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!

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Namaste    

Yoga:What’s your mirror image saying?

 

mirror-983427_1280It’s hard to look at yourself; I mean REALLY look at yourself. However twice a week this is what I do when I pitch up to do some Hot Bikram Yoga.

Sometimes the mirror image I see under these circumstances is really difficult to face. I often scrutinise the big belly I have, or even in a yoga studio full of men and women, I’m always convinced I stand out as being the only one who isn’t flexible enough; or even if I match up to the other yogis and their brilliant yoga poses.

Last week was one of those moments. Everything I did in the class felt wrong. I was hard on myself and it hurt. No; it wasn’t so much a physical hurt, it was a mental hurt. I went into the class feeling really disjointed and emotional.

It was no big surprise as I couldn’t kick away the dark moment I was feeling when I woke up that morning. I didn’t know what to do for the best or how to feel better, so I ended up going to do some yoga.

My negative inner voice in the class just wouldn’t shut up though. It kept going into overdrive;

“What the hell are you doing? Go home, you shouldn’t be here. There’s no point, YOU’RE USELESS!”

It was hard but I managed to stay right to the very end. I was determined to see it through.

My yoga teacher could see my inner turmoil messing with my head and her voice was comforting, soothing and nurturing.

As the class ended, I lay on my mat in Savasana and that was when the tears started to fall. I hid my head behind my towel and cried. No wonder they say this is one of the hardest postures to do! All you need to do is just lie still and do nothing. It’s not as easy as it seems.

The studio eventually became empty and I lay there sobbing. That was when my yoga teacher spotted me.

“I knew I shouldn’t have come; a friend of mine passed away recently and I went to her funeral just a few days ago. I’m feeling far too raw. I thought that if I came here I’d be able to sort my head out, but I’ve made myself feel worse.”

I tried to explain myself to her through the tears that were now refusing to stop falling. I sounded ridiculous and pathetic.

She gave me a hug, held my hand and said;

“I’m so sorry for your loss. Sometimes yoga is just what you need. The fact that you turned up and didn’t leave meant you were supposed to be here. The warmth that you get from the studio is a literal and healing thing.”

I’m often a real cynic about the yoga I do. When I look in the mirror I see someone who is chubby, clumsy and awkward. I fall out of postures often and at times I wonder what benefit I am getting out of it all.

But for the first time someone saw me in a different way in comparison to the person I saw in the mirror. My yoga teacher saw that I needed to be there in the studio and the yoga I had just completed aided me to arrive at a crucial stage in my day. It gave me the ability to really let go, cry and begin to grieve for my friend.

I have in the past experienced some yoga teachers who can come across as being disconnected from their students. They are quick to give you sarcastic comments when you rush into a class late; or decide to give you some soul destroying comment when they think you’re not trying hard enough. It’s hard for them to realise that we all come into the studio with differing issues we’re trying to leave at the door.

I am truly blessed that my yoga teacher on that day wasn’t like that. She saw way beyond the postures I was doing and helped me through the tears. She was intuitive, kind and incredibly understanding. Yoga teachers like her can truly reach out to you in ways that are far more beneficial to your body and mind than perfecting a particular posture or breathing in a certain way.

Every now and then THEY WILL give you a hug and REALLY see the person staring back at you in the mirror. THEY WILL SEE YOU as someone of real worth and value. They can give you the reassurance that to just turn up to a class is enough and when the class ends, they don’t mind if you have a cry afterwards because they will sometimes comfort you when you really need it!

So, who do you really see staring back at you in a yoga studio? Are you being too hard on yourself when you can’t do a particular posture? If this is the case, you need to remember;

It’s only Yoga … but you never know what you might experience in a class.

 

 

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Namaste!

(Copyright: Steph Js 2017)

This Blog is dedicated VP who passed away on the 22nd January 2017. RIP my friend. x 

Am I Dreaming?

