Happy? Go do some yoga!

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When I first wrote a blog a while back about how we feel about ourselves when we look in a mirror, I never expected I would write a Part 2, but there were a couple of moments that compelled me to write a follow up after another reflective time I experienced at yoga recently.

Again like the blog before, I felt the need to do some yoga after feeling a bit down and disjointed. So, I scrambled around in the bottom of my wardrobe for some appropriate gear, got in the car and started to drive, switching on the radio to break the silence as I headed to the yoga studio. I began to listen to BBC Radio London.

They were talking about what people do to feel happy when things are not going right in your life, in other words;

What’s your go-to when you need a pep-up? Some people drink, some people eat and some people go to the gym or do other things to get to that go-to.

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When I go to the gym it helps a lot to get to a kind of go-to, but when I really need to feel seriously clicked into a good mood, nothing for me beats a spot of hot yoga.

It’s taken a while for me to realise that this is my go-to. But going always helps to give my mind the mental gym it so needs and is almost instant in lifting my mood and spirits.

This is also what happened while looking in the mirror in the yoga studio. I felt awesome and strong, as if I’d found a new type of religion. It felt comforting, soothing and enlightening. Almost like an epiphany type of experience.

I could see a reflection of myself who was someone totally different to the person I saw in the mirror a while back. This time I happily found myself smiling when I fell out of postures and when I struggled to do anything, I dug deep inside to find a strength I never knew I had.

Falling out of postures and the difficulty I have been encountering with this recently in yoga has really tested my resilience of late, but in this session I didn’t stress too much. I rested when I needed to and for the first time in ages it felt absolutely fine just to do that.

With over a year of doing Hot Bikram yoga under my belt, I’m at the stage where at times the sessions feels like I’ve hit the proverbial wall. Indeed my mojo often keeps parking itself in despondent city.

But during this session I kept on telling myself, ‘You can do this’.

Then it happened … The click I needed got me to the end of the class without too much stress or calamity. In other words; the serotonin levels kicked in and the good vibes began to flow.

Afterwards my yoga teacher applauded and hugged me and was in extreme praise of how hard I had worked. It all felt amazing! https://bebrainfit.com/mental-health-benefits-yoga

Perhaps I’m exaggerating when I compare yoga to a type of religion, but I’m glad I had a bit more of fulfilling time than my mother’s experiences at the local church she attended recently, the one that she goes to on a regular basis.

Unfortunately she didn’t feel remotely near to any of the feelings I’ve just described. This is despite going here for over ten years, saying hello to people and adapting a friendly  and open approach when there. She still rarely finds they are reciprocal in her approach. Indeed after the service, she left feeling isolated, lonely and sad at a time when she was hoping divine intervention would have lifted her mood.

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I guess what I’m trying to say is that whatever makes you happy, do it. Whatever your ‘go-to‘ is, use it to help you get through the down times.

However, if your goto doesn’t work every time, try something else as well. You need a back up. My mother has discovered that she uses going for regular walks as her back up go-to when she needs a mood lift. 

I’m also encouraging her to get up go and find a new church for her go-to. The current one she attends is quite clearly failing in its doctrine of welcoming everyone with kindness and love.

So enjoy your journey to happiness and wherever you may find it, get going to your goto fast!

65731-yogacartoon

Namaste    

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Daily Prompt: Festive

via Daily Prompt: Festive

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Chocolate Cake: A Short Story

Ding dong Bobby’s in the pie

He’s gobbling it up big time

Ding dong fatty, my oh my

His chubby cheeks are chomping

Chomp, a chomp, a chomp, a chomp…chompier

It’s Fatty with his excess!

 

Robert’s hand couldn’t stop shaking. His body felt so uncomfortable in such a way that made even his eyes itch. As he turned over the calendar to reveal the 1st of December, his fingers stuck to the page with sweat. He hated this month. When he switched on the radio, an audible doom began almost right on cue. The words blasted his ears and landed him right back to that horrendous time again.

Chomp a chomp…It’s fatty with his excess!

The jovial tones of the Christmas carol Ding Dong Merrily on High, made him want to heave.

 ‘Good morning Bobby’ Molly seemed especially chirpy when she spotted Robert enter the sliding doors at his local Price Right Supermarket.

‘Good Morning Molly, how are you today?’ She handed him a wire basket on his way into the store to collect his weekly supplies.

‘All the better for seeing you.’ Molly giggled.

I wish she would stop calling me Bobby and why has she gone all red in her face? He suspected she was being sarcastic. She was always making suggestive comments about him in a funny sort of way.

