Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Tag: Forrest Yoga

Five Forrest Yoga Changes I Love

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

Picture shows Jade in a variation of bound angle pose with the relaxed neck taught in the Forrest Yoga Advanced Teacher Training

1. I’ve stopped torturing my neck.

“Relaxed neck” is a common cue in Forrest Yoga, and it felt alien to me. Relax my neck? As in stop craning my neck in order to get the “correct” drishti (gaze point) for the pose? Despite my initial reluctance, I found it felt really, really good. Try it in extended side angle poserather than gazing into your hand, look forward and relax your neck. See how much nicer that feels? I love it, I’m teaching it, there’s no going back.

2. I love core work even more now.

I’ve spoken to other yoga teacher friends who completed the Forrest Yoga Advanced Yoga Teacher Training and hated the core work. Luckily, this wasn’t a problem for me. Since my ballet teacher told my 11 years old self that situps would help my pirouettes, I’ve loved core strength work. But on my training, I realised that I’d barely scratched the surface. The precise, refined, and relentless (!) cues of Forrest Yoga abs put me through my paces. They have left me feeling much more connected with my inner strength. Now I do them every day. This is the video that’s my “go-to” online Forrest Yoga core practice, if you want to try it yourself.

3. I also know how to relax my belly.

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

4. I keep my lower back healthy.

I now use yoga to not only “fix” my chronic lower back pain when it flares up, but to help heal it. As well as Forrest Yoga abs, I’ve learnt techniques such as back traction for creating space in my lower back. What’s more, I’m recognising my  tendency to jam tension into my lower back when I’m feeling wobbly. Instead, I’m slowly learning to strengthen and stabilise my pelvis.

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

I want to finish on a high, but I have to admit that this one is a half truth still. After  years of abusing my body with disordered eating and exercise addiction, softness and ease are concepts I seem to need to learn again and again. Now, my intention when I get on my yoga mat is to start from a place of “having my own back.” If something’s hard, I breathe rather than fight through it. If a pose causes pain, I’m pulling away, then exploring what’s going on. And if something feels delicious, I’m staying there. It’s a work in progress, but even that, I think I’m learning to accept. There are some things that just take us a bit longer!

If this Forrest Yoga thing sounds like something you might be interested in exploring, I’d love you to join one of my classes. As I develop my teaching over the coming months, I’ll be integrating what I learned from the Forrest Yoga Advanced Teacher Training into my usual vinyasa flow classes. I promise your neck and core will thank you for it!

Learning To Be Struggle-Free

struggle free

I blogged last week about how I’ve been embracing a more “underachieving” approach to my yoga practice lately. The reason I’ve not been practising as much yoga is because I’ve been busy. Squeezing in such a long practice every day was making yoga into a chore, and not something I loved. So I chose to let go of the struggle and adopt a more realistic, manageable yoga practice for a few weeks.

I was overwhelmed by the number of people who contacted me to say they loved this post. Who would have thought slacking was so inspiring? But many of these people had been beating themselves up for not doing enough. They were relieved to hear someone talk about dialling it down for a while. It struck me how hard we are on ourselves. We live in a goals-driven, target-setting, progress-orientated culture. We’re taught that effort equals success, and while that can great, it can also leave us with the impression that if we’re not struggling, we’re doing something wrong. So I wanted to share some advice that has helped me a lot.

Being struggle-free

This goes back to something that a yoga teacher said in class a while ago which resonated with me.

Allow yourself to be struggle-free

My wise yoga teacher

During the initial, gentler sections of the class this was fine. But then later, in a fairly intense core-strengthening sequence, she reiterated the guidance. “Be struggle-free. Be easy.” I was skeptical about the possibility of being “struggle-free” while doing Forrest Yoga abs (try them – they’re brutal). But weirdly, it worked. Not because I stopped trying, but because I realised how much of my suffering was caused by my mental battle. I found that I could still work with intensity but without struggling, and therefore without hating it.

Taking it off the yoga mat

I’ve been experimenting with this a lot in the rest of my life too, and it’s been helpful. There are two ways that I try to apply the “struggle-free” philosophy. The first is that if I’m doing too much, or not enjoying something I’m doing, I reflect on whether I really need to be doing it, or whether it’s a self-imposed struggle that I could find a way around.

The second way acknowledges that sometimes there are things I have to experience which don’t feel particularly comfortable. Let’s say I need to have a challenging conversation with someone, or I’m anxious about the outcome of decision. I’ve been reminding myself at these times to, “Be easy.” Depending on the circumstances, maybe this means I need to relax, to detach, to surrender or to let things go and trust that it will work out.

And I’ve found that the more I let myself be struggle-free, the more things do seem to work out. Not necessarily to start with, but in the end they have a tendency to come good. Because actually even if I think I know what the best outcome should be, I don’t really know what’s for the best. Many times in my life I’ve looked back and realised I wasn’t seeing the full picture. Things that I might initially perceive as failures can give rise to other, better opportunities.

Is it effort or is it struggle?

