Today I’m tired, so I abandoned my asana practice about half way through...stick with me....
In the ashtanga practice we’re working with a curiosity about the body and mind...what John Scott refers to as “an enquiry”. We’re working to be intimately connected with our true self because when we truly know our own self we can start to consciously choose how to live, we can choose love, openness and gratitude, we can be aware of our resistances and biases and not succumb to them and even transcend them.
This starts with an honesty about body and mind.
Public Free Event: Lancashire Encounters Soundbath 21st - 23rd Sept
Harris Library & Art Gallery, Preston
I was delighted to have been commissioned to create and perform this beautiful soundscape soundbath as part of Preston’s flagship biannual cultural celebration.
It was an honour to perform in such a gorgeous space and to be a part of such a joyous event working with talented artists. The Soundbath participants were taken on a journey across Lancashire, celebrating our landscape, history and culture with Himalayan Bowls, Crystal Bowls, Rain Sticks and percussion .
The ashtanga yoga practice really is a gift of balance that you can give to yourself 💝
Today I didn’t really feel like getting on my mat, I have an exam this weekend, so I need to revise 🤯My mind felt closed in. I wanted to chill in soft openings and Childs pose, head down, closed, still. But I rolled out my mat. 🧘♀️ 👣
Ekham Inhale...and off I went, through the beautiful dance of the ashtanga sequence.
I felt strong, balanced, gradually felling softer, more flexible where my body had reflected my stiff mind.
By the end my backbends and drop backs felt beautiful, soft but strong, the heart fully open, reaching to the sky to reach the earth.
The practice had fully restored my balance...And that’s why I love this practice. 🙏
If I’d have had a choice I’d have huddled into Childs pose for an hour, but that would only have reinforced what I felt, reinforcing the imbalance, instead of challenging it to restore balance. 🙌
We can only be ourselves, but we can be the best version of ‘us’.
As a sound therapist it’s apt that I’m inspired by music.
There’s a lovely song sung by Audioslave, “Be Yourself” Chris Cornell, sadly no longer with us, sings...
“To be yourself is all you can be. Leave a better world than you found”
That line right there sums up a key guiding principle for how I try to live.
I know that trying to be the best version of ‘me’ is a life’s work.
The moment I stop paying attention to how I act, react, fall, get myself up again...is the moment I stop being the best version of me.
Loving, enjoying, learning, breathing in every beautiful moment on this gorgeous planet while also paying attention to, calling attention to and striving against some of the things that cause distress to fellow humans, animals and our planet and trying to minimise the damage I do...it’s a LOT.
So, I have no time to spare looking over the garden fence (I don’t have a garden, nor a fence) to compare how I’m doing compared with others.
What I do dedicate time to is noticing what others might be doing that I can learn from. There are many people, alive and dead, who are inspirations to me. I don’t compare myself with them, but I try to learn from them, to be inspired by their example. This is different from thinking that I’m not as ‘good’ as those people. It’s a positive intention to help me on my path to a better me, not something to beat myself with.
Take care, shine the light, be inspired but don’t compare and perhaps “Leave a better world than you found” ❤️🙏
One of the many things I love about teaching yoga is the feeling of connection, when many minds and bodies are all focussed on one positive intention the energy is incredibly, awe-inspiringly powerful.
We all have the power to change the energy and mood in a room and thereby to change the thoughts and actions of others in the room.....
Our intentions, moods, thoughts, focus and breath all affect those around us. When we all come together with positivity, joy and love, with a shared intention and shared breath we create powerfully positive energy....Thank You for bringing your positivity into the space ❤️🙏
Use your power wisely xx
How well do you know yourself? Can you recognise stress or illness in your body and mind, both of which can be thought of as dis-ease?
When we practice yoga, sound therapy or meditation mindfully we are trying to tune-in, to really experience the sensations in the body, as well as the processes or stories in our heads, so that we can learn about our body, mind and breath.
When we tune-in to our body, mind and breath on a regular basis we start to build a strong, intuitive and deep understanding and awareness of how everything feels when there’s peace, ease and flow without tension. This then helps us to recognise when there is tension impeding our flow or ease so that we can take steps to find ease again.
Too often in our busy lives we accept tiredness, sluggish digestion, tense shoulders, shortness of breath and all manner of ailments that signify less than optimal health. Before I found yoga I spent several years working 14 hour days, sleeping for 4 or 5 hours and commuting, while thinking I was healthy. I wasn’t healthy, I had just forgotten what healthy felt like.
My yoga and sound therapy practices see me giving myself a daily check-up to spot any changes. A regular practice spots tiredness, tension, judgement, attachment etc. so that I can take steps to bring back ease and flow before I forget what they feel like.
Here are some tips for how to check-in with your health, if you come to yoga class with me you’ll notice how integral these e,events are to our yoga practice....
