One year on…

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One year ago today I had the surreal experience of landing at Heathrow Airport in the same terminal from which I had left the UK 6 months earlier. In June 2015, I left London with the Beast (my backpack) wearing a somewhat sophisticated light grey colour co-ordinated outfit – lightweight summer trousers, vest top, cardigan, brand new lightweight (and vegan!) pumps and a wicker sun hat al a The Del Monte man. I felt like a young Joanna Lumley (sponsored by GAP) off on my greatest adventure!

I returned home on 28 November 2015 to the sparkling mayhem of festive decorations, themed sandwiches and cheesy Christmas adverts. My return outfit was not quite so stylish… leggings under some fishermans trousers (braced for the winter chill), now battered and worn out vegan pumps, an alpaca jumper from the foothills of the Himalayas (which I still wear even though I can see from my mother’s eyes that it simply does nothing for me), an om necklace, a nose piercing and a slightly dirty looking complexion (I’d say 80% of that was a tan…). The grey trousers had been ditched at the earliest opportunity as had most of the original contents of the Beast – turns out that you all you really want over there is a pair of loose drop crotch fishermans pants in a variety of colours which you can buy practically for pennies. Who knew?! The hat made it back though and remains crumpled in the bottom of my wardrobe awaiting its next adventure.

I celebrated my return to home soil with a cheese and pickle Pret baguette (a firm lunchtime favourite during those legal years in London) and whilst waiting for my last flight home to Manchester I rang my mum. The whole family (not including Buster) were coming to the Airport to collect me and I’m pretty sure it was to guarantee I actually returned home! Back in June, they (and I!) thought I was only going away for 3 months but after a couple of lengthy emails and face time calls from Cambodia 6 weeks in to my trip it turned into 6 months. I’d never been so free, so far away and so unpredictable so I could appreciate the slight concern!

I remember sitting at Heathrow and how it all felt slightly out of body – to return home, to be surrounded by British people, and see the abundance of artificial light and wealth that’s around us all the time. It felt safe but also a little suffocating with its controlled style I suppose but I had just flown back from India, the maddest wildest country I have so far explored which puts this into context a little. I was ready to come home and see my family but the transition home over the following few weeks was rather bumpy. I missed India and my new friends who ‘understood’ me – who had made similar decisions to shake life up a little and who were also finding it difficult to come back down to reality. I remember feeling rather numb thinking: “well, what comes next?” “What on earth do I do next?” It was the first time I had no job, no reason to set an alarm to get up in the morning and nothing to while away the hours of the day when my friends were at work. I was (and remain) living with my parents and I remember feeling a little like a failure at life. I felt scared too because I knew I had to try something new, that this was healthier for me than going back to London and hiding again in the busyness and noise of my old life. But in those first few weeks back home last year I felt more lost than I had felt when I was aimlessly wandering around India and SE Asia.

The last few weeks have been slow and quiet for various reasons. My patience is being tested and I’ve also had the delightful tummy bug that’s going around too. So lots of enforced time of self-reflection and talking to Buster, the Dog. Yes, I talk to him. That’s normal, right? In my restless state I have realised that despite my yoga knowledge and practice, I am still struggling to learn how to rest and slow down after all those years of pushing myself with constant distraction, intellectual stimulation, social activities and enjoyment of alcohol. That despite the yoga, despite being happier and healthier, I still have those moments of worry and concern that I am without a long-term plan, and without a clear direction which really is just me still struggling to accept that I am not in control. That none of us really are. I used to focus on my career to guide me, to feel a sense of progression. It’s easy in the legal profession – they give you job titles and everything. I used to focus on my holidays too – something to work and get excited for, the countdown and something to plan. Undertake, and repeat. I used to shop and spend my hard earned money on dining out, on going out and on binge shopping in Mango but I can’t afford to live that way at present and in my heart I know I no longer really want to. Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good glass (or four) of red wine and a dance but I don’t find the same enjoyment I used to in spending money. And that was as unlikely a change as was the vegetarianism!

So, one year on and where am I?

