Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

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Yoga teacher advice to my past self…

Things I wish I’d learned before I started teaching yoga

It’s more than 6 years now since I qualified as a yoga teacher, and my relationship towards it has changed a lot in that time. For all those new yoga teachers, yoga teacher trainees or curious yoga students, I thought I’d share some of my lessons learned.

Before I started yoga, I wish I’d known:

1. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Because I loved it SO MUCH, I thought that once I became a yoga teacher, that would be my main identity. This a phenomenon known as ‘flattening’ and Pandora Skyes writes about in her excellent book ‘How do we know we’re doing it right?’ It’s the idea that in order to be whole we have to reduce our identities down to one primary thing. For me that meant I felt I should discard the parts of myself that didn’t ‘fit’ being a yoga teacher. I’m far more comfortable now in owning and enjoying my multiple identities. I’m a writer, a doctoral researcher, a (currently frustrated!) traveller, an appreciator of gin and tonic AND a yoga teacher. It’s ok to layer yoga teaching into your life – it doesn’t have to be everything.

2. There are many different models of yoga class teaching. To share just a handful I’ve tried in the last few years, you can teach:

  • Classes at a commercial gym or a local leisure centre
  • Corporate yoga to employees in their offices
  • Private one to one yoga classes from your home or visiting their home
  • Yoga studio classes
  • Your own classes by hiring a room in a community centre or something swankier
  • Online yoga classes either live or pre-recorded
  • Cover or supply classes for when the regular yoga teacher is away
  • Classes at a yoga retreat (highly recommend this one!)
The image shows Jade teaching a yoga class who are in a circle inthe dome at Suryalila Retreat Centre all doing child's pose.

They all have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to consistency, earning potential, atmosphere, loyalty, flexibility etc. It’s therefore worth experimenting and seeing what works for you, which leads us on to…

3. Everything is an experiment. This is a great life philosophy (and a favourite of my partner Tom). Yes, you should do your best – my own yoga teacher Vidya of Frog Lotus Yoga International encourages yoga teacher trainees to “Make every class a 10/10” and it’s true – your yoga students deserve that positive intention. However, not everything will work out. Your teaching cues might not flow, the room might be too hot or you might have low attendance. If you treat it all as an experiment, it takes the sting out of it – you’re always playing, experimenting and learning.

4. Not everyone will like your teaching, and that’s ok. When I started teaching yoga, I wanted to win everyone over, hoping that they’d like the yoga as much as I did. It’s a lovely feeling when they do. Getting positive feedback at the end of class, or via a thoughtful Facebook message later that evening is fantastic. But I’ve come to realise that teaching yoga is a bold and creative act. When people don’t love your teaching, yes reflect on it and see what you can learn, but then let it go. You need to be brave about this. Trust that although you won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, you will attract the students who are receptive to what you have to share.

5. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Because teaching yoga takes courage, energy and commitment, it also takes a lot out of you, especially if you’re on the more introverted end of the spectrum. I love yoga teaching and I get such a buzz out of it, but I choose not to do it all day every day. Be careful not to overcommit to too many classes, jobs or creative projects especially at the start. The things that nourish you matter too – whether that’s meditation, seeing friends, taking a bath or enjoying a G&T. Remember, you are not just a yoga teacher.

Most of all, be kind to yourself

It’s such a challenging and exciting time when you begin teaching yoga, and I hope these help. You might also like to check ou my free Mini Yoga Teaching Resource Pack. Yoga teachers, let me know your own lessons learned in the comments below – what do you wish you’d known when you started teaching yoga?

Online Yoga to Help You Through Tough Times

Wow, what strange old times we’ve found ourselves in…

I’ve got some time off work at the moment, and I’ve been quite hard on myself for not being creative enough with that time. I had all these ideas that I’d make yoga videos, try new recipes, write a book, learn a craft, plan my PhD etc etc. In reality, what I’ve wanted to do is play with my cats and read in the garden. So far, so unproductive.

But I am grateful for yoga, and the fact I can access amazing yoga teaching from home. A few people have asked me for online yoga recommendations, so I’ve collated some of my favourites. In time, who knows, I might get around to adding my own content to this list. But until inspiration strikes, I’m happy to share a few of my own “go to” places for online yoga…
If you have your own suggestions, please add them in the comments below.

