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

 

 

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.


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

Swaying to stillness and the exquisite bliss of longing for…

Lovely humans,

I’ve been caught up in longing.

Longing – a “yearning, eager desire or craving,” It comes from the old English langung  a “…weariness, sadness, dejection…” but no definition gets it quite right, for me.

To sit in longing is an interesting space.

Longing for someone is entirely different to ‘missing’  them, in my awareness.

We ‘miss’ with our mind. Longing, it seems, is an experience that encompasses the entirety of our being.

I’ve been on a journey with being able to notice and name emotions. To name longing took time, “perhaps this is sadness?”  “feeling weak?”  “A curious and quite lovely type of pain?!” But knowing, in my reflection, it was something far more than my words managed to touch.

I like longing. Is that a strange statement to make? I believe that longing comes from an encounter with something magical enough that this (to me, peculiarly beautiful) emotion is evoked.

The universe we exist in places endless expectation on us to find and satisfy our hungers and desires as instantaneously as we possibly can. That the outcome is never, in the least bit, satisfying is what keeps us in a loop of consumption… be that of sugar, carbs, porn, fast-fashion or whatever lands on the doorstep in one of those too-familiar brown cardboard Amazon parcels.

Perhaps, I reflected, that is why to sit still, with longing, feels so unusual. So welcome. 

I find that sitting with longing, which can be considered a pretty melancholy emotion, is extremely lovely.

But why? Really? Can it be as simple as it being so at odds with a fast-paced, ever-scrolling, society that seeks reassurance from ‘buy now’ buttons and navigating Porn Hub with a well-trained thumb?

My love of longing feels like more than that. It feels like connecting to an entire new universe.

Swaying to stillness…

To long for something is to feel its lack. And to exist with longing is not easy.

In the world of yoga it seems that many who come to the mat have an awareness of a certain, dark, untouchable space… you could call it a void… that exists in us. Perhaps the awareness comes from some experience of sensing that space and becoming curious about what it is, and where it could lead us. Down the rabbit hole…

I mention this as, for me, there is a connection between that space and the feeling of longing.

We have a certain posture that we work with in Kundalini Global yoga classes… to my knowledge the posture has no name… born of ‘neck rolls’… it involves a gentle swaying from side to side. I believe it is the brain-child of Carolyn Cowan. If it is not, then that is certainly where my experience with the posture began. And where I fell head over heals in love with it. I share it here because it is what truly awoke this longing in me… and what I turn to when I want to sit with it once more.

You could try it if you haven’t… we sit cross legged, spine straight, hands on the knees.

The breath is gentle. Quiet. We inhale in the centre and exhale as we begin to sway. Move to the left first. Ear moving down toward the shoulder, swaying gently to the left, coming back up to gently inhale, then exhaling and gently swaying, ear toward shoulder, to the right.

Gradually, with each breath, each exhale, moving a tiny bit lower.  As we slowly descend the arms can come to the side, on the floor either side of us, to offer support. Rocking slowly, slowly, lower and lower. We take just as much time to descend as to slowly come back. I’d start with 3 minutes… so 90 seconds to descend as you sway, and 90 to come back slowly to tall and straight.

And then, not lying back as we commonly do after a posture, just sit in stillness. Really soft in the body. And notice…

What Carolyn brought my awareness to is a pulse. A pulse in the spinal fluid. It is called the lumbar cerebrospinal fluid pulse. And the rhythmic, swaying, motion of the posture allows us quickly, gently, to being able to tune into it. I find my body still sways a little with the pulse. So gently it is like being rocked in the weightless arms of an angel.

Cerebrospinal fluid is a clear, colourless body fluid found within the tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord of all vertebrates. When we are entirely present and still and when we are landed in our bodies, we may be able to become aware of this pulse. When we do, when we can, it is, or has been for me, an experience of myself that is otherworldly in its gentleness, in its perfection. I do not use the word perfect often but it really is. Perfect bliss.

Yet. Yet. In this perfect bliss I seem always to find a paradoxical longing. An ache.

How is this possible? To be entirely accepting of the moment, blissful, and yet the experience is one where longing is the word… Before gentle. Before calm. Before present. The only word I may place before longing is this one… Divine.