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Dreams have a funny way of bouncing around your body, rattling your mind and launching you into a feeling of discombobulation and mass hysteria. Just a few moments of extremely lucid dreams at night can cause you to become All shook up. Just like the proverbial Elvis Presley track; it can play havoc with your mind.

Wes Craven had an interpretation of what a really bad dream can actually do to you. They’d come into your life under the guise of Freddy Krueger and the A Nightmare on Elm Street film franchisee.

Imagine some dodgy looking bloke with a serious skin complaint, an Indiana Jones hat on his head and in desperate need of a manicure haunting your dreams? It’s enough to put you in therapy for the rest of your life!

There is of course the flip side to the bloody slasher movie of the 80’s filling your nightime slumber; and that is the Disney Fairy type of dream. This is when everything you visualise in the land of nod is terrifically peachy and all things fabulous come knocking on your door.

If you have one of these types of dreams at night, you are a rare breed of person and long may your reign of pretty, sleepy time visuals last forever and ever.

I’ve never had dreams like that before. Ever since I was in my late teens I have no idea why, but my dreams have taken on some really violent, macabre tones. My nightmares might not begin on Elm Street, but they have been the catalyst for some terrible dreams where I have encountered some really dreadful things. When I have woken up from these dreams, it has often taken me the best part of a day to completely erase the visuals that have haunted me that night. However, I’m always hoping for some brighter pictures to crowd my nocturnal dreams.

I was even more anxious about this way back in 2001 when my sister suddenly passed away. Every time I visited her grave, I’d utter the words to urge her to;

Come and visit me in my dreams for a chat and make me smile once more.

I really believed that she would; but it never happened. My sister was gone. I will never forget her and I think about her every day. I sorely miss seeing her smile and the joy of her. She was my best friend and would help me to anchor onto a secure and more comforting place that I once knew.

And then something happened …

It was an ordinary night.  Nothing in particular brought on a moment of deep contemplation before going to bed. But before I knew it, I found myself fully immersed in a dream.

In the dream I was preparing to go out somewhere, but every time I tried to leave the house a force so immense kept drawing me back. I wondered if it was my memory; had I forgotten something?

No… that wasn’t it.

My other half and my daughter were waiting for me outside in the car. They were surprisingly patient and calm when I explained that I couldn’t leave until I had sorted this out.

My head was all a jumble. I just couldn’t understand why I felt so lost and trapped in a situation that was making me feel deep anxiety. Still I continued to search for something that kept dragging me back like a magnet to find this important thing; but what it was I couldn’t say.

Dejected at not having solved the mystery, I proceeded to leave. I was defeated when I went over to our spare bedroom ready to close the door and leave.

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And there she was…my sister.

I was delightfully shocked! ELATED and DAZED by the vision of her.

“Where have you been all this time? I’ve missed you so much.”

As the words tripped out of my mouth. I began blubbering uncontrollably, unable to believe the miracle of seeing my sister once more.

“What are you talking about stupid; I’ve been here all along!”

We both smiled and hugged each other… and then I woke up.

Yes, dreams really do have a funny way of tipping you into an abyss of nastiness. But occasionally, they are very telling as to where the life compass is directing you to be right now.

In my case it pointed me to a realisation and a belief that I had lost sight of for a while. That no matter how much time has passed; the people you have lost never leave you. They are always there, waiting for you to find them once more and comfort you when you’re least expecting it.

As for the ones who are there for you every day; they are ever patient at giving you their unconditional love, warmth and understanding. They will LITERALLY wait for you when you need them to be there and hold your hand when the nightmares cause chaos and mess with your mind in your waking life.

So … enjoy your dreams in whatever guise they may come in. Fully embrace the subliminal messages they may bring.

You never know, what they might be trying to tell you and here’s hoping that it’s someone you truly need to see again.

