Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Category: Mindfulness (Page 1 of 3)

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.

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

How I Meditate – My Personal Practice

How I meditateI’ve had quite a few people lately ask me about how I meditate, and although I’ve written before about the challenges of meditation, I’ve never really shared my personal practice. I think it’s different for everyone, but after a lot of trial and error, that is what I’ve found works for me with meditation. I hope it’s useful.

Commit to a Daily Practice

Although I don’t notice an immediate effect if I miss a day of meditation, what I have found is that missing one day makes it harder to meditate the next day. Before I know it a week has gone by without me actually sitting still and being quiet (yes, meditation is the only time I do that), and that does affect the clarity of my mind. So I hold myself pretty strictly to at least 5 minutes per day meditating. Most days I do 10 minutes, some days I do 15 or 20. I rarely meditate for longer than that unless I’m in a group, and someone forces me do it…

Find A Time That Works For You

I think it’s easier to stick to meditation if it becomes part of your routine. I like to meditate after I’ve practised yoga in the morning. Because I’m naturally so restless and it’s a real challenge for me to sit still, it’s at least a bit easier once I’ve done some yoga. Also my body is more relaxed and my hips are more open, which makes sitting easier. Other people prefer to meditate before bed, or in their lunch break. I did try meditating in bed (lying down, under the duvet, with my eyes closed) before I got up in the morning, but to my intense disappointment that didn’t really work.

Use a Timer

I’m sadly not the kind of person who can just indefinitely and meditate for as long as I feel like it. If I did that I’d probably only ever do 30 seconds. So I use an app on my phone – Insight Timer. This has a soft bell sound to end the session, which is less aggressive than setting an alarm. It also has social features, so you can see who you’ve been meditating with around the world afterwards. Sometimes they send you messages to thank you for meditating with them (you can turn this off if you like!). I used to find this really weird. Now I love it. Things change.

Get Comfortable

I’m really not a believer in forcing yourself to sit in a certain position to meditate. Meditation is hard enough anyway without sitting there in agony. If you’ve got pins and needles and you’re panicking that you may never feel your lower leg again, you’re unlikely to feel that focused. It’s even less likely you’ll choose to carry on the next day. So get comfy – use cushions, kneel over a bolster, sit upright in a chair or lie on your back if you have to (and if you can stay awake!). But find something that feels ok for you.

Scan Your Body

This helps with the point above, and it’s how I almost always start my meditation practice. I take a scan through my body, from the ground up, and consciously bring awareness and relaxation to every part. I only take a minute or so to do this, but it helps my mind and body to settle at the beginning of the practice.

Focus On Your Breath

Once I’ve scanned my body, I focus on my breathing. I breathe through my nose and concentrate on the point at which my breath leaves and enters the body – the edge of my nostrils. Every time my mind wanders off (which it does, all the time) I try to gently and nonjudgmentally notice it, and return to focusing on my breath. It’s a kind of “Oh look, I’m thinking about what I’m having for breakfast. How interesting. Let’s go back to my breath.” Reminding myself to focus on “just this breath” sustaining my concentration one breath at a time really helps to keep me present. Other people use counting or mantras to keep their focus here – I keep it simple and just watch my breathing.

This is just how I meditate. I’m not saying it’s the right way for everyone, but I hope you do have a go, experiment and see what works for you. Because it is incredibly good for you. Blog to follow next week about the difference meditating every damn day has made for me.

Have a great week!

Jade xxx

Five Reasons To Start Writing Today

Start writingIt’s no secret that along with yoga, writing is my passion. I believe that everyone has it in them to be a writer. Especially you.

Here are five great reasons to start writing today:

