Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Tag: goals

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 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!

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

You’re a human being, not a human doing

I heard this expression recently, and it made me laugh. Because I am definitely a human doing. And I like that. I like being busy.

I have things that I do every day in addition to volunteering, linked to my goals in life, which I never take a day off from. Currently my daily resolutions are to:

  • Write 750 words of my journal
  • Write something purposeful – a blog or article or idea
  • Pursue some writing work
  • Research future yoga and travel ideas
  • Attend or teach a yoga class
  • Do my own self practice of yoga
  • Do core strengthening and flexibility exercises
  • Meditate
  • Practise my Spanish using the apps on my phone

They’re all things I like doing. But as I’ve tried to become more mindful, I’ve noticed that they’ve started to feel very checklist-y. Someone asked me:

“What are you so scared of that you have to distract yourself by being busy all the time? Can’t you just be with yourself?”

This threw me. Why couldn’t I take a day off these activities? What would happen if I did? How would I make sure I was “making progress”? And then I told myself to get a grip – it was only one day. Let’s face it, if achieving my dreams was delayed by one day, would it really matter?

So I challenged myself to let go of the checklist for a day.

I didn’t get off to the best start. I initially thought I could still do things that were on my list, as long as I was doing them because I wanted to, not because I felt like I should. I got up for yoga class at 7.30am as usual. I found myself in the class thinking – maybe could do my core exercises after this. I realised that this wouldn’t work. I was going to have to ban the activities on my list altogether, otherwise I would just talk myself into doing them all anyway.

So after my morning dishwashing duties, rather than picking up my laptop to start writing, or my phone to begin language practice, I stopped, paralysed by indecision. What did I actually want to do? I realised that one of the reasons I have a list is because I hate wasting time and it can take me ages to work out what I want. But I stayed with this feeling of indecision, until it came to me. I wanted to read a book in the sunshine.

Later, two friends invited me to join them to practise some yoga teaching assists. I realised I could just say yes, without hesitating because I “should” be doing something else. It felt good. On another day I would have still said yes, but I  would have worried about when I would find the time later to get “back on track” with my list.

In the afternoon, I got ready to go for a walk, then realised I didn’t really want to go, and decided to read some more instead. I reminded myself there was no need to feel guilty about the time I wasted getting ready for a walk. It didn’t matter. I let go of the need for every moment to be productive.

I noticed at the end of the day how relaxed I felt, and how nice it was to not be mentally grading my day according to how productive I’d been.

The day off my activities also helped me to discover which of them I genuinely enjoy. I missed my own yoga practice. When I started to go for a walk in the afternoon, what I really wanted to do was some yoga. And I wanted to write, not because I had to, but just because I had ideas in my head that I wanted to get down on paper. I felt excited to be able to do them again the next day. The ones I didn’t miss I decided to rethink – maybe I can achieve the same outcomes in more enjoyable ways.

Am I a convert to becoming a full-time human being-not-doing? Not exactly. I’m still quite attached to my activities, because they’re all linked to goals I want to achieve. But I have learned that it’s good for me to take the pressure off and it’s helped me to be more present too.

If this sounds familiar to anyone else, I challenge you to let the checklist go for a day too. Let me know how you get on…

Jade xxx

How present are you?

11825661_10101252416878699_1449995224029953442_nWhat percentage of your waking day do you spend being present in the moment? As in actually being where you are, as opposed to replaying past events, or internally preparing for the future. 50%? 20%? 10%?

When someone asked me that question a month ago, my best guess was 5%. That’s not good. There’s a whole wealth of research into the benefits of mindfulness, or having your conscious awareness on the present moment on your mental health. But even putting that to one side, I didn’t like the idea that I was spending 95% of my life not actually mentally being there. I set out on a one month challenge to increase this percentage. Here’s the advice I’ve been trying to follow…

Increase the time you spend doing mindful activities

I already practised yoga every day – this is the only reason my percentage was as high as 5%! But the most obvious next port of call was meditation. When I make myself do it, I love the way I feel after meditation. But I am terrible at prioritising it. So this month I actively sought out opportunities to meditate. Living at yoga retreats I’ve taken advantage of meditation sessions run by others. I’ve also tried really hard to meditate for a couple of minutes at the end of my yoga practice each day. I’ve found this does make a difference. This time gives your body and your mind chance to absorb the benefits of the practice, and leaves you in a much better place to continue the day.

Reduce contact with things that pull you away from the present

For me a major distraction from the present moment is my phone. It is horrible to admit, but sometimes I barely notice the people around me because I am messaging someone, on Facebook or scrolling through random strangers’ images on Instagram. So I resolved to leave my phone behind as much as possible. I allocated times for messaging people in the day, then during the times I was with people I dedicated myself to that. It’s been a revelation. It turns out that when you give the people around you your full attention and really listen to what they are saying, they are far more interesting than the holiday photos of strangers. When you let yourself be fascinated by what someone has to say, they become fascinating.

Notice the times you zone out

One of them is while I eat. It’s fairly common for me to enjoy the first taste of my food, and then get lost in thoughts, conversation or my phone (again!) and the next thing I know, I’ve cleared my plate. Trying to stay present while eating proved a really big challenge. Although I enjoy food, I don’t really notice eating it very much. My mind drifts so quickly. I had to really slow down, to deliberately put down my knife and fork between mouthfuls and actively try to notice what I was doing. This is still a struggle. It is true though that when you manage it, you find that you enjoy the food more, and can also notice better when you feel full.  

Make the menial tasks into mindful  ones

I’ve tried tuning in with the same mindful awareness to all the tasks I do in my day in the same way I focus during yoga. I was worried I’d find this boring. How would I cope with doing the dishes without mentally planning my next trip abroad? But when I tuned into the sensory experience of what I was doing, the way I moved and the noises around me, even the most boring of jobs became really quite absorbing. Just like with people, when you give tasks your full attention, they become far more interesting. You give yourself permission to enjoy them.

Where am I now percentage-wise? At best I’d give myself 15%. Which is good and bad. On the positive side I’ve increased my mindfulness maybe three times over. On the less good side, there’s still 85% of my day that I am mentally not there. But at least the numbers are creeping in the right direction. And I do feel better for it. Definitely calmer, and more aware of the great things that happen all the time.

I think I’m going to make it my next goal to eat a whole piece of cake without getting distracted. Let’s face it, if I can’t get it straight away, at least I’ll have fun practising…

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