This is peace

Focus on the good in your life. Focus on presence. Focus on love and showing love to yourself and others. Once you do this, the overall happiness of your life will totally change. Suddenly life doesn't seem as hard. Rather, life is exciting and the challenges are embraced rather than avoided. And the ironic beautiful part is, when that fateful day comes, we can reflect upon our lives knowing we lived, felt and appreciated every moment.

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Turning pain into strength

 
 

This morning was one of my strongest practices for this month. It appears my back is beginning to settle down which is a huge relief. Whilst I feel, in part, disappointed my back gave me so much grief this month, I’m actually really grateful for this experience. In this mornings practice, I realized I had a control over my body that I’ve not experienced before. Guruji noticed this also. I had an awareness of the subtle sensations I’m unconsciously too lazy to notice at other times. How I lower into chaturanga, how I transition between jump throughs and jump backs – it’s all changed. And this is only because the pain has been so bad that unless I consciously activated every muscle in my body, especially my pelvic floor, then I was unable to move at all.

Sitting with Guruji on the floor, he would remind me that pain and injury only come due to a weak pelvic and abdominal contraction. He assured that upon learning how to maintain the simultaneous control on these parts of my body that the entire neuromuscular system would relax. That there would be no pain. And he was right. Every day I have worked hard to develop this strength, but more so my conscious awareness of these parts of my body, and this has been an immense challenge. But the fascinating thing is, now my back is stronger and the pain is subsiding, I realize my practice has become stronger, more focused, more controlled than ever before.

It is very easy as a teacher to give advice. To assure others that they can achieve great things, or overcome difficult times. But I believe this advice is of little value or bears little weight if it comes from a person who has not faced the challenges themselves. I’ve cried many times in the past month – pain related mostly. Even the fetal position became near impossible for me to manage. This doesn’t happen often, but it does happen at times. A fluctuation as Guruji would say. And although it is not fun to feel pain, it is a lesson. A lesson I can pass onto others, where I can teach from this place of understanding. As we advance in our practice, we tend to forget what it’s like to be a beginner. To feel tightness, weakness, anguish. So I feel at ease with the month I’ve had here. I’ve not a missed a class as I needed to learn how to work with my body despite it’s temporary limitations. And I assure, all limitations we face are only temporary.

I fly home this Sunday and am so looking forward to seeing all my wonderful students. I have a Beginner Workshop commencing on the 1st of February that I cannot wait to get started with, particularly considering my very humbled way of practicing. An opportunity to meet people where they are and support them as they venture into this profound practice of yoga.

There is so much beauty in our imperfections. And whilst they can be extremely frustrating and upsetting at times, the reality is – they are what they are and we need to come to a place of acceptance. From here, life is brighter and more hopeful. If we dwell, then the opposite is true also.

So I urge you, if you are new to yoga or if you have an injury or illness you feel is holding you back, take a step forward. Don’t give up on your body and don’t allow illness to keep you from where you dream to be. How you dream to move. How you want to live.

Sending hugs to you all,

Jessica xx

P.S. See you soon!

 

The Inner Critic versus the Inner Mentor

 
 

I’ve been listening to a wonderful book by Tara Mohr called Playing Big (I'm the slowest reader on the planet so listening is my preferred method). I’m only a third of the way through but I’m finding it to be profoundly important, especially at such an uncertain time in my life.

In her book, Tara explains how powerful the voice of the inner critic can be. She refers to this voice as one which tends to, unintentionally, keep us small. To stop us from ‘Playing Big’. This voice in our minds eye is there to protect us. It protects us from being vulnerable should we be placed in foreign situations. Unfortunately, however, it’s this same inner voice, this inner critic, that prevents us from trying new things, from experiencing new potentials. It’s the voice that tells us we have nothing valuable to say when we sit down to write that blog post or start the novel we’ve been planning to write for the past 5 years. I know my inner critic has prevented me from doing many things with my life. Why? Because I allowed it to. It felt safe and comfortable listening to this voice, indulging it. I didn’t have to try as much for I had an excuse not to. After all, “…as if you have the power to influence others in a positive way Jessica? Who would want to listen to you?” See how it works.

When I met the wonderful man in my life 10 years ago, he saw just how paralyzed I was by this internal world I had created for myself. Just as we get stronger when we go to the gym and do weights every day, this inner voice, my inner critic, had developed Hulk-like strength. This voice dictated my life.  It was so limiting that leaving the house without having mopped the floors and done my washing on a Saturday was verging on unbearable. OCD much! Heaven forbid had I left the bed unmade! 

