Perception and Reality – adjusting your perception with yoga

Perception and Reality
adjusting your perception with yoga

What’s your reality?

Have you been surprised by how you remember an event differs from someone else’s take?

Sometimes when reading old lettersI see that my memory and what I’ve written in the letter don’t match! My memory at the time and my memory years later can differ – how extraordinary.

Our perspective changes with our stage of life too. I touched on this just last week, discussing that what we look for in friendship evolves over time. We certainly see things through a different lens as a child than as an adult.

Paddington – and a child’s logic

Paddington Bear

When I was a child, I was logical. I was actually fairly logical by any standard, but sometimes my logic was my own.

The most hysterical example of my ‘logical’ brain is when I travelled with Paddington. I got a lovely Paddington when I was eight and I am still devoted to him. It was the year we lived in Germany and we took many road trips. Paddington came along too of course and he took it all in his stride.

I took it less in my stride. I was most concerned he enter each country legally so I decided his ‘please look after this bear’ label was his passport. It fell to my father to ‘get his passport stamped’, which caused much hilarity at boarders and airports. The guy at the Polish boarder even borrowed Paddington to show him to his colleagues. This was 1976 so things were very different.

The only sticky situation as at Frankfurt Airport:
My father to Immigration Officer (in German): Could you stamp my daughter’s cuddly toy for her?
Immigration Office: But sir, it’s an official stamp!
My Father: I know, but as you can see from the other stamps, it means a lot to her.
Immigration Official: Sir – I cannot put an official stamp on a stuffed bear.
My Father: I’ll just stand here until you reconsider

The immigration official stamped it with such force you can see the wobbly lines.

I love looking back at my child’s perspective, but my reality is very different today.

Perception and Reality

When someone’s interpretation of something is different from your own, you stand there wondering what is The Truth.

Of course, the fact is that they can both be right.
But do you want to keep your reality?

What perceptions from our past might not serve us well?

Perhaps you didn’t feel listened to as child. We all want to feel heard! My mother often cuts me off, assuming she knows what I’m going to say. No only is that rude, she often guesses wrong!

The result is that I’m very sensitive – and sometimes over sensitive – about being interrupted and that people aren’t listening to me.

On the good side, I am am a close listener and really focus on the person I’m talking to.

We can get so caught up in our own truth that it limits us. We all have our point of view, we can gain by opening up to someone else’s lens.

Often at work,  childfree people feel that those with kids are taking advantage of them while parents think that their stresses are not being understood.

How would it be if, rather than seeing this as childfree v parents, we zoomed out out and thought this way:
‘we all have times when we need flexibility and that should be honored! No-one wants to pay a late fee, whether it’s for childcare or eldercare.’

The Yoga Way – bringing perception and reality together

When we deepen our yoga practice – physical or meditative – we get in touch with who we are and understand the perceptions we carry. It helps us decide if we want these perceptions as part of our way forward – or not. Do we want to take them into our interactions?

When we understand our perceptions, we can choose to carry them forward or to change our point of view. Yoga can give us the ability to do this.

Have you found yoga has led you to change how you see something?

Interested in going deeper? Find out more info about working with me
or email me

Marie Kondo Method – friendships and yoga

Marie Kondo Method
friendships and yoga

Tending and ending friendships

Have you noticed that friendships change over the years? We talk a lot about how to tend or how to end a romantic relationship – but not so much about friendships. Perhaps it’s because I’m an only child, but my friendships are very important to me. I nurture them and they give me great joy. My husband’s family have a habit of giving speeches on special occasions. At my Fiftieth birthday party, he gave a speech on the theme that I have a genius for friendship. I would like to think I do, and certainly we should value our friendships. Yet it doesn’t necessarily mean that all our friendships have value.

Recently I’ve seen several articles on how the Marie Kondo Method relates to friendships and this has made me think about how my friendships – and my my view of what friendship means – has evolved.

How To Use Marie Kondo Method To Break Up With Friends
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Your Relationships)
How to Marie Kondo Your Friends – How to Breakup With a Friend

Yoga will change your friendships

You will have different chapters in your life and different things will be important to you. Your friendships will ebb and flow. We all hope to have some super friends for life. But as we move through new chapters, different things will be important to us and we’ll look to different things from our friends. Perhaps wanting good company and being up for some fun in friendship has given way to valuing loyalty and generosity in the friendship.

Yoga gives us many tools to navigate change, and as we develop our yoga practice we will see our friendships with new eyes. I touch on this happening to me in my introductory video.

Find Your Supportive Community – Marie Kondo, your friends and yoga

There’s a Buddhist concept of Sangha – that’s your supportive community. It means you surround yourself with people who will support you and be there for you.

Thich Nhat Hanh says here :
The Sangha doesn’t need to be Buddhist. Buddhism is made of non-Buddhist elements anyway. When I met Martin Luther King Jr., in 1966, we spoke about Sangha building. We spoke a few times about the beloved community. The beloved community is the Sangha. 

Your sangha should of course ‘spark joy’ and have your back – but it should also stretch you and help you out of your comfort zone, encouraging you to be your best self. This is where yoga comes in. As you practice yoga you connect more with who you are.

Valuing Friendship

Three friends and I have a birthday club! I’ve known these people for years – two of them for over twenty years. We get together for lunch four times a year on a weekend near each other’s birthday to celebrate. Turns out all our birthdays are in the first half of year, so we try to get together once a month anyway for the rest of the year.

As you’d expect, we’ve been through a lot together and we know each others strengths and foibles. I’m the one who can be particular and rock the boat. I’m not rude or incredibly demanding, but I’ll ask if we can have a different table or mention that my chili is luke warm and would I be able to have another bowl steaming from the pot.

Recently I’ve been thinking more about this. I was a very easygoing child, and somewhere along the way I became a bit more rigid. I could do with more relaxing. In fact, I haven’t so much been thinking about it as yoga has been evening that out a bit more. It’s one of the profound changes yoga is bringing to my life.

Yoga isn’t making me fully into a go with the flow person, but it’s helping me to understand where I want to put that energy. I’m less likely not to be bothered by the things I cannot change. I am reining some of this in – sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s more of a struggle. I mentioned this last weekend at one of our birthday lunches and got a round of applause. These friends kindly rib me about my foibles but also support me as I try to grow.

At the same time, food is important to me and being able to increase my enjoyment of a meal out gives me great joy. I still want see if my delicious bowl of chili can be nice and hot – it will really enhance my enjoyment. Yoga is giving me the ability to work through things and zone into my true self.

Finding Joy in Your Friendships

Yoga helps us understand what it important to us – and important in our friendships. It also helps us navigate change so we can have harmonious friendships that we enjoy.

Interested in going deeper? Find out more info about working with me
or email me

Functional Movement and our movement habits – tune in and focus on feet and standing

Functional Movement
and our movement habits

Lets talk about turning movement on its head. Now we’re not going upside down – we’re going to think about yoga and movement differently.

How you create movement habits?

We all have habits in how we move. They affect our overall function. I’ve always thought I have tight hips – you should see my Pigeon Pose, not the prettiest. Yet Hero Pose comes easily. How did this become a movement habit?

I am extremely short and all my life I’ve sat on my feet so that a table will hit me at the right height and not under my armpits! In fact, it’s comfortable for me to move from sitting on my feet to sitting between my feet. I have really developed internal rotation of my thighs and hips.

Movement one way affects other movement

Hero Pose probably contributed to my being extremely tight in the external rotation of my hips. I always like to sit in Easy Pose on a meditation cushion or blanket otherwise my knees are flapping around and I’m not very comfortable. The good news is that there are ways to build up strength and increase my external rotation of the hips. My Warrior II and other external hip rotation poses are feeling smoother. I can even squat with my heels on the ground these days.

So how did I move from struggling with my Warrior II to feeling more comfortable? It all started with Side Angle Pose – and using a block. I can come down onto my block and focus on externally rotating my thigh and hip. Slowly I began to feel the difference in my body and the difference in my Warrior II.

Blocks are great – they really help you get the benefit from a pose. Never hesitate to use them.

