mindfulness

YIN YOGA & BALANCING OUR NERVOUS SYSTEM

YIN YOGA & BALANCING OUR NERVOUS SYSTEM

Ideally we’d all live in the beautiful countryside, going on daily country walks, breathing in fresh air, being nourished by nature, growing our own vegetables and minimising stressful situations. Even if you live in the country this is probably not reality for you. We all know what a toll modern society takes on our lives. Especially living in a city and having a demanding job! It’s no secret that the way life has evolved is not inline with our natural habitat. The evolution of life has sped up with the birth of technology and our bodies have not adapted, or are designed (necessarily) to cope with the demand. In consequence our nervous system is more often then not in a constant state of alert. We can consciously and with great awareness change this state through certain practices and one of them is yin yoga. 

It can be hard to justify and explain yin yoga to people who are goal driven, run at a 100 miles an hour and feel strapped for time. It is exactly for these reason that we need yin yoga. To soothe our charged up nervous system and to teach our bodies and ourselves how to slow down and soften.  

Yin yoga teaches us to listen in with great attention. Often at first it can be very hard to be still and just be in the shape, the mind can be easily distract and might feel irritable. Over time this starts to dissipate and we learn to sit with the sensations. Learning to surrender and to release the desire to push and pull is a crucial lesson of yin yoga. It’s what makes it so different to other practices. Yin yoga gives us the space to be still with ourselves and bring great awareness to our body and mind. It gives us time to connect and slow down. This really is sacred as most of us are in such a rush all and never allow ourselves to ‘just be’. Our pent up nervous systems never seem to get a break. Even when we flop onto the sofa and put on a Netflix drama, our nervous system is kicked back into action. The intensity of our lives and the never ending stimulus fail to give us the opportunity to filter charged up energy. Most yoga practice for sure aim and does dial up our rest and digest side of the nervous system, but the yin practice gives us the time to really slow down and connect. 

When we practice yoga it could be the only time we find ourselves not having to multi-task, not being called upon by family and being buzzed at by our phones. Every other time of day there’s a resistance to being slow and we tend to feel the need to constantly push ourselves. When we practice yin we are aiming to do the complete opposite of this. We are cultivating a sense of loving-kindness for ourselves and giving our body and mind the time to process and filter information. 

THE NERVOUS SYSTEM : A brief overview 

The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) are part of our autonomous nervous system, and our yoga practice, specially the Yin Yoga practice, can help rebalance these two important systems. 

The SNS is our basic fight or flight system. It is triggered as a response to threat and in consequence our heart rate increases, muscles contract, pupils dilate, saliva production decreases, we become more alert and adrenaline is released. In today’s society arguments with your neighbour, mid-year reviews, paying bills, loud music and intense programmes can all trigger our SNS. There are tones more things that we face daily that keep us in a constant state of SNS activation. 

The PNS is the complete opposite - it’s our reset and digest response. Through stimulation via the nerves running to our internal organs (primarily the vagus nerve), our heart rate slows and blood pressure drops. Our saliva can be secreted again and our eyes might get a little watery. 

The nervous system affects and works with the immune system and facial system. If we allow ourselves to constantly be in a stressed state and for some people a chronic stressed state this has huge implications on our body. Stress fuels some of the biggest health problems of our time, including type 2 diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, heart attacks and strokes as well as autoimmune diseases. If we are chronically stressed or sick, then the contraction becomes chronic as well. Bernie Clark, in his book Your Body, Your Yoga, states:

‘Chronic exposure makes us intolerant to cortisol, which not only fails to control how glucose is released into the blood stream but also no longer can control the degree of inflammation we produce in the body. We become chronically inflamed which creates a host of medical issues. Dr. Timothy McCall, in his book Yoga as medicine, states: “It can be argued that stress is the number one killer in the Western World today”.’ 

Stress is inevitable in our lives and in fact a certain amount of stress is essential for the health of our body, but too much stress and not enough rest causes health problems. In physiological terms we are hyperactive in our SNS and hypoactive in our PNS. This is when our practice becomes imperative as it works to bring harmony between these two systems. Something that other modalities do not focus on or value highly.

One of the ways yoga helps to bring balance to the nervous system is through the breath. ‘Slow breathing, with a roughly equal amount of time breathing in and out, increases the sensitivity of baroreceptors and vagal activation, which lowers blood pressure and reduces anxiety by reducing your SPN and increasing your PSN’ (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov). It’s important that the breath isn’t forced the emphasis is on the slowness of the breath. The slower we breath the more CO2 we have in our blood and we need CO2 for O2 transfer to take place from the blood to the cells and efficiently oxygenate the body (Patrick Mckeon, Oxygen Advantage). This slow breathing is very affective even after a few minutes it dials down the SNS. 

In Yin yoga each pose is like a mini meditation and if we encourage feelings of kindness and love for ourselves this can trigger the vagus nerve, which is directly linked to the PNS. Practicing Yin yoga with the intention of cultivating loving-kindness makes the practice very different to one focusing on ‘stretching’ or ‘getting more flexible’. Working with this intention we can start to create shifts neurologically. We start to adapt the way we think through great awareness of where our mind is in each held pose and consciously implement loving-kindness when the mind drifts to a negative or critical place. When we are actively stopping and changing the way we think we are firing new neurones together in the brain to create new thinking patterns. If you keep coming back to something eventually it becomes ingrained in the mind. Unfortunately it’s easier for our critical mind to keep stirring and coming back to negative thoughts. The Yin practice gives us the space and time to note our thoughts and consciously change the dialogue. 

On an anatomical level our fascia is connected to our immune system and richly supplied with nerves and they’re connected to our nervous system. In fact ‘there are 10 times more nerve endings in our fascia then our muscles’ (P46.Your Body, Your Yoga by Bernie Clarke). We know what is going on with the body because of our nervous system’s interaction with our fascia (this is called proprioception). If we are working the fascia the right way we send the right messages to the nervous system and the brain. Through the holding of poses we are telling the nervous system that it is safe to let go and be in this shape. 

Yin yoga is the antitheses of modern life. Too much negative stress in our lives imbalances our nervous system. In order to bring it back we need to find moments of quiet and activities that allow us to discharge. Yin yoga does exactly this and not only this it gives us the opportunity to connect to ourselves. 


REWIRING YOUR BRAIN

REWIRING YOUR BRAIN

Fundamentally I believe humans would rather not get angry, impatient or be in a negative headspace. Unfortunately in everyday life this can happen often throughout the day. With some determination and a great deal of self-awareness, we have the capacity to change. 

NEURAL PATHWAYS

When certain thoughts and behaviours are repeated neurons fire together creating a ‘neural pathway’. If you’re on the tube and it’s jam packed and you’re hot and people are pushing you, and your reaction is anger, that fires a series of neurons together. The first time you have a reaction to something you are laying down the foundation for that neural pathway. Each time you have the same reaction you are reinforcing the neural pathway and eventually it becomes very easy to have the same angry or negative response. In fact, the response is no longer a unique reaction to a unique stimulus, it is a habit. A well known phrase to describe this is ‘neurons that fire together wire together’. 

The below explanation explains it clearly for us:

“Just think of your brain as a dynamic, connected power grid, with billions of roads and pathways lighting up every time you think, feel or do something. Some of these roads are well travelled. These are your habits; your established ways of thinking, feeling and doing. Every time you think in a certain way, practice a particular task, or feel a specific emotion, you strengthen this road, and it becomes easier for your brain to travel this pathway.”

Scientific research has now proven that we’re able to change the way we think. Where as previously it was thought that the adult mind was fixed and hard to change. Now it has been proven that we can alter our mind patterns by rewiring our neural pathways that regulate our emotions, thoughts, and reactions. This means we can create new neural pathways that lead us to compassion, gratitude, and joy instead of anxiety, fear and anger. With a great deal of awareness, mindfulness and acknowledgement of the present we can begin to reprogram our brain. But this is no easy task!

This process of rewiring your brain by forming new connections and weakening old ones is called “neuroplasticity”. 

The brain is constantly adapting and rewiring itself. Our thoughts and behaviours influence this process. If we consciously change and adapt our thoughts and behaviours we can begin to rewire our brain to a more positive state. SO…..

How can we begin to change our neural pathways?

  1. INTENTION SETTING - think of a situation where your emotions are triggered and set an intention to change the way you react. Set positively phrased intentions (click here for more on intentions). 
  2. VISUALISE - visualise the situation that triggers a negative reaction and then visualise yourself reacting different in that situation. 
  3. PAUSE - when you feel your emotion bubbling. Stop. Pause. Connect To Breath. If we can find a moments pause before we react we can then consciously react to the situation, rather then habitually. 
  4. COMPASSION - once you’ve paused put yourself in their shoes. If it is a person imagine what kind of day they could of had. You never know what someone else has gone through. Dig deep and practice compassion and find kindness for the situation and see how that changes your perspective. 

MY JOURNEY & INSIGHTS ON MEDITATION

My journey & insights on meditation 

Someone sat opposite me at a wedding said to me ‘I don’t believe in meditation, it’s the biggest con’. I spent a minute trying to sway her but then thought fair enough. Sometimes I forget what it must look like from the outside if you have no interest. Being told to sit still for 10 - 30 minutes NO THANKS. 

I started meditation when I was 24, 7 years ago. I did the 10 day free trial on the Headspace app and I loved it. It was a profound experience. I realised that underneath everything going on in my life I was happy and calm somewhere within. And it only took me 10 minutes (at the time) to come to the realisation that everything was ok as it is. I was not drowning under the weight of everything going on, I was not treading water, which I often thought I was. I was just fine. I committed to the 10 days and did it each morning before work. I’ve had moments when I’ve struggled with the practice and moments when I could sit for 40 minutes. There have been times when I feel like I haven’t gotten anything out of it and days when it really helps me land in my body and quieten the noise. 

I have stuck with the practice (albeit at times with a struggle) because I can feel the difference in how I treat myself, and how I react to situations. If I don’t practice and allow things to build up, and don’t allow things to process and filter through, my tone is much harsher. My practice has taught me to notice when my inner critic is fully engaged and that niggly inner voice is getting the better of me. It’s how we interact with our thoughts that is important, how we allow them to manifest and affect us. How we interplay with ourselves affects how we are with others. 

I was chatting to a friend the other day who was upset as a girlfriend of hers said a flippant and hurtful comment that clearly wasn’t thought through. However it was how the girl dealt with the comment after that was most hurtful for my friend. We might say things and think things out of our control (saying is of course more in our control) but it’s how we grab the moment and react to these things, which is important. 

I have random insecure moments when my mind is telling me crazy things, which I know are utterly insane. I have to work hard to accept my insecurity with compassion and then consciously not allow those thoughts to manifest. It might sound unbelievable but only through my practice have I been given the tools to do this. (Not to say that this is the only practice that works but it’s what has served me).

Giving yourself the time to sit allows us the chance to observe what is going on. You might even write some things down that come naturally after meditation. Writing things down in itself is an incredible process for healing and working through stuff. 

Give meditation ago, it takes time so don’t beat yourself. If it’s not for you that’s ok. Figure out what does help you get out of the mind and into the body and in to the present and do that. 

N:B photo taken on the stunning Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe where I meditated each morning to the sunrise. 

TUNING IN NOT SWITCHING OFF 

 

TUNING IN NOT SWITCHING OFF

Often people have the misconception that in yoga we are switching off. In fact we are tuning in!!! YES we are putting down our screens and stepping away from the intensity of our everyday, BUT we are very much not switching off. 

Our culture doesn’t priorities or teach us the skills to listen to the body and be in tune with the bodies needs. Noticing the subtle energy of the body and then developing an understanding of that energy takes practice. What makes yoga so different to other forms of movement or physical exercise (not that yoga has to be done for exercise) is the fact it teaches us to appreciate the nuances of the body. 

Our practice gives us the time and space to bring awareness to intricate details e.g. the connection our feet has to the ground, the sensation of our palms touching, the movement of breath in our body, awareness of thoughts and feelings. It’s not to say we have to move about our day slowly and be hyper aware of everything we do. When we first start to embody this practice (for me also) the aim is to have moments of awareness. If something happens in your day whether frustrating, stirs up sensations of anger, or even if it’s a subtle feeling of guilt or jealousy - we can stop for a moment and observe where we can feel it in the body, and how the body is responding. What areas are we holding tension? Can we soften, release and let go. Locating the sensation is the first step - it's common to clench the jaw, or loose your stomach because of nerves. Once you’ve located the sensation in the body pause and breath deeply, see if you can work through the feeling with breath techniques, meditation, and/or mantra and then either respond to the cause at hand with greater clarity, or let it go. 

On another scale, we might find that we become more in tune to when the body is hungry, tired, stressed, anxious and we start to learn what we actually need to nourish ourselves rather than what we think we need. The art of listening and tuning in will have profound affects as to how you feel about yourself.  

When you next practice yoga remind yourself to keep tuning - checking in with the breath, the jaw, sensations in palms/ feet. You’ll have to reset often and you may even remind yourself ever few seconds but to remember to be aware is the first step. 

 

CONNECT & LISTEN

 

|| CONNECT & LISTEN ||

In modern society we are never taught to listen and observe what’s going on within ourselves. Everything is clouded by something else. Our emotions are clouded by our inner voice, which is affected by cultural boundaries, brand influences, newspaper headlines, what people say do, what they don’t do, opinion after opinion - no wonder it’s hard to hear what's really going on inside. Some days we feel so on top of it and other days it feels like everything is spinning. Sometimes it's hard to let go of thoughts and feelings we don’t desire. As B.K.S Iyengar says in Light on Yoga - The ‘Mind is the product of thoughts which are difficult to restrain for they are subtle and fickle. A thought which is well guarded by a controlled mind brings happiness. To get the best of an instrument, one must know how it works.’ The mind is our instrument and we can retune it through our practice.

Yoga gives us the space and opportunity to connect and listen internally. Through a well-rounded practice of asana, pranayama, mantra and meditation the mind becomes more focused and less distracted. Yoga helps us find moments of deeper connection to self, which we lose in this disconnect modern world. We become better listeners internally and therefore we become better listeners for those around us.

Additionally, when we have a greater connection to ourself we become more aware. Awareness of self is key to our output, to the energy we give off. When we become more aware of our thought patterns, our reactions and root cause of emotions - we can take action and let go of feelings that do not serve us. With continuous practice we learn to manage our mind and we can only do this through a deeper rooted connection to our body and self, which we gain through our practice.

So give yourself the time to connect and listen to the body. It will make a huge difference to your well-being and continued happiness. 

 

HOW & WHY MEDITATION WORKS?

I started meditation about 4 years ago. I committed to the Headspace app intro, 10 minutes for 10 days, and I immediately felt the affects of slowing down the mind. I loved it! The first 10 days were a real eye opener but I know for some clients and friends it has been a tough hurdle to overcome.

Over the past 4 years I have tried to be disciplined and meditate everyday but haven't always succeeded. The last 2 years I have been particularly diligent and I more or less meditate daily and have slowly increased the time I meditate. Some days it flybys and other days it's a real slog. In London, in my flat, I am slightly guilty of ticking meditation off my list but when doing meditation in nature it's a whole new experience. Regardless of where you are, who you are, how happy you are, the benefits of meditation are tenfold. 

I wanted to share this article by Ashley Tuner on the How & Why Meditation Works. 


HOW & WHY MEDITATION WORKS by Ashley Turner 

Meditation is one of the most crucial aspects to cultivate more peace and happiness in life. It is literally the first thing I recommend to all my students and clients to build self- esteem and intuition, hear your truth, make wise, skillful choices, improve communication, increase creativity and productivity and let go.

We can be in one of two states - either the mind is running us or we are running our mind.

My mentor, Dr. Ron Alexander, speaks of MIND STRENGTH and the changes that can occur as we begin the process of training the mind. Mind strength is one of the most empowering tools we can employ to impact and improve all aspects of life.

Here's the breakdown of how meditation works.

There are five major categories of brain waves, each corresponding to different activities we do. Meditation enables us to move from higher frequency brain waves to lower frequency and calm the mind.

Slower wavelengths = more time between thoughts = more opportunity to skillfully choose which thoughts you invest in.

5 Categories of Brain Waves: Why Meditation Works

1. Gamma State - In the Gamma state, the brain waves are at frequencies ranging from approximately 30 – 100Hz. This is the state of hyperactivity in the brain and active learning. Gamma state is the most opportune time to retain information. This is why Tony Robbins and other educators have audiences jumping up and down or dancing around - to increase the likelihood of permanent assimilation of information and lasting change in one's "state".

If overstimulated, it can lead to anxiety.

2. Beta State - The Beta state, which is where we function for most of the day, is associated with the alert mind state of the prefrontal cortex. Brain wave frequencies in this state range from 13 – 30Hz and this is a state of the "working" or 'thinking mind': analytical, planning, assessing and categorising.

3. Alpha State - Brain waves in the Alpha state range from 9 – 13Hz. This is the state where brain waves start to slow down out of thinking mind. We become more calm, peaceful and anchored. We often find ourselves in an "alpha state" after a thorough yoga class, a walk in the woods, a pleasurable sexual encounter or during any activity that helps relax the body and mind. We are lucid, reflective, have a slightly diffused awareness and at peace. This is often accompanied by an inner and/or outer glow - sometimes felt as "spacey". The hemispheres of the brain are more balanced (neural integration).

4. Theta State - When brain waves range from 4 – 8Hz in the Theta state, we are able to begin meditation. This is the point where the verbal/thinking mind transitions to the meditative/visual mind. We begin to move from the planning mind to a deeper state of awareness (often felt as drowsy), with stronger intuition, more capacity for wholeness and complicated problem solving. The Theta state is associated with the 6th Chakra (3rd eye), so in this state we are able to practice visualisation.

5. Delta State - The final state is the Delta state, where brain waves range from 1 – 3 Hz. Tibetan monks that have been meditating for decades can reach this in an alert, wakened phase but most of us reach this final state during deep, dreamless sleep.

A Simple Meditation: How to Meditate

A simple meditation to use to begin the transition from Beta or Alpha to the Theta State is to focus on the breath. The breath and mind work in tandem, so as breath begins to lengthen, brain waves begin to calm and slow down.

1. To begin the meditation, sit comfortably in your chair with your shoulders relaxed and spine tall. Place your hands mindfully on your lap, close your eyes and as much as possible eliminate any stimulus that may distract you.

2. Watch your breath. Simply notice your breath flowing in. Flowing out. Don't try to change it in any way. Just notice.

3. Silently repeat the mantra: "Breathing In. Breathing Out." As your mind begins to wander, draw it back to your breath. Notice that as your breath begins to lengthen and fill your body, your mind begins to calm.

4. Consistency is Key. Try to do this breath meditation for 10 – 15 minutes first thing in the morning and/or at night. Be consistent with your meditation practice, particularly if it is difficult to sit still as you begin. Shorter meditation sessions on a regular basis are more productive than long sessions every few weeks.

Meditation is the #1 Tool I recommend to ALL my clients + students!

PATIENCE

 

|| PATIENCE ||

We could all do with a little bit more patience in our lives. Modern society has not moulded us to be patient. With everything at a tap of a finger, now more than ever, we need to practice being patient not just for our own sanity, but for our nearest and dearest too. I have been working with being more patient over the last few weeks and it’s such a relief when you give yourself permission to relax and let go. 

Some of the smallest things can be SO grating whether it’s standing in the queue at Sainsbury’s, getting on public transport, walking behind a very slow person on a busy pavement, being patient when your family winds you up, or being patient with ourselves in reaching goals. It’s often the closest people to us who are on the receiving end of our impatience and being a little bit more patient will transform our relationships with others and our own internal relationship. 

I did a 10 day meditation recently with Headspace focusing on patience, which has really helped me manage and recognise when I’m being unnecessarily impatient. It’s such a relief to be able to let go of that feeling and to continue with whatever you’re doing without frowning, or tensing up in the body. 

The meditation trains you to recognise and note to yourself when your mind is wondering off on a tangent as ‘thinking’. By recognising that we’re thinking we become more aware of the patterns of our mind. When you’re feeling impatient, practice noting to yourself that what you’re feeling is just ‘impatience’, and then let it go (appreciate at times this is easier said then done). When our mind is boggled with negative thoughts its very easy to let it spiral. If we can become aware of when we’re spiralling and note that then it’s easier to let go and move on from the feeling. It takes practice but it really works and it feels so good to realise that you don’t have to be so tense. 

My favourite saying at the moment is ‘life is your own creation’, and if we want to be impatient we can be and if we choose to let go a little more, we can…..with practice. Half the time my thoughts get the better of me, but the other half my practice comes into action. 

If you’re out and about it’s pretty hard to drop to the floor and do yoga. But if you’ve had a long and stressful day, and you want some chill stretch time at home, I find the below poses soothing and calming. 

 
 

RAG DOLL 

So simple and easy. Bend the knees and allow the torso to drape over the legs. The feet are hip distance apart, make sure the weight is spread evenly in the feet, and the knees track over the second toe. Either grab opposite elbows or let the arms dangle. Release the neck and allow the weight of the head to encourage the torso to lengthen as the hips lift. Option to interlace the hands behind the back. It’s a little bit more intense but a nice shoulder opener. 

HAPPY BABY (Ananda Balasana) 

In happy baby allow the lower back kiss the mat and at the same time the neck and shoulders to be soft. If holding the outside edges of the feet causes tension in the neck and shoulders, or the lower back to raise off the mat, then hold the ankles or further down the legs. Alternatively bring the knees wide and into the chest, placing your hands on top of the knees. Close the eyes breath and let go. 

BADDHA KONASANA Restorative 

Make a diamond shape with your legs and place the souls of your feet together. Your feet should be about half a metre or more from you pelvis. Bring your head towards your feet and round your back. Either place your hands either side of your feet, or grab your toes and gently draw yourself towards your feet. This pose is also great with a bolster so you can rest your head. Either place the bolster between your legs at an angle between your forehead and against the floor. 

SETU BADDHA KONASANA 

Come to lying on your back, place the souls of your feet together, and let the knees fall out wide. For a slight chest opener you can place your arms above your head and grab opposite elbows. Alternatively place the right hand on the belly and left hand on the heart. If you start to feel discomfort in the hip flexors lengthen your legs, or place the souls of the feet on the ground and bend your knees. 

 

STAY CURIOUS TO BE PRESENT

 

|| Stay curious to be present ||

One of the main reasons why I loved Burning Man so much (which many of my dear friends know about) is that it brings a child like curiosity out in you. There is so much random, beautiful, amazing, interesting, inspiring, sensational.. you get the point, things going on. It’s mind blowing. You suddenly find yourself being this curious kid cycling round the desert experiencing things for the first time, and it lasts a week!!! It's the first and only time in my life that for a whole week I was really living in the present moment and didn't even think about 'real life' for a second, until we had left.(It helped having no access to the internet or signal). If only we can find a way for every moment in daily life to be this interesting and engaging!

Even though routine can be great and work has it’s up and downs as does all relationships. We can still enter everything with a sense of curiosity. Even in our asana practice…. Even holding Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2) for the umpteenth time you can enter it with a sense of curiosity. Each day is different, the body feels different, moves differently, is experience different things, each day something changes. Developing that sense of curiosity into everything that you do is a skill but also helps you be more focused and engaged. It’s like an ad blocker from boredom, negativity, judgemental thoughts, anxiety, doubt… you name it!

It’s something I’m working on and trying to bring into my everyday. Be curious in the moment and stop worrying or thinking about other things that most likely are irrelevant to that moment.

 

 

FLUSH IT OUT... DON'T HOLD ON

 

|| FLUSH IT OUT… DON’T HOLD ON ||

In Western culture there is a disconnect between the mind and body. We’re not taught to be present in our body and listen to our body to then take appropriate action. From a young age we are taught to control and absorb our emotions. We’re taught to ‘suck it up’, ‘be strong’, ‘act like a grown up’, it’s not deemed ok to cry, shake and release our emotion.

Holding onto negative thoughts and emotions creates negative patterns in our body and actions. It doesn’t do any good for anyone. We get so used to reacting to things in a certain way and dealing with our emotions in a certain way we forget to absorb the situation and deal with the issue in a way that we desire to. Yoga has helped me and taught me to become more conscious of my emotional patterns and over time and through practice I’ve been able to manage my reactions and thought process due to greater awareness. As B.K.S Iyengar said ‘Yoga is a powerful tool for liberating ourselves from unwanted, ingrained patterns’

Through our asana practice we can understand our internal nature better, and through breath we integrate the mind and body, becoming more aware of our body. In order to prevent patterns from being repeated we strengthen our body and do meditation to bring awareness to when our body is being affected by fluctuations of the mind. Yoga allows us to slow down and recognise our thought process. Patterns that are ingrained in our nature will not change overnight but yoga allows us to become aware of them and recognise patterns that we want to change or evolve. Over time it is possible to change negative patterns into positive ones and transform the way we see situations.

How we are today is a reflection of our past. How we allow our memory to affect us is key to how we live our lives.

‘Memory is useful if it helps to prepare you for the future, to know whether or not you are moving forward. Use it to develop. Memory is useless if it brings about a repetition of the past. Repetition means to live in memory. If repetition is taking place, then memory is only the means to know whether we are fully aware and evolving. Never think of yesterday. Only go back if you feel that you are doing something, wrong. Use yesterday’s experience as a springboard. Living in the past or longing to repeat previous experiences will only stagnate intelligence.’ Quote by B.K.S. Iyengar

So the moral of the story is to practice yoga of course…. But even if it’s not through yoga, work to develop greater awareness and understanding of the body so we can catch negative thought patterns. Only through greater awareness can we flush out negative thoughts and make room for positive action! 

 

DAILY RITUALS FOR INNER PEACE

DAILY RITUALS FOR INNER PEACE

Here are some of my daily rituals that keep me on track and help me find a sense of inner peace. If I have a hectic weekend or a manic week with work and I find my head is in a bit of fluster I come back to my rituals and check in with myself - they help me see more clearly when my judgement is clouded by my thoughts. 

1.     DAILY INTENTION – We're often telling ourselves what we are not and what we can't do or achieve. Choose what you want to be each day! Whether that's strong, courageous, kind, flexible, understanding, patient... Only when we start telling ourselves we are these things do we start to feel and act that way. The brain is a muscle we can train but it takes time and dedication for patterns to shift. In my daily yoga practice I choose a positive word each day and when my mind goes on a tangent I bring myself back to my word for that day.

2.     MEDITATION/MINDFULNESS: Sitting for 10 minutes a day really does calm the mind and help us see more clearly. However, if meditation isn't for you there are other ways other than sitting still that we can practice to focus the mind. You can find stillness in the mind by being mindful when you eat, walk, brush your teeth, shower, or use colouring in meditation books, which help to ground your thoughts to the very moment. We can then begin to use this skill of grounding the mind when we feel anxious, stressed or negative. As soon as these thoughts arise practice tuning into the body and be as present as you can be. Often we realise that our mind has gone on a tangent and by drawing it back in we can deal with the issue at hand with more clarity. 

3.     TIME OUT: Try and find time to yourself to relax even if it's for a few minutes. In the winter I love to take a bubble bath, light scented candles and chill, maybe watch an episode of my favourite programme. In the summer I tend to sit on the balcony and have a glass of wine or go for a stroll in the park. Treat yourself to time that is not rushed. Time that you consciously choose to unwind. It's so tempting to jam pack our lives but try and slow down, and treat yourself to some chill time that's not necessarily hungover time. 

4.    POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS: Feed yourself daily with goodness. Positive affirmation cards are a great way to start the day on a good foot. Pick one each day, read it in the morning and carry it around with you. Whenever you feel a wobble or need something uplifting or some encouraging words, read your card. It’s so simple but such an uplifting way to start the day. 

5.      LETTING OFF STEAM:  If we feel angry or frustrated and our head is spinning having something to turn to that's physical that will help clear your mind is super helpful. For me exercise always makes me feel better. Whether that's playing sport, jumping on a bike and cycling round the park, going for a run or sweating it out in yoga - flushing it out and moving your body will always make you feel a millions times better. But if you feel absolutely exhausted don't force yourself! 

I hope the above helps at times when the mind begins to spiral, and I completely understand that it can feel impossible at times to slow down the thoughts and calm the mind. But if you keep working at it it will become easier! 

5 TIPS TO HELP WITH SLEEP

5 TIPS TO HELP WITH SLEEP

Not being able to fall asleep is one of the most frustrating and upsetting experiences. When I suffered from sleeping issues I used to envy (I still do at times) my friends whose heads would hit the pillow and they would be out until the morning. I often thought that if I could sleep properly every night then I would be super woman – I’d be able to do everything I could do and more.

 

I suffered badly with sleep for about 5 years. It started during third year at university when I was working hard for my finals and I felt as though I hadn't slept for 6 months. Obviously I did sleep but it was often a very light sleep or not noticeable for me. I still suffer from the odd night or a few days of bad sleep but I have a few go to tips to help me unwind and settle down.

 

1.     My first recommendation is to read ‘Over Coming Insomnia and Sleep Problems’ by Colin Espie. This book changed my life! It’s a 6 week CBT course and you read a chapter a week adding something to your evening routine each week. You have to be fairly disciplined especially for the 6 weeks but as your sleep returns to normal you can gradually stop doing some of the exercises or reduce how often you do them. This course is great to do and the skills you learn are ones you can reference back to on restless nights or periods of bad sleep.

£10.68
By Colin Espie

2.     If I’ve had a very eventful day sometimes I come home and my mind and body are racing. On these days I have learnt that I have to be really selective about what I do in the evening in order to wind down. I won’t watch anything that will get my heart rate up or get me over excited (The Walking Dead has caused many sleepless nights). It’s fine to watch TV but watch something chilled, maybe watch something off the laptop in the bath in dim lighting or with candles. I even find a really gripping book will keep me awake. So make the right decisions when you come home and really enjoy your evening. That might be cooking a lovely meal, watching a comedy, have a chat with a friend. If you can avoid social media for 2 hours before bed then do!

3.     I used to fear going to bed and would either go to bed 2 hours before I needed to or avoid going to bed at all. Try and keep a normal routine even if you’re worried that you’re going to be awake for hours. It’s important that you don’t let the fear of sleep rule your life. Make your room and your bed appealing. Make sure your room is a nice temperature, I like to sprinkle lavender essential oil on my pillow, light a scented candle, and I always have ear plugs and eye masks handy – incase I’m feeling sensitive to sound and light.

4.     Once you’ve gone to bed if you can’t fall asleep after 15-20minutes or if you’re feel fidgety then get out of bed and go read in the living room in low lighting. This is one of the hardest things to do when you’re warm in bed, but almost every time I do this when I can’t sleep I get back into bed and fall straight asleep. It really helps you clear your mind for a few minutes and stops you from allowing yourself to be restless and your thoughts to continue to tick over.

5.     Try your very best not to get frustrated or upset if you can’t sleep. This took me quite a while to get good at but what you have to say to yourself and believe, is that you will sleep at some point, it may not be that night but at some point in the near future. Getting frustrated will only make the situation worse. 

5 of my favourite yoga postures to help with sleep to follow soon!