choose is a Registered Yoga School (RYS), this will enable you to be certified as a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) which is internationally recognised by the Yoga Alliance, and will enable you to teach in your home country. Knowing that the school you have chosen is registered by the Yoga Alliance ensures that the standard of teaching is high, the teachers are credible and the curriculum is well structured. As part of the ongoing process of keeping these schools in check, students every year are required to submit feedback to the Yoga Alliance about their particular training before their certificates are released – this ensures that the Yoga Alliance is continually getting updated information on the schools and their training programs.
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  2. Choose a school with a well balanced curriculum. With every yoga school that is registered with the Yoga Alliance – the curriculum taught may have slight variations, so it’s a good idea to see a course breakdown and make sure it has a wide spread of philosophy, theory, anatomy, practice hours, pranayama and adjustment workshops. With every training school, there is also likely to be some unique aspects to the course they offer – these may include study on meditation, mudras, Bhagavad Gita etc – so it’s worth have a really good in-depth look to exactly what will be covered in the initial 200 hours and make a decision based on your specific interests.
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  3. Get feedback from past students. I think this is possibly one of the most important ways to determine what kind of experience you can expect from your training abroad. I loved these student videos from Rishikesh Yoga (particularly this one from the South African!). If possible – ask your prospective school if they have any past students they could put you in touch with so that you can get an honest opinion about the course you are interested in taking.
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  4. Consider the location. There are numerous yoga teacher training programs all around the world – yoga teacher training in India, teacher training in Bali, Costa Rica, Thailand – the list is pretty much endless! If you are intent on completing a training program away from your home country – first decide which country you’d like to complete the training in – this could be based on things such as climate, costs, accessibility, culture or even just depending on which country you’d like to visit! Bear in mind that with teacher training programs abroad, it is usually offered on a full board basis – you’ll likely be eating the local delicacies – so choose wisely! 😉 (Take a peek at this video to give you an idea!)
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  5. Go with your gut feel. At some point in your yoga teacher training research – you may come across a school that just “feels right”. This is something that I can’t really explain to you other than to say, “listen to your gut feel”. Poke around the school’s website, fish around on their social media and maybe get in touch with some of their teachers or co-ordinators to get an idea of how the engagement between you and them feels. Have a look at the content they are sharing online and see if it rings true for you. I love this post where yoga is referred to as a “love affair” – so beautiful!

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At the end of the day, choosing a yoga teacher training is a big decision and one that in all honesty is likely to change the course of your life – so make sure that you do your research and choose a school that is authentic for you and what you would like to get out of it. Some students enter into yoga teacher trainings purely to further their knowledge and insights into their own practice, whilst others enter into it with the intention to teach. Whatever your reasoning, make sure that the school is reputable, the teachers are knowledgeable and the course is filled with everything you’d like to make the journey unforgettable.


*this is a sponsored post, but all views and opinions are my own.

Food Diary of a yoga teacher

I received a comment the other day via instagram asking about the kind of food I like to eat every day to keep me fuelled as a yoga teacher so I thought it would be fun to keep a little food diary for the next few days! I decided to keep the food diary quite short form so that it’s quick and easy to read, and also decided to include some of my activities.

I’d like to start by saying that I do not class myself as “a vegetarian”. In fact, I don’t think I have ever used that word to describe myself at all. Having said that though, the food that I am currently predominantly eating is plant-based with fish every now and again. I have chosen not to actively label myself as a vegetarian for a few different reasons – which I will share below.

    1. Right now I am eating foods which I feel best fuel my body – which is, as mentioned largely plant based. I am 30 years old, lead an active lifestyle and am relatively healthy. This type of eating works for me right now. However, the needs of my body may change in time (pregnancy, disease, etc) and if I need to adapt the food I eat in that time, then I will. I always think about Candace a yoga teacher with Lymes disease who has literally been through every diet in the book (vegan, vegetarian, etc) and the only thing that has helped for her – is meat. I think labels can sometimes be dangerous and if I ever end up in the situation where I need to fuel my body in a different way, then I don’t want to feel like I am letting everyone down. (Enter Deliciously Ella and her choice to start a deli with meat).
    2. Here is something controversial for your Thursday: I believe that humans as animals, just like cats, lions, bears, cheetahs, leopards etc there is some part of us that is intended to eat other animals. BUT, the way in which animals are consumed these days is abhorrent, which for me is the main difference. We have moved far beyond the caveman time of the hunt, with one animal being hunted, celebrated, given thanks for and collectively shared and after that is where the wheels all fall off. The mass consumerism of meat has lead to numerous problems. We already know that. But humans have a knack for creating problems out of everything – not only with regard to meat production. Our greed has pushed us beyond subsistence. (I’ve been thinking out loud on this, whether vegetarians feed their animals meat or not?!)
    3. In a completely made up stereotypical scenario – let’s say Husband and I are one day back-packing through Peru. We meet a lovely small Peruvian family and they decide to take us in for the night to stay with them. We communicate in the most broken of half-dialects, they give us a bed and mat to sleep on the floor of their tiny home and they cook us a hearty meal with the best things they can afford to buy. Served up to the table, is a plate of steaming Cuy – let me just say, I will eat that meat no problem, because in this instance to be sensitive to the being on the plate, removes you from being sensitive to the beings right in front of you. And I think that is completely counter productive.
    4. My mind/thoughts/being may change. I know many people who have lived vegetarian lives for many years and have moved back to eating small amounts of meat. Each of their reasoning is different – and that is their own thing. I know my mind has changed considerably. In fact, before adopting a “less-meat” approach, I remember meeting a friend – the first close friend I had who was vegetarian (from Canada) and being very curious as to her choice and decision to not eat meat. I would ask her numerous times why she had chosen not to eat meat because, honestly I just couldn’t understand it. In fact, I think some of the very words I may have used were “I get where meat comes from, I could watch a video of an animal getting chopped up, but that still doesn’t make me not want to eat it.” I get it now. (Sorry Kristi). The point being, that thoughts and mindsets can shift radically. I think it’s perhaps less common for it to shift back – but, quite honestly, who is to say that it won’t?
    5. I choose not to define myself by what I eat. Let me repeat that. I choose not to define myself by what I eat. Just as I wouldn’t define myself by the clothes I put on my body, or the colour I dye my hair, the colour of my skin or the food I put in my mouth. I am a being and my worth, my value, my identity is infinite. It is way more than screaming out “I EAT CARROTS & POTATOES!!”

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Anywhoo – having said that, here is a little food diary for the past few days, I tried to be up to date with the things I ate and the little snacks I had in between, although, to be fair it’s probably missing a snack or two. As a general thing, we tend to eat super healthy during the week, which gives us a little leeway and the odd glass of wine or two on the weekends.

Day 1

Woke up early and made myself a cup of hot lemon water with a few pieces of ginger in it. (Sat in bed drinking it, journalling)
Had a morning home yoga practice – (nothing too intense, practicing flow for upcoming retreat)

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Breakfast: Grapefruit, boiled egg, spinach, lemon salt + pepper. (Spent 15 minutes trying to take the best picture of it all, was starving by the time I ate it.)

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Mid Morn snack: Coffee, Banana + Peanut butter. I call this “mid-morning” but really it was probably only about 6 minutes after breakfast. (See starvation levels above)
(Busy morning, packing orders, doing illustration, planning classes and meeting with a yoga studio)

Lunch: Met with Holly to discuss plans for yoga retreat – went to Ex Cellar and ordered the soup of the day – Pumpkin soup with toast. (No picture)

Afternoon Snack: Have awesome treats from Creative Nature Superfoods that have arrived from some of our sponsors to be given out to the yogis on our retreat as part of their “goodie bags” – Holly brought some for me. Opened one as I was leaving the restaurant. (Quality control and all). I tried the cacao and berry bar – and it is freaken delicious. Finished it before I had even got to the train.

Went straight to teach a kids yoga class, kid offered me a handful of her snack popcorn. Couldn’t say no, obviously.

Got home and smashed a few mushrooms dipped in hummus (go-to-snack). Warren arrived home and declared he was starved. Me too. Forfeited an evening yoga session and whacked on the oven straight away.

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Dinner: M&S Salmon & broccoli quiche (average),  salad (spinach, tomatoes, baby corn, olives, feta, mushrooms) and hummus. Decided not to waste 15 minutes trying to take a photo of it. Ended up with a terrible picture which I’ve unsuccessfully tried to mash up in photoshop. Split quiche into quarters. I ate one quarter, Warr ate one quarter. Watched MasterChef. Got hungry again. Ate the remaining quarters. No more quiche.

Tried to convince Warren that we should make delicious hot chocolate, with lots of sugar. It was unsuccessful. He made me a berry tea instead. Which is totally not the same thing.

Day 2

Slept terribly, woke up slightly later than yesterday. Did morning practice about 1 and half hours – also partly prepping for retreat classes.

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Breakfast: Protein Smoothie – handful of spinach, about 4 strawberries, 5 blackberries, quarter of an avocado that wasn’t quite ready, protein powder and the green mix from love your blender. I won a love your blender competition on instagram recently and met the guys behind it all at the Om Yoga Show – they gave me a stash of sachets to try and they are really good to add to your morning smoothie. I quite like the Super berry one since the flavours are most similar to the type of things I use in my smoothie anyway. This morn I used the Bright Green one. I’m slightly dubious about testing the cherry one – which has rose in it -because I don’t think I want to be drinking a rose bush for breakfast. Will see though. Currently in the house we have Pulsing Whey Protein. It’s ok – I find it quite “fluffy” in taste/texture and it’s definitely better added to smoothies, rather than drinking it on it’s own – but it does have a really high protein to carb ratio though! We also currently the Optimum nutrition whey protein powder in Vanilla. (The chocolate is also good). I REALLY like the Sun Warrior Protein powders – which are vegan (and delish!). I was using those previously (chocolate and then vanilla flavour). I have read though that it’s a good idea to keep switching up the protein powders you use – so that’s the reason for chopping and changing!

Mid Morn: Coffee and Banana. (Intentionally left banana out of my morning smoothie so that I could have it as a snack)

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Lunch: Scrambled Egg combo. Eggs, tomatoes, olives. Sprinkled fancy looking herbs on it purely for photographic purposes. Tasted good. Will remember that for future.

Afternoon Snack: Was about to make a second cup of coffee then remembered I was creating a public food diary. Made a chai tea with coconut milk instead. ha. Noshed an extra seed bar from yesterday –
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Kids yoga in the afternoon. Smashed a few mushrooms and hummus before heading out. Also a few almonds.
Had a boiled egg before heading back out to teach my adult class.
Taught my open class at St Mark’s straight after that. Came home super hungry.

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Dinner: Lentil soup from Sainsbury’s – (standard staple of ours especially if we are both out doing yoga late at night!  – Warr usually comes to my Wednesday evening yoga class and this dinner makes it quick and easy to heat up when we get home. To be honest, we have this soup at least once a week. Sometimes twice.) Roasted some pumpkin seeds on top as per usual. To make it fancy and all. Managed to convince husband to allow us a piece of dark chocolate. Ate piece of dark lindt chocolate. Ate half of a second piece of chocolate.

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Day 3:
Short run with a little bit of yoga to follow. Came home hungry.
Breakfast: Made oats with honey and added in the cocoa and chilli sachet from the Love Your Blender sachets I have left. Gave a new little spin to the morning oats. Not bad! (Note: above – the “instagram picture” below – the ‘what it ACTUALLY looks like picture’
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Mid morn snack: a few grapes, (and also accidentally a piece of dark chocolate that happened to be sitting on the table.) Pity we don’t have any pets I could blame that on. Hopefully husband won’t notice.

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Lunch: Salad bowl – spinach, falafel, egg, hummus, pesto, cucumber, beetroot, avocado, olives. Pesto and hummus.

Afternoon Snack: Half a Quest protein bar (chocolate flavour)

Taught evening yoga class at Motspur Park.

Dinner: Salmon and vegetable stir-fry, I pretended to cook it and then casually “left it unattended” as Warren walked into the kitchen. No photo. Was delish.

( The weekend was in between here – I didn’t document all the meals since we were at The Weekend Zen – the food was all super delicious and all veggie ranging from Aubergine and tomato ratatouille, to leek tarts, to veggie frittatas. Lunches were soups with salads and healthy coleslaws. Delicious puddings were served – chocolate brownies for the win! Probably more desserts than I would usually have during the week – but probably the right amount for Weekend treats!)

Day 4:

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Had a sleep in, felt a bit bush-whacked after epic retreat weekend.

Breakfast: Coffee. (nearly two cups, but managed to restrain). All bran with cashew nuts and coconut milk. (Had two {mini} bowls of All Bran). Ok, fine, they weren’t that mini.

Snack: Ate a few grapes. Decided I was still hungry so ate an apple before heading out to the post office. Was tempted to get a Pret Feta and butternut salad for lunch. Remembered we had left overs at home –
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Lunch: Left over chickpea and aubergine curry/stew, made by husband for our Sunday night dinner – super yummy! (Husband was trying to be healthy on Sunday, (we didn’t even have wine!) I successfully convinced him to eat an entire bowl of ice-cream covered in Twix Mix chocolate balls. I’m a really good influence. Finished off the ice cream with a piece (two pieces) of dark chocolate. As you do.)

Snack: Ate an entire protein bar. And then some nuts and raisons. And then some grapes. Had a rooibos tea to make up for the fact that I possibly shouldn’t have smashed the entire protein bar in one sitting, when – to be fair, hadn’t done all that much activity this morning. lol. Had a few extra nuts.
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Kids yoga in the afternoon, kid offered me her last chocolate cookie – put it in my bag “for later”. Come to think of it, it is still currently in my bag, possibly melting into the fabric. Awesome.

Taught out at William Morris House. Tried to tell Warren that we should have pizza and red wine for dinner. He resisted and then after a lot of begging, he said, “Fine, we can have that for dinner if you really want to”. Decided to compromise with a “healthy burger”
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Dinner: Spinach and lentil burger patty (store bought), portobello mushroom “buns” with peppers, avocado, cheese, cucumber and gherkin. Was delicious. Tasted naughty, but really wasn’t. Except for possibly the cheese, if you had to be nit-picky. But really who nit-picks over cheese? Super difficult to eat. Had some protein bar to finish off – because the protein bars literally taste like chocolate.

So that is a little four day food diary of the things I fuel into my day – usually breakfasts are protein smoothies, lunch are whatever’s going, generally salads or something fresh. Dinners are quick to prepare meals – often veggie soups with extra roasted pumpkin seeds. For snacking I choose nuts and bananas with peanut butter. I also like snacking on mushrooms and veggies dipped in hummus, boiled eggs are also a good go-to for me! On the weekends we have treats and wine, and often Warren will cook in the evenings which is often something Asian inspired, mainly veggie stir fry or curries – sometimes does them with prawns. On weekend mornings we treat ourselves with coffee in bed with Ouma Rusks. Two rusks each, or one if we are being healthy.

I am in no way a dietician, I eat the things that fuel me best at this stage of my life – which right now, is fresh vibrant food, with a variety of colours. I prefer eating smaller snacking type foods throughout the day and stay away from meats because I’ve found they leave my body feeling quite heavy. It’s not common for us to have bread at home – but will eat it if we are out. Our meals are generally quite low carb. I don’t take sugar in my coffee or tea. I’ve been trying to cut down on the number of coffees I have per day, although generally I don’t drink very strong coffee. Am down to one cup. If I am eating a bowl of cereal or making a smoothie I use coconut or almond milk, otherwise I use regular milk. I cut out diary milk for a little while some time ago and it did make a difference to my skin. Once you train the taste buds to have alternative milk in your coffee and tea – regular milk tastes SO sweet. Might try it again sometime,  although currently I don’t have any pressing reason to. Teaching yoga in the evenings I like to have a snack a few hours before I go and then have dinners that aren’t too heavy because generally I get home later and then am eating later. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day – I used to be a massive CEREAL-hollic, but sadly have become wiser as to how ridiculous the amounts of sugar there are in most mueslis. Sob. Have made a few of my own mueslis before and they are pretty good! Mueslis are now a treat! I have a generally faster metabolism, but still don’t like eating a main meal less than an hour before a yoga class.