Ding Dong Bobby’s in the pie, he’s gobbling it up big time.

‘Oh no not AGAIN.’

The tune seemed to be haunting him. Rasping out of the speakers in corners; Ding Dong Bobby’s in the pie. The lyrics became instantly rewritten in his head instead of the ones that everyone else was familiar with.

‘Are you ok Bobby? I thought I heard you shouting’ Molly was concerned and wanted to help. He seemed so troubled.

Robert tried so hard not to let the words get to him, but in his head the alternative version of this carol was programmed in, ever since he made that ill-fated decision to join the choir at St Williams School in Smallgate.

Glancing in the mirror on the way past the clothing aisle, he slid his hands down towards the bottom of his jumper and pulled down on the hem. The soft black wool stretched and moulded over his thighs. It covered what he saw was his bulging stomach. Why did I wear this jumper today? It’s shrunk in the wash. I should’ve thrown it away. You can see my big, fat stomach. He wrapped his hefty jacket tightly around his body, shielding everyone from the disgust he saw. Then he pulled out a crumpled shopping list, stomping around the store desperate to finish his shopping and get out.

Ok here goes. Milk, bread, biscuits, oil. My God! He thought. Look at the special offer on those biscuits, two for a pound. He turned the corner ready to steer himself away from them.

‘Hello Sir, would you like to try this new cake? It’s the new one from The Cappa Cake Factory. It’s really yummy and gorgeous just like you.’

The shop assistant practically forced the cake into his mouth. The taste of the creamy dark chocolate was hard to resist. Its toffee fudge filling slipped deliciously down his throat. Instantly he was hooked. Two slices later he was salivating as his eyes became fixated on the cake, drawing him in, unable to resist the sweet temptation. He brought two boxes of the cake. Thoroughly revolted with his lack of willpower, he fled to leave red-faced and ashamed.

‘Hi Bobby, you’ve been busted I see! Good for you, Cappa Cakes are so scrummy.’

Molly beamed with delight while she wiped away evidence of the cake still smeared near the corner of his mouth.

‘Just leave me alone Molly and it’s Rob, not Bobby; Stop calling me by that ridiculous name!’

He stormed out of the supermarket leaving his basket full of shopping in the middle of the store. I can’t go to that store anymore; I’ve made such a fool of myself he thought.

How many times should I have to tell people I prefer to be called Rob? Rob was the man he wished to be; a man happy in his own skin, regardless of his size or what anyone thought. He’d be able to start again, shrug off the demons still haunting him.

Mother always insisted on calling him Bobby. Everyone in the store called him that name, even after his mother passed away. She often used to say “Rob” sounded like some drug- induced hippy. Every time Robert tried to get her to change, she’d laugh and ridicule the puny pleads of protest:

‘Bobby darling, mother knows best. Please don’t put me through all of this; you know I haven’t got long for this world.’

Robert never argued with mother. She was terminally ill after all. For more than fifteen years Robert believed his mother’s lamentations about her health. Last year she died in her sleep of natural causes. How could she hold a person to ransom like that for all that time? She controlled him; everything he ate, how much and when was all down to her.

The run for the bus home was a challenge that almost crippled him. His heart-felt like tiny shards of glass snapping into pieces; sharp and jagged. His breath became laboured and he couldn’t stop sweating. Yet again he promised to himself once more to sort this all out. That bloody Christmas tune, bloody Christmas; I hate it!  Robert was still seething about what had happened in the store. His anger became worse when the bus drove past his old school. There were some teenage boys jostling with each other, calling each other names in jest. It reminded him of his time at St Williams. His mother made sure his first day was one he’d never forget.

‘Mum, please just drop me at the bus stop.’ Pleading was not going to make a difference. Bessie had made up her mind. Arm in arm, she walked with her son.

‘Bobby darling I bet most of the boys secretly hope their mothers would take them in on their first day. You’re just being a bit too sensitive.’

Robert’s mother loved fussing over her son and of course feeding her beautiful boy who was deliciously chubby with rosy red cheeks. The bullying of course began that first term when he was spotted with mother going through the gate. He had a rucksack full of food, clothes that gaped with the tightness of pastry wrapped in Cling Film, and several red lipstick stains plastered on his cheeks. The misery escalated to another level during a rehearsal for that fateful Christmas choir concert; for a dare, Peter and his mates changed the lyrics to the tune of Ding Dong Merrily on High to feature Robert and thus began his nightmare that would torment him for the remainder of his school days.

