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That time when I realised that balance comes from within

Balance has been one of the things that has eluded me in different ways throughout my adult life, whether it be physically or spiritually. The pendulum swings in different directions, with the emphasis on one specific area at any one given time.

Yoga has been one of the things that has brought this front and centre for me and has made me to start to look at it in a little more detail. When I started to practice yoga I literally could not balance. Whilst my strength and flexibility improved throughout the rest of my practice, I struggled to see improvement when it came to balance for a long time. The shift happened just recently, when suddenly I realised that my intense wobbles had begun to subside, and that the hard fought battle I have been fighting to find my balance has almost been won.

What changed? In yogic terms, that took the form of deep core training, and learning to lift my core from it’s very root at my pelvic floor, to stabilise the rest of my being. From the point of awareness, its taken me 12 months to really see a shift, 12 months to start to feel the benefit of this new focus and training.

This got me to thinking about balance more generally, and how actually, more often than not, it’s something that can’t be achieved overnight. We have to put in the ‘core’ work, to create the stability at the roots that we need to be able to grow.

Another example of this would be in terms of my relationship with work. When you love your job and want to do the very best you can at something, it is very easy to give all of yourself to it. In my first year at Shazam, I was guilty of that very thing. I gave so much of myself to my work, that I left no space for anything or anyone else, least of all me. I lost my balance.

Just like the core work in yoga, I needed to train myself over time to put the boundaries in place that meant I was able to achieve balance. Simple measures like; not arranging calls after a certain time of day and being prepared to leave things to be completed tomorrow. Though both of those took some fairly significant mental shifts within me; I had to address my desire to be perfect, and to do perfect work, my desire not to let people down, my desire to be perceived in the best possible light always.

How did I do that? By a lot of study of self, discussion with others in the form of coaching support, and also reading. The feelings don’t go away – I will always be a perfectionist – but I am now able to rationalise them and let them go when they appear. I am now able to be good enough, and not strive for the impossible bar of perfection, or at least what I perceive that to be.

Another example of losing balance would be my love of music. This love saw me at one time, attending up to three gigs a week. I lost my balance. I had allowed myself to be caught up in something that, rather than enriching me, had begun to deplete me. The greedy lust for new experiences, the rush of new music. I was exhausted.

The step change there came in the form of learning to say no. To me as much as everyone else – actually probably even more so. That change took a similar form to the one described above, my connecting to myself and putting better parameters in place. Sure enough, over time I have got much better at saying no.

I now stick to a bedtime that supports me, supports my early rises and creates the space in my world instead for things that enable me to grow; creating time for reading being one of them. I still go to gigs. I just make sure they are the ones I really want to see, and that I am not just there because I don’t want to miss out on something.

Balance isn’t about being perfect, or being hard on ourselves when we notice things are a little off. It’s just about being prepared to have an honest dialogue with ourselves, and do the ‘deep core’ work if there’s an area that needs some special attention.

My balance in yoga still is far from perfect, but that’s kind of the point, we don’t need to be perfect. Balance isn’t something fixed, it’s alive, just like we are. It’s something that’s ever fluid and evolving. We just need to be prepared to alter the weight on the scales when we feel ourselves dipping too deeply in one direction.

Navigating these little battles is just another part of being truly alive, and a beautiful part at that. As is embracing yourself as the perfectly imperfect human you truly are. For that’s been one of the most important things I have ever done.

That time when I was reminded that three is the magic number

Recently I have been reminded of three important lessons to live by;

  1. It is worth the effort.
  2. Breathing is everything.
  3. Say yes to things that challenge you.

I love to walk along the canal as often as I am able. It’s one of my favourite things to do, and when I do it, I smile with every cell in my body. When I am heading into town, I try to allow a little longer, so that I can at least skip along the canal and at least jump on the tube a couple of  stops further along the line.

