Why do I believe that the yoga, wellness, and spiritual ‘world’ is really scary? And what, on earth, am I doing here?

I’ve been missing in action. Not only from writing, publicly, on my blog and on Instagram, but from the digital realms more broadly. I stopped using WhatsApp. Started leaving my phone in a drawer. I have made my screen time, beyond briefly checking in with friends and family, to be reserved solely for work.  

The reason why was initially very simple. I wanted to take a little time off to clear some clutter. Literally and figuratively. And that I have. 

Beyond that, though, I needed space to think about what the fuck I am doing with ‘this’. I love the universe I have crafted in how I present my yoga offer online. It is fun. It makes me happy. Me.



But what am I doing with the presentation of myself, in my magical and mystical kingdom of tigers and colour, as I call myself a yoga teacher and sit down every week to tell people how to breathe…?

What the fuck am I doing here? 

I believe in the value of stretching and breathing as a means to help regulate emotion and release stress and tension. 

Sharing tools I have learned, with humans who are walking a path through things like anxiety or addiction, or just modern life, is cool. 

I believe they do help and I believe that because: 

a. I believe that they help me 

and  

b. because what I teach, in essence, are simple embodiment practises that hopefully help us to become more aware of how our body (and mind) respond to emotional triggers and the environments that we find ourselves in. 

That’s it. I will not, now, make any claims beyond that. I hope I never have.

Such practises are studied scientifically and, broadly speaking (and not always entirely), considered in such study to be helpful. 

The mind–body connection exists. Our understanding of how they interact is not conclusive and new theory, thought, research and study emerges all the time. I read as widely as I can on what comes up, and I do my best to be well informed, but, essentially, all I have to offer is based on the simple premise that breathing consciously and stretching your body will help you soothe yourself. Repeating such actions regularly, when you notice you’re anxious, or notice you’re stressed, or just because you like them, can quite probably help in creating longer term change in how you feel. 

I bring in other practises I enjoy, like affirmation, and I have taken time recently to reflect more on the validity of that for me. In the personal, I enjoy and value them. The value of using them has been studied, relative to concepts such as their ability to activate the reward centres in your brain, and, by degree, shown to be interesting from a psychological perspective. In how I use and present them, and please say if you believe or have experienced otherwise, they are harmless and brought in as nothing more than another (optional) way we can consider our relationship to the present moment.

Whether I re-evaluate the role of affirmation in my classes or not, the core of what I do is breath and stretching based. 

How helpful is any of it? 

In therapy, through the NHS, diaphragmatic breathing was the thing that first worked well for me in extreme anxiety. To be able to share such practises is, when well boundaried, I hope, helpful. 



It helps quite a lot. That’s my informed opinion. Not as a cure for such states of being, but as something that can help us in supporting ourselves as we deal with them. 



What I have struggled with, though, what I have been surprised by, offended by, challenged by, and had to take time to reflect on my position with, is how absolutely ghastly and exploitative I believe the yoga, wellness and spirituality world to be. OK, hang fire… not entirely. But not only in the darkest corners, either. 

Some caveats to my fiery rant… 

As I have begun to put down more of my own safety states, working on things such as the courage to be disliked and a predisposition to endlessly fawning as a means to keep myself safe, a kinda fiery and feisty aspect of myself has been given permission (by me) to make itself known publicly. And if I am feisty about anything, right now, it is about this… 

…the yoga, spirituality and wellness world’s teachers, gurus and guides need to stop making unqualified claims, to vulnerable people, about what they are offering. They need to stop selling conscious lies, and more often notice and acknowledge where they have unconsciously misled.

They need to be held accountable. And more of us, from within this world, who can see, who know, that the emperor’s homeopathy tablets are as curative as Tangfastic Haribo, need to say so, more often, as he posts another nude selfie on Instagram, brandishing his oscillococinum tablets as a cure for Covid with the hashtags #healingjourney #vulnerablepost #linkinbio

Before I go on I would like to caveat what I want to say with the following: 

One: This whole topic is nuanced. Extremely so. I have no intention of pouring scorn on every single individual who creates a business, an income, or who finds community for themselves, in these realms. 

It would be extremely hypocritical if that were my position. I am ‘one of them’… I have been there, on both sides, as both an extremely eager (and, in my case, dysfunctional) thin, white, financially privileged, yoga student, sucked into the grandiose quest toward some kind of awakening or enlightenment, and as a teacher who, having invested hugely both financially and energetically, in training to share something I love, am working toward seeing if I can make it a career. It’s definitely not easy to do.

Two: The important and valuable line of enquiry on the appropriation and capitalisation of yoga as a practise is relevant to this topic. And is something I will write more on. For the purposes of today’s post I am considering the dangers of big promises, specifically, and whilst I acknowledge the privilege issue in this post, I am aware there is much more to be said. 

Three: I am not perfect. Loads of what I have done to this point is not what I would do now. I have said things that I wish I had not.

I have cited or quoted people I did not do my due diligence on, in terms of what those people stand for. I get things wrong. 

Four: I am also a marketer, by trade. And a good one. I know that using the fear and then soothing it is a marketing ploy used far beyond yoga and spirituality… and an effective one. Almost every time we decide to pay someone for something, as humans, it is based not just on need, but also emotions.

I find it distasteful in all realms to use fear to sell and, actually, more exploitative than ever in this one. 

The terror isn’t necessary…

I used to be the Digital Manager for a relatively large education publisher. When I took on the role, the marketers that were already in the team had learned from other arms of the publisher (one of those was sports science where marketing was often framed around avoiding injury, for example) that creating fear and anxiety sold. 

Our audience were education professionals, teachers, head teachers, governors, people who worked in special educational needs…

To scare them was pretty easy. New legislation came out all the time in their professional world, so we could hang marketing messages on that, for example. Ofsted was the enemy. Our expensive subscription newsletter, or book, or conference, could simplify endless, new, complex, information that they needed to know for the enemy to be kept at bay, their job security intact, their reputation safe. 

Early in my role, I did some in-depth analysis on the marketing messages that were best working. Those that were increasing engagement markers. It became apparent that, actually, the fear based model wasn’t the way to go. Indeed, after some initial testing, pretty quickly, we realised that our audience loved to be reminded of why they fell in love with being a teacher to begin with. About their passion for their role. About the joy of igniting a love of learning. Flipping our message, we made the business more profitable whilst making our roles within the field less offensive. 

I mention this as an example because the fear used in the yoga and wellness space is often particularly gross. 

Here, the offer is so often about love, care and belonging. So often about human stories of loss and trauma and vulnerability. Because here there is a huge amount of suffering, and, in that, a huge amount of opportunity for exploitation, boundary violation, and untruth. 

This world is almost entirely unregulated

Despite the government being supposedly  ‘out to get us’, huge numbers of people are signposted to things like yoga, mindfulness and meditation to support them on their path for all kinds of experiences ranging from mental health support to physical injury recovery, by services like the NHS. 

And, of course, most classes, in isolation, will be lovely. The teachers kind and well informed. But then, having had that positive experience, many move further into the spirituality and wellness world… led either by a teacher they meet or by the algorithms. And then, there, things can very quickly change. 

That is what happened to me. I went to classes called ‘Yoga For Health and Well-being’ as someone who had no real experience with the spiritual universe, wearing my running gear and in a vulnerable place emotionally. 

It was cool. It happened to be run by a Kundalini Yoga teacher. 

Less than two years later I was chanting Sikh mantra for hours a day, covering my head, speaking differently, dressing differently, obsessed by organic, crystals, oils and Malas. My mind was completely fucked up and my body was malnourished. This was confirmed after multiple investigations in hospital as to why I could suddenly feel many of the lymph nodes in my body and why my blood markers were off. I was nothing more than deathly thin as a result of not eating properly. Despite doing everything I was told to do to be happy, healthy and holy. 

Here, in these realms, when fear is used, it is exploitative, often, because what is being sold is so regularly a lie. And, in extremis, puts people at risk of harm. 

Trust is the enemy 

If you pay attention to the captions under posts and in emails that flood your inbox, very much of the spiritual and wellness offer relies on us to not trust our realities. And then on selling us an alternate one. 

Not trusting yourself and your reality is what anxiety is. So, to put that another way… 

Much of the spiritual and wellness offer relies, entirely, on creating anxiety and then soothing it for you. At a cost.  

