Why you benefit from practicing when you don’t want to

One of the benefits I have found to practicing daily is that I sometimes practice when I don’t want to. You may think this seems excessive and certainly when I first started practicing I would just practice on the days I wanted to. After all I am doing this by choice right ?

I practice daily, 6 days a week and mostly I love it. It’s some time to myself in each day and it reignites my passion for teaching through my own experience. However as much as I love yoga, some days I just do not want to do it. However, I have never practiced and wished I hadn’t though so I now know I need to just get on with it. There are all sorts of reasons why I might not want to practice, if you have been practicing for a while you may find some of them familiar.

  1. I want to do something else
  2. I have to do something else – I have lots of work to do
  3. My body feels stiff/ tired/ not what I am  used to
  4. It’s winter, can’t I just stay under the duvet until Spring?
  5. My mind is on hyperdrive – note I usually don’t notice this at the time. It reveals itself as a resistance to the silence of practice.

I’m sure there are more…

There are times when you should not practice if you are really ill for example. We discussed this in my post about what to do regarding practicing yoga when you’re unwell. There are also times when you might have to do a shorter practice or a less intense one. Having a daily practice or however many days you are ready to commit to is about showing up. It’s about doing a gentle practice when you are tired. It’s about being patient with your body when it’s tight. It’s about allowing your mind to buzz in silence and sometimes it’s about giving yourself some time to be with your emotions when your mind wants to run and hide. Most of the time it will feel great and empowering but sometimes it will be challenging, and you will have to face yourself, to accept each moment just as it is.

Sometimes you get the most from the practices that you don’t want to do. They give you a chance to accept you are inperfectly beautiful just the way you are. They offer you a chance to find some space when you don’t want to, they reveal what you are hiding from and show you who you are. This is where the yoga journey really begins………..

Have you ever practiced yoga when you didn’t want to?  What was your experience?

Do advanced yoga poses matter?

Does it really matter if you can put your legs behind your head or grab your ankles in a backbend? Will your life be enhanced? Will you be a better person? Why do you do yoga? People practice yoga for all sorts of reasons and you may find your reasons changing with time, I do.  So keep asking.

Sometimes you may get frustrated with your lack of flexibility. This may happen whether you are already flexible or not. When you are practicing yoga asana you are working with your tight edges, playing with them, exploring them. You may do yoga to become more flexible.  That’s fair enough, you’re in the right place. As you learn to accept your body as it is, you will feel so much better about it.

If you are tight you might find that tightness causes discomfort in your body.  As you work gently and repeatedly on this area you may find that you can feel better than you have ever imagined. There is a certain amount of flexibility that is functional, that helps you move about, that helps work against all those hours sat in front of your computer. Yoga is great for your body, it can do so much more.

Helen doing yoga pose supta kurmasana

Supta Kurmasana – sleeping tortoise a challenging yoga pose which became possible after years of practice

I taught my beginners a very challenging pose on Monday.  I showed them how to get into it gently and they had a go, they are great like that, very willing explorers.  We talked about it, they wanted to see me doing the full version of the pose, supta kurmasana. I don’t demonstrate that much, I don’t want to overwhelm people but they were very keen so I showed them.  Here is a photo for those of you who weren’t there.

And then one of my students asked what the benefit of that pose was?  Such a great question! One of my favourite things about being a teacher is the questions. I said that to me it was a very quietening pose, the pose name means sleeping tortoise and it’s like going into a tortoise shell, some people don’t like it because of that.  I am sure I could look in a yoga book and find a list of benefits but I always like to teach from my own experience so I did. I’m not sure if that is exactly what she meant, I could be wrong.. but I think that she wanted to know the benefit for the body.

The truth is I don’t think that it’s necessary to be that flexible. I shared with my students that it took me many years of daily practice to be able to do that pose.  It wasn’t easy.  It is now but thats because I put my legs behind my head every day . Was it worth it?  Absolutely!  What were the benefits to me?  I am glad you asked!

