Do you celebrate yourself?
Do you know you are enough? As you are. Right now.
Read that again. And take it in. Really take it in.
Do you tell yourself this? I am guessing probably not. So I am telling you. Until you can tell yourself.
You do not have to be or do more in order to be enough. It is easy to forget. Or to somehow not even know in the first place.
We can often see in others what we cannot see in ourselves. And that includes our own goodness and inner radiance.
Like the musk deer who spends their lifetime searching for the beautiful scent it does not realise emanates from itself, we can spend years searching outside of ourselves for what already exists within.
You are enough.
You are worthy.
Darling. You. Yes, you. I am talking to you.
Now go. And remember that.
This article was originally published in the July/Aug 2013 issue of OM Yoga Magazine. You can read a selection of my past columns and a preview of the current issue of the magazine by clicking here.
Recently, I overheard some yoga students discussing different teachers’ classes. The consensus was that those who provided strong hands-on adjustments and physically challenging classes were more effective teachers and therefore more advanced. Of one teacher’s handstand demo, a young woman wistfully commented that was where her own practice “should” be. Aside from feeling that this lady’s practice is perfect as it is whether those handstands come along or not, I think these comments stemmed from their personal preferences for strong classes. It raised a few thoughts though, most notably: What makes an effective teacher and what is ‘advanced’?
It can be easy to think that the ability to perform physically challenging, visually impressive poses equals a good teacher; particularly as so many of the yoga images we now see feature aesthetically pleasing people in awe-inspiring asanas. Sometimes the people who can do all those things are undoubtedly brilliant teachers but in my experience it has not been because they can do those things.
After eleven years so far as a yoga student, my feeling is that the most important quality of any teacher is not the ability to do Scorpion, but the ability to create a safe space.
In creating a safe space, the adjustments question is an interesting one. I tend to adjust verbally when I am guiding a class and occasionally use a light touch. For a while I felt very bad about not doing hands-on adjustments in class, but my own experiences of being hurt as a result of being adjusted made me wary. My view changed when I trained with Judith Hanson Lasater and she mentioned that the longer she has taught over the last forty or so years, the less she physically adjusts, instead mostly using words and always asking permission before touching anyone, borne out of her own experiences. I feel this comes back to teaching from the heart.
Many of the best experiences I’ve had as a student are with teachers who can’t do the fancy poses themselves but by their presence create a safe space for everyone in the room to explore their practice. To me, that’s the sign of a really good (dare I say, ‘advanced’) teacher.
As I continue to grow as a teacher, still new on this journey, I hope I’m able to do the same. Even if I can’t demo Scorpion for you.
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No matter how old I get, September is always associated with ‘Back to School’. The move into Autumn symbolises a time when many of us feel we need to get our heads down and get back to work after the summer. And before we know it, our daily calendars are full to bursting (if they weren’t already, that is).
I have an admission. I don’t like being busy. I like to be productive, to be effective and actually get things done. But, busy? To me, it’s overrated. I’ve increasingly noticed that whenever I say that I am busy the response is usually “that’s good”. And for a long time that was my response too. But why is that?
We have more time-saving technology and services at our fingertips than at any other time in history, yet we all seem to be busier than ever. Some of us wear our Busyness like a badge of honour. But is there a problem here? Are we confusing busyness with effectiveness?
Yoga teachers are certainly not immune from this. In London, where I live and work I see exhausted, scheduled to the hilt yoga teachers regularly. And I have fallen into this routine before too. For every class or client you guide through their yoga practice, you are giving your energy. So, there’s no surprise really that if you don’t take steps to replenish, it’s just a matter of time until you’ll burn out. However you spend your days, whether you teach yoga, work in an office, are a stay-a-home parent or anything and everything in-between, we can all work to burnout. But whom is that serving? From the point of view of teaching yoga, it’s tough to give your best in this state.
The busier we are, the less time we have. Time is arguably our most valuable commodity and it’s irreplaceable. It’s a significant thing to lose.
