Time to talk day – lets end mental health discrimination

Thursday 6th February 2020 is Time to Talk Day.

Time to talk Day is a yearly event aimed to encourage people to talk about mental health. The yearly initiative is promoted by Time To Change. https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/time-talk-day/resources-your-event

Time to Change exists to end the stigma and discrimination experienced by people with mental health problems. As a result you can find resources to hold your own Time To Talk event at the link above.

The Time to Change website states that their aims are specifically:

  1. Improving public attitudes and behaviour towards people with mental health problems.
  2. Reducing the amount of discrimination that people with mental health problems report in their personal relationships, their social lives and at work.
  3. Making sure even more people with mental health problems can take action to challenge stigma and discrimination in their communities, in workplaces, in schools and online.
  4. Creating a sustainable campaign that will continue long into the future.

One in four of us in any year

Statistically, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem in any given year. We all have mental health and at any given time our mental health will sit somewhere on a scale ranging from feeling great to feeling awful. This will change and it is normal for it to change and consequently our mental health can tip below a point where it starts to cause us problems. At this point when we need help and could do with talking about how we feel, unfortunately we often do not talk.

Time to talk day 2020
Check twice – often people say they are ok when they aren’t

The Time To Change website reports the following;

The overwhelming majority of people with mental health problems report being misunderstood by family members, shunned and ignored by friends, work colleagues and health professionals, called names and much worse by neighbours.

Stigma and discrimination prevent people from seeking help: this can delay treatment and impair recovery.  It isolates people, excluding them from day-to-day activities and making it hard to build new relationships or sustain current ones. It can stop people getting or keeping jobs.

Experiencing a mental health problem is hard enough, without having to deal with the shame and isolation that often comes with it.

https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/why-attitudes-mental-health-matter

Our shared human experience

Mental Health problems can feel isolating as mentioned above. We should always remember our shared Humanity. We are all human beings having an experience of life. Part of this experience of life is that we have difficult times and challenges. Some of these challenges may by short in duration and some may last longer. Whatever we experience is part of being human and we are not alone in these experiences. Many other people have been through what you are going through, you are not the only person to feel the way you feel. When we allow ourselves to remember this and accept ourselves as being a human being having a human experience we can take a step back from our feelings of isolation.

Despite what lifestyle magazines, health and fitness magazines and social media portray, pretty much everyone will experience a mental health challenge at some point in their life. This is part of being human. Just as at some point in our life we will likely have physical health problems so too will we experience mental health problems. We are all human. Give yourself permission to be human and accept yourself as being human.

An opportunity to connect

Time To Talk day gives us an opportunity to connect with a greater sense of being part of a wider human experience of life. When we talk to others about mental health we work to remove the stigma around it. We spread the message that it is ok to not feel ok. It is part of our shared experience of being human to not feel ok.

Both Steve and I are open about our own mental health. Steve has detailed on our website in the About us section how it was a period of depression and mental health difficulties that led us to a regular yoga practice. Who knew that it would ultimately take us to where we are now! It was through talking about the challenges that he was facing that Yoga was recommended to us.

Steve, like many of us, has been through a number of episodes of depression and anxiety and continues to use the tools he has learnt over time to manage his mental health in his daily life. This has included talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), medication, yoga, healthy eating, self-care, mindfulness and exercise (too many to list!). And caring for our dog Archie! Steve has also learnt that no matter how bad things seem at the time, it will pass and you will feel better in time.

You can read the About us section of our website here: https://yogasmiths.org/about/

My own mental health

One of my own experience of my Mental Health becoming a problem was with work related stress and anxiety. I can clearly recall sitting at my desk with a huge amount of work to do. Due to this my head felt like it was in a whirl and consequently I sat there unable to do anything. I felt frozen with anxiety. I felt aware that something was wrong and decided to take a walk in the fresh air. Upon returning to the office one of the receptionist asked me if I had been for a jog. As a result of this I went and looked in the mirror and saw someone who did indeed look they had been for a jog, sweating and red in the face.

In that moment, I made the decision to log off and go home. I used Yoga, walking and swimming to help me get through this difficult period. Sometimes I did not want to do those activities, but I never regretted when I did. Slowly I felt on more of an even keel. As a result of this period, I became more aware of what triggered my anxiety and stress. I explored Mindfulness more deeply and began to develop my tool kit of things to help me.

