Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

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5 Great Reasons to go to a Yoga Workshop

Yoga Workshop I’ve been a fan of yoga workshops for a long time, and recently my obsession has reached new levels. 2016 has been the year of the yoga workshop for me – I’ve been on a mission to attend and teach as many workshops as I can. Why? Here are my top five reasons to go to a yoga workshop:

  1. Yoga workshops have a specific focus. Whether that’s improving your handstands, exploring meditation, or learning how yoga can help you cope with the colder months, with yoga workshops, there’s a clear and honest objective. Even when you go to a yoga class led by a teacher you love, there’s no guarantee that they’ll cover the thing you’re curious to know more about. When you choose a workshop though, you know exactly what you’ve signed up for and can make sure it’s something you’re into.
  2. Yoga workshops deepen your learning. Unlike in a 60 or even 90 minute class, yoga workshops give you the luxury of dedicated time. There is time to get proper instruction on a topic, to have it demonstrated and explained fully, then to try it out for yourself. Say you want to learn yoga techniques for cyclists, you get chance to explore these in detail, rather than gleaning the odd happy gem of relevant information from a general yoga class.
  3. Yoga workshops can answer your questions. Do you have a burning question about how to strengthen your core? Do you want to know what to do about the fact your right wrist bothers you every time you take weight into your hands? Or would you like a teacher to check your alignment in full wheel pose and give you feedback? You probably won’t want to ask those questions mid-flow of a yoga class, but yoga workshops are the ideal time to do exactly that. I recommend going with a list of questions, and checking at the end for any that haven’t been covered so that you can run them by the teacher.
  4. Yoga workshops are fun. If you’re looking for a great way to spend an afternoon, evening or day, you can’t go far wrong with a yoga workshop. You get to learn interesting things, play with yoga, and dedicate a couple of precious hours to developing yourself and your own yoga practice. Also, yoga workshops tend to be more sociable than yoga classes, and are a great chance to meet and interact with some lovely like-minded people.
  5. Yoga workshops are an investment in yourself. The couple of hours and the money that you invest in a yoga workshop directly benefits you. After most yoga workshops, I come away with lots of useful “takeaways” – new learning, things to try and ideas to incorporate into my own yoga practice. Workshops are also a great way to get re-inspired, especially if you’ve hit a bit of a plateau. I usually leave a yoga workshop motivated to get back on my mat, practising and learning more stuff.

If you’re convinced by all this, and want to give a yoga workshop a try, check out my page here for upcoming yoga workshops. Right now, I have a lovely workshop planned which will teach you strategies to beat the winter blues. And of course drop me an email with any questions you have: info@jadelizzie.com

I hope to see you in a workshop very soon!

3 Brilliant Yoga Poses For Cyclists

After clocking up the miles cycling, yoga is the ideal way to release tight muscles, keeping your body healthy and functioning at its peak. These are 3 brilliant yoga poses for cyclists. They’ll improve your range of motion, flexibility and strength. Practise them after a ride, or on their own after a bit of a warm up. Hold each posture for at least 5 breaths (practising in dungarees is optional).

  1. Downward Facing Dog

Yoga Pose for Cyclists Downward Facing DogHow to do it: From all fours, tuck your toes under and lift your hips back and up so that your body forms an inverted V-shape. Press into your fingertips and externally rotate your upper arms.  Bend one knee at a time to take the stretch deeper into your hamstrings and calves. Release your heels towards the ground and take the gaze to the big toes. Hold for at least 5 breaths

Why it works: Downward facing dog is a great yoga pose for cyclists because it releases the back of your legs, especially your hamstrings and calves which riding tends to tighten. It also helps to bring your spine back into alignment and strengthens your upper body and shoulders.

  1. Crescent Lunge

Yoga Poses for Cyclists Crescent LungeHow to do it: Lunge forward with one leg and bend your front knee, taking your front thigh towards parallel to the ground, but not letting your knee come forward of the toes. Lengthen your stance if necessary. Keep your back heel off the ground but press it away to deepen the stretch into your hip flexor. Engage your core and lengthen your spine, lifting your arms overhead. Remember to repeat on the other side!

Why it works: Crescent lunge deeply stretches and releases your psoas and hip flexors, which are often super-tight for cyclists. It provides a much needed stretch for the front of your body, while building strength in your legs.

  1. Bridge Pose.

Yoga Poses For Cyclists Bridge PoseHow to do it: Lying on your back, bring your feet in, positioning them parallel and hip width apart. Press into your feet to lift your hips. Interlace your hands under your back and draw one shoulder at a time underneath you. Press the sides of your arms, wrists and hands into the ground to lift yourself higher.