Online Yoga Recommendations

  1. Suryalila Cyber Yoga Retreat – my love of this amazing retreat centre in Andalucia, Spain is no secret. I blogged about it here. Sadly, their business has been hit hard by the pandemic. But, wonderful folk that they are, they’ve come up with a cyber yoga retreat. This means they can keep sharing their teachings, love and sense of community with the world, while hopefully generating enough income to keep the retreat centre alive. You can buy a day, week or month pass, and they’re also offering “compassion passes” for those in financial difficulty themselves. Their classes have given my days much needed structure and there’s something for everyone with a range of different yoga, meditation and philosophy classes. See here for full details.
  2. Ekhart Yoga – this has long since been my favourite source of online yoga. I let my membership lapse a while ago, as I was drawn to the flashier, LA-based AloMoves, but in all honesty, I regret it! The platform on Ekhart Yoga is more intuitive so it’s easier to find what you are looking for, whether that’s a 15 minute meditation, or a 60 minute strengthening class. I also find the teachers seem more approachable… I know the yoga is online, but I still prefer practising with a teacher I feel I’d have a good chat with! At the moment, Ekhart Yoga have made some free classes available here, and they also offer a two week free trial.
  3. Youtube offerings – I’ve spent a long time sifting through various Youtube yoga channels. There’s a lot of yoga on there, but the quality is variable. However, I’ve found the following to be safe bets:
    • Finlay Wilson – also known as the “Kilted Yogi”, Finlay shares his Forrest Yoga teachings, and I’ve yet to try a class of his that I didn’t like. He also has a lovely voice, which helps.
    • Yoga with Adrienne – with a huge online following, Adrienne is firmly in YouTube Star territory, but it’s well deserved. She has an incredible range of classes from the generic, such as Yoga for Beginners, to the highly specific – Yoga for Risk Takers, anyone?! Her manner is warm and reassuring.
    • KinoYoga – I’ve loved Kino MacGregor’s teaching since I first discovered Ashtanga Yoga, and I still seek her out when I want something a bit more challenging. Her teaching is precise and full of helpful alignment cues. As well as full length classes she has some really nice (read: painful) yoga strength drills and advanced posture tutorials.
    • Core Connection Mini Sequence – I recommend this particular YouTube class from Denise Hopkins so often, I’m giving it a bullet point of its own. Those who come to my classes in real life know how much I love core work, and this class has it all: elbow to knee, abs with a block, an excruciating hold of Dolphin Pose. You are welcome.
  4. Last but not least, it’s hard to beat live teaching. This is the perfect time to support yoga teachers and studios if you can. Many yoga studios are offering Zoom or other webinar-style classes, so check out any that you usually visit and see what they are doing. You can also practise with yoga teachers whose classes you’d never normally make it to (2021 update: I recently got to take an online class with my wonderful friend Stephanie of Kalpana Yoga in Canada – lockdown has some advantages!).
Photograph of Jade doing yoga at home in a in standing forward fold, uttanasana.
Home yoga practice

My final little reminder (which I’m also telling myself often!) is to be kind to yourself and keep things simple. This time is stressful enough without putting undue pressure on yourself to make over your life, become an artist or learn a new language. All those are great if they’re what you’re compelled to do, but honestly, if you manage each day to move your body, eat food that makes you feel good, and send a kind message to family or friends, I reckon you should be pretty proud of yourself already.


I hope this helps. Let me know how you get on with online yoga!

How Injury Transformed My Yoga Practice

If you’ve ever experienced a nasty injury, you’ll know how frustrating, debilitating and isolating it can be. I’m sharing my experience in the hope that it brings some comfort and reassurance that the situation (or at least your response to it!) can and will improve.

The Injury

Three months ago, I taught my worst ever yoga class. It wasn’t that anything went wrong with the class itself (except a last minute room change and a power cut). The issue was that when I demonstrated cat-cow, something in the right side of my lower back “went” sending searing pain through my back.

I’ve had lower back issues before, so I knew this wasn’t good, but I carried on teaching. I hoped that moving would help. It didn’t. By the end of the class, I was in agony.

Me teaching a yoga class in the Om Dome at Suryalila Retreat Centre in Spain.
Teaching whilst injury-free!

I remained in acute, debilitating pain for the next three weeks. The only position that was comfortable was lying down. Sitting, walking and standing all sent my muscles into excruciating spasms. Safe to say, it was the end of my yoga teaching, and indeed my yoga practice for quite some time.

As I said, I’ve hurt my back before, and quite badly, but this was worse.

What made it emotionally harder was knowing that I’d hurt it doing yoga. Whereas previous injuries (through doing HIIT training, lifting kettlebells and most embarrassingly, tripping over the wire while straightening my hair) I could attribute to a specific, avoidable incident, what triggered this seemed so innocuous. It wasn’t even as if I was attempting a challenging posture.

The Bumpy Road to Recovery

I had some good advice and some terrible advice. Friends plied me with hot water bottles, ibuprofen and gin (which worryingly helped more than painkillers!).

I scoured the internet obsessively in the hope of a cure. In my desperation I forked out for three different eBooks on healing back pain, which I read from cover to cover. These convinced me that the pain was psychological and that all I needed to do was return to my normal activities.

Full of hope, I walked the 5km to the local town, determined to “act normal”. By the time I got there, I was in so much pain that I passed out on the street. I came to surrounded by a group of lovely, and deeply concerned Spanish locals. Not cool.

Beautiful massage space outside at Suryalila Retreat Centre in Spain.
The advantage of getting injured at a retreat centre is the availability of amazing massage…

So for the next six weeks, life revolved around trying not to aggravate my back.

I wanted to keep up some kind of self-practice, but how I felt about yoga had changed. Rather than being my therapy, my healing and my safe refuge, yoga felt risky. I considered meditation but this was hard as I couldn’t sit still for more than 20 seconds. Meditation lying down for me is just falling asleep.

Instead I started to read books on Buddhist philosophy and practice, which helped more than the back pain books did. They encouraged me to develop a less combative relationship with the pain. I also began very gentle and cautious mobilisation and breathing exercises.

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Sun rising over the Annapurna mountain range

Slowly, slowly I started to build up the distance I could walk. This was going well, but I feared not well enough. I had booked to do the Annapurna Base Camp trek at the start of December – 9 days of arduous trekking in the Himalayas.

This trek was something I had dreamed about for years, so although I was nervous, I felt I had to try.

I won’t bore you with every detail of the trek, but I’m happy to say that it an incredible experience. It wasn’t painless, far from it, but the more I walked the more my pain eased. I was so grateful for what my body could do.

Not only that but the walking was an exercise in mindfulness. Because you have to place your feet carefully for each step (to avoid falling off the mountain) it is impossible to think about anything else. We also did a digital detox, spending the whole trek without connecting to WiFi. I finished the trek feeling calmer, happier and more present than I have in a long time.

Sign and prayer flags at Annapurna Base  Camp.

But still no yoga. I played with a few postures after walking some days, but they didn’t feel great, and I didn’t want to risk it.

New Year, New Focus

Then came new year. We attended a yoga and meditation retreat in Cambodia. My first yoga class there was nerve-wracking. Although the practice was gentle, I felt flashes of panic and sometimes anger when a posture affected my back. I didn’t love the classes, but they did help me to overcome the fear I had of practising yoga.

Signs pointing to yoga hall and other facilities at Hariharalaya Retreat Centre.
The very lovely Hariharalaya Retreat Centre

But the meditation made a more tangible difference. By then I was able to sit on a meditation bench for around 30 minutes without pain. This meditation time gave me chance to put into practice all the theory from my reading on Buddhism.

There was also a strong emphasis on the importance of self-practice throughout the retreat, which I took to heart.

Since coming back from the retreat, I’ve developed the most consistent self-practice I’ve had for years. I practice daily, around 30 minutes of postures, followed by pranayama and meditation later in the day. My practice doesn’t look the way it used to – currently my most “advanced” posture is tree pose (which I love!) – but it feels better. More honest, more connected and more grounding.

Me practising dragonfly (or grasshopper) pose in Morocco.
It may be a while before my yoga practice looks like this again!

Finding Yoga Again

In coming back to yoga I have become reacquainted with my body. I enjoy feeling into where the edges are now, and where I can use my breath to open up spaces. I’m building up confidence and trust in my body once more, and I know that’s going to take time. For once, I’m content to give it that time.

Me practising simple yoga on the beach.
Morning yoga on the beach in Koh Chang



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!

How I Meditate – My Personal Practice

How I meditateI’ve had quite a few people lately ask me about how I meditate, and although I’ve written before about the challenges of meditation, I’ve never really shared my personal practice. I think it’s different for everyone, but after a lot of trial and error, that is what I’ve found works for me with meditation. I hope it’s useful.

