Finding Balance – more equanimity please!

I was at my monthly woman’s Full Moon Bliss Night recently – oh, I think that might sound a bit much for some of you but don’t judge till you’ve tried it.  Honestly it’s one of the most amazing things I do each month and can I recomend you check out Louise’s website if you’re even a wee bit curious – One Woman Awake.

Anyway, I had a strong feeling of equanimity even though I wasn’t clear on the definition. I felt equinimious, equinamatic… when I looked it up (and found out how to spell it) I found it meant calmness and composure, especially in a difficult situation.  On the button.

How often do you feel that way?

Me? Not often but more so recently than ever before.  I felt a strong sense of happiness and balance and a feeling of being able to cope.  Nice!

But these feelings are hard to come by when we are full to the brim with anger and resentment and stress and worries and whatever other baggage we cling onto through habit – and we have no release valve.

What’s shifted for me I think is I have found some proper release valves in my life to let go of some of the burden. Not just a sticking plaster (binging on Netflix, a glass of wine etc – although I am partial to both at times) but a proper activity which consciously or more often unconsciously pulls the plug on all the internal cr*p and leaves me feeling lighter and freeer and, yes, more equanimous.

My release valves include:

– getting crafty and making something useful (I recently did a fabulous candle making workshop at The Recycled Candle Company – yes, I think candles are useful before you say anything)

6357CA30-C946-4E10-A56D-56F75B4AA3EC– walking with friends in the countryside if possible

– early morning meditation and asana practice ON MY OWN

– reading inspiring books and articles, currently I’m reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport – worth another post which is coming next week)

– Baths in my new bathroom – some of you have been bored with me raving about how much I love my new bathroom so here’s a wee pic…

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In Buddhism, equanimity is one of the four sublime attitudes …

“Neither a thought nor an emotion, it is rather the steady conscious realisation of reality’s transience. It is the ground for wisdom and freedom and the protector of compassion and love”

And this is one of my focuses for the Spring Equinox workshop which is coming up on Saturday 23rd March (2-5pm Hedley Hall, Oldfield Park, Bath). And to be honest, the motivation for this post.

I have five places left and I’d love to fill them!

If you think you’d like to encourage more equanimity, more balance, mental calmness and evenness of temper I can’t promise a cure all in three hours, but I can promise that Michelle and I will do our best to share a balancing beautiful yoga practice – and a little goody bag to take home with you.

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Michelle is an ashtanga teacher but the practice is well suited to those who want a no impact practice as we will be offering safe alternatives. She’ll share with us a little of the history of ashtanga, we may do a little chanting (don’t be scared!) and we’ll be sewing some seeds – of various kinds (ooo cryptic).

We’ll have tea and snacks and I will be sharing a satisfyingly luxurious quiet and calm yin yoga practice suited to the Spring Equinox (which this year actually falls on Wednesday 20th March) – a time of the year when the day and night lengths are evenly balanced. Perfectly poised. Just like us!

I hope I’ve inspired you to find out more. You can do that here, and also book your place if you’d like to come.

See you soon –

Keep feeding your peaceful wolf 🙂

Yin Yoga Training Day 7

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I’m in London on an 8 day Yin Yoga Training with Norman Blair and 12 really interesting and amazing yoga teachers and have committed to sharing my thoughts here each day …
Day 7 (Tues 17th April)

I’m posting this on the morning of Day 8 because last night I went out with two very old school friends in Covent Garden for the first time since being in London.

Once upon a time I lived in London for 10 years. It’s now been 14 years since I was a Londoner and I’d forgotten how to be in London! I felt like I’d been dropped from another planet when I arrived at Wood Green station last Wednesday. Everything was alien, so many foreign languages and skin colours and strange smells and scary looking shops I didn’t dare enter.

How things change in a week. I felt like surely everyone must know, when I walked to the studio each morning, that I was a fish out of water. I was self-conscious and found it hard to get my bearings. Now, I have explored this little area, found shops, Greek cafes, Vietnamese restaurants, Tesco metros and joined the dots between Lordship rec and Turnpike Lane tube.  I even walked home last night at 10:30pm from the tube and found myself remembering what it was about London that I loved. But I am also keen for the relative quiet, beauty and familiarity of Bath.

Anyway, musings over, here are my key learnings from yesterday:

– Insomnia is becoming the accepted face of depression

– Pain is an opinion of the nervous system. If the nervous system perceives it’s safe and sound, pain recedes

– There are many different ways of practicing and teaching yin yoga and many intentions we may have as begin a practice. What is it we hope that yin yoga will do for us? Perhaps improve joint mobility, reduce stress, soften our minds effort, reduce muscular tensions, alleviate certain symptoms, break old habits, illicit change, create peace of mind, look better, healing, connection, relaxation, for a deep stretch, to energise. They are all valid.

