Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Tag: Suryalila

Five Reasons To Start Writing Today

Start writingIt’s no secret that along with yoga, writing is my passion. I believe that everyone has it in them to be a writer. Especially you.

Here are five great reasons to start writing today:

  1. Writing is cheaper than a therapist. There’s nothing quite like writing for getting to the bottom of how you’re feeling. Whether you’re confused, sad or angry, one of the most empowering things to do is to sit down and write everything that comes into your head. Keep writing until you’ve worked through what’s troubling you, typed your way out of stuck thought patterns or come up with a plan of action. Some people even find it helpful to burn what they’ve written at the end, as a way of symbolically letting go of the “story” they’ve been telling themselves.
  2. Writing is the ultimate creative act. When you write, you have the power to create worlds that can be whatever you want them to be. Unconstrained by finances, resources or practical limitations, your imagination is free to construct scenarios that bear as much or as little relation to your actual world as you like. Ever wonder what would have happened if you’d married your childhood sweetheart, succumbed to a gambling addiction or discovered you have a superpower? Write it and see. Through your writing, you can live out other lives, explore crazy possibilities, and bring life to ideas that you might shy away from in the actual world.
  3. Writing helps you to manifest your dreams. Along similar lines to the idea of creating dream worlds, start writing about your dream life, as if it’s already here, and already true. For instance, “I am so happy to live in a gorgeous penthouse apartment by the sea,” etc. As well as helping you to clarify what you want (which many people forget to take the time to do), it lets you begin to create the feelings and experience of being in your ideal future. This brings you a huge step closer to creating it.
  4. Writing is a tool to connect with others. Conversation is great, but as a tool for connecting with other people, writing has very special qualities. For a start, your reader can choose the time they read your words, and they can take them in at their own pace, engaging with them exactly when they are ready to. They can read, re-read, backtrack and skim the text at their leisure. Writing also gives you the opportunity to construct your message carefully, really considering and crafting your communication so that you make sure that its impact matches your intention. How often are we able achieve that precision when we speak?
  5. Writing lets you express yourself. No one else on this planet has had the exact life experiences you have had. As such, just by existing, you already have unique insights and ideas that are worth expressing. No one out there will put it exactly like you, and once you start writing, who knows what value your unique take on the world will have for someone else? You might reassure, challenge, encourage, provoke or inspire people.

So many people want to write, but they put it off, because they don’t think they have anything to say. But particularly when you’re new to writing, you don’t know what you have to say until you start. Try free writing – sitting for 10 minutes each day with a timer and writing whatever comes into your head, without stopping, censoring or editing yourself at all. I challenge you to do this every day for a week and see what comes up.

Even better, come and join us at my Yoga and Writing Retreat at Suryalila Retreat Centre in Spain, 2nd to 9th July 2016. You’ll have the opportunity to explore all five of these reasons through writing workshops, with daily yoga sessions to help unlock your creativity and awaken your inner writer. Coupled with delicious food, stunning surroundings and Spanish sunshine, it’s going to be a magical week, and I’d love you to come join us.

Have a great week, and let me know how you find the writing challenge!

Jade xxx

 

What Works Better Than Making New Year’s Resolutions?

New Year's ResolutionsIn January 2014, I moved to Birmingham. It was a scary decision for me. I knew no-one there, I was starting a new job, and I was moving into a house full of people I didn’t know. But instead of making my usual New Year’s resolutions that year, I started a couple of things that helped me beyond measure. Firstly, I decided to have more fun. I’d spent the first half of my twenties being hard-working and successful, but incredibly unhappy. So that was it – my aim for 2014 was just to have more fun. I prioritised immediate happiness.

The second thing I started doing was taking time to feel gratitude. At the end of every day (or the beginning of the next – sometimes I forgot!) I wrote down at least 3 things I was grateful for. Although I found it cringey at first, I did it until it became a habit, and something I looked forward to.

