If you are a member of the British Wheel of Yoga you will have received your Spectrum Magazine for Autumn 2020. We are honoured to be on the front cover, all 3 of us! We couldn’t resist getting Archie in the picture. I’m sure you agree that he looks very smart. He even wore a fresh clean bowtie!
Spectrum Magazine Autumn 2020
In the magazine we discuss the importance of spinal health and consider all of the different ranges of motion that our spine has. Our spine has flexion, extension, rotation, lateral flexion and articulation. As a result we put together a sequence that takes the spine through all of these movements. It features across 3 pages in the magazine with detailed instruction. The sequence is mat based. This makes it very accessible and also adds an element of connection and grounding. We created an instructional video for this soothing Low Spinal Flow on our YouTube channel. You can check it out below. Let us know what you think and subscribe to our channel.
Low Spinal Flow as featured in Spectrum Magazine Autumn 2020;
DID YOU enjoy our article in spectrum magazine autumn 2020 edition? then join us for Online Yoga Classes
We currently offer a range of online yoga classes. Our approach to teaching the physical yoga postures is grounded in what is good for the body. We focus on postures that will help improve flexibility and build strength in the body. All of our classes include yoga postures, breathing exercises, guided relaxation and yoga philosophy. You get a well round yoga class covering many of the 8 limbs of yoga.
We feature on the Spectrum Magazine Winter 2016 edition. The article in this edition discusses our journey to becoming British Wheel of Yoga teachers. It was also about diversity in the yoga scene and we talked about getting married as soon as equal marriage had been introduced.
World Mental Health Day 2020 is on Saturday 10th October 2020. The theme this year is Mental Health for All. Greater Investment, Greater Access. Everyone, Everywhere. The World Federation for Mental Health set the theme every year. Check out there website here: https://wfmh.global/
MENTAL HEALTH FOR ALL
We all have Mental Health. As a result it is important to take care of it. Each and every one of us has to learn how to live with and interact with our mind.
Our experience of our minds changes and fluctuates throughout the day and our life. We go through periods where our mind is very busy and others where it is quieter. Whatever we experience is part of the human experience. It is almost certainly the case that someone has experienced it before or is experiencing it right now somewhere. As humans we have more in common than we have different. We are all in this experience of life and humanity together.
Our duty as humans is to look after each other and ourselves. This involves being aware of the mental health of others. Having discussions around our own mental health and the difficulties we face or have faced is important. Sharing information and being open is the healthiest policy both for us as individuals and for wider society. Can we reach a place where Mental Health is a topic of conversation for us all? Can we reach a place where mental health support is available to everyone across the globe?
COVID 19 AND MENTAL HEALTH
“Although the COVID-19 crisis is, in the first instance, a physical health crisis, it has the seeds of a major mental health crisis as well, if action is not taken. Good mental health is critical to the functioning of society at the best of times. It must be front and centre of every country’s response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The mental health and wellbeing of whole societies have been severely impacted by this crisis and are a priority to be addressed urgently.” United Nations Policy Brief: COVID-19 and the Need for Action on Mental Health, May 2020.
The above statement made at the Untied Nations in May 2020 clearly highlights the need to care for our Mental Health at this challenging time.
The World Federation for Mental Health
“The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) is the only international multidisciplinary, grassroots advocacy and education organisation concerned with all aspects of mental health. It was founded in 1948 to advance, among all people and nations, the prevention of mental and emotional disorders, the proper treatment and care of those with such disorders, and the promotion of mental health. WFMH has been an NGO in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) since 1963 and we are in official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO) and in formal association with the UN Department of Public Information (DPI).” from https://wfmh.global/
Yoga and World Mental Health Day 2020
Yoga is a wonderful tool to assist both physically and mentally in response to the current crisis. It can help us keep our bodies in shape as a result of the strength and flexibility we develop from the practice. However, let us always remember that the aim of yoga is not to do a perfect downwards facing dog. It is not perfecting a hand stand. And it is not pushing our body beyond normal functional ranges of motion. The aim of the physical practice of yoga is to enable one to sit still without discomfort or distraction arising in the physical body.
The aim of yoga is to find a place of calmness or stillness. The final limb of Yoga, Samadhi, can be translated as the great freedom. It is a sense of liberation from the fluctuations of the mind. The aim of yoga is to develop the ability to have a healthier relationship with our minds. This is to be able to turn the attention away from the fluctuations of the mind. As a result of doing so we no longer over identify with the fluctuations of the mind.
How do we utilise Yoga to help?
How do we do this? The 8 limbed path of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali sets out how to do this. As a result we have a handy guide in this ancient text. It is a path that has been trodden by many before us.
How is a 2000 year old book of use to us in 2020? The reason it is still useful is because the human condition hasn’t changed. Our day to day lives look very different from 2000 years ago but the experience of being a human with a mind is exactly the same.
The journey through the 8 limbs of yoga takes us from behavioural suggestions, through physical postures, to breath exercises, to withdrawing the senses inwards, to concentration – meditation – the great freedom. As a result Yoga presents a series of techniques to help find a greater peace of mind. A good Yoga class will incorporate many of these aspects. Well trained Yoga teachers will infuse their classes with yoga philosophy, breathing exercises, postures and guided relaxations / meditations.
There are some great initiatives starting to take shape as holistic health and wellbeing is being seen as very important. We are currently involved in a nation wide trial looking at the benefits of chair-based yoga. If proven to be effective this could result in NHS referrals to chair yoga classes.
Increasing access to Yoga is interesting to consider during the current global pandemic. As a result of moving our Yoga classes online we have have been able to continue teaching our students from the local area as well as welcoming people from across the globe to our classes. Students have joined us from across the UK, United Arab Emirates, Portugal, Australia, Canada, Spain, Germany, Italy and USA. The use of platforms such as Zoom has made Yoga more accessible than ever before. Anyone from anywhere is able to attend a yoga class if they have a digital device with a camera.
You can find details of our weekly yoga classes and book a place in our shop at : Shop
Yogasmiths Online Yoga Classes – consider taking a class for World Mental Health Day 2020
However, there needs to be a greater investment in Mental Health service provisions. Many people struggle to access help and waiting lists can be very long. Businesses need to take more responsibility for accessing help for staff and creating an environment where mental health is a topic which is discussed. As a result of reducing the stigma often attached to mental health people will feel more free to talk and as such seek to access support sooner.
We have free resources on our YouTube channel that anyone can access at anytime, anywhere. Check them out below and subscribe to our channel.
September is Alopecia Awareness month. Sue has been a regular attendee at our yoga classes over the years. She has written a moving personal reflection for us on her journey through alopecia. We hope that in sharing this it will help to raise awareness of alopecia and prove helpful. I’ll hand you over to Sue!
My personal journey with alopecia
It’s autumn, it’s 2020 and it’s been a year which, so far, has been pretty pants. All of us having to adapt to the changes brought about by a global pandemic.
I’ve never written anything like this before and I suppose not only find it challenging but also a little uncomfortable. Observing ourselves and sharing thoughts doesn’t always come easily. Whenever in the past I have challenged myself to experience new things I might normally avoid it has often proved ultimately to be a rewarding experience. …..so here goes!
Strange to think that September is already here. This month for me, brings another birthday, (number fifty eight if we’re counting!!). Also a time of reflection and contemplation.
I wouldn’t admit to welcoming the shift this month brings. With predictable regularity it reminds me that I do not possess the ability to postpone the arrival of darker mornings. Nor try as I might, find a way of hanging onto summer, my favourite season.
My name is Sue. I’m mum to two grown boys, a nurse, I’ve developed a love of yoga……..and I have no hair.
Alopecia Awareness Month
September is also Alopecia awareness month. This one marks the eleventh since my body turned on itself and altered my ability to grow hair. Dramatically altering my appearance.
Hair loss for anyone can be a tricky thing to deal with. I was first alerted to mine when pregnant with my first son. A small, perfectly round, penny size bald patch appeared on the back of my head. Reassured by nursing colleagues it was pregnancy related and would regrow I ignored it and it did, but as one patch grew back another appeared.
By the time I delivered my second son, fourteen months after his brother, large hairless patches occupied much of the back of my head.