When we feel ok

Time to Change detail on their website that a lot of people think Mental Health is something that does not effect them or the people around them. This in itself is isolating. As a result of this way of thinking people are removing themselves from this shared human experience. We are all in this together. Let us remember this when we are feeling ok and be there for others. Take time to listen compassionately and mindfully to others, do not try to solve others problems, but listen to them. If we feel ok lets make sure we keep our eyes open for those who do not.

Our life long journey

Our life long journey is to learn to live with our fluctuating mental health. The fluctuations of our minds and our emotions. With Yoga, Mindfulness and self-compassion we can build our resilience and tool kit to navigate our way through life. Whatever we experience is part of being human, we are not alone. In my experience, we can learn to control our reactions to stressful events a little more, we can learn what our triggers are. As a result we can experience life less like an extreme rollercoaster and more like a gentle fairground ride! Difficulties still arise, mental health may still raise it’s head as a problem, life can throw many challenges at us. Talking can help us. It is Time to Talk and to help end discrimination and stigma around mental health.

You can find a previous blog containing tips for dealing with stress here; https://yogasmiths.org/2018/05/19/mental-health-awareness-week-helpful-tips-to-deal-with-stress/

Mental Health Awareness Week 13th – 19th May 2019

Mental Health Awareness Week for 2019 has the theme of Body Image – how we think and feel about our bodies.

Their website (https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week) defines this as;

‘Body image’ is a term that can be used to describe how we think and feel about our bodies. Our thoughts and feelings about our bodies can impact us throughout our lives, affecting, more generally, the way we feel about ourselves and our mental health and wellbeing.

Body image concern itself is a relatively common thing to experience and is not in itself a mental health issue. However, it can be a contributing factor to mental health problems.

Whereas body satisfaction has been linked to better overall wellbeing and eating habits.

We live in a society that has become more and more fixated with the outwards image of the body. Social Media is awash with picture of people with what some people would view as the “perfect” body and lifestyle. Social Media has made so many people use their social media accounts as if they are celebrities and in doing so sharing edited highlights of their lives in an attempt to show the world that their life is perfect. Social Media is completely fixated with the external, both image wise and also in engaging with the external world, trying to obtain followers and get “likes”.

How does Yoga help us navigate our way through all of this?

As we have said many times in our yoga classes, Yoga is a work in not a work out. Yoga is about internalising our awareness via breath work, posture practice and relaxation / meditation. In doing so we realise that our true self is not our physical body, our true self is not the chatter of our minds. Our true self is deeper again and is the quiet place beyond the chatter of our mind, a place where we can find contentment, acceptance and calmness.

The Pancha Maya Kosha model detailed in the Upanishads sets out a model of the true self being encased in 5 wrappings that prevent us seeing through to the self. The outer most layer is the physical body and people can be stuck here and fixated with their physical ability and / or appearance. This philosophical model tells us that whilst we are stuck in the physical we will not progress to reveal the true self and the peace / calmness that comes with it. We are much more than our reflection in a mirror, an obsession with the reflection prevents us from seeing through the mirror to the deeper layers of ourselves.

Some factors that impact how you relate to your own body image are your family, peer group, pressure to look a certain way and social media. From a personal perspective, as someone who has worn glasses from an early age, I was quite self conscious of my glasses which is only natural. However, people said to me on a number of occasions, when I was in my teens, if I took my glasses off, “Oh you are handsome without your glasses on.” The inference that I made here is that I was obviously not handsome with my glasses on! This is something that certainly affected my confidence somewhat. However, with positive role models wearing glasses in music and the media as I grew older I embraced my glasses and enjoyed wearing them!

Scruffy mod circa 1997

Another personal experience growing up was that I loved sixties music and mod culture. I bought (and still own!) vintage scooters, a parka and desert boots. Once I had decided I was a mod then there was self inflicted pressure to conform to a certain style and look. However, I’ve always been a little on the scruffy side so it probably wasn’t the ideal thing to get into! When attending scooter rallies and mod nights I felt like I didn’t fit in because I was not quite so fastidious with how I looked. It is interesting to reflect how we strive to fit in when we are younger, trying to find the hobbies or groups that we can relate to and identify with. Body image is intrinsic to this idea of fitting in and how we portray ourselves to the outside world.