Two months had passed and Robert needed to get some shopping in. He decided to walk there rather than take the bus, fed up with the nasty taunts and jibes he was having to endure almost daily when he travelled by public transport. The new kids at St Williams had begun all over again to pick on him about his size when they travelled back and forth to school.

“I left that hell hole years ago and they still hate me.”

Robert had taken again to wearing a large overcoat to cover everything. He thought it best if no one was able to see his repulsive body.

He found himself outside Price Right. Molly had just left the store on her break. I’ve got to apologise, it’s not her fault I’m a mess. I have to make things right again.

‘My goodness. Hi Bobby, I mean Rob.’ Molly was stunned to see him.

‘Molly. I’m sorry. I-I was awful to you.’ He blurted the words out not thinking about what it sounded like.

‘Rob, it’s ok. I’m glad to see you. I was hoping you’d come back in. I wanted to give you this.’ Molly pulled out of her handbag a card. He was puzzled at her look of concern. He turned over the small green and white card and read the words; Eating Disorders Anonymous. Surely she can’t be thinking of me? I’m so fat, I know I need to lose some weight, but I don’t have anything wrong me.

‘Have you seen what you look like?’ She pulled away at his coat and beckoned him to look at his reflection in the shop window.

‘I know I’m huge Molly, don’t rub it in.’ Tears began to form in his eyes. He couldn’t stand the humiliation anymore. Dejected he started to walk away, mortally wounded that Molly was making fun of him, just like everyone else did.

‘No Rob, you’re not. Let me help you through this.’

For the first time in years, Rob saw that he had become a ghostly skeleton of a man dressed in oversized clothes and wearing a large shroud that was in fact a big coat.

A few months later Molly held Rob’s hand when he found the courage to attend his first Eating Disorders Anonymous group.

Next year when December came around, Rob celebrated his new found confidence by getting engaged to Molly. When he heard the tune Ding Dong Merrily on High, it was as if he heard something he had never encountered before, it actually sounded quite pleasant.

‘Hey Molly, do you think we could have that as our wedding tune?’

‘Not bloody likely, now shut up and eat your cake.’

They were laughing so much that they both nearly choked on their Cappa Chocolate Cake.

End

COPYRIGHT: SJS 26.12.2016

A Treat after Netball (A Short Story)

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A Treat after Netball (A Short Story)

The first time I was offered up what I felt at the time was a plate of vomit, I must have been around twelve or thirteen years old.

The experience began when I came home from school one day after a netball tournament. Mum had promised that I could have sausages and mash for dinner as a treat if we won. As I bounced happily down the street, thinking of our victory and how we had won the against the local school by a whopping 6-0. I was filled with a huge feeling of euphoria and looking forward to my big teatime treat.

When I opened the door to our house that evening, I unleashed a horror that I shall never forget. I was hit by a stench so powerfully pungent and rancid. It caused the saliva in my mouth to instantly create a mold of foamy bitter juices. I put my hand over my mouth and found it hard to suppress the gagging reflexes forcing the urge my body now had to retch. My eyes prickled and filled with tears that felt bulbous, ready to explode out of their sockets.

It was obvious she was in a mood. Dad hadn’t come home again. He was probably out gambling again. I was too scared to say anything and just sat down. I gawped and felt awkward as I shifted in my chair, looking at the offering in front of me; horrified and in disbelief. This wasn’t supposed to be my treat!

She banged down the plate on the table. There was such a force behind her actions that some of the putrid, rank lumps of muck splattered across the table. I felt my whole body recoil in disgust and I froze, not daring to wipe away the blob of flesh that had caught my face. I was contaminated.

I looked down at the pretty pink and chintz flowered plate that had been tainted with something so vile, my first immediate thoughts were that it was something the devil would force down your throat, if you had the misfortune to wind up in the deepest depths of hell. My second thoughts were that I must be in hell.

“What are you waiting for…Christmas? EAT!”

That day was the first time I tried a traditional West Indian specialty; Pigs Trotters served up with soggy rice and limp over-boiled cabbage on the side

A Treat after Netball (A Short Story)

COPYRIGHT: SJS 2016

Hot Bikram Yoga and the messy hair thing!

Just an ordinary Black Girl Doing Bikram Yoga (2)

(Or…My First, My Last & Anything Else!!??)

