Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Month: January 2016

5 Great Reasons to go on a Yoga Retreat

Yoga Retreat PortugalWho doesn’t love a holiday? You get to relax, have a break from work and do the things that you don’t normally get to do at home. But why specifically should you go on a yoga retreat holiday?

Considering I’ve spent the last nine months teaching yoga at retreats, I’d like to think I’m a bit of an expert now on them now! For me yoga retreats are incredibly special places. Here are my top five reasons to go on a yoga retreat:

  1. It will leave you feeling amazing. How many times do you go on holiday only to come back feeling like you need a holiday to get over it? It’s tempting on holiday to try to cram in everything you’ve been missing for the past year. Whether that’s partying, eating out, drinking or manically sightseeing, it can be exhausting. Holidays like that can leave you feeling more run down than when you left (I know because I’ve been there!). A yoga retreat on the other hand leaves you feeling healthy, relaxed and re-energised.
  2. You will have time to reflect on everything that’s been going on in your life. One of the great things about practising yoga and mindfulness is that it can be like hitting the pause button on your life. It gives you a chance to come into the present, and to take stock of what’s been going on. Perhaps you want to reconsider your direction for the coming year, or make some changes to feel more connected with yourself. A yoga retreat is the perfect opportunity to take a step back and do exactly that.
  3. It’s all about you. Going on a yoga retreat is not about pleasing your family, or your friends, or your partner. Going on a yoga retreat is all about doing what you want and taking precious time out for yourself. That might mean you get up early every morning to journal and meditate and join the yoga class. It might mean you choose one morning to sleep in and go off for a wander by yourself instead. It might mean you sit and socialise late into the evening with fellow guests, or it might mean you turn in early and catch up on a year’s worth of beauty sleep. A yoga retreat is your chance to tune into exactly what you want and need, then do it.
  4. Your yoga practice will improve. Yoga is fantastic, for your mind, body and spirit. And going to a class once or twice per week is a great start. But when you immerse yourself in it, practising every day and being in the atmosphere of a yoga retreat, you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes. Your physical practice will come on in leaps and bounds, and you might be surprised at how much deeper you find yourself going into the meditative side of yoga too.
  5. You can kickstart healthy lifestyle changes. I’m not a big believer in “detox” breaks, purely because I think the changes you make there are often too extreme to apply to the rest of your life. In all honesty, no matter how disciplined you are while on the retreat, one week in isolation will not make a great deal of difference to your health over the course of the year. I’m a fan instead of yoga retreats with a gentler, more realistic approach. While you might not keep up the same amount of yoga when you go home, you will learn ways to make smaller consistent changes. You can create a yoga self-practice to do between classes at home, or discover techniques to help you to integrate mindfulness into your day. You can break your poor eating habits, and enjoy a way of eating that keeps your blood sugar levels in balance. It is these small changes that over the course of the following year will make a significant difference to your health and wellbeing, not swearing to swap wine for kale juice for the rest of forever (unless you really want to!).

Perhaps most importantly, it’s a seriously enjoyable way to spend a holiday – yoga, relaxation, massage, great food and sunshine.

If you’re free from June 23rd to June 28th 2016, check out this gorgeous retreat that I’ll be teaching at in Portugal. There are still a few places left, and I’d absolutely love to welcome you there. If you book before 31st March mentioning “Jade Lizzie” a space in the female group room is available for the incredible discounted rate of just £450! Message me directly through Facebook or the contact form on here.

Yoga love and sunshine from sunny Morocco,

Jade xxx

3 Amazing Ways That Yoga Makes You Strong

Yoga Makes You StrongThere’s a misconception out there that yoga is:

a) Only for the super-flexible

and

b) Solely to make the super-flexible even more bendy.

To steal a saying from someone wiser than I am, that’s not yoga, that’s just bending.

Yoga is great for flexibility, but for me its power has been in the strength it’s given me.

Here are three of the ways that yoga makes you strong:

  1. Physically. Just try lowering slowly from High Plank to Chaturanga and back again and you’ll see that there’s more to yoga than having open hamstrings. Yes, flexibility helps you to move deeper into postures, but so does strength. Full Wheel pose for example requires upper body strength to lift yourself up as well as flexibility in your back to move into the back bend. You can be as bendy as you like, but without the strength to support your body weight, after a few rounds of Sun Salutations, your muscles will be shouting at you. Your body needs flexibility and strength for optimal health, and yoga can help you to develop both.
  2. Mentally. Meditation is like exercise for your mind. Repeatedly bringing your focus back to the present moment takes real mental effort, and just like strengthening a muscle, regular meditation improves your ability to concentrate. Yoga is meditation in motion. Maintaining mindful awareness while moving through yoga postures can be even more challenging than trying to do it while sitting in meditation. Not only that, but yoga challenges you to move out of your comfort zone, to face your fears and to experience discomfort without shying away from it. This last one is especially true in yin yoga – if you haven’t tried it, do! The discipline and focus yoga requires is as strengthening for the mind as it is for the body.
  3. Spiritually. It’s hard to find a definition of spirituality that doesn’t sound new-agey and weird. But one way to think of your spirit is that it’s the thing that lies beneath the fluctuations of your mind. Your spirit is deeper than your thoughts, your feelings, your wants and your worries. You might prefer to call it awareness, or consciousness or your soul, but whatever term you use, it’s the idea that there’s part of you that observes everything that happens, but remains untouched. And as such, it’s the source of your inner strength. No matter what happens there’s part of you that’s still okay. Yoga helps you to connect with that.

Yoga’s power to make you strong on all these levels is one of the many reasons I love it so much. Whether you’re experiencing physical, mental or emotional challenges, yoga can help you to become strong enough to handle them.

