Amaze-ZEN Charities for Children at Christmas

Most of us love Christmas ~ a chance to unwind, zen out, eat, drink and be merry ~ and of course spend time with loved ones.

Crooned as ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ it may be ~ but for many of us, myself included, it can be a time filled with anxiety and depression.

As someone who practices, teaches and studies yoga, with a truly wonderful family around her, the best group of friends I could ask for, and for the last four years, the most generous and supportive boyfriend out there ~ it feels very ungrateful that in a world full of loneliness, homelessness and abject poverty, there’s a part of me that begins to panic and allow anxiety to build inside me around the 22nd December. Every year.

But it’s also kind of understandable, right? And aren’t all of our issues relative (to some degree)? Regardless of acknowledging how lucky we are, even by simply having a roof over our heads, so many of us do come from broken homes, spend Christmas alone, or have lost someone very special to them in the past, or this year ~ and that’s in my friendship circle alone!

Anxiety and depression feel rife at this time of year because the pressure for perfection is heightened!~And let’s face it, most of our realities hardly resemble a multi-million pound, John Lewis blockbuster Christmas advert! So instead of focusing on what we do have and who we do have around us, we get a little wrapped up (wheeeey!) in what we are missing.

Some of what/who we are missing is of course very painful ~ and I’m not taking that away from anyone. But it is also a wonderful time of year to be grateful for those we do have and either acknowledge ~ or do something for those less fortunate. There is always someone worse off after all.

My Christmas anxiety stems from the perma-sting of one Christmas Eve at my grandparent’s house when I was 11 years old; sat at the dining room table with all the family together waiting for my dad to join us for dinner. Waiting. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Watching the expression on my mum’s face from across the table move from patience, to frustration, to anger, to humiliation, to pain when he didn’t turn up that night.

Shortly after Christmas she told us they were divorcing.

I’m so lucky to have the most incredible grandparents, mum, sister, aunties, uncles ~ and the bond I have with my cousins is unreal. But that sting is there, softening every year, but an everlasting memory.

SO ~ this morning I decided to donate to three charities that give back to children, especially over Christmas, and perhaps this post will inspire you to do the same.

If not, no sweat, but instead maybe take five minutes to think of five people that you can’t wait to spend the holidays with this year, send them some love ~  and know just how lucky you are.

 

 ~  l o v e  a n d  n a m a s t e ~

Save The Children 

There are many ways to support this huge charity, all year round. Their Pay In Your Christmas Jumper Day initiative is quite fun ~ whether you have been to a party wearing an outlandish festive garm, or simply bought one for yourself because, you know ~ fashion. You can follow that link and make a donation for the pleasure.

Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity

Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity helps to make life better for seriously ill children in the UK. Their team of Roald Dahl Nurses provide support to children with serious illnesses, and their families, believing that every child should have the best possible healthcare. The dude gave us James And The Giant Peach, let’s return the karma with either a direct debit or a one-off donation.

Rainbow Trust

The Rainbow Trust supports families who have a child aged 0-18 years with a life threatening or terminal illness and need the bespoke support we offer. Today there are an estimated 49,000 children and young people in the UK living with a life limiting or life threatening condition who may require palliative care; and many of these children and their families are able to cope or are not in a ‘crisis situation’. For as little as £3 (WAY less than a pint!) you can make a one-off donation here.

Thank you for reading, sharing love and donating… xxxx

Mala Magic  | Wear Your Yoga on Your Heart

My gift to YOU GUYS…. from the heart, for the heart….

More than just a beautiful adornment or a piece of jewellery, Malas are powerful and symbolic tools for meditation….

I, like so many yogis before me, love to wear my yoga on my heart and sleeves ~ from my t-shirts to my tattoos ~ and now with my unique Moss Agate Mala around my neck ~ showing my dedication to the practice and the life choices I make.

Malas may be the newest trend in ‘wearable yoga’, but there is a whole lot more depth to these beautiful ‘necklaces.’~ especially those made with semi precious gemstones, imbued with potent energies and sacred meaning.

At Wanderlust 108 in London earlier this year I met Sarah, the founder of Magic Malas, selling a stunning range of unique, hand-made pieces, inspired by yoga, designed for you.

Sarah and I clicked and connected – inspiring me to finally buy a Mala with significant meaning to my current intentions which I wear when meditating, practicing yoga ~ and pretty much every day now.

I’ve since joined Sarah as an Ambassador for this beautiful brand so if you read to the bottom of this post you’ll find a code you can use to get 15% off ANY item that you buy from Magic Malas

The whole collection is made up of sacred and meaningful pieces of jewellery that speaks to your soul and makes you feel like a total goddess.