Tuning into your body and movement

This movement habit is quite subtle – but a movement habit can be quite simple aspects of how you go about your day too. What movement do you find easy and with which do you feel resistance? Often they are connected. It is fascinating to let that inform your yoga practice and daily life – beginning with our feet, the foundation.

Getting the movement balance right

Feet come into play

  • Sit barefoot and spread your toes so there is space between them. If this isn’t accessible use your fingers gently to create space between your toes.

Bringing balance into the mix

  • Stand barefoot and bend one knee slightly, so the foot is flexed and is barely off the ground. Just an inch or two high, not very far off the ground. Stand like this, perhaps using the back of a chair to help with balance. Do you feel your standing foot using muscles you don’t know are there? Repeat with the other foot. Do you notice a difference between sides?

Safely going barefoot is very beneficial. There are many muscles in our feet that we don’t use because we’re in shoes so often. Accessing those muscles is very helpful for balance.

Balance and center of gravity

  • hop, skip and jump – we don’t change our center of gravity much as adults. Tap into your childhood play and tune into your center of gravity.

Balance off the mat

What in your life unthinkingly comes easily for you? How has this affected your ability to do other things? Is there some balance you want to bring back into your life?

Interested in going deeper? Find out more info about working with me
or email me

When is it time to make a change?

When is it time to make a change?

Unexpected Decisions

Have you ever gobsmacked yourself by doing something you never thought you’d do? Nearly a decade ago, I was moving in with my now husband. As I packed, I picked up a small box of love letters and fingered the envelopes. I had no idea I was going to make a dramatic gesture with them.

Most of the letters came from my boyfriend when I was living in Oxford. That hot summer of 1992 returned to me with its mix of adventures and intense emotions. Isn’t this is why I’d kept these letters?

I was back in the US from Oxford that summer for at least two months – encompassing an internship, research at the Truman Library for my Master’s thesis and an extended visit to my parents. It was a long trip. 

I wrote to my then boyfriend Every Single Day. Sometimes it was a quick postcard, mostly it was an aerogramme (remember those). They would apparently arrive in clumps, with days when none flopped through the letterbox. He wrote to me too – not every day, but often – with a beautiful hand. All the letters are calligraphy, made with proper nib. I was looking at that beauty now, so many years later.

As I was packing to move in with the man who would become my husband, I dipped into those letters. It was sweet to be taken back to that time – to the dreams and hopes and fears. To revisit where I thought my life would take me and muse on the paths I had taken. But it was time for me to release them. I had thought of the letters as beautiful, sacred mementos – but now was the time to thank them and send them on their way. They weren’t to be carried into my next chapter. 

I took all the letters and put them in the grate. I set a fire. The flickering flames talked to me and I felt a deep peace and conviction that what I was doing was right. I could travel lightly into the future with a sure foot.

Do we in fact hang onto things – literal and metaphorical – because we don’t know who we are and how we should change?

When do you think about change?

Do you only think of change at certain times in your life? Have you made a change you never thought you’d do? There are distinct markers in our life that have have us reflect and make changes.

Are these markers the only time you ponder who you are and where you’re headed When is it time to make a change? I never thought I’d burn my love letters – but I knew when the time was right.

Yoga, Marie Kondo, Change
My old friends. The suitcase over 20 years old and the kindle cover five years old. They are well warn and well loved – and still in service.

Tapping into change as a constant

On watching Marie Kondo, I believe the reason she resonates with so many people is that her method is not just about decluttering. Her clients decide to go on a journey of profound change after years of status quo. They do this with Marie Kondo because she connects them to their possessions – and ultimately their life – in a new way. She is a guide.

The first thing Marie Kondo does in introduce herself to the house. What – have a relationship with our possession! It’s a brilliant idea.

  • The most famous part of her KonMari method is to keep things that ‘spark joy’ and thank those things you are sending on their way. How often do you buy things but don’t really care for or use these shiny new things or treat them as dear old friends. I used to be like that, now I love to greet my old friends.
  • KonMari is teamwork. We have to come to an understanding with our spouse or family members and support each other through this journey. Often it’s difficult as we come face to face with ourselves.
  • The word ‘energy’ is used a lot. As the decluttering progresses, the energy in the house changes and the energy of the family changes. The hard work pays off! One man felt cut off from his emotions and had a hard time tapping into the concept of ‘sparks joy’. In the end, he was happy to be more connected to his emotions and more open about his feelings. This strengthened his relationships – especially with his partner.