Commit to a Daily Practice

Although I don’t notice an immediate effect if I miss a day of meditation, what I have found is that missing one day makes it harder to meditate the next day. Before I know it a week has gone by without me actually sitting still and being quiet (yes, meditation is the only time I do that), and that does affect the clarity of my mind. So I hold myself pretty strictly to at least 5 minutes per day meditating. Most days I do 10 minutes, some days I do 15 or 20. I rarely meditate for longer than that unless I’m in a group, and someone forces me do it…

Find A Time That Works For You

I think it’s easier to stick to meditation if it becomes part of your routine. I like to meditate after I’ve practised yoga in the morning. Because I’m naturally so restless and it’s a real challenge for me to sit still, it’s at least a bit easier once I’ve done some yoga. Also my body is more relaxed and my hips are more open, which makes sitting easier. Other people prefer to meditate before bed, or in their lunch break. I did try meditating in bed (lying down, under the duvet, with my eyes closed) before I got up in the morning, but to my intense disappointment that didn’t really work.

Use a Timer

I’m sadly not the kind of person who can just indefinitely and meditate for as long as I feel like it. If I did that I’d probably only ever do 30 seconds. So I use an app on my phone – Insight Timer. This has a soft bell sound to end the session, which is less aggressive than setting an alarm. It also has social features, so you can see who you’ve been meditating with around the world afterwards. Sometimes they send you messages to thank you for meditating with them (you can turn this off if you like!). I used to find this really weird. Now I love it. Things change.

Get Comfortable

I’m really not a believer in forcing yourself to sit in a certain position to meditate. Meditation is hard enough anyway without sitting there in agony. If you’ve got pins and needles and you’re panicking that you may never feel your lower leg again, you’re unlikely to feel that focused. It’s even less likely you’ll choose to carry on the next day. So get comfy – use cushions, kneel over a bolster, sit upright in a chair or lie on your back if you have to (and if you can stay awake!). But find something that feels ok for you.

Scan Your Body

This helps with the point above, and it’s how I almost always start my meditation practice. I take a scan through my body, from the ground up, and consciously bring awareness and relaxation to every part. I only take a minute or so to do this, but it helps my mind and body to settle at the beginning of the practice.

Focus On Your Breath

Once I’ve scanned my body, I focus on my breathing. I breathe through my nose and concentrate on the point at which my breath leaves and enters the body – the edge of my nostrils. Every time my mind wanders off (which it does, all the time) I try to gently and nonjudgmentally notice it, and return to focusing on my breath. It’s a kind of “Oh look, I’m thinking about what I’m having for breakfast. How interesting. Let’s go back to my breath.” Reminding myself to focus on “just this breath” sustaining my concentration one breath at a time really helps to keep me present. Other people use counting or mantras to keep their focus here – I keep it simple and just watch my breathing.

This is just how I meditate. I’m not saying it’s the right way for everyone, but I hope you do have a go, experiment and see what works for you. Because it is incredibly good for you. Blog to follow next week about the difference meditating every damn day has made for me.

Have a great week!

Jade xxx

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

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

5 Great Reasons to go on a Yoga Retreat

Yoga Retreat PortugalWho doesn’t love a holiday? You get to relax, have a break from work and do the things that you don’t normally get to do at home. But why specifically should you go on a yoga retreat holiday?

Considering I’ve spent the last nine months teaching yoga at retreats, I’d like to think I’m a bit of an expert now on them now! For me yoga retreats are incredibly special places. Here are my top five reasons to go on a yoga retreat:

