Faith over fear…….

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Readers note: I started this blog a year ago….the latter half I have just added. 

I am at a crossroads…..I’m feeling the fear….I feel like I’m standing at a cliffs edge preparing to jump. Will there be a turbulent sea below me or warm calm soothing waters?

I’ve been listening to/hearing an awful lot about fear recently. There is a school of thought that fear is felt when we are on the edge of something great. We feel it because we are moving towards spiritual evolution.  Another is that fear is responsible for holding us back. Is it one or the other? Or both? Do we listen to our fear as intuition/gut instinct…or do we say…hey ego I know what your trying to do but I’m going to jump into the abyss anyway!

I can’t leave my job/relationship/city I’ll might fail. Bad things could happen. We even conjure scinarios in our mind of possible outcomes. Ways things can go totally tits up. I have been fearless in my life. I have travelled many times. I have changed careers from a job I couldn’t stand to one I love. I have lived in various city’s and town
s both in the UK and abroad. And yet….for some reason. I am wracked with complete and paralysing fear. If I make the wrong move now…EVERYTHING COULD F**K RIGHT UP.

And yet…what is the worst that can happen? We try, we fail, we pick ourselves up having learnt even more about ourselves and what we want…and we try again.

My little mantra of 2014 (after a challenging 2013) is ‘we never learn from getting what we want’ (I don’t think I coined it but I don’t remember who did). I really do believe this to be true (perhaps the ‘never’ part is a bit strong) but nonetheless I really do feel that I have grown the most through challenge and adversity. These moments in our lives force us to take stock…take refuge in spiritual practices such as yoga and meditation. Get down and dirty because we have nothing left to loose.

The latter half…..

Im starting to think we/I just take life way to seriously! Perhaps if we played life like a game? trying stuff on for size….if we like it we keep it if not no big deal. In reality this is what we do anyway….we just pretend that this is ‘THE THING’….THE relationship….THE job….THE home. When we take a look back though, theres not alot that sticks around, aside from a few friends, some family. But even they are not permanant…we will all make the ‘big’ move at some point.

‘You can’t get it wrong and you will never get it done’ Abraham Hicks

The interesting thing about this little blog I started writing nearly a year ago is that I don’t even really remember what I was so ‘wracked with fear’ about. Things all seem to be pretty good this end. So is fear necessary for evolution or just fearful thoughts we keep thinking which hold us back? I sometimes feel as much fear about where I’m going to get my morning coffee (I’m a bit of a coffee snob) as where to live and what I should do to make a difference in the world.

I really love this speech by Jim Carrey…..

Anyhoo……happy jumping and do leave your comments below.

 

 

 

What is the magic of a Mysore room?

I am an Ashtanga Vinyasa Student and teacher. I teach Mysore and Led classes although I do not teach a regular daily Mysore program.

I do practice at one though….actually at the moment I practice in a few Mysore rooms around London due to work and time logistics though I have deeper connection to some than others.

For many years at the beginning of my Ashtanga Yoga journey, I lived nowhere near a studio..let alone a studio that offered a daily Mysore Practice, so I travelled into London when I could and practiced at home which I still do not find easy.

Now I am lucky enough to be able to jump on a tube and get to one of these magical places most days. I have been pondering, what makes them special?….why do I get up at crazy o clock in the cold and dark to get on crowded public transport?

What is the magic of a Mysore Room anyway? Here are some of my thoughts….

We connect with others…..

In our society we are becoming less and less dependant on others and more independent in many things that we do day to day. We get ourselves from place to place, buy our own food, pay our own bills. Theres a kind of ‘Im alright jack’ attitude that helps us ‘get through life’. But heres the thing….we do need human connection. To be together…share our space. So in the Mysore room we get to do that. Be with other humans, breathe and dare I say it be vulnerable. When I walk into my space of choice, I feel seen, it matters that Im there and I’m contributing to the collective energy of the group.

And now I think of it…there are so few other opportunities for us to get to do that in life…I mean were constantly around others…but not with a shared purpose.

We are part of a community

This follows on from my last point….but those of us ‘in the know’ are very aware that no matter if our Mysore group is small or large we are part of an immediate and global community. A tribe of the likeminded! And how much do we want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves? Well I’m pretty sure many of us do….even my little yoga community in Berkshire…mention a pot luck or a charity event and people get really excited! We really want to contribute and have the opportunity to come together as a collective.