Yoga is about how we are all connected and how we start that journey by connecting to ourselves

It all starts with the ongoing process of understanding ourselves. This is an important part of yoga. It’s not always comfortable – especially as we have a habit of focusing on what we think of as our faults. But the more we connect with who we are:

  • the more we can make decisions that feel right and are likely to work out well.
  • the more we know when to stand firm and when to be flexible.
  • the more we are generally connected: to people, to nature … even to our possessions and home. This feeling of connection brings peace.

Yoga Transforms

So how do we form an understanding of who we are. We get so many messages about who we should be – from our family to society to our friends.

  • you should be a doctor – where is a degree in English going to get you?
  • you should have a checklist when thinking about a spouse
  • you shouldn’t dress that way

There are a lot of messages that form a sort of undergrowth in our mind that we have to wade though as we figure out which plants are true to ourselves and which plants are invasive. It’s an ongoing journey to tap into your inner voice and to see yourself clearly. Funnily enough – this is exactly what yoga is about. It’s an ebb and flow!

Have you felt things shift as you do follow the sequence and do your yoga practice. Have you noticed your meditation practice helps you feel calmer and more able to resonate with you life. You can let yoga help you create change to become your best self.

Give it a whirl and let me know how it goes.

Interested in going deeper? Find out more info about working with me
or email me

Comfort With Uncertainty – Yet Keep Your Agency

control comfort with uncertainty yoga

Recently I’ve been hugely enjoying reading some young adult fiction. I’ve noticed that a universal theme is control. After all, children have very little control over their lives. But do adults have more control? Should we give up the illusion of control? Can we navigate so that we plan yet remain flexible. How do we find comfort with uncertainty yet keep our agency? Just a few unimportant topics before breakfast, as the Red Queen might say.

Understanding Culture

One book – Madeleine L’Engle’s And Both Were Young –  really resonated with me. I related to this book because, like its main character,  I was sent to boarding school. I was 12 and I hated it. I hated the school itself – and when I transferred I was much happier.

Adapting to an English boarding school was tough. It wasn’t just being away from my parents, it was the different culture. In particular there was a lot of teasing and I didn’t know how to handle it, so it became less good natured and more pointed. I was baffled.

My background didn’t have this sort of teasing. I have no siblings so there wan’t that rough and tumble at home.  I think the culture of teasing is different in the UK from the US, so when I arrived I didn’t know what the teasing meant. I’d been at my previous school, along with most of my classmates, since kindergarten. Suddenly I was dropped into a situation where I was with a group of girls I didn’t know, whose language I couldn’t translate – although we all spoke English. It was a huge change.

I didn’t understand the culture and had to find comfort with uncertainty, while trying to become familiar with what it all meant. How I could navigate this new culture?

Being Determined to Have a Bad Time

I do think I came to the school with an open mind and heart. I’ve always been gregarious and approach new experiences from a place of optimism. Yet it was hard trying to find any comfort with the uncertainty of my new life. I felt on unstable ground.

We have so many things that are out of our control in our lives. As adults, we have a hard time recognizing that. How often do we go into situations with our arms crossed, determinedly knowing it’s going to be hideous.

This often happens with something related to work or family. Perhaps there’s a  family member we don’t like but feel we have to visit. We roll our eyes and sigh and try to put it off. When, in the end, we arrive at the front door we are sure it’s going to be awful. Our arms are crossed.

Control and Agency – owning our decisions

So often we are in a situation at the office or with family where we have to deal with circumstances and people we don’t like  – and gaining comfort with uncertainty is hard! Sometimes it helps us navigate the situation and adapt. Other times we come to the conclusion that the situation has to change. That’s what happened at my boarding school. The girls at the school weren’t very nice. I was much happier after I moved to another boarding school. But the insights I gained and the lessons I learnt at the old boarding school really helped me in the environment of the new school.