  1. Writing is cheaper than a therapist. There’s nothing quite like writing for getting to the bottom of how you’re feeling. Whether you’re confused, sad or angry, one of the most empowering things to do is to sit down and write everything that comes into your head. Keep writing until you’ve worked through what’s troubling you, typed your way out of stuck thought patterns or come up with a plan of action. Some people even find it helpful to burn what they’ve written at the end, as a way of symbolically letting go of the “story” they’ve been telling themselves.
  2. Writing is the ultimate creative act. When you write, you have the power to create worlds that can be whatever you want them to be. Unconstrained by finances, resources or practical limitations, your imagination is free to construct scenarios that bear as much or as little relation to your actual world as you like. Ever wonder what would have happened if you’d married your childhood sweetheart, succumbed to a gambling addiction or discovered you have a superpower? Write it and see. Through your writing, you can live out other lives, explore crazy possibilities, and bring life to ideas that you might shy away from in the actual world.
  3. Writing helps you to manifest your dreams. Along similar lines to the idea of creating dream worlds, start writing about your dream life, as if it’s already here, and already true. For instance, “I am so happy to live in a gorgeous penthouse apartment by the sea,” etc. As well as helping you to clarify what you want (which many people forget to take the time to do), it lets you begin to create the feelings and experience of being in your ideal future. This brings you a huge step closer to creating it.
  4. Writing is a tool to connect with others. Conversation is great, but as a tool for connecting with other people, writing has very special qualities. For a start, your reader can choose the time they read your words, and they can take them in at their own pace, engaging with them exactly when they are ready to. They can read, re-read, backtrack and skim the text at their leisure. Writing also gives you the opportunity to construct your message carefully, really considering and crafting your communication so that you make sure that its impact matches your intention. How often are we able achieve that precision when we speak?
  5. Writing lets you express yourself. No one else on this planet has had the exact life experiences you have had. As such, just by existing, you already have unique insights and ideas that are worth expressing. No one out there will put it exactly like you, and once you start writing, who knows what value your unique take on the world will have for someone else? You might reassure, challenge, encourage, provoke or inspire people.

So many people want to write, but they put it off, because they don’t think they have anything to say. But particularly when you’re new to writing, you don’t know what you have to say until you start. Try free writing – sitting for 10 minutes each day with a timer and writing whatever comes into your head, without stopping, censoring or editing yourself at all. I challenge you to do this every day for a week and see what comes up.

Even better, come and join us at my Yoga and Writing Retreat at Suryalila Retreat Centre in Spain, 2nd to 9th July 2016. You’ll have the opportunity to explore all five of these reasons through writing workshops, with daily yoga sessions to help unlock your creativity and awaken your inner writer. Coupled with delicious food, stunning surroundings and Spanish sunshine, it’s going to be a magical week, and I’d love you to come join us.

Have a great week, and let me know how you find the writing challenge!

Jade xxx

 

3 Steps to Falling In Love With Life

Falling in love with life

For a long time, I resisted meditation. In part, I was worried that meditating too much would make me complacent, I’d develop an attitude of resignation, and basically give up on life. I was wrong (shocker). This is what I’ve learnt about how mindfulness and meditation can be a stepping stone to falling in love with life instead.

3 Steps to Falling In Love With Life

1. Be here.

We can’t fall in love with life if we aren’t here experiencing it. When we practise mindfulness, we become more aware of what’s happening right now. This doesn’t just mean being present during moments that we enjoy, like seeing the stars on a clear night, or being engrossed in a great conversation with someone (although that’s important). It’s also about developing awareness during the times we usually switch off, like when we’re waiting for the kettle to boil or driving to work. Even more challenging, it means becoming aware during the uncomfortable times, the times when we would usually try to avoid or resist our own experience. For example, noticing our reaction when someone says something that triggers anger or sadness in us, or checking in with what happens to our minds when we’re in a yoga pose that we really don’t like. Pausing to actively get connected with what’s happening is the first step to falling in love with all that life has to offer.

2. Accept it.

Awareness will only get you so far, if you’re still feeling aversion to the “bad” stuff and clinging to the “good”. Life will never be only full of pleasurable things. If you expect it to be, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Sorry, but you are.  Take falling in love with someone. The butterflies, passion and excitement of a blossoming relationship can also bring anxiety, fear and pain. The more we cling to pleasurable experiences and resist the uncomfortable ones, the more we suffer when uncomfortable experiences inevitably arise. The trick (and it’s not easy!) is to try to accept it all. The good and the bad. The reason that meditation helps with this is because meditation trains us to cultivate an attitude of equanimity to whatever arises in our minds. If we can do this in our minds, we can apply it to our lives. Read this beautiful poem for more on this.

3. Embrace it.

This is all very well and good, but do any of us actually want an “acceptable” life? Is that our highest aim? Surely not. Don’t we want to be enthralled by life, and passionate about it? Don’t we want to fall in love with life? If so, then acceptance is not enough. The next step is whole-heartedly embracing all that happens. To do this requires trust. It means we need to let go of our judgements, and recognise that we never really know what is good and what is bad. It’s all just “stuff” and if we embrace it, it all has its value and its beauty. This is what it means to surrender. It’s not about giving up – it’s about opening up. That way we are free to do our work, whatever that is – we can dream, act, love and create. And the best bit is that if we really cultivate this attitude, we let go of attachment to the outcome. The result is no longer so important, because we trust the process, and embrace all it brings.

None of this is easy, and it’s a lot to get your head around. But given that we can control so little of what happens in the universe, actually, the one thing we can control is our mindset. Taking these steps is by far the most effective strategy I’ve found so far to fall in love with life (and to falling in  love with anything else for that matter). 