The health and fitness industry is probably one of the biggest purveyors of images of the “ideal” body, second only to the fashion industry. Magazines and social media are full of pictures of men and women with bodies that require an unhealthy addiction to the gym and the taking of ridiculous amounts of supplements. Pictures of people with six packs abs and veiny muscles don’t explain that the models are mostly in dehydrated states in order to look “optimal” for the photo shoots. The yoga world is the same, often using pictures of people with extreme hyper-flexibility or natural gymnasts as their pin-ups. This puts many people off yoga – how often we hear “I can’t do yoga I’m not flexible enough”! It also encourages some yoga practitioners to push themselves too far and to try to achieve ranges of motion that are far outside that which is normal and some would argue, healthy.

My own personal experience through Yoga has been to find a much happier relationship with my own personal body image. Yoga allows us to turn our attention inwards and to let go of our self-critic which drives negative body image. When we practice mindfully we obtain greater body awareness, listening to our own bodies, accepting all of our limitations and abilities in the same way. We can come to realise that the life force / essence of the self that it within you is the same as that which is within others. We learn that we are ok just as we are. With this acceptance we often find that we then make healthier decisions for ourselves and appreciate our bodies more, gaining a healthy relationship with your own body image.

Namaste – Paul

Guest Blog – Matt Lunt and his 8 Week Mindfulness Based Stressed Reduction Course in Hoylake

Matt Lunt is a regular at our yoga classes and he is going to be running a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course (MBSR) at the Hoylake Parade Community Centre in September. I have personally attended an 8 week MBSR course and found it an excellent introduction to Mindfulness based meditation and stress reduction techniques. I would highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in expanding their knowledge and experience in this area. Matt is offering this at a special reduced rate as it is part of his degree in Mindfulness.

Matt has provided us with the following description of the course and some information about himself;

Eight-week Mindfulness Stress Reduction Course

25TH September to 13th November 2018 – Tuesday evenings from 6.30pm to 8.30pm

About the course:

This eight-week course takes place every Tuesday evening from 25th September. As well as the two-hour Tuesday evening sessions, a commitment to devote approximately 30-45 minutes for home practice six days a week is required.

Included in the course price:

Participation in eight two-hour group sessions

A workbook with guidelines for supporting home practice

Guided mindfulness audio recordings

Who is it for:

The course is open to anyone who is interested in learning how to use mindfulness to better cope with the pressures of daily life. Some of the ways the course may help participants to do this include:

  • Recognising when we are operating on autopilot
  • Bringing a new approach of curiosity and kindness to dealing with unpleasant experiences
  • A better understanding of our own mental habits and how these can cause us additional suffering
  • Recognising our stressors and how we can better respond to these
  • A greater awareness of the present moment

About me:

I started my regular mindfulness practice about four years ago to cope with the stresses of life and work. A few years previously, I had experienced a huge panic attack on the way to work one morning. Although I was physically healthy, I soon realised that I was neglecting to look after my mind. I started experimenting with mindfulness practices, eventually signing up for an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course. This course proved to be so helpful in helping me to relate differently to experience, so that I learned to see stressful events more clearly and recognise my own mental habits of reacting to them.

I am currently studying for a Masters in Mindfulness-based Approaches at the University of Bangor’s Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice. Leading this course will form part of my teacher training, therefore it is offered at an introductory rate of just £50.

For further information or to book a place, please contact Matt on 07896855550 or email at mlunt81@gmail.com

Thanks Matt and good luck with the course. There is a link to the flyer for the course below.

Paul & Steve

8 week MBSR flyer

Yoga Pop-up session – Cubbins Green, West Kirby 10:30 on Sunday 27th May 2018

Hi Everyone

Just a quick note to let you know that we are holding another Pop-up yoga session on Sunday 27th May at 10:30am at Cubbins Green , Macdona Drive, West Kirby.

Following on from the success of our Pop-up sessions last year, all the lovely feedback and requests to do more, we are really looking forward to this years run of Pop-up yoga.

The weather forecast looks great and the tide will be in so it’ll be lovely practicing facing the sea and looking out across the estuary from the cliffs.

We will meet at the end of Macdona Drive at the gate which leads on to the cliffs at 10:30am.

Please bring a yoga mat if you have one, some water, suncream and a blanket / jumper for relaxation in case there is a cool breeze. Some yoga mats will be available on the day if you need to borrow one.

We will be teaching a traditional Hatha Yoga class with a breathing exercise, postures and a nice guided relaxation to finish. The cost for the class is £5 for adults and £3 for children. If brining children please download, complete and bring with you, a consent form from our website under Student Resources. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

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There are lots of lovely cafe’s and pubs nearby in West Kirby to grab lunch / refreshments after the session.