Carolyn teaches that the lumbar cerebrospinal fluid pulse is the Divine within the body.

How beautiful is that?

To me it feels exactly right.

Utter Perfection

The stillness that comes from the posture I describe above leaves me sitting with an emotion that feels so much more than ‘happy’. It is an aching, longing, blissful pull that feels like … a calling?!? Words. Words. Sometimes they fail.

Whatever the words are, I’ve felt this bliss before. Along with its accompanying, paradoxical, ache. One instance in-particular springs to mind, owing to how entirely unremarkable the moment was that it came. At least from the outside…

It was after my usual clockwise run around my local park on an Autumnal evening last year. It came as I walked home through an extremely ‘rough’ area of my city as the sun set. My trainers had rubbed my feet and my hair was wet with sweat. Cars passed. People shouted between windows in the flats lining the street and kids wove around me on scooters, giggling. The sky was beautiful. Purple, pink and orange. A huge flock of geese flew noisily overhead. Of course, after my run, I was flooded with endorphins. But nothing was unfamiliar. Nothing was noteworthy. Yet, all of a sudden, I had this sense come over me. I stopped still and looked up.

Utter perfection. Utter perfection in every cell of my body and… again, that deep deep longing.

It is so lovely when we can have such moments and consciously think ‘I will not forget this moment.’  And we don’t.

…something you cannot explain or know

When reflecting on this sense of present longing I, of course, needed to research, to dig into it and see what others may have taken such a feeling and experience to be or to mean.

In my reading I came across a word I like. It’s a German word: “Sehnsucht.’’

The dictionary tells us that ‘‘sehnsucht’’ is an “intense, mostly bittersweet longing for something remote or unattainable that would make life more complete”. Like a really intense yet infantile crush, then? Where you imagine complete perfection and bliss would come to all aspects of life with the first, passionate kiss? No. Not that. The translations of this word are tricky in English, but roughly it is, yes, a longing, but no, not like a crush, it is a deep yearning for something that you cannot ever explain or know.

I love to find a word that feels in alignment with the incommunicable. Not perfect. But close.

A yearning for something we cannot explain or know. Perhaps that is a definition not only of sehnsucht but of an aspect of devotion. Of a longing for the divine without. The external divine of our awareness. Whatever, whoever, that is. I think it is that. And I think it is a beautiful thing.

If I told 99% of the people in my real life that I was sitting in stillness with a yearning for God they would think I had lost the plot. . . but that is what I have come to.

I’ve been reading a lot about St. Augustine. I cannot go into his life here but do look him up. Quite a character. I have come to believe he was probably neurodivergent in some way. We share the same birthday. I did think once, ‘I hope we share little else…’ But of course we do. And not only this longing, this “Sehnsucht.” Although this is an aspect of human existence I am certain that we both have touched.

Holy longing?

In  Augustine’s sixth homily in his Homilies on 1, John states that a distinctive quality of Christian living is to learn to live into our longing:

“The whole life of the good Christian is a holy longing. What you long for, as yet you do not see; but longing makes in you room that shall be filled, when that which you are to see shall come.”

It’s such a curious thing. I love seeing an empty room inside me. A space. In Augustine’s thinking it is as if we are to be trained by longing. Not an arbitrary longing for our fuck buddy or a pair of cheap trainers. But by a holy longing.

A holy longing that creates a space, a ‘room that shall be filled’. I do not know if I want it to be filled. But I like sitting in that room and waiting in stillness. I like that a lot.

Most of us never sit in it.

So often, through a vast array of means and methods – returning to the list above of fast-food, fast-sex, fast-fashion – we work to soothe ourselves with anything other than… other than what? Other than the Divine.

I do not think these things are ‘bad.’ If we can be present to any moment, any experience, even a show we consume on Netflix or a cheap glazed doughnut… they can all be Divine.

Perhaps some aspect of longing comes when we forget the giver. Whatever or whoever we imagine that to be.

I believe that I have no satisfying way of ending this post for you. Perhaps I want to leave you in longing for an answer that may never come.