10 years ago I made a decision I didn’t want to ‘play small’ anymore. I didn’t want to allow myself to live a life that was so bound by (my own) rules, so afraid of change and so victimized by the negative stories I repeatedly told myself – over and over and over again. So I began the long and ongoing journey to begin strengthening the voice of my inner mentor, as Tara would call it. She is the person I aspire to be. The person who is free from worry, from irrational thought, and is completely secure in how she stands in the world. She is the person who reminds me to keep going even when the present world around me feels as though it’s about to fall apart (which is most days at the moment – there’s no point lying!).

At the end of the day, I don’t know all the answers. God help me if I did! But what I do know is I’m taking active steps every single day to be the person who I believe I can be. To do what makes me smile and what gives meaning to my life. There are days when I allow the inner critic to take control of my thoughts and therefore my behavior. Those days are generally not fun at all. But when I take a moment to gather my thoughts, breathe deeply and just be, suddenly the drama disappears and my self belief reappears. This doesn’t mean the difficulties are gone. Let’s be totally frank here – life is always going to be filled with challenges. The difference is in how we respond to those challenges. That is what defines us.  That is what determines whether you follow a meaningful path, headed toward the place of wisdom where your inner mentor waits, or weather you remain stagnant, afraid and playing small.

For 10 years now, I’ve always maintained an attitude that anything is possible, and I maintain it to this day. Through my career in Rehabilitation, I’ve seen people recover from some of the most horrendous accidents whilst others who have had relatively minor incidents in comparison spiral downward. Why? Because it comes down to our choices. It comes down to the person we want to be in this life. No drug, no outfit, no amount of yoga can turn your life into what you want it to be. You need to want it for yourself, believe it can be yours and then fight hard for it. From here, yes, absolutely anything is possible.

So with that said, take some time to think about the stories your inner critic likes to share with you on a daily basis that keep you small. Be grateful for them and then graciously let them go. Visualise your inner mentor and the characteristics she/he possesses. When you feel anxious about a decision, ask yourself, what would my inner mentor do? And do that. Remember, your inner mentor is your place of wisdom, a place you can trust. There is nothing to fear here for he/she holds all the qualities you’re aspiring to possess. He/she is now showing you how to attain them.

I would love to hear from you? What is something in your life you dream to do but fear trying? Moving house? Changing jobs? Going on a holiday – alone! It could be anything. Then – let me know what your inner mentor would do in the same situation? You might be surprised at would you find out.

Be strong. Be powerful. Be you.

Sending huge hugs and love your way,

Jessica xo

Do I need to be flexible to do yoga?

 
 

To those people who think they’re not flexible enough for yoga. All I can say to you is… Bollocks. This is more of an excuse not to try than anything.

To be super clear - yoga is not about flexibility. Nor is it about physical strength. I began yoga because at the age of 21, I needed help from my partner to get dressed. My back was in so much pain (all the time) that I was verging on crippled. This can be in part attributed to Scoliosis and sitting at a desk for most of my life (school, uni, work, dinner…). Touching my toes would have been a miracle for me.

Whilst it’s a common misunderstanding to have (that you must be flexible and strong for yoga), I am a perfect example that this is not the case. Yes – when I began my practice many years ago, I struggled. I was exhausted with each and every asana. Never before had a practice pushed me to the limits the way yoga did. But with sheer commitment to myself and to healing my body, I too can now touch my toes and beyond. I can do strong backbends, balancing asanas and standing asanas. Of course there are MANY areas I need to work on, but this is all part of the journey. To keep exploring. To keep challenging myself. To find new areas of weakness that I can seek to understand a little more and in turn come to know myself a little better. This is the power of the practice.

Something to also remember is that commonly, the more advanced practitioners have lost their flexibility or strength to do some of the more basic (not simple) asanas. Their joints have become stiff or their muscles too tight. When I ask a person who can do strong handstands to sit straight for 2 minutes, it near kills them (figuratively speaking). Physical strength is not a sign of whole body awareness and control. So never be intimidated by those practitioners. It’s highly likely you’re much stronger and more flexible in many areas they now struggle with.

Remember – this is about your journey, not someone elses. Don’t compare yourself to others. Just accept your body as it is, embrace that you need to start somewhere and just begin. With consistent practice, from here, you’ll fly.

I would love to hear what’s stopping you from beginning your practice? And if you’ve started yoga, what made you finally take the plunge and get going?

Sending huge hugs and love to you all.

Jessica xo