I think those two things were what started the happiest year of my life until that point. It was the year in which I made two huge decisions – to begin my yoga teacher training and to travel, both things I’d wanted to do for years, but had found excuses not to. Neither decision featured in some master plan for my future. Instead, they came naturally, almost effortlessly, from the strength, positivity and self-confidence that prioritising happiness and being grateful had brought about.

So I’m asking you at the end of the year to take 15 minutes to write down your answers to the following questions , and notice how doing this makes you feel. I promise it’s far more effective than making endless lists of new year’s resolutions to bring about positive change.

  1. Which experiences are you grateful for in the last year?

These might be travel, relationship or work experiences. For me this is gratitude for the diverse experiences I’ve had travelling – doing yoga on a beach in Thailand, partying my birthday away in a tiny town in Andalucia and participating in a Mayan Fire Ceremony in Guatemala.

  1. What life lessons are you grateful for learning?

You might find, as I did when I thought about this, that some of the life lessons you’re most grateful for have come from the toughest parts of this year. I’m now grateful for the time I spent being hyper self-critical, because it helped me to recognise the difference it made when I began working on self-acceptance instead.

  1. What opportunities are you grateful for being given in the last year?

Your brain is programmed to focus on your negative memories, so it can be easy to overlook the opportunities you’ve had. I’m incredibly grateful to have had the chance to work at some amazing places – Suryalila Retreat Centre, Moinhos Velhos Detox Retreat and 21st Sanctuary Retreats, and to have started my Advanced Yoga Teacher Training with Frog Lotus Yoga International.

  1. Who are you grateful for having in your life in the last year?

Consider all the people who’ve contributed to your life this year. Even people who at the time had a negative impact may have taught you a valuable lesson that you can be grateful for now. I’m ridiculously grateful for my family, who have supported me both practically and emotionally through all the ups and downs of nomadic lifestyle.  I’m also grateful for the inspiring people I’ve met on my travels and for the lovely people who read and share my blog posts (thank you!).

  1. What are you grateful to yourself for in the last year?

Think about what it is that you’ve done to help yourself this year, and thank yourself for it. I am grateful for my own energy, and the fact that I kept going when things were difficult. I am also grateful to myself for keeping up my yoga and meditation practice which helped me to find the strength to do that.

Looking forward to next year

Once you’ve done this, if you’re in the mood for looking ahead, think about what you want to bring more of into your life in the coming year. Bear in mind this research from Amy Cuddy about why most New Year’s resolutions fail. Keep it simple, memorable and positive. Possible examples:

  • To have more fun (I highly recommend this one!)
  • To enjoy being active
  • To find the opportunity in every challenge

Having already expressed gratitude you’ll be in the perfect frame of mind to make a difference to your next year.

Wishing you an amazing new year lovely people – let me know how you get on with your 15 minutes of gratitude!

12 Things To Do At Suryalila

Things to do at SuryalilaWhether you visit Suryalila Retreat Centre as a guest, a yoga teacher trainee or a volunteer, this is the definitive list of things to do at Suryalila…

  1. Gorge yourself on the delicious food and tell yourself it’s fine because it’s all so damned healthy. Vow to eat more lightly the next meal, then go back for seconds. And thirds.
  2. Do yoga at 8am and feel virtuous and smug all day. Make sure everyone knows about it.
  3. Conversely, miss one early morning yoga class to lie in. Even hardcore yogis deserve a day off. And it’s cool to be a yoga rebel. Fact.
  4. Borrow a deeply spiritual book from the bookshelf in the hall and convince yourself that it will change your life.
  5. Laze by the pool pretending to read said deeply spiritual book, then doze and hope it enters your consciousness via some miracle of osmotic transference instead.
  6. Take photos of yourself doing the fanciest looking yoga postures you can think of in the Om Dome then immediately post them on Instagram. #Suryalila. It’d be a waste not to.
  7. Walk to the ruins wearing inappropriate footwear. Who brings hiking boots to a yoga retreat anyway?
  8. Tear yourself away from Suryalila for the day to visit Prado Del Rey and enjoy the ridiculously cheap vino and tapas at Carmen’s.
  9. Speak Spanish, even just a little. You are in Spain after all. Practise on the donkey if you’re too nervous to try the staff.
  10. Eat the vegan rice milk ice cream. Just trust me on this one.
  11. Promise to transform your lifestyle when you go home. Daily yoga, meditation, reading and clean, fresh organic vegetarian food cooked from scratch can’t be so hard to keep up, right?
  12. Book a return trip before you even leave so you know it’s not goodbye forever.

