Tag Archives: health

Keeping my feet on the ground

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I have been working really hard in my business just lately – that’s why you may have noticed less writing going on than usual. I’m working on something really big – it’s too early to share what it is, although hopefully it won’t be too much longer before I can let out all my excitement and share it with the world!

What I have noticed over the past few weeks, though, is that achieving a dream takes an awful lot of work.  A dream, however long you have held it for, remains just that – a dream – unless you are prepared to  take the steps that make it a reality. We get inspired to do things all the time, but those inspirations will only result in a material change if we are prepared to put in the work required.

Suppose you feel inspired to go for a walk. The idea of it is so nice – the sun is shining outside, you can imagine how good it would make you feel to get out there and get some fresh air and exercise, but until you get your shoes on and take the first step, it just exists as a nice idea inside your head. I remember someone who was completing a registration form on joining one of my yoga classes asking if Wii-Fit counted as exercise?  I answered yes, at which point she admitted that she hadn’t yet taken it out of the box. We laughed, but this illustrates the point so nicely…..unless you actually do something, an idea is just an idea, a dream is just a dream – they live inside your head.

So, if you like the idea of something, but it seems unattainable – too big, too scary (my dream did!) – then what can you do about it? I always find it helps to break it down into tiny steps and see which of them you can manage easily. And for those you can’t manage, can you think of someone who can help you with those steps?  Don’t assume you already need to know how you’re going to achieve it all, just take those first steps, and get help where you need it.

If you would like to become more flexible, or more relaxed, or less stressed, or able to relax your body at will – don’t assume that you should just know how to do those things.  Most of us don’t.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn. Read books, find a teacher, go online – just pick a starting point and see where the journey takes you. And if you really want that walk, get out there and enjoy.  Take your first steps and keep your feet on the ground!

Alison x

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For more articles, tips and information on all things wellbeing, AND a free relaxation recording, sign up to my e-newsletter at http://bit.ly/sunfishnews

To book classes, visit http://bit.ly/sunfishclasses

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What’s stopping YOU from trying yoga?

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When it comes to reasons for not doing yoga,  I’ve probably heard  them all….

  • I can’t do yoga because I’m not very flexible
  • I can’t do yoga because I find it difficult to relax
  • I can’t do yoga because I can’t touch my toes /stand on my head/wrap my legs round my neck/I’m not a contortionist etc….
  • I can’t do yoga because I don’t look right…like the people in the magazines
  • I can’t do yoga because it’s not for men / older people / larger people / unfit people / people like me
  • I’m not healthy enough to do yoga

You get the idea…in many cases, people feel intimidated by the image of yoga as portrayed in the media.  In the majority of publications, you’ll see largely fit and healthy, young, thinnish people (most often women) practising advanced yoga positions, which is enough to put off most of us mere mortals from even trying! Which is a shame, as in many classes, those advanced postures are a rare thing – teachers will teach a variety of movements, and offer alternatives and modifications when they are tackling something tricky with more advanced students. If you look for a beginners, or mixed-ability class, you’ll find that there will be plenty more you can do than you can’t do.  If you look around, you’ll most likely find several classes full of people like you – ordinary people, with their own struggles, rather than the superfit, superskinny, superyoung people you might think make up a yoga class. You just might need to try one or several classes before finding one where you feel completely comfortable.

And if you worry that you’re not very flexible – well, most people share that concern to begin with! The only way to increase flexibility is to work at it, and learning yoga is an ideal way to do that safely and at your own pace. If you never start increasing flexibility, it won’t just happen on it’s own, and I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be the only inflexible student your teacher had ever seen! Just don’t expect instant results – if you have never been able to touch your toes, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to after your very first yoga class!

If you don’t feel very healthy – well, that’s the very reason that many people get into yoga initially. I started my home yoga practice after a lengthy illness, way back in my early twenties, thinking of it as a way to get moving gently, whilst building up my strength.  I became hooked, and never looked back, starting my teacher training a few years later. I certainly didn’t start yoga because I was already fit, happy, healthy and able to demonstrate tricky poses on a beach somewhere! Just the opposite!