My First…

Yep, ladies and gentlemen you can tell that I was born in a particular era when the reference for this blog comes (partly) from the musings of the wonderful Barry White. I bet I’m the first person to have linked the Walrus of Love that is Mr. White to a session of Bikram Yoga! People do say though that when you’re doing Bikram Yoga, it evokes some very emotive feelings, both physically & mentally. Well, for me the first class I did had a heat to replicate a Caribbean beach; the last, was that I knew it wasn’t going to be the only session I would do of this bizarre & idiotically crazy extreme sport & the anything else I encountered was when my head kept playing Barry’s tune in my head,

“I know there’s only one, only one like you.”

It was a yoga that was nothing like anything I’d ever experienced before, although I have since done many more Bikram-esque types of yoga out there.

Perhaps it was that yoga high that everyone always talks about, I dunno, but let me tell you it was flippin’ brilliant in a cathartic sort of way. Now I really sound like some middle-aged yoga hippy!

One thing I was glad of is that we didn’t have to chant. There’s nothing worse for me than having to create noises which don’t seem as though they’re naturally created by the human body. Everything from burping whether it’s from the top part of your body or the bottom end comes into a category of noises you shouldn’t make in public! Chanting for me comes a close second to this.

My aversion to chanting began when I first tried yoga way back in (I’m not telling you when!) some church hall in Streatham, South London. I should have taken the hint that something like chanting was about to happen; we were in a church hall after all.

But no, they had to go there.

The class began with us doing some warm-up exercises on our mats & then the instructor told us to close our eyes. Before I knew it, I was trying to produce noises that sounded as if I was cleaning out a sink blocked with all kinds of disgusting gunk! Then I got yoga shamed when he walked over to me & I roughly remember him saying something along the lines of;

“Darling if you let it flow naturally through your Vishuddha chakra & not force things, you will produce a sound more natural to your inner goddess that’s trying to get out.”

In other words, you ain’t doing it right!

Embarrassed, I felt as hot as a Bikram blast of air. I wanted so badly to “chak-his-ra’s” (with my West Indian accent changing the “ra” into something closer to what I really wanted to say) but instead I finished the class & never went back again.

My Last… & Past Sessions

There are however some vocal Bikram Yoga moments which are a bit like chanting & I can (just about) do them without heading for the hills.

The Deep Standing Breathing Exercise (Pranayama Series) & the Blowing in Firm Pose (Kapalbhati in Vajrasana) are postures that you do at the beginning & the end of the sessions.

With the Deep Standing Breathing, you have to breathe as if you are about to bring up the biggest amount of something you can cough up from your respiratory tract…but hold back on the stuff, just produce the noise & then you’re there.

BTW: I have no idea why yoga instructors feel the need (especially in Bikram) to say in a session, the pose in English as well as Sanskrit (the ancient meaning of what the poses are).

I think it’s really time-consuming, strange to hear & a bit poncey! I have heard it said in a variety of ways, which bugs me almost as much as when I heard a newsreader the other day say the word plastic, with too much emphasis on certain syllables, so it became “plahhstic.” Why??

I have written them in this blog so you can have an idea of what I’m getting at. But I promise you, they will NOT appear in another blog I write.

In the Blowing in Firm Pose (Sounds rude, doesn’t it?!) at the end, most instructors tell you to imagine you’re blowing out the candles on a cake. All I can say is at this stage in the session, if you can find the breath to imagine any of this, then you’re doing better than most.

And Anything Else!!

Every time I do Bikram there ALWAYS seems to be a BGDB (Black Gal Doing Bikram) moment that happens a lot as a black girl.

I went into my first session thinking & feeling I looked like this…

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But when I finished & glimpsed myself in the mirror afterwards, I definitely looked more like this!!

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Eddie Murphy’s Buckwheat character was more a realistic vision of me after my first Bikram yoga session!!

But I’ll let you know how I’m managing to survive the BGDB/Buckwheat hair thing next time I write.

SjS X

65731-yogacartoon

Namaste

Credit: Barry White – My First, My Last, My Everything. Songwriters: White Barry Eugene; Radcliffe Peter Sterling; Sepe Anthony J/music Royalty Published by SUPER SONGS UNLIMITED;UNICHAPPELL MUSIC, INC.;WORLD SONG PUBLISHING, INC.;MY BABY’S MUSIC COMPANY; SA-VETTE MUSIC CO).  Website: http://www.metrolyrics.com

Copyright: SJS 2016

Ghostbusters?? Not!!!

Cherry On Top

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Cherry On Top (Ghostbusters…Not??!!) 

The Cherry On Top for me was on Friday 22nd July 2016, when I spent a beautiful afternoon with my daughter at the Southbank in Waterloo, London. As we were heading back to the station we saw a replica Ghostbusters vehicle.