Here is a picture and a map of where we will be meeting;

Here is a link to the Facebook event on our page Yogasmiths;

Pop-up Yoga Facebook event link

Any queries please do not hesitate to get in touch either via our Facebook page at;

Yogasmiths Facebook page

or email us at enquiries@yogasmiths.org

We look forward to seeing you there!

Paul & Steve x

Mental Health Awareness Week – Mindfulness taster session for UK Bike and Go / Merseyrail – West Kirby

Thank you to all the lovely cyclists that came to our morning Mindfulness taster session. This was held on the cliffs at Cubbins Green in West Kirby. The event was organised by Merseyrail (@Merseyrail) and the UK Bike and Go (@UKBikeandgo) scheme where you can hire bicycles from train stations across the UK.

You can find further details and information on UK Bike and Go here;

https://www.bikeandgo.co.uk

We were pleased to take part in this event to highlight Mental Health Awareness week which runs from 14th -20th May 2018.  The focus this year is on stress and how we cope with it.

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week

Exercise such as cycling (and yoga!) and a mindful purposeful relaxation meditation practice are great tools in tackling stress and its effects.

Mindfulness of breathing and yoga breathing exercises can help reduce the stress response in the body and help us to find a calmer experience of the present moment.

Research has shown that two thirds of people experience a mental health problem in their lifetime and that stress is a key factor. Finding practices to help reduce stress and to   deal with stressful situations is a helpful way of trying to find a calmer more peaceful experience.

Cubbins Green provided the perfect setting for the guided Mindfulness relaxation session with lots of beautiful birdsong and sunshine!

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Happy New Year! Mindfulness at New Year

This time of year it is natural that we feel tempted to engage with a lot of judgement with regards to the previous year and also projection in to the new year.

People talk about how “2017 was a terrible year… lets look forward to better times in 2018” or “2017 was a great year… onwards and upward in 2018”. Whilst this involves looking to the future with positivity when we come to the end of 2018 we will see the same types of comments being made. When we label a whole year as either bad or good then we are attaching an emotional response to that year.

If we step back and take a look at how this labelling and judgement of previous years makes us feel we sometimes see that maybe it is not all that great for our mental wellbeing. Any given year will be filled with highs and lows and our greatest skill is to navigate these peaks and troughs with mindfulness and a sense of ease.

In my own experience, mindfulness allows the lows of a year to not feel quite as low and likewise that the highs do not feel quite so high. This allows for an easy and smoother emotional and mental experience of life, less of a rollercoaster.

I have also felt that the practice of New Years Resolutions to be a self imposed pressure that often sets one up for failure. We can fall into the trap of making a list of resolutions which we cannot possibly keep. When we fail to keep these resolutions then we may well label that as such, as a “failure”. With mindfulness we can become more self aware and actually instigate intuitive stepped changes to our lives in a positive and healthy way at any time of the year.

If we approach the New Year as we approach any day with a sense of non-judgement and non-attachment then we can anchor our selves in the present and find peace and calm in that experience. We can embrace the sense of letting go of the old year without judgement or labelling and welcome in the new year with a sense of love and gratitude. We can welcome each new day like this, with a sense of being renewed each day.

Perhaps the best new years resolution is to be more mindful (and obviously to do more Yoga too!!)

Happy New Year to everyone

Paul & Steve

Yogasmiths

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World Mental Health Day 10th October 2017

It is World Mental Health day today, Tuesday 10th October 2017. Most people suffer at some point during their life with a mental health problem.

This can range from a period of work related stress and anxiety to a more complex mental health condition. Sometimes these challenges can come right out of the blue and hit us.

Yoga is an excellent way of helping to build our resilience to mental health challenges and is also a wonderful recuperative practice.

Both Steve and I have used yoga to help us at various times in our lives. We first ventured to a yoga class when Steve was living with depression and we thought we would see if it would help. Steve found that the yoga really helped him and was a step towards recovery. I also found that the yoga helped me in many ways and I hadn’t realised that I needed it! That was the start of our regular yoga practice that has lead us to becoming yoga teachers!

I have also used yoga and breathing techniques to deal with periods of work related anxiety when I was working in middle management. Yoga techniques can provide you with the space that is all so important when the mind feels so busy and full.

There is an excellent article written by Dr Mercola titled Yoga Benefits Your Brain Function and Mental Health.

