What yoga means to me now

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Last night, I put Orson to bed and then left the house for the evening for the first time since he was born. What did I chose to do with my evening? I went to yoga. He hadn’t settled that well, which was unusual going by the last few weeks, so I left the house feeling a little apprehensive. I drove to the studio and struggled to find somewhere to park, so only just arrived in time. It was packed and I had to squeeze my mat into a spot right at the front by the teacher. With everyone already settled on their mats I was clumsy, dropped my water bottle, struggled to unroll my mat. By this point, I was feeling stressed, anxious and wondering why the hell I had decided to venture out on a cold, wet, rainy January evening to take my first ‘proper’ yoga class in 9 months.

And then it started. I closed my eyes. I took a deep breath, and then another.

We moved slowly.  At times I forgot there was any one else in the room.

The teacher, guided us through the most wonderful class. She was measured, patient, grounding. I eased out my limbs, bits of me feeling so different since I’ve become a mother. Yet, so much feeling familiar.

The thing is, I haven’t stopped doing yoga. I just do it differently now. The month before I became pregnant I undertook a ‘Warrior Challenge’ in which I went to a yoga class every day for a month. I’d been a member of my studio for the past year going to a few classes a week. I was reading yoga books in my spare time. I’d undertaken a meditation course and was meditating every morning. I was perfecting arm balances, strengthening my transitions and embracing the eight limbs of yoga. I was attending retreats and workshops. Yoga had started to become my life.

And then, I fell pregnant. I went to pregnancy yoga classes a couple of times a week. I embraced the changes to my body, connected to my baby growing inside me, strengthened myself for childbirth. It opened me up to mindful hypnobirthing, natural birth, my strength as a woman. I did more reading, I attended yoga birthing workshops, and I was more in love with yoga than ever before.

Before Orson arrived, I had planned to keep my own personal practice going by attending a few classes a week at the weekends and in the evenings. But that’s just not how it worked out for me. I had a gorgeous baby that I was breastfeeding on demand, who would only sleep if I held him in my arms. He needed me. The intense early weeks and months of motherhood don’t allow space for much, let alone a yoga class. As the months have gone on, I’ve felt further and further removed from what I thought was the most important aspect of my yoga practice.

So, getting back on my mat at a yoga class last night, was amazing. But, it also made me realise that it’s not the most important part of my yoga practice anymore. I don’t at the moment have time for lots of classes. I can’t make retreats and workshops. My yoga books have mostly stayed on the shelf. I am however practicing yoga every day. I’m practicing in how I chose to live my life. I’m more mindful than ever before. The moments that I have to roll out my mat at home feel even more precious. I go to mum and baby yoga and I may spend 80% of the class looking at my little boy but it’s such a special shared experience. And you know what, that hour that I had in class last night, I relished. I was present the entire time. And I finally listen to my body. Really listen. It has changed so much that it needs respect. I need to get to know it all over again. I make it a priority to take a step back and deeply breathe. My yoga practice now is a gift, not a right.

So, in so many ways, yoga is life to me even more now. It’s every moment of every day.

#OneHourOutside

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So, the number one thing that helps me keep a grip, when I’m losing my mind, is getting outside.

Most days I get out for a walk (on my lunch break while I’m working) or perhaps an early morning run. But our more exciting adventures are limited to the kinder summer months. I always find Nov-Feb, when the clocks have gone back and the days are super short, to be a really challenging time. I miss the daylight and can see really clearly the effect it has on my mood. I know I’m not the only one.

I was really excited then to stumble across this fantastic initiative from Splodz Blogz (OS Get Outside champion). #OneHourOutside challenges everyone to spend an hour outside each day throughout the month of November.

So, rather than fantasising about moving abroad to get me through the dark winter months, I’m going to give this a try and spend #OneHourOutside every day in November.

Granted, I’m on maternity leave, so I do have the luxury of not being confined to a working schedule, a 45 minute lunch break on an industrial estate or a 3 hour daily commute (unlike my poor husband). But I do have a small child in tow, and that is more than enough challenge in itself!