We get to be needy AND learn self reliance

The role of a teacher in the Mysore Room is a vital and complex one and if you are lucky enough to have a regular teacher you will totally understand their importance. Personally in the most part of my life I hold me together. I do occasionally lean on my friends and family but most of the time I push forward solo. When we practice…we constantly try things we cannot do. Alot of the time we need help with these things…enter the Mysore teacher. I’m currently attempting many things in my practice that I have yet to master. I find it liberating to ask for help! A great teacher knows when to help and when to leave you to find your own way when your ready. Too much help and we can never do it alone. If we are constantly assisted in the same poses day after day how can we learn how to do it by ourselves?

We experiment with life…

The practice brings with it challanges…sometimes seemingly impossible feats…I’ve just started working on a pose I doubt I will master in this lifetime! But the Mysore room lends a safe space to try these things. We come face to face with our self doubt and see how we deal with it. It mirrors life. Everyday a new challenge sometimes impossible situations. If we get to play with this in the Mysore room, surrounded by others in the same space perhaps we can be better equipted to deal with the real life stuff!

I’m still unsure what the magic is exactly and these are just a few of my thoughts…I would love to hear yours….

Why I practice Ashtanga Yoga – A Response to ‘Why I gave up Ashtanga Yoga’

Last week I read a blog post entitled ‘Why I gave up Ashtanga Yoga‘. Have a read!

You can guess the gist from the title…but here is why it ruffled my feathers enough to respond in a blog.

The Author describes how she, after practicing Ashtanga Yoga ‘for a long time’ (I’m not quite sure what that means?). She found  ‘real’ happiness and has since jumped off her mat, given it up totally and feels much better for it thank you very much! This I respect, she gave something a good shot…it wasn’t for her and she’s moved on…all good!

She then goes on to state how she believes that those people who practice 6 days a week have something missing in their lives and will not find it on their Manduka mat (other yoga mats are available) and furthermore says that practicing so much can be injurious and dangerous and refers to this article as back up.

There are many sweeping statements in this blog. However it is not the content I have an issue with. I actually think some of her points are valid….these are my thoughts….

Its a Balance

Life should be a balance. Perhaps a 6 day a week practice is not appropriate for everyone? Personally I feel 5 days to be best for me. It keeps my energy levels in check. And since my full practice is around 2 hours on days where my energy is low or I have time constraints I will adapt it to fit into my day.

Why I do it

I have practiced Ashtanga Yoga for around 10 years. There have been many ups and downs. Times of strength and working through injury (always the most informative and challenging times). I have changed my approach to my practice many times…from full power to soft and everything in between.

The pressure and guilt that she reports feeling I’m sure is common…I have felt it myself, its not unique to yoga…us humans are impatient to get somewhere fast and personally thats one of the things that I love about the practice..the mental challange. But, if now I begin to find that I feel depleted from my practice rather than feeling that it supports me (which it does especially in the tough times).  Then I can adapt. Its the beauty of being responsible for ourselves as adults!

I do not see myself leaving my Ashtanga practice behind AND I would never say never! Who knows what the future will bring. All I know is that for now I feel thankful every time I step onto my mat for having the time, physical ability, and inclination to do this at all!

It comes down to respect

What really bothers me about this blog is the tone that she takes. The condemnation of those students and teachers who do choose to practice regularly, passionately, week in week out. Giving up their time and income to travel and study in Mysore annually. Mysore program teachers who rise super early every day to go and support their students. It does sound like the author did have a regular teacher and I for one would be very sad if one of my students had written a blog such as this.

Us Ashtanga practitioners may be crazy on some level and its certainly an unusual lifestyle choice…but it is our choice to make…so perhaps it would have been more gracious to let us get on with it.

The One Thing Women are actually most afraid of in Men…..A response…

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I recently read a blog by Bryan Reeves titled ‘The One Thing women are actually most afraid of in Men’.

He writes that it is not masculine aggression that is feminine womans greatest fear but abandonment.

We fear our men not stepping up. We fear their inability to hold us. Stand strong, support us and be there, even when we are crazy and irrational, unfathomable, and all they want to do is run for the hills!

I sat in a cafe and read Bryans blog and from nowhere the tears started rolling…..it touched me so deeply. I thought…this is me, this is my deepest fear in relationships.

A little backstory…

My Father left us when I was four years old. He left our family and joined another one. He raised someone elses children and barely saw his own. He was mostly absent for my entire childhood. I’m not wishing to give you a hardluck story here…I was very blessed in many other aspects of my childhood. However…the ‘absent father’ box was well and truly ticked!.

Now, I know as an adult that my Fathers absence was not my fault, it was not personal and I’ve done a lot of work on my relationship with my Dad and can hand on heart say, I hold no resentment towards him. Not only that but I take responsibility for my part in our adult relationship. I judged him, shut him off  and did not give him an inch for error.