BTW: This Blog is dedicated to my darling sister Suzette, who passed away on 24th July 2001. She was a MASSIVE Elvis Presley fan, thanks for the memories my love x

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Namaste

Copyright: SjS 2017

 

Christmas and Chocolate Cake: A Short Story

Chocolate Cake: A Short Story 

 Chocolate Cake: A Short Story

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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

Yoga, 5 Reasons to do it!

giphy-1.gif.gifYou have your Kundalini, Ashtanga or even my personal favourite, Bikram or Hot Yoga. There are hundreds of different types of yoga out there, all of them are designed to do everything from aligning your chakras, to creating a more relaxed and chilled out person in all of us.

Here are five fabulous reasons to do yoga

1.     It helps to keep you limber in the gym:

If you’re a gym bunny you may find that overtraining can cause your muscles to become tired and extremely stiff when performing repetitive moves all the time. If you sprinkle in a yoga session once or twice a week, it helps to loosen up your joints allowing them to become more flexible again.

 2.     Your hair and skin will benefit from regular practice:

When I first started doing Bikram (Hot) Yoga I thought that as a black woman, my hair would suffer from the constant sweating and frizziness. Far from it!

Yoga has made my hair grow and my skin glow!

Remember to slip on a scarf before each session. It will stop your hair from getting too sweaty and in the way when you’re trying to do a posture.

3.     Regular practice will enhance your bedtime sleep:

According to Dr Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., a Clinical Psychologist and writer of Psychology Today, regular yoga practice can help with insomnia.

He quotes that;

“[Studies indicate] yoga can help improve sleep among people with chronic insomnia.”

So if you can’t sleep, try learning the child’s pose in yoga or other relaxing moves and you’ll soon be sleeping like a baby.

4.     It can lift your mood and help alleviate symptoms of depression

I know that when I’m feeling tense and a bit down, I benefit immensely from a session of yoga. Within a few minutes of practising, I can feel my mood lifting and an instant feeling of euphoria.

This is because yoga can increase your serotonin levels, the stuff that affects your mood and brain function.  I know it certainly fires up my serotonin and brings back the good vibes in my life! Check out the website healthline.com for the ‘science bit’ on how Yoga can help to combat depression. http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/yoga-therapy#Overview1 

5.     Yoga can tone and strengthen muscles in a similar way to weight training with less impact on your joints

The Triangle Pose and Plank Pose are two of my favourite postures for toning your abs and strengthening your core.

With regular practice of yoga, I’ve seen my body tone up in a gentler way than, pumping iron all the time. Many types of yoga postures are designed to tone and shape up your body, depending on which one you choose to do.

When you do hot yoga you’ll find your limbs will become supple and your joints are much more likely to stretch naturally.

So, now you know, find a cosy space or studio and do some yoga NOW!

References:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sleep-newzzz/201210/yoga-can-help-insomnia

http://www.dreams.co.uk/sleep-matters-club/how-to-use-yoga-to-help-you-get-a-good-nights-sleep/

Copyright: Steph S. 2016

A Hot Yoga Poem

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Forgive me Inner hot Yogi Self, for I have sinned…

It is three months since I graced the presence of your company and felt the warmth of the forty degree ray of heat healing my body.

I long to feel my joints stretch into submission and relax once more; rather than the stiffness of my knees, cracking like twigs in sympathy with the coldness of the weather.

I miss the 26 postures and even the familiar way that the yoga teachers describe the postures in strange and funny ways.

Like the teacher who says “Time to get rid of your wind!” or the one who dares you to smile and not take it all so seriously.

I want to go back. To a time when I slept like a baby at bedtime and woke only when daybreak came; entering a new challenge, a new day or a life centered and with purpose.

It seems like such a long time ago when I was in a crowded room in what seems like a million sweaty bodies, all working to find the pinnacle of enlightenment in a ninety minute meltdown.

But I don’t miss the sweaty bodies though, just the camaraderie of it all!

Will I be forgiven when I go back?

