Hello lovely humans
How are we all?
If your experience of 2021 has been anything like mine so far it may be that you need cheering up a little… if you do I thought at the start of my post this week I would share the 5 things that have really lifted my mood lately when I feel a little bit glum or overwhelmed. Do them all!
1. Sing and dance to songs from musicals whilst imagining you have been cast as your favourite character. The more flamboyant the performance the better.
Yep. No embarrassment to admit this. It is something that I do many times a week. And every time I am in car. And in the shower. I have always loved the escapism and, often, humour of musical theatre … since the days of being 4 or 5 and would sit curled up on my great grandma’s living room floor watching The King and I or Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, totally enrapt in the magic.
These days my teenage daughter has developed a similar love for musicals and I love to make her cringe and laugh by parading around pretending I am, most often right now, Anne Boleyn in The Six or (my favourite to do) King George in Hamilton (yes I ALWAYS want to be the baddie!)
Be warned, you will likely develop a wild ego that believes you could 100% play these characters and do the songs justice. Until your daughter switches the song off half way through an aggressive crescendo and you realise what you actually sound like… still, great fun!
2. Put on fancy dress. Combine 1 + 2 for pure joy,
I love dressing up. My latest costume is a rather disappointing frog. The childlike playfulness it brings to me is so so uplifting. Again, my children pretend to not like it when I dress up as a frog and chase them around with my long froggy fingers but I know they really love it. (And if not I promise to pay for their therapy when they are older!)
3. Throw out the rules.
I am not sure what has happened to me (actually I know exactly what has happened to me but it’s too long a story for now) but I am feeling more rebellious by the day.
If you have contracts for yourself, that you ‘should’ do certain things in a certain way. That you have to eat a certain way or dress a certain way, or get up at a certain time… just explore the concept of sometimes saying ‘fuck it’ and doing exactly what you want to do instead. Pancakes with Nutella for lunch. Star jumps instead of meditation. Have a bloody lie in. You deserve it.
4. Switch off the TV or enjoy something funny.
Stop watching TV for a while. It sucks for your brain. Too much bad news. Too many serial killers. If you do watch it, stay with comedy. I don’t really watch much TV but at the moment I am slowly working my way though Parks and Recreation (I know, many years later than everyone else) and find it makes me laugh out loud. Also watch Douglas by Hannah Gadsby on Netflix. Absolutely hilarious.
Running, for me, works better and faster than yoga, often, for improving my mood. Especially when it’s not quite the weather for yoga outdoors. But a run in the rain? Has me grinning like a Cheshire Cat. You don’t have to go far or fast. Put on some excellent music and run like (your interpretation of) the wind. When I feel particularly in need of blowing off steam I like to listen to this song as I run… I don’t even like the song much at all… I just like how I feel when I listen to it and run run run. Listen on Spotify: Icona Pop: I Love It
Altered States: The Breath
I write in the midst of a training weekend. I am on the first to two modules of Altered States: The Breath, with Carolyn Cowan.
When I first went to a Kundalini yoga class it was, I believe, the breath practise that most fascinated me.
I’d discovered diaphragmatic breathing a couple of years before as I worked through a particularly anxious period of my life. At that time I had realised that I had been breathing backwards, sucking my stomach in as I inhaled, for, likely, most of my life.
Becoming aware of that unlocked a lot of understanding for me about various things that had always helped me to feel better: playing the flute, singing (badly) as I did the housework or in the shower… things that make it pretty tricky not to engage the diaphragm and take over the breath in a conscious way.
When I first came across Carolyn on social media it was the training I most wanted to do. Ever since, I have always had some obstacle in the way, unable to make the dates. So I’m really thrilled to be doing this, to be going deeper in to what is an absolutely crucial element of my teaching and the classes I offer.
This weekend we are focusing on low oxygen breathing, on breaths that guide us gently toward presence and stillness. I say those words so often here, on Instagram and, most of all, in my classes… presence and stillness. And for good reason. To be comfortable, rooted, in the present moment with how you feel in the body and mind… with how you feel about yourself and your world, is the aim of all I share. It sounds so incredibly simple, and it is also my experience that very many of us do not even realise how unbearable we find the present moment and so reading this you may even think ‘why would I want or need that?’