That is where I find myself. Happily.

I still sit, and sit still, in longing. And yes, I move between the experience of presence in it and seeking understanding of what it is.

I have come to realise that to sit in this longing is excellent for giving birth to artistic expression.

But I also reflect that, to go back to the ‘void’ inside that many in yoga, in ‘spiritual’ circles, seem to have become aware of in some way,  whatever the thing is that we believe to be a missing part of ourselves… perhaps is not a space that needs to be filled but one that is perfection as it is. If we can sit with it, in it. 

The longing for…

I don’t feel it needs to be named. 

Full Class Recording: Reprogramming The Human Psyche

Here you will find the link to a video of a full, 60 minute, class recording of my favourite yoga series: Reprogramming The Human Psyche.

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:

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)

I Started A YouTube Channel

Lovely humans

Just a quick update for you. I wanted a place I could more easily share some short but sweet practises for changing the rhythms of body and mind. The things we can do when we have only 3, 5, 10 minutes max but would like to change how we feel.

The result is a YouTube channel. I put my first video up last night. I plan to do 1-2 a week. I would really love it if you would subscribe to the channel and let me know anything in particular you would like me to film.

The first video is here. I hope you like it. If you would be kind enough to click through and subscribe or share on etc. I’d really appreciate it.

Sending love

Sara-Jayne

Slowing Down Time, Bunny Rabbit Post-Run Euphoria And The Octopus in The Evolution of Intelligent Life

Hello lovely humans

Over the coming few weeks, as we get to the final two classes in the series of The Art of Changing Your Mind (you can still book on to these classes and access the final two live, recordings of the first 3 and all of the goodies that come with booking) I have some extra classes that you can join me in too.

I have my regular free classes, at 8am on Saturdays and Sundays. And, for the next two weeks, I am covering the Tuesday morning and Thursday morning, 10am, Kundalini Global classes for Carolyn Cowan.

Tuesdays: June 22nd and June 29th. 10am-11:15am. Via zoom. This is a 75 minute Kundalini Global class, that follows the same format as my own classes.

Thursdays: June 24th and July 1st. 10am-11:15am. Via zoom. A Core Abdominals and Pranayama class. This class, as an attendee, is my favourite class of the week. I plan to make it an excellent and fun experience for all who come along. It’s a little different to my usual offer, we will be doing breath practise, a series of core abdominal exercises, and a short yoga series. All in 75 minutes.

To book these classes you can go straight to Ribbon, who manage the bookings for Carolyn’s classes. Pick the class you would like to join and take it from there. If you have any questions about accessing these classes, or anything else, send me an email.

Book Classes On Ribbon (I am covering the next 4, between June 22nd – July 1st)

Can I stop time?

Do you ever consciously choose to move slower in one aspect of your life only to unconsciously speed things up in another? 

I take on less work, I do more and more exercise, I let go of needing a tidy house, I decide I ‘need’ to start a new social enterprise, read 27 books at once that hurt my brain and learn to play a new musical instrument. 

Right now I too often choose action over rest. There is so much cool stuff to be getting on with. But even when our action’ turns toward service, we still need rest. All of us. And lots of it. 

And it is a choice. To choose to listen to our bodies. And I know that. 

It is incredibly important to recognise when our entire being is in hyperdrive. If we find ourselves spinning 75 different styles of dinner plate sets, on a variety of distinctly unstable poles and for extended periods of time, not only does it put our physical being under huge amounts of stress (circus manipulation art is a sport in itself) but it also means, or very likely means, we’re missing out on the bliss of presence. 

Sometimes the reason we won’t slow down is because we can’t bear what we find when we do. We’ve all been through an incredibly challenging time of late and it can be really tough to sit in stillness and just …notice.

Notice how we really feel.

What we really need.

To stop.

To just be.

I believe yoga practise comes in here like a fairly godmother. To make your pause present. I have a good idea of where I would be, mentally, physically, without my yoga practise right now. And it is not a nice thought. . .

After every morning practise I spend time in child’s pose. There, I feel utterly safe. Utterly still. Grounded. It is so so lovely. ‘I need this’. Is all my mind says. And, when I move to uncurl as the first item on the never ending todo list creeps in to my thoughts, in a whisper, the voice adds, ‘I need more!’