For I have given into the laziness of winter. It is constantly luring me to sit and vegetate in front of the television.

I find myself watching it hypnotically, as my thighs and stomach spread largely due to the overexertion of eating…

And will I receive a critical eye from the yoga teacher as I slip into the back of the room, hoping that no one can feel the guilt I feel at having left you for what seems an eternity?

The answer dear hot yogi self is no.

All thoughts of negativity are left at the door.
Just come back quickly, get there when you can.

Roll out your mat with PRIDE and take your place WITH confidence.
For in the yoga world, there is no judgement or noise, or song and dance because you didn’t come back sooner…

Just a warm enveloping heat, with plenty of smiles.

And some peace and harmony once more.

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Transformation: Have you recently gone through ONE?

 

What TRANSFORMATION have you recently gone through? 

A transformation can happen when one puts on a mask, make-up or some other type of costume to disguise or beguile. Equally the metamorphosis of this act can mean that we change in nature or character.

Recently I have the good fortune (or some would say misfortune!) to wear some of the most spectacularly, ghoulishly hideous, but brilliant make-up & costumes over Halloween I have ever seen.

Every year anyone that knows me well always hears me carp on about how Halloween is just for children. I don’t really believe in almost grown men and women of seventeen (or older!) knocking on my door with their mates shouting in their near to broken voices ‘Trick or treat! and expecting me to give them sweets or money for some ciggies.

I kid you not; the “children” that have knocked on my door on Halloween, are old enough to know better and have asked me for treat money to buy cigarettes!

Somewhat bemused, I often slam the door in their faces. When I hear them laughing and walking away, I’m always relieved that they haven’t pelted my windows with eggs or that they do something even more sinister for my trick.

But this year, I wished that if they had knocked on my door, I would have greeted them like this:

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After all the kids who have seen me in this get-up when working, have been really tentative, secretly peering at me from behind their parents back and wondering if the woman they were seeing in front of them is really as nasty in personality as she looked. Then they seem puzzled when I have been charming, smiley and congenial towards them; instead of the angry looking, scarred individual.

However as we approach the end of the year, I have to REFLECT on the difficult times I’ve experienced that has transformed me into someone completely altered to how I was before the year began.

This person is someone who has had to take a cathartic, liberating and deep look at myself and I’ve emerged more resilient, ready to face those who dare to try and besmirch me and all I value and love.

I have seen people that I thought I knew; try to transform me through their lies into a person that was evil, ugly and not me all…

But…

“I KNEW MYSELF TO BE TRUE…”  

… And when I started to feel the knives in my back and certain people ganging up on me, I felt completely powerless to stop them. It was hard to stay strong. I became more and more despondent and depressed, wondering who to trust. I trusted no one.

My family and loved ones have continued to hold me up through this time (both physically and mentally) and believe in me as one by one, so called friends stopped calling and texting. I realised that WHATEVER HAPPENS my family were never going to let me down or forsake me, turn their back on me or leave me to suffer.

My life now has been completely transformed again into someone who is more closely guarded and less trusting of others. I am slowly getting through the quagmire that has been at times like a real life horror film.

As well as my family, I am relying on my muse to get me through the dark moments; the late great Maya Angelou, whose wisdom always continues to transform me into a much more stronger person worthy of holding her head up high. Reading her quotes and books is the uplift I have needed right now.

I’ve also started to take pictures of things that spark my inspiration. I’m enjoying being the creative person I once was before the ugliness began to seep into my life. I am beginning to find a strength and confidence in myself once more.

When I passed this board at Leicester Square station in London recently…

People must have thought I was weird as I literally stopped dead in my tracks and smiled while staring at it for a good few minutes!

The words were perfect for just right now! It seemed apt that the word ‘FUTURE’ in the sign was partially faded because I don’t know how long this feeling of euphoria will last or even what the future holds…

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Don’t get me wrong, although I have since learnt that those who conspired to hurt me, had indeed lied. I still feel ANGER about it all and SOMETIMES I feel myself TRANSFORMING once again into a monster, riling at the injustice of it all!

