The lycra jumpsuit + mirrors to the self

Yesterday I wore a lycra jumpsuit to yoga, and that evening I wrote a post about it on Instagram. These two things might suggest that I truly am ‘one of those types of yoga people’ that you might have already suspected I was. And it’s true – I am that person. This is me. As they say, you can take the girl out of the Gold Coast, but you can’t take the Gold Coast out of the girl!

The thing is, I’ve got to tell you that these seemingly superficial and image-orientated experiences were incredibly liberating and unexpectedly soul nourishing. I know how much looking at myself in a mirror and wearing fashionable yoga clothes stinks of ego-boost and self-involvment. Tick and tick. But like life itself, they broke the stereotype, the reality is quite different to the image. Wearing sexy lycra suit + posting onto social media actually became an opportunity to consider / dismantle these very things – you know – the ego and self-image?

It started with my disorganisation, probably something you can relate to in a heartbeat. Laundry. I actually love laundry, but occasionally it loves me too much. Yesterday it simultaneously beat me and saved me (of sorts). It forced me to wear an outfit that I had only worn in my mind, on a different body, in an imaginary world. You know the world – the one where you are thinner, younger and without cares, not intimidated.

Earlier that morning my husband and I went for a swim. I exercise to put my boy into action, and a long time ago I realised why I feel better after moving my body, it’s because the body becomes a felt experience instead of a seen experience. I am *in* my body when I walk , swim, practice yoga, meditate or whatever other action. For me movement is embodiment – I realign my perspective (and world) starting from within my body. But this is me, and if it isn’t resonating with you that is absolutely fine. I meet many people who it does resonate with in a week; it’s a thing. Maybe your thing, maybe not your thing. And this idea will change over time. That’s the hope anyway.

But if you have some residual body-dysmorphic thinking going on in your mind – leftover from childhood, teenager-land or current adulthood pressures, then I encourage you to also come up with ways that challenge that thinking. For me it’s movement in some capacity and it’s based on research into how people with eating disorders spend alot of the time looking back towards themselves from outside of themselves, they describe themselves as if they are not in their body – appearance over feeling. It made sense to me, so I came up with a way that I can practioce the very opposite – yoga and exercise and movement for me, it might also be for you. Worth a shot!

Anyway back to the story, I wore the suit, spoke with another lady about the my consciousness of wearing the suit which is actually a fairly ordinary thing to chat to another woman about. I then reassured her that if I could wear this brave suit she could too, drove home and was struck by the conversation and how we are all having these conversations in ourselves about ourselves and who is the original author? I don’t believe half of the things I hear myself, tell myself, in my mind, all the time.

We’ve all seen the beautiful yoga clothes on sale at the moment, shiny and cheap (er) in all their post Christmas lovliness…discounted. There is a yoga that would cringe to think that I want to purchase and buy any of that stuff; that I would want to partake in consumerism, and that’s fine, I know exactly that argument, respect it, and I still want to purchase and wear the pretty clothes. I am 36, 2 kids, 15 years practicing yoga, 9 years teaching it, a female living in a body in the Western world. What I am saying is that I have perfected the skill of analysing stuff; I get the theory against consumerism and capitalism etc etc, but I still want to wear nice clothes to yoga and partake in some kind of yoga fashion.

Back to the story. After teaching a class in the suit, in the health orientated space (with HUGE mirrors everywhere) and having that conversation, I realised that she had held up a mirror to myself more clearly than even that wall of mirrors could have dreamed. She literally spoke my inner dialogue – ‘oh I couldn’t do that’. I wonder if she was also thinking ‘I might do that after I lose 5 kg’ (and man, that 5kg is as slippery as a snake, it’s there one minute and it’s slithered over there the next). Well guess what sister! I gotta tell you something! I just did exactly what you fear, and I can say that if I can do it you TOTALLY can too!

Three things from all this – no-ones yoga is better than another persons yoga (and I know the definition of yoga might not even enable that to make sense!). And just because you like purchasing and wearing yoga clothes doesn’t mean you are less yoga or less authentic than the person who doesn’t. And lastly, there is a very good chance that you have this body-dysmorphic thinking going on if you are anything like me.

I think what I am trying to say is that sometimes when we are honest and authentic with our fears and vulnerabilities rather than pretend to stand above them, if we stop pretending that they don’t affect us we can connect so much more with those we are wanting to connect with. Not everyone will get us, and some will disconnect, some will unfollow. Not everyone will want to get involved. But that is fine, there will be others who do. And these people you may not have expected. I received quite a few unlikely, unknown messages from people who felt similarly. When you do things that scare you, but you believe in, you give people permission to do things that also scare them and they believe in.

And maybe authenticity is the key, being true to who you are no matter what you think you should be. These are just some recent observations I have made this morning.

Exercise at all ages: 105 year old woman who still practices yoga

I love the way that exercise makes you feel good, simply put. I’ve recently been going to the swimming pool due to the days being darker and shorter. I generally find this time of year a tricky one, as do many other people I’m sure. Especially because I reckon the mornings are the best time to get your body moving, and without my morning walk I have been feeling rather lost!

The amazing thing, that you will find when you start to make movement before breakfast a ‘thing’ you just do is that you meet others doing something similar as well. So many other swimming folk doing their early morning thing – I met a woman who is a maths teacher at the high school next door, she has a 1 and 3 year old and takes herself swimming every Tuesday morning before work. For her it’s like a moment to herself which she fits in each week. And many of the other folk were over 70 or 80 years, which is really inspiring. Good on them I say!

Followed by some yoga stretches such as a lying twist and a standing forward fold, what a beautiful way to start the day.

When you start to make movement and exercise about sociability and mental health, rather than just losing weight, it becomes such a more enjoyable and meaningful experience. Something you want to do for life, rather than just as a quick fix to fit into clothes.

In this vein, have you seen this clip about Eileen Ash – a cricketer from Norwich – who practices yoga at 105 years old? Perhaps you have seen her in the newspaper already. If not, do take a look, I’m sure it will inspire you to get your yoga on as well 🙂

x Sal

Follow this link to watch Norwich woman, Eileen Ash who is 105 years old speak about her love of yoga. 

And then here is another clip where Eileen chats with another cricketer, who is 25 years old.

Memories from November 2018 Yoga Retreat

It’s such an amazing feeling the day after a yoga retreat. Happy exhaustion. And I just keep thinking, wow, what a yoga retreat this mid November weekend was – all the way out in the middle of nowhere in countryside Norfolk.

Here’s how it went…

Friday 16th November, 12pm: I arrive at Fishley which is a beautiful house in Norfolk countryside, near to Acle and close to the River Thurne. Everything about Fishley has been lovingly restored and it really is the prefect setting for unwinding, forgetting your responsibilities and practicing yoga for the weekend. The very first thing I always do is set out all the mats in a colour co-ordinated way so that I can start to visualise the bodies that will be on the mats and how I think it’ll be best to begin the first session.

Yoga room ready to roll! Getting the setting and colours co-ordinating does make my heart sing!

Once set up, I sit and drink tea, burn a little incense to clear the space, and then I stare out the window for a long time which is one of my new favourite hobbies. All ready for guests to start ringing the door bell, and the afternoon is about getting everyone settled into their rooms and asking them questions so I can get to know them better for the sessions.

Friday 5pm First Yoga Class: By this time everyone is here (only just!) and this first session is traditionally a slow flow session which is my favourite style of class to both teach and practice. What made this years’ session unique is that I themed the session specifically on shoulder and upper back releasing. Most participants hadn’t needed to travel far as the venue is only 45 minutes to an hour away from Norwich, but some had come from Suffolk, Cambridge and Bristol. In addition to car driving and sitting on trains, work that involves computers and sitting at desks mean that by Friday the upper back and shoulders of most human beings are in need of attention. Lots of lunging flows with side body stretches weaved through and then we used yoga straps to help ease into external rotations of the shoulders. One of the last poses was Prone-Twisted Scorpion and to my surprise, despite my idea that it unfortunately resembles roadkill (sorry for the visual!) everyone seems to totally love this pose. I know why too – it’s so effective at stretching the chest and helping to realign the shoulder blades. At the end of the class Christy said that she felt that there was this sense of shared energy throughout the room, which I thought was absolutely perfectly put and something that I think we have all felt at some point in a group yoga class.

7pm Meet + Greet: After the class everyone went for showers (Fishle

y has beautiful bathrooms) and then we met in the front room for an introductory meet and greet. Usually this involves me revealing a couple of embarrassing facts about myself (I always do that when I am nervous) this year included how I am the proud owner of Geri Halliwell’s Yoga DVD and this was one of the first things I knew about yoga! But honestly, the best part is then when I hand it over to all the interesting guests and they share what they love about yoga, how it makes them feel and what affect it has had on their lives. Soooo inspiring and so much of it resonated: it’s like someone else describing a similar feeling that you have but in their own words. One of my longest attending students described it eloquently saying that yoga gave this feeling of ‘energisation’ which we all agreed should become an actual proper word because we all certainly agreed to know exactly what it meant. I suggested it would also translate perfectly as ‘prana’, which is what it is known in yoga as life force energy. It can be said, that from this conversation it is clear that Yoga really does make people feel good. We went on longer than expected so Henry brought in the Vietnamese spring roles made with rice paper which were super fresh and delicious. 

8pm Dinner: A totally vegan Green Thai Curry + chocolate brownie + coconut ice cream. Have to say 8pm was a little later than we planned as our conversation went on for much longer than expected, but was worth the wait!

Vegan dinner cooked by Henry

Saturday 7.15am Misty sunrises: Given the week before had been overcast I don’t think any of us expected to see such an absolutely breathtaking sunrise on Saturday morning. There was mist covering the fields and support act to the sun was every possible warm hue that was ever created all there for us in the sky. Here is a few photos that guests took that morning:

Thanks Denise for your beautiful capture of early morning 🙂

Thanks Nina for this postcard-perfect capture

Thanks Henry (the husband and chef) for taking this pretty photo even with a cow who seems to be not as excited as we were!

