Lessons From Lockdown

What Did the Lockdown Teach You?

As we here in England begin to, tentatively, emerge from lockdown with restrictions still in place but to a slightly lesser degree, it seems as good a time as any to pause and ask ourselves what life lessons from lockdown did we learn.

Whenever any great trauma or challenge is thrown at us, it’s the perfect opportunity for self-growth. As the popular song by Green Day goes:

It’s not a question but a lesson learned in time…”

Good Riddance/Time of Your Life (Green Day)

Career Life Lessons

I’m sure many of us are emerging from lockdown as very different people with very different circumstances to how we went into it. Take jobs, for example. So many of us have been furloughed and/or have been made or will be made redundant. Sure, we could sit there (as I at times have myself), and demand to know “Why me?” and feel sorry for ourselves, or we could use the time to apply for other jobs, try our hand at something new and see whether that could bring in some unexpected cash.

I use this as an example as it’s a life lesson from Coronavirus that has applied to me personally. As someone who identified strongly with my career finding out that my role was one of those up for potential redundancy of course came as a bitter blow. Having the threat of this hanging over me for a month or so also isn’t good for someone who tends to get quite anxious if I don’t know the outcome of something “now”.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have the occasional “wobble” about it but, 3 weeks later, Covid-19 has brought me multiple new life lessons in this area. Firstly, I’m learning the lifeskill of going through the redundancy process which is something new for me. Secondly, I’m learning to be okay with not knowing the outcome of everything “right now” – I’ll find out when I need to know and I’ll deal with the issue then. Thirdly, it’s opened up the prospect of a new life for me applying for new roles and fourthly I’ve started getting paid for my writing by being accepted as a writer for other people’s blogs! I am insanely excited by that. No the rates aren’t as good as they were when I coached or was a lawyer, but I do love to write!

I never would have even thought to apply as a freelance writer for hire had the pandemic not come along and threatened my livelihood but here I am getting paid for a hobby. Blessing in disguise maybe?

Personal Life Lessons

Before Covid-19, I did not know that I could be stuck in the same building with my husband, 2 children and dog for 2 months straight without actually going insane. Yet here I am!

Not that we haven’t had our moments as I’m sure many of us have especially with homeschooling my 8-year old 5 days a week for 6 hours a day. Then there’s the challenges faced by those of us living alone who have found ourselves isolated from loved ones other than by some limited contact via technology.

As someone who adores staying home when I’m not working, I’ve discovered that once lockdown is lifted, I want to make more of an effort to go to at least one or two places extra, more often. You really can have too much of a good thing!

I’ve also tried, as much as possible to go through this experience without alcohol so it’s now been almost 7 weeks without a drink with some interesting results. I definitely think I am dealing with the threat of redundancy better without alcohol and, overall, whilst there are still good days and bad in this whole experience, the swing from good to bad has been less pronounced, with less mood swings and a better awareness of myself and others.

Spiritual Life Lessons

This one has been a biggie and I’m very grateful that even before the pandemic struck, I already had a good set of tools and practices such as yoga, meditation, journalling, tarot reading and access to spiritual reading/viewing material on YouTube and Kindle (see link below).

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/kindle-dbs/hz/subscribe/ku?*entries*=0&_encoding=UTF8&*Version*=1&shoppingPortalEnabled=true

The biggest lesson here for me has been to live in the moment and the well-known spiritual teacher, Eckart Tolle (https://eckharttolle.com/), who also has a free YouTube channel, has really helped explain this concept in an amusing yet profound way.

We’ve become accustomed in the West to looking for things “out there” to fill the emptiness we all feel sometimes. Lessons from lockdown here then have been that if we go inwards to face that emptiness, to sit with it, to listen to it, we can find an inner peace that cannot be reached or obtained by anything “out there”. Without the distractions of the outer world, we can connect with our inner wisdom to help us through the inevitable and necessary challenges and lessons life will always throw our way. Big spotlight shined here for me these last few weeks!

The Coronavirus has swept into all of our lives in 2020 in a way that few of us could have imagined at the start of the year. It has of course brought with it some very sad situations for many people and families. But, as with all of life’s difficulties, one of the benefits is that there are blessings to be found alongside those difficulties. It can be extremely rewarding, and give us renewed strength for the next phase of lockdown, to take a moment to reflect back on the lessons we’ve learned in lockdown.