However with Dr. Maya Angelou‘s words and legacy, I am learning to turn my anger into much better things.

Here’s what she says about being angry:

“You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use that anger. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.” Maya Angelou

 EVERYDAY I TRY TO RISE ABOVE IT…

http://quotesgram.com/what-goes-around-comes-around-quotes-and-sayings/

So this is a picture of me … SMILING and TRANSFORMED into a person that feels a bit more OK (ish) about things and someone who my sister Suzette (RIP) once said to…

“Go out and conquer the world”.

(Suzette C.S, 24th July 2001)

Well I’m not too sure about whether I’ll be able to do that, but I feel in a much more relaxed, stronger and confident place to be able to conquer all the nasties that may come my way. (for now!!)

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Here’s hoping that whatever TRANSFORMATION you may have to go through, becomes one that TRANSFORMS you into a  wonderful person and a better place in your life full of much love and happiness! 

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Namaste

Copyright: SJS 2016

A Welsh Holiday…in England

Chirk Rules OK!

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Chirk Castle

 

 

 

Recently on holiday in North Wales, I visited  Chirk Castle with my family. It is a salubrious monument to Welsh history; knee deep in fabulous beauty, pomp and circumstance. There was also a lovely balance of things to see, do and touch. Indeed it’s an absolutely fun and interactive place to visit.

20160823_134022.jpg Amazing Chirk 

I was especially fascinated by the adorable, but quirky way they had of telling visitors nicely to ‘Not touch’ or sit on certain pieces. 

 

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There’s something very prickly going on here!

 

“They had delicately placed a holly leaf strategically on certain items and in particular, I kept seeing them on the more elaborate antique chairs.” 

 

 

 

 

When I first saw this, I kept thinking; Is it December already? I thought I’d skipped some months in a moment of forgetfulness and had wafted into the festive season. 

 

Then, I thought they were put there by some mischievous child who had found it in one of Chirk’s many glorious gardens. 

 

However as walked further on, it was clear the rude awakening was especially there for us; the general public so visitors wouldn’t sit on or touch these objects.

Is it time to start singing The Holly and The Ivy??!!

 

Their method worked! It was fantastic to see young and old alike cheerfully following the ‘rules’ but at the same time handling items they could and treating them with respect.

 
 
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The Dungeons

There are lots of nooks and crannies at Chirk (and stairs!) to discover all sorts of fun things from history. 

After a long walk down these stairs, you come to the dungeons. Be aware though, I saw several (naughty and wicked!) people practically running down  getting them quickly, hiding round the corner and shouting BOO! on their friends and families.  

“We continued our road trip  in that week by visiting  the glorious Powis Castle. It was lush!! (AKA; Gavin and Stacey!) with fabulous views and absolutely breathtaking.”

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Powis Castle in all its beauty  

However, in stark contrast I felt incredibly uncomfortable walking or even breathing near any the pieces. 

All around us there were warnings that said; Do not touch, take photographs or sit on or near the precious objects. They even had staff in every room. I think it was nice that the staff could tell us about the history of the castle, but I also think they were partly there to make sure people weren’t taking photos or touching the objects.

 

Whilst I fully uphold the need to preserve valuable items of historical value for everyone and for future generations to enjoy, perhaps the management of Powis Castle could take a ‘leaf’ out of the Chirk Castle book? (Pardon the pun!)

 

Cut down on the labels and the amount of staff eyeing people up at every turn.

 

On a clear day at Powis Castle and in the gardens, you can see some spectacular views

 

Don’t get me wrong, Powis Castle is a splendid castle celebrating Welsh greatness too and I certainly wouldn’t want an interactive experience that spoils the beauty of such a place. 

 

But at least credit your visitors with a bit of sense not to manhandle the goods!