A mala-what now?…

A Mala is simply a string of beads that are used in a meditation practice. It is a tool to help you count mantras, and acts as a tactile guide as you sit in silence.

Mala beads are traditionally used in prayer and meditation. They are also a beautiful reminder of our intention(s) – i.e. who or what we are practicing for.

Mala beads have been used in Buddhism and Hinduism for centuries. Buddhists Malas are often made up of different types of wood, such as sandalwood and rosewood. In Hinduism, you will find Malas made with rudraksha, which is considered a very holy and protective seed.

Malas tend to be made up of 108 beads with a tassel falling from the centre.

Why 108 tho?

The number’s significance is open to interpretation. But 108 has long been considered a sacred number in Hinduism and yoga.

According to yogic tradition, there are 108 ‘pithas,’ (that’s sacred sites) throughout India.

There are also 108 ‘Upanishads’ (ancient sanskrit texts central to Buddism, Hinduism and Yoga)

There 108 ‘marma’ points, or sacred places of the body.

This number also connects the Sun, Moon, and Earth: The average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters. Such phenomena have given rise to many examples of ritual significance.

Why meditate with a Mala?

It’s something to hold on to – making it a wonderful tool for anyone new to meditation.

Holding a Mala can keep beginners firmly grounded and centered. The physical act of holding it and counting each bead, or using each bead to count your mantra can keep the focus for longer, sometimes with even greater ease.

They have powerful vibrations – The gemstone you use for your Mala will speak to you in some way, so it makes the meditation all the more powerful.

It reminds you to meditate. Wearing it around you neck, or a spotting it on your bedside table, will remind you of your meditation practice.

Why Magic Malas?

What makes Sarah’s Malas stand out for me is the tactile beauty of the stones that she sources, the delicate hand-knotting in between each stone, and above all the stunning hand-designed, Shakti* symbol from which the tassel falls.

I also adore the detailed description of each stone and its healing properties that accompanies each piece. I find crystals and their energies so fascinating – and with so much truth behind them. I love seeing which mala/stones/necklaces I am naturally drawn to and then reading up on what the crystal associated with it offers. ~ And hopefully you will find that too.

Making them extra special, Sarah makes a handful of malas at a time so I am eagerly awaiting the next round of Sun Stone malas – ultimate YANG power for finding direction in your life – and in an opposing more YIN like need, Rose Quartz for tender, love and care.

*For those of you unfamiliar with the term, ‘Shakti’~ Shakti, is one of the most important goddesses in the Hindu pantheon ~ a really a divine cosmic energy that represents feminine energy and the dynamic forces that move through the universe.

This Shati power is what I just love about Sarah and her creations.

They are so imbued with sacred, feminine energy and power: And as women it is about time that we not only acknowledge ourselves as Goddesses, Earth Mothers, Heroines and High Priestesses ~ but that we do the same for our fellow sisters. Too many women tear other women down, and that’s just not sound at all. We should support, encourage and unconditionally love each other because we are all so deserving of that.

So for anyone looking to treat either themselves, or a sister in their life – or looking to deepen their meditation with a Mala with meaning – visit Magic Malas, enter the code WILDFLOWERYOGA ad you can have 15% off your purchase, any time.

 

xx . n a m a s t e   xx

 

 

 

Balanced bling || Jewellery with meaning from Daisy London

For my sister, Natalia, and ALL the sisters…

I don’t know about you, but I am really enjoying the chill in the air at the moment…

…Don’t get me wrong, I am the ultimate sun-worshipper, but after a good dose of vitamin D in Portugal earlier this month, I’m totally happy to slip into Autumn’s amber and gold leaf-strewn landscape, and feel the fresh frosty air kiss my nose and fingertips as canal walks from Hackney through to Islington become the order of the day.

Everything is crisp and cosy. And as it should be. And these familiar chills in the air, and return of pumpkin lattes listed on coffee shop blackboards, has turned my mind to Christmas, and how quickly the last year has flown by.

 Last Christmas….

I have a huge family, as does Jamie; so thoughts of Christmas inevitably evolve to thoughts of Christmas shopping, which for the pair of us is no mean feat – but no matter what, my priority is always to ensure I have the most thoughtful treats sorted for my mum and sister.

It’s been just the three of us for most of my life. This spiritual duo are my lifeline and while Christmas is not about the gifts, it is about the giving; making the festive season the time to spoil and thank them for errrrrthang.

