Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Tag: core

Five Forrest-Inspired Yoga Changes

Recently I graduated from a Forrest Yoga Advanced Teacher Training Course. The experience was incredible – emotional, exhausting and inspiring in equal measure. Here are five of the changes I’ve already made to my yoga practice as a result.

1. I’ve stopped torturing my neck.

“Relaxed neck” is a common cue in Forrest Yoga, and it felt alien to me. Relax my neck? As in let it my head actually hang down rather than crane my neck at a weird angle in order to get the “correct” drishti (gaze point) for the pose? Despite my initial reluctance, I found it felt really, really good. Try it – next time you’re in extended side angle pose or half moon, rather than forcing yourself to gaze up or into your hand, relax your neck instead. See how much nicer that feels? I love it, I’m teaching it, there’s no going back.

2. I love core work even more now.

Since I was about 11 years old, when my ballet teacher told us sit ups would help our balance in pirouettes, I’ve loved core strength work. But on my training, I realised that I’d barely scratched the surface. The precise, refined, and relentless (!) cues of Forrest Yoga abs seriously put me through my paces, and left me so much more connected with my inner strength. Now I do them every day. This is the video that’s my “go-to” online Forrest Yoga core practice, if you want to try it yourself.

3. I also know how to relax my belly.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t habitually suck my belly in. My ballet teacher told us to do it, my vanity and desire to have a flat stomach told me to do it, and my yoga practice prior to Forrest training was all “uddiyana bandha” and “draw your belly in and up”. So I’ve always done it. But for all Forrest Yoga’s focus on abs, the core work is an intentional practice, and they don’t encourage you to hold your belly tight all the time. In fact, in my third class, one of the intentions was to practise with a soft and spacious core. Even more than the neck thing, this felt uncomfortable. I don’t think I actually knew how to let my belly relax. But once I adjusted, it completely changed how I felt physically and emotionally.

4. I keep my lower back healthy.

I now use yoga to not only “fix” my chronic lower back pain when it flares up (it’s an old compression injury), but to heal it. The Forrest Yoga abs help a lot, but I’ve also learnt techniques such as back traction for creating space in my lower back. What’s more, I’m recognising my  tendency to jam tension into my lower back, and I’m learning to strengthen and stabilise my pelvis instead.

5. I’ve (almost) stopped punishing my body.

I want to finish on a high, but I have to admit that this one is a half truth still. After  years of abusing my body with disordered eating and exercise addiction, softness and ease are concepts I seem to need to learn again and again. What I am finding is that when I get on my yoga mat, I’m starting from a place of “having my own back.” If something’s hard, I’m breathing, not fighting through it. If a pose causes pain, I’m pulling away, then exploring what’s going on. And if something feels delicious, I’m staying there. It’s a work in progress, but even that, I think I’m learning to accept. There are some things that just take us a bit longer!

If this Forrest Yoga thing sounds like something you might be interested in exploring, watch this space, as I’ll be leading my first Forrest-Inspired Yoga workshop on Saturday 24th March 2018 at Akasha Yoga Centre. Drop me an email at info@jadelizzie.com to book your place.

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 I’ve Been Taking Cold Showers

Cold showersCold showers are something I’m used to as a traveller. Reliable hot water is a luxury, not a given, in a lot of the places I stay. And sometimes cold showers aren’t that bad. In Nepal, the water was never heated, but the temperature outside was very warm and the water was never really cold, so it was fine. In cooler places, I’ve perfected the art of showering as quickly as possible, with as little of my body under the water at any one time as I can get away with, while still ending up passably clean.

Suffice to say, cold showers are definitely something I’ve endured rather than enjoyed.

So why would I voluntarily choose to start taking cold showers during March in Portugal, in a house where the lack of heating leaves it chilly at best, glacial at worst?

Well I was intrigued by a program on Ekhart Yoga called “Core Strength and Radiant Health.” Both of those sounded like the sort of things I wanted more of, so I decided to give it a go. The only trouble was, the program included “an invitation” to take cold showers.

The idea of the program is that you start each morning with pranayama or breathing practice. Next you practise yoga – alternating between all-round yoga classes and core-focused practices. Then, it’s cold shower time. To make it more bearable, it’s suggested that you start with a hot shower, then for the last 30 seconds or so you dial the temperature down and blast yourself with cold water.

The cold showers are meant to have a range of health benefits, including:

  • Elevating your mood.
  • Building stamina and willpower.
  • Keeping your skin youthful and glowing.
  • Boosting your energy.

Showering in this way is apparently called a “Scottish shower” and incidentally, if you’re needing further motivation to try it, it’s the way James Bond showers. I don’t think you can get a better endorsement than that…

So how have I found it? I must admit, the first morning, I probably only managed 7 or 8 of the 30 seconds I was meant to do. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and wondered why I would put myself through something so horrible. Particularly after my recent thinking about promoting self kindness, this seemed to go against the grain.

But, as soon as I stepped out of the shower, I felt amazing. A hundred times more energised and awake than I usually do first thing in the morning. And that feeling lasted all day. Weirdly, I also struggled less with feeling cold during the morning. Whereas usually I sit and write huddled under three blankets with a succession of cups of tea to keep me warm, I was down to just one blanket. It was as if the cold shower had woken up my own internal heating system.

So I’m definitely carrying on with the challenge. Let’s see how it goes when I’m back in the even cooler UK…

If you fancy joining me in the challenge, give it a try, at least for a day and see what difference it makes. The full information is here.

Have a great week (cold showers or not!).

Love, Jade xxx

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