  • There will always be things that seem impossible in life, it’s great to learn to work at them regardless in an safe environment where it doesn’t ultimately matter if I fail.
  • Attempting seemingly impossible things keeps my ego in check
  • It took years but I did it and it made me feel like I could do anything if I persevered
  • Doing something challenging forces me to become aware of my body, bringing me more into the present moment
  • It makes me accept where I am not where I want to be

The truth is you could apply these lessons to any yoga pose, it doesn’t matter what is challenging to you, it doesn’t have to be an advanced yoga pose. Whatever challenges you, here is a place you can learn. What can be problematic is if you don’t stop to enjoy the journey, if you forget that you were really practicing yoga to relax and that instead it has become another way to compete with yourself.  Those of us who find time to practice on our yoga mats are privileged I think.  It is a wonderful opportunity to connect and accept yourself.  To get away from the hustle and bustle of life and just see how you feel today.  So yes work on something impossible, go for it, I love a good challenge but don’t lose perspective.  Being more flexible doesn’t make you better at yoga, being more accepting does.

What yoga pose seems impossible for you right now? Do you enjoy working at it or do you find it frustrating?  Why do you practice yoga and have your reasons changed?

Kino MacGregor’s recent yoga workshops in Manchester and London

Kino MacGreggor and Helen Aldred

Kino and me in Manchester

This week I have managed to do four workshops with the ever inspiring with Kino MacGregor in Manchester and in London. I have studied with Kino a number of times and always learn something new. It is great to have a senior teacher who is female and and a similar age to myself, she has a unique way of helping you find your edge and encouraging you to explore it.

On Tuesday Kino came to Manchester to teach for the first time, as ashtanga yoga continues to grow in the North West it’s great to see more teachers coming this way.  The daytime workshop on Tuesday was an adjustment workshop for teacher or experienced students wanting to deepen their practice.  As a teacher it’s always great to practice adjustments and have a chance to discuss them and all the different body types that come to the practice.  I learnt a lot from this workshop and continue to learn from it as I integrate it into my own teaching and understanding.

In the evening Kino’s workshop was called Ashtanga Yoga Power elements. A number of my students came up from Liverpool for this and it was great to see everyone.  For some reason I didn’t think this workshop was going to be that hard…. Like I said Kino has a unique way of helping you find your edge! This workshop was a challenging exploration through shoulder and core stability with lots of great tips.  When I talk about the challenging nature of Kino’s workshops, people often think they are not ready but this workshop was for everyone, options were given and you were just encouraged to find ‘your’ edge.  So the next question might be why….

I think my favourite part of the workshops was when Kino said that we needed to be strong so that we would have the strength to be the change that we want to see in the world.

“You must be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Gandhi

How strong do we have to be? Really strong…The practice offers us an ideal way to develop this inner strength and discipline so that we can then bring it into the world.  It’s not about what you can do or what you can’t do, it’s about what you learn on the journey.

On Sunday I did a Mysore practice with Kino, in London, which essentially means I got to do my own self practice and get help and advise from Kino. This is the traditional method of teaching ashtanga yoga as taught in Mysore India.  I learnt a lot today even when Kino wasn’t teaching me, her presence woke my practice up and made me work.  She stopped a couple of times to talk me through some of the areas I need to work on next, such as kapotasana from the air, she says I should work on, to open my shoulders. At the moment I walk my hands into my heels from the floor, she thinks I can do it and her belief is contagious so I am inspired to challenge myself in this yoga position which strips me to the core more than any other yoga position has. Thanks for the homework Kino… I will work at it and will challenge my mind to be strong and surrender each and every practice.  I feel so fortunate to have this tool to use and explore myself with…

Sunday afternoons twisting workshop was also great, lots to share in my teaching…..and this morning I went to practice at my teachers Shala. Now I am Liverpool bound on the train, inspired and ready to share what I have learnt.

Did you go to any of Kino’s workshops. Share your experiences.

How has your yoga practice helped you to be stronger in your life?

