Body Image, Self-esteem

And Exhale

Wow. I’ve just got back from Exhale festival. It was another wonderful experience this year. There is so much to process from the weekend. So many feelings, ideas and inspirations are running through my head. Yesterday I had the honour of running a body image talk. It was to my great delight that a packed barn of men and women came together to share, discuss and listen to what I had to say. If I think back to three years ago when I first publicly talked about my eating disorder I realise how far i’ve come. It’s still hard and emotional to talk about but this time there were no tears just big smiles. I just want to say a HUGE thank you to each person who showed up, your presence was greatly appreciated. And to those who shared thoughts and feelings in the circle thank you for being brave. Thank you to my partner Gerard for being there, supporting me and always believing in me, even when I struggle to.

I remember wishing the ed had never happened to me. Now I realise it’s one of my greatest gifts. When I was ill I NEEDED to hear and see stories of recovery, that there was a way out, that I had a hope to be back to myself. It is this that pushes me to keep talking about it and to keep sharing because I know that if it makes a difference to one person then that is fucking amazing.

There is far too much pressure on people to look a certain way, to attain to an ideal that is unachievable for most. We are all unique, that is what makes us so special. We all have something to offer this world, to share and a unique inner strength. It’s so important to appreciate all that we can DO and all that our bodies do for us. The image stuff, well it’s there but you are perfect just as you are. If you want the cake then eat the cake, life is too short not to. I really worry for the younger generations growing up in a world where social media is at their fingertips. With constant expectations about how you ‘should’ look then how we can we ever match up to it if you don’t achieve it?

I did some powerful work with Mark Walsh yesterday on yoga for social change. It was thought provoking and timely. I want to see people being kinder to each other and most of all kinder to themselves. We need to have communities and support, not segregation, isolation and wars. I want to help people who are suffering with body image issues, whatever that may be. I need to use all I have learnt, keep sharing and develop ways for actionable change. It’s not enough to say ‘love your body’, if only it was that simple right?

So thank you to each and every person who I spoke to this weekend and Carl & Darren for making Exhale festival possible. The sharing, connecting, love and community had a powerful presence and i’m sure a lasting effect on everyone. Lastly but by no means least as I write this I think of my wonderful parents who looked after me when I was ill. You encouraged me to keep fighting and to always keep learning, thank you.

 

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Uncategorized, Yoga

Being Present

To be present. What does it actually mean? I am trying to figure my way through it at the moment. Should I have to try to be more ‘present’? I think so, sometimes. When I arrive on my mat I sit still and breathe, I am present. When I start to move the mind often wanders into a narrative of “oh that’s tight still” or “will I balance this time”. Often I am making judgments on myself or layering on a few expectations.

What I love about this practice is how much it teaches me. I learn humility, patience (sometimes), aprigraha (non grasping) and that I need to just sit in my stuff. I don’t actually have to run away from it, rather accept it and lessen the grip of judgments on myself. In class this morning Calli said ‘just feel’ and I felt something let go inside. I moved away from the judgments to just being there, feeling my way into whatever I was doing.

I notice the lack of being in the moment off the mat even more so. Walking out of class earlier I’m straight away on my phone checking Instagram, the sun shines down on me, I hear my boyfriend’s voice “be more present Alice” and put the phone away. I need to remind myself regularly to stop multi-tasking. To commit my attention to the task in hand. That’s one of the things I love about teaching. I am fully absorbed in the moment, nothing else enters my consciousness apart from what is happening in front of me, the students moving & breathing together.

So I’m making a commitment to myself to ‘just be’ a little more. Starting with bringing more meditation into my practice. The physical asanas are one small part of the wonder that is yoga. I feel the time is right more than ever for me to explore the others limbs of this amazing path. The time is now.

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Love, Uncategorized, Wellbeing, Yoga

Exhale 2015 – A Tale of Community

As the sun shone on our faces and kissed our shoulders we settled in to begin welcoming the yogis and yoginis to Exhale 2015.  Wristbands on, schedule in hand the guests were ready to take on the weekend that was.

The festival opened with a grounding class from co-founder Carl who brought everyone together in a strong dynamic vinyasa practice.  Friday afternoon was then a plethora of yoga to suit all tastes from high energy partner work in acro to chilled restorative via the soft tones of Roberto.  No good festival would be complete without a campfire and the man to take on the melodies was Michael, a musical maestro who lulled us all with his joyful tunes.  As the party came alive we danced, shaked, hugged and grooved to Charlie Dark and Warrior One late into the night.