I’d love to know your thoughts! How do you fuel your body?

Things I have learnt from my first retreat

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I’m sitting here in my pyjamas (at 9:23am on a Monday) with a slightly sore throat after one of the most beautiful weekends I could have ever imagined. I wanted to just jot down some of my thoughts on the past weekend and the first yoga retreat I’ve hosted, while it’s still fresh in my memory. (Although to be honest, I’ve already had to message Holly to remind myself what we had for dinner on Saturday evening – aubergine ratatouille with quinoa in case you were wondering).

Where even to begin?!

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I think I should probably begin with the amazing group of people that came to share this weekend with us. They brought such amazing energy and openness to the entire weekend and it’s made me so grateful. There are lots of things that could potentially go wrong when you mix 16 different people and personalities together and to be honest, I anticipated a few road bumps. Yet everything was completely smooth sailing. Which (quite frankly) absolutely floored me. Yes, the weather could have been slightly less “gale-force-ish” and the mud could have been sightly less slippery, but in terms of everything else, I didn’t expect things to run as smoothly as they did and I think it is largely due to the group of people who shared it with us and I am extremely grateful.

Gayles Retreat Centre is absolutely amazing. It is completely out in the country, surrounded by huge open fields, free range chickens, beautifully manicured gardens + water features and obviously Princess the horse. There is something so peaceful about that space that you just can’t describe. When I commented to Ros, the owner of the centre, about how amazed I was that everything just ran so smoothly, she replied with something along the lines of, “When people are close to nature, they feel gratitude and when people feel gratitude, they have no other choice but to feel joy and contentment.”

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So what’s it like to host a yoga retreat?

In one word: Incredible.

In two words: Incredibly exhausting.

I had the most amazing time sharing my knowledge and teaching the people who came to share this weekend with us. Meeting these new people and teaching them all was my favourite thing about the entire weekend. I will say though, I don’t know how yoga teachers manage a retreat on their own. I think without having Holly co-hosting with me, I would feel even more depleted right now! Teaching a yoga class draws a LOT of energy out of you, and then in the “free time” it’s about making yourself available for questions and posture break-down and chatting with people who have had certain experiences that have risen up out of the practice. It’s also the time to make sure that things for the next activity/yoga class/ workshop are all well prepared. It is full on. There is no “free time” on the yoga teachers schedule at a yoga retreat. I think that without someone else to help hold the space, it would be nearly impossible to take a few moments to run through your sequencing or class plans or teaching points before teaching. Gayles was amazing at making sure that we didn’t ever need to worry about the meals or any other kind of housekeeping admin. And their food was absolutely delicious!

On Saturday afternoon, we created Mala beads that the yogis could take home with them – we used the Malas in the meditation the following morning which was centred on positive affirmations. I led the Sunday morning class on positive affirmations and had asked everyone to come to seated and take their mala beads infusing the breath with their mantra as they moved along the chain of 108 beads. At one point, I looked up to check how far everyone was, and to see this sea of people holding these mala’s they had created, positively affirming themselves was such a powerful moment for me. So much so that in fact, I had a big ol’ tear on my mat.

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And subsequently had to find something else to distract myself (taking off my socks, FYI) so that I didn’t compound myself into a blubbering mess. lol.

What would I do differently next time?

I believe that for our first yoga retreat things went absolutely the best they ever could. But of course there are SO many things that we have learnt and grown from this, that I almost can’t wait to organise the next retreat so that we can implement new things that have come up for us. Thought I would share some of the things here.

  1. Adding in a (more challenging) asana workshop.
    On the retreat, we had a complete variety of yoga practitioners, ranging from those who have practiced yoga for years, to those who have maybe been to one or two classes. From some of the feedback we received, I think it would have been a good idea to include an arm balance workshop or an inversion workshop for those who wanted. Rather than only working through them in our class flows. Although our schedule was pretty full on, we did have a few periods of free time, and I had assumed that in this free time, yogis would approach us with their particular questions and we would be breaking down postures and workshopping them a little bit for those who wanted. This happened a little bit, but I did expect more! I think having a set workshop time for this would have helped! Having said that though, the purpose of the weekend was to recharge before the craziness of Christmas. The focus was on nourishing the body and mind and we included a bit more restorative yoga with less focus on the dynamic “power” practices so I do think that the classes we did offer were in line with our intention and were good for the season. I’d love to do a more “power” retreat in the summer – with loads of arm balance workshops and sweaty power play.
  2. Making better use of the fact that we had two teachers.
    Before coming on the retreat, Holly and I decided that while the one person taught, the other would practice in the class. We did this intentionally to try build ourselves as part of the community of the weekend – so that people would feel like we were all learning, sharing and practicing together. We mentioned at the beginning of the weekend how we can all look to each other as teachers, and this fed into our reasoning for partaking in the classes – that the teachers also become the students. Looking back, I think it would have been more useful for us to have two teachers adjusting in the classes. I would reconsider this in the future.
  3. Dorm Rooms
    Gayles Retreat centre is absolutely magical, there is something so peaceful about the place. It is however a dorm room situation, which I think is not suited to all people and I can fully understand that. The problem we largely encountered when searching for places to host the retreat, is that many of the places offering single room accommodation have super high accommodation costs, and being our first, I am not sure that we were comfortable charging that much more for our retreat. After going through the feedback though, we have realised that this is something that is quite valuable to people – having their own space, to be and perhaps reflect. It would be interesting to find out what people would pay for private accommodation, because it does add quite a big difference to the basic costs. This is definitely something that I would do more research on going forward, and perhaps find a venue that offers both dorm style and premium accommodation for those who want.
  4. Create a specific cancellation policy
    This is the business-end of the retreat stuff, and whilst we had a non-refundable deposit we didn’t have a clear cancellation policy drawn out. As it happened, the night before the retreat Friday I received two emails from girls who didn’t think they could make it. Whilst we didn’t have a formal cancellation policy drawn up, Gayles had already invoiced us for all the food and accommodation at this stage, which means if we had fully refunded these two at this stage we would be costing ourselves money. One girl was unfortunately still unable to make it, the other arrived, broken rib and all! (Kudos Liv!) In future, a cancellation policy for cancelling the week of the retreat and corresponding refunds, needs to be made clear.
  5. Free time – 
    This is a tricky one, because some people mentioned they would have liked more free time, others mentioned that they loved that we had so many different activities. I think the free time does feed into whether or not people have their own space (i.e.: non-dorm room) to be “free” in. I think it may have been quite useful to have 1-to-1 slots where everyone could book a time to chat with one of us, that way we could have gotten the chance to chat to everyone individually and assess the things they are needing and help out where possible. The main thing I have learnt, is that it is honestly impossible to please everyone all of the time.
  6. Longer retreat!
    This is something that came up a few times in our feedback! For our first retreat I felt comfortable having it over a weekend, but I could definitely see the benefit of hosting a retreat over a longer time period, that way we can really start to understand the needs of our students and get a better idea of their bodies, what they are working with and their personal goals. It would also allow us more time to be able to break down postures, have workshops, have more group activities and generally have more fun!

As I was walking back home from the Station on Sunday evening, filled with happiness and absolute love for this entire weekend and how well it had gone, it was quite tricky for me (being the person I am) to not get stuck on all the things we still could have done. Holly and I literally poured our hearts and souls into this weekend and hopefully it showed for those who shared it with us. But even so, it was quite hard for me, walking up the hill in the rain to not think about all the OTHER things we could ALSO have done.

Just in that moment that I was beginning to let myself be overridden with all the things we COULD have done – this literally stopped me dead in my tracks –

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A little bit of love from the universe to say,

“Well done for your first yoga retreat – it was beautiful.”
xo

Why we feel emotional on the YOGA mat

 

The first time I felt “emotional” (read: tears) during a yoga class was sometime around Savasana and it went a little something like this:

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I had absolutely NO idea what was happening and couldn’t do anything to stop it.

I’d love to say that I felt “enlightened” “emotionally unburdened” and “free” but to be honest – it completely freaked me out that I was suddenly, for no apparent reason, lying in a puddle of tears in a dark room with a bunch of strangers.

As I’ve delved deeper into my own personal practice — my own experience with yoga, its connection to our emotions, and through my journey as a yoga teacher — I have opened myself more to the powerful connection that exists between our body and our mind and the way that we can access that connection through the time we spend on our mat.

It’s often said by yoga teachers that “the hips hold a lot of our emotions” – which when you think of it in its literal terms really is rather bizarre –

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So what do yoga teachers mean when they whip out this “hip-py-talk”?

The Mind, Body, and Spirit Connection

Yoga is an exploration of the connection between body, mind and spirit. The very word “yoga” is sometimes defined as “to yoke” or “to pull together/unite” – the pulling together or union of those three elements of the self.

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Because of the intrinsic connection between these three things, the tension, frustration, anger, sadness, pain, happiness, love (etc.) that we hold in our minds can often be experienced through the physical body and vice versa.

If you’ve ever had trouble sleeping at night – that ‘bedtime-moment’ when a thousand thoughts suddenly start running through your head (greatest thing ever), it’s a good idea to check the tightness or tension in your jaw.

As the mind starts to buzz with all these thoughts, the physical body (in this case, the jaw) begins trying to verbalise these thoughts, but, because “sleep time” usually isn’t the right time or space to talk to anyone, we hold that tightness in our jaw — often without even realising it.

Similarly, if you’ve ever become angry or frustrated, you many notice the shoulders rising up towards the neck or the muscles in the fingers beginning to unconsciously clench.

These are very obvious and general examples – but imagine the kind of subtle tension being built up in the body over all the years of our minds being active!

The Link Between Hatha Yoga and the Mind-Body-Spirit Connection

In our Hatha (or physical yoga) practice, and as put out in the texts of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, we are not concerned with trying to create “break-throughs” in the mind, we simply learn to control and release into the physical body through the practice of asanas (or postures).

And because of the intrinsic connection of mind, body, and spirit — the mind follows.

In a class that focuses on releasing tension and tightness, or allowing the body to soften and let go, it may be an indicator for the mind to do the same.

The release in the physical body and those quiet moments in Savasana, gives the mind the space and the time to let go of anything past or present, that it is unnecessarily and unconsciously holding on to. And yes, sometimes this is experienced through a tear or two.

The Five Koshas

emotional9In the philosophy behind yoga, it is believed that the self is made up of five sheaths or “koshas” that move from the outermost layer to the innermost, a bit like the layers of an onion.

The first outermost layer, Annamaya Kosha is the “foodstuff” layer. It relates to the things that make up the “matter” of the body: bones, flesh, muscles, skin, joints, ligaments etc.

And it’s clear to see how in our physical yoga practice, we start tapping into this layer by moving through a series of asanas – affecting the very “foodstuff” elements of our self.

The next layer in is the Pranamaya Kosha – which deals with the prana or life force/energy/vitality within the body, which is experienced through the breath.

In our physical yoga practice, when we move with a deep connection to the breath, we start peeling off the layers of this sheath too.

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The third layer is the Manomaya Kosha – “mano” that which is composed of the mind. This is where the magic in our yoga practice begins to occur. By working through the two outermost layers (physical body and pranic body, through postures and the breath), we begin to see the layers of the manas or mind emerging.

Following these principles, we can begin to understand how yoga can elicit changes in our mental state, when we work deeply within our own body and breath- shedding those outermost layers – therefore allowing for the mind layers, the nervous system and all the emotions connected to it, to be broken open.

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And, if that “hippy talk” is a bit far from your realm of belief – maybe you’ve just had a really crappy day and yoga is your safe space to have a little wallow – in which case, go right ahead – let that shit out!

What is intention?

Sometimes in our yoga practice, we may hear the teacher asking us to “set an intention” for the practice. What does it actually mean? How does it work? And why do we do it?

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If you look up intention in the big ol’ book of words, it says something along the lines of, ” intention is the act or instance of determining mentally on some action or result”. It’s also been defined as “the end or object intended”. In many different definitions the two main recurring themes of the word intention are the end result and this idea of a mental state.

When we intend to do something, we make a decision in our minds to carry out actions that aim to achieve a particular end result. In short, it creates for us a – photo intention4_zpsb3li8r3a.jpg

In my view, there are two (both equally good) different ways of practicing yoga. One is working from the outside in, the other is working from the inside out. Working from the outside in, we arrive on our yoga mat, we use the body and the breath as a guide to tap into what is going on in our minds. We work with the body and our physical restrictions/limitations/abilities of that day to go deeper into our emotional and mental state and start shedding those layers from the outside in. Perhaps the jaw keeps clenching? Perhaps there is tightness in the shoulders? Using these kinds of physical cues to explore a little bit deeper into what is happening in our emotional/mental body. Working and softening the body to heal and soften the heart and mind.

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Working from the inside out is where intention comes in. Before we even begin our practice we decide on a mental state to guide our practice. Perhaps our intention is to move with compassion, love and kindness towards the body. Perhaps our intention is to try something new, to challenge ourselves, to be brave, to move past fear. In this way, we use our intentioned mental state to explore the edges of our physical body.

In an oversimplified example, the cat/cow variations can be used as an example of moving with or without intention. In one way we can move by following directions, flowing from the outside in, following the breath –

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or – we can start moving with intention, with intuition, closing the eyes and feeling the movements from the inside out –
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During a yoga class, much like the breath, we use intentions to keep us focused and centred within our practice.  Any time we find our minds wandering, getting lost in thoughts – or perhaps whenever we feel that we are pushing ourselves too hard, or not stepping passed our comfort zones enough, is the moment we return back to our intention. Re-set, focus back on that internal state and begin again.

Setting an intention is not only useful for our yoga practice, but useful for moving throughout our day. Every morning when we wake up, we have the choice to set an intention for our day: an actively chosen mental state to guide our actions in order to create a particular desired outcome. When we move through our day with a predetermined intention, we are less likely to be affected by external circumstances: bad weather, traffic, irritable bosses, long queues, lots of work etc, because our day is governed by an internal source, our mental state, which is something we can always return to, no matter what.

Intentions that add value/benefit/inspiration to our lives or the lives of those around us, are often the easiest to take off the mat. Examples of these being –

+ Moving with kindness and compassion
+ Letting go of negative thought patterns
+ Breaking through fear and embracing challenges
+ Allowing more love in
+ Being open
+ Adopting a sense of trust
+ Releasing anything that no longer serves you
+ Accepting where we are right now

An intention is something that comes from within, so before setting one spend a few quiet moments asking yourself what is it that you really need at this present moment. Perhaps it is more compassion towards yourself, maybe it is to break through self-limiting beliefs – whatever it is, focus on an intention that best meets your needs right now. If nothing particular comes to mind, set an intention that is grounded in gratitude (acceptance), forgiveness (letting go) or love. Use this as a guide throughout your practice. Return to it whenever you need.

What are your thoughts about intentions? Do you set them? Do you have reminders that help bring you back to your intention throughout the day? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below or pop me a message on the Ché Dyer yoga Facebook page.

5 tips to beat the winter blues…

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You guys, I can’t tell you what this weather does to me.

No, wait. I can.

It makes me NOT want to get out of bed, it makes me NOT want to do yoga, (partly because doing yoga means changing clothes which involves a few extra seconds of air+skin contact), it makes me want to eat ALL the things. And to clarify by “all the things”,  I’m not talking “kale and broccoli and all the spinach” I’m talking “huge pile of pasta, followed by a half  pound of curry, washed down with three mugs of hot chocolate and a few packets of biscuits”. This of course makes ‘doing yoga’ rather more tricky (Have you ever tried doing yoga after three mugs of hot chocolate and a few packets of biscuits? I have. And I definitely wouldn’t recommend it). This weather for sure tricks me into thinking I’m HUNGRY ALL THE TIME. And it also tricks me into thinking that it’s too cold to go outside for a run (or any other such activity), it makes me want to succumb to the magical powers of our couch, with a blanket and a pillow and NOT MOVE UNTIL SPRING.