Well, I am still a vegetarian. And I am still happy with that choice. The lack of suitable dining options in Southport has not broken me! I still practice yoga just for me and I’ve found a deeper connection and importance to that routine, in making that physical and emotional space for myself in some way every day. I have been improving upon my headstand and a little with my crow pose but I still generally suck at meditation, unless using the time for planning and daydreaming counts… which I know it doesn’t.. Tsk.

I have taught over 350 hours of yoga to the general public in Southport and I have the deepest pleasure of continuing to share yoga with regular students of mine. I have taught many different types of people and had some intensely satisfying moments where I have felt that a student has connected more deeply with yoga and found something – that magic, that spark that I feel. That there’s more going on than just ab strengthening. I have helped mums to be through their journey through pregnancy, and I have held their little babies during my postnatal yoga classes where I continue to help mums to find some time for them.

I have seen and felt the busyness and stress in people I meet, as well as in myself (I am not cured – for most of this year I have tried to prove to myself and others that quitting law and teaching yoga was not a ridiculous thing to have done). I have felt that frenzy of energy in all of us to keep up, to justify your time and existence, and the fight to do it all, be it all and to then swallow the challenges and the hard times which come along too. That people (including myself) try to block or hide from pain and sadness rather than try to accept it, feel it and let it be. I have witnessed that most people do not take any real time for themselves, to care for themselves, to slow down and let themselves rest. I have watched those that choose to try yoga for the first time – some who dislike how unusual it feels to rest and be still, and some who come back for more. I have seen friends and family try yoga and for the most part fall away. Dear loved ones, please forgive my yoga cheerleading this past year and know that I am not arrogant enough to suggest that yoga is the right soothing tool for everyone.

I have finally begun to accept that the truth of yoga is to do it for you – and only you. That my enthusiasm and faith in yoga, and my feeling that it could really help my nearest and dearest is not to be furthered by nagging and forcing them under a lavender eye pillow. That the real power in yoga and meditation is discovering it for yourself, in your own time, in your own way and that I am there for those who wish to come to me, to help themselves, for their own reasons which I will never know as we are each on our own journey. I am learning, on and off the yoga mat, that I cannot help people help themselves and that when I try to do so I just divert my attention from the fact that I need my continued help, love and support.

It occurred to me that when I left the UK last year, I just left, I reacted. I had no real aim other than to get away from my life and feel free. It was the first time I listened to my gut instinct, stopped doing the right thing and took a leap of faith. It only struck me a few months ago that it was the start of the most powerful and beautiful journey of my life – my spiritual journey. One I had been blind to until then and one I obstinately never thought I would seek and continue to work on back in the UK. Part of that growth has involved developing my love and faith in myself. I have made myself do things that scare me like chanting Sanskrit in Southport – just my voice in front of other people. I have written in this blog and talked to many many people openly from my heart about stress and anxiety and that breakdown I had last year or breakthrough as I see it now. And I have opened my heart to love others even in the fear of getting hurt, and of being hurt. And I wasn’t open to that for many years.

After leaving India, leaving yoga teacher training, I have carried on making small changes and taking small steps forward with the odd stumble in between. It hasn’t been easy. I haven’t achieved what I thought I wanted in some ways and I still feel a little lost at times. But I have dreams. I have big dreams but I am learning to accept that I don’t know the path forward and that it’s more important to remain open to whatever comes your way than just focusing on achieving one goal which you think is best. And that, dear Readers, remains a rather hard pill for a stubborn Taurean to swallow!

Most importantly, I am learning that in order to change my life, to find deeper happiness and peace, each day must begin or involve an action of change in doing something positive for myself. That the choice I make is to set an alarm, to find my leggings and my yoga mat and chant Om. And from that follows the continued hope and faith that I have so much more to learn, to share and to love.

And when I stop to slow down, to catch my breath and think about all that has passed I realise that it’s not so shabby for 365 days! I remain ever so grateful to my teachers, near and far, and to everyone who has been part of my life this year. Here’s to another year on.

