Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Month: May 2016

Learning To Be Struggle-Free

struggle freeI blogged last week about how I’ve been embracing a more “underachieving” approach to my yoga practice lately. I was overwhelmed by the number of people who contacted me to say they loved this post. I know – who would have thought slacking was so inspiring? But many of these people had been beating themselves up for not doing enough and they were relieved to hear I was able to dial it down for a while, and be ok with that. It struck me how hard we are on ourselves. We live in a goals-driven, target-setting, progress-orientated culture. We’re taught that effort equals success, and while that can great, it can also leave us with the impression that if we’re not struggling, we’re doing something wrong. So I wanted to share some advice that has helped me a lot.

The reason I’ve not been practising as much yoga is because I’ve been busy. Squeezing in such a long practice every day was making yoga into a struggle, and not something I loved. So I chose to let go of the struggle and adopt a more realistic, manageable yoga practice for a few weeks.

And this goes back to something that a yoga teacher said in class a while ago which resonated with me. In the warm up she encouraged us to, “Allow yourself to be struggle-free.” During the initial, gentler sections of the class this was fine. But then later, in a fairly intense core-strengthening sequence, she reiterated the guidance. “Be struggle-free. Be easy.” I was skeptical about the possibility of being “struggle-free” while doing Forrest Yoga abs (try them – they’re brutal). But weirdly, it worked. Not because I stopped trying, but because I realised how much of my suffering was caused by my mental battle. I was surprised that I could still work hard, and feel the intensity of that (which I definitely did), but without struggling, and therefore without hating it.

I’ve been experimenting with this quite a lot in the rest of my life too, and it’s been helpful. There are two ways that I try to apply the “struggle-free” philosophy. The first is that if I’m doing too much, or not enjoying something I’m doing, I reflect on whether I really need to be doing it, or whether it’s a self-imposed struggle that I could find a way around.

The second way acknowledges that sometimes there are things I have to experience which don’t feel particularly comfortable. Let’s say I need to have a challenging conversation with someone, or I’m anxious about the outcome of decision. I’ve been reminding myself at these times to, “Be easy.” Depending on the circumstances, maybe this means I need to relax, to detach, to surrender or to let things go and trust that it will work out.

And I’ve found that the more I let myself be struggle-free, the more things do seem to work out. Not necessarily to start with, but in the end they have a tendency to come good. Because actually even if I really think I know what the best outcome should be, I don’t really know what’s for the best. Things that I might initially perceive as failures can give rise to other, better opportunities.

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t make an effort. You can still apply yourself fully, and commit and work hard at whatever it is you’re doing. And sometimes you do need to make a stand, and do things that are tough. But you can also make the conscious decision not to struggle with them. Even in the midst of things that feel horrible, like abs workouts or relationship break ups, it can be possible to find a kind of acceptance and peace in surrender to the situation. Most of the suffering is in the struggle. If you can let go of that, things get a lot easier.

So this week, my challenge to everyone, myself included is to let yourself be struggle-free. Drop something from your “To do,” list, find an easier way or let go of a personal battle. Let me know if it makes a difference.

Why Yoga is Still Amazing (Even When You Don’t Do As Much)

yoga still amazingSince I’ve been back in the UK, my life has changed a lot. I’ve been working in school again, teaching yoga classes around Nottingham, writing and catching up with friends and family. It’s been great. But I’ve gone from attending 90 minute yoga classes every morning before breakfast, plus more self-practice later in the day, to squeezing in a little movement and meditation before I go to work in the morning, and doing a longer practice about 3 times per week.

Initially I worried about this. I thought I wasn’t doing enough, and that my yoga practice would suffer. But I’ve realised that like everything, my yoga practice goes in waves. Sometimes I’ll practise more, sometimes less. Right now my priority isn’t to practise yoga for 3 hours every day and that’s ok. The lessons from my yoga mat are still having a huge impact on my life. Here’s how yoga is still amazing, even when you don’t do as much:

  1. It makes you more patient. I noticed this while I was reading with a student at school. It was a long session on a hot afternoon, and I know that prior to yoga this is exactly the kind of thing that would have had me clock-watching and counting down until the end of the day. But instead I was able to let myself get absorbed in the activity. I noticed my impatience, but chose not to engage with it, and as a result ended up really enjoying the lesson, rather than wishing it away.
  2. It helps you enjoy people’s company more. Instead of always rushing on to the next thing, I’ve found myself much more able to just relax and enjoy conversations and spending time with people. Before I would always be racing to do something “productive”, but now I’m valuing the time to talk to people. Yoga’s also taught me to be less judgemental, which again, helps with the whole liking being around people thing…
  3. It helps you to be less anxious. I’m naturally a very future-focused person, but at the moment I only have the vaguest, most flexible plans for my life beyond the next lot of yoga retreats I’m teaching. And I’m really happy about that. I’m trusting a lot more that the future holds great things, and that when things don’t work out as I might have hoped it’s because there’s something better in store. I’m finding that this less controlling, more open approach is letting me enjoy my life a lot more.
  4. It makes you happier. I really do credit my meditation and my yoga practice for the fact that day to day, I feel so much happier than I ever did before. I’m aware that I have negative and destructive thoughts sometimes, but I know I don’t have to give them any power over me.
  5. It helps you to find your balance. I’m so much more aware of the degree to which I need activity versus relaxation, freedom versus security and social time versus quiet time. My life right now is busy and varied, but I also have some of the stability and calm that I’d been craving in my last few months of travelling. And I’m much more confident in my own ability to regain balance when things get out of kilter.

Although I might not be spending as much time on my mat, the influence of my yoga practice has extended into all aspects of my life, and I think that’s a really good thing. I know I’ll be on my mat a lot more when I leave for my next yoga retreats, and for now I’m happy to let my priorities shift more towards my teaching and writing and connecting with the people around me.

Wishing you a lovely week, whether your yoga practice is a bit of mindful breathing, or a hardcore daily vinyasa class! Both can be amazing.

Love Jade xxx

The Unexpected Difference Meditation Makes

Difference meditation makesI wrote last week about my own meditation practice, and what exactly I do. Those who have read this, will know that I don’t do anything particularly impressive. My routine is basically “Sit still, be quiet” for 10 minutes every morning. But despite its simplicity, the difference meditation makes for me is huge. Here’s what I’ve noticed:

I’m less reactive.

It seems to me that meditation has opened up space in my mind, so that when things happen, I have time to process them and make a choice about how to respond. That’s not to say I don’t still have emotional reaction, because I do, at least mentally. I’m just less likely to act on it before I’ve thought it through. For example, if someone says something that upsets me, in the past I might have gone straight down a mental avenue of “WTF. How dare they? Clearly they hate me. I think I hate them too. This is a disaster.” Whereas now I might manage a slightly more reasonable, “Ouch. That hurt. I wonder what they meant by that. Is it worth trying to find out?” 

I’m more aware of my thoughts.

Meditation helps me to tune into where my mind’s at each day, and to realise the sorts of thoughts that pop uninvited into my head all the time. It’s definitely not about emptying my mind – I really can’t do that – but I have developed a better understanding of how my mind works. If there’s something that’s worrying me, I know how much my mind is going to keep bringing it up. Although I can’t stop that, I can practise engaging with it less.

I’m learning to slow down.

My natural tendency is to be in a rush with everything. I want to do everything quicker and more efficiently, so that I can get more done. But often, I don’t know what it is that I want to do after all the stuff is done. And of course the stuff is never all done. So taking the time each morning to “do nothing” is an exercise in disciplining myself to stop mindlessly racing through life, and slow down. It means I’m more inclined to step back in the morning and consider my intentions for the day. It also means I’m more likely to slow down during the day and actually enjoy what I’m doing. Even if that does mean it takes a bit longer.

Stuff doesn’t seem to matter as much.

I spent most of my teenage years and my early twenties lurching from crisis to crisis. I was always caught up in the drama of whatever was going on right then, and it all felt so important. One of the things that meditation (and maybe getting older too?) has taught me is how transient everything is. Thought, feelings, situations. Everything rises, and everything falls away. That’s not to say that I don’t care about things. I do, a lot. I like being passionate about life, and I feel things intensely.  I’m just more aware that even when things seem unbearable, I will get over it, and it won’t feel like this forever. “This too shall pass,” has become one of my favourite mantras.

I’m reining in my own judgemental tendencies.

This last one is more of a confession than anything. Sometimes the thing that makes it most obvious to me that my mindset has changed through meditation is when I recognise elements of how I used to think in other people. I’ll see someone get angry because their bus is 10 minutes late, and realise I’m less impatient than I used to be. I realise judging the behaviour of others is not a desirable quality, but at least I’m aware I’m doing it, right? Joking aside though, becoming a judgemental prick is not something I’m trying to encourage in myself, but it is kind of interesting to observe.

I’d love to know whether you’ve noticed any changes after trying meditation?

Have a great week!

Love Jade xxx

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén