Socially acceptable addictions

The other weekend I had the pleasure of meeting up with some London based pals in Liverpool. We did cultural things accompanied with alcoholic beverages. Bloody Marys with brunch, beers in the Cavern Club and in a pop-up Beer Garden, a refreshing bottle of Sav with some fine dining, then classy cocktails (porn star martinis…) and dancing. It was rather good fun but, as always, the next morning I contemplated my life choices, my apparent inability to avoid mixing my drinks, and spent the next 2 days downing water by the pint seeking to refresh and restore my depleted self.

When I returned from my travels, from my training as a yoga teacher, I brought some new habits and life choices with me. I had my nose pierced. I chant Om. I meditate and do yoga every day (in one form or another).  I am now a vegetarian. It just feels normal to me and I often forget it is unusual to some. I ended up with cheese salad for lunch and dinner at a family reunion the other month as I failed to give fair warning of my new culinary conditioning. The host was slightly mortified – my apologies again Auntie Jan!

My friends and family have, in general, tolerated my changing views, my change of lifestyle and my nose piercing without batting an eyelid. Though there is one comment that is often made in jest when discussing my life and lifestyle choices – “meat is one thing, but if you’d given up booze…”

I haven’t given up boozing. And it is something that on the dark mornings after the night before I ponder. I have always suffered immensely with hangovers ever since I started drinking at the age of 14 when my friend and I would sneak into clubs and drink over-sugared, fizzy, nastily delicious alcopops. And whilst my tastes in alcoholic beverages have matured somewhat (see Pornstar Martinis above) I still willingly, knowingly, enthusiastically induce alcohol.

As a single gal in London, I would be out for dinner (and wine) a lot. A bottle of red shared with a friend over a good steak, a bottle of white after netball, dessert wine instead of dessert, and vodka lime and sodas on a night out because they were less calorific. I enjoy the taste of alcohol just as much as I enjoyed eating meat. There is a beverage for every occasion and it’s an approved social activity.

I have felt uncomfortable in the past in the company of non-drinkers. I have judged them for being a bit of a bore, of not just living a little. I suppose I still hold those views or ignore them as I have not given up the booze despite my body telling me every time that it is in discomfort and out of balance. You wouldn’t repeatedly hit yourself around the head after realising it hurt the first time (unless you are into that sort of thing) so why then do I repeatedly persist in abusing myself with alcohol? Well, that’s because it’s fun. At the time. And it’s what we do for fun in the West. Without true awareness of what it is we are doing to ourselves, to our bodies. We consume. We loosen our inhibitions. We demand immediate satisfaction. And we obtain it. Or so we believe. I used to really need a glass of wine, or seven, at the end of the working week. I had earned it.

As I often say to my friends and students, yoga is not about judgement. When I fail to meditate, or indulge in too much vino then there’s no reason to feel bad about it. Just to become aware of why I did or didn’t make the healthier choice, become aware of how it feels in my body and stay present, stay positive (easier to do without the post-drinking anxiety, overthinking blues)… I have actually and drastically cut down drinking alcohol in my quieter suburban Southport life which is partly down to my choice but also because I now work in the evenings when I would have gone out in London!

These days I will often say no to a glass of wine because I want to be able to get up in the morning and do my own yoga practice for me before I go out and teach others. So I suppose that is the start, the continued integration of my yoga lifestyle into my Western life. I have started to listen and make healthier choices some of the time. I’m not torturing myself by banning booze (like those poor dry Jan sufferers – January is miserable enough!), or depriving myself in some way to lose weight, feel worthy or smug. I gave up meat because something shifted and I felt like I didn’t want to eat it anymore. I had known the environmental reasons, the digestive health reasons and the animal cruelty issues for years but the knowledge of this hadn’t led to a different day to day choice. But by feeling more connected to my own body as a result of yoga, and after ripping into my right arm and leg in a scooter accident in Java, I choose not to eat meat, to prefer not to force my body to work harder than it needs to in order to digest meat. That may or may not happen with booze.  But I hope that if it comes to it my friends and family will support me, take a moment to consider if, and why they find that challenging and perhaps raise a glass (of water) to toast my choice.

