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.

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



Swamp Creatures, Hector the Heron and the Romance of Sweeping Chimneys: What I Have Been Up To This Week

Hello fellow humans

Time folded in on itself this week. It feels as if I span around and it was Sunday again. Time flies when you are having an experience of life that very much ties in with why we desperately need yoga right now – life is busy! Busy and uncertain but, luckily for me, also very fun.

One of the things that makes me feel particularly blessed in life, and creates an awful lot of fun, is that I have a dog. I have mentioned her, briefly, on my About page, but not to the extent that she plays a part in my wellbeing. I adore her and taking her for a daily walk is pretty much what keeps me grounded, literally. Rebel is her name. And her nature. Although perhaps, if we would totally reflect her nature in the label she’s been assigned we would call her (Lazy) Rebel. She is 4 years old but often acts on our high-speed walks (I am a fast walker) as if she is 104. People often stop to ask me how old she is, as she plods along behind me at the speed of a slug. And are shocked to learn that she is a mere pup. She’s just super chilled out and that is very very good for me. She slows me down. She knows I need it.

I got a bit frustrated with her this week as, despite having absolutely no need whatsoever to move at any speed at all, ever, she is rather skilled at going from 0-1000 miles an hour when she spots a friend a mine. A heron I have named Hector. Hector often plods along the canal tow path in front of me lately. Pausing every so often to have a good look around. I have a buring desire to talk to him (I think he has something important to say) but, alas, as soon as Rebel spots him off he flies. Usually landing exactly level with us but over the other side of the canal. I have asked Rebel multiple times to calm down around Hector but she is very keen to dash up to him at breakneck speed. It’s incredibly frustrating.

Hello Hector!

Another time Rebel speeds up is whenever she gets a whiff of stagnant water or that glorious dog perfume, fox poo. This week she twice dashed off in to a nearby swamp before I could catch her. I should get cross, perhaps, but it always just makes me laugh when she emerges from the lagoon like a creature from the deep.

My walks with Rebel are a magical part of my life and I am grateful for her beyond words. If I manage to talk to Hector I will let you know.

Swamp Thing

Come sit with me this week. We will have fun.

Classes have been glorious this week. We continue to run classes on Tuesday mornings, in-person, at Bantock Park Coach House. I have two place for this week’s class if you are local and would like to come along.

Online classes are also ongoing. I had a bit of a falling out with Zoom this week, the full moon plus the technology gods were having a field day with me in a whole variety of ways. But we’ve kissed and made up. All is forgiven. I love teaching via zoom, online classes are much more magical than you might imagine. Doing a ‘live’ class is completely different to doing something pre-recorded. You have to experience it to feel the energy. It’s quite something to be able to connect in this way.

If you’d like to try either an in-person class or to come along to Bantock Park in Wolverhampton, you can book via the classes page on this site.

“The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.”

That’s a quote from Andy Warhol. And it captures beautifully why I really love photos. Just not always of myself.

This week I was blessed with some photo from a very talented photographer who came to my house to work with my on some photos for this website.

Priya at Sorriso has recently branched out from wedding photography in to brand photography. It’s not been the easiest time for those who work in the wedding industry (indeed, I know, for anyone!) and I truly respect the entrepenerual spirit it takes to embrace new ways of embracing your passion to allow it to work for the times.

Priya’s photographs are lovely, and you will see them being added to the site over time. I do hope Priya will forgive me for occasionally cutting myself out of images and placing myself in some imaginary universe I have created on my Instagram.

Chimney sweeps and cosy yoga

I am very very lucky to have my own space in my home in which to practise yoga. And even luckier that it has a log burner, which I absolutely love. I am thrilled that it is getting to the time of year where I can begin to use it. But right now I desperately need a chimney sweep to come and do their magic. I absolutely love that chimney sweeps still exist. I suppose my childhood love of Mary Poppins has made me somewhat romanticise what would well be a far-from-wonderful job. I’m not sure, though, because the one I use is always supremely happy and cheery.

Early morning practise by a fire is the most wonderful thing. It fills me up with such a lovely feeling to imagine waking up early and lighting my fire before I start to do my daily yoga.

At the moment I am absolutely loving doing an early morning core series with Carolyn Cowan. She has blessed us with this 6-week 7am series, which is now, sadly, almost complete. Luckily, this is being followed by six weeks of pranayama, and then, most gloriously, ‘Cores at Christmas’. Which I personally cannot wait for.

These are half hour classes on a Friday morning at 6am and it’s a very magical way to start the day. If you want to find out more you can do that here:

Until next week, magical creatures.

Do leave a comment or send me an email to let me know how you are. I would love to hear from you. And hope to see you in class this week.

With love

Sara-Jayne xxx