A few examples I have seen today… 

Someone tells us that if we don’t deal with our karma now we will come back and play out the same stories with the same people again and again. “But if you pay me to work with you, through hypnotherapy, we can deal with all your past lives and you can live from here with the promise of an afterlife of bliss.”

Imagine telling that story to someone with a sex abuse history… if you don’t pay me for this you will be fated to play it all out again! 

Countless more suggest that the food supply is tainted. That what and how we eat is wrong. So, of course, the answer is to buy this organic, juice, detox. Or those supplements. Or to follow them through a ’30 Day Journey’ to some kind of digestive-holiness. 

The one that upsets me is the guru that tell us that western medicine is self-serving and out to get you. At some point, of course, you need to come to my seminar that will tell you how you can heal yourself with the power of your thoughts. 

In all cases, if you just do this, or buy that, or drink this, or take that supplement, or meditate this specific way, every day, for an ultra specific amount of time, you can create the agency that the distrust they have introduced you to, or shone a light on for you, removed. 

Some people, many people, really believe in what they sell. Be it essential oils or tarot readings or past life regression. And what’s wrong with that? 

I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. It can be lovely. My own belief system is unimportant in any of this, but I can see how very many of these practices are tools for being more present to the moment. I love oils. I like crystals. I even did a course in reading tarot cards. It becomes problematic when someone is harming others with it. By making false claims. When it is sold as fact with grandiose testimonials about healing cancer or curing COVID I begin to feel uncomfortable, and when it is sold in direct opposition, as an alternative, to known, scientifically studied, and regulated modes of treatment that are considered best practise (and, in the UK, with the NHS, largely free) I do get angry. 

The spiritual and wellness world very often creates distrust that takes any existing sense of agency away because ‘they’, those outside, are not telling you the truth (the government, the doctors, the lizard people etc.) 

… And, the wonderful thing is, If you do what they do instead, what they sell, you will not only save yourself but make yourself separate as part of a new gang of people who know ‘the truth’. 

It’s not always fear that is used. Sometimes it is love. Love Bombing. The promise of being a part of something special. Or of being special yourself. Sometimes it is more subtle forms of science denialism. Sometimes it is just utter insanity. Indeed, often it is that. 

Be a part of our community… 

It’s the sense of belonging to this new, ‘knowing’ community that is perhaps the most enticing aspect of all. Particularly over the last few years, as we were all ‘locked’ away. 

But the communities are so transient and, in my view, usually fake. 

Yoga communities, in particular, are insanely fragile in terms of holding shared values. 

Many of us may be aware of the term ‘spiritual butterfly…’ the ’seeker’ who flaps their sparkly wings from one guru to the next, to uncurl their magical proboscis and drink enough sweet nectar from each to satisfy their need for one specific type of ‘healing modality’, before taking flight down the Spiritual-Bypass to elegantly land at the lotus feet of the next. 

If you do a teacher training, a retreat, a workshop, you can meet interesting people and can come to ‘love each other’ or be ‘family’ through bonding experiences and powerful practices that make you feel… well, high. This does create, initially, a sense of community. 

Cacao and Crying 

But the industry, the field, is largely about the personal. However much it loves the word community. We sign up for a workshop about dealing with our ‘shadow side’ and we feel we have made some big leap during it because of all it stirs up, but when the group bonding experience of cacao and crying has become a distant memory, and we sit with all the unresolved shit and behaviour we will do anything to not really think about, we don’t seek out a trained therapist but, instead, scan the crowded room of the wellness space for the next guru with the next big promise on the latest buzz phrase. 

Along the way, many will now talk about their experiences of their life and emotions in a completely open way online. The wellness, yoga or spiritual Instagram feed has widely become about oversharing. As an aside, I question how healthy this is. Social media has really changed the way we think about our private information, and how we negotiate our own privacy boundaries is important but very, very, easy to become unconscious of.

Terror, disgust, sadness, frustration and distrust, it can seem, are not emotions to regulate but something to use to help sell the story we all love from our gurus in 2022 of ‘I’m human too… look at this picture of me crying.’ 

In my opinion, there is a danger, a real danger, in gurus who paint themselves as the gal pal next door. With them we develop curious para-social relationships that feel safe and feel personal… they really can feel real. So when they tell us that they can help us in overcoming experiences that range from sexual abuse to suicidal ideation on retreat, with them, for thousands of pounds, we feel we can trust them because they, through our eyes, are a friend. 

Today I saw the offer of a retreat that was sold as being for such things, for those with stories of trauma, abuse, depression… the facilitator’s qualifications were a 220 hour yoga teacher training and a degree in Media Studies.  This, in my opinion, is not right. The extremes of human suffering, to explore them, to say you can work with them to heal the other, it is to invite the other to be extremely vulnerable. And if you do not have the training nor the supervision to do so, it feels, to me, a dangerous and scary thing.

Is it all about the money?

The humility inherent, and the self-reflection required, to be in this world and not take any kind of a guru position, or make big claims, as a teacher, is a thing. A job. An effort. 

You have to hold yourself accountable. Because no one else will. The world of yoga is almost entirely unregulated. Unsupervised. And, as more and more mainstream sources signpost those in suffering to things like yoga and meditation, the seduction of positioning oneself as a hero or saviour can be alluring. And I think it can be done unconsciously, in trying to help, in doing what is asked of you. At least initially.

People often want you to tell them what to do. 

People ask me… 

…for meditations for their depression

…for a ‘Kriya’ to help them through toxic divorce

They ask me about awakening their Kundalini and they ask me about healing their trauma. 

Me! A self proclaimed maniac who spent 36 years in constant anxiety, who once chanted appropriated mantra for an hour in her shed to a dead pigeon she felt compelled to ‘help’ pass over, and, having woken up to how cultish my thoughts and life were, now spends much of her time doing laundry and wandering up and down a busy polluted road in a West Midlands suburb to ‘hunter gather’ Wotsits from the local Sainsburys for my insatiable offspring, 

I will never give you an answer. But I can see, have felt, how easy it would be to do so. Not because you think you’re a saviour, but because we are so programmed to be amenable, helpful, friendly. And I want to be friendly, generous, kind. I do. But it’s about having edges. Clear boundaries. A line. The reflection, always, on if a question would be better suited to a mental health professional or a doctor instead.

I will never be your guru, soz

If you have depression, go to your doctor. Any breath based meditation (which is the only kind I teach), and you will find millions on Google, could potentially help you feel softer and more present. But none, in my opinion, will ‘heal’ you. 

To take this stance, for me, is a vow… I will never, ever, tell you what you should do about anything … beyond the remit of using my training (which was excellent) to offer ways of approaching a specific yoga posture or breath comfortably… and even then with the caveat that you know your own body best and if you have a health issue, to check with your doctor about what is appropriate for you and what is not. 

I will never, ever, be your guru. It is hilarious to me to consider anyone would want to make me one. But just in case… that’s my edge. I’m not for you. 

Abusive?  

There is a loop, for the western guru, between scaring (or creating distrust) and then consoling people… which is similar, I believe, to abuse cycles. 

It appeals so much to those who already lean toward not trusting themselves and their reality, to anxiety, because of their trauma history. And if you look around in wellness and spirituality, it is filled, overflowing, with people with a trauma history. 

It is all built around privilege and entitlement too. You have to have a certain amount of privilege to fully engage. Wellness is expensive. Spirituality has a price tag. It is all largely able bodied. Largely straight. Largely white. Largely thin. To be able to feel ‘part of’ the world is a privilege. To be able to afford to go along with what they sell is a privilege too. 

On each individual quest for spiritual enlightenment there seems to be some tie to a really weird concept of manifesting success and purity, where wealth and health is a reflection of our spiritual accomplishments. 

With their manifested wealth (I do often wonder where all the money comes from) people keep going on, and putting on, more and more workshops and trainings, diversifying what they offer into ever increasingly questionable territory (the ‘childhood trauma’ realms are such a territory that makes me uncomfortable when not coming from someone with appropriate training and supervision) as a means to keep the machine going. 

The work is never done

It seems that to be a yoga, meditation or mindfulness teacher is never enough any more. The payoff of all that fluttering around the spiritual bypass is that you can tack on all kinds of additional labels to do with healing and guiding, releasing trauma, and holding space. 

Be fucking accountable…

I will go back again to the word accountability. Where is the accountability in any of this? No one is looking out for the vulnerable person on a mental health journey who starts at yoga and is quickly being sold the promise of being healed from trauma by those with no appropriate qualifications and no regulatory body.