 

One of the highlights at Powis Castle that made me smile a great deal, was the  peacocks that roam the gardens. 

 

They all seemed to be cock-a-hoop (sorry, another pun!) in their environment, strutting about much more confidently than us visitors. 

 
 

I’m the daddy round here!


But then again could it be because one of them had recently become a new parent? 

 

 

It was absolutely wonderful to see a  peahen had recently given birth. People gathered around them excitedly to see her taking the babies for a drink; just nurturing  and doing what mothers do best. 

 

Castle number three I visited, was NOT in Wales..?!

 

 

 

It was Whittington Castle. Technically it’s near Oswestry in Shropshire, England. But it’s steeped in Welsh history, so it’s close (very close) to North Wales.

 

In fact there was literally a sign that we passed to show when we entered “England” to get there and then back to Wales to our holiday home, so it was a visit that had to be done!

 

 

Initially when you first see the castle from the front, you think you are about to view a castle that is structurally complete in its entirety…  

 

 
20160824_163241.jpg A fantastic view from one of the turrets at Whittington Castle

 

But it is in fact the remains of the castle ruins. The residents in Oswestry proudly look after the castle with funding. The area surrounding the castle boasts a quaint little cafe and for a pound a day in parking, how can you not like this place!

It has some spectacular views AND I was dead chuffed to see the clear blue skies above as I took these pictures because it was really bumpy underfoot with lots of tricky steps that could have been a bit treacherous climbing in the rain!

I loved visiting North Wales and ‘England’ a great deal.

I did see some wonderful views that weren’t just situated near castles. But castles were so memorable, that I wanted to write about it.

The people were really friendly too. I walked a lot of miles up and down some wonderful castles, that had most of time REALLY steep stairs! I felt enormously fit afterwards and would definitely do it all again!

 

 

Copyright: SJS 2016

How to survive the 30 Day Hot Yoga Challenge: 5 Tips

Get hot on the floor!

Some weeks had passed since beginning this hot yoga malarkey that is Bikram yoga. I hadn’t ditched it for something else, which for me meant I was going to stay with it for a while. 

Then something happened. Perhaps the heat had begun to pickle my brain, but I was convinced by the lovely woman on the front desk to sign up for a 30 day yoga challenge.

What is a 30 Day Challenge?

This is when for 30 days you pitch up and burn up; EVERYDAY!

A lot of hot yoga studios do them as a way to get you to start honing in on your craft in finer detail. On that note; here is tip number one.

Tip 1: WAIT!

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I know this sounds contradictory, but wait. Try not to sign up for a Hot Yoga challenge like this until you’ve got a couple of classes under your belt. If you don’t know what to expect in a class, you may set yourself up fail. Try to look out for open days or special offers such as Groupon offering free lessons or sessions at discounted prices.

Check out this link for a discounted hot yoga session:

https://www.groupon.co.uk/deals/fitness-fusions-11

And this link is a hot yoga studio called HOT YOGA SOUTH that I often use in Balham, London. They have open days where you can do a FREE hot yoga session.

http://hotyogasouth.com/

So, I began my 30 day sweat fest with gusto. I felt like the Uma Thurman character in Kill Bill 2, who was attentive, dedicated and determined to take on everything the sensei threw at her!

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I tried really hard to be a good student. Pitching up to sweat it out big style, wasn’t easy. It was like I was a broken dripping tap in need of fixing and desperate to absorb every piece of knowledge my ‘sensei’ (or rather my Bikram Yoga  Teachers) imparted on me in a quest to get through the next 30 days.

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I loved feeling that the sweating was doing me some good. But I wasn’t at all as elegant as this when holding postures! 

… But very soon I began to feel weary and extremely tired, realising I couldn’t keep up with what others in the class were doing. Their progress seemed more rapid than mine. It made me feel extremely despondent…

… But by about week two, I was almost able to get through a whole class without keeling over!

Tip 2: Don’t compare yourself to others, it will be your downfall.