Yoga is not a Competition – How to Embrace it

One of the great things about yoga, often said by yoga teachers is that yoga is non competitive. That sounds lovely doesn’t it.  Yoga is a place where you can just be and be accepted for what you are and accept yourself where you are.

We live in a competitive world, we are taught we need to compete to survive and to thrive, from school grades to getting that perfect job. Without some competitiveness would we even get out of bed? Often we don’t compete with others but have our own standards and desires which we work hard to reach.

“When I get this toy, job, car, man, woman, money, you name it….. then I will be happy,”  is often a mantra that keeps us moving in a direction until we get there, and then we find we want something else. It would be great if we could set this aside and go to yoga class and enjoy being where we are here and now. To be here and now is to accept things as they are right now. The conditioning of the mind can be strong though and the mind loves to make simple things complicated.

Yoga teaches us to be more present. Many people love yoga for it’s non-competiveness and yet many people, myself included struggle with their competitive nature. I have found this is actually the hardest thing I have ever had to teach anyone. I think ultimately it can’t be learnt it has to be discovered.

I can tell you that

  • yoga is not a competition
  • the girl next to you has been practicing for 10 years and is a teacher
  • we all have different bodies, that everyone has different strengths and weakness
  • your body is a result of everything you have done with it up until this moment, and is unique and beautiful
  • when you can do this or that asana you won’t suddenly become enlightened
  • a person who is more flexible or more strong isn’t necessarily the better yogi
  •  yoga isn’t about the asana (yoga position), the asana is just a tool to bring you into the present moment.

You might agree with me or you might think, it’s okay for you, you can touch your toes, do lotus or whatever your pose of frustration happens to be.

And yes let’s say you are right and I can do blah blah, I have come to realise that there will always be someone more flexible than me. It doesn’t matter if I spend the rest of my life doing yoga and I hope I will, there will always be something I can’t do. Indeed as I age I might not be able to do some of the things I do now. This is true for almost anything by the way, there can only be one world best at anything.  Is this never ending escalator annoying then, you get to the top and find your at the bottom again.  Actually I think it’s a relief to know there is nowhere to go but here, it helps me to surrender.

Having said all this. I love to work on asanas.  When I first stared my journey with ashtanga yoga there was so much I could not do. My mind loves a challenge and I love to work on something that I can’t do.  I know that with dedication, eventually it will become possible and sometimes it helps motivate me to complete my daily practice.  Is this competitive? Maybe, but yoga also teaches me to be where I am, to surrender to it, to unravel it each day and notice it as it is.  It forces me to work with this body in this moment no matter what I think it should be, it shows me what it is, right now.

When a bird sings it doesn't sing for the advancement of music.In fact if you find yourself noticing your competitive nature in yoga don’t be too hard on yourself. Yoga is a safe place to notice these things about ourselves and it is perfectly natural that you should feel some level of ambition within yourself.  Notice it, don’t feed it, that’s the trick.  Don’t judge it as good or bad.  Accept it as it is, just a passing thought.

Those of us who practice yoga are so lucky.  We are fortunate to have the time and health, to move our bodies to breathe and be part of a wider community that embraces these things as much as we do.  It is such a privilege each and every time we step on our mats regardless of whether you can touch your toes, I hope you enjoy the journey because the only destination is right here.

Do you feel competitive with yourself or others in yoga?  Does yoga offer you a rare opportunity to not compete? What has this journey taught you?

Yoga Workshop with Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Tim Miller

Tim Miller has been studying ashtanga yoga for over thirty years. He began his studies before I was born in 1978.  He teaches ashtanga yoga at his studio in California. He has an excellent reputation internationally as one of ashtanga yoga’s most senior teachers and yet this year was the first time he had taught in the UK. I feel privileged to have been able to have attended his recent workshop hosted by Yoga Manchester.

As a teacher and practitioner, I know that the more I practice and the more I teach, the more I experience and learn about this wonderful practice. To be able to learn and meet someone who has so much practical experience to draw from and share is a unique opportunity.