A swift referral to dermatology followed (something I still struggle with as my alopecia is an autoimmune and not a dermatological condition) and I was diagnosed with alopecia areata. This is an autoimmune condition which sees a specific type of T cell in the body cluster around and attack the hair follicles, preventing them from producing more hair.
At the initial appointment I was handed a diagnosis and also, with little compassion, informed by the first specialist I encountered, that there was no cure for what I had, that it was likely I would lose all my hair, and that should this be the case I’d be entitled to vouchers for NHS wigs which I could obtain from the hospitals appliance department. Great!!!
Reaction to the Alopecia diagnosis
What followed is, I believe,not uncommon. A period of great sadness and almost mourning. I was mercifully followed up by a wonderfully kind, now retired dermatologist who supported my angry and desperate attempts to prove both medicine and my body wrong.
This is a journey, as a nurse, I see many travel and who I nowtry to support when they facea difficult to accept diagnosis.
Mine was an anxiety filled minefield punctuated by a seriesof unpleasant therapies and medications which would see my immune system horribly suppressed. By the time I’d exhausted the list and also myself, I was finally at a point where, with great sadness and reluctance, I accepted that the medical research was correct and that there is no cure for alopecia.
Reaching a place of acceptance
Many years followed during which I disguised my hair loss but with it’s rapid acceleration in 2009 things quickly reached the point of no return. It was that September that my youngest son shaved the final wisps of hair away.
I can say with complete honesty that this was a truly liberating experience. Having been at the mercy of unpredictable, widespread and very patchy hair loss, I was finally back in control of my appearance and not sitting, mourning the loss of more precious locks on a daily basis.
Not quite done with me alopecia did manage to kick my backside one final time that year as it robbed me of my eyebrows andlashes. I was incredibly saddened by this final insult and felt alopecia had stolen my face. All the landmarks which give us shape and form were gone. I felt as though my features had been rubbed out.
Incredible experiences and long lasting friendships
Now all this might sound a bit doom and gloom but this is not the case. Alopecia has been an intrinsic part of my journey. It’s influenced my thoughts and decision making and rewarded me with incredible experiences and long lasting friendships.
I knew from the get go that wigs and I were never going to be friends. I’m more of a sunscreen in the summer, bobble hat in the winter type of girl. There are beautiful wigs and head coverings out there for those who feel happier covering their hair loss. Psychologically, these are very necessary in allowing some people to function happily and get on with their lives. I tried very briefly but knew I just couldn’t do wigs. It was so much comfier wearing waterproof eyeliner, big earrings and a smile.
Glastonbury festival 2010 was one of the hottest on record. Would I have traded my tanned little bald head for hair as I stood close to the pyramid stage….absolutely not!! There are some benefits having Alopecia!!
Alopecia UK is an organisation which has been an incredible support to me throughout. I remain eternally grateful to them as a charity for their advice, hair loss survival tips and friendship.
In 2012 Alopecia UK were approached by London based photographer Daniel Regan who hoped through his work, to help support people affected by alopecia.
I decided to respond to his request asking people with alopecia to volunteer and be photographed. One saturday morning I drove to the capitol, devoid of any makeup and let a stranger capture on film what he saw.
To this day I struggle to explain how or why the image he created was to have such a positive and powerful impact on my wellbeing. I think I can speak for others who were also photographed. As part of an exhibition entitled “Uncovered” my picture hung with theirs in Frameless Gallery, London where they were viewed by the public.
It was odd but strangely reassuring to watch members of the public looking closely at my face and reacting positively to much of what I’d perceived as being very flawed. Many of us who’s faces hung out together in the gallery then, still keep in touch now.
As for Daniel Regan, he remains a true friend and someone I love dearly. I’m now referred to affectionately as his “liverpool mamma”, a title I feel very privileged to own.
Yoga and sitting for a photographic portrait
I try hard these days not to do the should’ve, could’ve, would’ve thing but I do reflect on life’s experiences. In writing this, I’ve considered what might have been the elements involved in sitting for a photograph taken by a then stranger, which had, and continues to have, such a positive influence on my life. I didn’t practice yoga then but do now. I’m able to reflect and question if some components of yoga practice where unknowingly at play.
