Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Tag: learning (Page 1 of 2)

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.

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

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…

What happens when you do yoga for 3 hours every day

I’ve spent the last 10 days in Guatemala for the first part of my 500 hour Advanced Yoga Teacher Training with Frog Lotus Yoga. The experience has been incredible, not least because we’ve done an hour of meditation every morning followed by a 3 hour yoga workshop. This is what I’ve found happens when you do yoga for 3 hours every day…

  1. Much of what you can’t do is in your mind.

Being challenged to try new things, and to keep trying them is a really good thing. There have been many postures, like Astavakrasana (in the picture) that I’d not done before because I assumed I couldn’t do them. Life lesson there. It’s also tempting to give up when you can’t do something the first time you attempt it. But when you do try again, it’s amazing how quickly your body learns.

  1. Your body can also be the most frustrating thing.

That said, there are still plenty of postures that I feel like I “should” be able to do now after doing so much yoga, but my body isn’t ready for yet. Full Hanumanasana (splits) for example – I mean seriously, I’ve been practising every day for the last six months! But yoga tunes you into your body’s the innate intelligence and what that can teach you. Unfortunately, for certain things, the lessons are in patience and acceptance of where you are right now. It’s about trusting that with consistent practice the posture will come, when and if your body is ready.

  1. Yoga tells you what you need and when.

On a similar note, unlike fitness training, where you might set specific goals, yoga has a tendency to dictate what your body needs next. This may or may not be the same as your ideas. I came to Guatemala thinking that I’d done enough strengthening work, and it was time to improve my flexibility. I probably have improved my flexibility a little, but what doing yoga for 3 hours every day here has really taught me is that I still need to get stronger. Much stronger.  Because I’m naturally hypermobile I have muscle groups that need strengthening before I develop a greater range of motion. Yoga won’t let me ignore that in the way that I could if I was training in the gym.

  1. Progress isn’t linear.

My first morning of practice here was amazing. My hips felt super-open, I managed Dragonfly pose for the first time and everything came very naturally. I thought I’d nailed it.  I had visions of myself levitating by the end of the week. The next day, everything hurt. My legs felt like they were made of stone. Even handstands, which I usually love,were a massive effort. You have to accept that even when you do yoga for 3 hours per day, not every day is a “breakthrough day”. Some days have been about practising gratitude and surrendering to the reality exactly as it shows up.

  1. Doing so much yoga feels amazing.

Before I came out to Guatemala, I’d been doing lot of other exercise as well as yoga, like spinning and interval training. I thought I’d miss that when I came to just doing yoga. I even told myself I might carry on some fitness training in my breaks. No chance. My short breaks are spent reading my course books while trying to catch a few rays of sunshine. But I’ve loved it. My body and mind feel really good for the consistency and routine of this daily practice.

Now I’ve just got to figure out how I can carve 3 hours out of every day to practise yoga when I leave here…

Happy yoga-ing lovely people!

Jade xxx

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.

 

 

Put down your damn phone and be present

phoneI was at a gig the other night. Unusually cool for me, I know. I have my little brother to thank for that. Left to my own devices I’d have spent Saturday night eating tofu stir-fry and watching Strictly Come Dancing. Anyway, I was struck by the number of people who had their phones out filming it. Their whole view was reduced to the size of their phone screen. I could understand filming a little bit to share with friends, or to play back later, but the entire thing? Really? Is having a pale imitation of the gig to keep worth diminishing the actual experience of being there?

To be clear, I am the last person to be able judge someone for being on their phone and not being fully present, as the photo with this blog testifies. Smartphones are mesmerising things. At your fingertips, you have access to everyone you’ve ever met (or at least everyone who’s been foolish enough to pass on their phone number), the whole of Facebook, all the awe-inspiring images of Instagram, and the entire world wide web. This is a beautiful, crazy, incredible phenomenon. It’s also distracting as hell.

Even for me, to experience the whole gig through a mobile phone screen seemed like a lost opportunity. The band picked up on this too. At one point the singer asked whether people would put their phones down for one song. He spoke about the value of connection, and how he wanted fans to just be present for a few minutes. Most people did, but a few couldn’t even manage that. And at the end of the song, the relief as people were “allowed” to pick up their phones again was palpable.

And so, conscious of the fact that my experience of the world can be far more expansive and interesting when it’s not lived through the tiny screen in my palm, I’m working on putting my phone down a lot more. I blogged here about how I’d started to schedule time for communicating with people and the rest of the time remaining present with the people I’m with. While I’ve not stuck rigidly to that, I have learned that I often have the best times when I leave my phone alone, or even better, leave it behind. I’m more engaged in conversations, and more mentally present. I’m even finding it’s not necessary while you’re waiting for people to “look busy”. It’s kind of ok just to sit there.

I still love my phone (yes, it’s actual love), but as with any relationship, I’m learning that dependence is a bad thing. I want to be present, and I want to value being with the people I’m with. Who’s joining me?

 

How to fall in love with Savasana

Savasana“Savasana is the most important posture.”

When I began yoga, I didn’t believe this. I’ve seen the T-Shirts saying “I’m just here for Savasana,” which I find funny, because for me, Savasana, or corpse pose (i.e. lying flat on your back and relaxing completely) was definitely not what I was there for….

Toned, lean yoga body? Yes please.

Ridiculous flexibility? Absolutely.

Inner peace and harmony? Well if that’s an optional extra, sure.

But I have to lie still and do nothing to achieve that? No, I don’t think so.

But over time, I’ve started to make friends with Savasana, and I think you can too. Here’s why it’s worth a try, and how to go about it…

Four big benefits of Savasana

  1. It allows you to notice and absorb the benefits of the practice. A lot can happen physically, mentally and emotionally during yoga. Yoga meets you where you are, but it does not leave you where it found you. You need time to let yourself catch up with that and to enjoy the differences.
  2. It rests the body after physical practice. Throughout your yoga practice, you are seeking balance between effort and ease, between strength and surrender. By its very nature, physical practice requires strength and effort. Savasana gives you chance to balance that by seeking complete relaxation, allowing the body to recover and rest.
  3. You learn the skill of relaxation. And it is a skill. When you scan through the body in savasana, you have a final opportunity to find any remaining tension, physical or mental and let it go. You learn how to consciously relax.
  4. It marks the end of your practice, creating space before you re-enter the rest of the world. If you rush out straight after the last posture, it’s too easy to immediately lose all the mindful connection with yourself you cultivated through your yoga. Savasana gives you chance to take stock, which helps you to sustain that connection afterwards.

Getting the most out of Savasana

Know that there is no “wrong way” to do Savasana. Whether you are able to relax or your mind races, allow that to be. Trust that the experience you have is enough, and is what you need right at that moment.

The biggest barrier to relaxing in Savasana is likely to be your mind. Recognise any thoughts that are holding you back. Acknowledge them, and gently answer them with something kinder. For instance:

Negative thought Positive and kind alternative

It’s pointless just lying here.

Lying here allows me to absorb all the benefits of my practice.
I should be doing something more productive. I deserve this time to relax and let go after my practice.
I’m too busy for this. Savasana helps me balance the busy-ness of the rest of my life.

If you examine them, so many negative thoughts come from an underlying belief that you are not good enough as you are. Let that go. It won’t be serving you in your yoga, and it certainly won’t be serving you in your life.

See whether you can allow yourself to dare to believe that what you are already enough. Whatever you think to Savasana…

Happy relaxing lovely people!

Jade xxx

I’m just being honest…

Just being honest

Is there anything wrong with telling the odd white lie? I wrote my last blog about how I’m trying to minimise the lies I tell, but I’m still working this one out…

Here I’m talking specifically about the white lies you tell to protect someone’s feelings. The “Your new haircut looks great,” or “No, I didn’t think the cake tasted burnt,” or “I loved the present you chose for me,” kind of lies.

A quick Google search left me more confused (yes, I use the internet as my moral compass. And what?). Some people believe that protecting someone’s feelings is paramount, while others take a hardline approach – all lying is bad because it presents the recipient with a false or distorted representation of reality.

I kind of get this, but I also know that some of the most hurtful things I’ve ever heard were said by someone who was “just being honest”. To me, when honesty becomes an excuse for cruelty, something has gone horribly wrong.

In terms of the yogic principles I try to live by, ahimsa, or non-violence comes before satya or truth. Therefore it is as important not to do harm with your words as it is to be truthful. Perhaps my Nana was onto something all along when she told us, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

It’s also worth remembering that your opinion is not the same as the truth. My opinion might be that you should not have cut your hair, but that’s not to say that this is true. It’s just my perception, based on my personal preferences, experience and ideas.  Is my opinion in this case particularly useful to you? No. So maybe I don’t need to share it.

If someone directly asks you what you think of something, particularly if it’s something personal to them, it’s worth trying to work out what they want from you. Are they actually asking for your opinion or just looking for affirmation that they are good enough? Once you know that, you can figure out how best to support them with your answer.

That’s not to say that you should never speak the truth for fear of hurting someone. Sometimes it is important to give someone constructive feedback for example. But I do think this can be given with sensitivity and kindness if the ultimate intention is to help them.