When we take back agency, it often helps us to approach something we don’t want to do with a better frame of mind. Here’s the funny thing – we might not have control in our life, but we do have choice. When we own that choice we feel more anchored and better able to navigate and endure. In fact, we set ourselves up for smoother sailing and perhaps even do some that personal growth people are always waffling on about.

Interested in going deeper? Find out more info about working with me
or email me

Dress Your Identity – your style matters

style, yoga  style, yoga

Dress Your Identity – Why should you care?

Once upon a time BBC radio newsreaders had to wear dinner jackets – tuxedos – when reading the news after 8pm. This is radio so no-one could see them. The mind boggles!

While I’m not suggesting wandering about in your tiara or dinner jacket, this Beeb requirement is an extreme way to make an important point: what you wear will affect how you feel.

It makes a difference going about my day feeling good in what I’m wearing. What makes you feel good might be different. But shouldn’t what you are wearing add to your daily wellbeing?

Changing Your Wardrobe Thinking

Consciously wearing clothes:

  • you feel good in
  • that you feel are flattering

makes a huge difference to your confidence and how you feel about yourself overall. You can look good and be comfortable.

What you wear will project an image of who you are.
And it will help you be that person.

Who do you want yourself to be?

Getting Real About Dressing Your Identity

Lets not beat about the joggers with holes in them.

What does looking like a schlub say about how you feel about yourself
and how you feel you deserve to be teated?

When you dress your identity, you show respect for yourself.  Unfortunately we are getting a different message from society.

Damaging  Self-Talk

  • ‘I wish I had time to spend selecting what to wear – I barely squeeze in a quick shower.’ Notice how our society prioritizes and rewards busyness. We buy into this, constantly trumpeting how we don’t have time. Let’s pause for a moment and really investigate whether we want to live this way. Stop the madness!

➠ I live in career driven Washington, DC. Do you live somewhere that rewards career and thrusting? Alternatively, isn’t taking time and nurturing – not just others, but yourself too – also important?

  • This old thing? We often put ourselves last. We end up throwing on any old thing – or conversely downplaying ourselves. What sort of message does this send to our children? My parents made sure they did things that were important to them, even as they showed me love. Send a message that you value yourself. Your children and others are watching and will take their cue from you.

We prioritize things that are important to us. What is stopping you from spending time feeling good about what you’re wearing? Too busy – ponder how you relate to ‘I wish I had time … and busyness’ above and what that models for future generations.

➠ It is valuable for us to feel good about ourselves. It literally says we value ourselves. This is an important message to send out into the world, and particularly to our children.  Our children are watching.

  • You’re wearing that? Right from when we start exploring our own style, we get messages about how we are dressing wrong.  Yet what you’re wearing can be both appropriate and a style that that makes you feel confident and well turned out.

This is personal. I turned 50 in 2017 and feel in the vanguard of a movement for fashion for those in midlife. Previously the choices had been dire – mutton dressed as lamb or matronly. We are putting our foot down and saying ‘non’.

You can be stylish at any age,
that style will evolve with the chapters of your life.

Yoga, Being Your Best Self and Why You Should Dress Your Identity

Yoga is all about understanding yourself – your true self.

Though you may come to yoga for the physical practice, it often ends up tuning into how you feel over the ebbs and flow of the day. You end up finding out who you really are. This is deep work, sometimes fun and sometimes difficult, exploring all areas of your life. You will coalesce into your best self. One area of your life is how you value yourself – and this is apparent in how you dress.

In the end, it’s quite simple:

You should dress your identity, because how you dress
says something about who you are and how you view yourself.

What do you want to say? Let me know!

Dress Your Identity fashion yoga style

Pointers for blogs that explore style:

Miss Dress – Personal Stylist – for delving into your own style
Midlife Chic – mid-life style blogger
Chillies and Cloves – a blogger adding a touch of spice
Extra Petite – for the petite woman
Twenty Something Plus – twenties style blogger
Lovely in LA – plus size blogger
Useless Wardrobe – Minimalist Danish blogger – good for those creating their style
Where Did U Get That  – Blogger with an individual style.
Run Style Run – A relaxed, low key look blogger
Looking Fly on a Dime – it’s always better when it’s a bargain
Tall Swag – for the taller lady
Style With a Smile – Vegan / ethical style blog

Interested in going deeper? Find out more info about working with me
or email me

Posture and Yoga: an upstanding mix!