– Yin in in many ways a practice of developing patience. “Infinite patience brings immediate results” Waye Dyer

– I can’t remember who said this but it’s a great aphorism for life “what you can’t let go, let be”

– In our yin practice as in many yoga practices, we are seeking some sort of inner peace. We all want to feel connected, whole, relaxed with who we are and with our circumstances. The first step on the journey is greater presence.  Yin yoga is one of the few yogas where we get the chance to turn up and dive deep.  Because we hold relatively still in the poses for time. Yin creates the container for that possibility in contrast to more yang/movement based yogas.  Not that one is better than the other. Yang needs yin and yin needs yang. It’s a complimentary thing.

Yin Yoga Training Day 6

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Day 6 (Mon 16th April)

(Remember, useful links relating to content listed at the end)

This morning, after my now routine stroll through the reassuringly simple streets of N22, was assessed teaching, not as nerve wracking as it sounds.  So 6 of us were given 4 poses and half an hour each, teaching flowing from one to the other. This meant when we weren’t teaching we were doing continuous yin yoga and I have to say, it was very very nice. I taught a session today. So tomorrow morning will be the other 6 teachers and for me will be 3 hour non-stop which will be bliss. But I’ll be doing some physical activity in the morning for balance (more online half hearted HITT training for me!) and walks midday and early evening.

The afternoon was led by Ben Wolff, a yin yoga teacher and yoga/neuroscience researcher whose work is based on modern evidence-based science as well as incorporating ideas from TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine and yoga (totally floating all my boats).  I’ve met many interesting people, he’s one of the most interesting (although we just scratched the surface). He also has the accolade of single handedly inspiring me to re-consider entirely how I practice breathing and how I teach it too.  Much more in a future post, little bits and bobs below.

Key learning from today’s training

– Maybe in our practice we could sometimes move away from the desire, the need, the habit, to look always for sensations. Are pain and sensations useful experiences, can we trust them? Do you know which is the most important muscle of the human body? It’s the diaphragm my friends. If you stop using it you will not last long. But where do we feel pain if we have a problem with our diaphragm muscle? Is it where you’d expect, in the mid torso, where the diaphragm is? No, it’s up in the neck (because this is where the phrenic nerve starts and it’s key to working the diaphragm). My point is, how can we make sense of the body when sensation is not always where the problem lies. This is why we may want to move away from focusing on sensations sometimes, and we’ll explore this from time to time in future yin and restorative classes.

– Yin Yoga is a coming together of yoga and Daoist practices.  It’s why I may talk about meridians (from TCM) in a yin class and not nadis (from yoga). Both are energy channels in the body responsible for the flow of information. The maps are similar but not exactly the same.

– You could say that historical yoga texts were interested in practices to prepare the mind and body for the afterlife while classical doaist texts were more about being healthy in this life. What is more pertinent to you? Personally, at the moment, I’m interested in a healthy body and mind for this life.

If you’re more interested in esoteric practices, you may want to do long breath retentions and other more extreme practices.  (Just as if you want to  be a prima ballerina you may want to hyperextend the legs and over stretch the hamstrings.)  The breath is the major driver of the body’s ability to be in balance, particularly the blood’s pH (which should be 7.2 in health). Hold the breath and all sorts of strange and things happen to our blood and trippy things happen to our mind. I think it’s why free divers report having feelings of spiritual connection and why reclusive spiritual adepts will use extreme breathing practices to access this ‘higher realm’ or at least an altered state of consciousness. Nothing wrong perhaps if that’s your intention.  There’s a price to pay though.

– If you can be overwhelmed, and can be underwhelmed, can you be just whelmed? Just lightning the mood a little.

– The same part of the brain responsible for the feeling of food hunger is also responsible for breath hunger. Next time you’re tempted to grab a snack, try a breath snack.  The most healthy ratio of breathing is 6 seconds inhale, 6 seconds exhale (5 breaths per minute). This is sometimes called the coherent breath – essentially equally length inhale and exhale, no retentions and slow but not too slow. Lots more to come on this here in later posts and in class!