Feel free to share this article with others, especially if you think it would help them through this challenging time.

The Covid-19 Diaries: Day 12

Positive Vibes

Today was my last day in the office until June at the earliest. It’s probably just as well! After starting the day in a relatively good mood, it only took a team meeting to bring me down, and then I found myself cross at the people that I perceived as having negative vibes.

I then proceeded to allow those negative vibes to colour my whole day, all the while blaming others for their negativity. People in glass houses…

I caught myself doing this at one point, thankfully, and this led to a bit of a turning point as it led me to question why I was letting myself be triggered by someone else in this way. That in itself helped to break me out of the vicious circle I’d somehow let myself get swept up in and my mood began to lift a little.

The energy around us at the moment is, generally, one of fear. How could it not be? It was only 3 days ago, I described myself as having a “mini-meltdown” and yet here I was judging someone else for the way they were coping.

Having said that, beating myself up mentally for not being immediately compassionate wasn’t going to help either. We are all feeding off each other’s energy at the moment, without realising it.

One of the better known spiritual teachers in the Western world is of course, Eckhart Tolle. If you’re not familiar with him, I’ve put a link to the videos I watched of his on YouTube this evening that are, I think, a great introduction to him. One takes a more serious tone, describing the well-known parable of the New Testament of building houses on sand or rock and how that can be applied to Covid-19; the other is more funny and quite an accurate description of how many of us live our lives surrounded by “all these difficult people and challenges”, usually not realising that we need these difficult people and challenges to push us to connect with our real and higher selves. In essence then, as Eckhart Tolle discusses, Covid-19 could be a real opportunity for our own spiritual awakening and that of the planet.

Even if you’re not a follower of Christianity, and I’m not myself, the “special message” video is very calming and soothing to listen to, especially if you find yourself getting caught up in the negative energies around us all and has some great practical ideas as to easy steps you can take now to relax and just be with it. The other video is just a funny reminder not to take ourselves, or this situation, so seriously all of the time.

https://https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmooI7savAfP5lNHOZ8-zWg/

Positive Vibes Playlist

In the playlist I’ve linked to on my YouTube channel, there’s also the Yoga with Adriene video that was on today’s calendar, “Anchor in Hope”. I started the day with this video and partway through, Adriene encourages us to say to ourselves, “I trust”. I found myself having to say that to myself a few times today too when the negativity threatened to overwhelm me. What else can we do at times like these?

Today was a good lesson in remembering that when I am triggered it is a reflection of something within me that needs my attention. When I focus on that, instead of whoever I perceive as having caused the upset, it is easier to re-centre and re-connect.

I’m sure I’ll need reminding of this lesson a lot more before I learn it for good, but I’m just happy to be ending the day in positive vibes.

Feeling Graceful?

Finding the Ease

Some days I find it easier to feel more graceful than others! When I think of “grace”, the obvious image that pops into my mind is that of a ballet dancer – smooth, relaxed movements, with a look of calm serenity ever present on their face, no matter the complexity of the shape performed.

Now, I’m not much of a dancer but it would seem that I’ve not been much better at being graceful in my life either! Sure, when life is going reasonably well I can be graceful but when those rain clouds appear, as they surely do from time to time for us all, I have all the grace and elegance of Bambi, his first time on ice.

A great way to start building more grace into your life if, like me, you could do with a little more during life’s tougher times, is through some kind of physical activity, like dancing. For me, I’ve found yoga a perfect way to begin trying to integrate grace into the poses (asanas) first of all and, after some time, that’s really helped me begin applying this to my life off the mat too.

In yoga, the formation of the asanas include both “sthira” and “sukha”, once you have the basics down. Sthira is a Sanskrit word meaning solid, hard, firm, strong, lasting and permanent. Sukha, in Sanskrit, means gentle, ease, pleasantness and mildness. In the poses, we work to achieve both on the mat, grounding down through the spine and the back of the body whilst simultaneously easing our heart and chest space upwards and trying to avoid holding tension in the face and body – so no gritting our teeth and forcing our bodies into positions that it may not be ready for yet.