7.45am Core Class: Mindful that it was the first class of the day, and that not everyone is a morning person (can you believe!) we started in Savasana and listened to the kind of yoga music that sounds breezy, woody and chilled out all at once. Those kinds of sounds that are familiar but exotic if you know what I mean? Mornings really are the best time to do core work (I think!) not least because you have no food in your belly. The night before we had discussed the differences and similarities between yoga and pliates and I personally love pilates but I think I was secretly determined to make sure everyone felt that Yoga had something to offer in terms of core work.We started with supine (lying down core work) and then onto seated positions such as Navasana (boat) and variations and then finished with the infinite possibilities that plank offers. The class was like a double shot of espresso!  Everyone was certainly awake after that! And from the feedback I am pretty sure that everyone was convinced yoga does the core thing too 😉 The class was treated to a nice expansive bridge pose to stretch out the abdominals + some lying twists also to finish. Then this is what we opened our eyes to: soft Autumn leaves and sun shining through the window of the conservatory…

Autumn view from the ‘Yoga’ conservatory

9am Breakfast: The first meal of the day was Henry’s famous baked porridge accompanied by toasted bread from our favourite Norwich baker, Bread Source.

10am Walk: After Breakfast we put on our wellies and went for a blustery autumn walk up past the church and then along the River Thurne: watched people sailing, met some dogs.

11.30am Vinyasa Flow Yoga: I had warned everyone the night before that this was the hardest class in terms of physicality (!) so I thought I better stay true to my word and get on it! What happened was exactly that, lots of sun salutations and warrior poses, when I looked at the time it had flown past but I could see that this class had been pretty challenging for everyone all around. Gotta love how students climb that mountain altogether and get on with it even when it’s a sweaty experience. I like to think of it as a celebration of being alive! I opened the door at one point and the breeze was like it came straight from heaven and I’m pretty sure November breeze never felt so good. And that was one verrrrryyyy long Savasana that the students earned at the end of this class. In fact I think it took us 10 minutes over time, but in Savasana who is counting the minutes anyway?!

1.30pm Lunch: Well earned! Henry’s salad selection which he has gotten down to a fine art having catered for dozens of retreats over the past few years. Finished with warming chai tea, many people headed off to bed for a day nap afterwards.

4 – 5.30pm Candlelit Yin: We started with the legs up the wall which I always think is one of the best ways to begin the process of slowing down. This kind of class is all about slowing down and being still. And this is always the most diverse class visually – we begin seeing everything in full colour before the sun has started setting. The majority of the class is spent as silhouettes and and then by the end we are in complete darkness aside from a few tea light candles speckled around. It’s like a whole day in a single session. A few people hadn’t tried yin before so some of the more intense postures I cut short at around 4 minutes instead of the traditional 5 minute mark. But that’s fair enough because though it appears to be quiet and gentle from the outside, there is actually quite alot going on in the subtlety of a yin posture. It’s the kind of class that makes you stay very close to the breath, as a support and as a form of meditation. We listened to gentle piano music as a second form of support too.

Saturday night dinner was baked salmon and green beans (fancy that – a weekend with the Salmon’s and they serve you Salmon 😉 I won’t go through every single minute of Sunday but I will tell you that the sunrise was almost as beautiful and the first class was all about inversions (going upside down). And though the second class was vinyasa, I made sure it was significantly gentler than the Saturday session because I felt it suited everyone better. The feeling of Sunday called for a slower rhythm in every way.

In summary, it was a weekend of unforgettable November sunrises, yoga of all types + tempos, lots of deep, nourishing breaths spent with friends new + old. And if you are reading this because you were one of the beautiful souls who came along for the weekend, thank you for your presence, your smiles and most of all your unwavering commitment to turning up and practicing. I see you, I appreciate you and am in support of you!

Henry and I are always a bit sad to see these weekends end. On the day after the retreat I received an email from the lovely Claire:

Dear Sally and Henry

I just wanted to send a heart felt thank you to you both for a truly unforgettable weekend.

It surpassed all my expectations from the beautiful setting and accommodation to the delicious, nourishing food and amazing yoga practice! So many thoughtful touches, and the company – what a wonderful group of people to spend time with – intelligent, interesting and inspiring!

We’ll will be doing it all again in Spring – 26th April 2019 (what a great way to recover from the indulgence of Easter!) There’s some general info on the retreat page, or send me an email if you’d like more details such as full brochure, a schedule of all the classes and prices. I offer payment plans so you can break the cost down over the months in the lead up. You really don’t need to be a pro at yoga to come along. In fact of the guests that came along with her husband this weekend did her first downward facing dog at the first retreat that I ever taught, and this was her fifth retreat!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post.

Namaste

x Sally