I’m also as guilty as anyone for keeping to things I know and those within my comfort zone, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to get some fresh ideas for how to make the most of time spent outside – see here for ideas from Splodz Blogz – involve the little one, and see where it takes us.

Some of the things I’ve got my eye on trying are:

  • Park run on a Saturday morning (& volunteer too)
  • Walk up a hill and take in the view
  • Make use of our fire pit and cook dinner outside
  • Followed by a TV free evening watching the stars
  • Take a flask of tea, wrap up warm and have a picnic outside
  • See if the boy will find it entertaining to watch me do a spot of gardening to tame our jungle (I may need to employ the services of grandparents to babysit for this one!)
  • Go to a buggy bootcamp
  • Collect pine cones to make into Christmas decorations
  • On a weekend, take a trip to the beach (it’s miles away but hopefully traffic will be less crazy in November)
  • Forage for mushrooms

I already know I’ll feel heaps better by the end of the month, but equally that it will be tough on those cold, dark, rainy days. Especially when little O has kept me up all night (the times when I need to get outside for nature therapy the most!)

I’ll be sharing my daily experience on Instagram, if anyone would like to join in.

Here’s to an exciting November full of outside adventures!

P.S. This photo was actually taken in November last year in Scotland!  So it’s not all rain and darkness 🙂

Review: Running Free

IMG_7486Book: Running Free: A runner’s journey back to nature
Author: Richard Askwith

If you’re feeling in a rut with your running, you will not fail to be inspired by this gem of a book.  After a stressful long winter of marathon training, my body and mind were tired.  I didn’t feel as motivated as I once did.  This book came along and rescued me at just the right time.

Forget pace, split times, expensive kit and race entries.  Askwith takes you back to basics, reminding you why you fell in love with running in the first place.  Whether it’s with squelchy toes through farmers fields, or getting lost in the mountains, this book is a liberating journey through the weird and wonderful of taking things back to nature.

It’s inspirational in its simpleness and beautiful in its humbleness. This book sparked my passion to get out and get dirty again.  What more could you want?!

Running – I’m back

IMG_7451.JPGI realise that my blog has a tendency towards the tough times and my battles. That’s what has inspired me to write. But don’t get me wrong – on my good days I am on fire!!

This morning I was up early for my first run in over a year. Pregnancy wasn’t the kindest (in the sense of sickness and other ills), then birth (enough said), and breastfeeding, which means I haven’t run since last summer.

I always had in mind that I’d enjoy the first 6 months post-partum focussing on my little one, and listen to my body to know when it was ready to resume. Running has always been my go to when I’m feeling stressed. Some days I leave my worries behind without a second thought. Other days they go round and round in my head while I’m running but I find I get a new perspective when I’m out on the trail. At times I’m at my most creative when I’m out on a run and come back raring to go with fresh inspiration. Running leaves you dirty, achy and tired, but I never feel worse when I’ve been out for a run (mentally at least).

I’ve been feeling the urge to get out for a couple of weeks now. And what a morning I picked. I was out just as the sun was creeping up. It was fresher than I was expecting, damp underfoot, but I ran with squelchy toes through the farmers’ fields and footpaths behind our house. I was rewarded with the most beautiful sunrise. It was slow and steady. I stopped too many times to take photos. I didn’t run far. That was enough for me.

When I return home, the house was is still quiet. There is fresh coffee to be had, a hot shower, and facing the day with a smug smile.

I know the feeling wears off a little. I know the initial motivation will dull over time and it will be harder to get out, when the mornings are cold and dark. I’ve been there.

But right now, in this moment, I feel invincible.

Learning to love the process

IMG_6861I’ve only published two posts and I’m already doubting myself. I’m wondering why I’m bothering to write a blog when there are so many blogs out there already, particularly at the moment those about mental health. Why add another one? Who will be interested in what I have to say? What have I got to say that’s any different? I hardly have the time in the day to feed myself anything other than mini cheddars, so should I be giving up the wee hours after little one is in bed towards writing a blog? Am I good enough?