It’s a bit like the dualism concept of yin and yang in Chinese philosophy – the idea that two opposing concepts can complement and support each other rather than fight one another. To be whole, whether in dancing, sports, yoga or life, you need both to feel whole and well.

In Western yoga, this is often described as “finding the grace”, as grace is a concept more recognisable to us in the West. Holding a pose that you find difficult on the mat, whilst also relaxing your body and face and even smiling despite the strength being used to maintain the pose, is for me, what yoga is all about.

But it’s when you start to make the connection that you can “find the grace”, the strength to face whatever life throws at you with a relaxed, smooth and even calm manner, without adding in unnecessary stress and tension, to your life off the mat too that the tools and practices of yoga (or your physical activity of choice!) really advance to the next level.

Recently, I’ve been able to see this happening in my own life with a few tough weeks over the last month or so. Whether family issues, work, the odd health issue or finances, I’ve pretty much had all of them thrown at me at once and whilst I’m not going to say I found them easy to deal with, I definitely found them easier to deal with when I began trying to “find the grace” in the situation by treating them each like a yoga pose.

With finances, for example, where could I ground into the situation – well by taking a long, hard look at where my money was going. Spending £70.00 the month before on takeaways for 3 of us was completely unnecessary for one! Where could I release tension in the situation? By stopping spending so much on takeaways but not completely restricting myself by maybe cutting out the more expensive takeaways to maybe just a chippy tea twice a month instead of curries/pizzas at a third of the cost.

Another example was to consider if my youngest really needed to go to Breakfast Club anymore which she wasn’t really enjoying and, due to a change in the time she started school this year and the time I started work, grounding into the looking at the cost of this versus the benefit. An extra £60.00 a month for little to no benefit was a complete no-brainer and helped me ease the financial burden I found myself in, again helping to find the grace in the situation.

It wasn’t easy to do these things when I felt completely battered by other things life was throwing at me but I found it far easier to do when I repeated the mantra quietly to myself of “find the ease” and approached each problem like a yoga pose.

Of course, you’ll have to find your equivalent but yoga is a practice I highly recommend. It really can be any hobby. Is there something that you really enjoy doing that requires a certain amount of knowledge and application to perform but that goes more smoothly when you relax into it? Again, examples for me include knitting, cooking and playing guitar or even blogging. How could you apply that to your everyday life?

Toadstools and grass

Looking for Something A Bit Different?

Try This!

Depending on what you mean by “different”, this may or may not be it! Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working through a 6-part guided meditation by White Cloud Mystic, who I follow over on You Tube, which I’ve really enjoyed listening to. I’ve included a link to the first one below for anyone who fancies giving it a try.

What is a Guided Meditation?

For those of you who’ve not yet tried a guided meditation, you might wonder what it involves. Generally speaking, guided meditation is where one person leads a person into a meditative state, usually by describing a story or scenario for them to imagine and/or follow the instructions given.

Why I’m Recommending It

Because I enjoyed it and wanted to give others a chance to enjoy it too! It has a really nice simple storytelling style, tone and pace which is so relaxing. I always had a great night’s sleep after listening to one of these.

Sharing here is also a good way for me to make others aware of the channel so that hopefully it grows and we get more great meditations from White Cloud Mystic 🙂

The whole series has a child-like innocence and nostalgia to it where you get to follow your own fairy into a magical world whilst you relax and drift away. There is also, for those interested, the idea that this meditation can be used to develop your own “magic”, whatever that means to you.

Give it a go if you’re interested by clicking on the video above. If you’ve tried it, let me know what you think in the comments and feel free to share with anyone who might benefit from a good night’s sleep tonight!

Girl lay down on grass with lavender

Want to Feel Amazing?

Try Yoga Nidra

If you’ve never heard of yoga nidra, essentially it’s a type of “yogic sleep” where you’re aiming to get yourself right in that sweet spot between being awake and falling asleep, whilst following a guided meditation through a number of deeply relaxing exercises. In my view, it’s one of the most accessible types of yoga/meditation – as long as you can lie down with your back straight whilst listening and following instructions, it’s open to pretty much anyone.