  1. Be here.
  2. Accept it.
  3. Embrace it.

Let me know what you think?

Jade xxx

11 Quotes For A Happy Life

Quotes for a happy lifeIf you come to my yoga classes, you’ll know I love quotes, words and poems. These are some of my favourite quotes for sharing in Savasana. I find keeping these in mind helps me to feel happier, healthier and more resilient. 

 

11 Quotes For A Happy Life:

1.When you’re needing grounding:

“Flying starts from the ground. The more grounded you are, the higher you fly.” ~ J.R. Rim

2. When you’re unsure of your place in the world:

“You are a child of the universe. No less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” ~ Max Ehrman (from Desiderata)

3. When you want more creativity in your life:

“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” ~ Osho

4. When you need encouragement to change:

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late… to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald (from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)

5. When you are dealing with difficult people:

“If you have to choose between being kind & being right, choose being kind & you will always be right.”

6. When you need to take control:

“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

7. When you’re unsure of your life’s purpose:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Washington Thurman

8. When life feels tough:

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
~ Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

9. When you are afraid to feel too much:

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it, and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.” ~Roald Dahl

10, When you need to find your inner strength:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” ~ Mary Anne Radmacher

11. And last but not least, when you need to keep it all in perspective:

“When I hear somebody sigh, ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?’” ~ Sydney Harris

These are my current favourite quotes for a happy life. What would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.

Have a fantastic week lovely people. 

Love, Jade xxx

How To Be Kind To Yourself

Be Kind To YourselfI wrote recently about the power of self-love. That’s a different concept to being kind to yourself, although the two are intimately linked. But it occurred to me as I wrote that how hard it can be to do the little things that show yourself compassion and love.

I don’t 100% believe the idea that you can only be as kind to yourself as you are to others. I know plenty of people who care unremittingly for others while really struggling to be kind to themselves. BUT, I do think that without also being kind to yourself, this constant giving is hard to sustain. Sometimes, consciously or otherwise, we wait for others to show us the kindness we aren’t showing ourselves, which can lead to disappointment and even resentment if they don’t.

10 Easy Ways To Be Kind To Yourself

  1. Do yoga. Regular readers may have seen this one coming. I’m a big advocate for yoga as an act of kindness towards yourself. But, make sure it is yoga that makes you feel good, not something you tell yourself you have to do. Give yourself 10 minutes to move in any way that makes your body feel amazing. Stretch, rock, lounge – whatever works for you. Luxuriate in it.
  2. Give yourself time off. This can be time off anything that you feel like you “should” do – work, studying or training. Throw away the to do list and the “shoulds” for an hour, an afternoon, or a whole weekend, and let it go. The world won’t fall apart.  
  3. Plan something nice for yourself. Here’s some news – you don’t need to wait for someone else to book tickets to a show, or plan a trip, or choose a holiday. Do it for yourself. Schedule it in your diary and give yourself something to look forward to.
  4. Give yourself some great advice. Whatever it is that’s troubling you, have a think about how you’d encourage and support a best friend/ child/ loved one in this situation, and follow that advice. You’re wiser than you know.
  5. Write some positive affirmations for yourself and repeat them regularly. It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe them, or if it feels cringey and awkward. Just do it. No one said being kind would be easy. Oh wait – I did. Sorry about that…
  6. Prepare (or buy!) and enjoy your favourite meal. Let go of the diet/ detox/ nutrition program for one meal and allow yourself to just enjoy it. Seriously, no one will die if you eat what you want to for one meal. Chocolate brownies for dessert, anyone?
  7. Give yourself a massage. Spend 10 minutes massaging your feet, shoulders or scalp. Coconut oil is my favourite. This is especially good if you do it just before Number 8.
  8. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual. It doesn’t matter whether you actually fall asleep early or not. Switch off your mobile phone, turn off the TV, get away from all your electrical distractions and relax.
  9. Take a dance break. Put on your favourite music and dance like no one’s watching. If they are watching, you get extra points for this one.
  10. Treat yourself to something you want, but you don’t need. This doesn’t have to be super-expensive (unless you want it to be!). It can be as simple as stopping for a latte on your way to work, or buying yourself a new T-shirt just because you want it.

If the thought of doing these things makes you feel a little uncomfortable, that’s ok. Do them anyway. There’s no need to wait for other people to do kind things for you, or to give you permission. You already have permission. Commit to trying at least one thing on this list today and show yourself some of the kindness you cultivate for others.  It will be life-enhancing, I promise.