If, when your companion leaves the room for a moment, you reach for your phone, or a magazine, or switch on the TV… if you need sound to distract you to fall asleep… if you find your mind continually focused on what you did ‘wrong’ (or ‘right’) in a past moment… perhaps even in a class after a posture or breath you’re wondering why you found it so hard or wondering if the teacher saw you drop the posture, or wondering if you did it ‘right’… these are examples of avoiding presence and of seeking safety outside of yourself. And we all do it. Stuck in the pain of the past and the fear of the future. Still softness, gentle breaths, silence… this is what I am spending my weekend going deeply in to and, for me, it’s an experience that I feel humbled by and grateful for in every moment I can find that presence.
It’s a beautiful experience.
New Free Class Time
From Saturday, 13th March, I begin a new free class. 8am on Saturday mornings for one hour. This class is accessible to everyone who is signed up to my email newsletter and so if you get emails from me once a week already you do not need to do anything … I will be sending out the link for class on Friday evenings.
If you would like to join and you are not yet signed up you can do that here:
This week I also teach at 7pm on Thursday and 10am on Friday. You can book those classes here:
This Life Divine
The online event, This Life Divine, was a brilliant experience back in January when I taught a class on using affirmation to aid in neural plasticity. And it is back, this coming Easter weekend. I cannot wait. This Life Divine is a two day event that brings together yoga teachers, breath practitioners, psychotherapists, a Kirtan leader (leading us through an hour of chanting . . .) who are all experts in the field of addition and/or anxiety recovery. The focus of this event is very much on the tools we can use on our journey through our behaviours… and the courageous steps taken to begin to put the behaviours down.
You can find out more here:
The event is for anyone who may identify as having an anxious or addictive personality… but what does that mean?
The addictive or anxious personality is a phrase that describes a state of existing in the world where we have built up a ‘suit of armour’ in the form of safety states (and it is most often plural) which may include anything from being very anxious to having issues with food, shopping, social media… other people… that are used in an attempt to regulate the, likely very fractured, sense of self. We look for safety outside of us by using things that often feel like they aren’t ‘optional.’
It’s tricky to be concise in describing what these safety states could be because each of us will have our own set of behaviours and they really could be anything… from needing our partners to take care of us to being very angry all the time, to needing alcohol to get to sleep, to binge eating, to being unable to go an hour without checking social media, to being obsessed with and horrified by the news… the thing that unites them all is that they create suffering, which is a tricky thing, because quite bizarrely, the suffering is so familiar that it feels safer than the opposite . . . that thing again, presence, stillness, NOW.
The lens through which I have been trained to explore this is that all such behaviour is a response to the primal wound/narcissistic wound/ inner child. It is a response to ‘what happened’ that made us feel violated, abandoned, rejected, shamed… That could be one thing that happened to us. It could be an experience that was prolonged / systemic. It could be being bullied at school, any adverse experience of childhood, it could be many things that happened over the course of our lives .
Someone with an addictive or anxious personality may or may not have a history of substance addiction but it is likely they will have experienced many different manifestations of acting out/in behaviours (e.g. an anxiety ‘disorder’, an eating ‘disorder,’ self harming behaviour and sexual acting out) that are all ways of attempting to ease their own suffering.
Suffering is key. Someone ‘normal’ (whatever that means) may engage in behaviours that cause suffering in someone with an addictive or anxious personality and be ‘fine.’ When the behaviour has its routes in an attempt to feel safe and when it causes suffering then it is a safety state and a playing out of the addictive or anxious personality.
All of this is a result of what can happen to the body, brain and our emotional responses when we have experienced trauma, abuse or shame. Often the safety states are so ‘normal’ to the individual with an addictive personality that they do not even notice that they are in high-alert 24/7.
The addictive or anxious personality, and the way in which it plays out, is not a ‘disease’ that cannot be overcome. Indeed it can be our gold – the aspect of our story from which we can create change not only for ourselves but also for others.
And that’s what This Life Divine is all about.
I cannot wait.
Something that I am really spending time with at the moment is an exploration of all the avenues we can explore as yoga teachers in making the yoga class safe, accessible and welcoming for everyone.
I am particularly fascinated by adjustments… not always easy to study in the realms of Kundalini where postures do not always cross over with other disciplines and where little has been written that is pertinent to what and how I teach. I have found some incredible books, though. And am also enrolled on some trainings over coming months in this realm.
My bedside reading has mainly been about maintaining boundaries, creating inclusive classes and the many millions of ways we can use yoga blocks to make posture more comfy and cool for all.
Here are a few of the best books I have read on the subject:
I could write, as always, for days but I’ll leave it there for now.
Do get in touch, leave a comment, send me an email.
I LOVE to hear from you. And hope to see you in class this week.
With ALL my love