I think it important to keep learning. There is always more to learn about any topic and learning helps me keep my passion and enthusiasm for teaching as well as informing my teaching and making me a better teacher. Yoga is such a vast subject, understanding the physical and philosophical aspects of the practice is a never ending journey.

There is no beating the consistent relationship you can develop with your own regular teacher, who can learn to react to both your body and your temperament.  Workshops offer an opportunity to discuss the practice in more depth, I always learn something I can apply to both my own practice and my teaching.

Tim Miller’s workshop covered a nice balance between practice and philosophy. It was really interesting to listen to him talk about the yoga sutras. Listening to him share both his understanding of the text and his experience of it was inspiring and insightful. Each time I read or learn about this text, I learn something new. Here is a video of Tim teaching about the yoga practice….

His workshop on Saturday afternoon was about injury or areas of the body or practice which seem resistant to change. This was such a great idea as it enabled Tim to share the depth of his experience in a very individualised way.  He had a mat in front of him and people came up to work with him. People often struggle with the same things so I learnt a lot that I can apply to both my students and my own practice. I even got on the mat myself and Tim helped me release my hip flexor and quads in backbends, which is what I am currently working on in my own practice.

He told me that my shoulders and upper back were really open and I needed to work on my hips now. I resisted the urge to laugh at the irony.  In the early days of my practice I was told the flexibility would come and I should work on my strength. I am very diligent when it comes to my yoga practice so I worked on my strength and very gradually over many years I became strong. I was then told that because of my strength my upper back and shoulders were tight in backbends and so I worked on this with the same diligence. After years of practice this has apparently opened my back up and I find it ironic that if people comment on my practice they usually say something about how open my back is or how strong I am. I have in effect made my weaknesses my strengths. So when Tim commented that my back was really open I commented that I had just been practicing a while.  It’s only a short time compared to Tim miller but I have been doing yoga now for 16 years and ashtanga yoga for about 8.  Most of the transformation I have experienced both physically and otherwise has come from ashtanga yoga which seems the best fit for my mind and body.

Next month Kino is coming to Manchester, she is teaching a workshop for teachers during the day and a workshop for everyone in the evening.  I am attending both Manchester workshops and I know some ashtanga yoga Liverpool students are also coming which should be a fun outing.  I am also going to two of her workshops in London, again one of my students will be there too. This will also give a chance to practice with my regular teacher Hamish. I am looking forward to learning and then sharing that learning through my own teaching.

How has your practice changed since you began? Have you ever attended a yoga workshop? What was your experience?

Still so much to learn – the yoga journey – challenging your boundaries

I have been practicing yoga for over 15 years now and yet sometimes I feel like a complete beginner.

When my students talk to me about my practice, they sometimes ask if there is

Helen doing yoga pose pincha mayurasana

Picha Mayurasana – It took me hundreds of attempts to learn to balance this yoga pose.

anything I can’t do.  I answer emphatically yes.  In all honesty I am surprised by the question, the topic of yoga is so vast. I have practiced the primary series now, thousands of times, my body knows it well and can get into the poses without being warmed up. Still there are always more detailed refinements to make and more challenging asana to work on. Even though I am fortunate enough to be able to dedicate my time to practice, study and teaching, there will always be more to learn.

For me that’s a relief!  I love doing something impossible every day, challenging my ego and my sense of what’s possible. As those of you who study with me probably know, I love to understand how the body works anatomically, both in my body and in others.  I love to delve deeper to challenge my perspective on life through my study of philosophy and the fruits of practice. I love the journey.

Ashtanga yoga has a reputation for being hard. It is but it meets you wherever you are. If you can’t do something all you can do is work where your at today. It’s great to find these boundaries, use them as tool to challenge yourself.  Working on a posture that challenges you requires you to bring a whole new level of awareness to your practice. Delve deeper, this is where the lessons are.  Does your ego think you should be able to do it. My ego sometimes does, the ego is a funny creature, learn to not take it so seriously, surrender to where you are right now.