My sister and I haven’t seen that much of each other in recent years, so last Christmas I particularly wanted to give her a gift that showed her how much I love her – I was thinking a necklace – striking the balance between being a beautiful piece of jewellery, with heart and soul behind it.

Cue the discovery of Daisy London – Designer of the iconic Chakra bracelet, Daisy London is known for its wellness focused jewellery and contemporary designs.

With collections inspired by Eastern philosophy, good karma, and of course classic British daisies, as well as limited edition designs from celebrity collaborators, Daisy London is a range of meaningful pieces that add a personalised touch to your style. – Each in silver, gold and rose gold.

I went straight for the Chakra collection. My sister (Natalia) and I have grown up under our mum’s spiritual guidance, so books on the Chakra’s, Reiki sessions on the sofa and crystal healing for everything* are part of our make up – so it felt natural and right to honour our upbringing in a significant way. 

*To note, I definitely didn’t appreciated how amazing it is to have a mum like ours enough until the last couple of years when I began delving into the chakras, as part of my yoga training…

I chose the 18ct rose gold Heart Chakra (Anahata) necklace for Natalia, and opted for an 18” chain so that it sat right at the heart centre.

Just like Natalia, the heart Chakra stands for love, compassion and altruism, emotionally connected with love, self-control and forgiveness – and striving towards acceptance of self and others.

And I suppose I want her to know that I have nothing but unconditional love, forgiveness and acceptance towards her, so as well as being a beautiful necklave, it seemed like a fitting gift.

Needless to say she loved it as much as I loved giving it to her…

This year…

…I’ve been eyeing up Daisy’s Chakra range ever since, wondering when I would justify treating myself to a few pieces – namely the Throat Chakra necklace (Vishuddi); a choice I had somehow managed to convince my was nothing more than based on the design, rather than being especially connected to Vishuddi Chakra.

However, the further I dive into my yoga practice, I’ve come to learn that Vishuddi is a chakra I’m totally connected with.

Vishuddi is the blue wheel of energy at our throat, connected with communication and truth.

When I’m happy I sing non-stop, tell the people I love just how much I love them, talk to strangers and really find my voice when teaching a class.

Anyone who has taken one of my classes or seen my practice will know it’s a feminine, fluid flow with a lots of movement and space created in the hips – the physical body part associated with Vishuddi (as well as the throat of course – but there aren’t many pose that work the throat) and the element water.

I’m a total water baby, seeking out the sea and craving being by the waves when I need to heal and when I ‘m having fun (Vishuddi is the blue wheel of energy – like water) so perhaps there is more in my choice piece of jewellery than I first thought…

Since treating myself to the rose gold Vishuddi necklace, I have been in touch with the lovely ladies at Daisy London, who (amazingly!) interviewed me for their Blog

It’s been amazing to work with a brand that I love so much so head over to their site, a read if you fancy, and maybe make a Christmas wish list while you’re there – or pick a pressie for someone you love…. It’s not really that long until 25th December after all…..

n a m a s t e

 

The Yoga Mentor || Annie Clarke (Mind Body Bowl)

If you’re a newly qualified / soon to be qualified teacher and this blog post resonates then I would highly recommend reaching out to Annie Clarke (annie@mindbodybowl.co.uk) who has a dedicated Mentor Section on her website (link in copy below)

If you don’t live in London and/or have a particular yoga teacher in mind who you love learning from, then why not ask them to act as your Mentor in your first year of teaching – perhaps drawing on the points I have highlighted below (where Annie has helped me) to get you started….

For Annie, new teachers, and all of us who know that we are all still learning….

Meeting Annie…

It was a little over a year ago that I went to my first yoga class with beautiful Annie Clarke. I remember the date because it was the first day of London Cocktail Week, for which I was managing the press, so I knew starting the week with a yoga class was probably a wise idea!! 

The class was gorgeous. Tuning into the groups’ needs at 6:45am on a chilly Monday morning, Annie started the class slower and more mindfully than I was used to in my practice.

A kind, calming and intuitive teacher, Annie talked through Qi (chi) energy and had us pacing ourselves through her creatively sequenced vinyasa flow class.

Slowly and surely building heat in our bodies, we journeyed thorough sun salutations, hip, hamstring and shoulder openers, through to balancing, a Pincher Mayurasana practice and closed tradition Ashtanga style into a blissful Savasana.

The class was so beautifully put together that my good friend Faith and I failed to notice each other for the duration of the class (even with my mat directly in front of hers)!

It was only later that evening when meeting Faithy for a drink at London Cocktail Week, where we told each other about “the amaaaazing yoga class we went to that morning,” that we realised we’d been flowing in the same class.

