Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Tag: learning (Page 2 of 2)

How to be happy

best day everOver the last year I’ve made huge changes to my life, because I realised a lot of the things I thought would make me happy didn’t. I can honestly say I’m happier now than I’ve ever been, despite being essentially homeless, having no permanent job and no boyfriend. If I can learn to be happy, I reckon you can too! Here’s how to be happy…

  1. Choose to be happy. Once you realise that you have the ability to choose your thoughts (meditation helps a lot with this), you discover the extent to which you can also choose your mood. I used to have constant thoughts that life is difficult. I thought that every day was a struggle, and I was right. But I realised that this thought was not serving me very well. Sometimes life is difficult. But the more I think it, the more that becomes my reality, regardless of what’s actually happening. So now every day I make the deliberate choice to think that life is beautiful. This makes me happy.
  2. Let yourself be sad sometimes. This seems to go against the previous point, but you need both I think. There are times in life that are genuinely distressing. You lose someone close to you, go through a relationship break up, or crash your new car. So allow yourself to be sad. Tell people that you are feeling sad right now if you want. Sit with the feeling. Notice that you can experience sadness without becoming consumed by it. Take a step back and observe its effect on you, your body and your mind. Much of the suffering comes from our resistance to the sadness, rather than the sadness itself, and the only way out is through. Then, after a time, you can begin to…
  3. Find the positive. Our brains have a “negativity bias” for evolutionary reasons. We are have evolved to focus on negative experiences because in life-threatening situations, avoiding danger keeps us safer than pursuing pleasure. Fortunately our brains also have tremendous plasticity, so we can learn how to be happy. We can create new habits, and practise choosing more positive thoughts. Even if this positive thought is as simple as, “At least now we’re not together I don’t have to put up with his terrible taste in music/ clothes/ films,” it’s a worthy start. Essentially we are teaching our brains how to be happy.
  4. Be grateful. One of the ways to find those more positive thoughts is to get into the habit of actively noticing things that you are grateful for. As an example, I was woken up 3 hours before my alarm this morning by an over-enthusiastic cockerel… I could have been annoyed by this (and admittedly, my first thoughts were not saintly). But instead, mindful of my understanding now about how to be happy, I chose to be grateful for the chance to get up early and write while my mind was at its most productive.
  5. Grow. I learnt this from Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project and it makes so much sense to me. We are happiest when we live in an atmosphere of growth. It actually doesn’t matter too much in what way you believe you are progressing – it could be fitness, learning a language or improving your wine tasting skills (now there’s a thought…). The main thing for learning how to be happy is that you believe you are getting better.

Perhaps the biggest thing though is remembering not to make happiness dependent on something . Too often we think we’ll be happy when we lose weight, get a new boss, find a partner or finish a project. Ban yourself from the phrase, “I’ll be happy when…” It’s not true. You have to chose to be happy now.

Wishing you all lots of love and happiness – let me know how you get on with these!

Jade xxx

 

Around the world in 80 yoga classes

I’ve done it! This week I’ve hit 80 classes of yoga since starting this blog and my yoga travels. This doesn’t include classes I’ve taught myself – just those I’ve attended. I’ve done 17 different types of yoga:

Types of yoga

Perhaps more importantly, I’ve had the privilege of being taught by 30 different teachers, whose experience ranged from 40 years to just 2 weeks. I’m grateful to them all:

Mike, Sarah, Adam, Vidya, Raphaelle, Gabriela, Roberto, Lidiya, Jess, Carl, Marcus, Lamonte, Charlie, Chetana, Jasmin, Nina, Josh, Dylan, Alex, Marina, Tara, Bob, Sammi, Richard, Drew, Tamzin, Jenne, Amanda, Cyrus, Alicia

What have I learned from my 80 classes?

There is no right or wrong.

Every teacher and every class is unique. Sometimes I’ve been taught ways of assuming postures in one class which directly contradict those taught in another. Sometimes classes are so different that it’s hard to believe they’re all called “yoga” My take on it is that it doesn’t matter too much. As long as the teacher is sharing their practice, with enough instruction, guidance and support to keep their students safe, the differences only add to the experience, and help me to stay more present.

Every teacher teaches you something worth learning.

As a recently qualified yoga teacher, I’m trying to soak up everything I can to make myself the best yoga teacher I can be. Often the flow of a class will exactly fit with the way I like to teach, or I’ll be in awe of the teacher’s creative sequences or their inspiring words. These are the classes I rush out of to find my notebook and scribble everything down before I forget it. In other classes the learning might be more subtle, and less easy to articulate. But maybe I’ll notice later in the day a shift in the way I feel. Or a week or even a month later, something that teacher said to me will come back to me, and I’ll be grateful for their insight.

Yoga will meet you where you are, but it never leaves you where it found you.

There have been yoga classes where I’ve been aching so much from some ridiculous workout the day before that I’ve told myself I could leave after the warm-up if it was too painful. There have been classes at 6am that I’ve had to almost literally throw myself out of bed to force myself to get to. There have been classes that I simply couldn’t be bothered with. But every single time, once I get on the mat, something changes. Somehow the yoga meets me in whatever state I’m in, acknowledges that and then gently moves me through it. There hasn’t been a single one of these 80 classes that I’ve regretted making the time for. So when my motivation to go is low, I do just have to remind myself that the hardest bit is turning up. Once I’m there, things are already starting to get better.

What’s next now I’ve done 80 yoga classes?

When I started my yoga travels, I told myself I’d maybe do this until September, but that was unrealistic. 80 classes is not even close to being enough. I still have so much I want to learn. Maybe I’ll aim next to be taught by 80 yoga teachers, or to try 80 styles of yoga. Or maybe I’ll let go of the numbers altogether. Whatever, I’ll never consider myself a “finished product” as a yoga teacher. I’m going to keep practising, keep learning, and keep writing. I am eternally a student.

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

Breatharianism, chanting and pesto…

DSC_0243~2Learning to appreciate the little things at Moinhos Velhos…

I’ve reached the end of my time teaching yoga at the detox retreat, and it’s been an incredible experience. I must admit it didn’t start so well though…

My first meal was uncomfortable. There were only two of us at the staff lunch, myself and another yoga teacher, who explained to me, “Before we eat we hold hands and chant a prayer.”  I laughed in his face.

“Are you joking?” He wasn’t. Awkward doesn’t even begin to describe the experience of trying to recover from that, hold hands, and chant a prayer I didn’t know.

Things went from bad to worse at dinner time, when they explained to me that one of the founders of the place had just been on a programme to learn how to be a breatharian. For those like me who have never heard of this before, a breatharian is someone so uber-spiritual that they exist only on light and air. No food, sometimes no water. With impressive self-control, I resisted the urge to tell them that breatharianism sounded like a synonym for bullshit.

Thankfully, the team forgave my heathen lack of spirituality and let me stay. During those first few strange days where everything felt alien and I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, I found myself really appreciating the little things that did go well.

After 2 days of getting everything wrong with juicing and washing up (who knew there were so many ways you could go wrong there?!) my supervisor handed me a glass of fresh watermelon juice and barked, “You can drink this.” I almost fainted with shock at the sudden kindness.

Then a client stopped me after my first yoga class to tell me that she’d loved it. I found a beautiful walk that I could do in 30 minutes which was exactly the length of time I had between finishing clearing up and making lunch. I got to teach at 8am in the morning when it was still cool enough to enjoy a proper yoga practice without the room turning into a complete sweat box. Another volunteer made the best vegan pesto imaginable with fresh basil from the garden. I discovered the joys of pesto on toast for breakfast.

Even the mosquitos made me appreciate things more. After three nights of sleep disturbed by their horrible, “Eeeeeeeeee,” noise, getting insect repellent and a mosquito net felt like the equivalent of being upgraded to business class on a flight. And I discovered that a true friend is someone who not only will stay awake to help you find the mosquito that’s driving you crazy, but will also kill the one that has found its way inside your net (thanks Laura!).

The more I appreciated the little things, the more I found myself open to the benefits of the bigger things. I met people who were passionate about yoga, permaculture, alternative therapies and nutrition, and learnt from them all. And the experience I gained teaching yoga to the same group consistently was so valuable.

So all in all I feel very lucky to have been able to work and learn in this gorgeous place. Just don’t ask me to convert to breatharianism, or start chanting before meals anytime soon…

The flipside of positive thinking

Why maybe it’s okay not to like stuff…

11143479_10101215361562849_8306339481437872885_nFor about three years I ate prawns for dinner at least three times per week. That’s not so strange you might think, except that I don’t like prawns. I’ve never liked prawns, or any other seafood for that matter. There’s something about the texture, a squeakiness, that repulses me. So why would I eat something that I didn’t like?

Partly because at some point I got it into my head that there was nothing I did not like. That any negativity was just a thought, and that I could tackle that by simply deciding to think positive things instead.

I’ve applied this to lots of areas of my life and it’s been fairly successful. Marking huge piles of books became far more bearable when I told myself I loved reading student’s writing. Attempting a difficult yoga posture became a more positive experience when I decided that I enjoyed the challenge. Terrifying first dates were a lot more fun when I decided to love the awkwardness and embrace it, knowing that the worse things went, the more entertaining the stories would be afterwards.

But I’ve realised recently that it’s okay sometimes just not to like things. I’ve been teaching yoga at Moinhos Velhos, a beautiful retreat centre in Portugal, and I’ve had the chance to try out loads of amazing new things. Most of these I’ve loved – great meditations, yoga practices, vegan recipes. But there was one night I was talked into trying Biodanza. This is a practice of self development through music and dance. The idea is that as you progress through the practice, dancing and moving with people, you get in touch with your emotions, and feel a deeper sense of connectedness to others.

The lovely teacher assured us that although it might feel strange at first, that would quickly disappear. We’d feel completely relaxed and lose all our inhibitions. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, this never happened for me. The practise that was meant to leave me with “reduced stress and an enhanced sense of wellbeing” left me cold. All I wanted to do was run away. It was a feat of endurance not to fake a headache/ upset stomach/ broken leg and leave. I don’t entirely know why it didn’t work for me – I love dancing and I’ve had a great time at a (sober!) yoga rave before. But I just didn’t like it.

Afterwards I felt frustrated with myself. I wanted to like it. I wanted to find the positive, but all I could think was, “I’m glad I tried it, so that I know not to again.” But I realised maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s alright to dislike things sometimes. We all have individual preferences. Yes, there are some things that we need to do, and they’re a lot more pleasant if we find things about them to like. But there are some things that just aren’t our preference. And that’s okay too.

So why did I eat prawns for so many years? I was in a relationship with someone who loved them, and it was easier just to tell myself I liked them than cook separate meals. When the relationship ended, one of the many unexpected positives was realising I could stop eating prawns. My travels have become as much about working out what doesn’t work for me as learning about what does, and that’s all valuable. So I’m making a promise to myself now to remember that as long as I am open to new experiences, it’s okay for me not to like stuff.

And I’m genuinely excited about the prospect of never having to do Biodanza or eat prawns again…

3 ways Ashtanga yoga proved me wrong

ShouderstandsUp until last year, I’d had very limited experience of Ashtanga yoga – I’d been to one class and had watched a few Youtube clips. I was not a fan. However, over the last few months, Ashtanga yoga has somehow seeped into my life, and I’ve worked my way up to a six-day per week Primary Series practice. One of the best things has been in the number of ways this daily practice has proved me wrong! These are 3 of my misconceptions…

  1. In Ashtanga, you need to perform advanced asanas perfectly

My first Ashtanga class felt competitive and almost aggressive.  I really wanted to like it, and to like it I thought I had to be “good” at it. I was so attached to the idea of achieving the perfect asana that when I couldn’t, I got frustrated. I looked around the class and saw others flowing through their vinyasas and seemingly effortlessly moving into postures I found painful just to watch. I wondered how the hell I was doing so badly, and strangely enough, I found an excuse not to go back the next week!

I now realise that the competitiveness and desire for perfection came from me. No one in that class told me that I had to perform each pose fully, perfectly, or even attempt it at all if it was beyond my capabilities. The aggressive attitude was fuelled not by the teacher or the style of yoga, but my own ego. I wasn’t willing to allow myself to be a beginner. Once I let go of the desire to do it “well” and just focused on the process of moving towards each asana, I found it to be a very different experience.

  1. Ashtanga hurts

Two years ago, doing a workout programme called Insanity (not an ironic name, as it turned out!), I injured my lower back, which caused chronic pain. Lots of nerve irritation and muscles in spasm did not go well with trying to force myself into the forward bends of the Primary Series during that first Ashtanga class, and I spent most of the class and the week after it in agony.

I realise now that the increased pain was not caused by Ashtanga but by my approach to it. I was trying to push through and ignore painful sensations. So when I tried it again, I went back to basics. I carefully, taught myself the asanas one at a time and valued the correct alignment more than going deeply into postures. In the process I learnt about my body – what worsened the back pain and what helped. I tried to lengthen, rather than bend into forward folds. I learnt the importance of strengthening and engaging my core, and found that hip openers greatly relieved the tightness in my lower back. I am still learning, but my pain is significantly reduced, despite the fact I am doing more physical activity than ever.

  1. Ashtanga is boring

When I first realised that Ashtangis do the same sequence of postures every time they practise, I couldn’t think of anything worse. I crave variety and change, and the thought of doing the same thing every single day seemed mind-numbingly dull. Even once I decided to give Ashtanga another try, I wasn’t keen on repeating it every day. I wanted to avoid those asanas that didn’t feel good and spend more time playing with the ones I could do.

But what I experimented with was just noticing those thoughts, and then continuing with my practice anyway. I found physical and mental strength in the discipline of not following my thought patterns into altered behaviour. And I began to tune into the subtle differences in my experience and the sensations of the asanas each day. When I did this, my practice became anything but monotonous. Every session is unique, and following the same series of asanas allows me to be more sensitive to the differences I feel in my body.

I’m just at the beginning of my journey with Ashtanga, and it’s already proved me wrong on many counts. I think this is a good thing, because it means I must be learning!  It’s not the only style of yoga I enjoy, but it has become the “bread and butter” of my self-practice.

Has anyone else had a change of heart about Ashtanga? Do you love it or hate it? Please comment and let me know – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Around the world in 80 yoga classes

Valencia yogaOr why I’m leaving my perfectly good job to travel around the world doing yoga…

Just over a year ago, I went from teaching English in a secondary school to working as a leadership coach for an education charity. I moved city for the role and effectively started a new life. This was a good move. It gave me the opportunity to work with some incredible, inspiring teachers, and it allowed me time to reflect on what I value.

After moving, a lot of the new people I met would ask me what I did in my free time, which was pretty embarrassing. Having spent the last 5 years teaching, my honest answer was, “Erm… marking?” But gradually I realised that there are a few things I love doing. Yoga, teaching, travelling and writing. And the thing about coaching other people is that it’s hard to avoid turning the questions back on yourself sometimes. I was forced to question why I wasn’t doing more of the things I love. What was stopping me?

Mainly fear.  Fear that if I uprooted the comfortable, happy life I have now then I might not find something as good again. I compared myself to other people my age and worried that I wasn’t “progressing” enough.  Shouldn’t I be climbing the career ladder and earning more money? Shouldn’t I be buying a house and settling down?  My friends are working for promotions, getting mortgages and having babies.  I wouldn’t trust myself with a pet goldfish right now.

And the thing is that’s not what I want at the moment (cute as goldfish are). I’m lucky enough to have the freedom to choose what I want to do right now. So I decided to go for it. I handed in my notice and booked my first flights.

My plan is still very open. I’ll leave my job at the end of February and set off for Spain.  I’ll complete my yoga teacher training in Valencia, then spend the next few months travelling and doing as much yoga as I physically can, writing about my experiences and sharing what I learn.  I’m so far out of my comfort zone it hurts, and so excited that I can hardly sleep.

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