Lets hear it for the boys!

So I wanted to write this little blog while I felt inspired to. The last few weeks I’ve been hanging out more with men. Friends old and new. More seem to be coming into my life recently. It wasn’t a conscious thing but as I look back its definitely been happening more frequently.

And yesterday, having just left coffee with one of my good male friends…bouncing down the escalator to my train, relaxed, rejuvinated and happy…I came to the realisation that my life is rich with some incredible men. Strong in spirit and mind. Emotionally connected. They know who they are and are not afraid or ashamed (this may be an assumption) to admit that they are not perfect nor do they have all the answers. They wan’t to be connected to the women in their lives. They want to love and support their partners, family and friends.

The strength and confidence I take from just being around my good male friends is huge and I think I have taken it for granted in the past.

This is not to play down the women in my life. My ladies are literally my heart….we understand each other like no other. We get how wonderfully complex we are…its beautiful. We don’t always help each other though. Our empathetic, advice giving ways can, I think, disempower us. We love to chat to our female friends about our problems(well I do!)….perhaps too much? I sometimes leave conversations with my girlfriends feeling worse than I did before hand. I sometimes take my friends advice and neglect my own inner navigation system. I think this can be unhelpful. Ladies in my life…I love you, don’t change…your perfect ūüôā

Anyway…this is rarely the case when I sit down with one of my male friends. They rarely let me go too far into my ‘poor me’ routine..they simply don’t allow space for that. They focus on my strengths rather than my weaknesses. They often see sides of me I don’t even recognise in myself…yet. They focus on what they see in front of them. A strong, feisty, independent woman. It’s just awesome!

And so…while I totally acknowledge my strength and independence. I have zero desire to live in a world without penty strong men in my life.

So ‘Thankyou’ to all the amazing men I know and are yet to meet and may I keep attracting more of you in!

Anything to share? please comment below……

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.

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.