Now THAT is journeying within and dropping the distractions when you practice!

Pratyahara (sense withdrawal) at its best! Thanks Annie! 😉 

At the time I was about 2 months away from completely my 200 hours Yoga Teacher Training; and as I was falling in love with Annie’s  morning class, I remembered something my Course Leader had said to me:

“Be sure to take on board all of this feedback you are getting from your leaders and your course mates while you study; both the positive and the constructive. 

When you become a teacher, especially in London, you will soon notice that people come to your class, practice, and walk straight out when it’s over – which is totally fine of course – but it’s worth noting that even if they’ve loved your class, it’s unlikely they will take the time to tell you, so listen, learn and appreciate the feedback now.” 

That piece of advice struck a chord with me and so I made a commitment to take the time to tell the teachers that I really love, exactly what I loved about their classes.

They’ve given their time and energy to guide a group practice, and some teachers wear their heart is on their sleeve – so I believe it’s a lovely thing to do in return.

After class I spoke to Annie who was so approachable, encouraging and friendly – and who looked genuinely appreciative of the genuinely delivered compliment. We got chatting and the fact that I was training came up. 

I started going to more and more of Annie’s classes – I’m pretty fluent in her public class timetable actually – and we’d always chat a bit after class about my course. She took a genuine interest and took me under her wing, especially as I was gripped with nerves at the idea of ever teaching a public class, or how to even go about getting an audition for one!

A couple of weeks before I passed my Teacher Training, I was regularly attending Annie’s classes and we were becoming more pally.

I remember being so thrilled and taken aback by the generosity when she offered to have me assist at some of her bigger yoga events and day retreats in the next year and that, as a way to help both relive some of the nerves that so many newly qualified teachers experience, and to help get my foot in the door/some exposure to add to my fairly thin looking Yoga CV. 

The Yoga Mentor…

That very kind offer shortly evolved into Annie suggesting that she take on a Mentor Role, in which we could meet for coffees, chats and check-ins so that she could understand how I wanted to shape my teaching path and help guide me there.

She has been true to her word and so much more over the last year: 

She’s been a shoulder to cry on, a sounding board, a giver of practical advice, recommended me to studios to help get my foot in the door, called on me when she’s needed classes covered, had me assist at her Water Element Day Retreat as a Karma Yogi*, invited me to assist her teach at LuluLemon Sweatlife Festival and more broadly, has shared her time, energy, wisdom, love, expertise and support.

Annie has spared time to meet me for breakfast/a coffee in between teaching her classes and even on route to the airport. – Which has never gone unappreciated.

Over the course of the year, Annie’s practical advice has gone from how I might get a yoga class / audition in the first place, who to contact and how to approach them; through to how to set up a class of my own, including all logistical advice re payment and cancellation policies, as well as how to politely and fairly give up classes when I’ve felt totally over-stretched, without allowing me to feel bad about it.

Further practical advice has been to build (genuine) relationships with the studios you practice at in the lead up to becoming a teacher to help when the time comes to hand in your CV, to teach community classes so that you can practice teaching a group under less pressure (plus it’s a generous way to be with your time), to assist the teachers you know and love in their classes, to offer yourself up for cover, to be gracious and reliable when covering classes, to not be afraid to ask for feedback – and more so to not be afraid to have your students pass the feedback on to the right places.

She has put in kind-words across London’s Yoga Teacher community, for which I owe my audition at FRAME, as well as other opportunities to cover classes for friends of hers. 

Graciously (and excitingly) Annie had another of her mentored yogis, Kelle McGrath, and I assist as she taught 300 yogis during the first class of the day at LuluLemon’s SweatLife, which was an incredible moment – especially for someone in their first year of teaching.  

Not having lost sight of how daunting the first year as a yoga teacher can be makes Annie a compassionate and authentic mentor, and one who is extending her big sister like wings to help a few more yogis straight outta school.

If you’re a newly qualified / soon to be qualified teacher and this resonates then I would highly recommend reaching out to Annie (annie@mindbodybowl.co.uk)

Get in touch with Annie via her Mentor Space on Mind Body Bowl.

Yogi’s are compassionate – don’t be afraid to ask for advice. You never know, you’re mentor might even feel that in mentoring a junior teacher, they too are growing in their own way and on their own yogic path.  

In the words of Celest Periera, international yoga teacher and author of The Yoga Mentor – a really fab, comprehensive and incredibly useful book aimed at new teachers – “We are all still learning….”