It’s something I’ve never been that good at… take my approach to running over the years…

Endorphin addiction?

You may or may not know how much I adore running. I truly do. It’s my ultimate way to move anything that needs to move … be that my legs, a headache or some crippling self-doubt. And, whilst I love the run itself, what it is that I really cannot get enough of is the endorphins that come at the end.

It is only in the past 12 months that I have come to appreciate and relish the endorphins. Training to teach Kundalini Global gave me so much invaluable information on changing hormonal flow in the body… and this unlocked a whole new experience of my post run euphoria.

Yesterday I ran about 7km from my house. I had not been for a run for over a month owing to a minor surgery I had on my leg. With the stitches gone I pulled on my trainers, made my way to an abandoned railway track, and I ran. I was SO thrilled to be running. I ran entirely in a straight line.

Having not fully anticipated the (rather depressing) decrease in my level of anaerobic fitness, when I found myself quite qucikly 7km from home and somewhere in South Staffordshire, surrounded by fields, it occurred to me that, with no running juice left, the slow journey home may take some time. I stopped. I laughed. I lay back on some grass for five minutes. It started to rain. A bunny rabbit came and ran over my feet. No joke! The idea of a slow, long walk home, basking in the endorphins, in no rush at all, made me happy. Immeasurably happy. There was a time that would not have been so.

This was me, post-run, during the long walk home. Extreme runner’s high made so much more excellent by the calmness.

Endorphins reduce pain and boost pleasure by eating our stress hormones. They are released in response to effort.

Endorphins are important because they give us a feeling of well-being which can really aid us in being present and in feeling safe and allowing ourselves stillness. 

Endorphins were, on reflection, a large part of what kept me coming back to Kundalini Yoga classes when I first started them. Retrospectively, I can see that the pauses between endorphin releasing postures were what allowed me a new experience of them… of the endorphins. And also, from that, a new experience of myself.

Postures that release Endorphins include:

Planks
Stretch Pose
Gas pose with BofF (one of my faves!)

All of these postures, and many more in Kundalini, especially when held for 1-3 minutes, release a huge amount of endorphins.

What is special about Kundalini Global is that we always allow ourselves the experience of the endorphins flooding through the body at the end of an endorphin producing posture.

This is something I did not get from my running. I never paused. I ran and ran – straight back to my front door, jumped in the shower… then moved right on with my day.

To pause after releasing endorphins is absolutely vital. Our chance of stillness. Our change to experience, maybe for the first time, safety. The pause is also when the endorphins get to work in  eating all the stress hormones. As my mentor and teacher Carolyn Cowan says – if we do not take the rest, the pauses – it is like rolling a joint and then not smoking it! 

Other Minds, The Making of Biblical Womanhood and Seven Brief Lessons on Physics – What I Have Been Reading

My bibliophilia is at what may well be its peak. I have read so much over the past few months. Often up to 3 books a week. (Make of this what you will relative to how I opened this blog post with a need to slow down!)

Much of this has been for research for projects I am working on, but I work to one a week being entirely for pleasure.

3 such books that I have enjoyed hugely over the past month (I will not write reviews or even much of a description here, you can check them out and see if they sound like they are for you) are:

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli.

When I was at school I was pretty excellent at physics. But I did not fall in love with it. I wish I had, because my interest now is unyielding, but the foundations of my knowledge are shaky and uncertain. Books like this, that explain scientific theories in clear and compelling ways, are pure joy to me. I cannot believe that such a short book can teach so much. Truly recommend. As one review says ‘the entire universe in 79 pages’.

The Making of Biblical Womanhood by Beth Allison Barr.

‘How The Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth’. Women in/and the church has become something that I am compelled to delve more and more into. This is not owing, particularly, to anything specific to my own religious or spiritual belief systems, about which I do not write or share, but owing to the broader implications the way the church has thought of, treated, and influenced the lives of, women is something that was entirely unknown to me until the past few years. Knowing the little I do so far, it is a topic that I feel is of huge importance to all people attempting to navigate life, and shape change, in our patriarchal society. This book ties the ‘Biblical woman’ to clearly definable historical moments. It is an utterly fascinating book and topic.