Fellow Suryalila fans, let me know what I’ve missed!

What do you mean I have to meditate every day?

I have a confession. For a yoga teacher, I’m really bad at meditation. I try to meditate regularly, but often even three minutes feels like an insurmountable hurdle. With my recent attempts to be more mindful, I was secretly really pleased to be invited to join the yoga teacher trainees this week at Suryalila for their daily meditation session. I knew this would force me to meditate for 25-30 minutes every morning. Here’s how the week went…

Day One – Vidya our teacher eased us in gently with a guided meditation. She instructed us to gradually move our attention through our bodies and to our breath. The time went reasonably fast, perhaps because there was very little time in complete silence. Even with the regular instructions though it was amazing how much my mind still drifted away though.

Day Two  – This time we were in complete silence for the whole meditation, with only a bell to mark the start and end. To say my mind wandered would be a gross understatement. My mind took epic treks, to the point that I forgot for what seemed to be huge swathes of time that I was meant to be meditating. Afterwards I tried not to beat myself up for not trying hard enough.

Day Three – I fell and bruised my coccyx the day before (note to self – move yoga bricks out of the way before attempting new inversions…), so yoga was out-of-bounds for a day. But I was pretty proud of myself for not taking the excuse and still getting up early for meditation. Another silent meditation led to more struggles to focus. At times I would catch myself as my thoughts started to drifting into something that felt more like dreaming – maybe I actually was on the verge of falling asleep. Given the painfully early start this seems entirely possible.

Day Four – I was teaching yoga straight after the meditation, so I kept mentally rehearsing the class. In fact, it was a good few minutes after the bell that I remembered I should have started meditating. On the plus side this was actually ideal preparation for teaching. I felt really centred and calm when I started the class . I also did a group meditation in the evening, which I enjoyed a lot more and found it far easier to focus.

Day Five – after the best night’s sleep I’ve had in ages (a double dose of meditation everyday is clearly the answer to my insomnia) the morning meditation was guided instead of silent.  I liked this a lot.  We were guided to become aware of our thoughts without getting drawn into the narrative of them, and then to take our focus onto the awareness itself. I felt very peaceful and content.

Day Six –  We were back in silence, so I tried guiding myself through the sensations I felt in my body. Every time I started to feel bored or restless, I looked for somewhere I was physically or mentally holding on and consciously let go. My mind did wander, of course, but I also experimented with counting my breaths, which helped.

Day Seven – there was no group meditation today, so my roommate and I meditated together to hold each other accountable for doing it! I felt really good during this meditation – I did get caught up in my thoughts a lot, but I was able to bring myself back and to quietly congratulate myself each time I did for noticing that I’d drifted.

So has seven days of meditation made a difference?

I think it has. Just not in the way I expected. I thought that after a week my concentration would be better. I don’t think that’s the case, although I am perhaps getting better at gently bringing myself back to the present moment when I notice that I’ve drifted.

The difference I have noticed has been quite subtle. During the day I’ve felt more centred and less inclined to follow my thoughts into a spiral that affects my mood. It is only a slight change but it’s enough to make me want to keep it up.

