Time to Roar

I always feel that new moons are a great time for stating afresh, setting some new intentions.  Yesterday saw the new moon in Leo which is said to be a very fiery time – “stoking the flames of our potential …..Courage to be our true selves, To find strength in our vulnerabilities , our truth and our rawness and to live from the inside out……….ultimately it is up to us to tend to our own heart flame by kindling it with what will bring it expansion and illumination” (Mysticmamma.com)

i am certainly feeling that this is a week for getting stuff done.  i woke up this morning with more energy than i’ve had in ages and even after a productive day i’m writing this blog at 10pm.  It could also be that it has been a scorcher of a day – Glasgow seems to have found the memo that it is summer!  Hurrah!  Whatever the reason, when these waves of productivity arise they have to be put to good use and not wasted.  SO….. more productivity for the rest of the week to bring some exciting new projects to life.

I’ve been manifesting these projects for a while now, they just started with a little seed of intention and have been growing slowly with a lot of nurturing and care.  I love this process of setting intentions, developing them and seeing them grow.  Taking my life in the new direction that i have planned.

What will you be doing over this new moon cycle?  It’s time to roar!!

Sign up for my newsletter to keep up to date with these new projects as they unfold.

There’s also spaces still available on my Arran retreat 21st & 22nd August – treat yourself to some time dedicated to you.

Although we don’t want to think about summer coming to an end I’ll be back at Prana Yoga in Hamilton on 2nd September for a Later Summer Mini Retreat.  Late Summer is a time of returning to the earth, harvesting all the good things we  planted earlier in the year. Reflecting on what we have achieved & building up our sense of self worth.  It is a time to nourish yourself both physically & mentally so give yourself this time to slow down, go inwards & rediscover your self.

Guided Relaxation – Why should I use it?

I am a great fan of guided relaxations which allow your body and mind to completely relax and have just released my first collection of guided relaxations to download – Earth & Sky (Available on iTunesCDBaby Amazon & Google Play

In our current lives we are pretty much on 24/7 and I find through my yoga classes that people find it very difficult to relax.  It’s not something people are used to doing out with sleep and it’s not something people tend to consciously make time for.  I love seeing the effects on people when they’ve experienced a guided relaxation during class – the sense of lightness and calmness in their faces and bodies – and I wanted to share this collection so that people can receive the benefits more often.

It’s incredibly important that we find time to properly relax.  In this 24/7 busy and stressful lifestyle our sympathetic nervous system is switched on a lot of the time.  This is our fight or flight mode.  Whether it is work, family life, financial pressures, anxiety over the future, there are a whole host of stressors which trigger this fight or flight mode.  When the sympathetic nervous system is engaged our heart rate increases and our breathing rate is increased in order to get oxygenated blood to the major muscles to react to the stressor.  We make short terms decisions based on the information we have to hand to get us away from the stress.  With the blood supply busy transporting oxygen to the major muscles our digestive system doesn’t get what it needs to function properly.  If we live too much in this state it has a negative impact on our bodies and our lives.

It is therefore important that we ensure we make time to rest and engage the parasympathetic nervous system.  This allows our heart rate to slow down, the circulation system to deliver blood and nutrients to all the organs to allow the body to function optimally and repair itself.  When we are in a more rested state we are able to take longer term decisions, have the space to step back and find creative solutions to problems and be able to respond rather than react to events.

My guided relaxations are written to allow the body to come to complete muscular relaxation while staying awake and aware.  The conscious mind can switch off.  I like to think of these as a away for your mind to do a bit of file sorting – if the mind is continually busy it it can get overwhelmed with the filing of information and information gets filed in the wrong place or distorted.  When we allow the mind to relax it can have a bit of a tidy up and process information effectively.

In the relaxations you also have the option to utilise a sankalpa or resolve.  This is a short phrase, intention or affirmation that you can say near the beginning and end of the relaxation for something that you wish to change.  As you relax your mind can take in the intention so that it can act as a reference point for future actions.  Here are some examples:

  • I am beautiful and loved. I am proud to be me
  • I trust life to unfold in positive ways. The universe loves me and supports me
  • I choose to see everyone and everything with joy and love
  • Life is change. I adapt easily and accept the past, the present and the future

Any phrase or affirmation you use should be short and simple so that it is easy for you to remember.  It should be in the present tense ie said as something that you are doing now rather than something you have done in the past or will do in the future.  It should also be in positive language, bringing positive things in to your life rather than being about giving something up.  For example “I choose to eat healthy and nutritious food” rather than “I am giving up food that is bad for me”

Using sanklapas and affirmations in this way when we are going about our daily life our mind will look for ways to support these beliefs which will help to make positive changes if you choose.