Other Minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith

‘The Octopus and The Evolution of Intelligent Life’. The octopus appears to be having something of a moment in the popular imagination. Good. I love them. Adore them. I went to a bookshop to search for a gift for a friend and came across this book. Straight in to my basket it went. Reading about evolution – amazing. Reading about cephalopods? Even better. It has a chapter called ‘Mischief and Craft’. Two of my favourite things and words. It’s a really interesting read. And if any creature can be drawn upon to investigate the origin and nature of consciousness then the octopus seems by far superior to us humans to fit the bill.

I get to the end of these posts with roughly 45.682 things I have thought of as I sit and write that I want to share. But I will stop here. And only say… thank you so much for reading.

I hope you have a truly lovely day/weekend/week…

I send you loads of love and hope to see you in a class very soon

Sara-Jayne
xxxx

Exciting Times for Kundalini Global and The Power of Community

In a few weeks’ time it will be a year since I certified with Yoga Alliance as a Kundalini Global yoga teacher. That went by pretty fast. Wow. I was in the first cohort of graduates from the training. Soon another big group, full of fascinating and brilliant humans, will qualify and join us. It is an exciting time.

I am extremely proud to call myself a Kundalini Global teacher.

As a general rule I strongly reject names and labels. My pride is testament to both the quality of the training and the potency of the practise. I love it. I do. I love being in classes. I get to them as many as 5 times a week. I adore teaching. I am passionate about this incredible community growing.

Community is one of the first words that comes to mind when I think of Kundalini Global. The past year has been so weird. So hard for so many. Not least in the isolation. The community that Carolyn Cowan fostered over lockdown through her own Kundalini Global classes has been a magical thing to be a part of. It’s amazing, actually, to consider how we all managed to come together so often over zoom and how much solace we found in doing so. Not only solace. Magic. Transformation. Joy. It’s been unforgettable. And we continue.

As the first group of graduates stepped out in to this peculiar, but really quite wonderful, landscape of online teaching we took the spirit of community into our own classes and slowly but surely, we have built communities of our own. I feel the connection between them all. We are, together, such a force for positive change.

At the time of writing I believe there are around 16 certified teachers of Kundalini Global. Within the next few months that will likely treble. I hope it will treble (and more) many many more times over coming months and years. Another training starts in September. If you’re interested in joining us it’s an incredibly exciting time to do it.

You can find out more here:

Kundalini Global is pioneering, unique and, best of all, it works

Works for what?

Most people come to a yoga class because they have heard through the grapevine, or via a super-skinny YouTube yoga celebrity, that it is relaxing, gentle, or good for stress.

Perhaps too, they seek some kind of a spiritual experience… whatever that means.

Some, like me, come because they are desperate to find respite from how unbearable life feels. How bored they are of their wily, unrelenting mind, and contracted, tense and agitated body. Respite that does not come from a hastily prescribed box of pills from the  GP or from the bottom of a bottle of wine.

Kundalini Global classes offer that respite. Quickly, magically, and through a growing, inclusive, community of teachers and practitioners who become experts in, a phrase you will hear us echo: changing how we feel.

We are a community that is new, yes, but growing quickly. And we have things to do. Big things.

What is Kundalini Global?

I do have a little page on my site about this question, a question I get asked regularly. I never manage to do it justice.

Kundalini Global is a new form of Kundalini Yoga. It is tricky to encapsulate in words, beyond saying that it is absolutely bloody amazing.

I find it to be an extraordinary, embodied, safe, kind, trauma-informed, form of yoga. A practise that creates a unique, still and gentle space within and outside of the self. The practise has a strong focus on the power of presence. And it is fun. I always add that. I have to. I have to tell you it is fun because as a statement it passes the test of being kind, necessary and also true.

Kundalini Global has opened up an entire new universe for me. One of connection, of community, one that feels powered by gratitude and intention and that allows for infinite space and freedom to be myself.