Why it works: Bridge pose is the ideal counter for a rounded forward cyclist’s posture. It takes your arms into external rotation, opening the front of your shoulders and training your upper body to return to a healthy, neutral alignment after a ride. It also strengthens the muscles of your back and glutes while releasing your hip flexors, abdominal muscles and chest.

To learn more yoga techniques to improve your performance, endurance, strength and recovery, book onto my Yoga for Cyclists workshop, Sunday 11th September 1.30-3.30pm at The Fitness Space, West Bridgford.

3 Steps to Falling In Love With Life

Falling in love with life

For a long time, I resisted meditation. In part, I was worried that meditating too much would make me complacent, I’d develop an attitude of resignation, and basically give up on life. I was wrong (shocker). This is what I’ve learnt about how mindfulness and meditation can be a stepping stone to falling in love with life instead.

3 Steps to Falling In Love With Life

1. Be here.

We can’t fall in love with life if we aren’t here experiencing it. When we practise mindfulness, we become more aware of what’s happening right now. This doesn’t just mean being present during moments that we enjoy, like seeing the stars on a clear night, or being engrossed in a great conversation with someone (although that’s important). It’s also about developing awareness during the times we usually switch off, like when we’re waiting for the kettle to boil or driving to work. Even more challenging, it means becoming aware during the uncomfortable times, the times when we would usually try to avoid or resist our own experience. For example, noticing our reaction when someone says something that triggers anger or sadness in us, or checking in with what happens to our minds when we’re in a yoga pose that we really don’t like. Pausing to actively get connected with what’s happening is the first step to falling in love with all that life has to offer.

2. Accept it.

Awareness will only get you so far, if you’re still feeling aversion to the “bad” stuff and clinging to the “good”. Life will never be only full of pleasurable things. If you expect it to be, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Sorry, but you are.  Take falling in love with someone. The butterflies, passion and excitement of a blossoming relationship can also bring anxiety, fear and pain. The more we cling to pleasurable experiences and resist the uncomfortable ones, the more we suffer when uncomfortable experiences inevitably arise. The trick (and it’s not easy!) is to try to accept it all. The good and the bad. The reason that meditation helps with this is because meditation trains us to cultivate an attitude of equanimity to whatever arises in our minds. If we can do this in our minds, we can apply it to our lives. Read this beautiful poem for more on this.

3. Embrace it.

This is all very well and good, but do any of us actually want an “acceptable” life? Is that our highest aim? Surely not. Don’t we want to be enthralled by life, and passionate about it? Don’t we want to fall in love with life? If so, then acceptance is not enough. The next step is whole-heartedly embracing all that happens. To do this requires trust. It means we need to let go of our judgements, and recognise that we never really know what is good and what is bad. It’s all just “stuff” and if we embrace it, it all has its value and its beauty. This is what it means to surrender. It’s not about giving up – it’s about opening up. That way we are free to do our work, whatever that is – we can dream, act, love and create. And the best bit is that if we really cultivate this attitude, we let go of attachment to the outcome. The result is no longer so important, because we trust the process, and embrace all it brings.

None of this is easy, and it’s a lot to get your head around. But given that we can control so little of what happens in the universe, actually, the one thing we can control is our mindset. Taking these steps is by far the most effective strategy I’ve found so far to fall in love with life (and to falling in  love with anything else for that matter). 

  1. Be here.
  2. Accept it.
  3. Embrace it.

Let me know what you think?

Jade xxx

7 Ways To Make Yourself Feel Better

feel betterI’ll be honest, I wrote this list for myself. It’s my “go to” list of things that make me feel better, and I’m sharing because maybe some of them will help you too. And yes, I know that there’s a lot to be said for letting yourself feel sad, and not fighting it, but there’s also a lot to be said for doing something proactive. I reckon taking action to help yourself feel better is usually preferable to dissolving in a puddle of self-pity/ wine/ vegan mint chocolate chip ice cream (been there). So here goes:

  1. Write it out. Journalling helps us to process what’s going on in our heads. I write what I’m thinking until I’ve written my way through the confusion, and have settled on a course of action.
  2. Make a gratitude list. Some of mine seem ridiculous: “I am grateful that at least being stuck here means I have time to meditate,” etc, but it doesn’t matter. The act of focusing on gratitude changes your thinking.
  3. Reach out to someone. Call a friend, send someone a message, send 15 people a message if necessary. Human beings are social creatures. Connect with more of them. It helps.
  4. Exercise. Walk, run, dance, do whatever, but get yourself moving. The key is getting out of your head and into your body.
  5. Do yoga. Even better than number 4. Here are my suggestions for yoga to make you feel amazing.
  6. Watch some Tony Robbins on Youtube. I find him super-cringey, but I cannot watch him talk without feeling more positive. Weird, but it works.
  7. “Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick and pull yourself together.” This one’s courtesy of Liz Taylor, and who am I to argue?