It terrifies me. And I am not at all hesitant to admit that. And I wish more yoga teachers, and others from related fields, were held accountable through measures such as supervision.

As a teacher I am supervised. Once per fortnight I meet with my supervisor and I hold myself accountable as a teacher. We may take a look at why my classes aren’t as diverse as I would hope, (I once pondered why I never had men in class, only to say in the next sentence that I feel terrified when they appear!) We may discuss the times I felt uncomfortable with something I said in class, we may discuss something I did that, on reflection, was a marker for my boundaries needing more work. It may be that I have hit uncomfortable feelings about the projections put on me. It may be that I sent out a marketing message that, on reflection, didn’t sit well with the ethos of who I aim to be as a teacher. 

This, to me, is invaluable. My supervisor will challenge my thinking, notice aspects in what I say, the stories I tell, that I would not. And they can help me put in place edges and boundaries in my role that help me keep myself and others safe. 

But this is not something widely offered in yoga. I am lucky to have trained with someone who knew, and felt passionate about, the value and importance of supervision, who had spent decades in the field of yoga and knew that yoga teachers should be supervised because a. as I said, they have spent decades in the field so they know what it is like and b. because it is fundamental to their own role as a therapist. 

Supervision was put in place for us from day one. I wish it was in place across the board. 

I do prefer science

As I mentioned at the start of this post, many scientific studies do support, by degree, the mental and physical benefits of things like yoga, pranayama, mindfulness or meditation. 

And some don’t. 

How do you feel, if you are someone who is certain of your own experience of the benefits, by the statement ‘and some don’t’? 

It is interesting to notice. 

I believe this is a cool thing. 

Whilst those who choose to separate the scientific from the spiritual may retort that science is just ‘catching up with’ what yogis have known all along (I have used that line myself!) when a supportive study comes out, or be horrified by claims that something they have experienced as beneficial is not backed up by what scientists suggest from study or research… and claim “big pharma don’t want you to know…”

Consider flipping that thinking into how important it is that this research and study is happening and that the scientists are open minded enough and curious enough to study it and then test the findings of that study again. 

Scientists, researchers, and those who approach the world with a scientific ethos, test thoughts, claims, and beliefs in a quantitative or qualitative way, always acknowledging, as they do, margins for error. 

Such study can get to a place where the probability of something being the truth is so high that, until new information emerges, science may not be too concerned with a certain topic for a time. They are not debating or studying, right now, if birds have wings, for example… nor, because it does, if Covid exists. Despite this, science always leaves room for new ways of thinking and new ways to look at reality.

The scientific ethos is actually a commitment to values that are extremely open minded. About not wanting to be immovably certain of one’s own view but taking any view, hypotheses, and testing it against nature. 

Science can be thought of as a field with enormous humility. It is so much about cooperation. Supervision. Peer review. About collaboration, about working with others to test thinking and notice blind spots. Science isn’t about proof and certainly, despite many thinking of it in this way. It is not about being perfect and infallible. And it is highly competitive. If someone is making a grandiose claim you can be certain, extremely certain, that other scientists are testing that claim, and putting forward alternate possibilities that could challenge it.

Take the example I mentioned at the start of this post with our Homeopath Emperor… someone could say that science dismisses homeopathy… or they could consider that researchers were able to study 1800 (!) papers that explored the validity of the health claims made on their effectiveness before concluding “…there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective.”

Leaving room for doubt…

We should all, always, leave room for doubt. 

Like I said, it’s not that is see everything in western spirituality and wellness as ‘bad’ or that I want to make you think that it is all a load of bullshit. It’s really not. I love loads of it myself. What I do believe is that with any big claims made, there should always be room for doubt. And there should always be accountability. 

Uncertainty is a strength and not a weakness of science because it keeps the field open minded. 

Too often, the yoga, spiritual, wellness, fields, those who sell within them, are too certain of themselves and the claims that they make.

Too often, anyone who questions the validity of grandiose claims in the spiritual world is called a sheep or a blue pill or not ‘open minded’. 

To be open minded is not about the total abandonment of critical thinking to accept outlandish health and wellness claims with no due diligence done on ways in which those claims have been backed up in any meaningful way. To be open minded is not about never calling unregulated products into question. To be open minded is not to always have to choose the unpopular, or little known, alternative.

I truly hope that I am open minded as a teacher. But I am extremely open to hearing I am not. I would adore for a scientifically minded person to come to class and tell me where I may be miss representing something, in the role specific hormones or neurotransmitters are at play in our stress system, in how I explain the mechanisms in our body and mind we are playing with as we work through the things I do share. I would adore it. And I would use it as a springboard for challenging myself to learn more and look again at what I say or had come to believe.

Curiously, though, that has never happened to me. What does happen, instead, is that I am questioned on what is not in what I say. On why I don’t make certain claims. What does happen is that yet another email lands in my inbox, suggesting the reason I feel cold in my drafty Victorian House in January, which I mentioned in passing in class, is likely a hormone imbalance that they could sell me a supplement for (no thanks). Or challenging me about why I didn’t mention the New Moon in class last week and why I have nothing currently listed in the form of workshops or circles to mark a ‘Lion’s Gate Portal’ opening… 

… the answer to that is simple, my friend. 

It is because I am not interested in it. Not at all. And there is no logical reason why I should be. To pretend to be interested would be (and has been… I have done it) a lie. But, hey, if that’s what you want? There may just be one or two others you can find over there. 

I reach the end of this gargantuan post, in which I have managed to articulate only a small fraction of what I want to say, wondering how best to close. 

All I can think, right now, to say is this… 

I may not be the teacher for you

As I said at the start of this post, I don’t get it perfect. I haven’t got it perfect to here. 

I look at my own homepage and am itching to make edits. Itching to make change. Itching to challenge my own claims. 

Because, although this reflection is not new, for me, what is new is my willingness to truly make my position clear and stop being scared of alienating others in being louder in explaining it. 

I am committed to being open about the limits of who I am, what I offer, and how it can help. 

I am extremely happy to be the wrong teacher for you. 

And, at the risk of over-sharing in the realms of my emotional landscape right now, I have had a some sleepless nights lately, wondering if I should step away from it all. 

‘Is it worth it?’ 

‘By being a yoga teacher at all do I just feed this terrifying machine?’ 

Who I am as a teacher today? That is a question that was asked of me in supervision. It is the only question pertinent to my role in this world that I need the answer for, today. 

I am a kind teacher. I am a fun one, I hope. I am an educated teacher. And, here’s MY big claim, I am a teacher who can commit to never knowingly selling you a lie. 

I enjoy teaching, I enjoy the chats we have before class, I enjoy posting you the cards I make and I enjoy all the artwork and writing too. 

For now, what I said at the start is what I have, and it is enough.

Sharing tools I have learned, with humans who are walking a path through things like anxiety or addiction, or just modern life, is cool. 

I believe they do help. 

If you want to come to a class with me, you can see what you think (and challenge what I think!) for yourself. But no pressure. I am really nothing special at all. And you know what? I think that’s the best thing about me!

Thank you for reading my post and if you have comments to make I’d love to read them. You can also email me.

With huge love

Sara-Jayne xxx

 

 

A Reader Lives a Thousand Lives Before They Die 

A few weeks ago my eldest child returned home from school rather indignant. After throwing down their backpack with a loud sigh they recounted that, in their form-room that day, they had been asked to spend 20 minutes doing something mindful.

They’d immediately lit up, reaching inside their bag for the novel they were enveloped within the magic of. The teacher had not taken kindly to this and told them that to read was not to be mindful, and that they should do some colouring-in instead. I laughed as they told me how this had led to the entirely un-mindful, aggressive, colouring-in of a photocopied rose, all the time thinking about little more than how cross they were.

Escapism or Embodiment?

I mention this as it was what first got me thinking about books and reading relative to what it is I teach which, in the simplest terms, are practises for landing in the present moment.

I could, to some degree, see the teacher’s point… to read can be an escapism and is a form of arousal in a huge number of ways and forms. Reading can be a mechanism for escaping presence through embracing fantasy, other worlds and imaginary characters. But is it always an escape mechanism?