And if you can’t relax – welcome, along with the rest of us, to the twenty-first century! We live life at a frantic pace these days, our brains are bombarded with news from all around the world, we’re seldom far from our devices alerting us to the latest disaster or sports result. Not being able to relax is one of the very best reasons to head to a yoga class and find a bit of peace! Believe me, most people find it tricky to relax to begin with – lying down, in a room full of strangers?! But most people find that, actually, after a good stretch, plenty of movement, an hour or more of peace and quiet, and then a lovely comfortable relaxation  position – it’s easier to relax on the floor than it is at home in bed! Perhaps not in their very first class, perhaps not until they’ve tried it several times  – but sooner or later, most people find a stillness they maybe haven’t experienced  before.  They’ve learnt to relax, body and mind.

Alison x

For more articles, tips and information on all things wellbeing, AND a free relaxation recording, sign up to my e-newsletter at http://bit.ly/sunfishnews

To book classes, visit http://bit.ly/sunfishclasses

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Taking time out for ourselves

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womanstress  All the research shows us just how important it is to take time out, to look after ourselves, before we get sick. By taking care of ourselves at the very first sign of stress, we may prevent a whole range of mental, emotional and physical ailments. Yes, it can be hard to find the time, and yes, there may be others we need to take care of, but we will do that all the better for acknowledging our own needs.

If you’ve ever been less than patient with someone when you’re feeling down, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

If you’ve ever felt so tired, drained, and just plain exhausted that you have almost lost touch with that wonderful person you are on the inside, you’ll know how important taking care of yourself really is.

And if you have ever felt guilty about taking that time, you need to stop that guilt, right now.

Here’s why….

So many of our top diseases now are stress-related, and so many of us are  getting unwell, both mentally and physically, because of the way we live our lives.  Work, work and more work doesn’t make us happy.  It might (or might not!) make us rich.  But since when did money automatically make us happier?  Happiness is right here, right in this moment, not some time in the future when our bank account is a little fuller, or when we have that amazing new car, house, or tv.  It’s in the time we spend with our family and our friends, or pursuing our dreams, not only in the achievements and recognisable successes of our lives.  It’s in the whole process of life – and if it’s hard for you to find your happy side in all of this, I would encourage you to take time out and find a space in which you can get back in touch with that sense of contentment.  It doesn’t have to be expensive, it doesn’t have to be fancy, it might be as simple as watching your breath, having a stretch or reading a few pages of your favourite book. It might be in listening to a beautiful or uplifting piece of music, or going for a walk.  It might be in looking at the sky full of stars on a clear night, or at the dew on the grass in the morning.

So, we don’t have to spend a lot of money, and we don’t necessarily have to spend all that much time; even a few minutes in which we are mindful of our surroundings, or of what we are doing, totally and completely absorbed in our breath, or the music, or the movement….even those few minutes can help to build our sense of wellbeing, and help us to relate more happily to our world and those around us.  Our empathy, our patience and our sense of connection to others are all strengthened, and we feel amazing!  Physically, mentally and emotionally, we feel stronger, more resilient, and able to handle the demands of our lives with greater ease. Thinking and decision -making can be easier, as all the mental chit-chat starts to settle down.

 

 

Courage

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Sometimes we don’t feel very brave.  We admire others who we consider to be much more courageous  than ourselves.  But we commonly confuse feeling scared with a lack of courage.  Whereas if you really think about it, we can only show true courage and act bravely if we do feel fear.

Growing up, and into my adult life, I was scared of spiders.  I would freeze if I saw one, and, if at all possible, I would ask  someone else to remove it for me.  I certainly wasn’t brave around a spider!  One day, many years ago now, a colleague removed a huge spider from my office, just letting it walk onto her hand and carrying it outside.  I considered her to be really brave!  But she disagreed, and explained that she really liked spiders, so for her to pick one up was no more  brave than it would be for me to stroke a cat.

So if we have no fear, then we do not need bravery.  When I first started to deal with spiders, removing them from my home because my family disliked them even more than me, I needed quite a lot of courage!  I had to steel myself to deal with them, whilst trying not to show my fear in front of my young son.  We lived at the time in a very old converted barn, with lots of nooks and crannies where the creatures crept in, and so I got plenty of practice!  One of them was so large that I could hear it walking down the curtain behind my head whilst I was holding my sleeping baby.  It took a fair amount of courage to walk slowly and calmly upstairs and lay my son down in his cot before coming back to deal with that one!