AND, you guys, IT’S NOT EVEN WINTER YET.

So anyway, I thought I’d put it out there to the universe (instagram) if anyone had any fantastic tips for beating the winter blues – so that I can try save myself from three months of hibernating in the sofa with all the old pennies.

 

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The first tip comes from Michelle, the Travel Bug yogi, who suggests a little concoction of green stuff. Spirulina, wheatgrass, red maca and chlorella – whacked in a jar and blended up with some coconut milk in the mornings to give yourself a bit of a wake-up zing! I’m willing to give this a go – since as far as I can see it, it will either be the greatest thing ever to give me an winter energy boost – or I will start photosynthesising. I’ll keep you posted.

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Kristy has mentioned that the only way to keep yourself motivated to get moving in the morning is to wear your gym clothes to bed the night before. Actually there is some logic in this. I know my mother usually keeps her gym clothes RIGHT next to her bed, so that there is as little fuss (and excuses) as possible in the morning. This also minimises the ‘skin-to-air-contact’ problem I was talking about earlier.
Possibly will not work out too well if you are planning a morning swim-session, because I am not sure how cosy it would be to sleep in a wetsuit. It’s definitely not very romantic, unless you’re into latex.
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Jos of Yoga with Jos has recommended picking a really good wake up tune. I’m fully on board with this! I am a huge stickler for a good tune and sometimes hearing a specific song can turn my mood around almost instantly. I spend a lot of time making cool playlists for my yoga classes because I really think it affects the pace, tone and flow of a class so much. I used to have Florence and the Machine, Never let me go to wake me up to – which was the song I walked down the aisle to and it always gives me goosebumps. But since I upgraded my phone I took most of my music off and have ended up back with the iPhone Alarm symphony. I’ve just changed it over to Snow Patrol, Just say Yes (also part of our wedding music). I guess, the “YES” factor, just seems fitting. Will see how it goes!
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HA. HA.

When I first read this comment from yogi Jessica I was like, “WAHA. SNOOZE BUTTON. STORY OF MY LIFE.” This is by far my biggest downfall in the duel against the darkness. My alarm goes off and sometimes I’ve hit snooze and shut my eyes before I’ve even realised that my alarm has gone off. Sometimes I will literally push snooze several times before actually even waking up. Husband is a alarm-goes-off-wake-up kinda person (don’t you just hate that kind of go-getter?!) and I just don’t get HOW he does it. I can’t say that this particular method is going to be very successful for me, but I’ll give it a go. Maybe.
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Another great suggestion from Elspeth, is to sleep with the curtains open. So far this is working a tiny bit, but the mornings are getting that much darker (and colder) these days that soon if I wait for the sun to wake me up, I’ll be getting up at 11am (which, might I add, is totally fine by me). Husband is a naturally early riser – and I often ask him to put the bedside lights on so that at least it feels like it’s light and “wake-up time”. Perhaps I should also get him to play some tropical beach tunes.

Then combine that with sleeping in my swimming suit, he could throw some salt on me and I may as well be on a beach!

I’m definitely going to try my hardest in the next little while to get into a proper ‘routine’ before it’s too dark and miserable to talk myself out of it. Perhaps I’ll have to start with a few rewards like hot chocolate or tea (as Kate mentioned)! Or maybe some kind of “penny-reward” system where every day I complete ‘the morning routine’ drop a 50p into a jar. Hopefully soon then I’d have enough £ to buy myself a snazzy new pair of yoga pants?! One of the books I’ve read recently, The Miracle Morning is really good and has some really practical ideas for setting a morning routine. He believes that you will be tired in the mornings if you think you are going to be tired in the morning. But if you go to bed thinking, “I am going to wake up feeling refreshed and alive!” then you will. I’m a little dubious about this, but it’s kind of one of those things that only really works if you fully believe it.

 

One thing that has been a LOT excited about for winter is our weekend yoga retreat happening at the end of November! Holly and I have SUCH awesome things lined up and I cannot WAIT to share them all! We still have some spots left for anyone who is keen to get in on the awesomeness! (In fact, right now, this is one of the only things that is breaking up my winter blues! haha!) Next year I will have to do a summer sunshine one – somewhere tropical I’m thinking!!

So anyway, those are a few of my tips (and one little excitement) for the winter months ahead… does anyone else have any other great tips they’d like to help me out with?! I’m happy to try anything! And

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Happy frost-bite-Thursday!

xo

The Yoga Selfie

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Since the massive blast of yoga taking over social media (instagram in particular), yogis around the world have been more and more keen to share bits of their practice, their well executed asanas and the epic capabilities of their yogi-bods (wrapped in the latest yogi-fashions obv).

When it comes to the “yoga selfie” it seems that people are divided into two separate camps –
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Those that are all for the “public-displays-of-asana” and those that are, well, not. This I think can cause a lot of debate in the “yogi-world” and there have been SO many articles/blog posts/comments etc on the subject already – but I thought I would add my thoughts and opinions to the stew. (Why? because it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want)

Before continuing, I think it’s important for me to add that I do take “yoga selfies” I run a popular instagram feed (@indieyogalife) where I share bits and pieces of my practice and fun little things for people to follow along and develop their own home practice. Having said that, I also fully believe in BOTH sides of this argument.

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WHY I DISAGREE WITH THE YOGA SELFIE

  • Yoga is an extremely personal practice. It is about the time that you connect with yourself. On your mat. Away from everything else. Yoga is about connecting your mind to what is going on in THIS present moment. When there is a camera on you, there is no way that your mind is connecting with your body at this moment, it is far more likely thinking about what the video is going to look like, where you’re going to post it, and how you’re going to look in it. That’s just the way human nature works.
  • When I very first started practicing yoga, I was SUPER keen on getting in on all this selfie-action. I wanted to be part of this little insta-yogi-vibe so I did so many challenges posting single images per day, usually without any kind of warm up. I learnt the hard way, that this is how injuries happen. Early on in the game, I tweaked something in my back, because I was trying to push my body to a place that it wasn’t ready for to “get the BEST. SHOT. EVER.” And, actually, I was too embarrassed to tell anyone how I had hurt myself. But, I learnt a VERY big lesson.
  • The yoga selfie gives preference to physical shapes, rather than a holistic view of yoga. To me, probably even more beneficial than asana (physical posture) practice, is the practice of meditation*. But, ain’t nobody wants to watch someone sitting down doing nothing*.
  • With the yoga selfie, (and I think sharing yourself online in general), there is a tendency for that nasty little ‘ego’ to creep in. Ego in a sense of “look where I am in my practice!” (hello, see sentence #1) and also ego in the sense of “I have 70 thousand followers. You have two. Therefore, I am more of a yogi than you.” Which is, of course – a steaming load of turd.
  •  photo yogaselfie5_zpsxgagaooo.jpgI have seen lots of really “famous” yogis host instagram challenges for “beginners” only to swing into the ‘beginner pose’ from a full-blow handstand. Um. I don’t think that’s really useful. Anyway. To quickly interrupt all my (excellent) points, with a little story that made me quite upset:
    The other day I was watching a ‘famous’ yogi on Periscope, which is a live streaming app. The yogi was doing some crazy arm-balance-manoeuvres on what appeared to be a wall, with a very big landmark behind them. “Cool!” I thought, “that is gonna be a great shot!” What then followed was the yogi asking the people who were watching via Periscope what pose they wanted to see, and tacking on, “Where are all my hearts?! Show me some hearts!”. I’m not sure at what place along the scale yoga became a kind of circus act. But that’s what it seemed like. Hopefully I am reading it incorrectly. What then followed was a security man approaching the yogi, half-shouting, telling the yogi to get off the wall. In the flurry, and as the camera zoomed out, I could see that the yogi was actually sitting on an extremely high wall, and had actually climbed over a very clearly demarcated safety railing to get onto this ledge to perform these crazy arm balances. I have no judgement of this situation, and I do have a huge amount of respect for this yogi, because – clearly they have done the work to get where they are. I am ALL for crazy arm balances and pushing your limits and awesome exotic locations! But at what point does being able to balance on your hands elevate you above the status of regular civilians who are clearly abiding by the safety precautions set out. Just something I was pondering. Moving on.
  • Following this, asana practice is one very small slither of yoga. But it isn’t where the yoga happens. Yoga is the thing that happens in the mind, in the soul, in the heart. For example, I have (almost freakishly) long arms, this makes touching my toes relatively easy. So to say that my yoga practice is “more advanced” because my arm is 3cm longer than yours, is, you guessed it – a steaming load of turd. And sharing on social media has a tendency to glamourise the ‘end posture’.

So anyway, having said all that,

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I would now like to share with you some of the reasons why I DO share some of my (physical) yoga practice on social media – photo yogaselfie4_zpsbwxetbuv.jpg

 

WHY I AGREE WITH THE YOGA SELFIE

  • Social media can be an amazing source of inspiration and community. When I first started delving into this yoga world, I primarily used Instagram as a source of inspiration, to find new poses, to test out things at home. To watch and learn from what other people where sharing and working on. I was new to London and didn’t have much $ so it was a really cost-effective way for me to try and explore this thing called “yoga”. I learnt loads in this time and participated in many different asana challenges on instagram which I found really useful. My aim for the things I share online is to be inspirational to others who are also starting their yoga journey.
  • Doing (or hosting) yoga challenges online can really teach you. I learnt so much about the physical aspects of yoga doing some of the challenges I found in my early days, and having a daily challenge taught me a LOT about the benefit of a daily yoga practice.
  • I am a massive advocate of home practice. In fact, even with the classes I teach in Wimbledon, I encourage all the yogis who practice with me to develop a home practice: I give them practice cards to take home, I share videos with alignment and flow ideas and offer as much support to them as I possibly can. I think that there is definitely a place for instagram to be useful to people who are developing their own home practice.
  • Having a social media account keeps you accountable to your own practice. Yoga is a personal practice, yes, and we should never rely on outside sources to bring us to the mat. But sometimes on the days that we really don’t feel like it, it’s useful to remind yourself that maybe someone out there is looking forward to learning something from you today.
  • Although yoga is not only about the physical practice – for many people it’s a good place to start. And then slowly move to the more subtle elements of the yoga practice over time. In this way, instagram and social media is a great way “in” because it is a platform that highlights visible, tangible things.
  • As much as I can teach, there is also SO MUCH that I still have to learn, and being part of this yoga community helps me keep connected to all of it.
  • For a long time, I have shared my life online (see indieberries.com) and now yoga is a big part of my life and it is just a natural thing for me to want to share it, as I have always done.
  • With the things that I share online in the “yoga-sense” I try to keep it as true to who I am as possible. With physical yoga postures, I also share my cartoon doodles (#thisiyogijade) and random thoughts that I have inked. In this way I have hoped to also bring an element that is not JUST physical practice, but also more intellectual, spiritual and self-empowering, whilst staying connected to the things I do well – cartooning, doodling, drawing, musing.
  • Inspiration comes in many forms. Sometimes it IS seeing the “end posture” or a beautiful asana on a beach, and sometimes it is seeing that hard work that goes on behind the scenes. Some things in the physical yoga practice are relatively easy for me (touching my toes) and some things really aren’t. I don’t have a very strong core (currently) and I have worked really hard to build some arm strength to hold me in arm balances (and I still have so much further to go) but I do try to share both the things that come “naturally” for me as well as the things that I really have to WORK hard at. And believe me, I work for them.
  • I don’t live on a tropical island (Sob). I don’t have a perfect handstand. I can’t jump through. I actually hate crow pose and some of my arm balances are super messy. But I do what I can, I share where I am and I work with what I have. Yoga isn’t about the beautiful scenery or the perfected posture. It’s about practice. And more practice. (Granted, we’ll be in Australia for Christmas and I am definitely going to BEACH-YOGA THE SHIT OUT OF MYSELF.)
  • There is sometimes talk about instagram being a place where people “show off” their yoga practice – which feeds into the concept of ego I mentioned above. For me, this is a fine line and I think it is largely down to intention. I believe there is a very big difference between posting something with the intention “Look what I can do” versus “Look what you can do”. Having said that, I don’t think it is ever fair to label someone as “showing off” because they post more “advanced” postures (‘advanced’, what is that even? Congratulations, your arm is 3cm longer than mine?). That is just where their practice is. (In fact, I scrolled to the very beginning of one of my all time favourite insta-yogis to the very beginning of her practice. And man, I LOVED it. There she was with straps and blocks and sweating and working hard. The (physical) things she shares now are way different from when she started, but, that is just where her continuous practice has taken her. And to me, that is inspiring.
  • When I first started sharing yoga online, the yoga I shared was my yoga practice. (Enter: injuries, ego and sucking in my stomach). The “yoga” that I share now online is not connected to my personal practice at all. My personal practice is me, alone, in my sacred space in the morning, moving with my breath and music that I love. The things that I choose to post are the fun playing around after I have finished practicing. Sometimes even in the afternoon.

So anyway, those are some of my thoughts on the yoga selfie.
What are your thoughts/opinions on it? Who are your favourite people to follow (if any?)
I’d love to hear!

But now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find a waterfall to handstand under.

xo

 

8 ways to get your man on the mat

Whilst yoga is most definitely “for all” let’s be honest, the majority of yoga studios are filled with young women, which doesn’t do much to smash the stereotype. In a bold effort to bring more men into the world of yoga, I have attempted to lure my husband into a yoga class and I have employed the following tactics –

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non-attachment after all, right?

This post was first published here.

 

I want to be a yoga teacher…

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There comes a point in many people’s personal yoga practice where they have a feeling of “I WANT MORE OF THIS” and as such many look to starting a yoga teacher training course. In the last little while, I have been asked (emailed/facebooked/messaged/stopped in the street) about this many MANY times (4 times in the last 24 hours to give you a rough idea) – so I thought I would write a blog post about it, to direct people to instead of relaying the same information over and over again. (#smart)

Doing my yoga teacher training was one of the most life changing things I’ve done. So, I thought I would share some of my thoughts and views on looking for a teacher training program, or if a teacher training program is what you are really after.

The first thing you need to ask yourself is –
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The reason WHY you are searching for a yoga teacher training program is probably the key to finding out if yoga teacher training is for you. Many people start who start practicing yoga in a studio (or via YouTube!) quickly realise that yoga is SO much more than twisting into pretzel-shapes. The time in the studio gives only a little taste of what yoga is and you start craving more information, more knowledge, more philosophy, more physical progress. (Been there).

I think the most important thing you need to clarify with yourself is THIS REASON –
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Are you looking to learn more and to personally go deeper into the philosophy and practice of yoga? Or are you looking to TEACH yoga? It’s important to make this distinction from the beginning because “Doing yoga is DOING yoga (awesome!!). TEACHING yoga is a JOB.” Granted, an extremely fulfilling and rewarding job, but still, a job. And with a job in this sector, there are usually a few lifestyle shifts that need to take place if you decide to head down this path (for example: working odd hours i.e. all the hours that other people aren’t at work (weekends/evenings) or perhaps taking a bit of a pay-cut).

I have been lucky in that already being a freelancer, I am able to be flexible on my working hours to be able to cover classes when I can and work hours that work for me. If you do have a “regular” job – this may be something to think about.

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I began my yoga teacher training always with the INTENTION TO TEACH (for reasons that are a whole new blog post!), but there are many people who start teacher trainings who have no intention to teach at all- that they are coming more for personal reasons or to grow their own knowledge and deepen their own understanding of yoga. The reason why I think it’s important to make this distinction is because it can affect the TYPE of yoga school you join (or if you even decide to do a teacher training at all).

I did my teacher training at Yoga London (which I can highly recommend), I did a LOT of research on various yoga schools and trainings and teacher programs and I chose YogaLondon because there is a strong emphasis on the TEACHING of yoga, which (as well as deepening my understanding, furthering my practice, gaining more knowledge etc) was the reason I wanted to do a teacher training.