I’ve always been an all-or-nothing person. I throw myself into the latest thing that sparks my interest. The first time was when I was in love with Jon Bon Jovi (cringe) and I dreamt of being an amazing guitarist and wowing all my friends with my talent. I’d front a rock band and make loads of money. I’d be that cool girl playing guitar. 16 years and 4 guitars later I still can’t play a single chord. I’ve been through the same thing to varying degrees with rock climbing, jewellery making, speaking Spanish, surfing, even growing vegetables. I have so much momentum and passion at the beginning, but then I reach the first hurdle, think I can’t do it and decide that it’s not for me. I then spend way too much time inside my head wondering what I should be doing with my life. What am I good at? What is my ‘thing’? What is my passion?

The thing is, I still don’t know. But it’s ok.

Part of the journey towards dealing with my anxiety was understanding what was causing this pattern. I’m a perfectionist, and I only really like doing things that I’m good at. I start with the best intentions but as soon as the initial momentum and ‘beginners luck’ has worn off I realise that it’s hard work to get better. And what’s the point in being mediocre… when all I want is to be the best. I waste a lot of time putting things off because the circumstances aren’t perfect too. They are not what I imagined in my head. I don’t have the expensive piece of kit that (I think) I need, I don’t live near enough to the sea, I only have half an hour this evening so what’s the point in practicing now when it’s not enough time, I really need to do that important thing on my to-do list so I’ll start tomorrow once I’ve got that out of the way (reality – there is always something more on the to-do list). I make excuses and I put barriers in the way. Time passes and I’ve quietly tidied the new fad away into the spare room/cupboard/loft and moved on hoping that no one will notice. When someone asks how the hobby I was so excitedly telling them about a few months before is going I hang my head in shame and mutter some kind of excuse about lack of time.

When you’re a beginner you are far from perfect, there’s no getting around that. Even if you find yourself with a natural ability for something, it takes time and consistent effort to get to where you want to be. The game changer for me has been the realisation that you have to enjoy the process rather than the end goal.

You commit to doing something over and over, some days you get a little better, other days you take a step back, some days you amaze yourself and suddenly nail it. And you carry on. But the important thing is that you enjoy the process. Even on those frustrating days when you seem to take a step back – you can take pleasure in knowing that it’s a necessary step on the learning curve.

Since I’ve been working on this my life has been less about ‘finding my passion’ but about exploring things again, each day as it comes. Funnily enough, I’m clearer about what it is that I like doing now.

Now I know that I’m interested in soooooo many things but I don’t have to give my attention to them all at the same time. It’s ok for some things to go on the back burner. I know that I will always absolutely adore having yoga and running in my life but right now I can’t give them my all. I’m making do with snatched 10 minutes here and there, self-practice at home that’s a little rough round the edges. While I used to dream of running mountain races in far flung destinations I now cannot wait to lace up my shoes and go for a gentle jog through the farmers’ fields again.

So here I am today, catching myself before I fall into old habits. I’ve got to stop worrying about whether people are interested in my blog, whether I’m writing anything unique, whether I’ll get tons of Instagram followers, or whether one day I’ll get a book deal.

For now, I’ve settled on knowing that I’m doing this for me, and me only. I find writing cathartic. It’s been part of my healing journey. I want to keep a record, for me. Hopefully through doing this daily I will become a better writer. So, each day, I write. It doesn’t matter if I’m lucky enough to have a couple of hours to sit and focus quietly while my husband takes the baby out, or if it’s a few notes quickly scribbled whilst they come into my head as I’m out and about. I always feel better when the words are out of my head and onto paper. I love the careful crafting of bits and pieces of writing, the editing of a jumbled stream of consciousness that I’ve recorded. The bad days where I feel there is so much to say and I can’t write it quick enough but it makes no sense. Then the good days where I find the flow and the words come quickly and easily as I type. The lightbulb moments when I feel what it is that I’m trying to say with a bunch of messy words. The joy at reading a completed piece. I’m taking the good days and the bad. I’ve learned to love the process and I’m so much happier for it.