Namaste

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Pregnancy Yoga and Postnatal Yoga in Crosby and Southport

I am delighted to be working with Katie Jane at Sleeptight Maternity Centre in Crosby to offer pregnancy yoga and postnatal yoga for new mums and babies! New courses are starting this week so contact Katie Jane at Sleeptight Maternity Centre directly to book: sleeptightmaternity.com/

I continue to offer Pregnancy Yoga in Southport on Tuesdays at 18.45-20.00 for £11 per 75 min class or a block booking of £36 (4 classes for £9 each). Spaces are available.

My next postnatal yoga course for mums and babies is beginning tomorrow – £40 for 4 weeks. This will be held at St Philips & St Pauls with Wesley Church on Scarisbrick New Road, Southport, PR8 6QR.

Why try Pregnancy Yoga?

Pregnancy yoga classes help mums-to-be explore and connect with mind, body, and spirit during their journey through pregnancy.

Our intimate classes offer a relaxing and safe space during pregnancy and provide tools to help mums-to-be connect with their own body in preparation for labour and motherhood.  Each class is 75 mins and includes breathing practices and meditation offering you a truly balanced practice with relaxation time for body and mind.

Body & Bump Benefits:

  • Our group sessions provide you with a community of, and connection with other mums-to-be;
  • Uninterrupted time and space to connect with your own body and baby;
  • A tailored and safe yoga environment enabling you to strengthen muscles and improve flexibility;
  • Learn to connect with your breath helping to calm the mind during pregnancy and labour;
  • Develop greater awareness of your body’s limits creating balance and trust in your own body;
  • Strengthen your mind and build will power and confidence;
  • Provide tools to help with insomnia and sleeping problems;
  • Balance hormones;
  • Reduce fear;
  • A space for relaxation in supported and tailored restorative yoga positions;
  • Explore birthing positions and breathing practices for labour;
  • Mindfulness within yoga can also reduce postnatal depression.

 

What is postnatal yoga?

Postnatal Yoga classes are a perfect opportunity for new mums and babies (pre-crawlers only) to bond in a quiet and soothing environment. Postnatal Yoga encourages new Mums to gently work with their body building up their physical exercise safely and slowly.  Yoga can provide new Mums with many benefits physically, energetically and emotionally, helping you to rest and improve sleep (when your baby allows!).

Each class will offer mum the opportunity to learn relaxation techniques, restore your energy and bond with your baby using tailored yoga poses and baby massage.

This class is suitable for Mums six weeks after childbirth or eight weeks after a caesarean (and approved by your GP).

Contact me for bookings in Southport.

 

My beautiful body

15032187_1772104219705775_4810250170696964391_nThis week I have been discussing with my students our preoccupation with the physical side of yoga in the West. That many people, and some that I meet, are apprehensive of trying yoga because they believe it’s for the young, beautiful, supple, strong and flexible. And to be fair if you look at social media for its interpretation of yoga that’s what you will see, mostly.

There is plenty of yoga around to sample and it will include types of yoga that focus purely on developing your physical strength and flexibility and often demonstrate fancy flows and circus act level asanas. Don’t get me wrong – it is impressive that people can move their bodies, hold their bodies in such postures, and I have been enthralled by the artistic dance that some instructors bring into their practice. And also envious. But there are side effects to this focus – that it intimidates people for sure but it also skews the focus of your practice and potentially misinforms us all about what yoga really is.

After saying all that you may be surprised to learn that this week I encouraged my students to focus on their physical experience in class! That I pushed their boundaries with a warrior flow and half moon balance pose which challenges me especially when trying to teach it at the same time!  But what I hope my students took from my teaching this week is how their bodies felt in the asanas, whether they were challenging themselves from a place of compassion or frustration. Whether they were working for themselves or forcing their bodies in an attempt to be as good as their neighbour, their teacher or as good as their ego would prefer.

In my book and on my yoga mat, part of an advanced yoga practice is developing your awareness of your physical body and your connection to your own body – to what it needs on a daily basis. Yoga develops your core strength and flexibility over time, but perhaps more importantly it develops your strength of mind and mental flexibility to adapt to change and challenges on the mat but also in day to day life.