No. Is the answer to that. My answer, my opinion. I believe that, in the world as it is manifesting for most of us right now, to choose to slow down enough to read a book is a marker for, and route to build, an ability to be present. It is not about abandoning ourselves. Not usually. And even if it is, it can be both: a gentle escape, harmless to ourselves and the other, that can open us up to a mindful practise.

Of course I specifically talk, here, about reading an actual book.

We read continually, unconsciously… WhatsApp messages, flashing headings, notifications, the pithy captions underneath social media posts and the comments that they bring… that kind of thing. Endlessly. Quickly. Without stopping to to notice that we are reading at all. But we can read in a different way. And this is something I feel passionate about encouraging.

I set myself a target to read 100 books this year and I have no idea if I will make it. I’m not quite on track to, yet. But three months in, I am taking on a much more important quest for myself: to make my reading more mindful. And I would love for you to join me.

I am starting a Book Club. Late April. You can find out more about that here:


Wrapped Up In Books: The Story of My Life

Since early childhood, books have surrounded, stacked themselves up in, been central to, my life. Led by my nose in a book, I have been pulled forward on new paths. They have allowed me to feel the things I would otherwise not allow. They have expanded my mind when I felt stuck in old patterns of thought. They have given me hope. They have kept me company on sleepless nights. They are a reliable source of comfort.

With my current ‘to be read’ (or in the middle of reading in snippets) pile

Book Are Kinda My Thing… 

My memory has always told me that I never had to learn to read.

This, of course, cannot be the truth, but it is my truth.

I have an extremely vivid memory of being 6, in Blue class with Mrs Donnelly, and being called up with two friends to read to her. Puddle Lane books, anyone remember them? I adored.

Me and my two plait-adorning-pals skipped eagerly across the parquet floor to our teacher, who asked us to take it in turns to read sections of a rather enchanting tale called The Magic Dust.

As my friends sounded out words and screwed up their little freckled faces in concentration, I very clearly remember just not getting it. Why couldn’t they read it out properly? Fluently?

To me, and I did not think of their struggles with judgement, only utter confusion, it was as if I was watching people with fully functioning hands and arms being completely unable to clap.

Not only did I already find reading to be an innate skill but I truly loved to read, I loved it in a way that made my insides fizz. I was born knowing it was what I was meant to do with my time. Was it not the same for everyone? I found that odd as a kid. Perhaps a part of me still does.

By the time I was 8 or 9, as soon as school ended, I would run, gleefully, to Penn Library, with my friends Karis and Dipti, who loved books just as much as me.

We were huge fans of The Babysitters Club, and of Point Horror books. To find a book we had not yet read would be so cool and exciting and every time the librarian scanned a barcode with a beep it was like being offered an extremely precious gift.

Seducing The English Teachers

At secondary school I was resolutely determined to seduce (not sexually) every single English teacher with my love of their subject and my way with words. It worked!

By the time I was studying for my GCSEs, the teachers were so kind to me, bringing me in books they thought I might like to borrow. I liked this on more than one level. Books, beyond feeding my mind, began also to give me a taste of feeling truly valued and seen. I am aware of this as an attachment I have to books. It’s still there. I use them as an aphrodisiac in my, often clumsy, attempts to connect with other humans. This perseveres as a coping strategy, though, only because the love of books is so real.

When I was 15 or so one teacher, Mr Layton, brought Douglas Coupland into my life. Mr Layton shoved a copy of Generation X into my chest one day as he passed me on the stairs from the Geography department down to the school office.
‘I think you’ll like that…’ he said. I did. I loved. Douglas Coupland remains my favourite writer to this day.

The moment of my passing on the stairs with my teacher that day is like chance-found gold in my mind, each and very time that the memory is evoked. It was a moment of karma played out. He had to give me that book. That day. That he thought of me as he downed his morning coffee to soothe his aching head (he appeared to be resolute in his determination to turn up hungover and tired) meant the world to me on a day, in a time, I felt gloomy and uninspired. I read the book that night. Returning it to him only a day or two later with a letter of thanks and my mind alight with new ideas. I would, from that point on, practically camp out at the bookshop waiting for Douglas Coupland’s next novel.

At University I studied English and creative writing, and then, on graduating, got myself a job in publishing. The rest is herstory. I never once lost my passion for books. I married a writer. Of course. And we both, most days, buy and read books. My partner’s job means they get book post every day, too. As you may expect, my home is full of written words. Every room.

A wall in my living room, complete with old library ladder. One day I will have an actual library in my house.

You Don’t Even HAVE To Read Them!

Books have been my source of solace, of companionship, of laughter through all of my life so far. They are the way I most love to learn.

If I visit someone’s house, it is their books that I am most pulled to. A house without books lacks oxygen, to me.

And hey… if you never get around to reading them (my to be read pile is truly a mountain range…) all is not lost, as Nick Hornsby says:

“All the books we own, both read and unread, are the fullest expression of self we have at our disposal…With each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not.” – Nick Hornby

5 Books I Have Enjoyed This Year So Far…

If you want to practise mindful reading with others, including me, the registration to be told more about the Book Club is here. 

In the meantime, I am often asked for book recommendations so here you will find five of my favourites of 2022 so far.

Binge: 60 stories to make your brain feel different

Douglas Coupland always speaks to my soul, and these short stories really do make your brain flip and flop. Some are sweet, some are sad, all are mind expanding in some way.

Creation: A fully illustrated, panoramic world history of art from ancient civilisation to the present day

I’ll admit I have not read every word of this book but my eyes love it a whole lot. I find the writing gentle and it is a good book to grab if you want to build strength in your wrists (it’s SO heavy)…

Mothers: An Essay on Love and Cruelty

This book takes on a challenging topic in an extremely accessible, but nonetheless provocative, way. It took me a little while to land into reading, but once she mentioned Courtney Love relative to the image of the mother… I was all in.

Medieval Bodies: Life, Death and Art in the Middle Ages

Bloody fascinating. Check out the preview about the medieval cadaver. You will know right away if it’s a book for you. For me? It is a hard yes.

Cultish The Languish of Fanaticism

It’s a ‘young’ book in that, aged almost 40, I felt about 20 years too old to take as much as one could from this book in its tone and style, and the cultural references are largely American. But I loved reading it nonetheless. And I enjoyed that it opened up my thinking on the male ‘voice of God’ and how affecting that is to me, as a woman, and the influence it has had on my life. It also made me pause to consider how I talk as a teacher. How I use language to promote my class. How I use language to tell people how to move their bodies and breathe.

Dear Intuition…

On Tuesday, we reach the end of a series of classes exploring Intuition.

It is a topic I have been exploring for myself a lot in recent months. It is not one I will be letting float on by when the classes end.

It’s been really cool to discuss the topic with others over the last 5 weeks.

The classes will remain available, as recordings, so you can still join if you would like to. You could come to the final class live and catch up on the other 4 via the recordings in your own time.

To mark the end of the series, and to mark the latest project that forms part of our newsletter art gallery, I have written a letter, with my words and yours, if you shared some, to our Intuition.

Here it is:

Dear Intuition,

We want to hear you.

We so do. 

But your voice has become quiet. 

Quiet and, for many of us, out of reach. Perhaps that’s because we cannot find you within the shiny landscapes of our digital lives. Perhaps that’s because you’re bored of us, our decisions, our lives, our speed, our noise. 

Or perhaps that’s because we’re not listening for you at all. 

I asked others what they thought of first, when they thought of you. 

They said that you are listening and trusting, that you are an inner vision, a gaze of glory. Instinctive. Always there. Hidden. Whispering, Without form. That you are ritual and rhythm, creative and alive, that you are imaginative. That you are peaceful. That you are calm. 

They described you as Knowing without knowing, as personal, unique to each of us, and as softer, so much softer, than our thinking minds, that you ride on the pathways of our breath. 

You bring to mind magic eyes and owls, pure white cats, dingos, ferrets and bearded dragons. 

When I said intuition someone said back this word: WOMEN. That made me smile. 

What came to me most was that you are a very quiet voice among a lot of noise. That you are foggy and far away.

Yet that you never stop whispering when we become still. 

We will listen, now, to the whispers when they come. Commit to being still enough for your words to land. We will notice the synchronicities in our day,  acknowledge the pastimes that allow us to move in a state of flow and, from there, do them more.

We will notice intuition in our bodies, when the body signals ‘yes’ or ‘no’… and allow reflection on that to guide our thinking mind. 

We will. 

We hope. 