There will be plenty of people in a class who have lots of differing experiences, injuries or reasons why they are doing hot yoga. Some will have been going for years, some who will be there for the first time; or even some coming back to  yoga after a break. However you shouldn’t use anyone as your template on how things should be done in a class, instead follow the teacher and listen to the dialogue. Most yoga instructors are astute enough to see if you’re not quite there on a posture and will give you the correct guidance on HOW TO MAKE A POSTURE WORK FOR YOU

The Lesser spotted BGDY!

During my 30 day challenge, I encountered a kind of fist bump moment when I saw another BGDY (Black Girl Doing Yoga). She was a first timer that day and before the class began she had to get up to move towards the last two rows in the studio.

Now, anyone who knows their black history would have felt a bit funny when asked to move to the back. Thoughts of Rosa Parks not being allowed to sit at the front of a bus comes mind, but this woman dealt with the newbie thing with great aplomb!  

No one had told her the front rows are for people who have been coming for a while. They say it’s so that you can follow them as a guide on how to do the postures correctly. I think it’s more reserved for the ‘show-offs’ who like to wriggle their bottoms in front of you in a way that says; I’m bendier than you”.

I don’t see why you can’t sit anywhere, especially as our greatest examples at the front can have days when they’ve been some of the worst yogis I’ve ever seen, stumbling around like some drunk in need of a drink on the front row. 

However this woman proceeded over to the back row, in such a cool way that only a way a BGDY could pull off; that was to kiss her teeth, swing her mat over her shoulder and as she turned around, she swiped the whole of the front row with her mat on their heads; teacher included!   

As she glided past, we both nodded to each other and in acknowledgement of her ‘high five’ moment of celebration. 

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Tip 3:  YOU are the best guide to KNOW if your session is working or not.

I’ve since then thought about the absurdity of this stupid protocol of following the people in the front row and I soon realised that the best person to look at in a hot yoga session is yourself.

It tells you a lot about how you’re coping within a position. It’s ALSO easier to follow the class anyway usually from any angle or point in a studio because there’s always so many flipping mirrors everywhere! 

Tip 4: Hair frizz = Get some cover, FAST!!

A 30 day challenge in maths terms equates to four weeks and two days of big time hair frizz! If you want to avoid the frizz or the flapping about of sweaty hair in your face then; wear a scarf to try to absorb some of the sweat.

Have a look at this link for some more tips: http://www.blackwomenshealth.com/blog/workout-stay-fit-and-still-have-great-healthy-hair/

Make you don’t go for a cotton scarf though. For the same reason a cotton top or leggings WILL completely saturate sweat, so will a cotton headscarf.  

stock-vector-crying-baby-girl-crying-small-child-vector-cartoon-illustration-of-cute-crying-baby-girl-518569871And Another thing…I know it’s tempting but try not to wash your hair in the yoga studio showers. I did this once at my peril and I nearly ended up crying when my hair became so knotted due to the water pressure being so poor!  

Tip 5:

If you’re doing Bikram Yoga, the breathing you do is through your nose, except for the warm up and at the end. It’s CRUCIAL that you try and learn how to do this type of breathing, rather than opening your mouth. Keep your eyes open too. If you try to breathe in a different way to how you are instructed, you may find you will use up excess energy and feel dizzy as a result. 

If at any at stage in a hot yoga session you are overwhelmed by the heat, lie down rather than trying to bolt out of the studio. It’s harder to come back in if you leave and the heat will seem worse. I’ve learnt this from the instructors and (SO FAR!!) I’ve never had to run in fear of it all.

For energy before, during and after a session it’s important to drink plenty of water. I also find if I drop an electrolyte tablet into my water bottle helps to replace lost salts from sweating. These are the ones they use a lot in most yoga studios.

http://totalhydration.uk/high5-zero-electrolyte-drinks-tablets-20-tablets-per-tube/

Finally:

If you don’t manage to complete the whole 30 Days, it’s not the end of the world. The fact that you’ve started your yoga journey is the most important thing and the first step towards a calmer, flexible and more braver you.  