Body connection, body love, and body image continue to be the most sensitive and damaging areas of our lives. I have written before about the disdain I had for my body for many years (Psychic Sabotage), how I wanted to be thinner like my friends, sexier, taller and more confident so boys would value me and queue round the block. I attached my value as an individual, my beauty and my identity to my physical form and I fought against the natural way my body developed from a girl to a teenager, to a young woman and to an older young woman.  I used exercise to change my body shape, to balance out the calorie intake of my day and to feel that I was in control of my body and to some extent my life.

Yesterday, I was taking a break from the joy that is admin (the bane of any small self-employed business person) and I watched a couple of TED talks. I stumbled across a talk by Eve Ensler (https://www.ted.com/talks/eve_ensler) from December 2010. (I appreciate I am seriously behind the times – I only just finished watching The West Wing which aired from 1999-2006!) Eve Ensler is a fierce activist, a poet and famous playwright (The Vagina Monologues for one) but this short talk is about her lifelong fight against her body, how she connected to her body following the invasion and violence of cancer and the power with which she now feels that connection to her self. I do not have the linguistic talent she has to express how she tore through my heart with her words, how she left me sobbing with the pain of her experience and of those other women she spoke of, and how she reminded me of my own recent experience of truly connecting with my body as a woman. She inspired me to write this blog and to share my experience of how, at the age of 32, I finally began to accept and connect to my beautiful body.

It won’t surprise you to hear that it comes from yoga. It came in part from the discipline of working with my body every day for 6 weeks in India. Forcing myself to get up at 5AM, to sit and meditate on a stone floor, to feel the aches, and fight against the frustration and my defences as they manifested themselves in my knee joints and as tension in my jaw. To then encourage myself to work through a yoga class, becoming aware of the anger that arose frequently in my heart when I held camel pose and allowing the tears to flow during kundalini yoga sessions. To have my fellow students whisper to me that I was beautiful as I stood sweating, hair scraped back without a scrap of makeup on and with my little Buddha belly relaxed and free. It came from a willingness to give in to the experience, to realise that the old way I was living was not helping me and that I wanted to step forward into the new, unknown and unsettling because that offered hope.

It came from the strength and the power in my thighs as I climbed the Great Wall of China for 9 days. Scrambling up inclines, crawling up disintegrated turrets at a dizzying height above ground, and marching relentlessly for hours up and down never ending steps. Up and down. Up. And down. To be fair that shouldn’t have come as much of surprise but oh! did it ache and it challenged my will to keep stepping on, stepping up and down.

It then came in a death meditation up in the glorious snowy capped mountains in Dharamsala, India in which I was guided to let go of this life, my family and friends, and finally to let go of my lovely little body. To finally sit and acknowledge the strength and wonder of my thighs, to marvel at how my body has enabled me to explore, to climb mountains, to swim in oceans with sea turtles, to dance in nightclubs (and in slightly weird ecstatic yoga dance events), to jump on trampolines with my little nephew, to hug my family and friends and share intimate moments with lovers. The simple fact that my body with its irregular beauty and individuality enables me to access my life for which I am truly grateful for.

It came from watching my body heal itself slowly and imperfectly perfectly after a scooter accident in Java. I slid off the bike across a tarmacked road and burned through the skin across the length of my right leg and most of my right arm. It weeped and seeped as I schlepped across Java to Bali batting off flies and avoiding infection. It took weeks to then crisp up to form an armadillo-esque scab which locals recognised as a ‘Bali tattoo’ and finally, months later, it left a faint scar as a reminder to me of how my body heals itself naturally, with patience and time, and how my body has that power to rebuild, and restore and renew.

There are plenty of yoga postures I cannot do at the moment just like there are plenty of physical activities I choose not to do. There are my love handles and other parts of my body that if I buy into the airbrushed photos of celebrity, of yoga teachers even, and of the TV, magazines and newspapers I should be ashamed of, that I should spend money, time and effort seeking to change. And why? Why do we not celebrate our individuality? Why do we not have the confidence to embrace ourselves as we naturally are? Why do we expect our bodies to do more for us than they already do?

