Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Tag: awareness

How Much Yoga Do You Need?

how much yoga do you needYou might have come across the hashtag #yogaeverydamnday, which could seem funny, or inspiring or motivating. But if you’re new to yoga, or you’re very busy, the idea of practising yoga every day can be intimidating. So do we really need to do yoga every day? And how much yoga is enough to feel the benefits?

I’ve experimented a lot with this and I’ve tried everything from going weeks at a time without any yoga, to practising for more than 3 hours per day.

I’ve come to these three conclusions:

  1. The amount of yoga you need depends on your goals. This means working out what you want from your yoga practice. For example, if you want to learn to handstand, you need to put the time in to strengthen and open your body, and increase your body awareness and balance. Having a go as part of your weekly yoga class will help, but if you’re doing nothing in between, it’s probably going to take you a long time to progress. On the other hand, if you have a very active lifestyle and you use yoga to reconnect with your body and mind, your needs will be different. Spending just 10 minutes at the end of the day doing a restorative posture like legs up the wall pose followed by some meditation will have a huge impact.
  2. Daily practice is a non-negotiable. I appreciate this might be a controversial one, but for me, to function at my best, I need some kind of yoga every single day. This is not necessarily a vigorous flowing yoga practice, although that is my preference. Some days my self practice is just finding 5 minutes to meditate. I can even do this on the plane if I’m travelling. Other days I might do 10 sun salutations, some core strengthening work or some joint mobilisation exercises.
  3. Fluctuations are normal, and natural. One thing I’ve learned is that my own yoga practice ebbs and flows, depending how I’m feeling and what I’m doing in the rest of my life. I used to panic if I couldn’t fit in an hour to practise every day, but now I try to be more responsive to my situation. During my Advanced Yoga Teacher Training, I practised yoga for 3 hours every day (at least!) and meditated for 1 hour. I felt amazing, but that amount of practice isn’t realistic for me (or many people!) most of the time. That’s ok. The way I think of it is I still carry with me all the benefits of having spent that amount of time practising yoga. So now, even when I just do a mini yoga practice, or a short meditation, I know I’m reconnecting with all the good that I cultivated during that time of intensive practice.

It’s worth saying that the more I’ve practised yoga, the more I realised that yoga is everything. From noticing my impatience while I wait in a supermarket queue to remembering to relax my shoulders when I run, it’s all about mindfulness, and it’s all good yoga practice. But I still prefer to have some dedicated part of each day where I consciously and deliberately set aside the time and space to do yoga.

How much yoga is the minimum?

For me, I’ve found the lowest I can let it go is 5 minutes per day. I feel like I really miss out if I don’t spend at least 5 minutes per day connecting with myself. Usually if time is as tight as this, I don’t do yoga postures at all, I just sit and meditate for the 5 minutes, because I find that’s the most effective way to drop into the mindful awareness I am looking for in such a short space of time. 

I’d love to know what you think of this and how much yoga you need? What works for you? Let me know in the comments below!

Have a great week lovely yogis and yoginis.

Jade xxx

P.S. Shameless plug for my wonderful yoga retreats here… If you’re looking to spend some more focused and intensive time on yourself and your yoga practice, I have three magical retreats coming up – check out my page here and drop me a message if you’d like more details. I’d love to welcome you on one.

3 Amazing Ways That Yoga Makes You Strong

Yoga Makes You StrongThere’s a misconception out there that yoga is:

a) Only for the super-flexible

and

b) Solely to make the super-flexible even more bendy.

To steal a saying from someone wiser than I am, that’s not yoga, that’s just bending.

Yoga is great for flexibility, but for me its power has been in the strength it’s given me.

Here are three of the ways that yoga makes you strong:

  1. Physically. Just try lowering slowly from High Plank to Chaturanga and back again and you’ll see that there’s more to yoga than having open hamstrings. Yes, flexibility helps you to move deeper into postures, but so does strength. Full Wheel pose for example requires upper body strength to lift yourself up as well as flexibility in your back to move into the back bend. You can be as bendy as you like, but without the strength to support your body weight, after a few rounds of Sun Salutations, your muscles will be shouting at you. Your body needs flexibility and strength for optimal health, and yoga can help you to develop both.
  2. Mentally. Meditation is like exercise for your mind. Repeatedly bringing your focus back to the present moment takes real mental effort, and just like strengthening a muscle, regular meditation improves your ability to concentrate. Yoga is meditation in motion. Maintaining mindful awareness while moving through yoga postures can be even more challenging than trying to do it while sitting in meditation. Not only that, but yoga challenges you to move out of your comfort zone, to face your fears and to experience discomfort without shying away from it. This last one is especially true in yin yoga – if you haven’t tried it, do! The discipline and focus yoga requires is as strengthening for the mind as it is for the body.
  3. Spiritually. It’s hard to find a definition of spirituality that doesn’t sound new-agey and weird. But one way to think of your spirit is that it’s the thing that lies beneath the fluctuations of your mind. Your spirit is deeper than your thoughts, your feelings, your wants and your worries. You might prefer to call it awareness, or consciousness or your soul, but whatever term you use, it’s the idea that there’s part of you that observes everything that happens, but remains untouched. And as such, it’s the source of your inner strength. No matter what happens there’s part of you that’s still okay. Yoga helps you to connect with that.

Yoga’s power to make you strong on all these levels is one of the many reasons I love it so much. Whether you’re experiencing physical, mental or emotional challenges, yoga can help you to become strong enough to handle them.

If you’re wanting to take your strengthening yoga practice to another level, and work through some of your fears while you’re at it, I highly recommend this free online class from the incredible Ana Forrest. I discovered it a couple of weeks ago, and I love it. Let me know how you get on!

Much love Jade xxx

How present are you?

11825661_10101252416878699_1449995224029953442_nWhat percentage of your waking day do you spend being present in the moment? As in actually being where you are, as opposed to replaying past events, or internally preparing for the future. 50%? 20%? 10%?

When someone asked me that question a month ago, my best guess was 5%. That’s not good. There’s a whole wealth of research into the benefits of mindfulness, or having your conscious awareness on the present moment on your mental health. But even putting that to one side, I didn’t like the idea that I was spending 95% of my life not actually mentally being there. I set out on a one month challenge to increase this percentage. Here’s the advice I’ve been trying to follow…

Increase the time you spend doing mindful activities

I already practised yoga every day – this is the only reason my percentage was as high as 5%! But the most obvious next port of call was meditation. When I make myself do it, I love the way I feel after meditation. But I am terrible at prioritising it. So this month I actively sought out opportunities to meditate. Living at yoga retreats I’ve taken advantage of meditation sessions run by others. I’ve also tried really hard to meditate for a couple of minutes at the end of my yoga practice each day. I’ve found this does make a difference. This time gives your body and your mind chance to absorb the benefits of the practice, and leaves you in a much better place to continue the day.

Reduce contact with things that pull you away from the present

For me a major distraction from the present moment is my phone. It is horrible to admit, but sometimes I barely notice the people around me because I am messaging someone, on Facebook or scrolling through random strangers’ images on Instagram. So I resolved to leave my phone behind as much as possible. I allocated times for messaging people in the day, then during the times I was with people I dedicated myself to that. It’s been a revelation. It turns out that when you give the people around you your full attention and really listen to what they are saying, they are far more interesting than the holiday photos of strangers. When you let yourself be fascinated by what someone has to say, they become fascinating.

Notice the times you zone out

One of them is while I eat. It’s fairly common for me to enjoy the first taste of my food, and then get lost in thoughts, conversation or my phone (again!) and the next thing I know, I’ve cleared my plate. Trying to stay present while eating proved a really big challenge. Although I enjoy food, I don’t really notice eating it very much. My mind drifts so quickly. I had to really slow down, to deliberately put down my knife and fork between mouthfuls and actively try to notice what I was doing. This is still a struggle. It is true though that when you manage it, you find that you enjoy the food more, and can also notice better when you feel full.  

Make the menial tasks into mindful  ones

I’ve tried tuning in with the same mindful awareness to all the tasks I do in my day in the same way I focus during yoga. I was worried I’d find this boring. How would I cope with doing the dishes without mentally planning my next trip abroad? But when I tuned into the sensory experience of what I was doing, the way I moved and the noises around me, even the most boring of jobs became really quite absorbing. Just like with people, when you give tasks your full attention, they become far more interesting. You give yourself permission to enjoy them.

Where am I now percentage-wise? At best I’d give myself 15%. Which is good and bad. On the positive side I’ve increased my mindfulness maybe three times over. On the less good side, there’s still 85% of my day that I am mentally not there. But at least the numbers are creeping in the right direction. And I do feel better for it. Definitely calmer, and more aware of the great things that happen all the time.

I think I’m going to make it my next goal to eat a whole piece of cake without getting distracted. Let’s face it, if I can’t get it straight away, at least I’ll have fun practising…

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