My friend Lulu (who first introduced me to yoga) did her yoga teacher training at the integral yoga centre – which (I believe) has a stronger emphasis on the spiritual/personal growth aspects of yoga, so if your interest is for personal reasons or self development then this would be a good (slightly more affordable) option (Note: I have not done this training, I can only compare what I know from Lulu and the training that I have done).

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There are many different yoga teacher training schools that are out there that offer teacher training programs, with different course lengths, different course times and different pricing. DO YOUR RESEARCH. ASK YOGA TEACHERS. I became completely obnoxious after every yoga class I attended, I approached the teacher and asked where they had done their training. (Answered ranged from, “immersion program in Bali” to “Sivananda centre in Scotland” to “mentorship program” to “year long training” etc). I also went to the Om Yoga Show where I went around and listened and looked and observed. I actually attended a free lecture there from a woman who runs a yoga teacher training and I came away from that lecture thinking, “THAT WAS ABSOLUTELY HORRIFIC” – listen to your gut feel about these things: a few months later, I was talking to a yoga teacher who had actually trained with this particular teacher and said it was one of the worst experiences ever. (Not to mention various emotional-damage lawsuits that are currently being filed). Do your homework. And if possible, find someone who has trained at the school you are thinking of applying to and ask them about it.

If your intention is to TEACH yoga (given how saturated it is becoming) then it is a good idea to find a school that is accredited with the Yoga Alliance – which is the standardised yoga trade association. Yoga, as it originated in the East – was never intended to be something that you needed “a certificate” to teach. It was a one-to-one relationship and you learnt with your guru and when they deemed you ready, you shared your knowledge with the next person. But the way that yoga has infiltrated in the West there are many more loopholes and accreditations and insurance plans that you need in order to cover yourself. So it’s worth bearing that in mind.

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If you have reached this point of “I WANT MORE” in your yoga practice and are wondering ‘What next?’ But don’t really have the inclination to TEACH yoga then I think there are also a variety of other avenues that you can pursue.

Yoga Workshops
If you’d like to further your physical practice – there are a multitude of yoga workshops and courses that you can take. Indaba Yoga run workshops that are both spiritual and physical, as do Yoga Campus, The Sivananda Centre, Triyoga and The Life Centre. In fact, most yoga studios should offer some kind of workshops – so ask your teachers at the places that you practice. Perhaps book yourself into a workshop that seems “WAY OUT THERE” for you. Or one that you wouldn’t ordinarily try – I have gotten the MOST out of workshops that I didn’t think I would enjoy that much.

Yoga Festivals
Obviously, these are date dependent – but they are a good way to get something a little more. (I have recently been to YogaConnects and last year went to Colour Fest) – if you are deciding on a festival to go to – take a look at the line ups and choose one that offers something a little different than what you could expect to find at a yoga studio – perhaps chakra workshops or Ayurvedic talks or gong baths.

Foundation Courses
I have recently opened up my second intro to yoga course after such positive response from the first one – even from students who already had an established yoga practice. Granted, if you have reached a point in your personal practice where you are inquiring as to a teacher training, you may not feel that a foundation course or “beginners” course will have anything to offer you – but I honestly believe that a well structured foundation course will have PLENTY to teach you, because it should cover not only the physical postures but the WHY and HOW we do it. It may be worth seeing if there is one in your area – usually these are the same prices as classes, so it’s not a huge investment.

Yoga Retreats
Going on a yoga retreat is not only an awesome holiday, but you have the opportunity to dedicate an entire (intensive) period of time to learning and progressing your practice. Usually retreats are structured with physical practice as well as with mini workshops, talks or yoga-related information that will help you go a little deeper into your understanding of yoga. These retreats can be anything from two weeks to one month long. We have just opened a weekend long retreat at the end of November! Spots are already filling up which is super exciting!

Read
One of the best ways to further your understanding of yoga is by reading yoga related books and texts. I have this post on 11 recommended reads for yogis and I’m currently on my second batch of books so will be adding to it soon!

Practice
This is by far one of the most overlooked ways of deepening your experience of yoga. Get on your mat. Play with postures. Dedicate a time to sit and meditate. Create a sacred space for yourself and use it to explore the breath, the body and the mind. DO HOME PRACTICE. Yes, there will always be more to learn and more knowledge to acquire (which you can get from reading) but EVERYTHING you need to know about YOGA is contained within your own experience. So practice. And then practice some more.

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There is also the question that has hit my inbox a few times is “can anyone be a yoga instructor?” And I think that’s another whole blog post on it’s own – in my opinion I think that yes – anyone can be a yoga instructor, but I think it’s something a little bit different to be a yoga teacher – but hopefully I will get a gap in the next little while to share my personal views on that!
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Whatever you decide on and whatever route you decide to take – it’s such an exciting path that you are on and I wish you huge luck on your journey! Hopefully this has answered some questions, but if there is anything that I’ve left off that you are desperate to ask please leave a comment below – that way everyone else can see the response too!
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* please note: all the views within this post are my own and this post is not sponsored in any way. I did my yoga teacher training with Yoga London and I would highly recommend them as a really good school for yoga teacher training.

5 tips for creating a sacred yoga space

creating a sacred space

Today I wanted to share my tips about creating a sacred space for your yoga practice.

Firstly, yoga is not just exercise. It’s a WHOLE bunch of things. (Although, if you’re interested in my thoughts on yoga versus exercise you can read here). Because yoga is SO much more than a couple of down dogs and a plank, I believe that it’s really important to create a truly sacred space for you to nurture your yoga practice. Yoga is a practice of the body as much as it is a practice of the mind and that’s the reason why I believe that we need to bring our mind as much into the space as our body – and giving structure to the space in which you practice definitely helps achieve that!

The space that you choose to create to practice in, should be so welcoming and inviting to you that every time you step on your mat to practice or meditate or lie still and breathe, it truly feels like the best place in the world:
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This “space” has nothing to do with the physical space in which you practice. As you may have noticed above, the sentence reads, “the space you choose to create to practice in” not, “the place you choose to practice in”. If anyone reading this follows my yoga instagram account – you will see that I do most of my practice in our lounge. It’s not particularly glamorous and it’s not particularly a beach, and it’s not particularly bright and airy with glorious wooden studio floors. It is what it is. BUT, every morning (or evening) when I practice yoga, I choose to create a ‘space’ that is welcoming and special for me. And here is how:

 photo sacred space2_zpsfvqwhhqv.jpg1. Put on some good music
Before I begin practicing, I usually put on a good soft, “morning tune” while I am setting up my shizz. Something that helps get my mind ready for practice even before I have stepped on the mat. The music you choose to use can also feed into the mood of your practice. If you are feeling vibey and full of energy then something more upbeat is great! It it’s early morning (and you’re like me) – then something more chilled out would work best. I have various playlists on Spotify that I use depending on what my mood is like!

2. Light some candles
There is something about soft candle light that makes everything awesome. I usually light a scented candle and place it at the top of my mat. It gives an amazing glow and in winter, I sometimes practice with candles only, when it’s completely dark outside and you feel like you’re the only one awake. There is also a meditation technique which uses candle gazing as it’s focus – so if you’d like to give that a go – hey! It’s already good to go!

3. Add something smelly
By “smelly” I refer to the ‘good-kinda-smell’ ha! I am busy reading a book which links the sense of smell so closely to emotional memories and bonding. In fact, the sense of smell is the one sense that filters directly to the brain – which is why there is such a strong connection between what we smell and evoking a memory instantly. If there is a particular smell that you absolutely love – then use it! It could be in the form of oils that you drop onto your mat, or incense that you burn, or a room spray or scented candles as above.

4. Have something warm nearby
Regardless of whether you live in the tropics or in iceland, having a light blanket over you at the end of the practice is very comforting. So make sure that you have it nearby. I have been using the amazing blanket that was sent to me by Jacci. This could also be a top to put over yourself and if you do live in the tropics this includes making sure that the temperature where you are going to practice is as optimal for you as you can make it.

5. Add something personal
Choose something (small) and personal that you can bring with you into your practice space. I usually like to do some meditation before I begin my yoga practice. I have a book that I make notes and goals and thoughts and musings in and it has become a book that I use whenever I am meditating on something. I open it to a page, with my notes and thoughts written on that particular idea and set it down next to my candle. I also like to include my mala beads. Choose something that is personal to you – it could be a letter from someone special, a photograph, crystals (if you’re into that) or something that reminds you of someone special. Having this reminder present and visible when you practice, helps shift your practice from a physical thing into something that is greater than yourself. Choosing something small, allows you to take it with you wherever you practice if you wish.
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None of these things are dependent on the physical place in which you practice. Your practice could (and should) be taken anywhere! Your yoga mat should become like your very best friend: it is there when you are not having the greatest day and there when you are having the best day. Choose to create a space around your mat that really celebrates the time you spend on it. Take time to set up the space in which you choose to practice (you could even do it the night before if you need motivation for getting out of bed!) – it really does take your yoga practice from something you “should do” to something you absolutely crave!

How do you practice? Do you set up a sacred space for yourself? What other little ‘rituals’ do you do (if any) before you hit the mat?! I’d love to know!!

Distance Energy Healing

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The further and further I go down this “yoga” rabbit hole – the more hippie weird I seem to become. It’s as if things that were a few years ago VERY foreign and “absurd” to me, are now like… totally normal. I throw words like “the universe” and “energy” around a lot. Things like “reiki” and “energy healing” and “chakras” don’t make my eyes flinch and my toes curl up. Now even, it seems crazy that this stuff was ever NOT common-place to me, because – SCIENTIFICALLY speaking – energy is around us all the time. In fact, at the atomic level – YOU are vibrating with energy. Every little Electron in your cellular make up. Nope. Can’t argue with that. So this energy has been around since always but it’s just like now, I’ve chosen to notice it.

When Colleen from Midlands House of Healing asked if I would like her to do a 7 day distance healing for me, I was like “uh.. YES PLEASE!” And so for the previous week, Colleen has been sending me some healing energy from across the seas. Don’t worry, this also sounded bat-shit crazy to me too (said even as I slide down the hippie rabbit hole). So i’m not here to try and convince you of anything, I just want to share my experience.

On the Monday, I had actually completely forgotten that the energy healing was supposed to start – we had organised it a while ago and I have been so busy with other things that I had completely forgotten about it. On Monday, for some reason though, I woke up feeling super peaceful. I don’t know if you’ve ever woken up and felt like you’ve just had the most incredibly deep sleep with the best dream and you just wake up feeling so zen? Well I remember waking up feeling so calm on Monday morning – even though I had a million things to do – and it was only after I had checked my phone and saw a message from Colleen that said, “Healing sent!” that I remembered that our healing week had started.

Each day Colleen has been focusing on a different area to send healing to. And it was so weird (read: “Hippie”) to me that on the Wednesday, randomly Warren and I had coffee in bed together in the morning. Warren has to be at work at 7am – with a 40 minute cycle to get there, plus 15 minutes getting ready which means he usually wakes up around 6, gets ready and heads off. There isn’t any time in the morning for us to spend together at all. Strangely, this particular Wednesday we sat and had coffee together in bed and it was so lovely. Even more strange was that there was no particular reason for us to do this – he didn’t have a late start at work, he didn’t have the day off, I don’t remember waking up extra early, but I doremember sitting in bed having coffee and telling him how awesome I thought it was that we had a quick morning moment together. Soon after that a message popped up on my phone from Colleen to say, “Healing energy for relationships and love sent!”

The next day or two (I lost track of which day on what) but I had been complaining to Warren in the evening about my skin which had randomly flared up. The next morning I got an email from Colleen to ask about my skin. (Me: ARE YOU IN MY BRAIN WOMAN?!?!) She then sent healing for the liver and skin.
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Over the weekend, I went to a Yoga Festival and it honestly felt like there was so much energy floating around me. I went to a class with Meghan Currie – during the class we were asked to partner up and assist each other with a wheel pose. After the assists, we were asked to place our hands on the partner’s back (as they lay face down) and offer them a quick press down into the earth as a bit of a massage. The girl who was partnered with me put her hand on my back and immediately it felt like it was boiling hot – like she had placed a just boiled kettle onto my back. Afterwards I asked her if she was some kind of reiki or energy healer and she said no, and it immediately made me think of Colleen.

At the end of Meghan’s class, we lay in Savasana and I could feel my entire face getting so hot and also the area above my chest. I knew that Meghan was burning some wood stuff during Savasana – so naturally I just felt like she was standing right above me when she did it. One of the other girls I camped with was watching the class and when I mentioned that it felt like Meghan was burning that stuff right above me because it was so hot – she replied with, “No, she was on the other side of the room, sitting meditating”. I definitely cried in Savasana. And then again in another completely separate class of acro yoga.
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After this week, I have really felt way more alive and way more connected to this sense of being. A little while ago, I really felt like my yoga practice was starting to wane and this week has given me a little boost of connecting back to myself, finding stillness and Colleen has been awesome at sending little snippets of wisdom and links to read over the course of the week and I’m so grateful to her for spending her time and energy on me. Thank you, Thank you!

You can check out Colleen’s words and wisdom over at Midlands House of Healing, connect with her on Facebook or email her on willemandcolleen@gmail.com to book a session. x

 

 

Morning Yoga practice versus Evening Yoga Practice

I had a question the other day about whether it’s better to do yoga in the morning or yoga in the evening. And it’s such a good question because I personally have a love-hate (hate/hate) relationship with mornings. (See here).

In fact, every single morning, without fail, I wake up with what we (husband + me) have affectionately come to refer to as “the pirate eye”. I literally cannot open my right eye, for several minutes. It feels like it is actually glued shut and I have to peer at Warren out my strong eye, (which in the morning is still pretty weak). This is usually accompanied with a section of drool and an unruly ‘shebong-ish’ hair do. I’m really quite attractive in the mornings.
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In fact, I’m SO overly docile in the mornings that I once remarked to husband, “Me trying to exercise in the morning is like trying to get a sloth to do a handstand.”

sloth doing a handstand

To which husband (ever the morning SUN-BEAM) replied, “Yes, but a sloth trying to do a handstand is better than a sloth NOT trying to do a handstand”

Kudos husband and your witty morning banter.

So anyway, this is what I know.

(mornings suck)

But, over the last little while I have become progressively better at dealing with this morning thing – so I thought I would share some of my tips and reasons why I think morning yoga is important. So here is a comparative list:

Benefits of doing yoga in the morning:

  1. It sets you up for a great day. (This we know is true – and it’s my number one reason for doing yoga in the mornings).
  2. It becomes easier to build up a regular routine, before “other things” from the day take over.
  3. It gives you a little bit of a mental win when you feel like you’ve already finished your practice bright and early.
  4. (If you are using yoga as a form of exercising) then yoga (or any morning activity) burns more reserve fuels.

Benefits of NOT doing yoga in the morning:

  1. Getting to sleep in a little later.
  2. Less energy (this may not be true for everyone but it’s definitely true for me)

Traditionally, yoga is practiced in the morning, after the digestive system has been cleared – and before eating, so that the body is light and the yoga can work on cleansing the body before the digestive system is put to work again. Yoga is practiced with the rising of the sun (Sun Salutations after all)

The thing is, there are loads of studies that show that getting active in the morning has LOADS of benefits, both physically and psychologically. But for those NON-MORNING PEOPLE (ahem, moi) this can sometimes be tricky.

So what can we do to deal with morning?

One of the books I’ve recently read, “The Miracle Morning” has some really practical tips for getting up and getting on it, in the mornings –

Drink a big glass of water:

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Our bodies often confuse dehydration with exhaustion and when we wake up after several hours of not drinking water – our bodies are often dehydrated. So load up on the H20. Place a big glass next to your bed before you go to sleep!

Have something specific you are going to achieve:
This could be a designated yoga practice, or a 10 minutes of reading, or walking etc. Whatever it is, make sure you get everything fully prepared for your activity. If it’s yoga, make sure that your yoga mat is laid out the night before, your yoga clothes are ready waiting or your walking shoes good to go! Preparing yourself for the morning the night before helps phenomenally.