If you’re wanting to take your strengthening yoga practice to another level, and work through some of your fears while you’re at it, I highly recommend this free online class from the incredible Ana Forrest. I discovered it a couple of weeks ago, and I love it. Let me know how you get on!

Much love Jade xxx

What David Bowie taught me

David Bowie YogiI always had a repulsive need to be something more than human. I felt very puny as a human. I thought, ‘Fuck that. I want to be a superhuman.’

Growing up, David Bowie was the soundtrack of my childhood. My Dad was, and is, an obsessive Bowie fan, and he tells me that as a baby the only way he could get me to sleep was to play me Bowie’s Young Americans. When I was older I visited New York with my Dad, and we spent literally hours traipsing around Manhattan trying to work out which section of which apartment block was David Bowie’s apartment. As a teenager I can’t say I was thrilled by this, but looking back, I’m strangely glad we did.

Because as I grew up I began to appreciate what Bowie stood for and why he’s much more than the sum of his artistic work. There’s too much to do justice to in one blog, so I’m not even going to try. But this is what speaks to me about his life.

Bowie was the epitome of all that was uncool. Subversive, androgynous and irreverent, he was the ultimate misfit. He was mocked, misunderstood and asked repeatedly to justify himself. But he didn’t change, or at least, he didn’t change according to anyone else’s agenda. And in doing so, his defiantly uncool became strangely cool.

All my big mistakes are when I try to second-guess or please an audience. My work is always stronger when I get very selfish about it.

Bowie recognised that his real power was in being absolutely true to who he was and what he wanted. He embraced his individuality and refused to be confined by other people’s expectations.

So today I’m trying to remember this lesson. Because actually, I think we all have it in us to be superhuman, if we’re ruthlessly honest about who we are and what we stand for.  

Final thought to leave you with…

As you get older, the questions come down to about two or three. How long? And what do I do with the time I’ve got left?

Have a superhuman day everyone.

Jade xxx

 

Why do 108 Sun Salutations?

108 sun salutationsHave you heard of practising 108 Sun Salutations in a row? This idea has been on my mind for a while. It’s often done at the Winter Solstice, as a way of welcoming in the lengthening days. But I kind of missed that, so I decided to have a go at 108 Sun Salutations this week instead.

What is the significance of 108?

108 is an interesting number culturally, spiritually and mathematically. It is referenced in many ancient Eastern and yogic sacred texts, where it is said that 108 represents the wholeness of existence. There’s a thorough explanation here of the significance of 108, but my favourite reasons for its importance (because I am ever the pragmatist and geek) are these:

  1. 108 is made of three individual digits. The 1 symbolises the unity of all, 0 represents the completeness of spiritual practice (or emptiness, depending how you see it), and 8 is the symbol for infinity on its side, which represents eternity, albeit in a slightly wonky way.
  2. It describes fairly accurately the relationship between the sun, the moon and Earth. The average distance of the sun and the moon to Earth is approximately 108 times their diameters. And the diameter of the sun is about 108 times the diameter of the Earth.
  3. It seems like a pretty good idea to do 100 of something. But that’s a lot of counting, and it’s likely you’ll miss a few, so shooting for 108 means you’ll probably hit 100 at least.

So anyway, yesterday I decided to do 108 Sun Salutations.

How did I do my 108 Sun Salutations?

I chose Surya Namaskara A, because I get mixed up with which side I am on in the Classical Sun Salutation, and A is easier than Surya Namaskara B (hey, it was my first time). After 28 repetitions I regretted my decision not to mix things up a bit more, but my stubbornness wouldn’t let me change course, so I stuck with it.

To keep count of my repetitions, I downloaded a counter app onto my phone, and tapped it each time I jumped back to the top of my mat.  

How did I find it?

I knew physically it would be tough, but I have to say it was more of a mental challenge in the end. Physically I didn’t find it as challenging as I’d hoped (my masochistic tendencies coming out there…), although my hamstrings hurt today. But my god was it boring. I had brief periods where I’d be more in the flow, and I used my breath and bandhas (core engagement) alternately to maintain mindfulness, but on the whole I just wanted to finish it. It did teach me a lot about my own reluctance to engage in any kind of repetitive task, and how much of a battle it is to remain present when you are bored out of your mind.

What kept me going was the genuine hope that I’d have some kind of profound spiritual experience at the end of the 108 Sun Salutations. Unfortunately I can’t really say that happened. I was happy when it finished. I felt lovely and calm and centred when the last round was over. But there was no lightening bolt of enlightenment, or deep spiritual insight.

But, there was one massive, unexpected benefit…

After finishing the 108 Sun Salutations, and consuming the biggest smoothie my blender could handle, I went on to have the most ridiculously productive day. I wrote 5 whole articles (a record for me), organised the next bit of my yoga travels, caught up with messages from friends and family, cleared out my wardrobe, wrote a 100 step action plan for developing my blog over the coming year and sent three cards. I even fitted in some extra core strength training and visited my Grandma. I have no idea how all that happened in one day. But it didn’t feel like an effort – I just had loads of energy and focus.

So maybe there is something in this 108 business after all. Or maybe it’s simply that after boring myself stupid for the better part of an hour, my mind and body were ready to do anything and everything except Sun Salutations. Give it a go – let me know how you get on in the comments below?

Happy Sun Saluting lovely people!

Jade xxx

P.S. If you’re relatively new to yoga, check out Youtube for guidance videos as to how to do Sun Salutations (I’ll be making one myself soon – watch this space) and start with a smaller number – 3 or 9 or 27 – please don’t go straight to 108!

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