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

 

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

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