Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Category: Mindfulness (Page 2 of 3)

How to Motivate Yourself to do Yoga

Camel PoseI love going to yoga classes, but my practice transformed when I started doing yoga everyday on my own. I began to explore the postures for myself and to rebuild my relationship with my body and mind. However, practising yoga by yourself brings its own challenges, the main one for me being motivation. So how do you motivate yourself to do yoga on the days when your bed is more appealing than your mat, and you don’t have a teacher telling you what to do?

Here are my three best pieces of advice:

  1. Remember that getting there is the hardest bit. A friend of mine passed on these words of wisdom years ago and they’ve stuck with me ever since. With any situation that you know will require some effort (even something you enjoy, like yoga!), the hardest bit is getting there. Once you’re there, you’ve already overcome the biggest challenge. I used to remind myself of this on the cold, dark mornings as an English teacher when I REALLY didn’t want to leave home. It works even better to get me onto the yoga mat.
  2. Set the intention that you’ll get on your yoga mat and just move for 10 minutes in any way that feels good. That way you take the pressure off your yoga practice and free it to be whatever you need right then. Often I tell myself I’ll only do 10 minutes, and after that time, my body and mind feel so good that I carry on and do lots more. But even if that’s all I do, I think of it as a gift to myself that I wouldn’t have otherwise had in my day.
  3. Create a bank of motivation prompts for the days when you really need to be told what to do. I have a few great free online yoga resources that I use when I really don’t want to practise “alone”, such as the wonderful DoYogaWithMe website – the classes with Fiji McAlpine are my favourite. I also love this mini Forrest Yoga inspired core workout, and my lovely yogini friend Amanda posts some great sequences on her Youtube channel that always make me feel good. It’s good to go solo and practice totally by yourself, but these online yoga classes are perfect for the days when you need a bit more inspiration.

Whatever you end up doing, try to keep your yoga practice free from judgement. We already spend too much of our lives critiquing ourselves, and seeing how we measure up. Challenge yourself to let that go while you practise yoga by yourself. After all, there’s no one there to impress, or even to care what you are doing – this is just about you.

Happy yoga-ing lovely people – let me know how you get on!

Jade xxx

When Not To Follow Your Heart

Follow Your HeartAfter making one too many bad decisions that I justified by saying I was “following my heart”, I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes you shouldn’t follow your heart. I suspect that’s going to be a controversial statement, and I’m open to the debate, but here are my thoughts on it…

 

What does “following your heart” actually mean?

Let’s be clear about this. Your heart does not make decisions. Your heart is a muscle that pumps blood around your body. It’s incredibly important. Vital in fact. But it is not a decision-making tool.

So why do we talk about following your heart?

Our heart is the area that we associate with emotions, particularly love. It is what we connect with a feeling state, as opposed to a thinking state. We can also use the term “heart” to mean “the innermost or central part of something.” So when we talk about following our heart, what we perhaps mean is that we are making choices that come from a place of deep emotional longing.

What’s so wrong with this?

Nothing. There are definitely times when you feel something so powerfully that you know it is the right thing to do. Those are the decisions you make that you throw yourself into, whole-heartedly and they can be pivotal moments in your life. I’ve definitely made those kind of decisions. Deciding to turn down a promotion to travel and teach yoga instead was definitely one of them. There were plenty of logical, financial and sensible reasons why I shouldn’t have done that, but actually that way of life was not making me happy. So taking the risk and “following my heart” was a good call.

However, I have also been in situations where I know rationally I am making a really poor decision, but I’ve justified it by saying, “I know it doesn’t make sense, but I’m following my heart.”

I read an great article recently by Steph at Blissbombed, who wrote that,

When you’ve been in a dark place, the heart and intuition can be a bit off-kilter. It wouldn’t be uncommon to think, “I should leave this situation, but my heart is leading me to stay out of compassion for [insert bad situation].” If you’ve been ignoring or betraying your intuition for a while, it loses its voice and becomes warped.

This resonated a lot with me. Sometimes the feeling of wanting to do what you know is wrong can be really strong. This is especially true if it’s driven by fear – especially fear of being alone or fear of failing. People who stay in damaging relationships, or abandon projects that scare or challenge them may justify it by saying they’re following their heart. 

When shouldn’t you follow your heart then?

If you find yourself with a heartfelt longing to do something, check in with your head. This doesn’t have to be a case of “head” versus “heart”. If you’re making a wise choice, often you can find a way which is perfectly in tune with both. In the example of me leaving my job, yes, there were financial reasons to stay, but I also knew the alternative could be financially viable. What’s more, my “head” knew as well as my “heart” that my current situation was not fulfilling me.

So there are a few questions you can try asking yourself. Steph at Blissbombed suggests this one:

What is the most self-respecting thing I can do now?

I’d also recommend considering:

Is this longing driven by fear? And if so, how could I face this fear rather than letting it steer the course of my life?

and

What is the most healing action I can take now?

When you follow these kinds of questions, you’re being far more honest with yourself than using an evasive “I know it’s bad, but I’m following my heart.” Sometimes, your heart can be seriously confused. Tune into your intelligence, your knowledge and your wisdom, and you’ll find the rest follows.

I’d love to know what you think to this – what are your experiences of following your heart?

With (genuine!) heartfelt love,

Jade xxx

 

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

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!

What Works Better Than Making New Year’s Resolutions?

New Year's ResolutionsIn January 2014, I moved to Birmingham. It was a scary decision for me. I knew no-one there, I was starting a new job, and I was moving into a house full of people I didn’t know. But instead of making my usual New Year’s resolutions that year, I started a couple of things that helped me beyond measure. Firstly, I decided to have more fun. I’d spent the first half of my twenties being hard-working and successful, but incredibly unhappy. So that was it – my aim for 2014 was just to have more fun. I prioritised immediate happiness.

The second thing I started doing was taking time to feel gratitude. At the end of every day (or the beginning of the next – sometimes I forgot!) I wrote down at least 3 things I was grateful for. Although I found it cringey at first, I did it until it became a habit, and something I looked forward to.

I think those two things were what started the happiest year of my life until that point. It was the year in which I made two huge decisions – to begin my yoga teacher training and to travel, both things I’d wanted to do for years, but had found excuses not to. Neither decision featured in some master plan for my future. Instead, they came naturally, almost effortlessly, from the strength, positivity and self-confidence that prioritising happiness and being grateful had brought about.

So I’m asking you at the end of the year to take 15 minutes to write down your answers to the following questions , and notice how doing this makes you feel. I promise it’s far more effective than making endless lists of new year’s resolutions to bring about positive change.

  1. Which experiences are you grateful for in the last year?

These might be travel, relationship or work experiences. For me this is gratitude for the diverse experiences I’ve had travelling – doing yoga on a beach in Thailand, partying my birthday away in a tiny town in Andalucia and participating in a Mayan Fire Ceremony in Guatemala.

  1. What life lessons are you grateful for learning?

You might find, as I did when I thought about this, that some of the life lessons you’re most grateful for have come from the toughest parts of this year. I’m now grateful for the time I spent being hyper self-critical, because it helped me to recognise the difference it made when I began working on self-acceptance instead.

  1. What opportunities are you grateful for being given in the last year?

Your brain is programmed to focus on your negative memories, so it can be easy to overlook the opportunities you’ve had. I’m incredibly grateful to have had the chance to work at some amazing places – Suryalila Retreat Centre, Moinhos Velhos Detox Retreat and 21st Sanctuary Retreats, and to have started my Advanced Yoga Teacher Training with Frog Lotus Yoga International.

  1. Who are you grateful for having in your life in the last year?

Consider all the people who’ve contributed to your life this year. Even people who at the time had a negative impact may have taught you a valuable lesson that you can be grateful for now. I’m ridiculously grateful for my family, who have supported me both practically and emotionally through all the ups and downs of nomadic lifestyle.  I’m also grateful for the inspiring people I’ve met on my travels and for the lovely people who read and share my blog posts (thank you!).

  1. What are you grateful to yourself for in the last year?

Think about what it is that you’ve done to help yourself this year, and thank yourself for it. I am grateful for my own energy, and the fact that I kept going when things were difficult. I am also grateful to myself for keeping up my yoga and meditation practice which helped me to find the strength to do that.

Looking forward to next year

Once you’ve done this, if you’re in the mood for looking ahead, think about what you want to bring more of into your life in the coming year. Bear in mind this research from Amy Cuddy about why most New Year’s resolutions fail. Keep it simple, memorable and positive. Possible examples:

  • To have more fun (I highly recommend this one!)
  • To enjoy being active
  • To find the opportunity in every challenge

Having already expressed gratitude you’ll be in the perfect frame of mind to make a difference to your next year.

Wishing you an amazing new year lovely people – let me know how you get on with your 15 minutes of gratitude!

The Sceptical Yoga Teacher

sceptical yoga teacherIs it possible to be a sceptical yoga teacher?

When I tell people I teach yoga, they make a lot of assumptions about me. And, to be fair, I do fit some of the stereotypes. My wardrobe does mainly consist of yoga leggings and sports bras, I do (try to) meditate every day and I am probably more flexible than the average person. But I also love science, I’m passionate about logical, rational arguments and I have a physics degree. So frankly, I die a little inside when I hear yogis referencing quantum mechanics, as if the very mention of quantum entanglement provides empirical evidence for every new age concept out there.

This is not because I don’t think yogis should talk about science. I love talking about science. I think everyone should talk more about science. But discussing concepts you don’t understand with the assumed authority of someone who does is a misuse of physics and undermines the credibility of what many describe as the “science of yoga.”

I have a similar reaction when people grasp onto alternative forms of medicine as if because they’re “natural” they must work. Don’t get me wrong, I think the western medical system has plenty of flaws, and I’m a big believer in exploring other options. For example, I think we can learn a lot from the holistic approach of systems such as Ayurveda, where they look at the whole person rather than treating symptoms. But that’s not to say that these ancient systems have all the answers, and because they are on some “spiritual plane”, they are above investigation. “Alternative” medicine can and should be tested just as rigorously as anything else.

What I find most strange is when people suggest that you can’t be “spiritual” or into yoga unless you suspend all analytical thought. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve tried to discuss ideas with someone from the yoga community only for any questions I have to be met with, “But science can’t explain everything.” Perhaps not, but does that mean we should just hold our hands up, fall at the feet of the nearest guru and accept everything we’re told without question? To me that seems like a pretty dangerous path to follow.

I don’t think the barriers that people (on both sides of the fence as it were) put up between yoga, spirituality and science are necessary or helpful. Ultimately, everyone is seeking the truth and greater understanding, but approaching it from different angles. Surely the greatest growth comes when we learn from other fields, rather than disregarding them because their approach is different to our own?

A meditation teacher of mine used to say, “You don’t have to leave your intellect at the door,” and I loved this expression. I’ve always taken this to mean that you can have both. You can immerse yourself in yoga and meditation, and let thinking take a back seat for a while in order to drop into the experience of something. But it’s also ok to question things, try to work them out for yourself, and maintain a healthy scepticism when faced with so-called gurus making sweeping statements without backing them up. In short, I think it’s perfectly possible to be a sceptical yoga teacher. 

I’d love to know what your experiences are of this – let me know in the comments below?

Have a lovely day, and Merry Christmas everyone!

Jade xxx

 

Do you have a hummingbird?

HummingbirdI was recently talking to friends about the times in your life when you feel utterly overwhelmed by sadness or despair. The times when all the clichés about your heart being torn apart or ripped out of your chest feel true, and you can barely breathe for crying – that ugly, red-faced kind of sobbing that leaves you feeling physically and mentally drained.  It was a cheerful conversation.

But something one friend said really resonated with me. He said that at the times in his life he’d felt most low, there was still a tiny little hummingbird of a voice somewhere in his head, saying, “This is ok.” That voice inside that even when you’re at your lowest knows that this is permissible. I don’t mean it knows that it will work out well in the end, because maybe it won’t.  But the hummingbird inside you is the part that just notices the sadness or pain right then and accepts it.

And I realised I too have a hummingbird.

Emotions can feel so all-consuming. There are times I’ve cried so much that my face was swollen and hideous the next day. (As a side note, it’s not ideal to be a school teacher at those times – “Miss, what’s up with your face? You look really weird today!” Got to love the unfiltered honesty of thirteen year olds.) But the analogy that I like is that you are the sky; the emotions you experience – grief, fear, anxiety, excitement, happiness, joy – are just the weather. There’s space in the expansiveness of the sky to accommodate them all. The sky is still the sky, constant and unchanging.

I think that’s what the hummingbird knows too. So maybe next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, try to tune into that part of yourself that sees what’s going on, and knows that it’s ok. See whether you can hear your hummingbird.

Have a beautiful day everyone!

Jade xxx

P.S. The easiest way to hear your hummingbird better? Meditation. I’ve resisted this for a long time, but I can honestly say that meditating is the best way I’ve found to learn how to approach life with more equanimity and acceptance.  Sorry. I too was hoping I’d find more success with methods which included more cocktails and less sitting still and being quiet…

Five Reasons Why Meditation Is So Hard

meditation (1)“I’m really bad at meditation.” I’ve heard this from many yoga students, and I’ve said it myself. I blogged about my meditation challenge here in fact. But what are the reasons why sitting still in meditation is so hard?

