It’s almost a month since I wrote this new year/reflective piece for A Life Loved and I wanted to check in to firstly see how you are getting on with new, more positive and healthy routines for 2018, but also to let you know how I’m getting on too.
January is a strange and stubborn month. It drags. It’s long. It’s dark and this year, it showed an intense disloyalty to winter by teasing us with some very mild, spring-like weather (hello all you pretty Snowdrops in our garden). But it’s also the month my husband celebrates his birthday and is a time for everyone to take time to pause and reflect and work out the direction they want their lives to take for the rest of the year. With the latter in mind, I’ve genuinely tried to view this January in a more positive light than I did January 2017.
A couple of weeks ago I read this feature about ‘Seasonal Living‘ over on the brand new State of Liberty site (founder Lizzie Jones is contributing to our own blog with a series of wellbeing posts). It was probably the most important thing I read all month and I urge you to take a few minutes yourself to read it today. Lizzie talks about being kind to yourself during the winter months – to ‘schedule in time for rest and enjoy slow and cosy days.’ She encourages simple, practical, totally achievable solutions to help you survive and feel good during these darker weeks and months; ensuring you drink plenty of water every day, bathe frequently and keep your chest and feet warm, take moderate exercise and practice a little yoga.
Living in harmony with nature and the seasons is a fundamental element of many ancient philosophies. Classical texts illustrate the importance of following the natural rhythms and cycles of our planet to support balance in our bodies and minds.
– State of Liberty –
Ahhh, yoga. Everyone and his wife seem to be doing yoga right now. Especially every January. And it’s everywhere on Instagram (#yogaeverydamn #yogaisforlife #yogayogayogayogayoga). I’ve also seen a number of features shared on Facebook of late about how yoga has become an industry and is being monetised to the ‘enth degree, how some yoga trends are an insult to the practice. It’s enough to put you off. But it shouldn’t be.
Everyone I know who practices yoga raves about is. My friends who practice regularly say that it has transformed their lives, that it keeps them grounded, that it has improved their posture, their strength and their focus.
I’ve dabbled with yoga on and off for a few years now. I’d never attended a class, I’d just read some books, educated myself a little on the chakra/energy system and enjoyed a few YouTube tutorials at home. But there was never any real commitment, and looking back, I don’t really think I was all too ‘there’ and ‘present’ for this practice. I was probably just doing it because everybody else was. And, because I wanted to prove to myself that I could still headstand at 42 🙂
I’ve long considered myself a bit of a yoga-fraud and so was nervous about attending class and being surrounded by tall, fit, lithe-limbed 20-somethings who would glide effortlessly between downward facing dog and warrior pose like they’d just swept a hair from their shoulder.
Having arrived at the end of 2017 in such a rut, and not seeming to have discovered a fix for my horrendous migraines, I was keen to explore yoga again this year and so in early January, I started a little gentle practice every day again – just Youtube based stuff, just maybe 20 – 30 minutes, at the end of every day. I then I remembered the ‘30 days with Adriene‘ free online course and 12 days ago, I started following this daily practice shortly before bed each day.
Last Sunday, I attended my first proper yoga class in the village hall with a friend. This was a big step for me – I’ve long considered myself a bit of a yoga-fraud and so was nervous about being surrounded by tall, fit, lithe-limbed 20-somethings who would glide effortlessly between downward facing dog and warrior pose like they’d just swept a hair from their shoulder. But the experience was absolutely nothing like I had imagined; the darkened, candle-lit room of about 25 individuals (which made it a packed room) was of varying ages, abilities – and sex too (great to see men and women participating). The teacher was wonderful and explained that she would be guiding the class in a way that would encourage everyone, no matter their experience or ability. The lesson pushed me harder than I imagined it would – I learned new poses I’m now practicing at home (and ached the next day!), but better still, it fulfilled me with a sense of ‘I can! I did!’. I literally skipped out of the village hall beaming from ear-to-ear at my new accomplishment. I’m due to attend my second yoga class with my favourite dog-eared yoga mat this evening, and I can’t wait.
Granted, that I’m practicing a little yoga every day alongside a larger effort to be kinder to myself and live a more balanced life – better sleep, better food, daily exercise (I spend a half hour every day on a rowing machine – apparently burning off 500 calories), and not quite yet but almost a screen-free Sunday (I’m getting there). But for the past week, I’ve woken from sleep and never felt so at peace. I feel calmer, more capable and focussed, I feel fitter, brighter, stronger – even happier. I actually feel like I’m a foot taller. And I put this down to one thing; yoga.
OK, maybe two things, yoga and meditation.
You see, the difference this time is that I’m paying attention, I’m focussed on my breathing, and I’m taking time to clear my mind daily through just a few minutes of meditation.
One of the things I really enjoy about 30 days with Adriene is how she mixes her sessions – some are more rigorous whilst others are more restorative and focus almost entirely on breathing and stillness. It is during these stiller sessions that I’m actually more aware of my energy system – that magic ‘prana’ that is activated through yoga practice. It honestly feels like something has been awakened inside, some kind of life force, that is lifting me, both mentally and physically. It’s incredible! And for me, that’s some kind of magic. I’m telling you – those yoga masters of 5,000 years ago really knew their shit.
This really feels like the start of my ‘journey’. Yes, I know that’s a bit of a tossy word, but I can’t quite find an alternative to better explain how I feel. My yoga teacher says that yoga is a journey for everyone, even the most practiced and enlightened of yogis. And I love that, that the idea of committing to a practice that will take me on a lifelong journey of discovery, of strength building and of learning how to live a better version of my life through commitment and dedication even if it’s just 20-30 minutes every day. We deserve that, in our ridiculously busy lives, at least. She also says that yoga cured her migraines. And boy, after suffering those hellish headaches and mental wipe-outs with 24 hours of projectile vomit frequently over the past 4 years now, I am all down with that. In all seriousness, this could be a complete game-changer for me. The future is starting to look like it could potentially be a lot less headachey.
I would love to hear from others and find out how yoga has influenced your lives? Have you been practicing yoga for a while now and if so, how has it impacted your life? Or, like me, are you just starting out?