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Photo – Ana Cuba

Left feeling a little creaky after a night’s sleep in a tent?  Well it’s no problem at a yoga festival because after one session of yoga or a massage and you’re ready to roll again (quite literally in some cases!).  Carl helped us to open the wings of our hearts in a fun and uplifting practice, including a partner plank off and working with trust in balancing postures.

After refuelling on Pip & Nut nut butters, sourdough bread and an array of delicious cereals the troops were ready to bring on Saturday.  For those seeking the sweat-life there was Hot Pod yoga set inside a barn and Run Dem Crew’s version of a trail run around our neighbouring campsites.  The families received an unexpected sight as 20 lycra clad runners bounced past them!

With Friday’s theme of ‘togetherness’ running through the festival air, Saturday sought to strengthen the bonds being made between old friends and new.  The main barn was packed to receive a multi-teacher led class from the Boys of Yoga.  Whilst Chloe Brotheridge worked to hypnotise a room full of 50 people open to exploring new ways of thinking.

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Photo – Ana Cuba

The inquisitively titled “What the f**k is yoga” proved to be a beautifully bonding session on bhakti yoga; yoga of devotion and the heart.  A lot of happy, smiling yogis came out of the two hour workshop with Jim.

As light turned to dark the steady buzz that had been growing throughout the day erupted into a dazzling array of day-glow neon!  Yes that’s right, Black & Light yoga.  Part yoga, part rave this class had the barn shaking and the tunes pumping.  It was quite the spectacle for those partial to a bit of neon!  The rave set the scene for the rest of the night as Warrior One took to the decks.  Yoga, like life, is all about balance.  And rightfully so there was a well-stocked bar serving up craft beers and wine.  For those looking for a headache free wake-up there was the most incredible café, aptly named Inhale with probably the best range of Pukka teas a tea lover could ask for.

Early birds were treated to a festival version of the ever popular Morning Gloryville on Sunday.  Those of us still chilling in the campsite could feel the pulsation of a heavy bassline and watch in delight as people danced in and out of the barn creating a colour haze to the morning.

Still riding high on the energy from Friday and Saturday the camp were treated to a chilled Sunday of, of course more yoga, a ‘tug of love’ and a ‘switched on’ session with Nick Jankel, inviting us to explore the head, heart and mind.

Keeping in the tone of unity and comradery we snuggled up into the main barn as night fell, ready for the gong bath.  If you ever had the pleasure of singing mantras with 65 other people you will know what it’s like to have goosebumps all over and feel the reverberations resounding in your chest.  To round off what was truly an epic weekend the whole festival were treated to live traditional Indian music.  People cuddled and hot chocolate was consumed as eyes and ears were fixated on the two musicians.

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Photo – Ana Cuba 

We were lucky enough to witness a full moon on Saturday which illuminated the whole site.  It’s positive energy could be felt throughout as it shone down on us.

As Monday rolled in there were hugs all round as people made their way home.  Eyes shined a little brighter than before, hearts felt fuller and smiles were aplenty.  Building a sense of community in a festival is no easy task, yet Exhale held the space and those within it so well, it’s certainly something special to remember.

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Photo – Ana Cuba

If this little tale of Exhale 2015 tickled your fancy then guess what? Exhale 2016 isn’t far off! To check out the line up and nab yourself an early bird ticket head to www.exhalefestival.com. I will see you there!

 

 

 

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Uncategorized, Wellbeing, Yoga

Yoga Practice

Practicing yoga this morning. Slow, steady, considered movements. Sunshine streaming into the studio. In moments of upside down I can fully appreciate the warmth and light of the sun. Movements creating space in my body and length in my sides. Full appreciation for the bolster provided to take a restorative twist. Let go, even if just a fraction, let go, stop holding, succumb.

This is the physical practice but it transcends the mat. I feel happy, longer and more grounded.

Yoga.

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Love, Poetry, Yoga

Sublime Moments 

Diary entry – dated 28th March 2015.  The day I left Suryalila and a week into my YTT training.  Sat on a bench outside the airport in Seville.

“Just know that in this moment everything is sublime.  I sit alone, perfectly alone in my own company.  I sit on green grass, sun beating on me, music through my headphones.  Appreciative of everything I have right now.

The two feet I stand on, the New Balance I bought, jeans that cost £9, an old tank top and my Senheisers.  The fact that all I need right in this moment is here. Everything I need is here.  

I’m about to fly to Barcelona, the trip continues.  I’ve just been paid the most money I’ve ever been paid in one month.  All the fruits of my labour are beginning to pay off.

From within the gentle appreaciation of all brings great pleasure in the smallest of actions.  Be grateful for what we have, for it is so rich and wonderful.  The grass, the light, the shadows and the trees.  The flows my heart wants to make.  Energy follows thought.  In each sweet encounter be glad for all that encapsulates it”.

