Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Tag: Mindfulness (Page 1 of 5)

How Injury Transformed My Yoga Practice

If you’ve ever been put out of action by an injury, you’ll know how infuriating, debilitating and strangely isolating it can be. I’m sharing my experience below in the hope that it brings some comfort and reassurance that the situation (or at least your response to it!) can and will improve.

The Injury

Three months ago, I taught what was from my perspective, my worst ever yoga class. It wasn’t that anything went wrong with the class itself (though it wasn’t without challenges – a last minute room change and a power cut to be specific). No, the issue was that when demonstrated cat-cow, something in the right side of my lower back “went” sending searing pain through my back.

I’ve had lower back issues before, so I knew this wasn’t good, but I carried on teaching, hoping that moving would help. It didn’t. By the end of the 90 minute class, I was in barely disguised agony.

Me teaching a yoga class in the Om Dome at Suryalila Retreat Centre in Spain.
Teaching whilst injury-free!

I remained in acute, debilitating pain for the next three weeks. The only position that was comfortable was lying down. Sitting, walking and standing all sent my muscles into excruciating spasms. Safe to say, it was the end of my yoga teaching, and indeed my yoga practice for quite some time.

As I said, I’ve hurt my back before, and quite badly, but this was worse.

What made it emotionally harder was knowing that I’d hurt it doing yoga. Whereas previous injuries (through doing the Insanity workout programme, lifting kettlebells and most embarrassingly, tripping over the wire while straightening my hair) I could attribute to a specific, avoidable incident, what triggered this seemed so innocuous. It wasn’t even as if I was attempting a challenging posture.

The Bumpy Road to Recovery

I had some good advice and some terrible advice. Friends plied me with hot water bottles, ibuprofen and gin (which somewhat worryingly helped more than painkillers!).

I scoured the internet obsessively in the hope of a cure, and in my desperation forked out for not one but three eBooks on healing back pain, which I read from cover to cover. The worst of these convinced me that the pain was wholly psychological in nature and that once I knew that, all I needed to do was return to my normal activities.

Full of hope, I walked the 5km to the local town, determined to “act normal”. By the time I got there, I was in so much pain that I passed out on the street, and came round surrounded by a group of lovely, and deeply concerned Spanish locals. Not cool.

Beautiful massage space outside at Suryalila Retreat Centre in Spain.
The advantage of getting injured at a retreat centre is the availability of amazing massage…

So for the next six weeks, life revolved around things that didn’t aggravate my back.

I wanted to keep up some kind of self-practice, but how I felt about yoga had changed. Rather than being my therapy, my healing and my safe refuge, yoga felt risky. I considered meditation but this was hard as I couldn’t sit still for more than 20 seconds, and meditation lying down for me is just falling asleep.

Instead I started to read books on Buddhist philosophy and practice, which helped a lot more than the back pain books did. They encouraged me to develop a less combative relationship with the pain. I also began very gentle and cautious mobilisation and breathing exercises.

Trekking to Annapurna Base Camp

Sun rising over the Annapurna mountain range

Slowly, slowly I started to build up the distance I could walk. This was going well, but I feared not well enough, as I had booked to do the Annapurna Base Camp trek at the start of December – 9 days of arduous trekking in the Himalayas.

I was nervous to say the least. But the flights were already booked, and ABC had been a personal dream for the last 11 years, so there was no way I was going to not try.

I won’t bore you with every detail of the trek – my poor friends and family have had to put up with that a lot lately! But I’m very happy to say that it was every bit as incredible as I’d hoped. It wasn’t a painless experience, far from it, but the more I walked the more my pain eased. I was filled with immense gratitude for what my body could do.

Not only that but the walking itself was an incredible exercise in mindfulness. Because you have to place your feet carefully for each step (to avoid falling off the mountain) it was impossible to think about anything else. That coupled with the digital detox – we spent the whole trek without connecting to WiFi – meant I finished the trek feeling calmer, happier and more present than I have in a long time.

Sign and prayer flags at Annapurna Base  Camp.

But still no yoga. I played with a few postures after walking some days, but they didn’t feel great in my body, and I didn’t want to risk it.