How Much Yoga Do You Need?

how much yoga do you needYou might have come across the hashtag #yogaeverydamnday, which could seem funny, or inspiring or motivating. But if you’re new to yoga, or you’re very busy, the idea of practising yoga every day can be intimidating. So do we really need to do yoga every day? And how much yoga is enough to feel the benefits?

I’ve experimented a lot with this and I’ve tried everything from going weeks at a time without any yoga, to practising for more than 3 hours per day.

I’ve come to these three conclusions:

  1. The amount of yoga you need depends on your goals. This means working out what you want from your yoga practice. For example, if you want to learn to handstand, you need to put the time in to strengthen and open your body, and increase your body awareness and balance. Having a go as part of your weekly yoga class will help, but if you’re doing nothing in between, it’s probably going to take you a long time to progress. On the other hand, if you have a very active lifestyle and you use yoga to reconnect with your body and mind, your needs will be different. Spending just 10 minutes at the end of the day doing a restorative posture like legs up the wall pose followed by some meditation will have a huge impact.
  2. Daily practice is a non-negotiable. I appreciate this might be a controversial one, but for me, to function at my best, I need some kind of yoga every single day. This is not necessarily a vigorous flowing yoga practice, although that is my preference. Some days my self practice is just finding 5 minutes to meditate. I can even do this on the plane if I’m travelling. Other days I might do 10 sun salutations, some core strengthening work or some joint mobilisation exercises.
  3. Fluctuations are normal, and natural. One thing I’ve learned is that my own yoga practice ebbs and flows, depending how I’m feeling and what I’m doing in the rest of my life. I used to panic if I couldn’t fit in an hour to practise every day, but now I try to be more responsive to my situation. During my Advanced Yoga Teacher Training, I practised yoga for 3 hours every day (at least!) and meditated for 1 hour. I felt amazing, but that amount of practice isn’t realistic for me (or many people!) most of the time. That’s ok. The way I think of it is I still carry with me all the benefits of having spent that amount of time practising yoga. So now, even when I just do a mini yoga practice, or a short meditation, I know I’m reconnecting with all the good that I cultivated during that time of intensive practice.

It’s worth saying that the more I’ve practised yoga, the more I realised that yoga is everything. From noticing my impatience while I wait in a supermarket queue to remembering to relax my shoulders when I run, it’s all about mindfulness, and it’s all good yoga practice. But I still prefer to have some dedicated part of each day where I consciously and deliberately set aside the time and space to do yoga.

How much yoga is the minimum?

For me, I’ve found the lowest I can let it go is 5 minutes per day. I feel like I really miss out if I don’t spend at least 5 minutes per day connecting with myself. Usually if time is as tight as this, I don’t do yoga postures at all, I just sit and meditate for the 5 minutes, because I find that’s the most effective way to drop into the mindful awareness I am looking for in such a short space of time. 

I’d love to know what you think of this and how much yoga you need? What works for you? Let me know in the comments below!

Have a great week lovely yogis and yoginis.

Jade xxx

P.S. Shameless plug for my wonderful yoga retreats here… If you’re looking to spend some more focused and intensive time on yourself and your yoga practice, I have three magical retreats coming up – check out my page here and drop me a message if you’d like more details. I’d love to welcome you on one.

What does it mean to love yourself?

Love yourself I’ve struggled with the concept of self-love in the past. It seemed to me to be self-indulgent and even narcissistic. And, I thought, surely if you just decide to love yourself,  you’ll lose any motivation to develop or grow?

But lately, I’ve had some great conversations with people who have helped me to see the advice “love yourself” completely differently. I also signed up for a one month trial of EkhartYoga online classes (the best one euro I’ve spent this month – if you haven’t tried it, sign up now. It’s brilliant. Seriously.) and watched some thought-provoking talks about loving yourself.

What I’ve realised is that my discomfort around loving myself came from my misconceptions about what it meant.  My new understanding is that self-love means shifting your attitude towards yourself, dropping the negative self-talk and embracing all aspects of yourself – the light and the dark.

Here’s what self-love isn’t:

  1. It’s not self indulgence.

I associated loving myself with spending hours having luxurious baths, painting my toenails, and buying expensive face creams. Which was fine, but seemed kind of superficial. No matter how nice these things are, I was unconvinced that they could be the key to lasting happiness. But I’ve come to think of these activities as self-care, rather than self-love. Self-care is an important aspect of loving yourself, but it’s not the whole story. Self-love requires a more profound mindset shift.