Because one thing that is true for every person who I spoke to about you… you’re important to us. Really important. So thank you for sticking around. 

xx 

Everybody’s Free to Put Their Phone Down 

On 31st May 1999 I was 16 years, 6 months and 18 days old. In the midst of my GCSEs. Life was mainly about Kohl liner ringed eyes and angry stares. Bass guitars and flutes. Science fiction and literary classics. Languishing in the thrill of stolen cigarettes and fleeting, grubby, romances. I was probably revising, and it was probably English that I was revising, as that was the only thing I cared very much about. If I wasn’t revising then I was working in a pub as a waitress, avoiding unwelcome bum pats from the landlord and flirting with the cooks in the kitchen. This day was the day a song by Baz Luhrman, Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen, was released.

As an actual member of The Class of ‘99 the song, despite being enormously popular (a negative characteristic for my sub-culture-gravitating adolescent self) felt special. Always. To me.


It is a song I gravitate to at times of positive transition. Perhaps I do so, unconsciously, to measure my life against the advice dispensed in the song. Perhaps not. It’s an enjoyable exercise in nostalgia, whatever the reasons.

After listening and reflecting on it this week I thought some of the advice was a bit shit. To be honest. And I thought it would be fun to write my own 2022 version. So I did.

I don’t tend to give much advice. It’s not my thing. But hey… I must have amassed at least a sliver of wisdom as I enter my 40th year.

Everybody’s Free to Put Their Phone Down 

Ladies, gentlemen and non-binary folk who read my blog at the beginning of 2022.

Put your phone down.

If I were to offer you only one piece of advice then putting your phone down would be it.

The negative impacts of smart phones have been proven by scientists…

…whereas the remainder of my reflection here has no basis more reliable than my own, most curious, experiences…

Experiences amassed through 39 years that were largely spent within a two mile radius from my home to the local Sainsbury’s. Moving through a post-industrial, working-class city in the centre of England, with an anxious, hyper-vigilant, gaze, shuffling feet and my nose most often stuck in a book.

I am not, by most people’s definition, successful.

Despite these caveats, and with no promise that I have a single answer

I will dispense this advice

now.

Enjoy the madness and chaos of your brain. Oh, never mind…

…you will continually reject the the madness and chaos of your brain until you put down the notion that your mind should be lovely, serene, entirely silent and well behaved. It can’t be.

But trust me, it is not how you think that makes you experience your life as crappy. It’s how you respond to it. And someday you will come to a place where you can recall, in a way that you can’t grasp now, just how much possibility sits in that chaos, how much you could create from that place. How unique and magical your beautiful messy brain already is.

You are not as unusual as you imagine.

Breathe. Do it gently.

Do not watch Instagram Reels.

Or do, but know that doing so is as healthy as trying to cleanse your body by eating nothing but Radox bath bubbles and paracetamol.

The filler of ‘empty’ seconds in your day can come from all kinds of unexpected places. From glimpses of other human experiences that cross your path as you walk to the corner shop… the old man, flat-capped and cautious, who smiles tentatively to the ground as you pass him on the pavement, tilting his head toward you for a fleeting moment, a moment that, to now, you never seemed to notice. From nature manifesting in polluted cities, the fog of a January morning across the muddy playing field that’s flooded with crows as pigeons fight nearby over a discarded, cling filmed, sandwich. A ladybird landed, and wandered up, my laptop charging cable as I wrote this line. How magical is that? All of it is fascinating, beguiling, if you deem it worthy of your attention. It’s got to be better than watching adult humans pointing at pithy captions on a screen. Stop reaching for your phone.

Look up.

Do at least one thing every day that moves you. Physically. Emotionally too. That makes you sweat. That makes you cry. Both are good for you. That’s science. If you can find an activity that combines the two… wonderful. And be sure to let me know what it is.

Don’t be a dick to other people. Watch your outward gaze. Soften it. Fall in love with humanity. Fall in love with what irritates you in others. It will help you, massively, in the effort of falling in love with yourself.

Have compassion for those who move through with the world full of anger. For the haters and the trolls and the suffering. Don’t put up with anyone shouting at you, but remember that you never know what other people are carrying. Except that, for all humans, life is pretty heavy.

Orgasm.

And if you can’t… consider getting some therapy for that.

Consider getting some therapy, anyway.

Don’t waste your time on comparison. It really is the thief of joy.

Sometimes you’re on fire, sometimes you’re not.

Sometimes you win. Sometimes you can’t be bothered to enter the race at all.

The journey is long and, in the end, the competition, the game, it is only ever with yourself.

Compliment others wildly. Spread kindness around. Write down every compliment you ever receive. Also write down the insults. If you do this you can hold the compliments to remember them (you won’t otherwise) and, when you’ve gathered a handful, you can ceremoniously burn the insults.

Print out your photos with friends, family…of your own version of beauty in nature. Delete your selfies.

Stretch.

Stop blaming everyone else.

Embrace chaos.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t always get shit done.

The most brilliant people I know rest a lot.

Some of the most interesting seem to do nothing else.

Get plenty of magnesium, b12 and fats that are good for your brain.

Stay hydrated.

Be kind to your knees.

You will wish you had been when they’re fucked up by the time you’re 40.

Maybe you’ll be successful. Maybe you won’t

Maybe you’ll be healthy. Maybe you won’t

Maybe 2022 will be the best of your life full of erotic moments, travel, creation and wonder, or maybe you’ll spend huge chunks of it shovelling ice cream in your mouth under a duvet, unable to face life at all.

Whatever happens, don’t congratulate yourself too much, avoid the humble brag on social media.

But don’t berate yourself either.

Pray.

Whatever your belief system.

Remember that what happens to you is bound by what has come before in your life, shaped by the good and bad things that have happened, funnelled through how much privilege you have. Life is often about luck. Yes, much of it, too, comes from choice. But your choices are bound by all of this too. None of this makes you, by default, a good or bad person. We are all grey.

Enjoy your body. Look at it, naked. Touch it, softly. It is beautiful. Every inch of it. Yes yours. Yes everybody’s.

Don’t be afraid of it. No matter what Dr. Google tells you. He is rarely correct. Forget him. If you can.

Your body is the greatest instrument you’ll ever own. Full of stories, potential, and untold possibility.

Have goals. Hold them. Make altars to them. Remember what it is that you want.

Be gritty.

Laugh, even if you’re alone, find writers, comedians, songs, that tickle you.

Don’t read the newspapers, not if you can help it.

Stay off Facebook. It will only made you feel offended.

Eat some crisps.

I’ve tried all kinds of diets over the years and I am certain they are a necessary food group.

Celebrate women.

Get to know your emotions, name them. You may find you have a lot more than you think you do. Enjoy the full spectrum. It’s so amazing to be human.

Be nice to your Amazon delivery driver. They’re underpaid, overworked, and the person who has delivered you copious little dopamine hits in the form of brown paper boxes over recent years.

Understand that your friends are important. More than any crushes, irritating colleague or social media influencer.

And yes, friends come and go.

But a precious few, who truly see you, the real you, who should hold on to, foster, take time for.

Work hard to bridge the gaps between the off-world digital landscape and your real life.

The veneer of what your friend’s life looks like from afar and the reality will always be so different.

The more you watch friends from a social media feed, the less you will know them at all.

Log in to Instagram once per day but leave before it makes you horrified.

Go out in nature once per day and don’t feel you have to film it to make it ‘real’.

Climb trees. Ask for their permission before you do and say thank you as you clamber down again.

Sing. In the shower. As you run. As you drift out of consciousness as your head hits the pillow.

Smile.


Don’t slag off Zoom. It’s saved us from ourselves over the last two years. Feel grateful for its beneficent presence in our lives from here.

Accept certain inalienable truths.

No one is perfect. 

Not everyone will like you. 

Bad things can happen.

You will get triggered. Often. And when you do, you have a choice in what you do.

Don’t shout at anyone.

Take care of yourself.

Don’t expect anyone to save you.

Maybe you have a year ahead of tinder dates, a partner of fifty years, or a new adorable puppy… or perhaps you are completely alone. Whatever your circumstances, it is never someone else’s job to make you feel good, better, or valued.

Your life is a human one. With sadness. With fear. With loneliness. With hope. If you could bottle all the emotions you feel across this year you may find that the ‘happy’ bottle is more full than you imagine it to be. All of the bottles are important. Don’t put them on a shelf to get dusty. Drink them down. Feel them. You’ll release them eventually, in the sweat and in the tears.