Shift your mindset:
This has been the biggest helper for me – in changing the way that I see mornings. I am now slowly starting to see mornings as a little bit of sacred time. Getting up a bit earlier to have a few extra minutes dedicated to myself, my practice and focusing for the day. If you are of the “non-morning” variety – there is nothing else to do, except do it, until it becomes a habit. Continually say to yourself, (in your sexy morning breath)…

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Trust me, I KNOW how hard this is. It’s summertime in London now – so that does help massively when it’s not cold and miserable outside. (Check back in with me in December, Lol)

Allow yourself the time to ease into it
One of the great things about yoga is that it can meet you where ever you are:
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Whether that means you waking up feeling like five-thousand sun salutations with double-dip Caturanga’s thrown in for good measure –
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(^^  “Morning people”. URGH)

Or 3 cat cow variations, half sleeping with drool still hanging off your face:

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(Me, usually)

How I’ve managed to combat the energy-less state in the morning, is by starting with a 15-20 minute meditation (I use the Headspace app most days). After this, my body has usually woken up a little bit more and I’m feeling a (teensy) bit more awake and alive. I then gradually move onto some Cat/Cow variations and then into some Sun Salutations, using my own body as a guide to inform my practice. Starting with meditation allows your body and mind to sync with the more subtle energy – to match the (still sleeping) state of the town around you. As you and your practice begins to move to a more energetic practice (physical yoga), so to does the town around begin waking up, sun rising, birds chirping, people getting up etc.

I think that frequency of practice is more important than intensity of practice. Building up the HABIT and intention to practice every morning is more valuable than the actual practice, whatever that may be.

So if you have the opportunity and are REALLY not into mornings (hello, been there), then I would suggest even 10 minutes in the morning (building up that HABIT) for gentle stretching and a very easy almost restorative practice (loads of spinal twists and stretches, lots of work seated, or low to the mat and anything to work into the shoulders and neck) then if you have another 20 minute slot later in the day (when the energy levels are up a bit) then whack in another more power practice – standing sequences, sun salutations, dynamic flows and maybe a few arm balances. That’s the BRILLIANT thing about yoga – it really covers absolutely everything.

Lately I’ve been aiming to be out of bed by 6:15am (granted, my alarm clock goes off at 5:52). I’ve been getting better and better and it is definitely getting easier. Although just when I was finally getting the hang of it and feeling like I was ON TOP OF THE WORLD FOR WAKING UP BEFORE EVERYONE ELSE, husband has decided to wake up at 5am to do home gym and admin things. So when I wake up at 6:10 with epic pirate eye to see him bouncing off the walls covered in sweat and having sorted out half the world’s problems makes me DEFINITELY want to blow up my alarm and go back to sleep.

But, I’m working on it.

* * * * *

When do you practice yoga? What works best for you? I’d love to hear your tips for getting out of bed with a little more OOMf!

Bandhas & Bubbles: My yoga philosophy

It’s been a while since I had a gap (“gap” being relatively speaking… {ahem, I still have a crap ton of stuff to get finished today, lol}) that I sat down to write a blog post! But thought I would share some of the snaps from my first two yoga events, “Bandhas and Bubbles” – I’m SO excited to share these snaps because these events have been SO much fun to put together and share with all these yogis! These events also highlight my philosophy on teaching yoga so I thought I would share my thoughts here!

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For me, yoga is something that is really special. It has it’s roots in a sacred tradition that has been brought over from the East and has been allowed to grow in our modern Western world. I think there is ABSOLUTELY the need to keep yoga modern, relevant, fun, upbeat and awesome but I also think that it is REALLY important to keep yoga special. Yoga is a practice that was never intended to be commercialised but I also know (and respect) that yoga teachers need to be able to keep themselves alive (and paying rent) teaching what they love. My goal for teaching yoga is to always keep it special, to keep it within the community framework that it was always intended – where the teacher honours and truly respects each and every student and the students honour and respect the teacher.

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I wanted to try and make sure I had thought of everything, so before class began, there was a waiver form for everyone to sign and at the bottom, if people wanted to read up a bit more, I had made a little description about what a Bandha is. “Bandhas & Bubbles” after all!

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As each person signed up for the event via email, I replied (obviously) and tried to get a little bit about each person – and mostly this came up naturally – some people mentioned that they were new to yoga, others mentioned that they were new moms and had found yoga so super calming, others told me that they were getting married or that they were coming from out of London. My aim for these events is to make every person really feel like they have been thought about, and made to feel special.

For our Prosecco cups, I bought some bright scrapbook paper and then typed up some phrases which related to the things I knew about the people attending. Some were quite specific (I’m getting married) others were more broad (I’m excited for summer!), I then taped them onto bright pink paper cups using broad packing tape (and a bit of washi tape for decoration).

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After our yoga class, I asked them each to grab a cup and find one that fitted with them. The idea for this was for everyone to start chatting and passing around the cups and getting to know the person next to them a little bit more! It’s also a great conversation starter when you can look at someone’s cup and ask, “Oh! So where are you going?” or “What’s your baby’s name?”. I wanted each person to truly feel like I had taken the time to learn something about them.

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I spent a bit of time the day before baking some carrot and walnut cupcakes and decorating them with an “we (heart) yoga”!It turns out that they were very edible, so it appears that my baking skills are rapidly improving! ha!

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I had also decorated the ends of the wooden spoons with some washi tape to match the whole vibe – we whacked them in some granola pots with yogurt, muesli and blueberries.

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Husband was an absolute rock-star with helping with everything. Honestly, I could not have done ANY of this without him. And for ME, that feels really special. I bought him this to say thank you. ha

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So many people traveled so far to come and practice with me and I am so grateful! Katharina and her mom (visiting from South Africa) were in London from Germany celebrating Katharina’s birthday, Angela came all the way from Wales and Beeta all the way from out in the country! Feel so humbled that so many people woke up super early to come share the morning with me! Thank you to everyone who came those from near and from far! I made sure I had some birthday candles to sing to Katharina and I also got a “breakfast beer” instead of Prosecco for Vaughan.

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At the end of the classes I left a little positive affirmation for each student at the top of their mats. They all have a different message and I invited them (before reading their cards) to swap with someone next to them/in front of them as many times as they want until they ended with one that they felt was right for them. It was a good little activity to get everyone mixing and chatting and for everyone to take home something positive and uplifting to keep with them. The pic above is snapped from Nicole (@lifelessbeige) Don’t you just LOVE her henna?!

My aim for yoga is to keep it special. To keep it in the way that it was meant to be taught, honouring each and every student and making them feel like they are part of something amazing. Since this was an open class, I kept the actual sequence fairly standard – but it would be cool to do an event that is a real power house yoga session or one that is more chilled out and relaxed.

I have SO many other ideas that I’m keep to get rolling and I’m SO excited about everything!

My 6 week course is more than half way through and I have booked venue space for another 6 week course – this one will be aimed at play and progression – so for anyone who has done a bit of yoga and wants to extend their practice. I also have a SUPER exciting announcement about a YOGA WEEKEND RETREAT that I’ve started planning for the end of November coming soon – I’m SO super excited!!

If you’d like to be one of the first to hear about the courses and up coming events, you can subscribe here.

Have a fabulous Friday all!

x

Ujjayi Breath

The other day we were sitting on the couch eating dinner when the following conversation occurred. I’d like to title the following episode “What it’s like to be married to a yoga teacher”

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Luckily husband has no choice  is a very willing set of ears. In fact, he has probably heard enough yoga jargon to qualify as a yoga teacher himself.

So anyway –

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Ujjayi breath is a breathing technique that is used in many physical yoga practices. It involves slightly constricting the back of the throat to create a soft snoring sound. To create this Ujjayi breath, make the “HARR” sound that you would if you were to clean a mirror using the ‘steam’ from your breath – then recreate that same sensation with the mouth closed – breathing in and out through the nose. (I have demonstrated it here)

The word “Ujjayi” means ‘victorious’ and I suppose the real ‘victory’ of using this breathing technique is the complete mastery it encourages us to have over our breathing. In my interpretation, we become victorious when we have gained that sense of control and mastery over our breathing and therefore become the victor over our minds. (See here).

Why do we use Ujjayi breath?

  • The slight constriction in the throat, places a bit of stress on the body and the body begins to heat from the inside out. Using this during our practice helps to create heat from within the body, while we create heat externally through the physical movements we do.
  • Ujjayi breathing brings a focus to our yoga practice – it is a breathing technique that requires us to be completely present. It requires concentration to employ and therefore using it, our entire practice becomes a mindful moving meditation.
  • This type of breathing helps increase the oxygenation of the body by forcing us to breath more deeply to fill all parts of the lungs.
  • Focusing on the breath in this way activates the nervous system and creates a steady rhythm for our yoga practice.

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Ujjayi breath is sometimes referred to as “sound breath” in a yoga class – so if a yoga teacher ever says, “and now breathing with sound” you know what to do! It’s an oceanic kind of sound that is created in the back of the throat – me personally? I like to think of it as “DARTH VADER BREATHING” because that’s totally what it sounds like.

I LOVE how all these strange yogi things are slowly slipping into our mainstream “subconscious” – I was watching the Lego Movie (i know) with The Warr a few months ago and when I heard this I literally LOLL’ed with laughter and had to rewind the TV several times to hear it again and again and again.

Hilarious.

 

Exercise Programs versus Yoga Practice

Last week I received a comment on this blog post from Christine – she had such a good question about my views on exercise programs versus yoga that I wanted to dedicate an entire blog post to it!

The post linked above is to the workouts and exercise program that I followed in the lead up to our wedding – it was intense but yes – I got some uber results. (GOOD THING WE HAVE SO MANY WEDDING PHOTOS TO DOCUMENT MY BAD-ASS ASS at the time. lol.)

Anywhoo – before I delve into the ins and outs of this – I wanted to put out a little disclaimer: I am not a weight loss coach or a personal trainer and the things I will share below are only MY views on the topic and MY personal experience with both. There will be many people who agree with my views and many people who disagree and you are welcome to leave a comment below (or start up a conversation on the Ché Dyer Yoga Facebook page). I am a yoga teacher, and whilst I don’t promote “general weight loss” I do promote the concept of a fit healthy lifestyle and pushing yourself to be the best you can be – in whatever form that WORKS BEST FOR YOU. I would also like to add that the idea of  a physical “yoga” practice was never created as an exercise program or weight loss regime – but it will provide you with those things, if that is what you are seeking from it.

The first thing I want to say is that Exercise programs work. I can tell you that, because I have followed them and have seen (and experienced) the results first hand. I have followed various exercise programs on-and-off including Jillian Michaels 30 day shred, The P90x workouts and yes, I have even jumped on the Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Wagon (I did 7 of the 12 weeks and then Christmas and skiing holiday hit. lol).

Many of these exercise programs are pretty intense and they all include a combination of cardio, weight training and abs.

You may also notice that every single one of the workout programs I have mentioned above – ALL have a set time frame. 30 days for Jillian, 90 days for the P90x program, 12 weeks for Kayla. For some people this level of workout intensity IS a daily way of life and that’s awesome but for MANY of the other average Joe’s (myself included) this kind of workout regime is pretty difficult to maintain indefinitely, which is why I believe so many people are able to stick to it, because there appears to BE A DEFINITE END IN SIGHT (What happens at the end of the program I guess is largely dependent on personal results, personality and any shift in lifestyle that you may have experienced). Having said that, if you have a specific time frame or event that you are looking to tone up for such as a wedding (I don’t necessarily promote losing weight for a wedding – but I do believe in feeling like your BEST SELF as you walk down the aisle!) then a workout program like this may be a good way of kick starting your goals – (if you love burpees, obviously).

Yoga, (although not originally designed as an “exercise program”) will also give you these kinds of results if that is what you are after – BUT there is one major difference that I have found between the two which is generally this:
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I think the most obvious indication of this type of thinking can be seen in the types of images that we see on social media relating to these two different approaches to health and fitness. Kayla Itsines is an easy example to use since she often posts “progress shots” of the women who are following her exercise program –
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Usually a picture of someone at “Week 0” and then that same person at “Week 12” – a few kilograms lighter, leaner and with more muscle definition – which is of course obviously amazing! There is however always a risk when the transformation is based on this kind of aesthetic results driven picture – are we then finding true contentment with our bodies? Or are we just content with how our bodies look at the end of 12 weeks? Since if you have some muscle definition, you can always have MORE muscle definition, when you have lost some weight, you can always lose more weight and on it goes – just HOPEFULLY along that never-ending scale you find happiness somewhere. I am in no way knocking these programs because believe me, they work. Hopefully throughout those 12 weeks there is also an inner shift that occurs as a result of the aesthetic change.

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Similarly, when you search for yoga “progress shots” on social media – you are more likely to find images of “what I could do last week” compared with “what I can do this week” – which I believe is a way more self-empowering measure. The transformation within yoga comes from the inside first, which leads to a sense of motivation for physical change. THIS kind of transformation (I believe) is WAY more sustainable than the first. In yoga there is no such thing as “12 weeks of yoga” or “90 days of yoga” in fact, one of the biggest yoga hashtags on instagram happens to be #yogaeverydamnday. Yep, EVERY day – because it is TOTALLY maintainable. It is an entire lifestyle. One that will not only give you a 6 pack (if you choose that) but one that will give you a whole bunch more.

Many people will argue that daily intense exercise or fitness programs like I have mentioned can also be a lifestyle – and I agree that they can – but for many people I think that the idea of yoga every day is slightly more sustainable long term than one thousand burpees, squats, dead lifts and mountain climbers. (Speaking from experience I went directly from “wedding abs” to “honeymoon flab” since as soon as I knocked off the intense exercise regime I was on – (and added a truck load of honeymoon feasting) it all came inching back – so it really does depend on YOUR personal preference and what is manageable for YOU and YOUR body. For me, it’s yoga. Hands down.

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I wanted to explain below the reasons WHY I prefer yoga to “exercising” in the more body-tone sense.

1. Yoga is a kind of “functional” fitness.
The “strength training” that is done with yoga uses the resistance and weight of the body. Poses that are classified as “arm balances” usually use the arms to support the weight of the body. So whilst doing 50 biceps curls with a 5 kg weight will sculpt your arms, so will hoisting your  (x) kg ass off the ground using your arms and core, except the yoga version provides a kind of “functional” way of doing it – using the body to create resistance for the body, moving through postures in a functional way rather than just “building muscle”. There is something extremely motivating to know that the muscles you have developed can actually manoeuvre you through a tight little hole – it takes an incredible amount of control, resistance and body awareness.

2. You don’t need anything to do it.
One of the main things that I love about yoga is that you don’t need ANYTHING to do it. Kayla’s program prides itself on being a program that you can do without the need for a gym membership – which I agree you can do. You do however need to buy a set of weights (and a skipping rope and a Bosu ball and probably an exercise bench) – I fell off the Kayla wagon at week 7 when we went skiing in France – because it seemed like a pretty balmy thing to try and pack 3kg dumbells into my suitcase. (There was also one of the exercises in the early weeks of Kayla that required two benches side by side. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have two exercise benches just lying around. (In fact, since our current furniture is pretty “vintage” I don’t even have two chairs that would have substituted – so this pissed me off a bit! ha!).  Many of the other exercise programs that I have done also require weights. Yoga doesn’t need any fancy equipment your body is “your weights”- as long as you don’t have a slippery surface – you don’t even need a yoga mat – which makes it a REALLY easy form of “exercise” to do wherever you are, every single day.

3. There is SO much more built into yoga
Yoga was never intended as a body sculpting regime although it can most definitely be used as such. With a dedicated daily practice over time, you will definitely notice greater definition, more tone, more flexibility and for sure more strength. BUT with yoga, there is a WHOLE lot more that is built into the package. A greater sense of presence, a sense of mindfulness, greater body awareness, a centring of the mind, slowing down of mental hyperactivity, and a greater degree of inner calm and acceptance. And hey, if I can get all those things as an ADDED bonus while I’m toning my butt – then – of course yes.