We probably aren’t what you expect…

Teachers of Kundalini Global are trained to consider aspects of creating safe, sacred spaces for classes that, I believe, opens up the possibility of exploring yoga to a much wider demographic. That is what we want. What we intend.

We probably don’t dress how you’d expect a yoga teacher to, we may not be as pretty, as flexible or as ‘love and light’… we may not play the music you have come to expect in a yoga class and we sometimes even say or do naughty things. But we are kind. We are open-minded. We practise self-reflection, daily, to notice where we may have yet unchallenged biases, attitudes or blindspots. We are supervised… we work to ensure we are well boundaried, that we are taking care of ourselves physically and mentally. We support each other.

We are human (and not, unfortunately, frogs… at least not always)

Kundalini Global teachers share a desire to use our individual manifestations of ‘humanness’ to offer those who come to classes an experience of what it can be like, what it can feel like, to be present, safe, still and gentle.

How we help you get there can require effort, don’t be entirely fooled by all this talk of ‘gentle, still, softness.’ That’s the reward.

We may have you using your arms as the world’s sharpest swords, working your core, squatting as a frog in stilettos or beaming 80 foot beams of light through your exhausted, extended arms up over your head (it’s not all barmy – but it’s fun when it is).  No matter what we invite you to explore,  though, all posture is presented with many equal variations to suit all body shapes and abilities, to allow for knowing that a posture is not a ‘can or can’t’ situation.

We show you how to make the postures work for your body. With no ‘ideal’, only equal variations that give the same, or a similar, desired effect.

Kundalini Global is not the preserve of the bendy, the thin, the white, the cis, the straight, the able-bodied, the young, the rich. It is our intention that we do the work to create diverse and welcoming communities that feel safe, fun and, hopefully, sacred. For everyone.

Whilst we may teach on zoom from grey, post-industrial cities in the midlands rather than parading in leggings and bras on rocks in the Ganges, we are all in service to create magical spaces that allow for all manifestations of what it means to be human to be held safely.

Ever unfolding

The work that we began on ourselves during the teacher training with Carolyn Cowan has continued for me every single day since.

‘The work’ – it sounds like a chore, doesn’t it?

Perhaps, if you haven’t ever done a yoga teacher training, you could imagine we mainly practise postures and learn about bones and muscles. We do do that. Lots of it. But the experience of training to teach Kundalini Global goes far beyond that.

With Carolyn you are invited to take apart your entire self-and-societally-constructed sense of self and examine each aspect with open, present, eyes.

I mention presence again here because, in order to do the work, the ability to come to presence again and again is vital. As teachers we must ‘practise what we preach’ and do that.

On the training we become expert at knowing hundreds of ways to come out of the pain of the past and the fear of the future and to the present moment. The commitment is to do it. Believe me, this is easier said than done. It takes huge amounts of self-awareness. It takes an ability to step out of self-obsession. But we commit to it. Because we understand what it opens up.

Deconstruction to reconstruction

I had a point on the teacher training where my entire universe lay in a giant, messy, heap on the floor in front of me. 

But I was present to it. I could see the work that was needed.

Deconstruct, examine, look at it in different lights, through different lenses. Reflect. Keep? Upcycle? Discard? And repeat.

Repeat with each and every aspect of yourself. From the stories you feel are pivotal to your life to how you feel about veganism to your gender identity to your relationship to god. Eventually you are left with what is likely a smaller pile of ‘stuff’ of ‘parts’, from which you can begin to reconstruct YOU.

My reconstruction has been interesting. Bits fall off all the time. Usually for good reason. But I reflect on them as they tumble. On what they taught me. New things get added. I have to take them off and have a look at them every now and then too.

Big parts of my work have been about dealing with shame, on body issues, on landing back into my body after years of being incredibly disconnected. It truly has been about challenging all aspects of what I thought about life and what life could, or should be.

When I wrote earlier ‘it sounds like a chore?’ I was going to follow with ‘it hasn’t felt like one.’ But actually, on occasion, it really has.

I have done it anyway.

I made a commitment when I qualified. I wrote an agreement for myself about what being a Kundalini Global teacher meant to me, what my commitment was. 