When I walk I feel like I radiate sunshine sometimes, it’s as if my soul is drinking from the elixir of life. When I pass people, I often smile and say; ‘hello’. On one particular occasion recently, I was doing this very thing, at first not really conscious of what I was doing. Suddenly I became aware that the more people I passed, and the more eyes and souls I came into contact with, the more I saw a common theme in the eyes that met mine. After the initial surprise of being spoken to (it doesn’t always happen in big cities), what was left with a look of thankfulness, gratitude for having been seen, and gratitude for having been met with love.

I spent the first seven years of my life in the North of England, and this sort of practice is just what we do there. But it struck me in that moment that this was abundantly rare for these people.

Continuing my theme of connection at the moment, I saw just how much my connection could bring to others, in an incredibly small but real life way.

In the wonderful way that the Universe unfolds, I found myself at a charity yoga event hosted by Lululemon one evening the very same week, to celebrate the work of the Africa Yoga Project.

There we heard from the founder, Paige Elenson, who told us her ridiculously inspiring story that led her to founding this amazing organisation that teaches people to teach yoga across Africa; 250 teachers and rising. Paige is the person who reminded me of the three important lessons to live by.

The event started with a short film and as it opened the presenter made a comment that someone had asked him why they were bothering, and that ‘Africa needs a lot of things more than it needs yoga’. But you know what; it might need a ton of other things, but it definitely needs yoga too, and absolutely needs all the elements that come along with it.

Yoga as a platform for people to work themselves out of poverty through teaching, but even more so, yoga to provide a means of connection to our higher being, and to ultimately heal whatever it is you might need to heal to move forward in positive momentum.

I can’t even begin to imagine the lives the people in the video have led and what they have experienced, but I can feel how I’ve healed my own through the many different ways that I’ve been learning to connect to myself and in turn, to others.

After the film we all practiced together, a heart expanding connective practice, where we hugged, tickled one another, held hands to balance and generally supported one another in practice. We finished with back to back seated meditation, largely with people we’d never met before. It was stunning.

I recently realised that I’ve actually been becoming a yogi for a long time before actually stepping onto a yoga mat. In how I live, in how I eat, in how I treat others and most importantly; how I treat and regard myself. I had no idea all of it was ‘yoga’. I just did what felt right for me, which has meant that I’ve lived and practiced various forms of yoga over the past few years, just not physically and spiritually up until the past two, when I fell in love with yoga practice in its entirety.

The movement based asanas have given me a sense of personal freedom, of joy, of physical expression. They’ve awoken the playful goon in me that loves nothing more than spending the day trying to balance on my hands. Play through various forms of movement. And it’s so worth the effort. All of it.

The spiritual practice has happened on and off the mat, but largely through my deepening connection to myself, supported by the hands on healing work, coaching and incredible meditation practice I have learnt with Sara Williams at Spherical Living. Meditation has become a daily practice for me and my journey to stillness continues. At the heart of everything I truly am is my breath.

I have begun studying yoga as an art form, with the hope of sharing so much of the wonderfulness I have learnt, both on and off the mat, with others. People have been saying to me for a while that I would make a great teacher, but it took me a little while to talk myself into saying yes, and to take on the challenge of learning something new.

I have only been able to heal, because I have learnt the tools to heal myself. We can’t heal others, we can only support with love, and give them the space to learn and grow. No one could have walked this path for me or made it any easier. Only me. So my step on this path is one that will afford me the opportunity to offer others some new tools for their own toolboxes. I said yes. To all of it.

So you see this post is about so much more than yoga. It’s a reminder to all of us that everything we do is worth the best of us, it’s ALL worth the effort. And that by connecting to ourselves, our breath and our truth, that is the glue connects us to everything.

From that place of connection we have so much more space within us to support and love the people we interact with, the same space that will, in turn, also enable us to allow them the space they need to be who they truly are and where they truly need to be on their own journeys.

So make the effort. Breathe. And say yes.

To find out more about supporting the brilliant work of the Africa Yoga Project please take a moment to read a little more about them here.