I owe a lot of my yoga highlights, and some of my best advice, over the last year to Annie ~ thank you lovely one.

n a m a s t e

YINspired ~ Why I Love The Magic of Yin Yoga

I’m not sure if my view is clouded through living among a beautiful, albeit slightly London-centric, Yogi community….

But it does feel like YIN Yoga is increasingly cropping up on studio timetables, retreat schedules and becoming more broadly understood and practiced by people all over the capital ~ and the whole world ~ which is amazing!

I truly believe that yoga, meditation, and mindfulness (and actually anything with a self-healing and holistic quality) being more widely practiced and accepted*, is a positive thing. Particularly when the type of Yoga being delved into more deeply is YIN…

*To add a side note on the increased ‘popularity,’ of Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness; I do get a certain amount of flack for being a yoga teacher. 

I’ve met people at work or at parties who really don’t mind telling me outright that “Yoga teachers are all full of bullshit,” or “Yeah, most of the girls I know from school are all into Yoga and Reiki now ~ because it’s fashionable…”

Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion. 

But how about stopping for a moment to flip that observation on its head and acknowledge that perhaps more and more people have simply found a way to connect, slow down and heal. 

Perhaps it isn’t about ‘what’s fashionable,’ perhaps meditation isn’t that great a mystery, perhaps yoga isn’t just the flexible, and perhaps the benefits, if you let them in, are real.

…The reason that I feel that our YINcreased appetite for a softer slower practice is so amazing (and why I have come to love it so so much myself), is because is shows that westerners are understanding and connecting to the essence of yoga without so much attachment to the physical.

We. Are. Slowing. It. All. Right. Down….

Becoming….Still

Finally we are not just attributing Yoga to a form of exercise, a way to lose weight, tone the body and stretch out the muscles. We are making more time and space for stillness, to delve in, and to surrender to letting go.

It’s very hard as humans, westerners and Londoners to just be still, to be OK with not striving for something and to be patient to the process of Yoga. So I believe it is wonderfully positive that this willingness to create time and space for ourselves is actually happening.

Of course I completely understand the attraction to faster paced yoga practice! It’s so natural that we would try to steady a racing mind with a racing moving meditation.

Vinyasa and Mandala Flow are amazing ~ I love love love these practices ~ and completely get that flowing with the breath and moving in creative sequences around the mat is a much easier way to keep the mind still. ~ You have breath-sycronised moving mediation to keep the mind present. It becomes a lot harder to keep the mind still when you are in the same asana/pose for minutes at a time, so I love that more and more of us are showing up for YIN.

A YIN practice is something I would have hated four years ago ~ no way could I have been still with my mind for that long! And actually it was only in December 2015 that I tried a handful of YIN classes in India. Although I quite liked them and could understand the benefit, I didn’t make time to pick up the practice again until a year later.

Now, seven months on, I practice YIN at least four times a week and teach it twice a week.

I attend studio classes with some amazing teachers, but my favourite time to practice YIN is at home before bed with Jamie.

So, what exactly is YIN?…

YIN balances your YANG (Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyenga, Power, Rocket, Mandala) practice. – It is yoga for the joints, not the muscles

YIN is a slower paced, restorative, lunar practice with asanas being held for longer periods of time—for beginners, it may range from 45 seconds to two minutes; more advanced practitioners may stay in one asana for five minutes or more.

Most classes in London guide four minute holds, which for a lot of us is enough. I tend to teach six minute holds ~ (this is only if I don’t have beginners in my class, and after letting the class know that is what we are doing, and why) ~ because I believe it allows students, with some experience of YIN, to fully benefit from the practice.

~The reason I love practicing at home is because it gives me the freedom to go as deep as I’d like into the practice. Jamie and I light candles, put on super chilled tunes and stay in our holds for 8-12 minutes.

It sounds (and is) intense! But WOW it is amazing.

Without a teacher there to guide you and talk through the practice, (which is helpful and something I would always recommend if you are a beginner to YIN), and provided that you r commit to keeping the mind still via conscious breathing,  then you will drop to another level of consciousness. Total ultimate zen.

The rebounds (where you spend one or two minutes laying flat on your back after the long-hold pose) after a 12 minute hold is insane! You feel totally stoned, clear in the mind, and soooo ready for bed afterwards. Your physical and subtle body open, you heal, clear out the clutter ~ and, while it isn’t the point of YIN, you will notice a huge change in your Yang practice!

Where can you make time and space for YIN?..

I teach x3 public YIN Classes a week ~ listed below:

And if I’m not teaching, these are my favourite YIN classes that you should definitely check out..

 

x  N A M A S T E  x