New Year, New Focus

Then came new year. We attended a yoga and meditation retreat in Cambodia. My first yoga class there was a nerve wracking experience. Although the practice was gentle, I felt flashes of huge anxiety, and sometimes intense anger when a posture affected my back. I didn’t love the yoga classes, but in hindsight they did help me to overcome the mental barrier I had to practising postures.

Signs pointing to yoga hall and other facilities at Hariharalaya Retreat Centre.
The very lovely Hariharalaya Retreat Centre

But the meditation made a more tangible difference. By then I was able to sit on a meditation bench for around 30 minutes without pain. This time daily to connect in with myself and my breath let me put into practice all the learning from the Buddhist books I’d been reading.

There was also a strong emphasis on the importance of self-practice throughout the retreat, which I took to heart.

Since coming back from the retreat, I’ve developed a more consistent self practice of yoga, pranayama and meditation than I’ve had for years. I practice daily, around 30 minutes of postures, followed by pranayama and meditation later in the day. My practice doesn’t look the way it used to – currently my most “advanced” posture is tree pose (which I love!) – but it feels better. More honest, more connected and more grounding.

Me practising dragonfly (or grasshopper) pose in Morocco.
It may be a while before my yoga practice looks like this again!

Finding Yoga Again

Watch this space for a blog to follow about everything I’ve learnt about using yoga to heal injuries…

But suffice to say for now, coming back to yoga has been a process of gradually getting reacquainted with my body again – feeling into where the edges are now, and where I can use my breath to open up spaces. I’m experiencing again the joy of when I first discovered yoga, each posture as an invitation to step into myself as if for the first time. I’m building up confidence and trust in my body once more, and I know that’s going to take time. For once, I’m actually very happy to give it that time.

Me practising simple yoga on the beach.
Morning yoga on the beach in Koh Chang



Yoga For People Who Don’t Like Yoga

Yoga for people who don't like yogaI realised recently that many of my yoga students are people who “don’t like yoga”. Or at least, they didn’t think they liked yoga, until they were coerced into giving it another chance. These anti-yogis are now some of my most regular students. You might relate to them if…

  1. You think yoga is for hippies. Is being told to soften your pelvic floor so that fire energy can rise from your root chakra, infusing your spiritual being with celestial light not really your thing? No, me neither. I’m a big fan of yoga minus the bullshit, and it is possible to find it. Trust me, when you take away the pseudo-scientific narrative that accompanies far too many yoga classes, on a physical and mental level, yoga has a huge amount to offer.
  2. You reckon yoga is just relaxation. This is a tricky one because some yoga classes are. I once covered a class for someone whose style was evidently more passive than even my most gentle practice. I was asked afterwards whether I could make it easier. I politely explained that to me vinyasa yoga is a dynamic, physical practice, and one which has maximum benefits when it requires some mental and physical effort (notice, I said effort, not struggle – there is a difference). I’ll always, always offer modifications for students with injuries or limitations, and I make it clear that it’s good to rest whenever the practice becomes too much. But actually, I teach yoga to help people become stronger, more flexible and more self-aware. Relaxation is an important part of that, but it’s not the whole story.
  3. You don’t think your kind of people go to yoga. Considering points one and two above, you may well fear that a yoga class will be full of hippies, or people coming for extended nap time. However, as more and more people give yoga a try, and find a style that works for them, the yoga demographic broadens. I teach yoga to men, women, athletes, cyclists, those with disabilities, climbers, students, office workers, artists and builders. Oh, and a few genuinely lovely hippies. I don’t exclude.

If you’re a yoga-hater, I’d encourage you to give it another chance. And if you can get to Nottingham, come to my class… I like a challenge.  For those further afield, I’ll also be compiling a list of good quality, bullshit-free yoga videos online in the new year (I may even add a few of my own), so watch this space.

Getting Back Into Yoga

Getting back into yogaDo you find it hard to get back into something after a break? I’ve experienced this recently with yoga (and blogging actually, oops…) It’s not that I stopped practising, I just hadn’t been doing as much, which I’m ok with. But it was when I found myself getting genuinely cross because my bus was 3 minutes late that I realised it I needed some yoga love back in my life (yes, doing yoga makes me a nicer person.)