Namaste!

SjSx

 

Copyright: SJS 2016

Are you Stubborn?

via Daily Prompt: Stubborn

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Are you as stubborn as an Olympian or a selfish stubborn person?

There is a terrible indictment on society hitting your country, your city or you today. It is something that we often shout about and define as “Standing up for our rights”, when we justify why we suddenly choose to behave this way. My friends, I’m talking about being Stubborn. 

Stubborn is a word when seen in a positive way can be manna from heaven; a welcome benefit coming unexpectedly to get us through a difficult time. It can be the determination needed to pass an exam or a task slightly beyond our reach.

In Rio 2016, we will see sportsmen and women being stubborn, driving themselves to be determined and have a stubborn resilience to carry on, when every bone and sinew in their bodies is telling them to give up.

That’s the stubborn we all like to see. However the other day on the train, I witnessed an appalling display of people being stubborn that was something I couldn’t get out of my mind.

It began when I boarded a crowded, hot and packed train relieved to have got a seat. I settled down, waiting for my destination to arrive. About 15 minutes into the journey, I could see from a distance an old man had got on. He managed to wobble and shake slowly towards the centre area of the carriage. Naturally, I thought that as he wasn’t standing close to me; or where I could reach him someone else would offer him their seat. He was frail and struggled to hold onto the overhead railings, nearly falling over when trying to do so.

The demonstration of stubbornness I saw from people was extremely ugly and starkly apparent by the people who were directly sat in front and around him. They all looked away; pretending not to see him, literally and metaphorically closing their eyes, willing this man to disappear so they couldn’t see what they should have done to help him.  

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“If I can’t see it, it’s not happening!!!”

 

There was a young business man sitting cosily in his seat. He dug the headphones he was wearing deeper into his ears and closed his eyes. A middle-aged woman, who had previously been staring into space, promptly drew her newspaper up towards her face when she spotted him boarding and several other people stuck their heads high up in the air; or became deeply engrossed in posters that were plastered around the busy carriage. None of them “saw him”.

Except me. I was always taught from a very young age to help others less fortunate than ourselves; to give up your seat when someone is less able to stand. I’m happy to say that I could see on that day beyond my need to sit and be comfortable. However in order to help this man, I had to literally climb over the stubbornness of others when I came to his aid. I gently tapped him on his shoulder to offer him my seat.

His face lit up as he said;

“Thank you my darling, you are so kind.”

He was so grateful for the seat and to be able to rest. When he sat down wearily but pleased, I knew I had done the right thing even if others hadn’t.  

One thing though I wasn’t at all surprised about, was when I too witnessed their “invisibility”. There was stubbornness all around and the pretence that no one had seen what had happened. People looked away, unable to face their inability to show any compassion or kindness.

When I got up to offer my seat to the man, everyone standing had become stubborn, then selfishness began as they looked hungrily at my vacant seat, poised to pounce into my seat of comfort.

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I even had to give a man my best Paddington Bear “hard stare” when he tried to jump into my seat before the older man was able to get to my seat quickly.

It worked! As I saw him meekly retreat back into his book and continued to stand looking red faced and embarrassed, I felt jubilant and proud.

I’m hoping the stubbornness I witnessed on that day was just a one off (but I doubt it) and that I won’t see in the future people being stubborn and just thinking of themselves.

So, are you a stubborn Olympian or a selfish stubborn person? I hope you’re the former who will be more determined to do what is right and fair and help to get an older man, woman or person unable to stand that seat on the train. Even if you have to put on your best hard stare and hope that the stubbornness they are producing makes them quiver away in shame.

You must achieve your Olympic gold in the success of helping others, an art that is truly in its rarity these days and regardless of the inconvenience it may cause you.