Samvega and the Toad

Samvega is a state of disillusionment with life that leads to a vehement and urgent search for truth, and an emergence from suffering, delusion and confusion (as stated by Stephen Cope in The Wisdom of Yoga. I couldn’t put it any better so I didn’t try.)

It’s basically the moment when you realise you are The Toad[1]. The Toad that is sat in a pan of water on a hob, festering there, as the gas heats the pan which heats the water that gradually rises in temperature around The Toad. The Toad, being a toad, fails to notice the steadily increasing heat and is slowly boiled alive. This analogy came from a dear friend of mine after a particularly bad break up. I recall that when she first told me this I felt so sad for her and slightly disturbed. I had no idea that I too would come to relate to The Toad.

This tale ends well for both my friend and I. But the reason I bring this up is it occurred to me that I actually had my samvega moment years before I thought I did.

One Christmas a couple of years ago, I was sat with my parents watching The Way. This film features Martin Sheen walking the Camino de Santiago, a famous Catholic pilgrimage, from the French side of the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela. He meanders through quaint Spanish towns, undulating green hills and forests filled with light and bird life. The film does not show the soulless horror of the motorways, the creepy dead towns along the way or the 100 bed dorms full of snoring, farting, Italian men (you know who you are).

Yes, you guessed it, I took myself off walking and not only was I daft enough to buy in, so were two of my friends. You see at that point in time I had ended my employment at a private law firm and was embarking on an alternative legal career. I felt disconnected, a little sad and also completely fed up of the noise and overload of information, people, and limitless things to do that my ever so lovely life in London provided. I was ungrateful and grumpy and I wanted to strip it all back.

We could only take 10 days and the full Camino takes about 6 weeks. We (I mean I, I was in charge) set ourselves the target of walking 202.5km starting in Ponferrada in 9 days. It was the most difficult, challenging, emotional and painful experience of my life (until I went to India for the 200 hours Yoga Teacher Training)! It was also one of the most enjoyable, and the sincerest bonding experience I’ve had with two wonderful ladies I can still call the best of friends. We squabbled, we limped, we popped blisters (one man actually named me ‘Blister girl’). We ate our body weight in croissants and downed Sangria by the jug each afternoon. We carried what little we needed on our backs, and each morning we packed up and trundled off to our next destination, to our next dorm room and our next plate of tapas.

When we arrived in Santiago de Compostela we entered the beautiful Cathedral for the mass which is held every day for pilgrims such as my friends and I. Every day pilgrims walk the Camino for different reasons, in different states of health, at different stages of life. I was amazed and humbled by the more elderly pilgrims we met along the way, by those who walk for their faith, for lost loved ones, and those like me who had just simply lost their way. For the first time in a long time, I felt the beauty of spirituality in the comfort of a church – a home for souls. This was the moment I realised how closed off I was, how isolated, how fearful of losing control that I had become.  I realised that I needed to find answers in other places than in my work, in my friendships, in my relationships and I began an inner inquiry – finding meditation and yoga as sources of comfort and peace.

It’s a funny feeling when you realise that everything you were searching for can actually be found from within. And if I’d known then what I know now I could have saved my feet from all those blisters!

[1] I have nothing against Toads nor were any Toads harmed in the writing of this article or at any time by me or my friend.

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1/2 day yoga workshop -explore the power of the Sun in your yoga practice.

This workshop is a perfect introduction to yoga for beginners and those completely new to yoga and for intermediate students who wish to explore yoga further and deepen their practice.

WORKSHOP

Our 4 hour workshop will provide you with two yoga classes:

(i) one Akhanda hatha yoga class to open our session – bringing you an authentic and traditional experience of hatha yoga from the Himalayas in India; and

(ii) a relaxing and restorative Yin class bringing stillness and balance to your body and mind at the end of our workshop.

We will learn about the chakras and how to balance the elements within and around us in an interactive seminar, along with guided meditations and discussion on meditation and mindfulness techniques to help you introduce or deepen your practice at home.

Finally, join our posture workshop and perfect your sun salutations building on the chaturanga practice in our last workshop (March 2016).

Yoga mats and equipment will be provided. You are welcome to bring a blanket and a pillow to fully settle into your relaxation time with us.

Refreshments and cake will be provided.

WHERE ARE WE?

We are excited to host this 4 hour event in the beautiful ballroom at the Southport Temperance Institute.

So join Renewed You Yoga and Strimasana Yoga for a ½ day workshop at the Southport Temperance Institute, 65 London Street, Southport, PR9 0TH at 2pm – 6pm on Sunday 8 May 2016!

Registration will be at 1.45pm.

HOW TO BOOK

Pre-booking is essential with a £10.00 deposit. Tickets are £35.00 with an early bird offer of £25.00 for the first 5 places booked! Deposits can be paid by paypal to lgyogasouthport@gmail.com

Contact Liz for further information and to confirm your booking.