Over the years, I have learnt to deal with spiders pretty well.  I no longer feel so scared of them, and I have needed correspondingly less courage to remove them from my home.  As a result, my son now carefully removes all manner of  creepy-crawlies and places them carefully into the garden, with no sign of fear.  Because, of course, our fears can be learnt from others.

But there are very few of us who have no fear.  Even the most daredevil, thrill-seeking, extreme sports enthusiast (can you tell where my own fears still skulk?!) will at some point face a fear of their own.  For some of us, that fear may revolve around carrying on our daily lives when we really want to run and hide from the world,  nursing our hurts and pain.  We may be faced with challenges to our health, or to our relationships,  which appear to totally overwhelm us and yet we survive through small daily acts of courage. There won’t be any awards or medals given out for this type of bravery, and only we know what we have had to overcome in the small hours of the night, but overcome them  we somehow do. Without applause or recognition, but none- the -less important for it being a private and personal battle.

Fasting

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This is my 8th fasting day and fourth week on the 5:2 or fast diet. Despite my years of yoga training, I have never fasted before. I have always eaten healthily, and for the most part, moderately. I wouldn’t describe my normal diet as unhealthy or excessive – I’m vegetarian, I avoid wheat as I’m a little intolerant to it, I don’t drink alcohol. But whereas, when I was younger, I found it easy to stick to healthy eating all the time, I have noticed my resolve slipping on more recent years, particularly where chocolate is concerned. And, also as I’ve got older, I don’t burn off the calories as easily as I used to.

So I started to read about the fast diet. At first I had thought it was some crash diet, not the sort of thing I would recommend to anyone. Let alone a relatively slim and active yoga teacher. But then I read “The Fast Diet” by Dr Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer. The authors explain the science behind the diet, the health benefits which for me are more of a motivation than losing a few pounds …..although the weight loss which can result from the diet for those seeking to lose more weight seems to be steady and sustained. Fasting for a few hours can lower our cholesterol levels, reducing our risk of heart disease. It can send our bodies into repair, rather than growth, mode which may help to reduce our risk of certain cancers. It can help to stabilise our blood sugar levels, cutting the risk of diabetes. There is anecdotal evidence that it may help our memory and reduce the risk of dementia. All this, together with fasting having a long history in yoga and the spiritual traditions, was enough to persuade me to give it a go.

The way it works is to eat normally 5 days a week, and to fast on 2 non-consecutive days. On fasting days I eat breakfast and dinner but no lunch, drinking plenty of water and herbal teas throughout the day. For a woman, the total calories on fasting days should be within 500 (men get to have 600) which is around a quarter of a normal daily intake. I don’t have much weight to lose, so I don’t worry about keeping it exact, but do like the challenge of keeping my two meals to around 250 calories each. For breakfasts I’ve had Bircher muesli with a spoonful of yogurt, porridge with berries, grapefruit and a plate of cottage cheese with asparagus, and today – I’m particularly proud of this one as I was really hungry and found I could keep within my calories with 2 slices of spelt toast, half a tin of tomatoes and a small poached egg. For dinners, salads are an obvious choice. With some cottage cheese or a boiled egg, or nuts or seeds, or a few beans for some protein. I’ve also had stir / steam fried vegetables with brown rice and lentils, a vegetable curry and tonight I think it will be a chilli. Whatever I eat on a fast day, I enjoy it all the more for being genuinely really hungry! And if I’m hankering after something a bit more naughty – some chocolate or some home-made cake, cheese and biscuits …..well, there’s always the next day! And although I eat well on the other 5 days of the week, I have found that I don’t compensate by over-eating. My appetite seems to have regulated so that I only want to eat when I’m truly hungry, so I’m less likely to reach for a snack than I was before.

Of course 4 weeks isn’t long, so it will be interesting for me to see how I get on in the coming weeks. I might write about my progress in another month or so. I’d also love to hear your views on fasting, and if you’ve tried it for health or for weight loss. Please leave your comments below.