1: Focus on the breathe - feel the breathe enter the nostrils and travel down the throat, into the heart and ribs cage and down to the belly. Really watch the body respond to the breath. Is the breath slow, even and deep, or shallow, fast and erratic? Can you bring a more calming breath in?
2: Focus on the body - feel how you are holding your body. Is the jaw clenched? Are the shoulders closed and up by the ears or rolled forward? Can you soften the jaw, roll the shoulders down and back, lift the heart and lengthen the neck? How’s the digestive system feel? Is there an opportunity to soften, take slower, deeper breathes to calm the digestive system.
3: Focus on the mind - are you able to focus on the present, your immediate surroundings, or did you struggle to tune in with your breath and body? Are you replaying a situation from the past about which you don’t feel at ease?
Or are you projecting into the future in a way that causes physical, emotional or mental tension? If so examine on,y how to move forward positively. What can you do and if you can’t influence the future
Have fun and good luck tuning-in.
Mindfully sitting by a fjord in a Danish friend's garden I spotted this lovely dandelion. I was struck by how this dandelion illustrated the importance of the teachings in yoga to be strong, flexible and deeply rooted. Like this dandelion which bends with the wind.
If he wasn’t flexible he would snap.
Without deep roots he’d blow away.
If he was weak he would be blown over onto the ground.
We all get blown around in life.
The winds of change are inevitable....
Sometimes it's a quick gust requiring us to change plans, such as a cancelled train or a traffic jam making us miss a meeting.
Sometimes it’s a light pleasing breeze, such as bumping into an old friend and an impromptu coffee .
Other times it’s cold, harsh and forceful gale threatening to knock us off our feet and definitely requiring us to change course.
Yoga teaches us to that to live happily and peacefully we need to react to these winds of change by being like the dandelion...
Flexible - Yoga teaches that we should remain flexible. That we shouldn't be attached to the course we thought we were on. We are taught that this attachment is the cause of suffering.
We should instead be open and flexible, accepting that things change and we should just roll with those changes. If we accept that we're going to miss that meeting and welcome the extra hour we have spare to enjoy a pot of tea, a walk in an unknown place savouring the sunlight and the air, or reading a book we will be much happier than seething at the delay. I love traffic jams as I get to sing along to more music.
Strong - Yoga teaches us to have inner strength so that we’re not flattened by the winds of change. This inner strength is deeply connected with being rooted. It doesn't mean not having a cry or not asking for help, quite the opposite. To me it means that we have the mental strength to not react in a patterned way due to assumptions or societal constructs, but instead choosing to act in a way that is consistent with your long term happiness.
That might mean instead of seething about a missed meeting thinking through the options and choosing to conference call instead. It also means to me having the strength to know when to cry to release tension and then to stop crying and move on, and knowing when to ask for help.
Rooted - Yoga teaches us to be deeply rooted in our inner peace so that we aren’t uprooted and feel bereft, we remain like anchored ships, flexible enough to bob about but rooted. Like the dandelion.
If we practice connecting with our body and breath on a deep level daily we start to feel the truth of our existence which is pure love and joy. Once we're connected with this missed trains, plumbers that don't turn up, jobs we don't get, house sales that fall through simply don't matter much at all.
So instead of fighting the wind, be strong and remain rooted but be flexible bend and move with the wind. Next time you're in a traffic jam, turn up the radio and be like the dandelion - sing out loud ❤️
There’s a difference between
1: intuitively knowing a truth and
2: making assumptions based on old patterns and bias. The challenge is to learn which one you are listening to.
Taking time to be a compassionate witness to our stuff, our assumptions, our patterns and our processes enables us to cultivate an incredibly strong awareness of the difference between intuition and patterned assumption. This way we can hear intuition strong and clear ❤️
Sound therapy and yoga are excellent tools for developing these skills.
See you at yoga class or a sound bath session where we can practice witnessing.
Every breath is a precious gift, an opportunity to move forward, to make a choice to do better.
Ashtanga yoga focuses on the breath so that we become fully aware of the breath....
The thing is we don’t often need to run from lions anymore, but sometimes we breathe as though we do.....
We take about 20,000 breaths a day. Fast and shallow breathing is a primal response to stress, it’s very useful when you need to run from lions, but it’s not so useful when we’re constantly stressing about queues, bills, traffic, the boss etc.
Frequent stress means we can end up constantly breathing as though we need to run from a lion, only using the top third of our lungs. But the bottom third of our lungs supply two-thirds of our breathing capacity.
Shallow breaths mean we aren’t supplying our bodies with sufficient oxygen and replenishing the brain and other vital organs with nutrients.
Well, it’s a good thing that we start and end every class with focussed deep breathing practices and throughout the moving sequence we continue to breath deeply and rhythmically, using the breath to find space. Come to class to find and enjoy your breath again....even if you do sometimes run from lions