For a 15 minute TED talk on understanding the messages of pain
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gwd-wLdIHjs

A really nice introduction to what a Yin Yoga practice is
https://www.ekhartyoga.com/more-yoga/yoga-styles/yin-yoga

Quick little explanation of breath hunger
http://www.healthblurbs.com/causes-for-an-air-hunger-feeling/

A slightly annoying but informative American 5 min video on coherent breathing (scroll down the homepage for the video)
http://www.breath-body-mind.com

 

Yin Yoga Training Day 4

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I’m in London on an 8 day Yin Yoga Traiing with Norman Blair and 12 really interesting and amazing yoga teachers and have committed to sharing my thoughts here each day …

Day 4 (Sat 14h April)

Waking up to sun and some blue sky after days (and days – and a whole winter it seems) of wondering where the sun had gone. It’s back. Spirits soar and energy vibrates as the sap rises. Spring is here I’m pretty sure of that.

Another morning of the same and a settling into the pattern. Feeling slightly at odds with things and not quite grounded. Not used to so much quiet and time to myself and wonder how everyone is back at home brings tears to my eyes.

I walk deliberately the long way round from my AirBnB to the Yoga Studio to get as much walking and sun as possible and shake off my strange mood before settling into training.

Key learnings from today:

– Today was mostly focused on meditation, looking at the principles of practice, how we might choose to hold the body, find comfort – sitting, lying, standing, walking.

I know I have quite a strong aversion to a standing (still) meditation after really not enjoying it the previous times I’ve tried it.  I caught a fellow teacher Lucy’s eye and we shared a cheeky grimace. Felt like little naughty rebels.  We were having the same thoughts. We figured we could just sit down if it was really unbearable, but to my surprise, I experienced a pleasant sense of solidness and the ground rising up to support my feet. Nice.  And it is always uncomfortably instructive to be in the posting of being encouraged to do something you don’t really want to do. Is this how you feel in class when I announce we are about to do your least favourite pose?

– The walking meditation was promising to be excruciating as we were to walk in a loop on a little meditation path in the narrow back garden of Norman’s residential North London home (which is where his studio is). The neighbours were out in full force and the hedges were not high.  I realise I am quite a private person. Luckily none of us could understand what they were saying (it’s soo much more multicultural than Bath, I had forgotten how much so) and I think anyway that they’ve seen it all before and we were in fact being rather boring. It was a very nice practice indeed and helped me work through some deep seated issues with public displays of yoga practice!

– I learnt many many more things but it’s a Saturday night and I want to put the screen away.

No links today. Maybe turn your screen off too 🙂

Yin Yoga Training Day 3

 

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I’m in London on an 8 day Yin Yoga Traiing with Norman Blair and 12 really interesting and amazing yoga teachers and have committed to sharing my thoughts here each day …

Day 3 (Fri 13th April)

(Remember, useful links relating to content listed at the end)

Lucky for some. Lucky for me. Time to develop and work on my early morning routine. Plan is to fine tune and make it a habit so that I can bring it back from my ‘retreat’. Essentially, it’s 3 conscious breaths sitting on the egde of the bed, a bit of energy medicine ‘wake up’ body work (2 mins tops here), one simple chi gung practice (thanks Mark Pogson), a squat and a forward fold (a massive energy boost to the body) and a bit of face yoga (essential ego maintenance – whoops).

Then the many morning drinks I consume:
First, a large glass of quite warm water (actually I have this before the above) recommended by an acupuncturist to wake the body up and fire up the system. Then in no particular order, a tbsp of chia seeds in a cup of water, a vit c tablet in a cup of water (probably not the healthiest way to consume vit c but it’s what I do at the moment) and a Pukka green tea.

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Coffee is later but you can’t see that In this picture, although you can see the zen courtyard of ‘my’ house here where if I feel brave (i.e. it’s not wet and cold and horrid) I walk with barefeet to ground my body’s energy – earthing (more below).

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OK, so here’s the key learning from today’s training:

– that just as there is no one correct yoga practice, there is also no one way of approaching or talking about Traditional Chinese Medicine and the meridian system, although it is generally accepted that there are 12 meridians/energy channels in the body (plus two – see, never simple) and that they are pretty much in the same place in every person, as are the specific points where they surface and can be manipulated by needle or pressure (again, expect to learn some of these in our classes – I made sure to write down the ones for hangover in case anyone may need that…!)

– thinking again about proprioception and how key it is for our every movement, I was reminded about a film I watched a year or so ago which I’ll share below about a man who, after a viral infection, lost all proprioception and how he recovered. It is amazing – and also a social history lesson for the 1980s – fabulous hair styles, huge cathode ray TVs and type writers!

– don‘t do a three hour yin yoga practice and meditation after a huge plate of Vietnamese fried rice noodles. Groan.