As you work this way, challenging your beliefs about what you think is possible will become second nature.

Why is it important to do impossible asanas?

No it’s not so you can pull off a snazzy move on the dance floor or because you will have the body you always dreamed of, although these things may happen ;-). The real benefit of doing a pose that you thought was once impossible is that you can apply that to your life. If you can’t do something yet, work at it consistently, observe people who can, ask for advice but if you want to do it you can. It’s not impossible it just needs work. Removing the barriers from your life can be liberating to say the least.

Of course once you can do that impossible pose, they’ll be another one waiting for you. In Ashtanga yoga there are 6 series, the first series, the primary series is enough to keep most people challenged and only the naturally flexible or those who start very young will reach series 6.  Do you know what, that’s a relief to me, I thrive on a challenge.

What do you find impossible right now in yoga or in life? Has yoga helped you to challenge the boundaries of what you think is possible?

Ten Tips for Staying Present and Calm

I think one of the greatest benefits of yoga is that it brings you into the present moment. It allows you to connect with here and now.

Even when practicing yoga it is possible to be elsewhere. I have certainly had days where my mind just won’t shut up. These are the days where yoga is a real challenge and yet these are the days where we need yoga the most. Don’t run from your mat, stay be with yourself. Don’t judge your mind, accept everything as it is and go back to your breath. Notice subtleties in your movement, gradually bring yourself back, here.

 Why is being here and now so important?

Blossom falling off a tree with a quote from Eckart Tolle about being here and now

So glad I found a moment to capture this beautiful tree on my daily bike commute

The mind is an incredible thing.  It just doesn’t seem to stay still. Sometimes life is great and sometimes it is challenging.  It doesn’t matter how much yoga you do, challenging things will happen and great, wonderful things too! Everything is changing all the time and yet the mind can cling to some fixed ideas about reality. Sometimes our minds repeat the same thoughts again and again, strengthening them, feeding them. These thoughts may have nothing to do with what is actually happening to you. Often they are about some possible future or some past experience.

I have observed that when something is happening, the mind often is not fully present with the experience. Instead it can think about what will happen because of this, even though it doesn’t yet know the future.  Sometimes we also filter things through our past – neither of these filters are real. If you are present then you have no choice but to surrender to what is happening. As you experience this more and more life becomes more beautiful and less stressful. You get to experience life in it’s many colours and embrace it each and every moment.

Believing and feeding a negative future in your mind can’t be helpful.  If you must have a vision of the future in your mind make it one that inspires you and makes you smile.

 How to stay present in your day to day life

  1. Practice it preferably daily, through yoga, meditation or just when going about a daily task like washing up.
  2. Be compassionate with your mind, if you notice it’s not being present, be with it.  Learn to laugh at it and tell it to shut up if it’s not being helpful.
  3. If you feel panicked notice what is actually happening, is it as bad as your mind thinks it is?
  4. Use your breath to make you aware of here and now.  Notice your breathing as it is or take a few deep breaths.
  5. Feel what it’s like to be in your body.  Feel the contact with the floor or the chair.
  6. Notice the sounds that are around you.
  7. Listen to what others are saying.  The mind can get so busy planning it’s next move. Take the time to really listen to what other people are saying instead of planning what you are going to say next.
  8. Focus on the every day things that are actually happening. Where are you right now and what are you doing?
  9. If you catch your mind creating stories, notice it without getting involved, like a cloud passing in the sky.
  10. If you feel you’ve got stuck living in the past or the future, that’s okay.  Now is the only moment you have, be here now and don’t worry about the past.

Do you find your mind likes to create unnecessary drama?  What helps you to stay present?

Fat Chance : The Bitter Truth About Sugar by Robert Lustig – Book Review

Robert Lustig writes that it’s sugar, not fat, that is the major cause of obesity. Lustig is a paediatric doctor who specialises in treating overweight children in San Francisco.