What was amusing is that the “Ghostbusters” were the most unenthusiastic pair of ghost fighting blokes I could ever imagine left to fight the dark forces of the underworld. Or perhaps, controversially they’re not ok with the latest offering of the movie! Loved seeing them (reluctantly) posing with the tourists & the car was a pretty cool copy (I thought so anyway) of the real thing.

http:thedailypost.wordpress.com

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Hot Yoga: Are you up for it?

Just an ordinary Black Girl Doing Hot Yoga (Thoughts from a Black Girl’s Diary)

This blog is about yoga & in particular Bikram Yoga, the yoga I prefer to do. But it won’t just contain pictures of enormously bendy women or men practising their Triangle Poses, in a setting that looks like Nirvana. Nor, will it go in the opposite direction to focus solely on the larger lady or man practising yoga either. Both have their equal place in the yoga world & I’m not knocking that.

It’s about me; an ordinary BGDB (Black Girl Doing Bikram) & (sometimes the guys!) that find ourselves taking a step to drip the sweat.

I’m unfortunately (still) a rare breed in an almost elitist milieu; a black, slightly chubby, middle-aged woman. I was brought up on a council estate in South London & at 5ft 2 inches; I’m a real shorty. Hardly anything like the girls (& guys) I Bikram with, who are often ‘Made in Chelsea’, upper class to middle class & TBYB’s (Typically Bony Yoga Bunnies). Boo hoo…NOT!!!!

So, why did I choose Bikram (Hot Yoga)?

I’ve done many different types of yoga over the years & after a class I would be thinking, ‘That was a load of pretentious rubbish!’

“I don’t like the idea of suffering to do yoga.”

There’s always been a feeling in these places that you have be dedicated to the point of having to chomp on Quinoa all the time in a bid to ‘Cut the Carbs!’ or chant until enlightenment drops in your lap; or have a fair bit of money to fund your trendy, cool habit. Throw in a heady mix of TBYB’s, a posh studio in the heart of Wimbledon or Richmond and you’re almost there. You know the type of person I’m talking about? She’s called ‘Annabelle’, talks loudly ‘Yah, Yahing’ in the changing rooms & on her top of the range iphone about going on retreats to find herself in the South of France. (Very Ab Fab!) Stereotyping? Yes I am, but for real! These are mostly the people I encounter on my yoga travels.

Originally, I’ve always felt that yoga is just not for me. After all, I’m a black woman who regularly uses a relaxer to straighten her hair! Us gals don’t deal with the frizz thing. In fact I fear the wrath of my hairdresser if she saw the state my hair gets into after a 40 degree rinse in a sweat drenched studio, almost as much as I fear the West Indian tones of my mum cussing me out when she disapproves of anything I do!

My Bikram experience began in a familiar way that many encounter this strange type of yoga; after an injury. I had the unfortunate luck to have been injured at work. It left me with the mental injury of depression & anxiety, while the physical injury gave me torn ligaments in my shoulder & right thumb.

I needed something fast. The pain killers had stopped working, the physio was not free anymore (The NHS had written me off) & I was paying for a physiotherapist who was almost on the brink of writing me off too.

“Why don’t you try Bikram yoga? The heat might help.” I laughed at his ridiculous suggestion!

“How could bending yourself into inane positions help to heal torn ligaments? More to the point; what the bloody hell is Bikram Yoga anyway?”

That evening I decided to part from my physiotherapist. Although I had around 20 sessions with him, I still felt like a doll that had only been partially fixed. I couldn’t afford to go anymore. There had to be something else. I Googled Bikram Yoga on my laptop. I was feeling broke (literally) and incredibly depressed.

My First Class

You will always remember your first time. Mine was with a teacher called Mel who had a smile to match her temperament.

“We were all packed sardine-like into a reasonably sized studio. (Sorry about the Top Gear reference!)”

I tried to ‘style it out’ & pretend I was a regular, rolling out my own mat (Not using theirs) & towel whilst lying casually on the floor. But then she said the words that point you out as being different from the start. 

“Anyone here for the first time?”

Tentatively I raised my hand in the air. There were several of us newbie’s in that night & we were all cheerily told to take it easy. I didn’t really notice the heat much in that 90 minute cook up, but I did notice that I was the only BGDB in the room.

Over to you!!

Are you a person that does yoga? Or even an ordinary Black Girl Doing Bikram Yoga too? I want to hear from you all!

Let me know what you think of my thoughts.

Namaste!!

SjS X