Discovering yourself through Yoga

“I was standing in my yoga class by myself, my body covered in white and pink scales. As I moved through the yoga sequence, my body in flow and with focus on my breath the scales started to fall and disappear into the ground. I could see parts of myself again. As I paused in Tadasana I felt the courage to remove the remaining pink and white scales from my face. I could see the whole of me and I finally revealed my true self.”

When I think of this dream or I tell others about it, the the little hairs on my arms and neck stand on end and I get the goosebumps. Throughout the years I have often had dreams like this that have been so clear with strange elements of symbolism that they have had me reaching for the dream dictionary. In short this dream was about myself being buried and hidden behind what I thought was right for me instead of embracing who I was and being more me in the world.

When I was small I used to spend time with my grandparents and I would make things, create stories and act them out. My Grandma was part of a writing group and she wrote poetry and short stories and I used to do so too. I remember really enjoying this time and being really happy but somehow it became lost, hidden and buried under exams, degrees, post graduate study, home improvements and the general expectation of a career, society and myself about what I ought to be doing. I felt unhappy like there was something missing.

Once yoga helped me past the anxiety and panic attack stage of my life and I started to explore deeper I began to listen to myself more. Through all the noise of day to day living I could finally hear myself speak. My body, heart, mind and soul was telling me to write again and I started to journal.

As I recall 2009 started out as such a promising time, I was 34, I obtained a new job, found a new home following some time out travelling and I thought I was all set. Sadly the remainder of the year was fraught with sadness as we lost three beautiful family members including my Grandma who encouraged me to create and write. As we move through life there are those times when we are reminded of the fragility of life and this was one of them. It was the wake up call I needed. I finally left the education system and I wrote the first draft of an idea I had for a book. I have re-wrote it a few times but never done anything else with it. Annoyingly it still sits upstairs just waiting to be used. There are a few reasons why it still sits there, one of them is because I never really understood what it was about until recently and secondly I have felt I needed more space to work on it a little more. I have always said it would have its place in time.

I do believe that Yoga brought me home, over the years it has helped me to understand who I truly am and encouraged me to show the world those parts of me too. My learning through Yoga hasn’t stopped there, it has healed me, encouraged me to surpass obstacles I have faced and challenged my beliefs and old worn out behaviour patterns. It is one of the reasons I teach students in class to focus in and listen to their body. I’m sure you have all seen the Jigar Gor quote, “Yoga is not about touching your toes it’s about what you learn on the way down.” It is certainly true for me.

All my love

Andrea

Mixing Yoga with Coaching

On Sunday 3rd February 2019 I delivered my first ever workshop as a qualified yoga teacher, an idea that had been brewing in my mind for quite some time. Through completing the health coaching course and just finishing off the life coaching part I had realised how much yoga and coaching overlapped. Not only in terms of theoretical perspective but also practically too. Through the 12 week coaching programme we use relaxation, visualisation and breath work and I wanted to devise a workshop that used the coaching and yoga together.

Our lovely class room

My vision for the workshop was to create a safe space where people could come along and have some time for themselves and allow themselves the opportunity to explore possibilities for the future. The relaxation was a mix of yoga practice, meditation, breath work, discussion, sharing with others and at the very end a deep yoga nidra to empower movement towards those goals and hearts desires. The very things we have always wanted to achieve but keep putting off, making excuses or just denying ourselves the opportunity to just go for it.

In the workshop we explored our three brains, the brain stem (critter brain), the cortex and the limbic system and the part they play in helping us to move forwards with a goal or to slam on the breaks. For the brain to give us the go ahead, love, safety and belonging need to remain intact. If anyone of these are missing the brain, the brain stem particularly will stop us moving forward. We will then provide ourselves with all sorts of reasons why we cannot go ahead and we leave our goals unrealised. Sometimes those reasons may seem quite logical, money, time but ultimately they prevent us from reaching our goal.

Sharing our goals

In the workshop I shared my own goal and how the brain stem has played out for me. I have had to work some hurdles but this time I’ve been determined and I have recognised where my brain stem (critter brain) has been getting in the way and I’ve had to be creative. A method to by pass the brain stem is just to move forwards with small but consistent steps towards your goal. The brain stem becomes less frightened and less likely to slam on the breaks. We don’t want to be in a position where we are telling ourselves we are unable to do something for so long that we begin to believe that this is the case, this is know as Samskara in yoga.

At the end of the workshop we finished with a beautiful poem by @Poetess (Rachelle Lamb)

May you fall madly in love this year .. in love with someone who unhinges your tired trajectory, in love with a spouse of several years who might be aching for lightning, in love with demanding children and crazy relatives .. in love with the particular pedigree of genius insanity that has perhaps claimed you in spite of your reluctance .. and certainly in love with an animal, a cloud, a redwood, the wild .. these at least once a day. May you fall in love with this fragile jewel of a world, with hard work, real learning, just causes, petitioning and prayers. May you fall in love with wonder itself, with the grand mystery, with all that feeds you in order that you may live .. and with the responsibility that that confers. May you fall in love with heartbreak and seeing how it’s stitched into everything. May you fall in love with the natural order of things and with tears, tenderness and humility. May this be a magnificent year for you. May you fall deeply, madly, hopelessly, inextinguishably in love.

I truly and utterly loved delivering the workshop. It was an absolute pleasure and I thank all who attended for their time, attention for taking part, getting involved and supporting everyone else in the room. Including me. I am hoping to deliver another workshop in the future focusing on overcoming obstacles although I am not sure when that will be but for the time being I will be focusing on teaching yoga classes again

Love

Andrea

Hearts Desires and Focused Goals

Since I started teaching Yoga I have been wanting to put together a workshop.  For many years I have taught through my profession as a nurse, small groups, large groups, conferences, I love it all.  I really enjoy the planning, telling people about it and the delivery, bringing people together, discussing, sharing ideas and learning.  I could not wait to get going but the time had to be right.  Being a newly qualified yoga teacher in 2017 saw myself just finding my feet finding a venue to teach, learning about the problems that arise when you are first starting to teach, the things you don’t think about, for example what happens when I am sick, I am never sick, but actually was, what happens when it snows, what happens when the venue isn’t available for nine weeks? I didn’t think this would happen either, but it actually did.

2018 was busy, it was crazy, the year just seemed to be a none stop roller coaster, I took part in workshops myself, learned about different types of yoga and shared my experiences by bringing them to class to share with others, I was deepening my knowledge.  I also started my pregnancy yoga teacher training and my life and health coach training too.  I changed my job and there was no space to even consider a workshop and towards the end on 2018 there seemed to be no space to teach yoga at all. However through the Health and Life Coaching Course I began to see an overlap between coaching and yoga and this idea was confirmed further when two of my Yoga students agreed to help me with my certification.  The idea to develop a combined workshop started to grow but I was concerned about how to fit it all in with my busy schedule.

On Sunday the 2nd December 2018 I decided I was going to commit to my own hearts desire and focused goal and spend the next 90 days working towards that goal.  I was worried about how I was going to fit everything in but through meaningful conversation through my own Coach made me realise I was just making excuses and I needed to press forwards with my goals and so the workshop was born.

I know how difficult it is when you have that feeling that you know in your heart you really want to do something but for some reason you find yourself up against opposition. The opposition not only comes from others but from your own beliefs, fears, worries and obstacles that you allow to get in the way.  I envisioned the workshop being a space where people could relax, reduce noise of the mind and society and really focus on their own goals without fear of being judged or dismissed.  The workshop is about offering a safe place to become motivated, empowered and excited about their goals and know they are possible.

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I am looking forward to the workshop and sharing my own experiences as well as teaching beautiful yoga.  The level of the workshop is relaxed and suitable for all levels.  We will start off focusing in and noticing how we are feeling then move through a gentle warm up routine and noticing how the smallest of movements can change how we feel and move us to a positive and relaxed state. We will then set our intention for the workshop and then practice some yogic breathing to settle the mind and relax the body further before setting our goals and understanding our why?  Why we want to set that goal and understand the importance of it and significance it will have in our lives.  We will then move into our yoga routine before experiencing a deep yoga relaxation (Nidra) empowering us further towards our goal, with a very special finish to the afternoon.

 

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Exploring and Learning-a yoga teachers journey

Wow, it’s been a few months since I was here last.  What a journey it has been.  As time goes by and the more I am exploring yoga and the teachings of yoga I am noticing that I am becoming more passionate and excited about it every day.      

I wouldn’t say the past few months have been easy I seem to be learning about the things that can go wrong when you teach a yoga class.  I had a bout of sickness (rarely happens) at the beginning of the year, classes were hampered by the snow and we have had a slight hitch with the venue where we teach, meaning classes will have been put on hold until July.  I was devastated for a while especially as desperate attempts to find a new space was proving difficult, but then I decided to pull myself together and get smart.  I decided to use the time wisely to invest in my own yoga practice and experience as much yoga as possible with the aim of deepening my own yoga practice and to enrich my own teachings.  

I started off taking part in a Spring Yoga Retreat at Manchester Yoga Central, it was a great event and an opportunity to catch up with Gemma, a fellow yoga teacher.  It was great to share our experiences of yoga teaching.  It was also my first introduction to Ashtanga Yoga, which I have to admit I did not find it easy and seemed to be incredibly hard on my body.  However it has to be said I wasn’t feeling great in myself and I was sore from a fall I had a few days before but despite that my interest was peaked, I wanted to explore this practice even more.

The following week was the Om Yoga Show at Event City near the Trafford Centre and I was determined to seek out more Ashtanga experiences.  I made it to the first class on time and luckily aimed at beginners.  Feeling less sore and less tired I found the pace and experience much enjoyable and even though I found it challenging to the body I also enjoyed how my body felt after practice.  I liked the Ashtanga practice so much I have signed up to an 8 week beginners course, focusing on ujjayi breathing technique and correct eye gazing points (drishti).  

After the Om Yoga Show I took a trip to Kensington, London  to take part in my Yoga Pregnancy Teacher Training, a four day course with Tara Lee Yoga.  It was a truly amazing experience with wonderful teachers and fellow yoga teachers, I laughed and I cried.  Doing this Training was so important to me, when I have classes I want people to feel safe and secure and with this type of Yoga being so specialised I wanted to ensure I had the right knowledge and also knowledge from the right experts.  Tara and Claire had spent years researching material for the course, it really was expertise at its highest level and the manual was beautifully put together.  

After the course I returned home to teach class 8 of the experienced yoga group, before catching a flight to Albir in Spain for a 5 day yoga trip with Premier Yoga Holidays.  A great time was had, Colin and  Anouk were both lovely people and looked after us so well.  I felt so cared for I cannot praise the experience enough.  Plus it was another opportunity to embrace my own yoga practice and deal with some of my own fears that became apparent on the mat.  

Over the next few weeks I will be formatting the next 8 week block, deciding on themes and sequences for us to explore.  I will also be completing my yoga pregnancy training.  There are other things in the pipeline too which I will tell you about in due course but in the meantime….Thank you to everyone who has come to class over the past few months, it has been great and I hope to see you all soon 

Love 

Andrea 

Why I love teaching Yoga

Since the moment I decided that I was going to go for it and teach yoga life has been on a non-stop roller coaster and I have had very little time to think about the reasons why I want to teach yoga. The 8 weeks prior to starting the very first beginner yoga course seemed to be about an endless list of tasks to complete to prepare for the start of the course. Those efforts were worth it although perhaps a little stressful alongside working full time and working towards completing a leadership course. Never the less the actual teaching of yoga has been truly enjoyable and a heart warming experience too.

In recent weeks I have really felt the need to focus in on why I am teaching yoga, what is it purpose so I can help others. It all started with a free webinar that I came across by Yoga Teacher, Marketer and Entrepreneur Ryan Rockwell. For an hour of my time it was so worth it the webinar presented me with the opportunity to look at my own attitude to teaching yoga and also to look at my own attitude towards myself as a yoga teacher. From the webinar I was able to align myself with the true path of yoga in terms of Pantanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga and what they meant to me as a teacher, this provided the focus of what my foundation of integrity is in terms of teaching. Along with the webinar came a free workbook that helped me to gain further insight into why I am teaching yoga, how did yoga help me and most importantly what is it about Yoga that I love to teach so much. First of all I thought it would be nice to share how yoga helped me and then also why I love teaching yoga so much:

How Yoga helped me:
• Yoga helped me to overcome panic attacks, stress and anxiety
• Once I put myself on the mat I know it is time to focus on Yoga only so for that moment however long that is I forget about everything else that worries me, it provides a sense of peace. It provides a sense of freedom and I often find that what was worrying me has gone, I would gain a different perspective, become aware of a solution.

It creates a space for a new line of thought to come through.
• Yoga taught me to value myself and love myself.
• Yoga helped me to be more considerate of myself of what I wanted and needed. I started to hear myself more about what I needed and wanted in my life.
• It changed my perception that I wasn’t solely a nurse, that I had parts of myself that I had forgotten, a writer, experimental entrepreneur. It provided the confidence to experiment with what I thought was lost or unachievable.
• I became calmer, more relaxed, I reacted less and took more action, I stopped procrastinating and I loved more. It created space to do more, exercise more, eat better and sleep better.

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Why I love teaching Yoga so much:-

• I love to teach people with busy lives where they have little time for themselves. I love creating an opportunity for them to take time out once a week for 90mins where they can give themselves that time. It’s about self- care and self- love and recognising that it is okay to have that time for yourself.

•I love to teach people about the meaning of Yoga, Yoga means Union and connecting the mind body and breath, it provides a focus, a concept, an opportunity to leave behind whatever is outside the yoga room door, all be it for a short-time.

•I love teaching breath work and the benefit of how it helps to reduce anxiety, how it can help during panic attacks, heightened stress.

•I love teaching salute to the sun because it provides an opportunity of being in complete flow focusing on nothing else from asana, body movements and breath. It provides a free-flowing energy. A feeling of flying, of being free from stress and worry.

•I love how yoga provides an opportunity to look after themselves better, remember themselves, remember that they matter. How yoga can help improve confidence, better decision making. It brings you back to your true self.

There are so many benefits to yoga on all different levels, but this is what Yoga means to me, why it has been such an important factor in my life and above all why I love to teach Yoga and be the best teacher I can possibly be .. Continue reading “Why I love teaching Yoga”

Writing, Reflections and New Year Meditations

Happy New Year to you all, a new year, new goals, new opportunities and experiences. 2017 was an amazing year, I began 2017 in Prague, an awe- inspiring place full of history, architecture and art that demonstrates the most beautiful and creative souls that ever existed, can you imagine being inside the heart and mind of the architect Peter Parler who was responsible for the Gothic Design of the Charles Bridge? There were so many beautiful and unexpected moments in Prague I think it will always hold a special place in my heart.

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Fast forwarding to May, I was presented with an award for Leading Service Improvement, August I qualified as a Yoga Teacher, October I started to teach my own Yoga classes and in December I completed the Mary Seacole NHS Leadership Programme. In between all those events I have worked with some of the most inspiring and supportive group of people I have ever known and in the moments where I wanted to give up, especially the last 6 weeks of the year, they have kept me going with their care, support and encouragement. There have been plenty of mini-adventures along the way and towards the end of the year I was able to spend some quality time with my family and friends. I really enjoy reflecting on the first day of the new year as it helps me to focus on the year ahead and what is to come next.

I may have mentioned in previous posts that I write in a journal on a daily basis, usually after yoga, after meditation or before bed.  I usually find that if I do not write I tend to wake up in the middle of the night anyway and end up writing for an hour or so which isn’t always helpful before a busy day at work.  I like to just sit quietly with my journal on my knee, pen at my side and close my eyes for a few moments where I will clear my mind of any thoughts from the day.  As I breathe and relax there will be a few moments of nothingness, just an empty space but then out of nowhere the words will begin to flow clearly inter-connecting on paper as if they are meant to be together, a story to be told perhaps. I used this technique for an assignment that I had to do for my yoga course on practicing non-attachment and how it felt, the words just flowed in poetic form:

What it feels like to practice non-attachment

As I clear my mind from my thoughts of the day
I enter a space that feels happy and safe,
A moment of silence before the words start to flow
Not even I will know which way the story will go
As the words appear, concise and clear
There are no obstacles to face or problems to fear
For me as the writer there is no agitation
This certainly is not a place of stagnation
No boundaries are here just the freedom to fly high
Maybe the possibility that I can touch the sky
To be here means there is no lack of focus
My mind opens like a flowering Spring Crocus
I am always surprised to see the words on paper
Connecting with ease and often poetic in nature
Maybe a story I am trying to capture
With my mind and heart like an open door
I have the ability to love you more and more
The beauty of the world is all so transparent
This is how it feels to employ non-attachment

 

The poem was a complete surprise and just before I wrote it I had no idea that the words were going to present themselves like that, I was engaged completely in creative flow.

I have journals that I have written over the past few years full of poems, short stories and thoughts, ideas, goals, fears and positivity. The journals pictured below are a sample of journals that I have written in between April 2015-September 2017 and there are more.

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I love how on the first page of each one I write a little caption so for example the journal pictured in the middle was the first of the three and in the front page I have written, “A journal to write nice things in,”  I laugh when I read it because inside the journal are some really deep and dark thoughts, it is a journey of someone working their way through the muddiness of life and back into the light of their own heart. Considering I am usually about hearts, flowers and soft fluffy kittens I really cannot believe some of the things I have written, it is truly dark. The journal on the left is entitled “Changes” and contains pieces about changes in perception, challenging negative thoughts and belief systems and the third one on the right is titled, “It’s where the magic starts and the story ends..” and contains some really beautiful short stories on images visualized through meditation, poetry, of love and happiness.

The reason why I am writing about my journal antics is that yesterday I had some questions about life and direction which I meditated on. I then went to spend some time with my friends for New Years. When I arrived home I felt really unsettled and I couldn’t sleep, I was having all these light bulb moments, ideas and stories, I really should have written before bed but I hadn’t. After finally falling asleep I woke up this morning and made my way downstairs. I made some hot water and lemon and went to spend some time on my yoga mat. Once I had completed my morning routine with a supportive heart opener I had a desire to go downstairs and retrieve the journal I had bought on Saturday. I had made my way in to the city centre to find another hand stitched journal like the ones pictured above but disappointingly I could not find one. I was just about to leave the shop when one caught my eye, it is a little different to the ones I have bought before but I knew it was the right one to write in. It has a laser cut owl and is silver, dark blue and sparkly.

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With the journal on my knee and then pen in my hand I opened the first page and wrote the words that first came into my mind.

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On reflection it is about knowing you are living a life of purpose but sometimes there is something in the background that you have been ignoring that your heart and soul really wants to do. Thankfully I know what that means for me, it is just a case of deciding a definite course of action.

Happy New Year

Thank you for reading

Andrea

Teaching Yoga for the First Time

It is so cold today and the snow is falling thick and fast, so I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to stay inside, keep warm and reflect on my experience of teaching yoga as a newly qualified teacher before we move forwards into the new year.

The decision to start to teaching yoga was not an easy one, I knew my work load was heavy, but I felt that I really wanted to get going with the teaching. I resolved that there was never a right time to start something new and so set about preparing my very first 8-week beginners course. I am so passionate about teaching and I love it, it feels very natural to me and do not have any issue in speaking in front of a large group of people which has always seemed strange considering I am not a person that seeks the limelight. When I deliver any training my tone of voice completely changes, as does my posture and the words just flow without any effort. I always trust my own timings, so I work out what I have to say and then just deliver in whatever time I have, and it just works.

With all my teaching and workshop facilitation experience in mind the prospect of developing an 8- week course wasn’t so daunting. I also had a framework to work around that my teacher Mick had provided as part of the yoga teaching course and I was able to entwine my own ideas into the sessions to make them more in line with my own style of teaching. What did make me feel more nervous was the thought of teaching something new that I wasn’t very experienced at to others. Whilst training we had practiced in class but somehow teaching on my own to my own group of students felt very different. As the first class approached I could feel myself becoming more and more nervous but in the back of my mind I kept thinking it’s going to be okay and thought of all the preparation I had under taken and I had prepared, I had prepared the first session as if I had never practiced yoga before in my life to the point where I felt exhausted.

On the day of the first class my work calendar was full and in between meetings there wasn’t really much time to think about teaching yoga plus I had arrived in the place you are when you are approaching an exam or an interview for a new job, there isn’t anything you can do, you know it’s coming and you just need to embrace the experience and just go for it and give the best you can.

Not long into the first class I remember there being a moment where all the students were in Savasana and I started to panic as I thought to myself I really cannot do this, but I stopped my unhelpful thoughts from going any further as I remembered who I was. I remembered all the times I had taught, from the first student nurse I mentored to developing and delivering infection control programmes in Northern Uganda and not to mention the very first time I delivered a beginners’ jewellery making workshop. All those experiences at some point had been new but I managed to do it every single time and so why should this moment be any different. As I relaxed into my thoughts I felt my natural teaching flow return and before I knew it the first session was over.

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Following each class, I always engage in a post teaching reflection to see if anything could have been done differently or improved for the next class and after the second class I realised that yoga wasn’t a new subject to me I had been practicing yoga for 10 years and I really didn’t need to plan sessions as if I had never done yoga before, I needed to be more confident in what I knew and my ability to deliver. This realisation seemed to improve my confidence and I started to relax even more. I noticed week by week that I became more creative in my teachings despite the teaching plan. What I taught and when was very much led by where the yoga students were in their practice I knew when to speed things up, slow things down and when to challenge the students a little further. By class 8, I had the briefest of class plans and I completely improvised based on what the students wanted to do, and it felt right, I was completely in creative flow. It was such a good feeling to see how the students had grown and developed but also for myself as the teacher. I feel so grateful that I am able to teach something that I love.  With two classes per week coming up in the new year I am really looking forward to developing further as a teacher and assist the students to develop their practice too.

See you soon

Andrea