Namaste

Join the circus

Many of you may be wondering if an exploration into yoga will turn your life and yourself upside down. The answer for me was yes it would appear so!  But there is no right way to follow a yogic lifestyle and many of my peers on the Yoga Teacher Training course have since gone back to their jobs, partners, houses and usual routines. It’s just I always liked to be dramatic.

I was a Litigation lawyer for many years and my job involved preparing cases for Court, sometimes appearing before Judges in Tribunals, and jumping to the command of Partners and those higher up the food chain (some with personality disorders, most not). My job involved being right, all the time, and if you weren’t right then finding some way to argue that you were right. It involved finding holes, points to score and A LOT of banter. I worked with some amazing colleagues and some truly inspiring clients – one was an international charity that objected to an intensive dairy farm development in the UK. Think battery farmed cows. Yup. Grim. And it exists. 

I loved my job for a long time and whilst I began to suffer from stress and anxiety I do believe that if I went back into Law I could do so now in a far healthier and happier way.

I’d like to share with you some yoga tips which you can integrate into your busy lives so you don’t need to pack up a rucksack and travel to Rishikesh for a month (although if you can, then do!)

1)      Breathe. It sounds simple but just check in now as you read this. Where are you feeling the movement of your breath? Most of us shallow breathe from our chest (a fight and flight response). See if you can take your breath down to your belly on an inhale and release from your belly on an exhale. Do this as often as you can. All day preferably. 

2)      Find some activity which absorbs your full concentration – it could be yoga, meditation, walking, running or cooking. Meditation is any activity in which you are engaging fully and positively. Make time, if only 5-10 mins a day, to meditate in your own way.

3)      Be kind to yourself. The phone rings and the client is mad. They received your bill. Your heart stops. You have to explain to the client and then go and confess to your boss. Notice where your thoughts go in moments of high stress – are you chastising yourself for not pre-empting the situation? Are you reliving the conversation with the client kicking yourself for not explaining it one way or another? Whatever your thought reaction is – try and notice it and then stop it. Our mind has a programmed pattern of behaviour particularly in negative situations and we can spiral down into a pit of despair before we realise it.

4)      This too shall pass. I used to get particularly nervous appearing before Judges in Tribunals and despite prepping for days I’d always feel slightly panicky. I’d often repeat to myself “it’s only a hour of my life” or “it’s only 8 hours” (whatever the hearing length was) and it was my way of acknowledging that the moment, the feeling , the hearing, was only temporary, and it would soon be over. Remind yourself of that in the good moments and the less good moments and savour the experience.

5)      You can’t do it all. Accept that sometimes you need to take shortcuts, that you buy fairy cakes for your kids party instead of baking them from scratch because it was that or the kid turned up to said party like the great unwashed in dirty clothing. That unnamed pressure to be perfect isn’t real. No one finds you that interesting. That may sound unkind but see it as liberating and free yourself from the need to be the perfect husband /wife /parent /boss /son/daughter/friend /baker/candlestickmaker.  

 

Unconditional love

“In the beginning we all depend on attention and affection from our mother or other caring people. Without loving care we cannot survive, without loving action we miss the meaning of life.” (Love Within, Tina Turner).

As you are all aware it is Mothering Sunday today. If, for some reason, you missed all the promotions and advertising (mine included) then get yourself out there sharpish and buy some flowers for the woman you wish to spoil today.

In addition to the woman who gave you life (just think about that for a minute and acknowledge what that really means – stretchmarks, tearing, care and worry all day every day for 9 months, excitement, tears of joy, love, LIFE!) there is also the Divine Mother within all of us, men and women alike. She (Durga) is the mother of All, the mother of unconditional love, the mother of the Universe helping us develop attributes of love, kindness, compassion, forgiveness and tolerance. It is human nature to take those close to you for granted and I for one am guilty of that some days. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to cherish someone who is quite frankly doing your head in!

At the mature age of 32 I am living with my parents. They are supporting me as I strive to fulfil my dream of teaching yoga and fund a living from that. We three have strong personalities, strong ideas and ideals and a strong attachment to being right. Somewhat surprisingly we are rubbing along rather well but sometimes there will be a niggle and someone pushes someone else’s buttons, someone sulks. According to Buddhist philosophy the answer in these moments is to remove your buttons, not blaming the other person for your reaction and to remember that you are responsible for your own happiness. Each squabble is an opportunity to become aware of your immediate reaction and to try to lean in with love and compassion. We should cherish those we find difficult as they are the ones who bring us the greatest gift – the opportunity to learn the most about ourselves.

It pains me to put the following sentence in writing, on Facebook, on the internet forever: My mother was right. She knows my soul. She said when I was small that I should be a teacher. She encouraged me to be open to spirituality. I stuck my stubborn chin out and ignored that advice for a long time. I imagine one of the hardest parts of being a parent is watching your child stumble through life, ignoring your life experience and not truly connecting to the fact that you love them unconditionally.  I know in my heart that Mum loves me unconditionally even if, on occasion, she doesn’t like me very much. Thank you Mum.

Happy Mother’s Day.  