Said to have been practised by Patanjali and the Buddha themselves amongst numerous other enlightened masters since circa 700 BC under the dualist philosophy of Sankhya, a regular yoga nidra practice unlocks various benefits:

Highly Restorative

It’s commonly reported that 45 minutes of yoga nidra is as restorative as 3 hours of normal sleep due to the deeper levels of brain wave activation accessed.

Stress Buster

Regularly accessing deeper levels of relaxation naturally reduces how stressed a person feels.

Improves Symptoms of Depression & Anxiety

The less stressed we feel the less depressed and anxious we’re likely to feel too.

Increased Creativity

Feeling less stressed, depressed and anxious as well as well-rested and restored allows the mind to expand and feel an urge to create.

Feels Amazing!

All that prana (life-force energy) flowing round the body afterwards feels awesome!

In fact the hardest part of yoga nidra for many is in trying not to fall asleep! For this reason, as well as to ensure that your spine stays straight, I’d suggest practising yoga nidra on a yoga mat rather than on a bed or couch.

If you’re interested in having a go yourself, I’d suggest heading over to You Tube or finding a well-recommended class close to you to be guided in person for your first time. Let me know how you find it.

Feel free to share this article with anyone you think could benefit from it.

Remember to always discuss suitability of any new practice with your healthcare practitioner to ensure appropriateness for your needs.

meditate

How to Try a Yoga Retreat – at Home!

Starts this Friday!

Yes, you read that right – get yourself a taster of what it’s like to go on a yoga retreat whilst staying in the comfort of your very own home – for free.

Starting on the morning of Friday 9 August 2019, you’re all invited to attend Yoga with Adriene’s very own yoga retreat lasting right through to bedtime on Sunday 11 August 2019. All you need is access to the internet and You Tube and to follow the instructions on the link below:

https://yogawithadriene.com/reclaim-your-center-at-home-retreat/

As you may have noticed, I’m a massive YWA fan so I’m always sharing links to her material most of which is completely free and crafted with the “at home” practitioner very much in mind.

After a crazy-July of YWA power yoga, I’m really looking forward to this month’s theme of “Reunite”, especially so having learnt that there will be a 3-day yoga retreat at home special to shake up the usual daily practice.

For full details, I recommend clicking the link but essentially each day there is:

  • a morning session of yoga;
  • followed by a short meditation;
  • a journal prompt session;
  • an evening yoga session; and
  • a nature activity.

I’m sure there are those of you thinking that there’s no way you could fit all of those activities into the whole weekend never mind every day for 3 days straight! Until I started a daily yoga practice, I would have had the same reaction in fairness. But, it’s surprising how much I can actually fit into my day when I make it a non-negotiable part of my day.

It’s a fun little taster session that you can fit around your existing commitments – I’m actually in work all day Friday so I’ll have to get up a little earlier to fit it all in and may end up eating a little later than usual in the evening, but planning it in advance definitely makes it easier to manage. Over the weekend, the youngest will no doubt be joining in and dropping out as it suits her and probably saying “mum” every 5 minutes through the meditations but I guess that’s good practice for taking my yoga “off the mat” and practising a calm and peaceful mind all day, every day – not just when it’s convenient to do so!

Why not challenge yourself to something different this weekend? Feel free to share this article with anyone you think might be interested and if you take part, let me know how you get on in the comments.

See you there!

Remember, as with any exercise programme, speak with your own independent healthcare provider to check suitability for your needs.

Could heart opening poses be the cure for modern living?

Heart Openers: The Cure for Modern-Living

Modern Living Cure: Heart Openers

Having dabbled in a bit of yoga here and there for several years now, my New Year’s resolution to myself for 2019 was to make yoga a daily practice in my life. Nearly 8 months on, I have been absolutely amazed at the ways yoga has massively enhanced all aspects of my life for the better, most noticeably via regular heart opening poses and stretches.

Could You Benefit from Heart Openers?

An easy way to test this is to check in with yourself right now. Without changing position, quickly scan yourself to see how you are sat/lay/stood as you read this:

Is your back slouched?