 

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Psychic Sabotage

I used to say to myself when I was younger that I would be the last of my friends to get married and settle down -like I had this sixth sense that it would be so. And guess what – it came true! Now I don’t believe I am psychic as a result of this prediction, I do, however, believe I orchestrated this single state of affairs.

Before you start to tut or feel sorry for me, I am happy being single. I have the time to do what I want for me, whenever I choose (subject to the odd requests of the parentals as I reside with them). I am excited by my life, for me, each day. As a result of my lack of responsibility to others (partners, children, mortgagees) I was able to leave my job last year and take 6 months of total uninterrupted me time and explore a small part of this extraordinary world. It would not have been as easy to do this had I been leaving someone special behind and for the first time in a long time I was grateful for being single.

The real adventure for me happened in India. The 200 hours yoga teaching training qualification is intense. Not only are you learning anatomy, philosophy, history, how to teach, how to assist, how to present, you are also under ashram rules of silence from 9pm-9am, no wifi, no meat, no alcohol, strict timetables for meals accompanied with obligatory 5:00AM meditation. By the second week you are teaching yoga to your peers, studying the Yoga Sutras and cramming for an exam. And if this wasn’t enough, we had a yoga class each morning with my Guru, Vishva-ji, and he would teach a variety of classes including Kundalini yoga. Kundalini yoga is the serious sh!t. I’m pretty sure it could break anyone. This is a type of yoga which seeks to raise the Kundalini (serpent) energy that resides within each of us at the base of the spine. Kundalini yoga uses mantra and postures related to each chakra (there are 7 main chakras working up the spine from the pelvic floor to your crown) in your subtle energy body starting to engage with any blockages there. And I’m not talking about constipation.  Myself and many others experienced intense emotional upset and release.

Before I went to the ashram for teacher training, a dear friend of mine said to me – “let yourself cry, let it all out”. She had not known me for long but could tell that I was carrying the weight of lost loves, lost opportunities and the loss of loving life. That I kept it in, kept it held back. I was strong. I was ok.

Well I shed a Ganges full of tears in India and found strength in my vulnerability. I continue to work on myself with my practice and my studies and I have been reading about how deficiencies or excesses of energy held at the chakras manifest. The second chakra – swadhistana – is our centre of movement and creativity associated with our reproductive organs and our sexuality. It is our right to pleasure. For me, my deficiencies here come back to low self-esteem and self-worth and the denial of pleasure. I did not connect to my body or respect my body for decades. I spent my teenage years drawing up lists of what was physically wrong with me. In my 20’s I sought out exercise and diets to slim my shape and attain self-worth through pushing and punishing my body. At one point in time I lived on cottage cheese and ham. I still recall the look of mortification on a friend’s face as I popped open a packet of ham one lunchtime at work!

(Mum and Dad stop reading here) I have slept with men too soon, slept with men without trust, but also shared some special moments. I have not however, really ‘let go’ in a relationship, I have not ever really trusted a man not to hurt me or let me down and that’s because I never thought I was good enough for them, because I never thought I was good enough for me.

During my travels, I hung out and flirted with the odd young man but there was no whirlwind romance ending with Javier Bardem and I sailing away. Shame. I did, however, have a love affair with myself (don’t get smutty) and I realised that I had been denying myself pleasure, love, a shared life because I didn’t think I was worthy, and that led me to picking unsuitable men (too young, too arrogant, too into other men!), or pursuing unlikely avenues (like long distance to New Zealand. From London!).

I had always expected true love, my soul mate, would save me (I blame Disney to a small degree), to give me a life. Instead, I woke up and got one for myself. It’s a slow and never ending learning process of unravelling layers of your own nonsense but I shall endeavour to be open to the men I meet who are open to me, to stop putting barriers in front of my heart, to let myself trust and truly let someone get to know me. Because actually, I am pretty awesome.

 

Female Fear

I took the dog walking today taking my usual route by main road to the lake, round the lake and then through some shrubs and sand dunes to the beach. As I no longer work office hours I take the dog out when it suits my day which means I rarely see anyone. I have the lake, the sea and the view of the distant hills (on a clear day) all to myself.