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t make an effort. You can still apply yourself fully, and commit and work hard at whatever it is you’re doing. And sometimes you do need to make a stand, and do things that are tough. But you can also make the conscious decision not to struggle with them. Even in the midst of things that feel horrible, like core workouts or relationship break ups, it can be possible to find a kind of acceptance and peace in surrender to the situation. Most of the suffering is in the struggle. If you can let go of that, things get a lot easier.

This week’s takeaway challenge

This week, my challenge to everyone (myself included) is to let yourself be struggle-free. Drop something from your “To do,” list, find an easier way or let go of a personal battle. Let me know if it makes a difference.

How to Motivate Yourself to do Yoga

Camel PoseI love going to yoga classes, but my practice transformed when I started doing yoga everyday on my own. I began to explore the postures for myself and to rebuild my relationship with my body and mind. However, practising yoga by yourself brings its own challenges, the main one for me being motivation. So how do you motivate yourself to do yoga on the days when your bed is more appealing than your mat, and you don’t have a teacher telling you what to do?

Here are my three best pieces of advice:

  1. Remember that getting there is the hardest bit. A friend of mine passed on these words of wisdom years ago and they’ve stuck with me ever since. With any situation that you know will require some effort (even something you enjoy, like yoga!), the hardest bit is getting there. Once you’re there, you’ve already overcome the biggest challenge. I used to remind myself of this on the cold, dark mornings as an English teacher when I REALLY didn’t want to leave home. It works even better to get me onto the yoga mat.
  2. Set the intention that you’ll get on your yoga mat and just move for 10 minutes in any way that feels good. That way you take the pressure off your yoga practice and free it to be whatever you need right then. Often I tell myself I’ll only do 10 minutes, and after that time, my body and mind feel so good that I carry on and do lots more. But even if that’s all I do, I think of it as a gift to myself that I wouldn’t have otherwise had in my day.
  3. Create a bank of motivation prompts for the days when you really need to be told what to do. I have a few great free online yoga resources that I use when I really don’t want to practise “alone”, such as the wonderful DoYogaWithMe website – the classes with Fiji McAlpine are my favourite. I also love this mini Forrest Yoga inspired core workout, and my lovely yogini friend Amanda posts some great sequences on her Youtube channel that always make me feel good. It’s good to go solo and practice totally by yourself, but these online yoga classes are perfect for the days when you need a bit more inspiration.

Whatever you end up doing, try to keep your yoga practice free from judgement. We already spend too much of our lives critiquing ourselves, and seeing how we measure up. Challenge yourself to let that go while you practise yoga by yourself. After all, there’s no one there to impress, or even to care what you are doing – this is just about you.

Happy yoga-ing lovely people – let me know how you get on!

Jade xxx

3 Amazing Ways That Yoga Makes You Strong

Image shows Jade practising handstands on the steps in Morocco to demonstrate how yoga makes you strong.

There’s a misconception that yoga is:

a) Only for the super-flexible

and

b) Solely to make the super-flexible even more bendy.

To steal a saying from someone wiser than I am, that’s not yoga, that’s just bending.

Yoga is great for flexibility, but for me its power is in the way that yoga makes you strong.

Three brilliant ways that yoga helps you to build strength:

  1. Physically. Try lowering slowly from plank pose to chaturanga and back again and you’ll see that there’s more to yoga than having open hamstrings. Yes, flexibility helps you to move deeper into postures, but so does strength. Full wheel pose for example requires upper body strength to lift yourself up as well as flexibility in your back to move into the back bend. Similarly, you can be as bendy as you like, but without the strength to support your body weight, after a few rounds of Sun Salutations, your muscles will be shouting at you. Your body needs flexibility and strength for optimal health, and yoga can help you to develop both.
  2. Mentally. Meditation is a kind of exercise for your mind. Repeatedly bringing your focus back to the present moment takes real mental effort. Just like strengthening a muscle, regular meditation improves your ability to concentrate. Yoga then is meditation in motion. Maintaining mindful awareness while moving through yoga postures can be even more challenging than trying to do it while sitting in meditation. Not only that, but yoga challenges you to move out of your comfort zone. Yoga postures can encourage you to face your fears and even to experience discomfort without shying away from it. This last one is especially true in yin yoga – if you haven’t tried it, do! The discipline and focus yoga requires is as strengthening for the mind as it is for the body.
  3. Spiritually. It’s hard to find a definition of spirituality that doesn’t sound new-agey. But one way to think of it is that your spirit is what lies beneath the fluctuations of your mind. It’s deeper than your thoughts, your feelings, your wants and your worries. You might prefer to call it your awareness, or consciousness or your soul, and it doesn’t really matter what term you use. What matters is that you know, and can learn to connect with, the part of you that observes everything that happens, but remains untouched. It’s very important you can do this, because it’s the source of your inner strength. No matter what happens there’s part of you that’s still okay. Yoga helps you to develop that connection.

Yoga’s power to make you strong on all these levels is one of the many reasons I love it so much. Whether you’re experiencing physical, mental or emotional challenges, yoga can help you to become strong enough to handle them.

If you’re wanting to take your strengthening yoga practice to another level, and work through some of your fears while you’re at it, I highly recommend this free online class from the incredible Ana Forrest. I discovered it a couple of weeks ago, and I love it. Let me know how you get on!

Much love Jade xxx

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