Could it have been the non possessiveness associated with surrendering my time and my face, allowing and encouraging someone else to use it to help them with their journey? A comparison in yoga practice might be “Aparigraha” which is a letting go of what is not needed or not serving you.
As the shutter clicked and Daniel worked I remember consciously slowing my breath. Smoothing my brow, dropping my shoulders. Closing my eyes and focusing on projecting outwardly the growing sense of peace and contentment I was inwardly feeling. Comparing this with my yoga practice today, I realise what I was doing. I was directing my awareness (mindful meditation) and focusing on my breath (pranayama).
Through yoga teachings we become aware that energy within us travels via channels referred to as nadis. As with all channels, any blockage will interrupt the smooth flow of whatever is transported within it. Was it that the act of sitting, really breathing and setting a mindful focus or intention which helped release something I’d been unconsciously storing?
The final component involved in sitting for a photographer involves altering the body’s shape or posture and holding this for a period long enough to allow a visual artist to work. In Sanskrit the term for posture or pose would be asana.
Reflecting on that pivotal moment and all the components contained therein which produced such an amazing, long lasting, totally natural “high” with feelings of letting go, acceptance and calm, maybe the stage was set that day for me to seek other ways to introduce more of that “feel good” stuff into my every day.
Reflecting from 2020
So here I stand now. I have, in reaching 2020had to occasionally let go of people who are not good for me but on the flip side, have also made many super and lasting friendships. I’ve continued to nurse because I love it but have modified and adapted my practice to enable me to nurse in ways which bring more happiness and meaning to my life.
There have been such memorable, irreplaceable, happy family times. A couple of parachute jumps, a love of stand up paddle boarding.And some cracking travel opportunities when I’ve been wowed by some of the natural spectacles our beautiful planet offers.
As we all know though, life’s not always pretty or kind. Lifedoes seem to have the knack of throwing the odd spanner in the works when we least expect it.
A couple of years ago that’s sort of where my life was. Newly divorced, new to Heswall, a little tubby (still am!!)and not remotely fit or flexible I decided to join a couple of yoga classes. My thinking was that yoga would serve as somewhere, unlike some swanky gym, where a slightly portly, bald, female singleton could go to hide. And maybe in the process shed a few pounds.
I did a bit of online research which led me to two blokes (three if we count Archie), who, in the Wirral yoga universe, are known as The Yogasmiths. These two, Steve and Paul, together with many other gifted yogis, have patiently and with kindness, encouraged and supported the development of my yoga practice.
Sharing is caring
Paul approached me a couple of weeks ago and asked if I’d be prepared to write a blog. A little about myself and my journey. They’d recognised that from time to time they meet some people who might be struggling with some image altering problems. By sharing some of my experience, particularly during alopecia awareness month, hopefully some of my words may offer something to someone who might not be having such a great time.
We all have differences. Some are more noticeable than others. Many, including several forms of hair loss are not as permanent, obvious or long lasting as mine. Coping with a problem is often what prompts someone to access support networks and meet with others. In my case it was through that initial contact with Alopecia UK that I followed a path which led me to Daniel Regan and the magical, natural high my body woke up to when sitting in a photographic studio in London…the very same feelings which yoga practice now brings.
Now I’m not about to claim that alopecia dictates my day to day (I actually often forget I have no hair), or that a photograph taken in 2012 possesses strange, magical properties. I can’t preach that the different types of yoga I love to practice now hold the answers to anything but what I can say, with absolute certainty is that I believe the three to be inextricably linked.
Follow your heart
At points during the COVID-19 lockdown I jumped at the opportunity to be able to access on line yoga classes taught by highly respected yogis. A couple of these were with David Sye. David is a yoga teacher, musician, humanitarian and someone who believes yoga should be a “spontaneous, unapologetic and sexy celebration of life”. Interviewed in 2015 he said that if we look at the greats, all these artists, scientists, creatives have been moved by their hearts and not their brain. It’s never about the brain. He speaks about following your feelings and trusting that if you do, life will support you. David says that in making himself happy this makes the people around him happy too. This is true.
I suppose what I’m trying (badly) to articulate is, that when I follow my heart, my gut instinct and, quoting David Sye again “pay big attention to the small things and small attention to the big things” something quite wonderful will sometimes happen.