4. It’s FREAKEN FUN.
I won’t lie – doing yoga makes me feel like an ABSolute kid again. Remember trying to do handstands and cartwheels in the garden in the sunshine? That’s exactly it. And when you enter into it with a sense of exploration and fun and genuine curiosity of where the body can take you – it makes every single practice session unbelievably fun. Did you see how I put the word ABS in ABSolute? Because if you’ve ever tried to any of the prep work for handstands you will know that it takes a HUGE whack of abs. Oh what’s that? You didn’t notice that you were doing the equivalent of 200 crunches? Oh, you must have been too busy having fun trying to get into handstand.

5. It makes me EXCITED to practice
I did 7 weeks of Kayla Itsines’s program (granted I never finished the entire thing), but even at week 7 when I was feeling pretty fit and healthy, there wasn’t TOO much in me that was really ever “excited” about doing 500 burpees (Burpees are THE DEVIL), but there is something about yoga that makes me SO excited to get on my mat. Excited to see where my body is at, to work with where I am right now, to see if I am closer to doing that thing that I couldn’t do yesterday. It makes me want to take my mat with me where ever I go, to do yoga where ever I can, to get on my mat –  EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. There is always something to improve in the yoga practice.  Yes, there are things to improve in exercise programs but it is ALL to do with numbers: number of reps, number of weights, number of circuits per seconds etc. Yoga is about ditching the numbers and working only with the body and the mind. Practicing makes me WANT to eat healthier, WANT to get fitter, WANT to go for runs, WANT to use my body to all it’s capabilities. Bottom line, it just makes me SUPER excited – but I will say that the sense of excitement is largely down to personal preference and if seeing if you can do 100 burpees in 30 seconds fills your heart with excitement – THEN YOU SHOULD TOTALLY DO THAT.

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(above: trust me, this takes shoulder strength, core strength, arm strength, legs engagement, concentration and extreme body awareness)

I have had a 6 day a week yoga practice for quite some time now and compared to the exercising I did before our wedding – I can definitely say that my overall body tone and shape is MUCH more defined now than it was when I was following the workouts. Yes, when I was following workouts I developed some muscle in my arms – but my arms now have so much greater definition in such a greater variety of muscle groups. There is only so many ways you can lift a dumbell – but there are SUCH a variety of (fun) arm balances that use very differing muscle groups. And regardless of what I weigh, I love my body MORE with yoga, because there is a genuine sense of “WOW, this body can do some pretty amazing things”.

If you are looking at yoga as a form of physical toning up/shaping then you need to be aware of the various types of yoga – since (THE BEAUTY OF YOGA) is that it supports a HUGE array of physical needs and you need to pick the one that is right for you and your goals. (MAKE NO MISTAKE: LYING IN SAVASANA FOR AN HOUR WILL NOT GET YOU RIPPED)

Below is a VERY ROUGH interpretation of the intensity of various yoga styles – bear in mind that yoga classes that are guided by a teacher are LARGELY dependent on the specific teacher – so definitely find a teacher that works best for you!

 

 

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If you are looking to yoga as an exercise form classes such as “power yoga” or dynamic flow will be good – you want a class with lots of Vinyasa’s and double dip Caturanga’s and a greater emphasis on the standing postures and arm balances rather than the seated ones. These classes will generally be a bit faster paced whilst on the other end of the scale restorative or yin yoga classes hold poses for much longer and spend a greater amount of time in seated postures.

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I am a huge advocate of “home yoga” and there are great free resources that are available online for you to follow at home. Another really good option would be to find a yoga teacher for a private one-to-one session (many would be more than happy to!), where you can discuss your specific goals and she/he can guide you and show you various postures that would benefit your specific needs.

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So, whilst I am a huge “CAMP YOGA” I think there are benefits for exercise programs too. If you have a specific time frame or event that you are looking to tone up for (wedding etc) then a workout program is a good way of kick starting your goals. If, on the other hand you want a complete lifestyle overhaul so that you never really have to “lose weight for an event” and you just basically become “that chick with the abs” then I think yoga is the way! Every person is different though and I do think that finding a form of exercise that makes YOU excited is the best way of maintaining it long term. Perhaps the best way is to include a mix of both disciplines into your workout mix!

I’d love to hear your thoughts ideas on this! I think it’s such an interesting topic! Please leave a comment below or drop a line on the FB page!

What is Meditation?

Meditation is something that I can first-hand say, is absolutely life-changing. And I don’t throw around the words “life changing” very often, FYI.

Many people associate “meditation” with bald-headed monks in orange robes. Just to quickly clear this up – I’d like to put it out there that I practice meditation, and I have hair and am very much into regular clothes.

So what exactly does meditation do?

Or rather – let me give you a very clear example of how meditation works for me (AND HAS CHANGED MY LIFE)

I consider myself a rather “creative” being. Apart from being a yoga teacher, I run a graphic design and illustration business indieBerries and I have various online stores selling stationery. Every day, I have different requests from clients – asking for different designs, illustrations, art work and mock ups. Putting yourself ‘out there’ creatively and offering up your work to others can be daunting, no matter how big you are in the business or how long you have been doing it. Below is an illustration of a “typical” kind of creative exchange that I have been known to experience in the past –
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(granted, this usually happens via email)
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“I must have mis-read the brief.”
“I have no idea what I’m doing”
“What I’ve charged her is way too much”
“I’m not good enough for this job”
“I should never have accepted this brief”
“I must just give her everything for free now”

“She HATES it”

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Exchanges like these are not limited to people in the creative fields.

What I’m alluding to is the constant stream of worry, anxiety, thoughts, mental chatter-boxing that goes on in our brains on a DAILY basis.

REGARDLESS OF WHO YOU ARE.

 These thoughts don’t necessarily have to be filled with worry or anxiety – it could merely be the barrage of things you have to do/ the shopping list you’re writing in your head/ the thing you should have said in the meeting/ the un-ending analysing of the convo with a particular ‘love interest’/the ‘should-haves’ and the ‘if-only’s.

More often than not though,  the wild stories we construct are completely self-destructive.
MOOP.

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(note: extreme case of mental activity pictured above)

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Let me first say that there is no way to STOP these thoughts. (Sorry buddy).
It’s part of the feature of having a mind. (Kind of a package deal)

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Yep, you’re stuck with them.

BUT

The good news is – meditation can provide (in my best analogy for it) a kind of uber force-field around you – that gives you a little bit of space between you, and your thoughts –

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It’s kind of like having a Dementor constantly floating around you – but the good kind. The warm, happy, bright and shiny kind.

Having this floating little glow around you, a glowing bubble if you like, gives you a bit of space between you and your thoughts. The thoughts will still reach you (make no mistake) but  – while they are permeating the glowing Dementor force field, it gives you that extra time to notice the thought, process the thought and then act in a way that is proactive, calm and alert. Rather than:

“THOUGHT! AAH! REACTION!”

The beauty also of meditation, is that with a regular practice, the thoughts themselves seem to spread out a little more and your whole brain becomes a little less crowded.

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With your thoughts having more space between them all , it is not to be confused with “air-headedness” – meditation merely gives you the opportunity to process each thought as it comes and to decide which are important, eg:
“What do I need to remember for my day tomorrow” and those which are not “Should I have sent that text message? I probably should have waited. No, it was right to send it now. No, I definitely should have waited” and to deal with them accordingly.

Generally, you just function better as a human being.
Trust me.

SO, HOW DO YOU MEDITATE?

The most challenging thing about meditation is the idea of not doing “something”. In our lives we are constantly on the go, doing stuff, making stuff, working on stuff. Meditation is just sitting and observing – without judgement, without analysing, without doing.

  1. You can start meditating by sitting comfortably in a chair (or if you’re going “FULL HIPPIE” you can sit on the floor)
  2. Gently close your eyes (although, read through the rest of the instructions before you do that. ha)
  3. With the eyes closed, in a comfortable seated position – start to become aware of the physical sensations of the body connecting you to either the chair you are sitting on, or ground beneath you. Notice the weight of the body, a sensation of feeling grounded. Stay a few moments noticing this- allow the body to soften, whilst maintaining a sense of alertness.
  4. Start to observe the breath. Notice every inhalation and every exhalation. Is the breath slow, deep and steady, or is it short, sharp and erratic? Count the breaths 1 to 10 and repeat.
  5. When you notice that your thoughts have wandered, gently, guide the mind back and allow it to rest on the breath. Every time, you notice that your thoughts have wandered, gently guide it back to the breath.

It sounds relatively simple – but, given our fast-paced always on the go minds – this can be extremely challenging- especially starting out! Set your timer for 5 – 10 minutes and give it a go!

One of the MOST useful apps I have found for meditation is the Headspace app. Headspace is a guided meditation app and they have taken this “mystical” thing of meditation and turned it into something that is modern, easily accessible and fun to use. Plus – they have a whole host of cute animations – which OBVIOUSLY, I’m a fan of. haha (Note: this is not a sponsored post).

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Two of the (many) great things that Headspace offers is the ability to set how long you want to meditate for ranging from 10 minutes (or SOS bundles of 3 minutes) all the way up to 60 minutes. I also love that the Headspace app, has the option to include meditation “packs” that are geared towards certain topics for example, change and appreciation or focus and creativity. You can choose to focus on health, happiness, work or relationships. You can sign up for ten days free (my guess is though, that once you experience the goodness, you’ll sign up for the whole shebang). Headspace also has great “practical” meditation segments like a mediation for falling asleep (and if you know my partly hysterical/partly HORRIFIC ACCOUNTS of insomnia – you will know how great I think that is!)

I absolutely love this app (I am on my second yearly subscription)

 and in fact, I am actually GENUINELY surprised that they have not called me up to hire me as their brand ambassador – because I literally blab off about them to anyone with half an ear.
Uh, Andy, hello?

Another good resource is the book Sane New World by the comedian Ruby Wax. The entire book is based on mindfulness/meditation and gives a (comedic) overview of how it works scientifically in the brain. Which areas of the brain are affected by which hormones, which hormones create which reactions and how it all works (or doesn’t work) together to form our busy little minds.

For anyone who is interested in meditation, I’d really encourage you to give it a go – it will literally change your world.

 * * * * *
You may also enjoy this post: “What is yoga?”

In other news, I still have some places left for the ‘Bandhas + Bubbles’ yoga brunch in Wimbledon on 13th June as well as a few spots left in the 6 week intro to Yoga course starting June 1.
Get in touch if you’d like to book a spot!

What is yoga?

There seems to be a growing hype around yoga these days. We see it in gyms, in yoga studios, in offices, on retreats, on instagram or we may have even heard about it from someone we know. But what exactly IS yoga?

I wanted to blog about this, because there is a very big misconception about what “yoga” is exactly in the west. When we think of “yoga”, we think of Sun Salutations and Warrior I’s and crazy poses with names that we can’t pronounce forcing us into positions we know we’ll NEVER get out of alive.  And this exact thinking shows how one part of one path of our journey to “yoga” has become synonymous with the entire thing on the whole.

Freaken complicated.

I know.

So, there is this dude called Patanjali.
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Has beard, therefore is wise.

Patanjali is thought to be considered the ‘father of yoga’ (you can see him sitting on a rock on the cover of one of these books) since he was one of the first people to formalise the thoughts and wisdom of yoga to teach to his students – jotting these thoughts and threads of knowledge down in a kind of short hand.

When Patanjali was asked the question, “What IS yoga?”
he replied with –
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Which, if you don’t speak sanskrit,
Is completely useless.

So let’s BREAK IT DOWN
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So “yoga” is “the restraints of the modifications of the mind stuff.”

 and by that definition – there is not a downward dog in sight!

So “the restraints of the modifications of the mind stuff” what does it actually mean?
(Luckily for you, I’m a certified yoga teacher and I fully “GET” this shit, so I will explain)

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In it’s purest, most natural state – your mind is completely at peace. There is a kind of blissed out overriding sense of well-being.

However, particularly due to the stress/pressures/work/life/media/busy-ness/social/go-go-go of our modern world, our mind tends to modify away from this natural peaceful state as thoughts begin to rise up –
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Which is of course fine, since we need thoughts to progress in our day and in our lives –
but the problem arises when the functional thoughts we have, then start creating more thoughts, and then those thoughts generate more thoughts and more thoughts and so on until eventually the thoughts are no longer functional, no longer proactive, no longer logical, rational or useful but they have become a little dark cloud of worry, anxiety and unnecessary stress.
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Which of course, makes your eyeballs bleed and destroys your inner sense of calm replacing it with chaos and calamity.
When we act from this place, it very quickly snowballs everything into a frenzy.

Another way of looking at it is through the analogy of a reflection on a lake –

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Your mind is like the water on the surface of a lake. When the mind is calm and clear, we can very easily see our true selves – which is the self that is truly content, happy and peaceful.

When thoughts start to arise, they start to create ripples in the mind –

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and as you know if you’ve ever thrown a stone into a pond (of course you have), one ripple creates another ripple, creates another ripple until eventually you’ve created a Tsunami in Japan.
(Just kidding, a stone wouldn’t do that)

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But what this means is that eventually the ripples and waves stir up everything and make things so murky and choppy until you can no longer see your true contented happy self – and all you can focus on is the waves. And the Tsunami you’ve created for Japan. (IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT. HOW COULD YOU?)

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So, to bring it back to my first point –
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Yoga is SO much more than that.

We merely use asana (the physical practice) as ONE of the many ways in which we can achieve “yoga”.
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And, to be honest, anyone who doesn’t need more “yoga” (peace/calm/clarity) in their lives –
do give me a call.

* * * * * *

And anyone who does need more ‘yoga’ in their lives, I have some spots available for ‘Bandhas + Bubbles’ on June 13th (yoga, brunch and prosecco!) as well as (a few) spots left for my 6 week intro to yoga course!
Pop me an email on che.strawberries(at)gmail.com to book or if you want more info!
xo

11 recommended reads for Yogis

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When I first began my yoga journey – there was a LOT of self study. I practiced mainly in my room, using YouTube, books and whichever (free) website would have me. After my first few weeks of playing around with yoga, I bought my very first yoga book. Since then, my little “yoga-library” has grown quite substantially. So thought I would share some of my fave reads!

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1. The Yoga Bible
This book is number one, only because it was the first yoga book I ever bought. I was desperate to know some different poses, their names and how to do them correctly and this seemed like a good option! It mainly relates to the asana (physical practice) but there is a small section on the eight limbs of yoga and various breathing and meditation techniques. At the stage that I bought this book, I was just interested in learning some new yoga postures to try out at home – so it suited me perfectly.

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My one ‘annoyance’ with this book is that is is small, quite heavy and square – so the pages don’t stay open very easily on their own. Which, when you are trying to copy a posture, and hold the book open using your left foot, whilst trying to keep your hand on your head and simultaneously read the next thing is super challenging. haha! David Swenson’s Ashtanga manual in a ring bound format is WAY easier to follow since the book stays open on whichever page you open it on!

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2. The Monk who sold his Ferrari

I absolutely LOVE this book. And I have recommended it to SO many people. It is told in a parable type way about a hot shot lawyer who has a mini heart attack in court – then goes off to India to “find himself”. It is filled with practical tools, tips and techniques to live your most awesome and fulfilled life. You will want to take notes whilst reading this book. For sure.
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3. A New Earth

This book is from the same author as The Power of Now. (Next on my books-to-read list!). Disclaimer: I started reading this book and then stopped because it just felt SO heavy. I then read The Monk who sold his Ferrari (for the first time) and then came back to A New Earth and really loved it. The book looks at the concept of the Ego and the attachment that we give to it and our constant need for validation, for more, for identity. It also speaks about a rising global consciousness and about letting the universe support you in what you decide to do. This book is intense, but amazing. I cried several times.