I think it’s time to stop worshipping at the altar of busy. Being busy for busyness sake or to attain more ‘stuff’ isn’t all its cracked up to be. What if we took another look and scrutinised what we are actually busy with? Try it and you might find there are things you can take off your to-do lists and lighten your mood and improve your wellbeing at the same time. Give it a go and notice the relief this brings.
This was originally published in OM Yoga Magazine. You can read a selection of my past columns and a FREE preview of the current issue of the magazine by clicking here.
Click here to learn more about the 365 Savasana Project.
Breathing is easy.
Until it’s not. It’s something we do every day and take for granted. Yet, how many of us are breathing properly? The way we instinctively knew how to breathe when we came into this world as babies. As we get older, we seem to forget how to breathe well.
We seek out the best diets, superfoods and life-hacking techniques to be healthy and feel better. Yet, many of us go about our days completely unaware that breath is our most important source of nutrition. Before water and before food. We simply cannot survive without breathing.
My mother, in her late-seventies has had a number of health issues since retiring at sixty but is actually doing pretty well. This brilliant woman and brave survivor arrived in a tough 1950s London as a teenager and built a life from nothing. I love that she will complain about her arthritic hip at the same time as bending down to wipe her kitchen floor. She does not see the irony that her standing forward fold is a perfect Uttananasa that would be the envy of countless yoga practitioners a quarter of her age.
Several years ago Mum was prescribed the use of an inhaler due to persistent shortness of breath. This shortness of breath meant that walking to the bus stop just a short distance from her home was struggle. She’d walk very slowly and would usually have to stop a few times on the way. Over the past year she was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. Going along to the hospital with Mum where the doctor and nurse we saw insisted that prescribing statins was the only way forward, I was sceptical. Mum, a former nurse herself and already on medication for high blood pressure was not jumping for joy at the idea but took the prescription. The supposedly rare side effects of this drug presented themselves visibly within a just a few days and Mum felt worse. So, she decided to stop taking them.
Around this time, hearing Ben mention that simple breathing practices had the potential to help conditions like atrial fibrillation intrigued me so I wanted to find out more. He very kindly met with me and generously shared some simple tips I could share with my Mum. I left our meeting optimistic and met with Mum the next day. She seemed receptive, though I also wondered whether she would really do her breathing practice consistently for twenty minutes a day.
About a week later I got an excited phone call from Mum. On her trip to the shops that day she was standing at the bus stop bemoaning the fact that the bus was taking so long when she realised something… On her walk to the bus stop she had not been out of breath and she had not needed to stop to rest. Not even once. She asked me if this could possibly be down to ‘the breathing’ as she calls it. I responded that yes, it may well be. This was the incentive she needed to keep going. She would practise on three or four days a week for twenty minutes at a time rather than every single day, yet this still seemed to be enough to make a positive difference to how she felt. Not only that, she noticed her sleep was better (no small thing as insomnia has been an on-going issue for her for some years) and she had more energy.
After about two months, Mum’s practice fell by the wayside – she blamed having a busy phase (i.e. an active social live!) – and her insomnia and shortness of breath started to return. Consequently, she resumed ‘the breathing’ and soon started feeling better again. A follow up at the hospital even showed clear improvements on her peak flow tests and atrial fibrillation and as I type she is still not taking statins.
When I caught up with Ben I was excited to share this good news. I am so grateful to Ben for his generosity with his time and in sharing his knowledge.
Breathing is magic. And easy. When you know how.
Thank you Ben. I hope you thrive in spreading this important, empowering work to as many people as possible. I feel it is your Dharma.
Ben teaches breathwork at The Shala in South London – find out more about about his ‘Breath for Life’ workshops here.
Ben Wolff is a London-based yoga teacher, clinical hypnotherapist and dream yoga practitioner. He is a tutor on Uma Dinsmore-Tuli’s Yoga Nidra Teacher Trainings and in her words “Ben has a profound depth of experience and understanding of Yoga Nidra. He has an acute and wide understanding of contemporary scientific research into meditation, neuroscience and other fields related to Yoga Nidra.” As a self styled breathmaster he has first hand experience of the healing power of the breath and fully understands that the breath can be the most powerful tool we have. “The breath is my yoga and my yoga is the breath”.