Are your shoulders up near your ears?

Are you hunched over in the “text-neck” position so commonly seen these days i.e. leaning forward with head bent down?

Next, try self-correcting your posture so gently slide your shoulders downwards, away from your ears, straighten the back, lift the chest upwards and lift the head so the weight is evenly balanced across the neck, neither heavier in the front nor the back. In this better posture for the body do your shoulders round inwards towards your chest or outwards?

I would say that from my observations of people generally who do not practice stretches regularly to counter-act today’s modern-living hunched over computers, phones and other screens, most people’s shoulders tend to roll inwards. For me, that is a clear sign that some kind of heart opening exercises would likely benefit that person.

And this was me too until, over the last few months, I’ve noticed a gradual change in my daily posture whereby now my shoulders do naturally gravitate down my body turning out instead of in which has the effect of lifting my head, neck and chest and straightening my back as a matter of habit. Cue a lot less back and neck complaints, less headaches as well as a downturn in aches and pains generally. I would add that my posture up until my daily yoga practice was exceptionally poor.

What Are the Likely Benefits Then?

Physically:

  • Back pain lessened;
  • Shoulders feel less tight;
  • Neck pain reduced;
  • Healthier spine generally;
  • More flexibility in the rib cage making breathing easier and increased blood flow/better circulation;
  • Better sleep quality;
  • Improved digestion;
  • More energy;
  • Improved balance by using counteracting poses.

Emotionally:

  • Anxiety symptoms reduced;
  • Depression symptoms reduced;
  • Stress symptoms reduced;
  • Mood elevated;
  • Releasing of negative emotions in a safe environment and way;
  • Increase in self-confidence;
  • Better emotional and psychological balance;
  • More loving and capable of receiving love;

Spiritually:

  • More open heart chakra;
  • More compassion for self and others;
  • Better connection to inner and outer world;
  • Deeper connection to your “Higher Power”, “God” or “Universe” whatever this means to you.

I’ve listed all of these benefits from research I’ve conducted from numerous websites and only listed the ones that I genuinely feel that I have experienced for myself. I would also add that learning to breathe correctly through these poses and practising pranayama (see here if you’re unsure what this is: https://myholisticliving.co.uk/yoga-meditation/what-is-pranayama/) massively increases the benefits experienced.

If you think that you could benefit from improving your posture through heart opening poses then join a local class or head over to You Tube or similar to find a good online tutor who will walk you slowly through the poses in a safe and gradual way. As you may have noticed, my online yoga teacher of choice is Adriene Mishler, whom I strongly recommend especially for beginners:

https://yogawithadriene.vhx.tv/monthly-yoga-playlist

Feel free to share this post with others that you feel might benefit from the contents. What about you – have you tried particular poses, stretches or exercises that have helped to improve your posture?

Always check in with your healthcare practitioner before starting any new exercise regime. Please note that I am not a yoga teacher nor medically qualified myself and therefore you should ensure you seek the guidance of both before undertaking any recommended practices.

3 Easy & Fun Yoga Poses to Make You Smile :)

Smile 🙂

One of the most surprising aspects of yoga when I first got into the practice was just how fun and silly it could be. I always thought yogis were people that took themselves far too seriously to have any fun, especially during a yoga practice session. Turns out I was wrong!

Whatever my mood when I roll my mat out each day, before I roll my mat back up again, I know that I will have smiled or laughed to myself at least once. My favourite poses are the ones that make me feel silly or childish or care-free when in the pose because, quite frankly, I probably take myself too seriously most of the time. These poses are really teaching me to lighten up in my approach to life generally. After all, none of us are getting out of here alive!

So, if you’re ready to unleash your inner child, why not check out the links on You Tube to Yoga With Adriene below and see if these poses make you smile today too:

  1. Lion’s Breath: https://youtu.be/xdUyHPa66A4 (technically a pranayama (breathing exercise) but a great introduction to the practice);
  2. Happy Baby: https://youtu.be/dmlOV0hZ76w?t=1701 (the link should start at around 28:30 minutes just as Happy Baby posture is starting – of course feel free to have a go at the full practice!); and
  3. Back Rock: https://youtu.be/6UEWJsljPVM?t=583 (the link should start at around 09:40 minutes – the full video is a bit full-on if you’re new to yoga though I’d say).

