Trained and qualified with the British Wheel of Yoga Sue undertook their 4 year training back in 1994 and has been teaching since the mid nineties. The British Wheel of Yoga training is, in Sue’s opinion the best in the world and is recognised by the Sports Council of Great Britain as the governing body of yoga. The high standards mean that in order to keep the qualification and insurance continued professional development is essential and so the learning and training continues. Sue’s popular classes embrace Hatha yoga offering pranyama (breath work), asana’s (poses) meditation, relaxation and mindfulness. Coupled with Sue’s background in Psychology, Hypnotherapy and Reiki, her mind & body approach is enjoyed by many and offered her in her audio programmes.
I’ve just shared a smashing weekend with a fabulous group of women in Yoga – that means unity for the uninitiated – at a weekend retreat in Sussex. Spending time with like-minded souls, sharing space, food and a love of yoga is positively uplifting.
Try Something New
We wandered out of our comfort zone to try out one of the oldest branches of Chinese Medicine known as Qi Gong with Sound Therapist Ruth from Dao Natural Health. Apparently Qi Gong is a medical science, it was a subtle yet powerful experience that left us feeling energized and relaxed at the same time.
A Change Is As Good As A Rest
Later we bathed in the sound of a fascinating array of instruments, from the larger gongs to the smaller Tibetan bowls and rain sticks that transported us into various states relaxation and mediation.
Added to this throughout the weekend was a delicious, balanced vegetarian diet with the odd (more sensational than odd) fruity treat thrown in.
This left us feeling satisfied and satiated on a mental, physical and spiritual plane!
Find Your Tribe
share the pleasure of taking time out to immerse yourself in the things that bring you joy.
If you suffer from anxiety or just plain old stress this is a gentle nudge to nurture yourself by spending time with people who share the same hobbies, pastimes or sports as you, so that you can return to everyday life feeling more contented and at one with yourself.
I sometimes feel that I sit down for too long… but that’s the nature of my work as a Psychotherapist and Life Coach, thankfully I’m able to balance some of that by teaching yoga, walking and swimming. A sedentary lifestyle is not good if you want to stay healthy moreover, it’s ageing too. Scientifically proven as one of the 5 components that make up Wellbeing, exercise and keeping on the move is a must if we want to stay healthier, happier and youthful.
I’m often heard singing the praises of yoga. It really is more than just exercise, it’s a system of health. Other Eastern philosophies such as Chinese Medicine, subscribe to the notion that we have an emotional body. According to these approaches the emotions reside in the organs. You can hear it in language such as “I felt gutted (stomach) or choked” (throat) or “… he had some gall” referring to the gallbladder that is said to process anger, along with it’s partner the liver.
I definitely recognise the existence of an emotional body in my own style of teaching yoga and also when working one-to-one coaching clients. As a client or student of mine you’ll be on the receiving end of my ‘nagging’ or as I like to think of it, encouragement! Prompting you to direct your attention to the tightest or most uncomfortable part of your body and then breathe deeply into it whilst stretching. It facilitates a beautiful release and expansion that often alleviates pain and discomfort. You just feel great afterwards!
I’m often reminded of my favourite saying that the body will express what the mind is concerned with It’s true and I’ve been interested to observe my own body in the last 3 to 4 weeks whilst going through a particularly stressful and emotional time. Although I’m doing the same amount of yoga practice as usual, I’ve really noticed how tight and stiff my muscles and ligaments have become, in fact my body has been aching and tense. I realise that at times like this it’s more important than ever to keep up my yoga practice (it would be so easy to let it slip)! I have found the gentle long held yin poses have been particularly useful in releasing toxic energy (a build up of negative emotions such as fear and anger).
Some years ago my colleague and friend Sabine Smith and I created a lovely CD also available as a download called Movement Now. This is a gentle yoga program that we designed for people who haven’t done any exercise at all for a while, people who want a quick easy stretch program, people who are stuck at their desks all day long and people recovering from illness or surgery. It’s really easy to download to your laptop then pop onto your phone then you can practice anywhere anytime. Click here to buy.