 

Yoga can help you maintain a healthy weight and help overweight people to lose weight. There is some research to support this. I think that one of the ways that yoga does this is by making you more aware of your body and health and helping you to make healthier choices. I have noticed that if I eat sugary foods, at times like Christmas it makes me feel hungry even when I am not. I did not fully understand why this happened but was curious. This book more than answered the questions I had.

 

Fat Chance: The bitter truth about sugar explores the role of the hormone insulin, in weight gain. Insulin causes energy to be stored in fat cells. Robert Lustig is talking mostly about the molecule fructose. Fructose is one of the two molecules found in sucrose, the other is glucose. Robert Lustig argues that a calorie is not a calorie. He explains a calorie from fructose is much harder for the body to breakdown, especially if there is not enough fibre in the diet. He reviews a number of diets which have been successful in promoting health and maintaining healthy weight. He concludes that what these diets have in common is that they are high in fibre and low in sugar.

 

a glass of orange juiceSurprisingly to me, he also talks about fruit juice. We usually think of  fruit juice as being healthy. Robert Lustig that it supplies the body with a big dose of fructose. Fruit is also high in fructose. Whole fruit contains fibre which slows down the metabolism of fructose. This makes fruit a healthy choice. He says that one of the major problems is that people drink too much sugar, be it in fruit juice or soda.

 

So what does he think we should I eat?

Lustig recommends we eat real food. There is no need to go on a fad diets, just eat wholefoods.  He says that that this is a dose dependent problem.  A little sugar is fine and if you are a healthy weight and very active it may even be beneficial.  The problem is that for many people processed foods and sugary drinks have become the norm.

Is sugar addictive?

sugar falling out of a glassLustig likens sugar to other drugs.  He presents a strong argument for how it messes people’s hormones up so much that they eat more of it and more food in general.  His explanations are great for explaining the difficult cycle that many people struggling with their weight find themselves in.  He also offers some advice that will help most people get on track.

 

What are his tips for food shopping?

fruit and vegetable in supermraket1. Don’t go shopping hungry.  Doh! Been there 😉

2. Shop in the periphery of the supermarket, buy real food.

3.  It shouldn’t need a nutritional label.  Eat processed foods in moderation.

4. Real food spoils.  This is good. If bacteria can digest it so can you.

5. Watch out for hidden sugar. Lots of foods you don’t expect contain sugar.

 

It is hard if not impossible to completely give up sugar.  As with many things moderation and common sense are key. Personally I like to occasionally give myself a complete break from it, just to make sure I am not becoming a sugar addict 😉

Would I recommend the book?

I really enjoyed this book because it was backed up with lots of research and scientific explanation. I think it is an important book and I am glad he wrote it.  I think it just depends how much you want to learn about nutrition.  I think it may be too in-depth for some people’s interest.

You can also check out Robert Lustig youtube videos if you want to learn more.

 

Are you addicted to sugar? Have you ever given it up?

 

Can yoga release emotions and if so how and what should I do?

Emotional release can play a part in the transformational benefits of yoga.

Emotional Backbending

At my recent Backbending Workshop my students and I had an interesting discussion about emotional release in yoga. I would like to open up this topic for further discussion here. Backbending is one of the places where people can experience emotional resistance and release. Hip opening is another common area where people report experiencing it.

What do I mean by emotional release?

A commonly held belief by yogis is that we store emotional tension in our bodies.  Though yoga we release these emotions and give ourselves an opportunity to heal.  I think the emotional transformations that can happen in yoga also happen as we change the way we move to a more confident open posture.  This may initially make someone feel vulnerable and will ultimately empower you to shine.

 

Helen looking at extinct Volcano in Lanzorote

Montana Roja, Lanzarote

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson

Spiritual teacher, author and lecturer

Where’s the science?

picture of the book emotional intelligenceI have always been interested in science’s understanding of these seemingly alternative ideas.  Whilst there are many things that science can’t yet understand, there is some interesting research about emotions.  Many years ago I read Molecules of Emotion: Why You Feel the Way You Feel.  In this book neuroscientist Candace Pert discusses research which shows that the molecules of emotion can can be found in the body.  These findings provide a scientific framework to understand the mind and body connections.