If you do give them a try, let me know in the comments which, if any, made you smile most or, if you know someone who could do with cheering up, why not share this post with them and brighten up their day.

Namaste x

Obviously, any exercise routine should only be undertaken bearing in mind any existing health condition you may have and having first spoken with your healthcare provider.

Beautiful crystal ball or an abstract circle. Magic ball.

Want to See Your Aura?

How to See Your Aura

Before diving into the fun stuff of actually seeing your own aura, it seems appropriate to start with a definition as to what your aura actually is.

Cambridge Dictionary defines an aura as:

“a type of light that some people say they can see around people and animals

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/aura

But What Are They?

Auras are part of what is known as the “energetic body”, so called because it is believed to be made up of an electromagnetic field of energy outside of the physical body. Essentially, when you see an aura, whether your own or someone else’s, you are seeing a person’s life-force energy, otherwise known as “prana” or “chi”.

A Sign of Psychic Abilities

If you are able to see auras, this is deemed to be a type of psychic ability – clairvoyance i.e. the ability to see something that is beyond our usual 5 senses, to have extra-sensory perception or ESP. Some people naturally have this ability whilst others have to work harder to develop it, much like other skills such as singing or painting.

Some believe that the aura is made up of 7 layers ranging outwards from the physical body, whilst others see only one layer but, regardless of layers, the general view seems to be that both our moods and mental, physical and spiritual states do have an impact on the colour an aura is perceived to be.

Chakra Connection

Most people that believe and see auras, myself included, consider them directly related to chakras. Whilst there is a lot of detailed information on the meaning of the colours, I prefer to relate them directly to my understanding of chakras and their colour meanings. You can find out more information on what chakras are and the colours and meanings here:

https://myholisticliving.co.uk/yoga-meditation/what-are-chakras/

The Technique

The way that I see auras is that I concentrate usually on a person’s head or on myself, on my hand, preferably against a plain coloured background. I then let my eyes lose focus (a bit like looking at a “Magic Eye” picture) until I can see a glowing white outline around them. After holding my gaze for a short while, I can then glimpse certain shades or colours, with brighter shades being more “healthy” than say a murkier or muddy hue.

Why not give it a try on your own hand held up a metre or so away from a plain wall and see if you can spot your own aura.

(I would also just add that I don’t recommend practising this for too long at a time as otherwise it can cause headaches after a very short while).

If you have a pre-existing health condition, I would always recommend speaking with your health care practitioner before trying any new practice. If you experience any adverse symptoms whilst trying to see your aura, you should also stop immediately.

Outdoor Yoga

Tried Outdoor Yoga Yet?

Get Your Outdoor Yoga On!

With it being Springtime here at the moment in Manchester, it’s been a welcome change to take my yoga practice outdoors on the better days.

Being lucky enough to have a larger, closed off garden, this is the first time I’ve practised outside and it’s been a totally different but positive experience, in case other beginners feel similarly inspired.

Where to Start?

I use and recommend Yoga With Adriene (YWA) on YouTube. To take it outdoors, however, depending on your wi-fi connection, you have to be an FWFG monthly subscribing member and/or download the video but well worth it for me.

There are of course many others on YouTube but also many gyms and leisure centres now provide yoga classes some of which practice outdoors from a quick Google search.

How it Differs from Indoor Yoga

What stood out to me was how much more there was to distract me outside. The first inverted (upside down pose), was amazing. Indoor yoga involves seeing the room upside down but seeing the outside world upside down really challenged my balance and senses.

In many yoga classes, gentle music or sounds are played alongside the poses. Outside yoga gives the chance for a more authentic experience from time to time.

Practising yoga outdoors is also very grounding. When I first heard about grounding my energy, I wasn’t really sure if I knew what it meant. It tends to be thought of differently for people but, for me, it’s just a means of getting out of my thoughts by concentrating on what my body is doing right now. It helps me relax and detach from things that might be bothering me. I know a yoga session has gone well when I stay relaxed.

If you’ve tried it let me know by commenting on how you found it.