A Charmed Life


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one size fits all

Do you think you breathe properly? I’m here to tell you, chances are you probably don’t, most likely you are a ‘shallow’ breather (as in you only use your chest). Unless you specifically seek it out, learning to breathe properly is not a life skill we are taught, mores the pity for breathing properly creates a positive domino effect in every aspect of your life and who’s saying no to that right?

I say this from experience for, it wasn’t until I took up meditation that I discovered a) just how lousey a breather I was b) the benefits gained in getting this breathing gig right; and as someone who suffers from anxiety I can’t tell you enough how this – to be able to apply a breathing technique to counterbalance any threat of a panic attack – has changed my confidence and all round mental health. The reason for this, as Yogis have always known and the medical profession finally agrees with, is because breathing is intimately connected to the autonomic nervous system and the mind. Don’t worry I’m not going to go into the science of why you should be using your diaphragm when you breathe or why breathing through your nose is much better for your health, that would be too much for a science dunce like me to explain, I’ll leave that for you to GOOGLE, instead I am just going to share my go-to breathing practice for anxiety.

Here goes:
♠Close your mouth. Breathe in through your nose counting to four as you inhale.
♠Hold your breath again counting to four.
♠Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of four.
♠Pause for four.

This is one breath. Repeat the cycle as the practice gains in power with repetition. Continuing this breathing for one minute or for four full breaths is good start for a beginner. As you improve you can increase your counts to six then eight and your body will tell you when you are ready to stop.

This one size fits all tool has served me well. It’s easy once you get the hang of it AND it really works in alleviating stress and restoring calm AND it is so handy to have up your sleeve, ready to use whenever wherever you are aware of any internal tension.

Sat Nam

Also this week: My favourite instagram follow HUMANSOFNY is currently sharing stories from refugees in Europe/Middle East. I urge you to read/follow if you haven’t already, en masse the crisis feels daunting and impersonal but reading these individual stories provides context – feel your stomach clench in knots and the tears roll down your cheeks – its hard to digest but it’s real and if it projects you into doing something proactive to help PLEASE DO #HealtheWorld #MakeItABetterPlace • As a rule I am anti religion, spiritual yes but religion can go do one as far I’m concerned but this Pope Francis he seems a bit alright; progressive and remorseful in all the right places #ImaStMarysOldGirl • And at the very other end of the progressive spectrum – this Putin guy, I don’t get his motivation at all. If I ruled a country I would push my country to thrive in all areas. Putin has done the opposite over and over; LGBT rights, freedom of the Press, Ukraine, Syria and okay you hate America but learn to communicate in English effectively – seriously you’ve been around too long not to, surely that must be a prerequisite for world domination 101.  #WhatWouldTolstoyThink • RWC15 the All Blacks are through to the quarter finals, no surprises there. I won’t say anything about England except that I was gutted #ImaFauxBrit but #aRealProperKiwi #goABs


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good morning beautiful people

morning

My favourite time of day is first thing in the morning. I love waking to the idea of a new day with no mistakes on it yet and in order to start the day off on a positive vibe this what I do before I get out of bed:

My guru once told me if you have forgotten the language of gratitude you will never be on speaking terms with happiness. accordingly I have made an attitude of gratitude a focal point in my life. I start expressing gratitude the second I am conscious, I go through a mental dump of all the things I am grateful for. It’s a fun exercise I’m always finding the most peculiar things to be grateful for.

Forgive myself for yesterday’s mistakes. Through self forgiveness (and I’m all about forgiveness these days) I find I cleanse myself of any regret and/or baggage and hence forth set myself up to start the new day with just a focus on the present.

For no particular reason other than to flex the muscle I like to smile for about a minute.

To wake up my body up and for mental clarity I take five long deep saturating breaths in and out (the in through your nose, feel it in your lungs  and out through your mouth kind).

I like to give my eyes a bit of a workout so I do a little yoga for my eyes this involves blinking, near and far viewing, side to side viewing. I know this sounds a little woo woo but we live in the age of smart devices, and I already wear glasses for seeing long distances so I’m trying to limit further damage to my eyesight.

You know that saying start as you mean to go on that is why I like to set my intention for the day first thing in the morning, it helps to focus my mind.

And then it is time to meditate as the sun rises.

Tell me about your mornings: Are you a morning person? Do you have any kind of early morning routine?

Sat Nam


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do – Ho Ho Ha Ha

I first heard about Laughter yoga when Fearne Cotton talked about it on her radio show. Thought it sounded interesting but I didn’t give it another thought. Fast forward a few months later and today I find myself at a Laughter yoga class. What can I say? I saw a sign for the class and it had to be done.

Here I am, it’s a small class, five people including me and six others all wearing the same purple t-shirts so I’m assuming they are making up the numbers (turns out I’m right, apparently this type of yoga is done best with a crowd). Once our instructor welcomes us in prayer, we begin with clapping – palm to palm clapping – to which chants are added HO HO HA HA (reminds me of the scene in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ when Matthew McConaughey and Leonardo DiCaprio are at lunch and Matthew starts beating his chest and chanting Hmmm). This warm up is done to increase energy levels.

Next to follow are deep breathing exercises and then for the next fifty minutes we continue to do the breathing with stretching and different types of Laughter exercises including one that had me fake milking a cow. The instructor keeps repeating that we want to attain a child like playfulness. We are encouraged to make eye contact with each other as this encourages laughter.  Anyone want to pretend to be a lion with me (yet another exercise we did).