This isn’t the first time I’ve vowed to meditate regularly though, so I’ll let you know how it goes…

Teaching my first ever yoga class

The Om Dome. SuryalilaWhile at Suryalila, I had the opportunity to teach my first ever yoga class. I say opportunity, but to be honest I had to be coaxed, bribed and coerced into taking the class. I was terrified. Because the thing about teaching yoga in a yoga retreat is, people know what you’re doing. And therefore they know when you don’t know what you’re doing.

But they’re very persuasive people these yogis, so I found myself at 7am in the beautiful Om Dome with my lesson plan, laying out mats, blankets and blocks. Despite the vast differences in my surroundings, the nerves were very similar to my feelings six years ago when I taught my first English class in a Teach First school in Derby. They were Year 7, and lovely, and lulled me into a false sense of security. The Year 10 class I taught second lesson were not quite so compliant, but that’s another story…

At least my class size this time was small, with just four lovely students. Except that three of the four were qualified yoga teachers themselves. I couldn’t blag this. They were all very encouraging though, and as they all managed to come in without shouting “blow job” or attempting to forcibly remove their mate’s nose ring, I decided I was onto a winner.

In fact, the atmosphere was incredibly calm (I realise given that this was a yoga class, it shouldn’t have come as a shock to me.) In guiding the class to relax and let go, I couldn’t help but do it myself, and I let myself be completely present in the space I was holding for the class. I realised how much I had missed this aspect of teaching. While I don’t claim that my English lessons were ever as calm as a yoga class (although some weren’t that far off), I always found that teaching had a way of making bringing me into the present moment. The world outside my classroom, and beyond my students’ immediate actions would drop away, and I would be absolutely in the zone with whatever was happening right there. It was mindfulness practice in action.

The rest of the class ran smoothly. I gave some odd instructions at times (“Take your foot between your front two hands” As opposed to the back two, of course.) and I did miss out a few postures, but I’m hoping no one noticed. I also discovered that guiding to class to centre themselves between postures, and focus on their breath gave me the time and headspace to think about what I needed to do next. I wondered how often I’ve been in a yoga class, dutifully checking in with my breath and taking a moment to be present, while the teacher remembers what to do next…

After the class was finished, my students were lovely, and I got some useful feedback from them too – teaching teachers does have its advantages! What’s more, I was able to tidy the room and walk out without a single book to mark, guilt-free. Teaching without hours of marking – I don’t think the novelty of this will wear off for quite some time.

Exhale Festival – a weekend of hardcore yoga

Black and Light YogaI’ve been lucky enough to be volunteering at Suryalila Retreat Centre during the Exhale Festival. Although I was working the whole weekend, my perpetual fear of missing out meant I tried to squeeze in as much yoga as was physically possible. Not the most yogic attitude, I know. I’ll work on that for next time…

My day on Saturday began (after a quick round of dishwashing) with two hours of Rocket Club Yoga with Marcus. Ashtanga enthusiast that I am, I loved this Vinyasa class, and all of its intense sequences, deep stretches and brilliant assists. It reminded me of something an Ashtanga teacher told me – she doesn’t believe in “hot yoga” because when you are practising yoga vigorously, you create the heat from within anyway. This two hours definitely proved that point. I finished the class feeling hot, sweaty and invigorated.

Next came my fastest ever round of dishwashing and chicken duties to allow me to get to an Inversions 101 Cyber Yoga Workshop with Lamonte. If you haven’t come across Cyber Yoga before, check out Lamonte’s website here. It makes me hurt just looking at his Instagram feed. But as well as being an awe-inspiring performer, Lamonte also turned out to be a great teacher. He catered for every level in his class, from those who were practising lifting up into their first Crow pose, to those who were working on one-armed handstands. He encouraged us to take baby steps into the postures, telling us that only way to achieve “total body control” is through dedication and consistent practice. He should know. Although I opted out of the one-armed handstands (no one likes a show off…) I did discover that I can do tripod headstands, something I previously assumed I couldn’t because I’d never tried. Another yoga life lesson there for me…

I spent the next part of my day working in the Shakti Boutique at Suryalila, before dashing off to Envision Yoga with Vidya. I think I need to devote a whole blog in itself to Envision Yoga, a practice which includes Kundalini yoga, mantras and NLP. We created our own mantras for each of our chakras, and repeated them to ourselves while doing yoga, before shouting them at our partners. Even the thought of it made me want to hide behind the nearest pile of bolsters and not come out. But the session took me beyond my scepticism and left me feeling better than I have in a long time.