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4. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Apart from the anatomy text books and Ashtanga manuals, The Yoga Sutras were prescribed as part of our course reading for our Yoga Teacher training. Sutra in sanskrit means ‘thread’ and this book is a collection of ‘threads’ of yogic wisdom and philosophy. Each ‘sutra’ is able to stand alone as an entire nugget of wisdom, that can be unpacked and explored depending on your own context. So much of what is said in The Yoga Sutras is similar to what is being said in The New Earth and a more light-hearted version of which is in parable form in The Monk who sold his Ferrari.

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I found the yoga sutras so fascinating, especially considering how long ago they were written, but how much relevance they still have to our lives today. The examples given throughout the book make the information easily accessible and you can almost picture an ancient Indian guru (Patanjali) dishing out the information over a bowl of curry. ha! There is one section in the book that I found got a bit overwhelming and “out-there” – but it is the kind of book that you can take from it what you need, when you need it.

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5. Mindset

I bought this book after hearing my brother-in-law-(in-law?) absolutely rave about it over Christmas. It is written by an American psychologist on the concept of the ‘growth mindset’ versus the ‘fixed mindset’. The examples used in the book are VERY American (basketball teams, baseball teams, etc) and as such, for me, I found it slightly more difficult to relate to. The main premise of this book is to approach life with a “growth” mindset. That any kind of setback does not determine who you are, but in each of these instances, we need to ask how we can LEARN, GROW and IMPROVE from the situation. It is quite closely connected with the concept of the Ego in A New Earth.

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6. 1001 pearls of Yoga Wisdom.

NOTE: I TOTALLY bought this book because of the cover.

This is a really fun book and one that you can easily dip in and out of. Each little pearl of wisdom is either a physical posture, an inspirational quote or some other positive affirmation to slot into your day. I haven’t read the whole thing, but I’ve opened it up randomly on occasion – each little pearl of wisdom is short and sweet which would pop easily into a busy work day.

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Kudos to the publishers because I COMPLETELY bought this book based on what it looked like.

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7. The Miracle Morning

My friend recommended this book to me and I’m so glad I bought it! I’ll be honest it started off quite cheesy, but about a third of the way in I was lapping it up! It gives some practical tips, tricks and routines to implement into your morning so that you can TAKE OVER THE WORLD. Mirrors a lot of what is said in The Monk who sold his Ferrari, but in a slightly different format.

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Although, I’m still struggling to get out of bed in the morning though (NOT A MORNING PERSON) so am wondering if I was sold a dud copy?

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8. Headspace

Headspace is the book to compliment the meditation app, headspace. It is about the science of mediation, how to implement it and use it in your life and also a little bit of the back story of Andy Puddicombe the dude behind it all. I’m halfway through this book at the moment and am really enjoying it.

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9. Love poems from God 

My friend Lulu gave this book to me as a gift and it is absolutely beautiful. It features inspirational poetry from poets, philosophers and prophets. It is the perfect thing to come back to time and time again and the collection of voices is rich, layered and filled with emotion. If you are into poetry, this is a goodie.

10. The One Thing

The same Lulu lent me this book to read and it is SUPER good. It’s less “yoga-ish” but it’s filled with tips on productivity, time management, focus, and setting your purpose in life. Really a great read for anyone who runs their own business!

11. The Luck Factor

This book is not pictured because it’s currently with my friend Catherine. I actually won this book (ironic, lol) and the cover of the book is completely deceptive for how interesting it is! It features the “science” behind luck and lucky people in general. The more I read this book, the more I wanted to substitute “luck” for “the universe”. The entire premise of the book is how we generate our own luck by the thoughts we create for ourselves and the way we affirm ourselves in our own mind. Very similar concepts to The Miracle Morning, and Mindset – although with a few scientific studies thrown in to back it all up. I can really recommend it!

What are your favourite books? What are you reading? Anything to recommend to me?!

 

Review: Anti gravity yoga

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I was invited to attend an anti gravity yoga class at The Third Space in Soho. Of course, having recently completed my yoga teacher training, I absolutely JUMPED at the idea since I’ve ALWAYS wanted to try out anti-gravity yoga!

The two anti-gravity yoga teachers Esther and Nadia were SO super helpful and friendly. Esther led the class and helped me get into my hanging cocoon safely and securely –

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I must say, thinking about it, it is a rather a strange experience – just hanging around in a gym room with all your yoga buds wrapped up in their little cocoons next to you!

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haha!

The class itself, was LOADS of fun – and it did make me feel like a kid again swinging on monkey bars! It’s easy to see how the classes can be adapted to suit various class styles. You could tailor an anti-gravity class to be more restorative – with loads of lying and swinging in the cup of the cocoon and lots of hanging upside down letting the spine lengthen down and releasing the compression of the lower vertebrae.

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The classes can also be tailored to suit a more high energy class, including loads of pulling up on the cloth using the arms as well as engaging the abs to hold the legs up parellel and using the the core to stabilise the body from swinging around. I absolutely LOVED the hamstring work that can be done in anti-gravity yoga. Unlike working into splits on the floor, where you have bony knees and the weight of the body weight to contend with, working into splits in the hammocks – gives you the freedom to stretch into the hamstrings while controlling the weight into your legs by using the arms and core to hold yourself up.

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Just like in “regular” yoga, some of the poses have different names – ie:

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#Nailedit

hahahaha

Although it was less what I would consider “yoga” (coming from a more traditional sense – ie: breathing into the poses, setting intentions, using drishti etc), the anti gravity yoga was awesome to try out! Because I was having so much fun getting into the hammock and swinging around and trying all the different manoueveres, I hardly noticed that I was really even “working out” so I was SUPER surpised the next day to find that I could hardly move my arms –

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Along with half my back, triceps and core –

Getting a workout, where you don’t even KNOW you’re getting a work-out, feels like the BEST kind of work out to me!!

Thank you SO much to Esther and Nadia – you guys were so awesome, I had such fun! You can book into one of their classes by heading over to the Third Space Website – they have branches in both Soho and in Marylebone.

Handstands, the art of the abs. And the secret mystery of life.

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The thing is, everybody wants to pop their tail-feather up into a handstand. Don’t try and hide it – I know you do.

Whether or not it’s a “handstand” in particular, we all want those super impressive “power-poses” – those ones that sky rocket you to INSTA-FAME. I have spent many weeks trying tirelessly to hold up a handstand for longer than 6 seconds and MAN. Is it exhausting!

When I first signed up to my teacher training with Yoga London – I thought, BRILLIANT! in the next week of training I will be a fully fledged handstander. I will be BUSTING out these “handstands” like it AIN’T NO THANG.

Then we spent the next 1.5 months working through Sun Salutations. and I thought to myself “I CAME HERE TO LEARN EPIC STUFF!!! WHAT. IS. THIS. SHIT?!?”

But here’s the kicker: this teacher training program knows how things REALLY go down. (Or in the case of handstands – how things really go up).

“Handstands” (and ‘epic poses’ in general) are a complete by-product of everything else. Everyone sees the sunset-handstand-beach insta-shots and thinks, “YEAH! I WANT TO HOLD A HANDSTAND FOREVER!”

I am pretty sure that no-one thinks “YEAH! I WANNA SIT IN NAVASANA FOR HALF A DAY TO GET MY CORE STRONG ENOUGH TO HOLD ME UPSIDE DOWN!”.

Yep. It’s like we’re all keen for the massive mansion on the seaside, but no one’s really that interested in dealing with the bricks.

One of the longest handstands I have ever held in my whole life (see it in all it’s epic glory here) came on an afternoon when I wasn’t thinking about “handstanding” at all. I decided to just focus on drawing in with my core, planting through my fingers, engaging my shoulder girdle and letting go of the whole idea of “handstanding” in general. I still have a long way to go in my own “handstanding” journey – but having had this experience, I have become way less attached to “handstanding” in general, and more focused on building strength in my core, power in my arms and stability in my shoulder girdle. When these pieces are ready, I know the puzzle will just click.

I’ve used the word “handstand” in “inverted commas” (ha) throughout this blog post because the truth is, you can substitute ‘handstands’ for anything in life. Starting my own creative business was very similar to wanting to handstand. I just wanted to make pretty things, draw loads of cool stuff and make a crap ton of money. I didn’t want to sit and spend 6 hours creating new product listings, checking stock inventory, organising my taxes or creating invoices. I wanted the end product, without being interested in every single (sometimes obnoxious) step (and all the failures { ie: falling out of handstands}) that come before it. Whether it’s starting a new business, pursuing a creative venture, or beginning a new workout regime – in order to achieve we have to be committed to the PROCESS, not the outcome.

Being committed to the process gives purpose to every single thing you do. Without focusing on the ‘losing 8kgs’, every single healthy nutritious meal you have becomes a personal investment to yourself. Without focusing on the 6 pack abs, it makes every workout you do epic and awesome. Without focusing on your multi-million dollar yacht, it makes every client you engage with exciting. Without focusing on the mansion, it makes the brick you are holding important, necessary, vital. Then before you know it, you’ll step back and a seaside villa will have appeared from no-where – all thanks to you and your dedication to the bricks.

Anyway that’s my two cents.

So now if you’ll excuse me – I’m off to practice my handstanding –

Just kidding –
I’ll meet you in Navasana.

 

Real life yogi: sitting like a yoga teacher.

For those who read indieBerries or follow my yoga instagram account, you may know that I recently completed my yoga teacher training with Yoga London. It was an absolutely incredible experience and I have been transcribing my journal from the training into the Yoga Journal Section of this blog. Anywhoo, one of the first tidbits of info that we are taught on this training – is how to sit like a “proper” yoga teacher – propped up on a foam block (to bring the hips higher than the knees and encouraging a slight forward tilt in the pelvis).

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Having not really used a yoga block much in my practice prior to this training, when I noticed that it was on our list of recommended items – I just went out and bought the first foam block I could find – and I have quickly come to realise
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(ie: some yoga blocks are HARD. VERY HARD. And small. and HARD.)

So anyway, we were all taught how to sit like “real yoga teachers” and then began our lectures –
(whilst we sat on the floor, on our yoga mats and blocks – like real yogis)

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SO FUN!!

It’s SO MUCH FUN BEING A YOGA TEACHER!! AND SITTING LIKE A YOGA TEACHER!

LOOK AT ME!!! AND HOW GOOD I AM AT BEING A YOGA TEACHER SITTING ON MY BLOCK!!

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I got this.
*sensations of inner smugness*

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hmm.. My leg is going a bit numb…

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But don’t worry, it’s fine –

BECAUSE I’M A YOGA TEACHER.

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(I wonder if anyone else is experiencing this dull ache in their hips/ knees/ back/ legs/ arms?
*looks around*
just me then? ok.)

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This yoga block is really hard it must be really bad quality.

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I CAN’T EVEN.

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I don’t think there is any blood supply running to my legs.

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“I’m never going to be able to stand up again.
For as long as I live”

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* * * * *

I’m in the process of setting up my first yoga event – and I’m super excited about it! Will be sharing the details soon! Yay!

10 things I learnt from yoga teacher training.

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For those who may have seen on my yoga instagram account, I graduated from my yoga teacher training with YogaLondon last weekend. It has been an absolute whirlwind the last three months of training, learning and self development. Not only has my own personal yoga practice strengthened and my love for yoga deepened, but my desire to share it with everyone else has multiplied by a bajillion-thousand (which is a lot).

From the beginning of our training, the trainees set up a private Facebook group, where we have been able to share our insights, thoughts, helpful videos, links to pertinent articles , anatomy posts and generally create a private community of support for each other through this journey.

About half way through the training, I came across this article which I shared with the group.

I can honestly say that this article sums up EXACTLY how it has felt for me during the course of this training. I decided to write my own “10 things no one ever tells you about Yoga Teacher Training” (Bearing in mind that lots of my list below overlaps with the article I linked to above, but note this is not a case of plagiarism (we know how I feel about that), but these are just 10 things that I have truly personally experienced during this journey.

1. You will meet a community of life-changing people.
The people that I have met during this training and the friends that I have made are by far one of the biggest highlights of this training. These are people who just “get you”. They get your vibe, they get why you are here, they get why you have come on this journey – because they have come on it too. You share something so deep, something that is way beyond, “what do you do for a living?” and “where are you from?”, you connect on a level that is “why are we here”. You want to nurture these friendships because they GET YOU.

2. Your body will change.
In the course of this 3 month training, I have noticed a huge difference in my body. What has probably been most surprising for me is the seemingly lack of EXTREME PHYSICAL EXERTION that you need to implement in order for these changes to become noticeable. Throughout this training, I went for a total of 1 run. Which lasted about 4km, and I stopped to “tie my shoelaces” several times. Yet, in spite of not spending hours pumping iron in the gym (jokes, I don’t ever do that) or running Forrest Gump style – I have seen a noticeable difference in my body shape and tone. Which has really made me realise that daily mindful yoga, with a sense of calm, with control and a engaging of a ‘quiet’ power is all it really takes. Hallelujiah for that.

3. Your taste buds will change (or rather, your body wants different things)
With a daily yoga practice, it is inevitable that you will want to start eating healthier. I have no idea how this works, but it does. (Although, having said that, I would also like to add a disclaimer that in the past weekend, I have eaten a mini slab of chocolate, a gigantic slice of cake, 2 hot cross buns, 2 Chocolat Truffles and half a bag of Smartie eggs.) Anyway, I have definitely felt myself less and less inclined to eat meat – whether this is because my body just doesn’t want it, or that I’m way more excited about other options on offer, or for reasons of morality/spirituality or of excess hormones/cattle breeding, or for eating more consciously – I am not really sure what to pin point it on – but I just don’t really feel like it.

4. Synchronicity.
This is something that I have really begun to notice more and more. Synchronicity is one of those things that is difficult to explain because it’s such an intangible concept. Over the past while, I have truly come to believe that the more I give out – the more that comes back to me. A few weeks ago, I walked out of the grocery store and saw a woman selling a Big Issue newspaper (a paper sold by homeless people allowing them to earn a living). I didn’t want a newspaper, but I stopped to give her £5. Not because I’m Rockfeller, but because I simply have more than she does. A few days after this, I was contacted by a bloggers network to tell me that I had won a £50 Amazon gift voucher. I had entered a competition weeks ago – unfortunately I hadn’t won the main prize but (get this), they loved what I had written so much, that the company had decided to create a second place prize – (which originally hadn’t existed) in order for me to win it.

I’m not saying that synchronicity will always occur in such clear cut ways, but it will be there if you are open to see it.

5. You will irritate the f*ck out of your friends and family.
Thank goodness for Warren. I think any other man with any ounce less patience would have driven me and my yoga mat out to the Alps and left me prana-yammering with the mountain goats by now. The thing about yoga teacher training is that your whole being is filled with such incredible new knowledge, such life changing practices, such amazing experiences that it is very difficult coming home and not sharing it with the people around you. Some people will take this all on board very happily (Warren), but you will notice that somehow you manage to turn all conversations with your old friends into topics of prana, asana and chakras. Some people will think this is awesome. Some people will think you have lost your marbles.

6. You WILL lose your marbles.
There was one week in training where I hit a very rocky patch. It may have been to do with all the extra learning, new information, trying to process everything, trying to keep up my regular graphic design and stationery business, the overwhelmingness of it all. Or it may have been to do with the feeling of being led down a very different path from “your old life”. It’s a dark place and I remember thinking that I just couldn’t wait for all this “STUFF” to be over – so that I could get back to my ‘normal’ life. Press on, it’s just passed this phase where the light leaks in.

7. You will begin to use words and phrases that FREAK people out.
Suddenly your vocabulary changes and your wording shifts. You start speaking about “inner peace” and “energy” and “the universe”. Some people will get it and others will not. But who cares if your thoughts on “the rising global consciousness” freak people out (and they won’t mind telling you so either). If you are speaking from a place that is genuine and true to who you are – then you don’t need to explain yourself to anyone else.