Don’t give a shit about what anyone else thinks about your hair. Your clothes. Your kinks. Your diet. Your way of being.

Who cares if, by the time you’re 40, you look 75 and dress as if you were 22. You’re bloody amazing.

Be wary of gurus, big promises and charismatic leaders.


The promise of health, holiness, enlightenment and your masochistic tendencies being played out in hugely inappropriate sex games… yes they are alluring. But everything you’re looking for… believe me, it’s already in you.

Buy some good sex toys.

And trust me on the phone thing.

A Pretty Bad Year…?!?

2021. It has not been an experience of reality that I will not, in the broadest sense, look back on with a huge fondness.

It started with the inherent stressors that came with the lockdowns… namely, for me, keeping up with everything relative to work and home when the homeschooling of my three children landed on my daily to-do list. It was in no way unpleasant, in many ways it really was very lovely, and I do, I really do, feel fortunate to live where I live and to have the family that I do… but it wasn’t easy. Not at all. At the same time, my best friend and dog companion, Rebel, was diagnosed with Lymphoma and on 16 weeks of chemotherapy… or would have been. It would be easy for me to begin listing all the other stressors here, at this time… things… things that went wrong in my house, my job, with the minutiae of my small human existence … I will not.

I do not usually write this way. I do not tend to post huge amounts of my life relative to the personal aspects of it… but I reflect back, as we stride toward the end of the year, in our face masks, with one hand grasping our smart phones, refreshing news apps, and the other, hopeful, at the end of an outstretched arm for a (still cautious) hug, that I had some really hard times.

Loss. Loss is so much. So hard. I had a family loss in February that really is too personal to post about on my website. And then, after the treatment did not work, I also lost my Rebel, my Rebel who I can call my best friend without a moment of questioning relative to the childlike nature of applying such labels to anyone, let alone a canine-companion.

She really was my best friend, a non-judging, funny, forever grateful, forever loving, adorable, clever, friend. Who I spent so much time with… most hours of my days and nights. Who got me out in nature for hours, gave me comfort when I felt lost, and loved to be with me in my classes, curled up by the fire out of view. I miss her so much. So much. I cried today, again, when I saw a dog that looked just like her trotting past me in the street. Losing Rebel broke my heart. It will never be quite the same.

Beyond that, I had a malignant melanoma diagnosis, a couple of operations and some awkward biopsies… a tricky thing, for me, relative to specific parts of my anxiety history, and a real test of my ability to regulate and stay present. I can say that this was especially true when awake, face down, hospital-gown glad, on a cold operating table with a face mask on for what felt like a very long time. 

Lots of hospital visits and waiting for results. These things that we all, as humans,  go through at times. You know, I’m sure, if you’re reading this, what it is like….

And all of this, every part of it, within only the first months of the year.

I sound like a real misery here, I do know. But, to be clear, I am not miserable. Not at all. I have not been miserable, as such, through any of it. Sad, yes, so sad. Tired, certainly. But soft with it, generally, all of it. And I have been proud of that. Other than in the occasional, hugely overwhelming, moment where I trod on a Minecraft creeper whilst tidying away the toys, or Uber Eats cancelled my ‘Giant Doughnut’ delivery (this happened today, no lie… I was furious!)… where I have fled to my room to scream into a pillow or allowed past behaviours to surface in my professional life (terse emails afoot)…

…these moments aside… I have been shocked at how I have held myself.

I stayed sober.

I stayed with my practise.

I didn’t take a single day off ‘sick’ and I stayed well, physically, too.

So many wonderful things happened to me, for me. I had amazing opportunities for teaching. Teaching this thing called Kundalini Global that I so love. So adore. Feel so passionate about.

I deepened connections with a few people who have come into my life in recent years. I let go of others. I laughed. I laughed so much this year. So much of that laughter in yoga classes. I learned. I trained to teach breath and I trained, again… more… on working with addiction and anxiety. I set my sights on new goals, new ambitions, new projects… new qualifications that I will start working through next year. I launched my zine (don’t ask about issue 3… it is on the way… it’s a long birthing process) I took on new jobs and roles at work… I read SO many books, I kept creating, I kept teaching, I kept going and I stayed on the right side, just, of sanity.

I love my life. On workshops I have done with Carolyn Cowan she encourages us to say ‘I love my life’ 11 times and ‘My life loves me’ 11 times before bed and on waking. I always do my homework and so I do this. I have for some time. It’s pretty epic when you start to realise that it becomes more and more true.

What I have managed, through 2021, is to keep working on what I have come to rely on… allowing emotion, noticing how I feel, landing myself into presence, being gentle, kind, soft… all of these things. Embracing my faults. Embracing my humanness. My imperfection. Some days it all falls apart and I have a moment of ‘oh, fuck, I remember this…’ … the anxiety the stress, the thoughts like maggots… they can creep in still. But how lovely, how very lovely, that I can notice now, only because it is no longer the ‘norm’.

Some of my practise has been about conscious, daily choices that have formed into habits, others have been a real challenge for me. Truly. I’ve worked really. Fucking. Hard.

I will not look back on 2021 with huge fondness. But I will look back on it with a beneficent smile and with gratitude for how it endlessly showed me my edges, encouraged me to make change, made me step up and out of so many aspects of ‘being me’ that I thought were impossible to put down. . .

If 2021 has been tough for you too then I am sorry. But also I do hope that, like me, you walk toward the end of it with an awareness at how badass you are at holding yourself through it all…

We are amazing in our ability to shape how we experience our reality. I think that is what I mean by the quote I have now put front and centre on my website homepage ‘Life is not about finding yourself, It is about creating yourself…’

I plan to create something even more amazing going forward. Even more amazing, if possible, than this very moment, this lovely moment, where I sit, writing this for you, at the end of a work day, warmed by my log burner and tea, curled up in the world’s comfiest chair that I was gifted for my birthday from a junk shop that I love, and with my oldest child photographing curiosities on my mat at my feet

‘I need to photograph some really weird stuff for art homework so… I need your things…” They said.

Haha. That made me laugh. This moment is lovely. Every moment can be so.

Before I go, earlier today, Kundalini Global shared a post about music. It got me thinking that you may enjoy listening to, or nosying through, some of the music that saw me through this year. An eclectic mix taken from what Spotify told me were some of my ‘top tracks’ of 2021. I am almost certain that none of them are actually from 2021, or even anything close to… it is one realm in which ‘living in the past’ seems acceptable to my new-found, more present, sensibilities.

You’ll find snippets here and it should link you through to it on Spotify too.

If you enjoy that, you must be as peculiar as me. Do let me know.

Sending you all so much love for this festive season.

Sara-Jayne xxx

PS  – I have plans for a blog post about my favourite books of the year coming soon… if you have anything else you’d like me to write about or share do let me know! And take care. 

Why we find it so very hard to choose…

Hello lovely humans

It has been a little while since I posted on the blog. Life has been good to me, I have been going through a period of huge reflection and change and it can take time, I find, for things to recalibrate and for the all to come back into a natural order.

It’s Halloween, today, I am dressing up as Jeff Bezos strapped to his penis rocket. I’ll share photos next week.

It’s an interesting choice of costume, perhaps.

I have been thinking a lot about choosing.

How are you with choosing? Do you find it a simple thing? Second nature? If someone asks what it is that you want are you able to answer without a necessity to frantically filer what comes to you through a ‘what will they think?’ machine inside? To throw it back to the asker? To always say ‘I don’t mind’ ‘whatever you think’ ‘I’m easy’…

I hope so. That choosing is easy for you.

I have been working with choosing for a year, almost exactly. ‘Working with choosing?’ Perhaps that sounds weird. But it has been fascinating, enlightening and pretty cool, for me. Let me explain.

I realised I was not comfortable, often, with choosing. That things that had happened meant that I didn’t feel I deserved the choice or that if I was brave enough to choose what I wanted that I would be punished in some way. The things we do with what happens to us can manifest in all kinds of curious ways. This just happened to be one of mine. And if I was to be the teacher, the human, I wanted to be, knew I could be, I needed to begin to choose.

