December Reflections- Day 19 Brings me joy

Yoga brings me joy.

In January this year I started Yoga Revolution, a 31 day programme with Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. It took me 117 days to complete it because I tried to push myself, rather than listen to my body.

This was a major turning point in my recovery from burnout. I learned to listen for the internal impulse to practise and slowly but surely I got stronger.

I have been able to progress to daily practice, a weekly 90 minute class and regular weekends of yoga at Samye Ling.

Yoga has my back, as Adriene says.

It is my daily dose of joy.

Adriene has another free programme beginning in January. You can sign up for it hereĀ

Give yourself some joy in January.

Unfolding like a fern

Samye Ling is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in SW Scotland founded in 1967 by Trungpa and Akong Rinpoches.

There is a palpable atmosphere of peace as you walk around the grounds, as if the energy of a million meditations permeates the air.

I spent 3 days there recently, attending a yoga retreat, staying in a small room, with bed, desk and sink, eating meals with monks and nuns and other visitors.I was struck by the simplicity of life and noticed my thoughts slow down as I entrained to those around me.

It was easy to be present to what was arising in the moment, without the usual distractions of internet, TV and mobile phone.
I noticed I had no desire to speak to or interact with others, while also being open to being spoken to. I noticed that my usual impulse to make friends, to make a good impression on others was absent.

The retreat I attended was called “Unfolding from the inside”. The teaching, led by Hanna Casement, was focussed on coming into the body, as it is today. Rather than trying to force ourselves into a yoga posture we have seen in a book, we were encouraged to allow the practice to flow from a central place within us, like a fern unfolding.

I was reminded of the Anais Nin quote :

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”.

The tight bud is the prison of my own thoughts and perceptions of reality. All the opinions I had about the way I should be/you should be/the world should be.

I am seeing more and more clearly how painful this is. In the sanctuary of Samye Ling, supported by the yoga practices, it was clearer to me how I keep myself stuck. Easier there to notice that everything I need is given to me, moment by moment.

Like the fern, I began to unfurl, everything arising from the still, silent awareness that is at the centre of all things.

No pushing or striving, no preconceived ideas of how it should be. A falling away of trying to be anything other than who I am, in this moment, with a gentle and deep compassion for everything that has led me here, to this body, to this breath, to this life.
Coming home again, my promise to myself is to embrace this gentle, compassionate unfolding of my body, mind and soul.


117 days of Yoga Revolution.

On January 1st I started the 31 day Yoga Revolution with Yoga with Adriene.

I began with the same excitement that accompanies every Monday when the new diet begins, every New Year when the new life begins, in fact every plan I have every forced myself to do.

I rationalised that this will be the ONE, the one to shift my exhaustion, boost my energy, pull me out of the pit of despair I found myself in last winter. I was still operating under the illusion that the same striving, pushing mentality that got me into this mess, would somehow work to free me from the chronic fatigue that had ended my career. The trouble was I had no idea of how else to be.

My strategy “worked” for 17 days but far less than boost my energy it led me straight back to another relapse.

On day 18, unable to get out of bed, I felt a range of emotions. Mainly, what the hell is wrong with me? Why can’t I get better? Will I ever be fully well again? Is the life I took so much for granted now over?

I felt like a failure, I had burned out before, recovered and gone to university and worked for 7 years as a teacher. But somehow, I had managed to recreate all the conditions that had led me to becoming ill in 2000. I had worked hard, taken on more and more responsibility, given my whole heart and soul to the school.

The realisation hit me like a ton of bricks. I was applying the same Type A mindset to my recovery and even my yoga practice.

I had never stopped to consider what my body wants.

The truth was I had no idea. Literally not a clue.

I didn’t know whether it was best to rest or try some yoga. In 54 years of being on the planet I had NEVER asked my body what it wants. MY body was an appendage located south of my over-active mind and my mind called all the shots, like a warped sergeant-major, barking orders to get out of the bed and get things done!

As I had not managed to sustain the daily practice of Revolution, my mind, of course, had written it off as a failure.

My next step was to look around for the next plan, you know, the one that would be the ONE!

But, some deeper, wiser part of me would not let go of Revolution, even as I lay in bed unable to muster the energy to roll out my mat.

Then one morning, several weeks later, as I sipped my morning tea in bed, a voice inside me said “Mmmm, I fancy doing yoga today”.

So I got out of bed, rolled out my mat in my study and did day 18. This went on all through February, March and April. I waited for that still, small voice that WANTED to do yoga and I did the next day’s practice. I realised when I don’t push myself, the impulse to do yoga naturally arises.

117 days after I began, I completed day 31.

The theme for day 31 was “Follow your intuition” and Adriene encouraged me to listen to my body and allow the practice to flow, tapping into what my body actually needs in the moment. I cried my way through that practice as I realised that my body is much wiser than me and does, indeed, know what she needs. It was such a fitting end to my journey, which is paradoxically only beginning.

So over to you, dear reader. Do you listen to the needs of your body? Do you have a still, small voice that rises up when you stop pushing yourself? Or do you, like I did, keep pushing yourself on and on, expecting your body to comply with the demands of your mind, ignoring the signs of stress and overwhelm?

Please leave a comment below and let’s start a conversation about slowing down enough, even in the midst of our busy lives, to take care of ourselves.