I am really bloody proud of myself for sticking with my commitment to change, to challenge, to reflect and to remain, always, open-minded.

When I got to my teacher training in February 2020 I would NEVER have thought possible that I would be in a place so soon of having taught hundreds and hundreds of classes. Of having built a absolutely awesome community of lovely humans who I teach. To have made my own Instagram account full of artistic manifestations of the insides of my brain, made friends with an imaginary tiger that I was comfortable enough to share with the world… none of this would have felt possible.

It became possible because the Kundalini Global training is an incredible, incredible, way to kick-start huge transformation. A little spoiler: you may have to walk through hell on the way. It’s worth it.

My journey…

When I first came to Kundalini Yoga it was not, back then, Kundalini Global. My first exploration was in the ‘as taught by Yogi Bhajan’ school. I remember someone describing the practise at the time to me as ‘yoga, but more spiritual’. An interesting statement on a number of levels. Hilarious.

I could kind of see what they meant, though. It felt like a ‘spiritual thing’ in comparison to what you may find presented as yoga in a gym. To chant. To focus at the third eye. To meditate for hours on end. And it made me feel great. The endorphins alone were enough to see me leaving class as high as a kite, desperate for my next Kundalini fix.

When I first practised Kundalini Yoga, I went from a lycra-clad, scatter-brained, spiritually-skeptic accidental-class-attendee to a white-linen-wearing, spiritual-name-holding, daily sadhana practising, devotee within months. I also became vegan, stopped drinking, took daily cold showers and believed every problem that had ever existed in my life had miraculously vanished with the power of chanting with Snatam Kaur.

I lived for a few years as if I was floating in a cloud of sparkly fairy dust. It drove those around me mad.

This form of Kundalini did much for me at the time but I never wanted to commit to teaching it. Partly because:

a. Everyone around me thought I had joined a cult. 

b. Some part of my knew I had, indeed, joined a cult.

It’s a big topic. And by even discussing it I open myself up to scrutiny in a way I do not feel entirely comfortable with. But the context is important in my journey. Because part of what I love about what Carolyn has done with Kundalini Global also comes to how the practises we teach, just like my description of the work we are invited to do on ourselves, have been deconstructed and examined. The ‘why’ of how they work has been conceptualised within the frameworks of physiology… neuroscience, endocrinology…

We have equally looked at the esoteric thought of the practise. But broadened out that exploration to consider the whole spectrum of religious and spiritual belief systems.

We understand how the practises we work with work. And, yes, many teachers then choose to imbue their classes with all kinds of other concepts and ideas that resonate with them. But the key aspects remain: we can show you how to go from feeling left-out, stressed-out, overwhelmed, anxious, pissed off and offended to the present moment. A place where the ability to accept and allow is possible. And, often, welcome. You also, of course, have permission to stay exactly as you are. We’re only here to show you what you’re capable of if you make the choice to change.

BS Free Yoga

When it comes to Kundalini Global, in private I have said that it is ‘Kundalini Yoga without the bullshit’. A controversial statement? Definitely. And perhaps something of a judgmental one, too.

But, on a personal level, I believe that Yogi Bhajan was not only a despicable predator but that his teachings contained huge amounts of complete and utter, misogynistic, harmful, BS. Beyond that I believe, with every cell of my body, that we do not need anyone to be our guru. We only need to be given some tools and a safe enough space to practise them, to realise that we are powerful beyond measure ourselves.

Creating a new form of Kundalini Yoga is quite a thing. Fearless, fascinating and controversial in itself.

Carolyn Cowan, who founded Kundalini Global, spent decades teaching Kundalini Yoga
before making the incredibly brave decision to take this new, pioneering, path. Carolyn recognised, long before the controversy that hit the world of Kundalini Yoga at the start of 2020, that a new way was needed. A kinder way. A 21st century way. One that is radically inclusive.

Together, I believe the Kundalini Global community will do truly amazing things. I would so love some of those who have enjoyed my classes to train to teach this incredible practise themselves. If you want to read more about Carolyn and the training you can find information here:


Feel free to email me if you have questions.

With loads of love, as always

Sara-Jayne

xxx