SOME FACTS: Laughter yoga was created by Indian physician Dr. Madan Kataria. The concept of Laughter yoga is based on the scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits. Clinical research show that Laughter lowers the level of stress hormones (epinephrine, cortisol, etc) in the blood and it helps to change your mood within minutes by releasing endorphins. Yes its true people laughter really is the best medicine.

MY VERDICT: Before I went to this class, someone said to me ‘Laughter yoga? Come on yoga is yoga – don’t bastardise it with all kinds of weird variations.’ And he is right, that is exactly why I was intrigued in the first place and having done the class I’m still not sure what the ‘yoga’ component was meant to be and I did feel a sense of the ridiculous at first, but eventually fake awkward laughter gave way to real laughter and it felt good.

And although I have never had a problem laughing or laughing in public for that matter, as this is a physical rather than a mental laughter you are left feeling uninhabited. If I had to describe how I felt after the class I would say energized and open – kind of loose if that makes sense.

I’m not sure I’m going to convince the skeptic in you to give it go except I will say when does it not feel good to laugh? I would say give it go if you are up for anything, in need of a laugh or just plain curious. Laughter clubs are popping up everywhere and my class was free so you are not left out of pocket (well I did make a donation).

I will leave you with this fact: In the 1950s people laughed for an average of 18 minutes per day, but now the average is just six minutes. I think we all could do with a little bit more laughter in our lives – wouldn’t you agree?

Love


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amen to that

Last week Kate Moss turned 40 and the papers in the UK went gaga over this. I don’t understand why she garnered so much attention; she has to be the worst kind of role model that exists – arrogant,  privileged and selfish. As such I ignored every article that was focused on her except for one that caught my eye. It was about her aging knees. Now I have been blessed with amazing genes that don’t render me looking anywhere near the 40 that I am, so at the time of reading this article I remember thinking ‘ah well she smokes, does drugs and sun bakes so something has to give surely.’

Imagine to my horror then, when today whilst doing downward facing dog at yoga I noticed my very own aging knees. Not quite as noticeable as Kate’s but knobbly just the same. With paranoia set in I came home to do an all body search to check for signs of aging and then I realised how stupid I was being because I don’t really care. I’m 40 and this is the body I have got. Amen.

Love


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vow of silence

So there I was last week out in the English countryside armed with all sorts of yoga paraphernalia: mat, strap and blocks – all set for my yoga retreat; looking forward to being up to my neck in asanas and meditation. Only it didn’t quite turn out that way. Ever signed up to do something you looked forward to doing, but come of it having done something different which turned out to be even better? Well that is exactly what happened to me at my yoga retreat.

After an initial namaste on arrival at the retreat, I was given a structured wellness programme for my stay. Nothing too strenuous I noted but something caught my eye – all participants were asked to take a vow of silence. And so began an interesting few days…

This silence idea takes some getting used to for it does not come naturally to someone as unaccustomed as I am. Every action from the moment we are conscious creates noise, this combined with our internal chat leaves little room for silence in our day to day lives. When you take out all that clutter what you are left with is actually very empowering – for in silence you can actually observe yourself.

For me, once the external chatter was gone my first instinct was to fill the void with thoughts and emotions that flooded into my mind, we were told to let them flow and observe them but not to react to them. It took some practice but I found that by embracing them they floated through me eventually. What I was left with is this awareness that left me energised. I spent a lot of time at the retreat outdoors and whether I sat, walked or practised yoga I was acutely mindful of my surroundings. Everything looked as if in high definition, sounds were sharper even the food tasted better – it was like I had this ultra perception. I felt like a bit of a superhero

At the end of my journey I felt like this blanket of peace had come over me leaving me relaxed, balanced and renewed. It was a high like I have never experienced before. I totally recommend unplugging even if only for an hour… away from technology, away from to-do lists, away from chatter… just you and silence.

Love


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do – hot yoga

After years of being curious about it I finally did a Bikram Yoga class – that’s hot yoga to you plebs out there – while I’m still sticky with sweat let me quickly tell you about it.

I had been warned that to endure the full session would be my biggest challenge as a first timer, I’m a girl who doesn’t even last 10 minutes in a sauna so I went into the yoga room thinking if I last 11 minutes I’m a winner. So there’s the heat to endure that is akin to what you feel when you are in an Asian country, humid hot and then there is the smell of sweat – other people’s sweat . Neither is pleasant so it does take some adjustment in those first initial moments. I felt a slight panic as I sat down knowing I was mean to try to finish the 90 minute class, so I took my place at the back of the room near the door.

The session started with breathing techniques which were aimed at increasing  lung capacity in the humid air – these were good for they helped to make me feel relaxed in my surroundings. Then the class progressed into the postures and I got lost in concentrating on the different poses. Some came easy, others with effort and some not at all.  All the while I was sweating  – I have never been a particularly sweaty person but today I learnt I have the capacity to sweat like a proverbial pig. While I did feel dizzy at times I made it right to the end – whop whop – and I came out feeling like I had had a great workout. I would definitely recommend it if you, like me are curious to see what the fuss is about.

And now that I do know… I want more but I think I will take an extra thick towel next time.