The last 6 months have been hectic and it’s fair to say that my routine and good intentions pretty much went out the window. The summer went by in a whirlwind of gorgeous weddings, holidays, teaching and dissertation writing. It was wonderful and I loved every minute, but I found it hard to keep hold of my good habits when every day was different. When I did have some time for myself, I became a master of procrastination and would frustrate myself with my ability to do absolutely nothing. In September, things became even more chaotic when I returned to teaching full-time whilst also completing my masters and trying to maintain some kind of social life. As usually happens with me, I tried to do too much and things began to unravel slightly. I’ve been exhausted, emotional and really, really missing Jess who feels so far away sometimes. Luckily, my boyfriend has been holding the fort amazingly, doing the washing, cooking and generally being very nice to me when I probably don’t deserve it! He is also the one who got me thinking about how I can manage my stress better, and particularly about yoga. On one of my very stressed days he questioned why I hadn’t been going to as many yoga classes; yoga is the only thing that calms me down and makes me relax (I notoriously cannot relax) and he was baffled as to why I hadn’t been using this to help me. I snapped back that I didn’t have time for yoga classes (I know I know…) but once I’d finished my rant he did get my thinking. Sometimes, it’s just not possible to spend 90 minutes at a yoga class, however much you want to and however much you know it will help. With some of the amazing benefits of yoga being easily achieved off that mat, there are simple things that you can do to reap the benefits of the practice, whether you manage to attend a class or not. These are the things that I’ve been thinking about recently:
Be Kind to Yourself
When struggling with a difficult yoga pose it can be easy to beat yourself up about it. My forearm stand is my nemesis and sometimes I lose my yogi calmness in a bout of uncontrolled leg flailing that ultimately sends me plummeting back down to my mat, sweaty and frustrated. When I care less about the pose, stay calm and breathe properly, it’s remarkable how much easier it seems to become. I think the same can be said about life in general. Be kind to yourself, don’t force things that aren’t ready and recognise that one day whatever it is that you’re worrying about will feel easier. Forcing something only makes it harder and as a result there can be a massive sense of release when deciding to put is aside for a while. Remind yourself that you are doing everything you can do deal with what life is throwing at you and that you deserve a little kindness.
Being kind to yourself might be the first step, but being kind to others is equally important. When busy or stressed it can be easy to snap at people unintentionally, or not give them the time that you know they deserve. I know I am guilty of this. Paying someone a compliment, asking a friend how their day was (and actually listening to the response), putting your phone away when talking, giving up your time to help somebody else, saying thank you for the small things… all these things add up and will make you, and those around you, feel a little bit happier.
We breathe all day every day, but how often do we actually pay it any attention or use it to help us feel better? Lying in savasana and slowly inhaling and exhaling while focusing on the rise and fall of the belly is a great way to focus on the breath. It is such a simple way to bring calmness and relaxation to a busy day and only takes a few minutes. Just be careful not to fall asleep!
Appreciate the world around you
One thing I love about England is our seasons. The burning reds and oranges of autumn are my favourite and I love nothing more than the sound of crunchy leaves. Taking time to notice and appreciate the world and people around you can be really powerful. It’s so easy to become absorbed in our own minds as we walk along or commute to work, that we don’t even look up to see what or who is around us. Taking the time to look around can help to shift your thinking away from yourself and your problems and put them into a little bit more into perspective.
Paying attention to how you do something rather than just doing it on autopilot is all part of mindfulness. Brushing your teeth, making a cup of tea, walking to work… all the things that you do everyday, just with greater focus and attention. Try be very aware of your actions a couple of times a day and you’ll be surprised at how quickly it can help to calm down the ‘monkey-mind.’ Like anything, it takes practice but is definitely worth persevering with.
Choose your attitude
This is one that I have stolen from a lovely friend of mine, who is currently commuting from Bristol to London for work, having just moved cities whilst also training to be a yoga teacher. However stressful things become, she always tries to choose her attitude: her current predicament could make her stressed and snappy but instead she tries to be grateful that she’s living in a city she loves whilst also having the opportunity to pursue new and old work interests. The power of positive thinking is priceless and can really change how you approach life’s difficulties. I have been trying to remind myself that I am lucky to have a job that I love and the opportunity for further education. I have a wonderful home, family and group of friends and try to be grateful for this everyday. Choosing your attitude can be incredibly powerful, so choose it wisely!