The short program is a real energy boost and you’ll also notice that it creates a nice peaceful state mentally and emotionally.
So if you’re going through one of life’s testing times remember to keep up your practice. If you don’t do yoga then walk, swim or do some exercise and keep the demons at bay!
Isn’t that what life is? Just a moment or should I say a series of moments. It’s true. If you really think about it, five minutes time, tomorrow or next week hasn’t happened yet and two minutes ago, yesterday or ten years ago is the past. So the only bit that’s real is now! Enjoy it!
Looking back and realizing what a great evening that was or anticipating the enjoyment of a forthcoming holiday is something we all do. Whilst it’s pleasant to reflect on the past and future, we may be in danger of actually missing out on the moment, the here and now, the present.
If you’re one of my yoga students you’ll know that I’m always directing your awareness to the presence of the ego mind. This is the part of the mind that is in charge of filtering. It sifts and sorts, categorizes and labels and is an essential part of our thinking. Without it we would all be bonkers!
Although an essential part of the mind, the ego can take over, acting as if it’s the only ‘mind’. It can gather steam with its labeling, comparing, judgments and criticism and before long it’s the only part of our inner dialogue that we hear.
If your ego mind is very busy and loud it will drown out deeper intuitive thoughts from your Self. These thoughts could be considered as natural perceptive ‘gut instincts. They have just as much, if not more value. They wish to serve you in the pursuit of being the ‘best’ you. They may for example alert you to a health issue that you are not paying attention to, this pushes you to take the necessary action that could be preventative.
Think of it like tuning a radio. If you only ever listen to Radio 1, how do you know that radio 4 exists, with all its amazing programs and information?
How do we access this deeper intuition you might ask? By being present is the answer.
Being here now equals less stress. If we want to enjoy life more and feel less pressured we need to make a conscious effort to be in the moment. Being present requires being ‘psychologically awake’ and more conscious.
Take a moment to notice what you can see right now around you. Now notice every single sound near and far. Next observe what you can feel… hungry, happy, and irritable, the fabric of your clothing, the air in your nostrils, the wind on your face and so on.
Practice this as often as possible so that you become the observer… the watcher… the listener… then you may wonder ‘who am I’?
Enjoy the Easter break I wish you lots of light, love and peaceful presence.
Several of you have asked why I haven’t written a blog for some time… Well, I made space so that I could do some other interesting things, alongside teaching yoga and working with great clients, I also had a couple of gigs, attended a jazz vocal course in London, went to some yoga days, explored foreign shores, partied with friends and picnicked with family… I’ve also had some nice mediations…
I’ve talkedbefore about the importance of mediation for a happier, calmer mind. Give yourself just a few minutes each day to begin meditating and enjoy the amazing benefits!
Getting in the groove
Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting too big a goal, my approach is a little and often until it develops into a disciplined practice.
Where’s your commitment? On a daily basis will you honour yourself with say, SEVEN minutes a day? Fantastic! That’s a great start.
The next important thing is to choose your time – morning or evening? How about both? 7.00am or 6.15am or 9.30pm. Set a time and stick to it.
Space to breathe
Set up a space to meditate and ALWAYS meditate in that place Ensure it’s clean and tidy, you don’t want any unnecessary distractions. If you only have one room, make a corner of the room your mediation area and sit there.
Don’t Be Flaky
Make yourself physically comfortable, whether thats cross legged on the floor or sitting on a chair and once your time starts, close your eyes and make a deal with yourself to remain still. DON’T fidget, ignore any itches or irritations, they will go away but if you keep scratching and fidgeting you’ll never get into a good practice. If you have to cough, of course do so – it’s common sense to be comfortable then just sit still and be. This is your training.
Rinse and repeat
I always say repetition is the mother of all skill and as you repeat the daily meditation you’ll build up a reservoir of inner peace. As you become familiar with the stillness it will become easier to hook into it at other times during the day. You’ll notice after time, an ability to step back and observe your thoughts, feelings and reactions and in this way you can begin to choose whether to ‘play’ in the dramas of life or whether to quietly step back sometimes and choose a different way to be.