But actually getting back into yoga wasn’t as easy as I expected. Here’s what I found helped:

  1. Clarify your motivations. I made a list of all the reasons I wanted to get back into yoga. They included everything from, “I’ll get better at keeping things in perspective,” to, “My back won’t hurt as much after I’ve been sitting writing.”
  2. Make a plan and keep it simple. In the past whenever I’ve wanted to get back into yoga, I’ve gone back to Ashtanga yoga, because it’s disciplined, I know it well, and I can just follow the set structure. But this time I wasn’t keen to do that. Instead I chose an online yoga class from Meghan Currie (look her up – she’s amazing) on Ekhart Yoga. It was an hour long and incorporated lots of stuff I wanted to work on – forearm balance, handstands and backbends. I decided to do this every day for a week. Simple.
  3. Stick to it. Once I’m into something, I’m pretty good at sticking to it, but I find the first few days of a new routine the hardest. So I refused to let myself skip a day or shorten the practice, because that would only make it harder to do it properly the following day.
  4. Remember to enjoy it. During the yoga class, I’d try to focus on the bits that felt good, and really notice them. I’d find ways to make my sessions nicer – lighting a candle, wearing my favourite leggings (in the picture – I actually love them) and hanging out for a little bit longer in postures I was enjoying. And at the end of the practice, I’d take time to acknowledge all the positives that came from it – strength, flexibility, mindfulness etc.
  5. Review it. After my week of doing the same thing every day, I wanted to mix it up a bit. I’m over my Ashtanga phase of making myself do the same thing repeatedly just to see how far I can push it. Variety is more fun. So my plan is now to do that class twice per week, and other kinds of yoga on the remaining days. I’ve added in some yin yoga, some core strengthening classes and sessions where I just play and see what I feel like doing.

Has it worked? In a word, yes. I can already feel the difference in my flexibility and strength. And crucially, I’m loads more patient waiting for buses. Or at least I’m working on it…

 

How to be a proper yogi

Proper yogiWhat do you think it means to be a “proper yogi”? I keep hearing this phrase, and the perception seems to be that a proper yogi is at least one, but ideally several, of the following:

  • Super bendy
  • Teetotal
  • Big into chanting
  • A wearer of floaty, ethnic clothes
  • Vegan
  • A fan of incense
  • A hippy
  • Always meditating.

Now, I have nothing against any of these qualities (give me super-comfy yoga gear over jeans any day of the week). But I don’t like the implication that if you don’t fit this painfully narrow yoga stereotype, then you’re not a proper yogi.

What I like is the kind of yoga and yoga teaching that doesn’t leave you feeling like you have to eat only lentils, speak in “Oms” and turn yourself into a human pretzel for it to count. As far as I’m concerned, if you can breathe, move and focus at the same time, you can do yoga. And actually, I’m not even convinced the moving part is essential.

Yoga is everywhere. It’s not just something you do when sticking your bum in the air on a yoga mat (although I am a big fan of downward-facing dog too!). It’s an approach to life that cultivates more presence, mindfulness and compassion. I see yoga in action when people take a deep breath to calm themselves down, stop to appreciate a beautiful view or go out of their way to help someone out.

If you want to get your Om on, fill your house with joss sticks and levitate over your meditation platform, great! But if you choose beer over kombucha, cheesecake over chickpeas and Netflix over an evening meditating, don’t panic. When it comes to the values of yoga, if you display even a hint of a moral compass, and try to be honest and kind, you’re plenty yogi enough for it to count as “proper”. And you are definitely no less of a proper yogi than anyone who might judge you for not conforming to a stereotype.

5 Reasons Why Retreats Are Amazing For Your Yoga

Retreats are so good for your yogaI’ve been out teaching at a beautiful yoga retreat in Andalucia for a few weeks now, and it’s struck me just how good it is to practise yoga in a retreat setting. Here’s why:

  1. You practise yoga every damn day. Weekly classes are fab. You turn up every week, and it’s like a little oasis of peace and tranquility in the craziness of your life. But when you do only practise once a week, it can take ages to feel a noticeable difference in your body and mind. For the super-impatient (like me!), this can be way too slow.  If you’re more of a “I want to see a difference and I want to see it now” type, practising yoga every day at a retreat will be right up your street. People leave after just a week already feeling the difference in their strength, flexibility and self-confidence. Result.
  2. You have chance to notice the fluctuations in your own body and mind. This daily practice means you tune in every day to where you are mentally and physically. You learn that things come in waves – some days you might feel grumbly and cross, taking a while to settle into your practice, while on other days you might bounce through the class like a happy little yoga bunny. And it’s all fine. You learn that tomorrow may well be different, or not, and it really doesn’t matter. It’s the turning up and doing the yoga no matter what that counts.
  3. You have fewer distractions. Yoga to clear your mind is great in theory, but it’s less fun when you find yourself utterly unable to let go of your mental “to do” list – realising that you forgot to feed the cat, you need to put your jeans in the wash and you still haven’t fixed the printer. And it is good to practise yoga at these times – learning to get absorbed and be present even when your mind is being really annoying is a useful skill. But equally one of the most lovely things about a yoga retreat is that you can let yoga be your priority. It helps you to focus better and just enjoy it a whole lot more.
  4. You get into a happy yoga routine. Making it to yoga class when it means you have to haul yourself out of bed 2 hours earlier than usual, pile on 7 layers of winter clothing and de-ice your car in the dark? Unlikely. Making it there when you can roll out of bed and onto your mat as the sun rises over the horizon? Much more appealing. The yoga retreat class convenience factor takes a whole lot of the effort of motivating yourself to do yoga out of the equation. And the great thing is that once you start to practise yoga daily, the yoga bug bites. By the time you leave, you’ll find yourself wondering why you would ever start a day without yoga, which makes it considerably easier to keep up your practice back home. Even if it is really bloody cold in November.
  5. You get to practise yoga in stunning settings. Let’s be clear – I am by no means a yoga snob. Some of the best yoga classes I have done have been in very average church halls with biscuit crumbs trodden into the carpet (though trying to work out if it was a custard cream or a rich tea is pretty distracting mid-downward-facing dog). But doing yoga in the mountains at dawn, or on a rooftop under the stars, or on the beach as the waves lap the shore is pretty special. Experiences like these make it easier to get that warm, fuzzy “yoga is magical” feeling. It’s a bit like a holiday romance, except without the getting dumped as soon as you get off the plane bit.

I’m at the end of my round of retreats for 2016 (sob!), but if you’re convinced by this and would like to join me for a beautiful yoga retreat in 2017, watch this space! It’s going to be so much fun…

3 Ways Science Can Be More Yogic Than Yoga

Science more yogic than yogaI’ve made no secret of the fact that as a yoga teacher, I can be pretty sceptical about some of the things I hear. I wrote here about the fact that I’m a scientist at heart, and I don’t believe in leaving your intellect at the door of your yoga class.

Recently I attended a Pint of Science event in Nottingham (so good!), and it made me think about what yoga can learn from science. Here are 3 ways that science can be more yogic than some of the yoga I’ve come across:

  1. Non-attachment. There’s a misconception out there that science is arrogant, assumes it knows it all and has an explanation for everything. My experience listening to these incredibly intelligent, respected scientists speak about their work was that they were about as far from arrogant as you could get. One of them spoke about how when the research corroborates your hypothesis, it’s actually quite an uncomfortable position to be in because you then need to try to break your own theory – to test it and probe it and search for holes in it. There is no becoming attached to the perfection of your own work, because the search for the actual truth is more important than the neatness of any hypothesis.
  2. Humility. One of the lovely things about seeing a group of scientists answer questions was the speed with which they would redirect questions to their colleagues who had greater expertise in that area. This happened regardless of whether they could have answered the question themselves or not – they simply recognised that someone else was better placed to answer it, and were comfortable deferring to their more relevant knowledge.
  3. Curiosity. During the question and answer session, the most common answer by far was, “I don’t know.” This partly comes back to the idea of humility, and being honest when the answers are not there yet. But it is also testament to the fact that scientists choose to work at the periphery of our known world. They are constantly pushing at the boundaries of what we know, asking questions and choosing areas to get curious about. Instead of seeing an unknown as something shameful, they use it to inspire them to explore further.

I’ve deliberately chosen to train with schools of yoga, like Frog Lotus Yoga International, which not only accept but actively embrace new research. I respect their approach because they adapt the way that they teach as new evidence comes to light about the safety and efficacy of types of yoga.

The history and tradition of yoga is important, and ancient yogis had some incredible insights into how the world works. But that’s not to say that they had everything right, or that their practices are always appropriate for our very different lifestyles today. So it’s good to not get too attached to one way of doing things, to stay humble and to get curious. Surely the greatest advances can be made when we respect and honour the tradition of practising yoga at the same time as applying scientific rigour, principles and investigation to what we do?

 

Learning To Be Struggle-Free

struggle freeI blogged last week about how I’ve been embracing a more “underachieving” approach to my yoga practice lately. I was overwhelmed by the number of people who contacted me to say they loved this post. I know – who would have thought slacking was so inspiring? But many of these people had been beating themselves up for not doing enough and they were relieved to hear I was able to dial it down for a while, and be ok with that. It struck me how hard we are on ourselves. We live in a goals-driven, target-setting, progress-orientated culture. We’re taught that effort equals success, and while that can great, it can also leave us with the impression that if we’re not struggling, we’re doing something wrong. So I wanted to share some advice that has helped me a lot.

The reason I’ve not been practising as much yoga is because I’ve been busy. Squeezing in such a long practice every day was making yoga into a struggle, and not something I loved. So I chose to let go of the struggle and adopt a more realistic, manageable yoga practice for a few weeks.

And this goes back to something that a yoga teacher said in class a while ago which resonated with me. In the warm up she encouraged us to, “Allow yourself to be struggle-free.” During the initial, gentler sections of the class this was fine. But then later, in a fairly intense core-strengthening sequence, she reiterated the guidance. “Be struggle-free. Be easy.” I was skeptical about the possibility of being “struggle-free” while doing Forrest Yoga abs (try them – they’re brutal). But weirdly, it worked. Not because I stopped trying, but because I realised how much of my suffering was caused by my mental battle. I was surprised that I could still work hard, and feel the intensity of that (which I definitely did), but without struggling, and therefore without hating it.

I’ve been experimenting with this quite a lot in the rest of my life too, and it’s been helpful. There are two ways that I try to apply the “struggle-free” philosophy. The first is that if I’m doing too much, or not enjoying something I’m doing, I reflect on whether I really need to be doing it, or whether it’s a self-imposed struggle that I could find a way around.

The second way acknowledges that sometimes there are things I have to experience which don’t feel particularly comfortable. Let’s say I need to have a challenging conversation with someone, or I’m anxious about the outcome of decision. I’ve been reminding myself at these times to, “Be easy.” Depending on the circumstances, maybe this means I need to relax, to detach, to surrender or to let things go and trust that it will work out.

And I’ve found that the more I let myself be struggle-free, the more things do seem to work out. Not necessarily to start with, but in the end they have a tendency to come good. Because actually even if I really think I know what the best outcome should be, I don’t really know what’s for the best. Things that I might initially perceive as failures can give rise to other, better opportunities.

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t make an effort. You can still apply yourself fully, and commit and work hard at whatever it is you’re doing. And sometimes you do need to make a stand, and do things that are tough. But you can also make the conscious decision not to struggle with them. Even in the midst of things that feel horrible, like abs workouts or relationship break ups, it can be possible to find a kind of acceptance and peace in surrender to the situation. Most of the suffering is in the struggle. If you can let go of that, things get a lot easier.

So this week, my challenge to everyone, myself included is to let yourself be struggle-free. Drop something from your “To do,” list, find an easier way or let go of a personal battle. Let me know if it makes a difference.

Why Yoga is Still Amazing (Even When You Don’t Do As Much)

yoga still amazingSince I’ve been back in the UK, my life has changed a lot. I’ve been working in school again, teaching yoga classes around Nottingham, writing and catching up with friends and family. It’s been great. But I’ve gone from attending 90 minute yoga classes every morning before breakfast, plus more self-practice later in the day, to squeezing in a little movement and meditation before I go to work in the morning, and doing a longer practice about 3 times per week.

Initially I worried about this. I thought I wasn’t doing enough, and that my yoga practice would suffer. But I’ve realised that like everything, my yoga practice goes in waves. Sometimes I’ll practise more, sometimes less. Right now my priority isn’t to practise yoga for 3 hours every day and that’s ok. The lessons from my yoga mat are still having a huge impact on my life. Here’s how yoga is still amazing, even when you don’t do as much:

  1. It makes you more patient. I noticed this while I was reading with a student at school. It was a long session on a hot afternoon, and I know that prior to yoga this is exactly the kind of thing that would have had me clock-watching and counting down until the end of the day. But instead I was able to let myself get absorbed in the activity. I noticed my impatience, but chose not to engage with it, and as a result ended up really enjoying the lesson, rather than wishing it away.
  2. It helps you enjoy people’s company more. Instead of always rushing on to the next thing, I’ve found myself much more able to just relax and enjoy conversations and spending time with people. Before I would always be racing to do something “productive”, but now I’m valuing the time to talk to people. Yoga’s also taught me to be less judgemental, which again, helps with the whole liking being around people thing…
  3. It helps you to be less anxious. I’m naturally a very future-focused person, but at the moment I only have the vaguest, most flexible plans for my life beyond the next lot of yoga retreats I’m teaching. And I’m really happy about that. I’m trusting a lot more that the future holds great things, and that when things don’t work out as I might have hoped it’s because there’s something better in store. I’m finding that this less controlling, more open approach is letting me enjoy my life a lot more.
  4. It makes you happier. I really do credit my meditation and my yoga practice for the fact that day to day, I feel so much happier than I ever did before. I’m aware that I have negative and destructive thoughts sometimes, but I know I don’t have to give them any power over me.
  5. It helps you to find your balance. I’m so much more aware of the degree to which I need activity versus relaxation, freedom versus security and social time versus quiet time. My life right now is busy and varied, but I also have some of the stability and calm that I’d been craving in my last few months of travelling. And I’m much more confident in my own ability to regain balance when things get out of kilter.

Although I might not be spending as much time on my mat, the influence of my yoga practice has extended into all aspects of my life, and I think that’s a really good thing. I know I’ll be on my mat a lot more when I leave for my next yoga retreats, and for now I’m happy to let my priorities shift more towards my teaching and writing and connecting with the people around me.

Wishing you a lovely week, whether your yoga practice is a bit of mindful breathing, or a hardcore daily vinyasa class! Both can be amazing.

Love Jade xxx

The Unexpected Difference Meditation Makes

Difference meditation makesI wrote last week about my own meditation practice, and what exactly I do. Those who have read this, will know that I don’t do anything particularly impressive. My routine is basically “Sit still, be quiet” for 10 minutes every morning. But despite its simplicity, the difference meditation makes for me is huge. Here’s what I’ve noticed:

I’m less reactive.

It seems to me that meditation has opened up space in my mind, so that when things happen, I have time to process them and make a choice about how to respond. That’s not to say I don’t still have emotional reaction, because I do, at least mentally. I’m just less likely to act on it before I’ve thought it through. For example, if someone says something that upsets me, in the past I might have gone straight down a mental avenue of “WTF. How dare they? Clearly they hate me. I think I hate them too. This is a disaster.” Whereas now I might manage a slightly more reasonable, “Ouch. That hurt. I wonder what they meant by that. Is it worth trying to find out?” 

I’m more aware of my thoughts.

Meditation helps me to tune into where my mind’s at each day, and to realise the sorts of thoughts that pop uninvited into my head all the time. It’s definitely not about emptying my mind – I really can’t do that – but I have developed a better understanding of how my mind works. If there’s something that’s worrying me, I know how much my mind is going to keep bringing it up. Although I can’t stop that, I can practise engaging with it less.

I’m learning to slow down.

My natural tendency is to be in a rush with everything. I want to do everything quicker and more efficiently, so that I can get more done. But often, I don’t know what it is that I want to do after all the stuff is done. And of course the stuff is never all done. So taking the time each morning to “do nothing” is an exercise in disciplining myself to stop mindlessly racing through life, and slow down. It means I’m more inclined to step back in the morning and consider my intentions for the day. It also means I’m more likely to slow down during the day and actually enjoy what I’m doing. Even if that does mean it takes a bit longer.

Stuff doesn’t seem to matter as much.

I spent most of my teenage years and my early twenties lurching from crisis to crisis. I was always caught up in the drama of whatever was going on right then, and it all felt so important. One of the things that meditation (and maybe getting older too?) has taught me is how transient everything is. Thought, feelings, situations. Everything rises, and everything falls away. That’s not to say that I don’t care about things. I do, a lot. I like being passionate about life, and I feel things intensely.  I’m just more aware that even when things seem unbearable, I will get over it, and it won’t feel like this forever. “This too shall pass,” has become one of my favourite mantras.

I’m reining in my own judgemental tendencies.

This last one is more of a confession than anything. Sometimes the thing that makes it most obvious to me that my mindset has changed through meditation is when I recognise elements of how I used to think in other people. I’ll see someone get angry because their bus is 10 minutes late, and realise I’m less impatient than I used to be. I realise judging the behaviour of others is not a desirable quality, but at least I’m aware I’m doing it, right? Joking aside though, becoming a judgemental prick is not something I’m trying to encourage in myself, but it is kind of interesting to observe.

I’d love to know whether you’ve noticed any changes after trying meditation?

Have a great week!

Love Jade xxx

How I Meditate – My Personal Practice

How I meditateI’ve had quite a few people lately ask me about how I meditate, and although I’ve written before about the challenges of meditation, I’ve never really shared my personal practice. I think it’s different for everyone, but after a lot of trial and error, that is what I’ve found works for me with meditation. I hope it’s useful.

Commit to a Daily Practice

Although I don’t notice an immediate effect if I miss a day of meditation, what I have found is that missing one day makes it harder to meditate the next day. Before I know it a week has gone by without me actually sitting still and being quiet (yes, meditation is the only time I do that), and that does affect the clarity of my mind. So I hold myself pretty strictly to at least 5 minutes per day meditating. Most days I do 10 minutes, some days I do 15 or 20. I rarely meditate for longer than that unless I’m in a group, and someone forces me do it…

Find A Time That Works For You

I think it’s easier to stick to meditation if it becomes part of your routine. I like to meditate after I’ve practised yoga in the morning. Because I’m naturally so restless and it’s a real challenge for me to sit still, it’s at least a bit easier once I’ve done some yoga. Also my body is more relaxed and my hips are more open, which makes sitting easier. Other people prefer to meditate before bed, or in their lunch break. I did try meditating in bed (lying down, under the duvet, with my eyes closed) before I got up in the morning, but to my intense disappointment that didn’t really work.

Use a Timer

I’m sadly not the kind of person who can just indefinitely and meditate for as long as I feel like it. If I did that I’d probably only ever do 30 seconds. So I use an app on my phone – Insight Timer. This has a soft bell sound to end the session, which is less aggressive than setting an alarm. It also has social features, so you can see who you’ve been meditating with around the world afterwards. Sometimes they send you messages to thank you for meditating with them (you can turn this off if you like!). I used to find this really weird. Now I love it. Things change.

Get Comfortable

I’m really not a believer in forcing yourself to sit in a certain position to meditate. Meditation is hard enough anyway without sitting there in agony. If you’ve got pins and needles and you’re panicking that you may never feel your lower leg again, you’re unlikely to feel that focused. It’s even less likely you’ll choose to carry on the next day. So get comfy – use cushions, kneel over a bolster, sit upright in a chair or lie on your back if you have to (and if you can stay awake!). But find something that feels ok for you.

Scan Your Body

This helps with the point above, and it’s how I almost always start my meditation practice. I take a scan through my body, from the ground up, and consciously bring awareness and relaxation to every part. I only take a minute or so to do this, but it helps my mind and body to settle at the beginning of the practice.

Focus On Your Breath

Once I’ve scanned my body, I focus on my breathing. I breathe through my nose and concentrate on the point at which my breath leaves and enters the body – the edge of my nostrils. Every time my mind wanders off (which it does, all the time) I try to gently and nonjudgmentally notice it, and return to focusing on my breath. It’s a kind of “Oh look, I’m thinking about what I’m having for breakfast. How interesting. Let’s go back to my breath.” Reminding myself to focus on “just this breath” sustaining my concentration one breath at a time really helps to keep me present. Other people use counting or mantras to keep their focus here – I keep it simple and just watch my breathing.

This is just how I meditate. I’m not saying it’s the right way for everyone, but I hope you do have a go, experiment and see what works for you. Because it is incredibly good for you. Blog to follow next week about the difference meditating every damn day has made for me.

Have a great week!

Jade xxx

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