Finding that connection to your body, male or female, young or old, is a key part of yoga. Accepting your body for what it is on this day, in this moment, is one way in which we learn to stay present and use less judgement against ourselves and others. So yes, be physical. Use your body, move your body, challenge your body mindfully and feed your body well. Support it for it is the only one each of us has to access this short experience of life.

If you’d like to know more about yoga and my classes in Southport then just click here.

 

The path of least resistance

A couple of my close friends have heard me exclaim over the last few months that I have been plagued by a lone magpie- even taunting me as far afield as Burnley! I was getting quite vexed by this, particularly as the magpie coincided with some sorrow in my business life and then personal life and THEN continued to persist in stalking me to really rub salt in the wounds. Its action triggered some further worry about what is coming next – what other possible sorrow could befall me? Well, it pleases me to announce that in the last week I have seen not one, but two magpies together. Joy, oh Joy! Such had become my anxious alerted state I actually whooped out loud the first time I saw two and scared the bugg£rs out of the tree! If I see three or four then I will start to worry for other reasons… does anyone know what happens after four? Has anyone ever seen more than four? Is this how you start out birdwatching?!

Birds aside, it occurred to my rambling overthinking brain that we are given signs, support and signals in our lives in many different ways. Some of the yogic principles I espouse in class are to connect more to ourselves, our intuition, and to the environment around us. And by doing so we are able to step forward with more confidence and peace of mind as we are guided forward by our own truth.

If you have read my blogs in recent weeks you will know that I hit a number of stumbling blocks which could (and perhaps did for a short time) derail my confidence in the path I have chosen. But whilst eating hobnobs and licking my wounds a wiser person pointed out to me that it has never been promised that life would be easy. I have also read many a wise yoga phrase, and quoted them to my students, that when things challenge us, or we feel we have failed, it’s actually a sign to change things up, to move in another direction and not a step backwards. It’s a sign that we have been channelling our energies into the wrong thing. And that if we acknowledge this, let it happen and let the disappointment go, we will move on to something new and to something better for us. It’s easy to roll your eyes at this optimistic whimsy (particularly today and no, I do not have any yogic insight as to the merits of the path of President Trump) but I have mused on this (whilst keeping eyes peeled for magpies) and there is no clearer illustration that it is true than from my own career history.

In order to become a Solicitor you need a degree. You then have the honour of spending around ten thousand pounds for Law School – a quite frankly overrated and relatively pointless part of legal training in my humble opinion. Qualifications achieved, you then have to get a Training Contract for two years on the job training and then once completed apply for a job as a Qualified Solicitor. Sounds straightforward? Well, in theory it is. It is also relatively straightforward if Daddy is a lawyer too (chip on my shoulder?). Obtaining a Training Contract is the most competitive stage of the legal bear pit outside of the pupillage process (for Barristers) which is akin to the Hunger Games. You are pitted against thousands of applicants and many of those have run small countries by the time they are 23 such is the calibre of candidate. Despite the odds, the hurdles and the odd prejudiced boss, I slaved away for years gaining relevant legal experience to boost my CV and prove I could do the job. And I got there eventually. And I was proud. And I enjoyed it. But then the battles continued, the promotions, the targets, and the juggling of personalities which culminated in years of stress and then anxiety and compromised health.

Conversely, in January this year I started teaching yoga. I just did it. Certified and insured of course. Setting up a business is scary, overwhelming and lonely. But it’s also empowering, rewarding and right for me. Doors have been opened. Yoga mats filled and money earned. For a first year it is a success for so many reasons – the main one being that feeling in my heart as I teach and know I am in the right place doing the right thing for right now. Don’t mistake me – this is not an easy path and I do not know what the next year will bring and how it will all move forward.