Today however, I saw a man wandering at a distance behind me as I began to loop the lake. The lake is sheltered away from the main road and there was no one else around. My heart started beating a little faster and my mind ran away to all sorts of nasty eventualities should this man have anything other than the shared of experience of walking in mind. I slowed down with the dog (who would probably lick a harasser not defend my honour) and let him pass so I could continue my walk without him pacing up behind me.

I have often felt that heart beat in my throat, that gut feeling of concern kick in whether that be walking down a street in London after 11pm, past a pack of teenage lads, or when trying to find a cab alone at 4.30AM in Delhi! It was one thing that continually irritated me during my solo travels – that my experience as a woman was different, less free, than that of the male travellers particularly in places like India. I was terrified of going to Delhi alone. I had read, with horror, about the Delhi bus rape and knew the dangers of travelling alone as a woman. It’s hard to take a place at face value when you’ve been bombarded with scary story after scary story.

India is an intense place to travel, particularly as a woman. As a white woman you attract a lot of attention and interest even if you are attempting to blend in with fisherman trousers and loose tops! On the beaches in South Goa, men would regularly (and repeatedly) ask to have a photo with you so that they could post it on Facebook and tell their friends you were their ‘holiday girlfriend’ (benefits included). I even saw an extended Indian family (grandma was wheeled out from somewhere) queue up to take photos with a beautiful Swedish girl in her bikini who had been sunbathing next to me. I never said yes to these opportunities, and despite sometimes growling at the persistent men who appeared to understand English apart from the word ‘no’ I know that my face, my elbow, my foot appears on a Facebook page without my knowledge or consent.

As a woman, I often feel like the ‘weaker’ sex physically and have felt intimidated in the presence of jeering men. Only on Saturday in Liverpool my two female friends and I were subjected to a vote of jeering ‘yay’ or ‘boo’ as we walked to the bar past a group of older, overweight, over-intoxicated men who played this lovely little game with every woman who passed their way. I couldn’t give a rat’s arse if they found me attractive or not. I am older and can shrug this sh!t off but I’m sure there are lots of women who would feel hurt, vulnerable and intimidated by their sad little objectifying game.

A lot of men (and women too) would say political correctness has gone too far these days and that the behaviour of those men in the pub was just a laugh. Boys will be boys. Part of me agrees as I just rolled my eyes and walked away. But I am not sure what the correct response is. We live in a society that objectifies women, and men. Sex continues to sell and we judge each other on attractiveness, style and material objects. We feel uneasy when confronted by those who look different, sound different, dress differently, those from different cultures and that fear leads to judgement and separation moving us ever further away from treating each other with compassion and respect.

I do not believe that as I was born a woman it is acceptable for men to objectify me as that even if I wear heels and a low cut top. I do not agree that it is acceptable for me objectify a man (even Ryan Gosling).I do believe that by holding fear, prejudice and judgement within us we build up our levels of stress and anxiety which are then added to by the over-bearing boss, challenging client, unsupportive spouse, or troublesome child.

Our bodies hold this tension keeping our adrenaline levels, heart rates and blood pressure up high so that we never truly rest, even when we try to. I have been researching restorative yoga as I continue to explore teaching styles and according to Judith Lasater (Relax and Renew), our cavemen ancestors had more release than we ever do as they actually caught, killed and digested their kill!

We find excuses to keep ourselves busy, to avoid slowing down, we use fear and prejudice to keep ourselves separate and this is compromising our health and our interactions with each other. Yoga starts with teaching you how to connect with your body and how to begin to cultivate positivity towards yourself. I have experienced that by being more in tune with my body, my self, I am happier and less threatened by people and situations. That seems to me to be one way in which we can try to overcome fear and objectification.

Yoga and Indian Summer Satsang – 11 June 2016

*Only 1 place left available.*

The information packs have been sent out by email to those confirmed attendees. If you have not received it, then please contact me and let me know. Looking forward to seeing you soon.

Indian Summer Satsang – Southport

Saturday 11 June 2016. 6:15pm – 9:30pm

Renewed You Yoga and Solace 510 are proud to host an Indian Summer Satsang in Southport on Saturday 11 June 2016. Join us for a 75 minute Akhanda Hatha yoga class and a traditional Indian vegetarian Thali for supper with Satsang.

A healthy lifestyle comes from more than just physical exercise but from a healthy and balanced diet. Liz was taught by her Guru, Yogrishi Vishvketu, that Yoga begins in the kitchen! Yoga is a science and a way of living your life – to find balance and peace in your body, mind and soul. Join us for a traditional Hatha yoga class as taught in the foothills of the Himalayas followed by a healthy, nutritious and simply delicious vegetarian Indian Thali.

Our Indian Summer Satsang will begin at 6:15pm on Saturday 11 June 2016 with Registration. Yoga will commence at 6:30pm until 7:45pm. Dinner will be served at 8pm until 9:30pm.

Akhanda Yoga

Yoga is inclusive. This class is suitable for all levels, all ages, men and women, and all body types. Those new to yoga and those who wish to deepen their practice are welcome. This will be a small intimate class of up to 10 people only.

Traditional yoga focuses on balancing asanas (the physical postures), pranayama (breathing practices), mantra, meditation, and discussion of yogic philosophy and lifestyle. All equipment will be provided. Please wear comfortable loose clothing. Light colours are encouraged.

Further details of Liz’s Yoga classes can be found on this website – so feel free to explore!

Indian Summer Supper

A Thali is a traditional Indian meal made up of a selection of dishes. All food is vegetarian and will include two lightly spiced vegetarian curries, dhall, chapatti/paratha and rice. Supper will be accompanied with a lassi (traditional yogurt drink) and an optional glass of prosecco. Indian tea and sweet treats to end.

If you have any allergies or intolerances, then please discuss this with us before booking your place.

Satsang

Satsang is a tradition in India where students sit together with a teacher to discuss yogic philosophy and lifestyle. This is an opportunity to learn more about food, yoga and the science behind the asanas (focused on in Western yoga classes) and share views and experiences. You will have the opportunity to submit questions for dinner table discussion before the event!

Tickets

This event is £45 with a £15 deposit required to secure your place. Deposits can be paid via PayPal to lgyogasouthport@gmail.com or contact Liz for alternative methods of payment. 10 spaces available.

Where are we?

Mayuri is opening her beautiful home near Hesketh Park to host this event. Details will be provided upon booking your place.

Contact

If you have any queries, please feel free to contact Liz directly on lgyogasouthport@gmail.com or 07734180488.

-Namaste-

Bio

Liz is a qualified Akhanda hatha yoga teacher and prenatal yoga teacher in Southport. Liz was a practising Solicitor in London before the opportunity to travel took her to India and S E Asia for 6 months where she explored and deepened her yoga and meditation practice. Liz has spent many months in India including the vegetarian state of Rishikesh and the glamorous Goan beaches. Liz has always been a foodie and has sampled delicious vegetarian cuisine at home and abroad. She enjoys cooking at home for friends and family. Yoga changed her life and she is privileged to teach students and share practical tips for finding peace in our busy lives. Blending cooking and yoga is simply a delight.

Mayuri was born in Uganda to parents from Gujarati, India. She moved to the UK aged 3 and learned to cook authentic vegetarian Indian food with her mother, aunties and extended family from the age of 5. Mayuri was in the food industry for 5 years, cooking and hosting functions, weddings and parties in her own pub in Yorkshire. Mayuri now lives and works in Southport and continues to explore her love for food and traditional Indian cuisine.

Happy Anniversary – to Me.

About a year ago I first met Vishva-ji (my Guru and Founder of Akhanda Yoga) at a yoga workshop in London. I had already been introduced to Akhanda Yoga through my teacher (Piriamvada) without realising it!

At the time, I was looking to change my life, find happiness and some peace and the last 12 months have been transformative. I’m only at the start of my journey but thank you to Vishva-Ji and my teachers for setting me on the right path.

Namaste.

Prenatal Yoga – Tuesday class starting 26 April 2016

Mums to be can now join me on a Tuesday evening at 6.30-7.45pm for prenatal yoga.

Classes start at the Southport Argyle Lawn Tennis Club, Argyle Road, Southport, PR9 9LH on Tuesday 26 April 2016. Pre-booking is required and your first class is only £5.

See my prenatal page for further details of the benefits prenatal yoga can offer for mums to be.