Words that flowed so naturally from me that I had to capture them.

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Uncategorized, Yoga

Go Where Feels Good

I’ve just had one of those self practices where you get on the mat, shut your eyes and just see what happens.  I can highly recommend it.  No leggings, no sports bra, just jeans and a vest and just a good dose of ‘needing to move’ without my self imposed routine.  I’ve felt a little ‘out of sorts’ recently, my body just doesn’t feel as ‘strong’ and vibrant as usual and my shoulders are tense*.  I’m putting it down to a few things; busy with work and teaching, a bit stressed, trying to balance an incredible man in my life coupled with associated feelings of guilt that i’m never spending enough time on just one thing.

It’s hard to just be though isn’t it?  Isn’t it?  I mean at the start of the yoga classes I teach I try to create a space for the practitioners to just ‘be’, to connect with their breath and their body.  Yet sometimes I have to remind myself that I need that time too.  I need to move around on my mat like no one is watching (mainly cause they’re not), put some melodic music on and just swirl around, going where feels good.

I recently went to an ‘Ode to the Moon’ workshop led by Eleonora Zampatti.  A former sufferer of domestic violence, Eleonora created this sequence in harmony with a musician to create a space for those to feel and to let go of hurt.  Her workshop encouraged us to be vulnerable on the mat, to listen to what our bodies said, to move slowly and with care and to ultimately be kind and nurturing to ourselves.   It definitely touched me, I felt calmer, more tuned in and inspired by how gentle her teaching was.  Check her out, she is quite an inspirational woman.

After so many years of being out of touch with my body, of wanting to punish it for letting me down I need to remember to be kind to it.  My body actually IS getting stronger all the time.  Sometimes it might not feel that obvious but it is.  The body and mind, although one, can occasionally feel like two, I know that all too well.  That’s why it’s such a beautiful experience to get on the mat and just try, because right now something might feel hard physically, but soon both mentally and physically it will feel a little easier, or maybe it might take longer than you want, and that is just fine.  Just go where feels good.  Close your eyes during your practice,  close off a little, move into the space, invite in what comes to you.

*The shoulders and my mind feel happier after that practice!

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Eka Pada Galavasana
Yoga

Appreciating The Small Things

This image to me represents small changes.   A seemingly impossible pose four months ago in Spain suddenly feels a little closer to finding my way into (it’s working some way to Eka Pada Galavasana-Flying Pigeon).  On the surface I don’t look like I’m anywhere near the full expression of the pose, and that’s fine.  Because underneath the layers small and subtle changes having been taking place.  My mind, along with the physical body is starting to ease into the process.  In the physical sense the tensile resistance in my legs has loosened a little with regular practice (at the moment 4-5 times per week).  In the mental sense I feel more open to try new things, after all yoga should be fun.

Whilst attempting this posture there is a sense of ‘f**k I might fall straight on my face’ especially if I try to straighten out my left leg.  There is a fleeting feeling of fear, my legs feel tight, and my hands are tingling so I ease back.  Overall the main feeling is that I am satisfied that I have given it a go but not pushed beyond what feels comfortable.  Here comes another metaphor……To move on we have to evolve, to change and to put some faith behind what we are doing.  If I constantly told myself I wouldn’t improve then what kind of message does that send to myself?  Mind over matter can be very powerful alongside visualisation and a bit of good old-fashioned self-belief.  But also I am learning to just be satisfied with having a go and not doing something that could injure myself.   This body has been built over 28 years, 18 months of yoga isn’t going to suddenly break down the years of life patterns.  My hamstrings still feel tight in Uttanasana (standing forward fold), I have to bend my knees to get my hands on the ground, and that is fine.  If I just focused on how I can’t get my legs straight I would constantly feel like I’m not getting anywhere with this posture.  Instead I just enjoy the opportunity to practice with my able body that has it’s strengths and weaknesses.

When I went off to Spain to begin YTT my biggest fear was ‘I’m not good enough for this’.  I thought that the sum of my teaching would be held in my ability to be ‘good’ at yoga, to impress or to balance upside down.  At that point what I hadn’t realised is that being a yoga teacher reaches so far beyond the physical.  I am at the beginnings of my teaching, another thing I have to remind myself of daily.  There doesn’t need to be some huge rush to get there, I can’t expect to be like my contemporaries who have been teaching for years and built their foundations on time, learnings and practice.  But I know that I have to keep going, to keep practicing, to keep learning.  The most important thing is that my classes are safe, fun and enjoyable for practitioners.

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