Even so…venturing into the adult world of romantic relationships I had a well proven belief that ‘men I love leave’…Its just what they do. In my 20’s I pretty much held the cards, ending relationships first. Especially if the guy in question really liked me which I saw as a sign of weakness (theres a whole other blog there!). My heart got broken for the first time in my mid 20’s. I fell hard, now looking back not in a healthy way. But this guy I had to win..I had to make him to want me, I had to convince him almost. He was unavailable physically and emotionally. I’m still not entirely sure why we women persue this type of man…for me I think it was the challenge of ‘making’ him fall in love with me. And it worked for a short while…but as with all manipulated relationships the foundations were weak….he ended it and experienced my first heartbreak.

For the next 10 years I don’t really think I let myself go fully in any romantic relationship I had. This technique kept me safe. I got to be in control…and I saved my heart.

The next time I opened my heart I was 36..10 years later. This one was ready…I was sure of it. He wooed me, chased me…I felt safe with him. I began to relax and let go into the idea of a relationship with this guy. But the more I opened the more he closed. My desire to ‘name’ and ‘know’ where the relationship was going just triggered his fear of ‘being’ in a relationship at all.  The more I chased the further and faster he ran!. He could not and did not hold me. He couldn’t, he just didn’t have it in him…he shut down and closed off. I kept lowering my expectations…he would under deliver on them. Eventually the whole thing crumbled, it was a mess. My worst fears were realised and I got to be right again ‘men I love leave’. I felt like shit.

And so…….

Over the last year or so I’ve been on quite a journey.  I gave myself a healthy break from dating and men and sat in the space that was left by their absence for a while. I’ve been learning more about me, what I need and what I want to give in a relationship. I feel ready to trust myself and follow my heart. Embrace my strength and fragility. My passion and my fears. The thing is(and I know this sounds cliche)…as painful as these experiences are at the time..they are gifts.  I would have missed so many incredible opportiunities without these experiences. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to know myself better AND I wouldn’t be writing this.

I have met and recognised and formed friendships with more openhearted, emotionally evolved men over the past year than ever before. Is this because I’m attracting them? Or Im noticing them more? Or are there just more around these days? I’m hoping its a mixture of all three!. I also notice that many of my female friends are far more aware of what they want in a relationship, choosing to be single over ‘making do’. I know less women who are blindly dating and hoping dating and hoping(including me!). They are more selective about where they place their attention.

I believe men are protectors, it is their calling and desire to care for and be there for the women in their life. I am lucky enough to know men who show and prove this daily. I’m not saying that we need saving of course…we really do not. But it does raise question is can we, as strong, independant, feminine women be brave enough to let go and allow them to do so? The safety we so deeply want to feel can only be found by jumping into a potentially dangerous situation…are we brave enough to jump? And can our men step up without the fear of being responsible for ALL our future happiness?

I can only speak for myself….I’d love to think I could jump…and I’m working on it. I’d love to hear your thoughts please do get in touch.

Jumping into Vulnerability

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I regard myself as an independant woman. I look after myself physically, mentally and financially. (I wont go into the state of my finances!). Yet…I love the idea of being looked after. I love the thought of being held and protected by a man and I’m not sure how honest I’m about this? I wonder, as I reach the latter half of my 30’s without having trodden the conventional marriage, children route as of yet, how I may appear to others as a woman and prospective ‘partner’. Strong?..Brave?..Exciting?..Controlling?..or just plain Terrifying!

I like to portray myself as being totally together. I have my own business, I travel regularly, I’m prepared to and am excited by the idea of evolving as a woman and human being. Others may look at what I ‘present’ and believe Im there…I’m sorted…I know exactly how to navigate my life. But heres the thing…sometimes, I just don’t know what to do. I can’t hold myself up and keeping up the pretence of being ‘sorted’ is exhausting! I rarely raise my hand and ask for help and if I do I feel shame around it. Am I the only person who feels this way? I’ll take a wild guess at no.

Why is it we feel we cannot be seen as exactly who we are? That is being totally honest and vulnerable?

My belief is that we feel like…if people see us for who we are…exactly who we are…they will judge us and even reject us. So we build walls. Big ones!

If I was to write ‘Sophies Bio’ as I would like to be seen…I would probably only mention the amazing, inspiring parts of my life. In fact I wrote one recently…and honestly, I wish I was me! I only showed my best bits though..my ‘show reel’. Yes life is great, I am passionate about living fully, my work, inspiring others. But there was definately no mention of feeling lost at times, feeling so lonely it is painful, seeking validitation from others. I’m not saying we should confess this on our job applications and CV’s..however…what about in our daily life? What is the cost of editing ourselves this way? Showing only the presentable, neat parts of ourselves.