  1. It will leave you feeling amazing. How many times do you go on holiday only to come back feeling like you need a holiday to get over it? It’s tempting on holiday to try to cram in everything you’ve been missing for the past year. Whether that’s partying, eating out, drinking or manically sightseeing, it can be exhausting. Holidays like that can leave you feeling more run down than when you left (I know because I’ve been there!). A yoga retreat on the other hand leaves you feeling healthy, relaxed and re-energised.
  2. You will have time to reflect on everything that’s been going on in your life. One of the great things about practising yoga and mindfulness is that it can be like hitting the pause button on your life. It gives you a chance to come into the present, and to take stock of what’s been going on. Perhaps you want to reconsider your direction for the coming year, or make some changes to feel more connected with yourself. A yoga retreat is the perfect opportunity to take a step back and do exactly that.
  3. It’s all about you. Going on a yoga retreat is not about pleasing your family, or your friends, or your partner. Going on a yoga retreat is all about doing what you want and taking precious time out for yourself. That might mean you get up early every morning to journal and meditate and join the yoga class. It might mean you choose one morning to sleep in and go off for a wander by yourself instead. It might mean you sit and socialise late into the evening with fellow guests, or it might mean you turn in early and catch up on a year’s worth of beauty sleep. A yoga retreat is your chance to tune into exactly what you want and need, then do it.
  4. Your yoga practice will improve. Yoga is fantastic, for your mind, body and spirit. And going to a class once or twice per week is a great start. But when you immerse yourself in it, practising every day and being in the atmosphere of a yoga retreat, you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes. Your physical practice will come on in leaps and bounds, and you might be surprised at how much deeper you find yourself going into the meditative side of yoga too.
  5. You can kickstart healthy lifestyle changes. I’m not a big believer in “detox” breaks, purely because I think the changes you make there are often too extreme to apply to the rest of your life. In all honesty, no matter how disciplined you are while on the retreat, one week in isolation will not make a great deal of difference to your health over the course of the year. I’m a fan instead of yoga retreats with a gentler, more realistic approach. While you might not keep up the same amount of yoga when you go home, you will learn ways to make smaller consistent changes. You can create a yoga self-practice to do between classes at home, or discover techniques to help you to integrate mindfulness into your day. You can break your poor eating habits, and enjoy a way of eating that keeps your blood sugar levels in balance. It is these small changes that over the course of the following year will make a significant difference to your health and wellbeing, not swearing to swap wine for kale juice for the rest of forever (unless you really want to!).

Perhaps most importantly, it’s a seriously enjoyable way to spend a holiday – yoga, relaxation, massage, great food and sunshine.

If you’re free from June 23rd to June 28th 2016, check out this gorgeous retreat that I’ll be teaching at in Portugal. There are still a few places left, and I’d absolutely love to welcome you there. If you book before 31st March mentioning “Jade Lizzie” a space in the female group room is available for the incredible discounted rate of just £450! Message me directly through Facebook or the contact form on here.

Yoga love and sunshine from sunny Morocco,

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!

The Sceptical Yoga Teacher

sceptical yoga teacherIs it possible to be a sceptical yoga teacher?

When I tell people I teach yoga, they make a lot of assumptions about me. And, to be fair, I do fit some of the stereotypes. My wardrobe does mainly consist of yoga leggings and sports bras, I do (try to) meditate every day and I am probably more flexible than the average person. But I also love science, I’m passionate about logical, rational arguments and I have a physics degree. So frankly, I die a little inside when I hear yogis referencing quantum mechanics, as if the very mention of quantum entanglement provides empirical evidence for every new age concept out there.

This is not because I don’t think yogis should talk about science. I love talking about science. I think everyone should talk more about science. But discussing concepts you don’t understand with the assumed authority of someone who does is a misuse of physics and undermines the credibility of what many describe as the “science of yoga.”

I have a similar reaction when people grasp onto alternative forms of medicine as if because they’re “natural” they must work. Don’t get me wrong, I think the western medical system has plenty of flaws, and I’m a big believer in exploring other options. For example, I think we can learn a lot from the holistic approach of systems such as Ayurveda, where they look at the whole person rather than treating symptoms. But that’s not to say that these ancient systems have all the answers, and because they are on some “spiritual plane”, they are above investigation. “Alternative” medicine can and should be tested just as rigorously as anything else.

What I find most strange is when people suggest that you can’t be “spiritual” or into yoga unless you suspend all analytical thought. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve tried to discuss ideas with someone from the yoga community only for any questions I have to be met with, “But science can’t explain everything.” Perhaps not, but does that mean we should just hold our hands up, fall at the feet of the nearest guru and accept everything we’re told without question? To me that seems like a pretty dangerous path to follow.

I don’t think the barriers that people (on both sides of the fence as it were) put up between yoga, spirituality and science are necessary or helpful. Ultimately, everyone is seeking the truth and greater understanding, but approaching it from different angles. Surely the greatest growth comes when we learn from other fields, rather than disregarding them because their approach is different to our own?

A meditation teacher of mine used to say, “You don’t have to leave your intellect at the door,” and I loved this expression. I’ve always taken this to mean that you can have both. You can immerse yourself in yoga and meditation, and let thinking take a back seat for a while in order to drop into the experience of something. But it’s also ok to question things, try to work them out for yourself, and maintain a healthy scepticism when faced with so-called gurus making sweeping statements without backing them up. In short, I think it’s perfectly possible to be a sceptical yoga teacher. 

I’d love to know what your experiences are of this – let me know in the comments below?

Have a lovely day, and Merry Christmas everyone!

Jade xxx

 

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