Another confession – this list was going to be 10 items long, but I ran out of ideas, and besides, 7 seems like a good number. But by all means, make your own list and make it as long as you like. Please share your ideas in the comments below… I’ll probably need them at some point too.

Lots of love and happy feelings,

Jade xxx

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 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

Yoga To Make You Feel Amazing

Yoga To Make You Feel AmazingI use yoga as my therapy for pretty much everything. However you’re feeling, the majority of the time, yoga can make you feel a bit (or a lot) better. It’s just a case of finding the right yoga prescription. Here are my suggestions…

Feeling sad? First of all, don’t fight it. Spend a few minutes sitting in meditation, or if that feels unbearable, practise alternate nostril breathing instead. This is a very soothing, nurturing pranayama practice which can help you to calm your mind. Then allow yourself 10 minutes to move in any way that feels good. The key is to keep moving, letting your body feel some positive sensations again. It’s good to reconnect with the fact that even when you feel sad, you can still find enjoyment and pleasure in physical movement.

Feeling angry? The old advice about taking deep breaths can really help, but sitting still is hard when you’re raging. Give yourself 10 minutes to warm your body with Sun Salutations, then practise some forward bends, such as Standing Forward Bend, Wide-Legged Forward Bend, Bound Angle Pose and Head-To-Knee Forward Bend. Breathe deeply into whatever sensations you feel and focus on your body, dropping into feeling rather than thinking. Forward bends have a naturally calming effect on your nervous system. At the end of these, you may well feel collected enough to sit and meditate for a few minutes.

Feeling physically tired? Restorative yoga is your friend. Let your body relax and recover by choosing the most restful postures you can find. My personal favourite is Supported Child’s Pose over a bolster or cushions, turning your head left for 3 minutes, then right for three minutes. Then take Happy Baby to release your lower back, and a nice long Savasana.

Feeling mentally drained? When your brain is worn out, it can help to balance that with some movement for your body. I love Vinyasa Flow yoga when my mind is tired. Because coming up with sequences and moves is hard when you’re weary, this is a great time to use some online yoga inspiration. I like this mini class from Rachel Scott when I’ve had a long day at the computer.

Feeling low in energy? When you need an energy boost to face your day, and you don’t want to resort to coffee and chocolate, backbends are your best bet. Don’t go into these cold – warm your body with some gentle movement, then a good 3-5 rounds of Sun Salutations before you start getting bendy. You can try Cobra, Bow and Bridge Poses. To add a little extra challenge, give Camel Pose or Wheel Pose a try. Hold each backbend for at least 5 breaths and resist the urge to bend forwards to release your spine until you’ve finished all the backbends. At the end, let yourself rest for a minute or two in Savasana and notice the energetic effect on your body of all those lovely backbends.

Let me know how you get on with these. What kind of yoga do you use to make you feel amazing? 

Have a great week!

Jade xxx

P.S. If you’re struggling to do anything at all, check out my blog from last week about how to motivate yourself to do yoga.

What David Bowie taught me

David Bowie YogiI always had a repulsive need to be something more than human. I felt very puny as a human. I thought, ‘Fuck that. I want to be a superhuman.’

Growing up, David Bowie was the soundtrack of my childhood. My Dad was, and is, an obsessive Bowie fan, and he tells me that as a baby the only way he could get me to sleep was to play me Bowie’s Young Americans. When I was older I visited New York with my Dad, and we spent literally hours traipsing around Manhattan trying to work out which section of which apartment block was David Bowie’s apartment. As a teenager I can’t say I was thrilled by this, but looking back, I’m strangely glad we did.

Because as I grew up I began to appreciate what Bowie stood for and why he’s much more than the sum of his artistic work. There’s too much to do justice to in one blog, so I’m not even going to try. But this is what speaks to me about his life.

Bowie was the epitome of all that was uncool. Subversive, androgynous and irreverent, he was the ultimate misfit. He was mocked, misunderstood and asked repeatedly to justify himself. But he didn’t change, or at least, he didn’t change according to anyone else’s agenda. And in doing so, his defiantly uncool became strangely cool.

All my big mistakes are when I try to second-guess or please an audience. My work is always stronger when I get very selfish about it.

Bowie recognised that his real power was in being absolutely true to who he was and what he wanted. He embraced his individuality and refused to be confined by other people’s expectations.

So today I’m trying to remember this lesson. Because actually, I think we all have it in us to be superhuman, if we’re ruthlessly honest about who we are and what we stand for.  

Final thought to leave you with…

As you get older, the questions come down to about two or three. How long? And what do I do with the time I’ve got left?

Have a superhuman day 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.

 

 

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