I believe by doing this we loose connection…not only with authentic selves but with the people around us. In my experience my most enriching conversations/connections with friends are the ones where one or both of us fess up. Admit we are scared, nervous, feeling unworthy. We can support each other in these times. We can learn about ourselves. We can maybe even help others.

Brene Brown carried out a study on ‘The Power of Vulnerability’. Her Ted talk went viral in 2010. If you have yet to see her talk I encourage you to do so. She challenges our belief that sharing vulnerability equals weakness. In fact daring to bare can feel truly liberating and powerful.

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So…how do we begin to explore and get friendly with this aspect of ourselves? Well first we have to notice we have these feelings at all. Hopefully if you are reading this blog you have already discovered this. When we notice these feelings come up what are our coping stratagies? How do we numb the pain? Drinking, eating, social media, retail therapy, sex.

“Whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist, persists.” – Eckhart Tolle

Can we..instead of rejecting the feeling or covering it up…sit with it…make friends with it. Even if its just a minute longer before we pick up our I Phone or get on Facebook?. I love how Louis C K talks about this subject.

Tibetan Nun, Author and Teacher Pema Chodron teaches Thong Lin Meditation where we breath in suffering either our own or others and breath out relief. We can use our own pain or the pain of others as a subject. So instead of fighting the feeling were actually breathing it in.

If any of this rings true to you (or not!). Id love to hear from you. Have you started to show up ‘as you are’ in your life? Please share your experiences/thoughts/questions. As I said this is something I’m working on and I definatley don’t have all the answers. But I do know that by becoming friends with all aspects of ourselves, loving all that we are (our dark and light) and showing up genuinely in the world we live. We stand a much better chance of connecting with others and sharing this crazy life journey…which is all that counts in my book!

 

Mysore Self Practice Demystified!

Taking the plunge from your weekly Ashtanga class into Mysore Self Practice can be daunting. Once experienced, the beauty of the Mysore room can be felt for oneself but for some of us it can take many years to try it out for the first time. I’d therefore like to answer some of the burning questions Self Practice newcomers may have.

What on earth does ‘Mysore Self Practice’ mean?! 

Mysore is the city in Southern India where Ashtanga Yoga and its founder the late Sri K Pattabhi Jois hale. Self Practice is the method in which yoga was originally taught, directly from Teacher to Student. This would have been in small groups with each student practicing something different according to their experience and ability. This means each students practice is tailored specifically to them and the teacher is on hand to assist the student as and when they need help. And this is how a Mysore Self Practice class is taught today.

Why should I come to a ‘Mysore Self Practice’ class over my regular yoga class?

By committing to a regular self practice  you are much more likely to deepen your understanding of your existing yoga practice, it will become more personal to you. And you can work on the things that are relevant to you and not be dictated to by a large group class.

The class runs from 7am-9am…thats a really long class! Do I have to stay the entire 2 hours? 

The beauty of a Mysore Self Practice class is you can come and go according to the time you have available and the length of your practice. You may start at 7am and finish at 8am. Or start at 7.30am or 8am. Its totally up to you as long as you are finished by 9am. This means its easy to fit into your morning schedule..a bit like going to the gym (but better!).

Do I need to know the whole sequence in order to join a Mysore Self Practice class? 

No…by coming to a Mysore Self Practice class you will begin to memorise the sequence and commit it to ‘body memory’. Over weeks and Months, through repetition it will become second nature, just like breathing.

Im a complete beginner. Can I join a Mysore Self Practice class?

Yes! As a beginner you will be taught step by step. To start with your practice will be short, around 30-40 minutes. You will start by learning the Sun Salutations and then begin to add the standing poses. It is very gradual, but still challenging! As you add poses your practice time increases.

What do you mean by the word ‘practice’? 

As yoga ‘practitioners’ we aim to keep the yoga as a ‘practice’ rather than something we at some point ‘perfect’.  So this way we keep exploring  and learning rather than aiming to be perfect! As Shri K Pattabhi Jois said, ‘Practice practice and all is coming’.

How many times a week should I come?

As many as your circumstances allow, although ideally start with two or three classes a week if you can.

Can you recommend a good video that explains further? 

I love this interview with Eddie Stern by the New York Times

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Sophie runs Ashtanga classes in Reading and Brighton. She is also one half of Ashtanga Brighton along with Guy Anderson.

 

 

Body Talk

It occurred to me recently, I am not very nice to myself at times. The way I criticise myself, my body, characteristics and how I contribute to society can be just plain mean. In my opinion I’m not ‘beautiful enough’ … Continue reading