The body keeps the score

I spent yesterday at the 'Aversion to Stillness' workshop with Alexandria Crow, discussing all things Restorative Yoga. This is yoga specifically aiming to calm the parasympathetic nervous system and move us from 'fight and flight' to 'rest and digest' state. 

Many of us think this sort of yoga is 'boring' or 'just lying about'. If your mind is very active without a good teacher I think these slow classes can make you feel even more stressed. It has personally taken me a long time to move away from fast/sweaty/challenging/stimulating/loud/hard/shouty teacher yoga classes into more gentle, still classes. 

In the workshop we looked at how more passive poses incorporating deep relaxation can open and relax the muscles (and crucially, the nervous system) more than jumping about and straining ourselves in active classes. 

The workshop got me thinking about where I want to develop my own practice and what I am offering out to clients. 

The more I study psychotherapy and learn about neurology the more I believe that the body, and yoga, is
an incredible tool we all have at our disposal when facing many of the mental health issues we are dealing with in modern life. 

I feel like I am still pulling together my coaching, yoga, interest in mental health and Jung course and wondering how they all come together and what that can look like if we tackle the body and mind as a whole, rather than separate entities.

I'm taking a two week break now to reset- if you are interested in the link between body and mind, drop me a message and I will reply on my return. If you're keen to learn more I recommend the book 'The Body keeps the score' by Bessel Van der Kolk and this TEDMED talk below.

Remember why you started

I went to my first yoga class in a long time last week. I had pulled a muscle in my back a while ago pottering about the house, and since then found every excuse not to practice. "I don't have time" (reality: I am not making time), "I'm worried about my back" (reality: yoga is only going to be good for my back if I take it easy), "I'm not in the right mood to go" (reality: not going is part of the reason I'm in that mood)

Ahhh...I'm a yoga teacher! Is it bad I am admitting that I haven't been practising, or wanting to practice? Does it make me a crap teacher? Or does it just make me a human; having highs and lows and sometimes wallowing in the lows, even though I know how to pull myself up, doesn't mean I always want to.

I'm being 'still' I told myself, I'm allowing this wallowing, I am FINE. So what if I'm a bit tetchy, short tempered, a little anxious. But when does stillness become stuckness?

Yoga, therapy and coaching all hold up a mirror to our inner selves, our thoughts and feelings. This can be enlightening, amazing, joyful, all the good stuff.  It can also be frightening, revealing and uncomfortable. Last month I didn't want to look in the mirror, inside me. I instead chose to ignore it and started feeling more anxious, got less sleep, and generally started to feel a bit “meh”.

Then last week when I was away I met a teacher called Maria. She had a Jack Russell too and a big smile. She was friendly and warm, she hugged me when I turned up to the class, late and reluctant. The yoga was slow, and it was hard as I felt weak and stiff. But as I breathed and moved and shaked and laughed and fell over I felt better. I felt more like myself.

Maria, with your slow hatha flows, singing bowl, lavender eye pillows and classes half in English, half in Portuguese, you inspired me. Turns out sometimes, we do need an external catalyst to un-stick us, to move us forwards. I went back to the class the next day, and the next, and the next, until I had to fly home.

And, just like that, I remembered why I started.

Seeking Inner peace in Amsterdam

Last weekend I had the pleasure of travelling to Amsterdam for the second year of the Inner Peace Conference. Organised by the Delight yoga studio this was a two day conference spread over four grand venues across the city.

Amsterdam may not be the obvious place for a wellness break but the scene there continues to grow; every time I visit there are more vegan cafes, cold pressed juice bars and yoga studios. And it’s always fun to rent a bike and cycle around this charming city.

The conference consisted of 90 minute sessions covering all things yoga, meditation, coaching, yogi lifestyle, workshops, talks and debates. With four venues there was always choice as to what to attend to suit your preferences. The big headline names included Eddie Stern, Max Strom and Kevin Sahaj.

If you have been to the UK Om yoga shows, this couldn't have been more different. Om is great for doing short taster yoga sessions, buying leggings and trying vegan snack bars. But there are many pushy salespeople, stalls and a commercial feel. It's also so busy - I find it more hectic than zen!

At IPC there were no stalls, no selling or pamphlets thrust in your face. The 90 minute sessions meant there was really time to experience and enjoy each session fully. This was a conference focused on all parts of yoga, not just the physical postures. In fact I was surprised at how little yoga asana was on offer-after hours of sitting I would have loved more opportunities to stretch out!

Sadly there can be a darker side to the yoga world, and I liked that a few speakers acknowledged this. As yoga teachers we are in a privileged position to work with people, and it's important to recognise that boundaries are being crossed. I think by acknowledging this it keeps raising awareness. However, I did find some speakers at the conference to be positioning themselves as gurus...always interesting to observe. I continue to believe we can all learn from each other but that we are our own expert or guru. The answers lie within, not with-out!

Highlights for me were a talk on ayurveda, a workshop on energy awareness and a session on Forgiveness by Max Strom. I have been a fan of his for a while and often recommend his books and TED talks but this was the first time I had heard him speaking live. It was such a fascinating and emotional session at one point it seemed most of the people in the room were in tears. This was a practical, straight talking yet moving session - a week later I am still thinking about the impact.

I left Holland feeling relaxed with a lot of things to reflect on. If you're interested in yoga philosophy and self development in a vibrant city then this conference is for you. See you next year Amsterdam!