My uninhibited energy buzz from Envision Yoga was put to great use in the final yoga session of the day – Black and Light Yoga. For this our beautiful Om Dome was transformed into a UV light spectacle. Daubed in neon face paint, we began our session with yoga, before rolling up our mats and breaking into a rave. Forget dancing like no one was watching, we danced like everyone was watching, and loved it. Then, all danced out, we came back to our mats for a final yoga sequence, ending on a euphoric yoga-fuelled high.

That night I discovered the true meaning of falling asleep before my head hit the pillow, and was still up before 8am the following morning for the next Vinyasa class. The whole festival was an incredible, enlightening and exhausting experience. If I ever do it again, and I hope I will, I definitely need to learn to pace myself…

Facing my fears at Suryalila Retreat Centre

TSuryalilahey say you should do something every day that scares you. I feel like I’ve been living by that mantra both on and off my yoga mat in my first week as a Workaway volunteer at Suryalila Retreat Centre.

When I arrived here last week, I was assigned the task of looking after the resident chickens. In the sunshine, as I was shown how to feed the chickens and collect their eggs, this seemed lovely. The next day, when it was freezing, and the rain had turned the field into a mud bath, it was less delightful. Fighting my way past hissing geese, I made it to the chicken coop, where most of the chickens were huddled out of the rain. I glanced to the side and saw one chicken on top of another. Oh look, I thought, 2 chickens having sex, how cute. Then I realised that the one on the bottom was dead. Horrified, I forgot all about collecting the eggs, and ran straight back to the centre, where my host told me that this was no big deal – lots of the chickens are very old and may well die soon. He calmly explained the “chicken disposal process” (essentially bag it, and bin it).

The walk back to the chicken coop, bin bag in hand, tears rolling down my face, was not a pleasant one. I tried to tell myself that this was nothing – it’s perfectly natural for old chickens to die, and really not a big deal to get rid of a chicken corpse. This didn’t help. I’m still not sure what I found so terrifying about getting a dead chicken into a bag, but I suppose fears aren’t always rational. It took a very long time to get the body bagged for removal. It was such a relief when I was finally able to leave the coop and know I didn’t have to return for another 24 hours. Surely I would not be unlucky enough for this to happen again anytime soon.

Unfortunately, luck was not on my side. The next day brought another dead chicken. I don’t know statistically how improbable 2 deaths in 2 days is for a relatively small brood of chickens, but this did not seem like very fair odds to me. At least this time I was slightly more prepared. I had bin bags with me, and although disposing of the body still left me retching, at least I didn’t cry this time. Which I am considering huge progress.

I have also been making considerable progress in my yoga practice at Suryalila. The daily vinyasa yoga classes here are brilliant. Except on my teacher training, I have never practised yoga so intensively, and I am loving it. The yoga teachers have been great at helping me to overcome some of my non-chicken-related fears. For the first time this week I have managed to kick up into a handstand properly, rather than jumping into it, and I have finally moved away from the wall and attempted a headstand in the middle of the room, under the watchful eye of my lovely teacher. Admittedly when I tried this again on my own, I fell over, but as she pointed out, once you’ve fallen, the fear isn’t so bad. And she’s right.

So I’m really excited and slightly terrified about the other challenges Suryalila has in store for me over the next three weeks. I feel like I’m learning a lot and being pushed out of my comfort zone, which was the whole point of this trip in a lot of ways. As long as there are no more dead chickens, I think I’ll be fine…

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