When you’re regularly and effortlessly meditating for seven minutes each day, you can extend that time to ten minutes, then fifteen, twenty and so on.
In no time at all you’ll be meditating effortlessly for 30 minutes a day and enjoying the amazing benefits that come as a result!
How Do I Know Which Meditation Style Is Right For Me?
1. Breath Focus
It’s particularly good if you are more kinesthetic, you can focus on the feeling of breath in your nostrils and follow its journey into the body.
Start with a regular daily practice of two or three minutes. Sit quietly where you won’t be disturbed. Close your eyes, and take your awareness to your nostrils. Be aware of breathing in and out through your nose for a few breaths and then silently count 1,2,3,4 as you breathe in and 1,2,3,4 as you hold your breath then 1,2,3,3 as you exhale and 1,2,3,4 as you pause.
Do this for 10 breaths. If it helps imagine your are breathing around a square.
Your mind is likely to wander, this is true for all of us since the nature of the mind is to be constantly moving. When this happens simply go back to ‘one’ and start again. This is a mental discipline and the ultimate aim is to get to ten breaths uninterrupted by thoughts.
Mantra isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but useful if you’re very auditory – i.e. very tuned into sound – or if you really have a poor attention span!
So which mantra? It could be something from any faith, for example the Lord’s Prayer, or it could be a Buddhist Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, or a yogi’s Om Namah Shiva, or even the repetition of a western word such as Peace, Relax, Be or I am Still.
Repeat your chosen mantra slowly mentally and silently over and over for the duration of your mediation.
Technically trataka is a kryia ( a purification process) but can also be used as a meditation especially if you’re very visual. It’s also a great approach if your eyes are tired from too much computer work.
You do need to be sitting still and best done in the privacy of your own home. Light a candle about two feet away from you at eye level. Relax your body, sit up straight and soften your gaze to one of receiving the light into your eyes rather than staring. As soon as you blink or your eyes water, gently close your eyes and hold the image of the candle flame in your inner eye. As soon as the image fades, open your eyes and begin again.
NBRemove contact lenses prior to trataka
My favourite is No. 1 – Breath Focus. It can be done open-eyed, and even standing in a queue or sitting on a train. It can be done in addition to your regular practice and used any time you need to control your mind, emotions or body.
You could also try to develop a system. Something like this: bring your awareness to your breathing on the hour every hour – or as near to it as possible.
The most important thing is once you have found a method that works for you, STICK to it. If you keep chopping and changing you’ll never establish a discipline, and that’s the key.
So, don’t take my word for it. Do it yourself. Commit to a month and see the benefits for yourself.
If you have any questions about mediation post them on the ‘Ask Sue’ section and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Take guidance from your Doctor or health practitioner if you have been diagnosed with any personality disorder or mental illness, before practising mediation.
“Just what I needed, really great” ” … completely relaxed and enjoyed the practice, venue, food and great company… such great organisation” is just some of the feedback received after last weekend’s yoga retreat. (Book there for the next one in February.
Do you want peace in your life? What are you doing to achieve that state?
Even if you’re new to yoga get on your mat and breathe then begin to stretch, you’ll be surprised how quickly you will remember a couple of yoga poses you’ve enjoyed in the past and just do them. Listen to your body. If it hurts don’t do it! Apart from that enjoy!
Even 5 minutes of yoga can give you a break from the incessant dominance of the ego mind. You’ll recognise your ego mind as the part of you that labels, criticises, judges, demands and has big expectations. Sound familiar?
Yoga means union or to join, try taking a few minutes this weekend to tune into your breathing. Go on I dare you to take up my challenge and simply follow 10 whole breaths without allowing your mind to wander – good luck with that!
Oh and by the way this is a whole breath. Breathe in. Notice the natural holding of the breath. Breathe out. Notice the pause before you breathe in again.
Enjoy and let me know how you get on. Also remember there’s the ‘Ask Sue’ page if you have a yoga related or counselling question.