I started small. Choosing what I would eat for my breakfast, early in the morning, before the rest of my family woke up. I had this hilarious few months where I found the easiest thing for me to choose was what fruit I would like… so through this period I steamed and stewed a lot of fruits for breakfast time. I tried all kinds of fruits I’d never come across before and ate them in a variety of ways that made me happy. Choosing what I wanted, needed, each day instead of quickly grabbing a piece of toast in the chaos of the school run was a daily treat that it was quite easy to turn into a habit. I also chose to take time to eat and to make it a mindful practise.

It is one of those things that I didn’t really notice the impact of for a long time, but like building muscle, this small practise of choosing began slowly to unfold in other areas of my life. I notice, now, how much easier it is to choose ‘on to spot’, so-to-speak, to be more decisive and more able to recognise my own needs in day-to-day life and interactions.

As a yoga teacher, offering choice is something I believe to be extremely important in creating safety in classes. Why? Because many of us have had experiences where choice was, at least in our perception, taken away.

The births of my children are an example of this for me. Trauma has been described as “an experience of having no choice,” and to me it is key that in opposition to that, my yoga classes always invite all to have different physical experiences, where eveeyone can make a variety of choices about what to do with the body.

Offering choice feels kind and inclusive, To offer options (variations, for example, on a posture, not with one posture as the ‘ideal’ and the others as poor cousins, but as equal variations) whilst eliminating judgment, “If you’d like to try something different, do this…” is so kind and invites those in classes to begin working on choosing too.

When I go to classes, I find that It’s incredibly powerful to be handed permission to rest or modify postures because so many of us struggle to give that permission to ourselves. Over time, when we’re offered the permission to choose ourselves, we may just find that this begins to change. We work toward ‘I give myself permission to choose.’

So, how do you feel about choosing? I really would love to know.

Sending you all heaps of love

Sara-Jayne

xxxx

Be An Original (And Don’t Be A Dick…)

I’m feeling rebellious, inspired and incredibly energised by life right now.

I feel electric.

I love how creative I am. 

I am creative.

I can affirm that with absolute certainty, needing no reinforcement, praise or encouragement.

When you are creative (and you are, too, we all are). And when you have something original to show to the world (you do, we all do). It’s a pretty cool thing if you can find the courage inherent in ‘putting it out there’ in an effort to reach others. In service to others, to inspire others, or… hell, to earn yourself a living doing something you were born to do.

But it can have its downsides too. 

When you truly are in touch with your creativity, when you are stepping up to be YOU… what I notice is that other people don’t necessarily like it too much.

Some people…

*whispers* …Some people will want what you have…

And they want it so very much, so desperately,

that they will try and take it for themselves.

Sometimes they will take only a breadcrumb at a time. Barely noticeable, at first.

Others will swoop toward you and gather up great big greedy armfuls of you without a backward glance.

I know, I know, it’s shocking, right? But it is true.

It’s something that happens in my world more and more. And I am not alone. 

Sometimes it’s just plain old creepy…

Having invested hugely in myself in a variety of ways in recent years I am not too keen on hacking off huge parts of myself to hand to others on a silver platter to feast on in gay abandon… but what can you do… when you’re feeling inspired, energised, and electric, some people just really want a piece of you for themselves.

Some of this happens unconsciously, and it can be quite easy as the creator of something to let that slide on by.

Other times it’s more blatant. Huge chunks of text copied and pasted from your website to theirs. Uncredited. Classes copied, from the intention to the music to that thing you said about Tiger penises. Haircuts, clothing choices, the way you have chosen to present your ideas. Some feel it all is fair game. Artwork, born of your own very personal relationship to yourself and the world. Creations that huge money, time, creativity and love was poured into… just copied. Blatantly. Often badly. And passed off as someone else’s original idea.

It can feel exhausting.

I’ll be honest, sometimes it feels quite threatening.

Once or twice, for me, it’s been just plain old creepy.

But what can you do? I can’t build an electric fence around myself and hammer a sign on my head that says ‘Danger. High Voltage’. Or can I?

Well, until I decide on that, I will say it again.

I AM CREATIVE.

Hey, if you want to congratulate me on my art or my words or my dress sense that’s lovely. Thank you very much. And if you disagree and think I’m dull, uninspiring and flat then… excellent.

Your opinion will unroot my feet from solid ground no more than the feather from a baby sparrow floating from the heavens to land on my shoulder. How sweet. *Brushes feather off, picks it up, and sticks it on a canvas depicting neon sparrows exploring a supernova explosion*.

If you think that sounds arrogant. Well, it is, a bit! We all need a healthy amount of narcissism to feel pride, hold self-esteem and realise our own self worth. That I can hold my head up so high and say ‘I am creative’ is hugely important to where I am in my relationship to myself. I would not have been able to shout it loud and proud a year ago.

Through my adult life, what I do with my creativity has more regularly private than public. Be it playing, painting, building, photographing, decorating, writing or decapitating dolls.  None of you (unless you’re related to me, my neighbour or knew me well 20 years ago) have heard me play the flute. But I do it every day. Creating is not about the other. It is about exploring and expressing my feelings experiences and ideas, filtered through my own completely unique brain… 

To put some of what I create out into the world since becoming a yoga teacher has been rewarding. I am proud that what I have created is both authentic as a reflection of my inner and outer relationship to the universe and in being unlike what is most commonly seen in how yoga is presented… particularly online. 

I don’t strive for originality, I strive to be me. Originality is what comes from that…

Originality… It’s a terrific thing.

To be original, to hope to be… it can be a bitch. It can feel impossible, unreachable, when we’re out of whack with our own potency. Not sure who we are. What we want. What we think.

Who we are.
What we want.
What we think.

They sound like pretty basic elements in experiencing a human life.

But what we want,
what we think
who we are…

for many, they are lost. Lost in the noise. In the contractions in body and mind that they are not even aware exist, so familiar are they to their experience of what life can be. Comparing, despairing and searching for something, anything, to temporarily ease an uncomfortable sense that something is wrong.

All that is left is to spin around in a metaphorical blindfold with a shaky, pointing finger… a kind of  existential spin the bottle… and to land on someone who seems to own some semblance of what you perceive that you should want, think, and be and think ‘I’ll take that one. For me’.

Life is noisy.

We’re all continually taking in stimuli from our environments… how things look, what we hear, what lights us up, how people react, what turns us off… we take inspiration from nature and television and music videos and art and from other people we see who are cool and interesting, charismatic, funny, magical or strong …

Whether conscious or unconscious we take on aspects of what others say, think, do, create…

Last week, my own teacher, Carolyn, taught an incredible Kundalini Global class where we did a yoga series called ‘Be An Original’ and Carolyn explored the idea of what it means to be you. Your true, authentic, human self.

It struck a chord for me.

I realised how much that I do it too, unconsciously taking without doing the work to make it energetically elegant. And I’ve taken myself on in this. I would encourage you to do the same.

Take Carolyn, I’ve done pretty much all of her trainings.  And I would do them all again. She’s brilliant. Hilarious, exceptionally clever, unique in her thinking and extremely charismatic. She explains things in such a creative, distinctive and authoritative way…

It has been on a regular basis that I use words, idioms and ideas that I would NEVER have considered using before meeting Carolyn, because I have taken them from her… and it’s just not on.

I wouldn’t dream, ever, of stealing Carolyn’s written words, artwork or class plans. But both consciously and unconsciously I have been guilty of stepping beyond ‘inspired by’ into ‘taken from’ in how I teach.

It’s a shitty thing to do.

You could say it is hard to avoid copying. But it is not.

It is not hard to avoid copying. Just don’t do it.

Whilst it’s not hard to avoid copying other people, it’s really easy to not bother doing the work inherent in being yourself. Because it really is work.

It is so easy not to reflect on what someone has said, written, created … and consider how that can be translated into your own universe, for your people, through you, your lens, your lived experience.

But when you do that part, that’s when the magic happens.

Whilst we can be inspired by those we look up to or who hold positions we see as hierarchically above us in realms in which we walk, to be able to consolidate and percolate and really learn from them, to be able to make manifest what they have taught to us, to transform the ideas they shared, ideas that lit us up, into something that truly serves us and others, we have to run them through our own internal computer system and turn them into something new…

And that can take time, patience and real skill. Be patient with yourself. And don’t rush it. Focus on becoming you and the percolation will happen along the way.

Of course we are all influenced by things outside of ourselves, be they the moon or Harry Styles’ penchant for amazing trousers (something that inspires me, endlessly). But don’t be a dick.