  1. It’s not narcissism.

I thought loving yourself implied believing that you’re awesome – and far more awesome than anyone else. But that’s not the case. Loving yourself and embracing all that you are does not mean thinking that you are better than anyone else. If anything it’s the opposite. It means seeing all of your “flaws”, and annoying behaviours  and choosing to love yourself anyway. When you develop that compassion for yourself, you expand your capacity to be compassionate towards others. Practising self-love trains you in how to see every aspect of another person, the good and the bad, and loving them anyway.

  1. It’s not complacency.

This was the scariest aspect of self-love for me. I worried that if I loved myself as I was, I would lose all motivation to develop and grow. Because there’s still so much I want to work on, and learn and progress with. I didn’t want to lose my drive. But actually, self-love and acceptance doesn’t have to mean thinking that you have nowhere else to go in the future. It means recognising and deeply accepting where you are right now. And that place of deep acceptance and love for yourself is the perfect foundation from which to evolve. The criticism that we inflict upon ourselves is more likely to promote self-punishment and destructive behaviour than growth.

The hardest thing about self-love?

When you realise that self-love is not about indulgence, narcissism or complacency, it becomes a much less scary prospect. And the hardest thing then is that like any shift in mindset, it requires effort to retrain your brain. Until it becomes habitual, you need to consciously choose more loving thoughts towards yourself.

But how do you actually do this?

I like being practical about things, and having tangible strategies to try out. So I’m sharing Esther Ekhart’s advice, which I’ve personally found really useful. She says that when you do something “wrong” and you’re feeling frustrated, annoyed or upset with yourself, stop. Recognise that if you had known or had the ability in that moment to do it better, you would have done. See yourself from the outside, acknowledge and accept all the good and the bad, and meet it with compassion. Repeat the phrase,“I see you, and I love you,” to yourself.

It’s likely to feel strange, and maybe uncomfortable at first, but give it it a go. Even if it’s just for this week, see what difference it makes to love yourself.

Let me know how you get on!

Lots of love, Jade xxx

Whatever you are doing, love yourself for doing it. Whatever you are feeling, love yourself for feeling it – Thaddeus Golas

Yoga To Make You Feel Amazing

Yoga To Make You Feel AmazingI use yoga as my therapy for pretty much everything. However you’re feeling, the majority of the time, yoga can make you feel a bit (or a lot) better. It’s just a case of finding the right yoga prescription. Here are my suggestions…

Feeling sad? First of all, don’t fight it. Spend a few minutes sitting in meditation, or if that feels unbearable, practise alternate nostril breathing instead. This is a very soothing, nurturing pranayama practice which can help you to calm your mind. Then allow yourself 10 minutes to move in any way that feels good. The key is to keep moving, letting your body feel some positive sensations again. It’s good to reconnect with the fact that even when you feel sad, you can still find enjoyment and pleasure in physical movement.

Feeling angry? The old advice about taking deep breaths can really help, but sitting still is hard when you’re raging. Give yourself 10 minutes to warm your body with Sun Salutations, then practise some forward bends, such as Standing Forward Bend, Wide-Legged Forward Bend, Bound Angle Pose and Head-To-Knee Forward Bend. Breathe deeply into whatever sensations you feel and focus on your body, dropping into feeling rather than thinking. Forward bends have a naturally calming effect on your nervous system. At the end of these, you may well feel collected enough to sit and meditate for a few minutes.

Feeling physically tired? Restorative yoga is your friend. Let your body relax and recover by choosing the most restful postures you can find. My personal favourite is Supported Child’s Pose over a bolster or cushions, turning your head left for 3 minutes, then right for three minutes. Then take Happy Baby to release your lower back, and a nice long Savasana.

Feeling mentally drained? When your brain is worn out, it can help to balance that with some movement for your body. I love Vinyasa Flow yoga when my mind is tired. Because coming up with sequences and moves is hard when you’re weary, this is a great time to use some online yoga inspiration. I like this mini class from Rachel Scott when I’ve had a long day at the computer.

Feeling low in energy? When you need an energy boost to face your day, and you don’t want to resort to coffee and chocolate, backbends are your best bet. Don’t go into these cold – warm your body with some gentle movement, then a good 3-5 rounds of Sun Salutations before you start getting bendy. You can try Cobra, Bow and Bridge Poses. To add a little extra challenge, give Camel Pose or Wheel Pose a try. Hold each backbend for at least 5 breaths and resist the urge to bend forwards to release your spine until you’ve finished all the backbends. At the end, let yourself rest for a minute or two in Savasana and notice the energetic effect on your body of all those lovely backbends.

Let me know how you get on with these. What kind of yoga do you use to make you feel amazing? 

Have a great week!

Jade xxx

P.S. If you’re struggling to do anything at all, check out my blog from last week about how to motivate yourself to do yoga.

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