Earth & Sky album is available to download on iTunes, CDBabyAmazon & Google Play.

Self-Esteem

Today I’m talking about self-esteem………

Self Esteem is defined as confidence in our own worth or abilities.  Like many things though it’s not something we have or don’t have but something that fluctuates throughout our life and on a daily basis.  We might remember periods of our life when our self-esteem was particularly high or low but also within those periods our level of self-esteem could vary.  I’m sure we’ve all had times when we’ve been feeling great and then someone makes a comment.  Suddenly our self-esteem plummets through the floor and we need the help of a JCB to unearth it.  Other times we feel invincible and can just brush off comments – water off a duck’s back.  Why is this?

Usually when we feel good about ourselves we are more likely to be able to brush off comments easily. Positivity breeds positivity and our brain ignores the negative.  The conscious mind can only process a limited amount of information and yet it is bombarded with millions of pieces of information from all five senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.  The conscious mind has to decide what information to take in and will use past experience to help decide what is important and what is not so important at that moment.  If we are in a positive mood the mind will pay more attention to positive things around us and so we can see when things have been said in jest or just let something wash over us.

If we are already feeling low, however, already telling ourselves negative things the mind will pay more attention to the pieces of information that reinforce this negative state.  The more we do this the more evidence and experience the mind builds to seek out negativity.  Our mind is clever and trying to protect us and keep us safe but it is doing so in a not particularly helpful way.

So how can we build and maintain our self-esteem?

We can use Positive Affirmations. Short positive sentences or mantras repeated a number of times to build or reinforce a positive state.  The mind has to buy into the affirmation though and believe it.  It’s no use repeatedly saying “I am amazing, I can do anything” when the first thought that pops into your head after saying it is “No you’re not, you completely messed up that exam last week”!  In those instances adjust the message slightly to get the buy in from your mind. If you are in a low state of self-esteem it might simply need to be “I am doing the best I can”.

Accept Compliments.  Don’t brush compliments off.  The people around you want to be around you and so if they pay you a compliment accept it, they mean it! This might feel a bit difficult and strange at first so just start with saying “thank you”.  When we accept the positive compliments the conscious mind is actively taking in that positive information.  When we hear negative comments the mind will consider these against our past experience – if that experience is hearing compliments and positive comments it will be able to dismiss negative comments more easily as they don’t fit with our experience.

Drop Negative Self Talk.  If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all.  This goes for speaking to yourself as well as speaking to others.  We all bombard ourselves with negative self-talk, about our bodies, our abilities and a whole myriad of subjects.  That drip, drip, drip into the mind provides a reference point which the mind will go to when evaluating the information coming in from external sources.  If the external information aligns to the internal representation it reinforces that message.  Look out for when you are utilising negative self-talk and flip it into something positive.  A bit like the positive affirmations, make sure it is something that you can believe.  It might take a bit of practice.

Surround yourself with people who raise you up.  Make sure you have plenty of people around you that make you feel good about yourself.  As with the positive affirmations and accepting compliments the more your mind has positive reference points to compare external information to the more it can ignore negative comments and more easily put negative experiences behind it.  It would be great to live in a bubble of positivity but there will always be challenging situations and people that we do not to interact with that don’t bring out the best in us.  But by taking steps to build and maintain our self-esteem these situations will not affect us so deeply.

Don’t keep these tips to yourself – remember Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe.  Help to lift up others, pay them compliments and help build their self-esteem.  Use your positivity to breed more positivity around you.

 

Having Fun with Aerial Yoga

This week I’m talking about “Having Fun”

I was going to dive a little bit deeper into meditation and its wonderful benefits in this weeks blog but after a fun  aerial yoga class this week I changed my mind – let’s talk about having fun instead!  I’m not suggesting that meditation isn’t fun, it’s all about having the right tools in your toolbox for every situation and this week we are putting fun and laughter in the toolbox.

Aerial yoga utilises suspended hammocks to support the body during the practice.  I’ve been to a few aerial yoga classes before and know the benefits – the effects of gravity and the support of the hammock allow you to get deeper into postures providing a great stretch and challenge to the body.  I’d forgotten though just how much fun it is and therefore the psychological and physiological benefits that come from simply having fun and letting go.  It all ties in neatly to my previous blog where I was talking about relaxation and how we’ve forgotten how to relax.  Similarly, as adults, we forget to have fun – everything is so serious. It’s good to have some childish silly fun every now and again!

In the aerial yoga class we were sitting in our hammocks as if on a swing in the park, utilising our core abdominals gently to get us moving but once we got going we were all aiming our toes up towards the ceiling, leaning back, remembering how it was to swing in the park, going higher and higher.  Feeling a breeze across our faces as we reached higher and higher, willing our toes to touch the ceiling (I’ll just add that no ceilings were harmed during this practice!).  We laughed at how if we’d been in the park the children would be giving us a stare to get off their swings!

We worked our abdominal muscles through the postures as well as through laughing.  Releasing endorphins, the happy hormones that bring about the feel good factor and which counteract the stress hormones.  And in aerial yoga you don’t just get to swing back and forth – there’s also the opportunity to hang upside down, lengthening & decompressing the spine, a wonderful feeling if you spend a significant proportion of your day standing or sitting.  Utilising gravity you can find yourself in postures you didn’t think were possible.  A session generally works into all of the major muscles – as well as some muscles that you might forget you have on a day to day basis!

You don’t need to practice aerial yoga to release the endorphins but find something you enjoy which brings about a sense of fun and laughter.  But I can strongly recommend an aerial yoga class to connect to your inner child! It’s great not to take ourselves too seriously from time to time.

If you are interested to find out more about aerial yoga check out these wonderful teachers who run aerial yoga classes, workshops (and some also do aerial yoga teacher training) in and around Glasgow:

Some of them will also be teaching taster aerial yoga sessions at the Om Yoga Show Glasgow (25th/26th March)  so pop along and find out more http://www.omyogashow.com/glasgow/

 

Meditation or Relaxation – what is the difference?

 

I’m often asked by people in my classes what is the difference between relaxation and meditation.  They both have some similar effects on the mind and body and I believe they are both important in modern life but they are two different techniques.

Let’s start with relaxation.

There are two aspects to our nervous system – the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.  The sympathetic nervous system is where our ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response comes from if we are confronted by danger or some form of stress trigger.  The body releases adrenalin and cortisol to get the heart pumping faster and the breathing rate increases to get more oxygen around the body, particularly to the large muscle groups so that we can get out of danger quickly.  The parasympathetic nervous system on the other hand is our ‘rest, relax and restore’ response. The heart rate slows down, the breathing rate slows down and blood is transported all around the body to all the organs allowing them to function properly.

These days our lives are very much centred in the sympathetic nervous system.  We are so busy with so many competing demands for our time and energy the majority of us feel some form of stress on a daily basis.  And a small amount of stress isn’t a bad thing, the stress triggers us to take some form of action.  But if we are constantly in the ‘fight, flight, freeze’ mode then we are putting a lot of pressure onto our bodies and minds.  If the body is focussed on getting out of danger the mind is making very short term decisions, the blood circulation is diverted away from our digestive system, our blood pressure is increased for prolonged periods of time.

We therefore need to take time out and relax.  But this is easier said than done.  The common way to relax – a glass of wine in front of the TV.  We may think we are relaxing but we are still being bombarded with information which can create stress triggers.  The easiest way to relax is to find a few minutes of quiet time each day, lie down, focus on the breath and allowing all the muscles in the body to relax.   This allows the heart rate to slow down and the body to restore itself.

So what about meditation?

Meditation is a technique that allows us to become aware of the body and mind a to bring more awareness and compassion into our daily life.  Meditation works to quiet the internal chatter so that when we act we are acting out of choice rather than making habitual reactions to a situation.  It helps us to respond rather than react.  It also allows us to live in the present moment, not clinging to the past or pining all our hopes onto some future time or event.

Similar to relaxation techniques meditation also has the effect of switching on the parasympathetic nervous system but by tuning into the body and mind and choosing how we respond to situations it can reduce the effect of the stress triggers.  That’s not to say that if you’ll be more prone to danger because you can’t react fast enough rather it gives you the space to decide whether you need to react or not.

There are lots and lots of different meditation techniques but the general theme is a single point of concentration which then allows the mind to quieten.  It could be focussing on the breath – the sensation of the air flowing in through the nostrils, filling the lungs and the sensation as it leaves the body or one of the myriad other techniques.  Some days the focus may come easy other days it may be hard to quieten that internal chatter, the key is not to judge – it is what it is.  As with anything, regular and consistent practice is the key.

Over the next few months I’ll be exploring relaxation and meditation techniques in more depth and compiling some guided meditation and relaxation downloads.

Sign up to my mailing list to keep informed or follow on Facebook