Yoga Posture Stretch Twist

Yoga is Great Posture Exercise

Posture recently crossed my mind, for the first time in ages.  I was walking along a DC street and caught sight of myself in a shop window. It was a revelation. I stood tall, head over shoulders, with a neutral spine – and it was all thanks to my yoga.

In the back of our mind we tend to have a tickling feeling that we are slumped over over too much of the day. It’s modern life! Our shoulders become rounded through driving or sitting at a desk. Our head pokes forward towards our phone or our computer in what has become know as text neck. It only gets worse, the older we get, possibly even leading to the hump in the back -hyperkyphosis. Bad posture does take a toll on the body – but don’t panic!

Just small adjustments and a minimal amount of time can make long-run differences.

The problem with poor posture is its long term effects – but your posture isn’t rigid. Becoming tuned into how your body is holding itself and giving it a boost with yoga will really enhance your long-run wellbeing – both physical and emotional.

Move over forward head and slumped shoulders –
yoga helps bad posture

I didn’t really notice the change in how I stood – that yoga absolutely helps  my posture – until I caught that glimpse in a shop window. I looked so lovely and erect – and my head was in line with my body. Then I noticed how good it felt and I tuned into the different way my body carried itself.  It felt like it had more space. Yoga also gave me more of a sense of my spine – my shoulders – my head – are in space. This is called proprioception and something we don’t think about a lot. Now I’m overtly aware of how I hold myself, and not just when walking.

It takes just a few minutes

Take five or ten minutes my lovelies – that’s all it takes. Do some yoga throughout the day – at your desk, in your recliner and even at a traffic light! Perhaps you want to set a mediation bell, as a reminder. Your body will feel better – and most likely your spirits too.

Find out more about me and get in touch! Let me know about your frustrations and how how yoga might – or might not have helped.

Keeping poised

  • When sitting:
    • your hips should hit the back and your knees should hit the seat of the sofa or chair.
      • If you’re slouching back to the back of your sofa, use a cushion
      • if you’re short, put your feet up on a stool or pouf
  • When working at a computer:
    • The screen should be at eye level or placed so you’re slightly looking down.
    • Forearms should be parallel to the ground when typing
  • When sleeping:
    • It’s better to sleep on your back or your side, avoid your stomach
    • Have one pillow under your head – don’t pile them up.

A few articles on posture and health

From Harvard 

How Does Yoga Help Reverse Hyperkyphosis?

Age-Related Hyperkyphosis: Its Causes, Consequences, and Management

Interested in going deeper? Find out more info about working with me
or email me

The power of being present – when I started my yoga practice

The power of being present – when I started my yoga practice

I’m one of those people who was athletic as a teenager but then came to a roaring halt once I was out of school. I still walked a lot – but I didn’t do any regular exercise or play on any teams. Twenty years later, I woke up and realized that if I wanted to remain supple and mobile I’d better get moving.

I found that I actively liked yoga and began going to a yoga studio 3-4 times a week. It felt great – I loved how yoga engaged my brain as well as my body.

Slowly it dawned on me that although I still felt physically great after practice, and my mind was engaged – I didn’t like how my mind was engaged. Yoga was unleashing some strange emotions. I realized that when I was doing yoga, I felt like I was a teenager again. In school, I did a lot of gymnastics, and yoga somehow brought me right back to that place. It was not a comfortable spot. I had no wish to feel like a teenager again. And the competitiveness this unleashed in me was unpleasant. Once I realized what was going on, I was able to channel those feelings differently. Of course, having a different body from when I was a teenager helped me change my energy.

When you get on the mat, you never know what you’ll find. That’s the beauty of yoga – it’s ever changing, because we’re ever changing – and we bring different things to the mat. At the same time, yoga helps us be open and connect to what is revealed to us during our practice.