 

Does Everyone experience emotional release in yoga?

I don’t think that everyone does, although most long term practitioners seem to accept that it part of the journey. It has certainly been part of my personal journey with yoga.  As much as I think this is a real phenomena, even with some scientific backup, it is just a belief that I hold. It is part of my model of reality and yet I am always keen to keep an open mind about my beliefs as believing in something often makes it happen and can close my mind to other possibilities.

 

If I feel upset what should I do?

Emotions from our past can come up for all of us, whether we are doing yoga or not. A yoga practice can really help you to remain calm and not get overwhelmed. Here are my tips for dealing with challenging emotions.

  • You don’t have to understand it it to let it go. Don’t get too involved as that will just feed the emotion.
  • Stay present – tune in to what is happening right now. Notice where you are and what is actually happening rather than getting wrapped up the story in your mind.
  • Use your breath to keep you present and calm.
  • It is not a concrete permanent thing – it is constantly changing, notice it’s impermanence.
  • Observe it without getting involved and it will pass.

As you develop your yoga practice you will find it gets easier to let go rather than cling to your emotions. If you find yourself getting hooked, give yourself a break. You are noticing which is an essential first step. I have found this process of letting go so liberating and healing and one of the wonderful benefits of yoga.

 

Have you ever felt emotional release during your yoga practice? What has helped you to let go of these emotions?

 

 

May I Be Happy by Cyndi Lee – We Are Not Our Weight

I was given a copy of ‘May I Be Happy: A Memoir of Love, Yoga and Changing my Mind’ by Cyndi Lee in exchange for an honest review. The book is about the author, a yoga teacher in New York, and her path towards her self acceptance. I decided to write the review because I thought the book dealt with an important issue that of body awareness and issues arising from that. Cyndi’s biography is very honest and she talks in depth about her struggles to accept her own body image. I love the way that she freely admits her own failings.  Yoga teachers are sometimes expected to be radiant beams of ultra health and inner peace and whilst yoga is amazing, we are human beings too and Cyndi deals with this in a candid way. Cyndi writes informal style  which makes you feel you are somehow engaging in conversation with her.

 

There are some good gems and conversations with friends and teachers along the way. I like biographical writing as I always learn something about humanity and how we are similar as well as how we are different. As a yoga teacher the issue of body image does come into conversation with my students and I have learned a lot from listening to how people feel about it. Some people, of both genders, experience issues surrounding their body image. I have to admit I have never given it as much thought as Cyndi has and my heart goes out to her. I also felt that much of the book explored her struggles and not enough of the solutions and as such I wonder if it may not ultimately be a good choice for somebody who is experiencing similar issues. 

 

Yoga is great for your health and wellbeing and physical styles of yoga such as Ashtanga Yoga can also help with weight loss. You have to combine this with a healthy lifestyle and diet in order for it to be effective. For some people weight loss is a good step towards a healthier body and is a great thing. I feel the health and fitness industry occasionally exploits this a bit and I am frustrated to see the numerous fad diets and fitness regimes which people seem to torture themselves with. I feel that these extreme behaviours seem to often become a cycle whereby someone puts on weight then tortures themselves with an exercise regime and diet which they hate and so do not maintain and then they repeat the cycle. My advice, if you need to lose weight,  would be to find an activity you like doing and make gradual changes to both your eating and exercise regime.

 

Unfortunately, the situation sometimes runs deeper than this. The author Cyndi Lee honestly illustrates how some people who are in healthy active bodies can still struggle with their body image.  There are also people who are overweight who are concerned with their image of themselves.  Who you are as a being is not defined by your weight. There are many people, just like you, who are waking up to this possibility and are learning to enjoy their bodies, and themselves as beings, for all the amazing things they can do.  It is my hope that through yoga you can take steps towards self acceptance and begin to make peace with yourself one breath at a time.

 

What has helped you on your journey to self acceptance?