The following is an extract from it and there is a link to the full article below;

Why Yoga Is so Beneficial for Your Brain

Over the years, a number of studies have honed in on the brain benefits of yoga. For example, studies have found that:

Twenty minutes of Hatha yoga improves your brain function (speed and accuracy of mental processing) to a greater degree than 20 minutes of aerobic exercise (jogging).5,6 Potential mechanisms include enhanced self-awareness and reduced stress.

Yoga helps improve mental health, including psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety, attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and schizophrenia.7,8,9,10

Some of the studies suggest yoga can have a similar effect to antidepressants and psychotherapy.

Yoga helps improve teenagers’ emotional resilience and ability to manage anger. As noted by yoga educator and writer Iona Smith:11

“During adolescence, the frontal lobes of the brain (the seat of language and reason) are still being formed, leaving teens to overly rely on their amygdala (the seat of emotions) …

The brain’s malleability during adolescence marks a crucial stage in both cognitive and emotional development.

Luckily, researchers are now able to paint a clearer picture of some of the factors that allow students to thrive throughout high school and into adulthood, such as self-awareness, managing distressing emotions, empathy, and navigating relationships smoothly.

When students hone these skills, they are not only happier and healthier emotionally, but are also better able to focus on academics.”

By improving stress-related imbalances in your nervous system, yoga can help relieve a range of symptoms found in common mental health disorders.

Researchers also believe yoga can be helpful for conditions like epilepsy, chronic pain, depression, anxiety and PTSD by increasing brain chemicals like gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA).12

 

Here is a link to the full article;

Yoga and the Brain – Dr Mercola article

We always ensure in our Traditional Hatha Yoga classes that we teach our students a range of different breathing exercises and different guided relaxation so that everyone can find one to suit themselves that they can use in their day to day lives.

Namaste

Paul

 

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course (MBSR) completed!

Hello!

I thought I would share with you that I have just completed a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course with Rita Bennet and Pauline Johnson at Hoylake Parade Community Centre. I love learning and am always looking at ways to continue our professional development as Yoga Teachers.

The MBSR course was very enjoyable and gave me some useful personal insights. The way Rita and Pauline teach the course and the structure of the course ensure that mindfulness is looked at from many different angles. This empowers you to realise how mindfulness can be woven into every aspect of life.

Prior to attending the course I had a good knowledge of mindfulness and regularly practice mindfulness both as a meditation practice and also in activities in life. However, this course really helped me to make progress on my mindfulness journey and I would highly recommend it.

Rita and Pauline also provide a weekly handout to take home with you to assist your practice along with CD’s of guided mindfulness meditations / relaxations. The course includes a silent day of mindfulness which at first sounded rather daunting but was great and actually I wanted to remain silent when we were told that we could begin talking again!

Mindfulness meditation has been proven to create new neural pathways in the brain, in essence hard wiring us to access relaxation more easily. At the same time we create new brain cells thus increasing the size of our brains!

We enjoy teaching a mindful approach in our yoga classes and we have woven many of the things I learnt on the MBSR course into our classes so that our students can benefit from mindfulness.

Rita and Pauline have a website where they list their courses, here is the link to it, check it out!

B Mindful website

Yoga Classes in Hoylake & West Kirby

Welcome to Yogasmiths Yoga classes!

We are pleased to announce our two new weekly yoga classes starting 19th April and 20th April 2017. We will be holding them;

Wednesdays – 18:45-20:15 at Hoylake Parade Community Centre in the Rehersal Room (1st Floor)

Thursdays – 19:00 – 20:30 at West Kirby Arts Centre, Brookfield Gardens, West Kirby

Come and join our weekly Traditional Hatha Yoga class which will include posture work, breathing exercises and finish with a lovely guided relaxation.

We are British Wheel of Yoga and Yoga Alliance trained teachers, fully insured through the British Wheel of Yoga.
You get two friendly teachers for the price of one which ensures safe practice and plenty of attention and modifications are offered to ensure the classes are inclusive for all abilities.

Cost: £6 (£5.50 if you check in to Yogasmiths on Facebook)

Loyalty cards available attend 9 classes and get the 10th class free.

If you would like to book a place in advance or reserve a mat then please send us a message on facebook or an email to enquiries@yogasmiths.org

Please see our website http://www.yogasmiths.org for information and advice about attending a yoga class for the first time. There are also biog’s for both teachers on the website.

Please bring a yoga mat if you have one but we also have up to 12 yoga mats available on a first come first serve basis and a small selection for sale.

We look forward to guiding you thorugh your yoga practice.

Paul & Steve Yogasmiths