To get inspired to drink warm water in the mornings:
https://www.doyouyoga.com/4-reasons-a-glass-of-warm-water-can-change-your-life/

To find out a bit about Energy Medicine Yoga:
https://www.emyoga.net

For a good chi gung practitioner in Bath:
http://www.ssoha.org.uk

To watch a 15 minute video, that I recommend, to explain grounding/earthing:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=7qn_YnLudgg

To watch ‘The man who lost his body’:
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x12647t

 

Yin Yoga Training Day 2

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I’m in London on an 8 day Yin Yoga Traiing with Norman Blair and 12 really interesting and amazing yoga teachers and have committed to sharing my thoughts each day …

Day 2 (Thur 12th April)

(Remember, useful links relating to content listed at the end)

An earlyish rise at 6:30am for the reinvigoration of my stalled meditation practice. 5 minutes a day, which is what I have been doing, is not enough and I want to build it to at least 20, possibly 30 (but I have to be realistic about what I can achieve in the time I have in my normal day). So I did a 10 minute practice. And loved it. I’ve been inspired to start working with a Yin Meditation technique of open awareness, as taught by acupuncturist and yin yoga teacher Josh Summers.

Then face yoga (don’t laugh, I am now officially on the wrong side of 45 and need all the help I can get), a 5-minute HITT routine (the first one I have ever done -I just googled and got a beefcake in the US – can anyone recommend good free online resources?), a handstand and a 10ish minute flow yoga practice (loads more during the day so I am going asana-light in the mornings). Various drinks (more on that tomorrow) and a sit with a coffee in my new Danish birthday mug that I brought all the way from Bath (I know, coffee not very yin but I can’t quite kick the one a day habit) in the zen courtyard.

Then to training.

Key learnings from today:

– Acupuncture point L3 on the top of the foot is one of the best for combating stress. We’ll be doing lots more acupressure in our Yin poses in classes because hell, why not.

– 1 in 10,000 people have their organs switched around, like a mirror image of ‘normal’. Just another reminder that not one yoga pose will fit everyone. “Your Body, Your Yoga” (as Bernie Clark would say)

– This one is a reminder really – fascia is the interconnected 3D body-wide web that gives us shape, stability and mobility and it contains sensory nerve endings (fact) so that – radical new theory coming up – the fascia can ‘talk’ to itself without involving the brain. Not everyone believes this to be the case but it makes sense. Your body is more intelligent from the head down guys. Or put another way “Your body is more than a brain taxi” – David Walsh

Listen to a podcast on yin meditation here:
https://joshsummers.net/p…/yin-meditation-relaxing-the-mind/

Find out about face yoga here:
http://www.faceyogaexpert.com

The HITT routine I randomly hit on, pun intended:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TkaYafQ-XC4

Find out about L3 point here:
http://www.acupressurewellness.com/acupressure-point-great-surge-lv3/

Find out about Bernie Clark’s brill book here:
http://www.yinyoga.com/YBYY.php

Listen to some of David Walsh’s interviews here:
https://www.facebook.com/theembodimentpodcast/

 

Yin Yoga Training – Day 1

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I’m in London on an 8 day Yin Yoga Traiing with Norman Blair and 12 really interesting and amazing yoga teachers and have committed to sharing my thoughts each day …

(Remember, useful links at the end)

Day 1 (Wed 11th April)

A bad night’s sleep, an early rise and a long coach ride to London mostly in the dark and the rain. A full day of practice and training. Arriving at the end of the day at my AirBnB to find a warm cosy beautifully decorated tiny house with a leafy zen courtyard and earthenware pottery in the kitchen and a bath. Essential. A trip to Tesco and a shop assistant who couldn’t believe how healthy my basket was and kept telling me so. I told her the chocolate was already secured. And I was buying coffee and Indian Rice Sticks so there were some treats 😉

Key learnings from Day 1:
Let go of expectations. No, really. Let them go. Listen. The importance of creating a safe space. The intricacies of fascia, which I have learnt about in great depth with Gary Carter of Natural Bodies but good to have a reminder and revisit Dr Jean-Claude Guimbertauts work. The very fashionable multi-armed vagus nerve and its myriad workings in the Parasympathetic Nervous System. A reminder that full complete, relaxed breaths have myriad impacts on the health of the body.

Read more about the vagus nerve here:
http://sequencewiz.org/2015/11/18/vital-vagus-what-is-the-vagus-nerve-and-what-does-it-do/

Read more about Gary Carter’s work here:
https://www.naturalbodies.co.uk

Watch a clip of Dr Guimbertaut’s work here:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_tZL4716HuY
or google ‘strolling under the skin’ for a 28 minute video with a lot of long technical terms but lots of amazing filming.

Read more about my training teacher Norman Blair here:
http://www.yogawithnorman.co.uk