 

It’s a girl!

And a prenatal teacher was born

I am not a mother. I am a proud Auntie to a tinker of a toddler but I have no first-hand experience of wanting to get pregnant; of the joy, nerves and nausea of those first 12 weeks; of giving up control of your physical body to the ever-expanding bump, and the mobility reduced final weeks; and finally, of the pain, strength, and empowerment of labour and the pure joy and love of holding your baby for the first time.

I would like children one day but the opportunity (and the stork) has yet to present itself. I used to have a mild phobia of childbirth and would watch One Born Every Minute clutching a cushion in disbelief and I actually pulled a whitey during the rather graphic crowning scene in Knocked Up! Why then, you may ask, do I teach mums-to-be prenatal yoga and study textbooks like Birthing from Within for pleasure, interest and ongoing learning?

Because during my time in India I had the opportunity to undertake an 85 hour certified course in prenatal yoga and it shattered my pre-set illusions and misconceptions about childbirth. Our group of goddesses (fellow teachers) bonded with each other as women, discovered different cultural approaches to childbirth, and developed a heart-centred, therapeutic approach to teaching yoga.

From a physiological perspective, it is important to understand the changes to a woman’s body during pregnancy and as she exercises. During my training, we wore ‘bumps’ weighing through the 9 month range so that we could personally experience the demands of asanas such as Warrior 1 and transitioning from floor to standing – something I’d recommend to all Partners of mums-to-be! We also considered what pregnancy means from an emotional and spiritual perspective – what it means to create life and give birth – it’s a rite of passage, a transformational moment in a woman’s life.

As a woman exploring childbirth I connected to myself on a deeper level, and as a yoga teacher I developed a softer, more holistic teaching style which I use across all my yoga classes (pregnancy or not). Yoga is a tool for calming the mind, reducing pain, bringing focus to the present moment and connecting to your true self. It’s an honour to support mums-to-be each week, to share and learn from their experiences, and to provide them with some much needed rest and relaxation as they progress through their own individual journey.

Om Shanti x

Body and Bump Benefits:

  • Group sessions provide mums-to-be with a community of, and connection to other mums-to-be;
  • Uninterrupted relaxation time to connect with your own body and baby;
  • A tailored and safe yoga environment to enable you to strengthen muscles and improve flexibility;
  • Learn to connect with your breath to help to calm the mind and reduce anxiety during pregnancy and labour;
  • Develop a greater awareness of your body’s limits to create balance and trust in your own body;
  • Strengthen your mind and build will power and confidence;
  • Learn techniques to help ease insomnia and sleeping problems;
  • Balance hormones;
  • Reduce fear;
  • Explore birthing positions and breathing practices;
  • Develop mindfulness skills which can reduce the risk of postnatal depression.

 

Choosing the ‘right’ path

I was out walking the dog the other day taking a stroll around the park. I was feeling rather peaceful basking in the winter sun and the crispness of the day regardless of the fact that I was also carrying a bag of dog poop (One disadvantage of the dog which I omitted from my last post). I was walking along the tarmac path, crossing the paths of fellow dog walkers, parents and children, who whilst walking in different directions, at different speeds, for different reasons also stuck to the same tarmac path winding its way around the park.

I came to a particular section where the path snaked off in various directions along with a dirt trail leading up a hill into the trees and bushes. I stayed on the tarmac path. But as I wandered on I recalled that when I was a youth I would spend hours in this same park playing hide and seek. My friends and I would tear around the park, galloping up those hills, crashing through bushes, getting snared by brambles and covered in mud, all red-faced and exhilarated. Without a care that our clothes would be filthy or that we’d be tired afterwards, or have to walk the long way home after running far from the path.

I realised that the tarmac path symbolised the ‘life path’ I have often felt I should follow -checking off key life events step by step – University education. Check. Sensible Job. Check. Mortgage. Married marital status. Kids – one and two. I managed the first two of these by the age of 24. But then I seemed to stagnate. I lived in London so a mortgage was out of the question. Marriage? I’ve not been close (but I have some cracking stories to tell). I had a sensible job, great holidays and a super pension plan for when I retired so that was enough, right? Wrong. I stubbornly fought it for some time but eventually I listened, and despite the fear of the unknown, the fear of failing, of being odd, I stepped off the ‘right’ path and took a gamble. I took 6 months out of my sensible adult life and got bitten, dirty, incredibly sweaty, uncomfortable and exhilarated and inspired in India and S E Asia. I then came back to my family and unchecked the sensible job box and chose to be a yoga teacher.

For me, the miserable moments, the times I felt lost and disappointed by life and by people in my life, were steps I needed to take and that eventually led me to look at my life and make some changes. Now I’m not suggesting we all ignore the tarmac path in the park and the ‘do not walk on the grass’ signs and start trampling carelessly through the undergrowth but perhaps we can learn to view the wrong turns, the times we get caked in mud, rained on and beaten down, as opportunities to examine our lives, our path, our choices. And remember that there is always more than one path ahead.