I have been feeling a sense of resignation in certain aspects of my life recently. I am resigned to my never-ending to-do list. I am resigned that I shall not eat amazing vegan/vegetarian fare for a while since returning home from Oz. I am resigned that after gorging myself for two weeks on said vegan/vegetarian fare, copious amounts of cake, and alcoholic beverages (all in the name of wedding celebrations you see) that my leggings now feel tight! Yes, even lycra has failed to hide my indulgences. I am resigned to unwanted body hair. I am resigned to the fact that my latest relationship has ended once again. And I am resigned, with a smile and a heavenwards glance, to the reality that I have absolutely no idea what my life will look like as I head towards my 34th birthday and that my brain begins to implode if I even begin to think past that!
In yoga there’s lots of talk of letting go and of living in the moment. That in order to find peace and happiness and your true self we need to let go of our attachments, of our own drama and ‘story’. Let go of fear and anxiety, and let go of people and things that hold you back. Well, it’s hard sometimes to figure out if I’ve ‘let go’ or if I have just simply resigned myself to the reality of a situation. A little like Eeyore perhaps? But I’m pretty sure the yogic path wasn’t quite meant to lead to aligning with AA Milne’s depressive donkey unless I’ve been mis-sold!
One fundamental principle of Akhanda Yoga is that we are born entitled to be happy, to be loved and to be at peace. We have the right to be happy. It’s something that strikes my heart and clobbers me around the head every time a yoga teacher says it in class as it’s something I have yet to fully absorb. Is it something that you fundamentally believe in and feel each morning when you wake up?
You see I believe most people have adopted a work ethic that life is gruelling. That it’s a hard slog to the top of whatever hierarchy you’re in – man of the house, woman of the house, Partner of the law firm or manager of the team. That we need to slave away to deserve the holiday, the nice glass of wine at the end of the week, or to deserve that feeling of worth as we look at our car, our house, the physical manifestations of ‘wealth’ and feel that we ‘earned’ it. We did good. That we hide those feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, we fail to talk about how we’re struggling to juggle it all, and we just suck it up and keep on going because no one else seems to complain. That many of us feel we have lost our place in the busyness and the constant craziness and pace of life.
As a result of my change in lifestyle, my change in profession, and the change in my awareness of how I treat and talk to myself I have come to believe that we can be the author of our own misfortunes. I don’t mean the big life struggles but those occasions when we hold on to our grumpy mood after the alarm didn’t go off, or there was traffic all the way into the office – this, if we let it, feed it even, can permeate the rest of your day. It’s often those days where there’s a cumulative effect of frustration, when one little thing leads to the build up of a ‘BAD DAY’. And that entitlement to being happy is hidden deep somewhere, along with rainbows, unicorns and the tooth fairy.
On those grumpy mornings, people often jest that perhaps you just got out on the wrong side of bed. And actually I do think how you respond in those first few moments of your day can set the tone for whether you put your best foot forward out from under the duvet. Let me illuminate with my own example of failing exactly here…
Today, after a patchy night’s sleep, after turning off my alarm, I immediately turned my phone out of airplane mode and began to scroll through Facebook a little bleary eyed – some of it was checking my business page (because that makes it seem more justifiable) but most of it was aimlessly looking at posts of other people’s lives, or adverts of something and even yoga sells itself with products, hot bodies, latest courses and competition. I then read a couple of personal texts, checked my emails, aimlessly scrolled through Instagram before turning my phone back onto airplane mode to get up and do my yoga practice. Now, I have my phone on airplane mode precisely to stop any external influences bombarding me when I first wake up but sometimes I am my own worst enemy. Sometimes we all are!
It struck me when doing my practice this morning that I had failed to give myself the opportunity to start my day off just for me. Instead, I willingly gave it up to Facebook and began to let the whirl of thoughts, planning, distraction and comparison enter my head. How did you start your day today? Perhaps you were roughly awoken by your crying child, or jumped on by your hungry/needy cat or dog? Perhaps your partner woke you up with snores or a grope? Or did you turn over at the sound of your alarm, pick up your phone and like me, immediately see what had happened in the land of social media during your time in the land of nod?
I know not everyone wants to spend an hour each morning doing yoga, and I know not everyone feasibly can, particularly with full time jobs and children thrown into the mix. But I often encourage my students (and my friends) to try and take 5-10 mins in the morning to just sit and breathe, to meditate, to carve out some time first thing in the day just for themselves. And if that still seems impossible for you to fit in then you could instead try taking just 3 or 4 deep belly breaths when you first wake up. Before reacting to something, to someone, or to some Facebook post.
Another thing I am continuing with is my gratitude diary and on the most challenging of days I have found it even more vital to find 5 things at the end of the day to be grateful for. As part of this practice I also think to myself each morning: “what am I excited about today?” Sometimes it has just been breakfast. Sometimes it’s just the thought of returning to bed at the end of the day! And that’s ok. It’s still a reminder that there’s a reason to get out of bed and that there’s always something to be grateful for however dark the days and however frustrating Facebook is. And because sometimes there are the days, like today, when I was excited for my facial and back massage! Or last Wednesday when I was excited to teach my first class in my new yoga studio in Southport!
As I reminded myself this morning, it doesn’t matter if you fail to find 5 minutes for yourself today or tomorrow. The starting point to re-valuing yourself is to become aware of putting yourself first sometimes or becoming aware of when you haven’t. That’s the start of a new practice, a new sense of well-being and it’s something I am also resigned to. ; )