  1. It seems to go against everything we’ve been brought up to believe, in terms of striving for goals and taking action. You can read all the scientific studies you like about the benefits of meditation (and there are plenty of them – try this article for starters) but it still seems counter-intuitive that to enjoy all these lovely benefits you have to sit still and be quiet.
    2. It’s not actually just sitting there. If you come to meditation believing that it will be an easy, relaxing experience, you won’t be prepared for the sheer effort it requires. It takes focus, concentration and discipline to meditate. And that can be hard. The main feeling I used to experience on hearing the bell to mark the end of meditation was relief that it was over, and that I could stop trying to focus. This is normal, and it has lessened with time.
    3. Most people don’t understand the real purpose of meditation. The point of meditation is not to relax. Although meditation can, and does, help you feel relaxed, contrary to popular belief, that’s actually not the intended purpose behind it. The actual purpose of meditation is to understand the nature of the mind. Through that understanding, you gain the potential to harness the power of your mind, rather than being at its mercy.
    4. It’s said that your ego does not like this, which is why you experience such resistance to meditation. When you meditate, you recognise the way that thoughts and feelings arise, seemingly from nowhere, and fall away. And you realise that you are not those thoughts and feelings. You are the observer or the witness of the thoughts and feelings – a much deeper state of consciousness that’s completely unaffected by the events that happen to you. This brings the realisation that so much of what you think matters really doesn’t. Your ego doesn’t like this, so it resists.
    5. Being alone with your thoughts can be difficult. Sometimes they’re negative, disturbing, or (a lot of the time!) just plain boring. Meditation is so hard because your mind doesn’t want you to be doing it. It craves stimulation and distraction, and will try any number of things to get you to stop.

So what can you do about it?

There’s so much information out there about how to start meditating – a Google search returns 1,790,000 hits. The most crucial thing though is deciding that you want to meditate, and that you want to enough to put the effort into overcoming the challenges. It’s worth asking yourself – do you want to understand the nature of your mind? Do you want the potential to master your mind, rather than being enslaved by the random thoughts and feelings that pop into your head for the rest of your life? And if the answer is yes, meditation is probably a good place to start.

Have a wonderful week, everyone!

Jade xxx

P.S. All credit for my latest learning about meditation goes to my wonderful teacher Vidya at Frog Lotus Yoga.

 

 

Why you need to sort your head out first

Sort your head outWhat do you want most right now? A promotion at work? A beautiful body? A new car? A puppy?

And now consider why it is that you want that. Most of the time we want the things we want because we believe those things will make us happy. But so often you can get the things you want, only to find you’re utterly miserable anyway.

I know because I tried it. I starved myself and exercised like I was training for an ultramarathon (I wasn’t), because I thought I’d feel better once I was thinner. I didn’t. At work I became a super-employee, never saying no, because I thought I’d be happy once I had a promotion. I got it, and I did, briefly, feel happier. And then that disappeared. I clung onto relationships that were broken because I thought I’d be happy once I’d fixed them. It didn’t work, and it just made me more unhappy.

Because the thing is, until I turned my attention to developing a healthy mindset, nothing worked. As a friend said to me, “The only achievement in life that matters is good mental health.” I think that’s so true. It’s great to want to make positive changes to all aspects of your life, but none of those will work unless you sort your head out first.

I see lots of people coming to yoga retreats who set themselves up with the idea that the 5 or 7 or 10 days of the retreat are going to be transformational for their mind, body and soul. They think they’ll leave a different person, with a whole new life. And maybe it works. Maybe they do the “detox diet”, they exercise more, they enjoy a bit of yoga and they feel good. But then they return to their lives, and does anything actually change? Sometimes, I’m sure. But I’m also pretty sure that a lot of the time life carries on as it always has. More worryingly, perhaps they then feel disappointed in themselves for not having lived up to their own expectations.

I’ve been lucky enough recently to be the resident yoga teacher with 21st Sanctuary Retreats, where they have a slightly different take on things that I like a lot. Their primary focus is unapologetically on mental health and wellbeing. Yes, they had daily yoga (that’s where I came in!), fitness, vegetarian food and a beautiful setting, but they also facilitated life coaching and mindfulness sessions. They wanted to empower guests to make meaningful changes through improving their mental wellbeing and setting achievable goals. They also offered a longer-term support programme, to keep guests on track after the retreat.

I think this mind-based focus is the way forward. Although yoga has been amazing for my body, it’s been more amazing for my mind, and it’s the happiness it has brought me that I want to share with people.

So what about all the things you want? My best advice is to sort your head out first. Everything else will follow.

Have a beautiful week, everyone.

Jade xxx

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