8. Your heart will shatter open into a million pieces.
Yoga teacher training is tough. Mentally, absolutely. Physically, obviously. Emotionally, definitely. I cannot tell you how many times I have cried on this training. Tears of happiness, tears of sadness, tears for being completely overwhelmed with gratitude for life and this journey. In the last few Sun Salutations of our teacher training, I had tears rolling off my face making a huge puddle on my yoga mat. Anyone reading this who has not done a teacher training, may truly think that I am a complete emotional basket case. For those others, with me in this training – they didn’t need to ask why I was crying, or what was wrong, or if everything was ok – they just came over to hug me, and they understood – because they had tears in their eyes too. (See point 1.)

One of the girls in our training said something that I thought was so amazing (and to paraphrase) – “Yoga really teaches us to speak what is on our hearts. Not many people do that these days. In fact, they tend to put up barriers so much so, that when they see other people expressing what really is on their hearts, it’s easy for them to become judgemental and critical.” This journey has taught me that I don’t need to justify myself and my feelings to anyone. I am who I am and I feel what I feel. See above.

9. An overwhelming sense of gratitude.
Throughout these last three months I have cultivated an extreme sense of gratitude. Gratitude for this journey, gratitude for this life, gratitude for freaken being alive. On the day of our practical exam, I was scheduled to teach at 2:30pm. I decided to catch the train to Waterloo with plenty of time to spare and then hopped onto the tube ready for the three stops to Bermondsey. I jumped on the tube, found a seat and waited for the doors to close. More people jumped on the train, and more people jumped on after that. The doors didn’t close. My watch ticked over to 1:45pm. The train driver announced that the train was being held underground and that he had no further information. More minutes passed. I could feel a little bit of nervousness creeping into me – since missing this prac exam would mean deferring every thing I had done in the past 3 months – to the next exam slot in another three months from now. More minutes passed and I began calculating the time it would take for this train to make three stops, then adding on the 12 minute walk from the station to the exam venue figuring out the minimum amount of time I had left. My heart started pounding and I quickly needed to make a decision of staying on this train (which may, or may not, move in the next 5 minutes) – or get off the train, run back up two escalators and find an alternative route. I decided to get off the train, run up two escalators (heavy yoga mat in tow), heart beating, searching for an ATM to draw money for a cab, asking random strangers where I can find one (“right behind you”) drawing money, running out trying to find a taxi – having no luck, asking someone on a cigarette break where to find a cab (“back upstairs, round the corner”), running up the stairs to see a long queue of taxis followed by a long queue of people with suitcases and luggage, joining the back of the queue, seeing my watch tick over to 2:07pm. Finally getting in a cab, getting stuck in traffic, hitting 11 out of 12 red traffic lights and finally arriving at The Bermondsey exam location, flustered, with 4 minutes to spare.

It was SO interesting for me to note – that my reaction to this entire situation was, “WOW. That was INTENSE.” Followed by, “Now that I have experienced this absolute adrenalin rush this morning, any nerves of teaching a yoga prac exam are SO chilled compared to what I just went through! Thank goodness for that!” Went in and taught the most awesome, calm, clear headed class. You have a choice to be grateful, you have a choice to experience gratitude – use it.

10. Nothing scares you any more.
This is not to do with the course work being frighteningly difficult or the training being insurmountably daunting. But rather from the sense of real inner power that brews within you during this training. You leave with a sense that nothing is unconquerable, that you are more powerful than you will ever know and that you truly can achieve anything.

There are a thousand more things I could write about this teacher training journey. There are a thousand more hippy-phrases I could whip out and a thousand more emotional-laden examples I could have spewed at you. My only advice is that if you are even just thinking about doing a yoga teacher training – go for it.

This is your sign.

What does yoga do for the body?

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I could sit and write for days about the way that yoga has changed my life. The way it has changed my thought processes, my mental activity, my attitude to life, the relationships with the people around me and my outlook on life in general. If you aren’t quite ready to believe me on all the positive “mind stuff” that yoga brings here is a list of actual physical benefits that happen to the body with a consistent yoga practice.

  • Increases flexibility.
  • Improves strength. (I have noticed this particularly in my upper body, arms, back and legs. Which is actually basically everything.)
  • Improves co-ordination.
  • Increases balance.
  • Stimulates new neural pathways.
  • Increases range of movement in joints.
  • Improves posture. (I generally have horrific posture and yoga has really helped me “sit up straight” -> {said in mother’s voice})
  • Increases lung capacity and circulation – yoga focuses on the control of the breath and by paying special attention to it and controlling it in this way – we can increase our lungs capacity for taking in oxygen.
  • Lowers resting heart rate.
  • Massages internal organs – there are some postures in yoga which actively massage and squeeze various internal organs and glands encouraging them to activate. (For example, the thyroid gland in Shoulderstand promoting a healthy metabolism.)
  • Protects the spine by ensuring that the vertebral column remains supple.
  • Increases blood flow and aids in circulation – especially with twisting postures that help bring fresh blood to those areas.
  • Increases serotonin levels in the body – ie: the happy hormone. (See, I told you).
  • Reduces insomnia – trust me, as someone who has always struggled to fall asleep – yoga has changed my life.
  • Encourages an awareness of body synergy – the hip bone, connected to the high bone, connected to the shin bone… you get the picture.

But don’t take my word for it…
get out your mat!

Learn Yogi Stuff: The Niyamas.

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The Niyamas (one of the 8 limbs of yoga) refer to the self observations that we make within our own lives. There are five of these in total –

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1. TAPAS –
The word tapas in Sanskrit comes from the root word tap – meaning heat or fire. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – there is a beautiful analogy which explains the purification process of gold. Every time gold is heated the impurities that lie within it are removed and the gold becomes more refined. Similarly in our lives we come across situations which cause friction (heat) within our lives and it is through these processes that we learn, grow and become more refined. In a purely physical sense – that burning sensation that you feel when you’ve been holding Warrior II for THAT bit too long?… tapas my friend. Endure it. You will come out better on the other side for it. In Spanish, tapas refers to cheeses and olives and other pieces of bite-size deliciousness. Not necessarily the same thing.
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2. SAUCHA
Apart from basic hygiene (which should be pretty standard in any case – you dirty monkey), Saucha can refer to the purity of and cleanliness of the mind. Learn to recognise negative thoughts when they arise so that we can detach ourselves from them and bring our minds back to their natural pure state.
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3. SANTOSA
Contentment. It seems like this should be a pretty obvious one – but I think that these days true contentment is often overshadowed by “I need more“. Everything that you need to be truly happy is here right now. Anything that you think you need to be happy (new car, better job, more time, vacation etc) will only turn into something else when you get it. Be grateful for what you have NOW so that you can cultivate a sense of true contentment in your life. Gratitude is a conscious practice – every. single. day. List three things you’re grateful for today. Out loud. Right now.

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4. SVADHYAYA
Svadhyaya refers to self study. It is only through  REALLY knowing ourselves, our flaws, our weaknesses and the things that make us AWESOME that we can realise our full potential. All learning must be coupled with practice and stillness so that we can truly embody the things we wish to impart to others. Reflect on experiences in your life. What have you learnt? What could you learn? What is it about yourself that needs improvement? What positive affirmation can you give yourself today? How can you learn? Who are the people that you can surround yourself with that encourage this? How can you grow? What is your purpose and where do you want to be in this life? How can you be the best possible version of yourself? #somebodystopmeisoundlikeoprah
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5. ISVARA PRANIDHANA
Devotion to the universal. This is recognising that there is something greater than you – that you are part of a complete whole. It is your ego that puts you at the centre of your universe. Let that thought go –  learn to recognise and acknowledge the light in others. Serve others selflessly.

 

Learn Yogi Stuff: The Yamas

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As mentioned in a previous post – there are 8 limbs or pathways of yoga. (Yamas, Niyamas, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhanya, Samadhi). Today I want to explain more about The Yamas – which are the ethical considerations within this eightfold path. Basically some guidelines for living a good ol’ wholesome life. There are five Yamas in total, the first being –

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1. AHIMSA
in it’s most general sense it refers to “non-violence” or “non-harm”. In the obvious way AHIMSA means not walking down the street and straight up punching the next person who irritates you right in the face. The concept of “non-violence” can also refer to more subtle things such as choosing to cultivate peaceful thoughts and being mindful of the potentially negative thoughts you do think. It also means being non-harmful to the environment around you (SEE ABOVE) and making choices that helps protect and care for all life. It means being kind to yourself – in a specifically “yogi-example” this can be having patience with yourself and your body on your yoga mat ie: if your body is telling you that 300 Sun Salutations is absolutely out of the question today – you should probably listen to it.

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2. SATYA –
Satya refers to truthfulness and the idea of staying true to yourself, your beliefs and living what you preach. It also encompasses being honest with yourself and accepting all your flaws and limitations. It is only through being true to ourselves and to others in the way we live our lives that brings us a true sense of freedom. And obviously, no one likes a lying yogi-pants.
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3. ASTEYA
Asteya refers to non-stealing. Basically, do not take office pencils that do not belong to you. See also plagiarism etc.
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4. BRAHMACHARYA
Brahmacharya is the act of (sexual) moderation which can really be translated to most areas of our lives – moderation in the clothes we wear, the food we consume, the thoughts in our head and the energy we give to “fling-type” relationships. In our lives we pass through different phases of energy (read: young + wild versus mid life + peaceful) Brahmacharya focuses on acknowledging that subtle energy and reserving it where necessary.
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5. APARIGRAHA
Non-greediness. We could all do with a bit more Aparigraha in our lives. You know that feeling of walking down a shopping aisle and you see a “BUY 4 DEODORANTS and GET ONE FREE!” You didn’t really need a deodorant in the first place, but man, this way you get 5 for the price of FOUR! Into the trolley they go! Aparigraha is separating ourselves from always wanting more. It tells us to be grateful for what is here right now rather than waiting to be happy if we could juuuuust get that new car/new job/ big house/ boat/ bigger house/ (fill in the blank). The only thing you have is what you have is right now. When you DO get that new car/job/house – you will just be waiting for the even better car/job/house. Stop waiting for that. And enjoy the THIS. In everyday life, you know how it feels to do a massive clean out of your cupboards and shed all the excess crap you don’t REALLY need. Total zen.

 

 

Learn Yogi Stuff: The 8 limbs of Yoga

 

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Today I have set myself down to learn the Eight Limbs of Yoga, like a good yogi-teacher-in-training.

In The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (which is kind of the first formalised book on yoga philosophy), Patanjali describes the path of yoga as being “eight limbed”. The actual sanskrit word he uses is “ASHTANGA” which breaks down to “ashta = 8” and “anga = limb”.

It is thought that each of these limbs plays an important role in helping us reach that completely blissed out, peaceful/enlightened state – aka “UBER YOGI”. In many texts and books on this topic – the eight limbs have been compared to branches on a tree – with each limb preparing us for the next higher limb/branch. I chose to represent those eight limbs on an octopus though, because

a) even although one “limb” prepares us for the next, Patanjali still places equal importance on each of them and
b) an Octopus is way more fun to draw than a tree.

In terms of modern living – these limbs or paths are like a guidebook for living a good life – I have broken them down below:

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  1. YAMAS: Rhymes with Llamas. These are ethical considerations – (in basic terms) how you interact with society and the people around you, in general. There are 5 of these in total.
  2. NIYAMAS: Self observations. Similar to the YAMAS above, these are how you interact with yourself. Your inner thoughts, feelings and daily practices. There are also 5 of these.
  3. ASANA: The physical poses. (ie: all that stuff you see on instagram)
  4. PRANAYAMA: Breath control. By controlling our breathing we control our mind – slow, calm steady breathing creates a slow, calm steady mind. And vice versa.
  5. PRATYAHARA: Sense withdrawal. By withdrawing our senses from what is going on around us, we become non-attached to those things (eg: “ooh, look at her yoga pants”, “hmm, my downward dog doesn’t look like hers”, “what is that smell – I wonder what I should make for dinner?”) Quieting those things enables us to focus inward to that simple state of “being”.
  6. DHARANA: Concentration – Focusing the attention on one object. We all know that is the only way to achieve anything.
  7. DHANYA: Meditation. Letting the mind be completely at rest: no judgement, no attachment, no nagging voices.
  8. SAMADHI: Blissed out state. Congratulations. You’ve arrived.

 

 

Chakra Jewelry and strange connections

I have been putting off this post for a while now.
because –
Some posts are just harder to put into words than others,
ya know?
I kind of wish I could rather sit here and talk to you all about my recent experience regarding this – so that you could FULLY understand the complete AMAZEMENT/ EXCITEMENT/ EMOTION that went down. But anyway, since that’s not possible (besides me talking to my camera and posting it to YouTube) I’ll just try my best to get it all out.

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Let me begin by saying that lately, I feel I’ve been opened up to an entire new world of shizz. {I have downloaded the Headspace App (that’s a whole different blog post!) and I’ve been completely inspired with all the yogis that I follow on Instagram (see this post) – so much so that I have attempted some yogi headstands of my own. I am keen to visit Keri’s Reiki Healer when I’m back home and I have even signed up for this Colour Festival in June.} To sum up, there is some kind of shift going on in my mind and soul… and it’s epic.

So when Lulu mentioned that she had some Chakra Necklaces –
I was ALL. IN.

In basic terms (and as much as I am still learning) there are 7 different chakras  – or “energy zones” in your body which relate to different physical organs and emotional issues that we may (or may not) be carrying. When there are blockages in any of these zones of energy we may experience physical or emotional/mental imbalances.

Lulu invited me over and laid out her seven chakra necklaces in front of me and asked me to choose one based PURELY ON THE SYMBOL that I was most drawn to. (Bearing in mind I had never seen these symbols before). After much deliberation I eventually went for the fifth chakra. At this point, I found out it was the throat chakra, but still didn’t have much idea about what it specifically relates to.
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As you may know, I LOVE me a good personality test and “learning about myself”. So, as soon as I left Lulu’s house – I rushed home and tried to read up about the chakras online. I found a chakra personality test and without knowing anything about it – answered the completely random 40+ questions. I then did another chakra test (and another). Every time I did a test – it gave me exactly the same chakra that I had chosen based purely on the symbol that I was most drawn to.

As you can imagine –
I was SPEECHLESS.

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mouth-opened-jaw-dropping-speechless.

It’s like something in me was drawn to the exact symbol-chakra that is the perfect balance for my personality. At this point, I was SO intrigued / excited / amazed by this “coincidence” that I went and researched further: imbalances in the throat chakra can cause teeth problems, (HELLO DENTIST), mouth ulcers and sore throats. (note: at the very time of choosing this chakra I had been sick with a sore throat and stuffy nose for about a week).  I won’t go into all the long of it – but the more I read about this chakra and it’s emotional/physical imbalances the more I cannot believe how completely apt it is to me and the things I need to work on in my life.

Furthermore – the element of the fifth chakra is sound – which also re-confirms (and enlightens me) as to a lot of other things in my life. (For example, my primary love language is Words of affirmation – ie: HEARING people appreciate me). Actually, for a long time – that I’ve never really understood until now – whenever I hear Warren use my name out loud in a sentence – I’ve always had a quiet chuckle to myself. Why?  As I now realise – is because it SOUNDS so good to me – it resonates well with something within me. Sometimes even, just hearing a song can make me so emotional I burst into tears.

I got so excited about all of this that within 7 minutes I had messaged my mother, my father and half my friends with pictures of the chakras asking them to choose. I ordered one of the necklaces from Lulu and sent them to a friend back in South Africa. They all picked the ones that were so apt to their personalities and physical imbalances. Of course, I made Warren choose his chakra and subsequently overloaded him with a bajillion chakra personality tests. You’re welcome, honey.

I have been wearing my chakra necklace ever since I got it and I love it. There is something about having it on me it that reminds me to be more aware of how I choose to respond to different situations in my life. I’m so excited to read up more about it all and learn more.

At the end of this mish-mash post – I feel I haven’t really effectively explained the ENTIRENESS of how awesome and far-reaching this experience has been for me –

but yep.
that’s the gist of it.
And it’s already gotten so long and wordy… but ya know –
my chakra necklace is aimed to balance me with more communication …
So maybe it’s working.
Stay tuned.

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