If you buy some pastel flares, Harry Styles won’t care. Probably. Unless you’re Zayn Malik. But if you steal someone’s artwork, when the original was born of 15k of therapy, some very late nights and sixteen hours of introspection, it’s just not cool. Stop it. Be you.

It’s not always easy to stay ‘true to you’… but nothing truly magical and potent is easy.

You’re never going to find yourself the spaces between the ctl+c  and ctl+v commands on your keyboard. Try the whole qwerty spectrum instead.


Full Class Recording: Be An Original

Here you will find the link to a video of a full, 75 minute, class recording of a Kundalini Yoga series called Be An Original from my free class that was held on Tuesday 17th August.

As you will see, the video recordings of full classes are all password protected. This is, in no way, to limit access but because for insurance purposes I have to keep a record of who has access to full classes. 

To access the full class recordings sign up to my email newsletter to be given the password for all videos. By doing so you will also be able to get the links for free live classes that I run. If you hate email newsletters, email me and let me know you want the password just so I can keep a note of your name and contact details. Otherwise, you can signup here and will receive an email with the password right away:

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I hope you enjoy the class recording and let me know if you have any questions. 

I always love to hear from you – you can send me an email (info@sarajaynekundalini.com)

Fingertip Fragility and What a Yoga Teacher ‘Should’ Be Like…

Lovely humans

I spent last weekend on a campsite in Ditchling on a retreat for yoga teachers. It was very cool. I came back with extremely sore thighs from the potent combination of contorted-tent-bound-sleeping-positions on an ever-deflating-airbed, lots of yoga and some accidentally-treacherous-hill-walking. I also arrived home with a pretty deep cut on my finger that made both Gyan Mudra and the touch ID on my apple devices tricky to navigate (I’m entirely sure that it was the touch ID that caused me the greatest amount of suffering, make of that what you will). I should not be trusted with sharp knives. Not for a moment.

Beyond that the thing I came back with was a massive smile, born of laughing SO MUCH for 3 days that even in writing this, a week on, moments are flooding back to me causing me to pause my typing and smile like a Cheshire Cat.

Since arriving home I have been thrown right into the centre of the ‘back-to-school’ whirlwind. I’m well over a decade into this school thing now as a parent, you’d think I’d be a bit more organised. On it. Prepared. But nope.

No one has uniform, no one has appropriate hair and no one has done a single piece of homework. Don’t even get me started on name labels. I have no labels but I have nothing to label yet so no space to worry about that. I believe I am attached to the chaos of allowing it to come down to the wire in being ready (or not). We will get there. We always do.

In the meantime my middle child has their 10th birthday and that feels FAR more important. I have extremely rare Japanese import toys to track down so he is not left bitterly disappointed on the day. I have ultra-specific cakes to bake and Pokemon to craft from fondant icing. I have the joy of decorating for a birthday breakfast. I adore all of this stuff and dread the day my children no longer want it all. . .

Domesticity aside I have also been reflecting a lot on being a yoga teacher. It’s still something new to me. A label, a role, a position I have occupied, that I am playing with in terms of how it sits, how it fits, what it means…

When I say ‘yoga teacher’ what do you see? 

What do you think a yoga teacher should be like?

What words come to mind?

What should they look like?

How should they dress?

What should they eat?

What should they talk about?

What does their house smell like?

Are they allowed to be disorganised? Messy? Angry? Upset?

How do their children behave?

Do they have sex?

Do they swear?

Do they recycle? Do they exude health and vitality? Are they wise?

Should they drink diet coke? Should they eat Mars bars? Are they allowed to smoke? 

Do you have expectations of them ‘walking the walk’ in ways you are consciously aware of?

If you discovered your yoga teacher had a raging cocaine habit and did tequila shots every weekend would it shock you? Would you stop going to class? Would they no longer deserve…?

It is a subject that I find really interesting. Important.

Since training as a teacher I have, personally, put down so many of the ‘shoulds’ that I had been unconsciously carrying around about what a yoga teacher should be.

I have no raging cocaine habit and am still tee-total but I’m human. Very human.

My house is messy. Sometimes I eat junk. My level of caffeine intake needs attention right now, for sure. And, in terms of clothes, my leopard print addiction is back. Big time.

I don’t have huge affection for the word, but I am more authentic. More me. And from there I feel, I believe, I am a better teacher than I ever could have been a few years ago when coffee was the devil and my sweat smelled like sandalwood.

Despite this, I am aware that if I were observing myself as a teacher through the eyes of past me I would consider myself as falling short in a huge number of ways.

‘She’s not spiritual enough!’ Might be the first judgement that past me would make of myself now.

Spiritual. 

Enough. 

Big words. Interesting words.

And perhaps they are true.

Some may come across me, my classes, and think like this.

It may never occur to others. 

It is a topic that exists concurrently with an uprising of opposition to yoga as a physical practise in the west, with judgements made on those who are perceived not to respect the roots of yoga and who limit the practise to only one of Patanjali’s 8 limbs.

The cultural appropriation of yoga and the violation on India and Indians in terms of invisibility and misrepresentation is very real and hugely important. But as a white, western, practitioner, being an ally, being aware of the role of power and the legacies of imperialism, has absolutely nothing to do with ‘appearing’ spiritual in any way. Indeed, to practise yoga, to live with conscious awareness of the commitment that is, is a messy, human, tricky, life-long experience. And one I believe I am living.

My walking the walk just doesn’t look how I thought it ‘should’. And perhaps not how you think it should either. And that’s no issue, for me, at all.

I have, at times, considered if I should stop using the word yoga. In many ways it would make life more simple. But I do practise yoga. I do. Imperfectly, messily, getting many things ‘wrong’…

For now it is a label I stick with: yoga teacher. With all of the projections, assumptions and very real commitment to the practise that involves.

Yoga Practise not Yoga Perfect…

It’s not that I don’t get it. The ‘shoulds’ can be lovely, alluring, give us vitality, and for many they are an authentic aspect of their practise.

I changed so much when I started, and stuck with, a Kundalini yoga practise. To an extent where some who are close to me found it baffling and, I believe, unsettling too.

Much of this was material… how I dressed (less synthetic leopard print and more white linen), how I ate (less processed vegan substitutes and more organic vegetables) what I listened to (less obscure 90s indie music and much more mantra)… I could go on and on.

Change came too in how I lived my life more generally. This wasn’t a negative experience. I slept better. The ‘dreaded’ cold showers really did make me feel amazing. Generally, over time, I found myself kinder and softer.

Whilst I can look back now and see the enormous amount of what many would label as spiritual bypassing that I did in these years, the practise of not being reactive, of ‘recognising that the other person as you’ and grappling with the concept of those people you find most tricky being your greatest teachers… it did have an impact on how I moved in the world, and in a positive way.

In a general sense, the practise had helped me to realise that I could change how I feel. And that had, for sure, the potential to awaken a sense of agency. But I did not see nor feel agency. Not at all. I attached so much to the transformation to forces/people outside of myself that my own role in how yoga had helped me was entirely lost to me.

I (unconsciously) believed I was making change for the ‘other’ rather than for myself… and that once I knew about the ability to make that change, if I chose not to (if my neurosis became more important than my sadhana) I would be punished.

If not by an outside force then certainly by myself.

Please know I am not making any assumption that others have the same experience with their yoga practise. I talk only about what happened for me.

Over the past 18 months I’ve changed just as much again.

Am I now a spiritual person? Was I back then? Has that changed with the clothes or the diet or the way I present myself externally to the world?

I could tell you what I believe, but it feels entirely unnecessary.

I could look at any one of you, reading this, and make an assumption on if you were ‘spiritual’ or not based on some imaginary criteria that I, at the moment I exist within as I make the judgement, bring to mind. But what does that achieve? Nothing.

I don’t care if someone is, or considers themselves, spiritual or not.

I care about kindness, I care about generosity, I care about helping others and I hope to be of some service in that… however imperfectly than manifests.

I am drawn to humanity, to those who show up as their messy (or extremely elegant) selves and who, from there, make me think, make me laugh, make me question where I am not as open minded as I could be…

I love humans. I really do. Being human, accepting and embracing my humanity, has really awoken a love and compassion in me that my previous commitment to being the ‘perfect’ yogi never came close to allowing.

If you have any thoughts on what you think a yoga teacher should do/be/think/exude… I’d really love to hear them You can leave a comment or email me. . .

Sending love

Sara-Jayne