The yoga effect
When I practice yoga nothing can touch me. Not work, not social media and nobody can demand my attention or distract me. In those moments I’m back in 2012 again. I’m in a place where I dedicate my practice/set my intention. Let go of what isn’t needed, focus on the breath and accept being me. Knowing that all I need at that time is within me.
Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, a teacher of kundalini yoga (something I’ve yet to experience) wisely said “yoga is not about self importance, it’s about self acceptance”.
If anyone in the Yogasmiths fold is struggling to cope with hair lossand feels I might be able to helpin finding organisations or individuals who could offer advice and support, let me know. I’d be happy to try.
I was aware of Ram Dass and that he had been part of the 1960’s counter culture and that he was linked to LSD. However, I did not know a great deal about him.
The book is set out in 4 parts. Journey, from bindu to Ojas, cookbook for a sacred life and painted cakes.
The first part is about Dr Richard Alpert PhD and his transformation into Baba Ram Dass. Dr Alpert was at the height of his career and was living the idealised American dream. He had sports cars, his own aeroplane and was a prominent Harvard psychologist. Around this time he mentions he was drinking which masked his desire to find a deeper meaning in his life. It is clear that he felt that there was more to life than the material success he had achieved.
Whilst at Harvard, in 1961, he began to explore different states of human consciousness. Initially this was through the use of various psychedelic mind altering drugs. As a result of his experimentation with drugs he was sacked from Harvard University in 1963. The exploration of different levels of consciousness through the use of drugs continued. Ultimately this led him to Eastern philosophy and he made a life changing trip to India in 1968.
My own experience
The first part of this book resonated with me. Before becoming a full time Yoga teacher I worked in middle management in the civil service. I had a job that paid me well, we had a nice 3 bedroom semi detached house in West Kirby. However, the job that I was working in made me feel empty and unsatisfied. At some times it made me feel even worse than that, as if I was slowly dying inside. A period of work related anxiety was a mental catalyst to start thinking about changing my life.
I realised that I either needed to find ways to cope with the situation and the job I had or that I needed to make some changes. As a result I decided to make a change. The thing that was tying me to my job was the financial commitment of a mortgage. I received a letter from our mortgage company telling me that I would be 68 years old when we paid off our mortgage. This was a moment of awakening for me! The thought of working in the same job till I was 68 was not something I was prepared to contemplate. There had to be more to life than this. Working in a job that provided me with zero satisfaction or nourishment felt wrong.
What helped me cope became my vocation
I had been using Yoga for many years to help me cope mentally and physically with my job. So I felt compelled to become a yoga teacher to help others. Deciding to leave my job and career was still a difficult decision to make. It was interesting to observe the peer pressure from others that I worked with. Some colleagues could not comprehend that I wanted to leave, telling me “you are walking away from a good career.” Whereas other colleagues were envious and wished they could leave too!
In a nutshell, we downsized to a small flat that was more affordable and I applied for redundancy from work. This felt like such a massive relief. I vividly recall walking around the Marine Lake in West Kirby smiling and feeling quite elated and free.
Part 2 – From Bindu to Ojas
Part two of the book is a haphazard whistle-stop tour through spiritual themes from across the smorgasbord. It is interspersed with pictures and drawings. Because the book is laid out in the form of pictures and artistically placed text, the reader needs to really concentrate to actually read it. As a result you read it slightly more slowly and search out where the sentence flows. This causes the reader to savour the quotes and to pause.
This part of the book is a really rich source of some fantastic inspirational quotes and passages. Some of the ones that really jumped out and spoke to me were the following;
“When you have quieted your mind enough and transcended your ego enough you can hear how it reall is. So: when you are with a candleflame you are the candleflame and when you are with another being’s mind you are the other being’s mind. When there is a task to do you are the task. The mindless quality of total involvement that comes only when the ego is quiet and there is no attachment.”
“My thinking mind is a perfect servant and a lousy master”
“Just the process of calming, centering, centering, calming extricating myself from the drama.”
The third part of the book is a guide to how you can realise spiritual changes for your self. It covers a wide range of things from yoga postures to how much sleep you need.