My Guru, Yogrishi Vishveketu, posted a short video on Facebook the other day on this very point – that if we want to change things in our lives then we just need to begin to move in that direction – one step every day. Thinking about it won’t help – it’s the action that starts to make a change. And I realised that along with my yoga teaching and love life I am actually moving in the right direction! This last year I found a man who respected my yoga lifestyle and my faith in it. A man who willingly tried out a couple of classes, chanted and flailed his arms around and acknowledged there was something in this yoga stuff. A man who was as excited about the tempura tofu in Blind Tiger, Liverpool, as I was! A man who I shared the weird and wonderful musings of my mind with, and who supported my personal growth. And whilst our connection no longer exists, it is a sign to me to keep moving on the path that I am on. To keep an open heart and open mind and keep open to there being more Northern men who will eat tofu.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed at the outset of making a change. And it’s also easy to focus on the end game – the house we want, the partner, the job title, the new handbag etc and to feel that achieving something tangible will bring us a sense of satisfaction and of happiness. It’s also normal to worry about our decisions when we hit a bump in the road and need to slow down, stop or divert our course. But I am learning the importance of letting things be, of having patience, and that the stumbles are all part of the journey, the ups and downs, and the signs along the way.  That if we just focus on the results we risk being blinded into pursuing something or someone for potentially all the wrong reasons – competition, fear, worry, or that ‘it’s what we should do.’

The path of least resistance isn’t a path of no effort, or of lack of drive, desire and ambition. It’s an honest and slower path where you look, listen and feel your way forward. And watch out for the signs. And the magpies.

 

Christmas is coming – give the gift of a little peace with Yoga

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Christmas gift packs are now available to order! Treat a loved one to a gift voucher for yoga classes (£6 per class) or a 1:1 session (£35) plus a lavender eye pillow and Christmas yogi tea! 🙏🌲🎁Minimum order £13.00 per gift package and orders must be placed before 1 December 2016 to ensure availability!

This is the perfect present available for everyone and can be used for all my classes in Southport including akhanda hatha yoga, restorative yoga, pregnancy yoga for mums to be and postnatal yoga for new mums and babies. So treat your loved one to a truly thoughtful and nuturing experience this Christmas.

Contact me to place your order now: LGYogaSouthport@gmail.com or on 07734180488.

Liz x

Yoga for mums and new babies in Southport

Postnatal Yoga for new mums and babies – 4 week course starting 22 November 2016 – Tuesdays at 10AM-11AM.

After much demand, I am delighted to be offering another 4 week course for new mums and babies before Christmas!

Sign up for this 4 week course to re-connect with your body after childbirth and return to exercise in a safe, relaxing and nourishing yoga class. Each class will offer you the opportunity to learn relaxation techniques, restore your energy and bond with your baby using tailored yoga poses and baby massage.

Postnatal Yoga classes are a perfect opportunity for new mums and babies (pre-crawlers only) to bond in a quiet and soothing environment. Postnatal Yoga encourages new Mums to gently work with their body building up their physical exercise safely and slowly.  Yoga can provide new Mums with many benefits physically, energetically and emotionally, helping you to rest and improve sleep (when your baby allows!).

Venue: St Phillips Church, Scarisbrick New Road, Southport. Parking available on site.

The course must be pre-booked in advance for £40. Spaces are limited and there are 4 Early Bird places available at £32 first come first served. The course will run on Tuesdays at 10AM on 22 November, 29 November, 6 December & 13 December 2016.

This class is suitable for Mums six weeks after childbirth or eight weeks after a caesarean (and approved by your GP).

“I have done yoga on and off for about 3 years now. But I started with Liz when I was about 25 weeks pregnant and never found a better teacher, I’m now 7 months postpartum and just finished a 4 weeks course of postnatal yoga with her and honestly it’s been amazing I absolutely love her classes, so calm and satisfying and you can definitely tell the difference week to week in progression. She’s even great with my little girl I think they’ve created quite a bond together over the last few weeks! I highly recommend any of her classes and definitely intend to go to alot more in the future” Holli Halton, Southport. 20 September 2016

Contact Liz at LGYogaSouthport@gmail.com or on 07734180488 to book your place now.