So to sum up, I’m still working this out, but I reckon if you are tempted to tell a white lie, consider…

Is it necessary? Would it be better to say nothing at all? Or can you find something to say which is honest? What will ultimately help the person most in this situation?

But my final thoughts on this are summed up by this quote, which I love…

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

To be alive is to be vulnerable

Be Vulnerable“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.”

Madeleine L’Engle

I’d like to know whether other people find their experiences on their yoga mats echo their experiences in life as often as mine seem to? This morning, in yoga class, I was practising wide-legged standing forward fold. This is a posture I am used to, and when the teacher gave us the option to lift up into tripod headstand, I moved my hands to lift up in the way I always do. She came over to me.

“No, keep your hands where they were.” She then held my hips clearly expecting me to lift into headstand from this strange position.

I panicked. Is she crazy? I can’t lift from here. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never even seen someone do a headstand like this. What if I fall? And so on.

But somehow, my body ignored my mind’s agitation, and I felt my legs lift into the strangest, most exhilarating headstand I’ve ever done. My teacher stayed with me the whole time, letting me find my balance, and the more I surrendered and trusted her, the safer I felt. When my feet made it back safely to the ground, I was buzzing. I felt like I could take on the world.

It reminded me of a similar experience earlier this week. I rode on the back of a friend’s motorbike for the first time. I hadn’t expected to find this scary – I’ve been on the back of scooters lots of times. It turns out I’d slightly underestimated the difference between motorbikes and scooters. As the speed picked up, I went from casually holding on to clinging on as if my life depended on it. Which to be fair, it did. I felt terrifyingly vulnerable. In that moment I hated my friend for their confidence and speed.

But then I remembered something. I remembered that people love this. That they get a thrill from it. I was on the most beautiful road, with nothing separating me from the view, going so fast it felt like I was flying. I didn’t even have to worry about riding. I could literally relax and enjoy it, if I chose to. All I had to do was surrender my need to be in control and trust my friend.

And so I did. I mentally (not physically – I’m not stupid) let go and surrendered control. I chose to enjoy the experience instead of fighting it. I realised how rarely I do this. How hard I find it to put my trust in someone else and hand over control to them.

Because it means being vulnerable. To trust someone is to give them the power to hurt you. But I know that by refusing to let myself be vulnerable I hold myself back. I miss out on beautiful new experiences that I can’t have on my own.

Just as importantly, I’m not giving others the trust and credit they deserve. My yoga teacher would not encourage me to try something unless she knew she could stop me from falling. Similarly my friend would not risk my life for the sake of a motorbike ride.

Just because someone can hurt you doesn’t mean they will. In fact, it’s most likely they won’t. And I think life is considerably better – richer, more beautiful, more exciting and fulfilling when you let yourself to be vulnerable. I just need to keep remembering that.  I’ll take it one headstand at a time…

Love, Jade

P.S. For more on how to be vulnerable, and why it’s worth it, check out this fantastic TED talk from Brene Brown.

5 unexpected similarities between teaching yoga and teaching English

WarriorI’ve been teaching yoga for five months now, which is nothing compared to the nearly five years I spent teaching English in secondary schools. And it’s been a huge lifestyle change. I’ve swapped tea in the staffroom for coconut water by the pool (this is a lie… I can’t afford coconut water) and I no longer spend my weekends marking essays about Romeo and Juliet. I still don’t have weekends as a matter of fact, but that’s another story.

However, there are a few things that haven’t changed at all.

5 unexpected similarities between teaching yoga and teaching English

  1. Even when you think your instructions couldn’t be clearer there will be someone who hasn’t followed them. I thought this was unique to teaching hormonal, distracted teenagers in noisy classrooms. I was wrong.
  2. No matter how yogic and non-attached you try to be to the way your class is received, getting positive feedback from your students is up there with being told today is a snow day and school is cancelled.
  3. Conversely when the class doesn’t go as you’d hoped, it still feels like a personal affront.
  4. Students ask the most unpredictable questions. I’ve gone from, “Have you ever thought about trimming your eyelashes?” to, “What foods should I eat to open the heart chakra?” I’ve been similarly thrown each time.
  5. Teaching remains one of the most mindful practices you can do. Whether you’re teaching yoga or Macbeth, there’s something about the immediacy of instructing students and leading a class that brings you absolutely into the present moment. I love that about it.

However, one major difference? When it all starts to go wrong, in yoga it’s perfectly acceptable to stop the class and tell your students to close their eyes and focus on breathing while you remember what to do. I can’t see this having worked quite so well at school…

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