The final part of the book is a rather vast list of books to find out more! This is a great resource. It provides a lifetimes worth of books to dive into.
This is a great book. I really enjoyed reading it. It is inspiring and wacky. The front cover which is a geometric mandala type picture, encapsulates the idea of interconnectedness. This is what this book is really about, connection. Connection to the true self.
The message is Be Here Now. Be here free from ego, from from thought, free from ideas about your self, free of your emotions. Mindfulness. Baba Ram Dass details how you can start to make changes to achieve this.
Be Here Now by Ram Dass is an authoritative Western explanation of Eastern philosophy. As a result it acts as a guide and manual for those wishing to find deeper meaning to their life. The eternal and simple message of Be Here Now perfectly sums up the crux of the practice.
You can purchase a copy of Be Here Now by Ram Dass from Blackwell’s which is a more ethical choice than Amazon;
Jeanette is a regular member of our Yoga Classes and has started her own business called Calm Soles Holistic Therapy. Jeanette writes a guest blog for us discussing the theory behind reflexology and reflects on starting a business in the current climate.
Starting a business in the Time Of Covid (ToC)
So, I’ve been told that I must be mad trying to start a new business in the time of Covid!However, I’ve always been a firm believer in the fact that if it’s right, it’s right.I bought my first property when interest rates were at a ridiculously high level in the early 90’s; I travelled solo to India when all my friends told me I was mad and would hate it: (Reader, I fell in love with the country; cried when I had to leave it…). Sometimes you have to do something – even if the “odds” are against it.
As for the ToC – well – what a great time to start to take responsibility for our health; I’m probably preaching to the converted here – we all love yoga, we know what a difference it makes to our health & wellbeing;some of us even meditate regularly which is fantastic for our mental health too.I should add that when I state ‘take responsibility for our health’ I am not for one minute saying that if we don’t we’ll become ill with Covid!
What is Reflexology?
If you’ve never had Reflexology before, let me tell you a little bit about it & how a treatment will work:
It is believed that the feet (and hands & face & ears) contain points that are reflected within the main body – (a microcosm of the macrocosm if you like )these are called reflex points.This is beautifully illustrated in pregnancy where the uterus point becomes swollen in line with the growing baby!Or where the bladder reflex can be quite swollen when it is full.
So when you rub your painful feet after a long day, or walk on the beach over rough sand you are giving yourself a good massage via the soles of your feet.Our feet are, after all, our very foundation – they have to put up with a lot!
A deep sense of relaxation
As most of us know, it is when we rest at night that the body does most of its repair work.We are in our most relaxed state so systems can work around the body without interruption from digestion, stress, exercise and everything else it experiences during the day.When receiving a treatment, most clients find it incredibly relaxing and drift off sometimes into a really quite deep sleep, even though they are aware of what is going on around them.
The beauty of Reflexology is that you are in a chair, fully clothed with only your feet uncovered – so there really is the minimum of fuss during the session.Having taken a comprehensive history from you of any past or current ailments (there are few contra-indications),I work around the various systems really just aiding re-balancing & aiding your body to let go of any stress you may be experiencing.That’s really it in a nutshell – there are a few different forms of Reflexology that I am trained in – there are specific routines to help with hormone imbalances; musculoskeletal points that can help with whiplash, sciatica etc, plantar fasciitis, stress, maternity, fertility & palliative. The research into how Reflexology can help is impressive.
Calm Soles Holistic Therapy September 2020 Special offer
Back to the here & now and I am very excited to announce that as of Tuesday September 1 I will be offering 1/2 price Reflexology treatments – £20 – for the entire month.Treatments last between 45-50 mins. (Under current Covid restrictions my professional association does not recommend spending more than 60 mins in a treatment room ).So if you’ve never tried Reflexology before, now is a good time!
I will be working from the treatment room at the back of Rooney Ponton hairdressers in Banks Road.Have a look at my website:www.calmsoles.com for further information, how to book, and exact location details.
I look forward to welcoming you.
Oh & don’t worry I am fully insured, affiliated with professional associations & Covid-19 compliant!
Thanks Jeanette. Very interesting to read up on the theory behind Reflexology. Good Luck with your new venture! Paul & Steve x
You can check out other blogs we have written here: