Brightening our Inner Skies Yin and Yoga by Norman Blair – Book Review

Brightening our Inner Skies – Yin and Yoga by Normal Blair is a wonderful personal reflection on a journey through yoga. It is also a guide to Yin Yoga and a commentary on how Yoga and social responsibility are more relevant than ever.

What’s it all about?

I bought this book at the beginning of 2018 after we had booked to attend some training with Norman. Therefore, I wanted to get a feel for what Norman was about before the course. What I find most refreshing and appealing about this book is that Norman is very real. He writes openly and honestly about his journey through yoga and the shifting and changing challenges that life throws at us. As a result this book resonated with me and made it feel reassuring and life affirming.

The book is presented with lots of inspiring quotes and references. It pulls together lots of information from an array of sources. Those who have been taught by Norman will know of his ability to quote and recite interesting and thought provoking pieces, weaving them through his sessions. This book takes the pressure off you having to remember them! Norman has kindly compiled them here for us!

Norman passionately relates and reflects on the relevance of Yin Yoga as an antidote to modern society and life. My own personal experience of Yin helped me through a challenging transitionary period of my life.

What Yin Yoga has meant to me

After 15 1/2 years working at a desk, I took redundancy to become a Yoga Teacher. As a result I left a busy middle management job in the Civil Service which had required me to travel all over the country pretty much on a weekly basis. Consequently transitioning to being at home and taking time to adjust was a challenge. As a result I was drawn instinctively to a Yin Yoga practice, a calming nurturing practice that I had been introduced to via a workshop. This had been with the wonderful British Wheel of Yoga teacher Paul Wooding in Liverpool. Paul has a very real and nurturing approach. I travelled to his Wednesday morning Yin classes as often as I could and they helped with my transition from such a busy “doing” office lifestyle to a new chapter in my life.

You can read a bio for both of us and details of the training we have undertaken here: https://yogasmiths.org/about/

Training with Norman

We were lucky enough to undertake Yin Yoga teacher training with Norman Blair at Yoga Campus in Manchester back in June 2018. We As a result of spending time with Norman it really brought to life the content of his book and it was great to meet him and train with him.

At the Yoga Campus training in Yin Yoga with Norman Blair

As a Yoga teacher, Brightening our Inner Skies is a great resource and reference guide. Hence, it happily sits alongside my Bernie Clark Yin Yoga book. For me, a great yoga book is one that I read with a pencil, a highlighter and some sticky page markers. This is one of those books, a book that you want to make sure you can easily find a quote or a phrase in, a book that you want to dip in and out of for some time to come.

Brightening Our Inner Skies Yin and Yoga – with plenty of tabs to refer back to!

In Summary

Brightening our Inner Skies Yin and Yoga is both a guide to Yin, teaching Yin and also a way finder for the modern world. Thank you to Norman for realising this book, I highly recommend it.

You can find out more about Norman Blair here;

https://www.yogawithnorman.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/Yoga-with-Norman-183652105002257/
https://www.instagram.com/yogawithnorman/
https://twitter.com/yogawithnorman

Blue Monday?…..Finding that inner calm

A marketing gimic?

It is likely to be widely reported that today is ‘Blue Monday’, apparently ‘the most depressing day of the year’. A quick google search reveals that the concept of ‘Blue Monday’ was actually coined by Sky Travel in 2005! (The google search also prompted me to listen to New Order whilst writing this blog!) I’m not sure how calling a day ‘the most depressing day of the year’ is meant to be helpful to us but it might just help to sell a few holidays! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Monday_(date)

It did get me thinking, however, that there is something to this concept of ‘Blue Monday’. It’s January in the UK. Christmas is a distant memory. The days are apparently getting longer but it’s a slow process. I could swear that’s it’s getting darker and not lighter in the mornings! It’s cold! It’s often raining and grey. We’re still awaiting payday! My point is….is it any wonder that all this can affect our mood?

Ways-to-Beat-the-January-Blues-e1453482331639.jpg
Is every Monday Blue Monday in January?

Accessing our inner calm

However, regardless of all of the above, it is comforting to know that internally we can access a constant, calm space within us that is always there. It is unmoved by the changing of the seasons. It may be very difficult to access at times. Particularly with all the external factors that can affect how we feel (weather, work, relationships, whatever else is going on in our lives). However, this calm, constant space is still there, despite all this.

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But how do we access this calmness? Well the first part of this is knowing it is there. Knowing that it can be accessed with practice. A breathing practice, bringing attention to the inhale and the exhale. Simply observing the breath, without judgement. This can help us begin to access this calmness within. The breath is always with us. But how often do we pay attention to our own breath? Thoughts and feelings will of course arise whilst we observe the breath, wanting our attention. Instead of giving attention to these thoughts/feelings, gently guide your attention back to observing the breath. There are innumerable breathing techniques (pranayama) to help us in finding this sense of calmness within. So regardless of whatever else is going on, with practice we can help manage our stress levels using our own breath, the constant calm space that is within all of us.

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A mindfulness of breath based meditation can help us tune into our inner calm and help us to deal with Blue Monday. Lhasa Apsos will sometimes join in too.

Mindful Movement

Yoga posture (asana) practice is also great at helping us access that calm space within. Bringing our attention to how the body is feeling in a particular posture. The sensations you are noticing in the body and where are you noticing them? Also, breath-led movement, moving the body on an inhale and an exhale, creates a mindful practice whereby we are again bringing our attention, without judgement, to the sensations in the body. How often do we mindfully observe our bodies in our every day life?

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Mindful movement in our Yoga poses – banish the blues from Blue Monday

Self Compassion

And of course there are so many other actions that we can take to help us find this calmness within, a big part of which is to learn to treat ourselves with more compassion (ahimsa). We often find it easier to treat others with compassion than we do ourselves, especially when we’re perhaps not feeling our best. Treat yourself! Find and do the things that you enjoy, those things that make you feel good. Yes, the weather might be less than ideal at this time of year for many of us, but use this as reason to enjoy a cosy night in, a nice relaxing, hot bath, etc. Give some thought to what you can do to help you find that inner calm.

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A hot drink in front of a warm fire – an antidote to Blue Monday

So yes, it may be hard to find that inner sense of calm particularly at this time of year, and it may be easier said than done (I know I’ve felt like that many times!). But there are many ways in which we can all try to help ourselves find that constant inner calm, regardless of all external factors, and before we realise it maybe that third Monday in January, and then the rest of the winter, might not feel so ‘blue’ after all!

You may also want to check out our previous blog on Helpful ways to deal with stress which you can find here; https://yogasmiths.org/2018/05/19/mental-health-awareness-week-helpful-tips-to-deal-with-stress/

Namaste x

Best Yoga Class in Wirral

The website Three Best Rated has listings for the Best Yoga Class in Wirral. For the fourth year running we have been included in their listings and as such can display the badges below.

Best Yoga classes in Wirral

Starting our Business

We started our business, Yogasmiths back in 2016 when Paul took redundancy from his civil service job in Learning and Development. This was a dive into the unknown of setting up, establishing and running our own business. We always wanted to work together and this was a step towards realising this dream. You can read a short bio for us both here https://yogasmiths.org/about/

We initially started out teaching private one to one yoga clients and then expanded into public group classes in April 2017. We were overwhelmed that at our first class we had to turn away 3 people as the class was full. The classes proved popular and consequently we increased the number of classes we offered.

Where we are now….

As of 2020 we are teaching 7 weekly classes including Gentle Years Yoga chair based yoga, running yoga retreats twice a year, running workshops, pop-up yoga events outdoors and Yoga & Sunday Brunch events.

Our intention

Our intention has always been to create varied and interesting yoga classes that are true yoga classes in every sense of the word. As a result we work hard to create yoga sessions that cover all of the 8 limbs of yoga. We wanted to provide classes in our local area that are accessible to all. Therefore we fully embrace the British Wheel of Yoga’s staged approach to teaching yoga postures / asana. This allows us to have complete beginners in the class as well as retired yoga teachers. Everyone practicing to the correct level for them. A yoga class where you can strengthen your body, free your mind and relax.

We have been consistently included in the top 3 yoga classes in Wirral since we started our business in 2016 on the website Three Best Rated. We are the only room temperature yoga class listed in the top 3 in Wirral. You can find 3 Best Rated here https://threebestrated.co.uk/yoga-classes-in-wirral

Thank you!

We are so very grateful for all the support of our lovely yoga students who attend our events and weekly classes. Without you there would be no Yogasmiths! It is truly a joy to be able to impart the teachings of yoga and to spread the benefits of this wonderful practice.

Best Yoga classes in Wirral
Best Yoga classes in Wirral
Best Yoga classes in Wirral
Yogasmiths Paul and Steve

Yogasmiths Charity Christmas Raffle 2019

Yogasmiths third annual Charity Christmas Raffle raised £1,353 for Wirral’s Homeless CIC.

Raffle and Party

The Christmas spirit was in full swing on Thursday 12th December in West Kirby at our annual Yogasmith’s Christmas party and charity raffle. The event raised £1,353 for local charity Wirral Homeless CIC, double what was raised the previous year.

There was a great turnout with around 100 of our yoga class students in attendance at Tanskey’s Bistro on South Parade in West Kirby.

We are truly overwhelmed with the generosity of our yoga students in both providing prizes, purchasing tickets and donations. We are delighted to be able to support the great work of Wirral Homeless CIC.

As a result of peoples generosity, the raffle had nearly 100 prizes ranging from vouchers donated by local businesses to hand made gifts made by our class attendees.

Yogasmiths Paul and Steve, Yogasmiths charity Christmas raffle
Yogasmiths Paul and Steve

Robyn (one of the founders of Wirral’s Homeless CIC) and Graham Wilson, from the charity attended the event and said;

“Wow… just absolutely overwhelming amount raised! It was a great night and such a fun atmosphere. This amount of money will make a difference and put smiles on the faces of people who don’t get to smile often. We can take a few of the guys shopping and support our ongoing treat night too amongst other things! We salute the Yogasmiths and all their members and supporters, what a beautiful yoga community”.

Paul and Steve from Yogasmiths with Robyn and Graham from Wirral's Homeless CIC, Yogasmiths charity Christmas raffle
Paul and Steve from Yogasmiths with Robyn and Graham from Wirral’s Homeless CIC

Cheque and donations handover

Yogasmiths charity Christmas raffle
Paul & Steve handing over the cheque to Georgie from Wirral’s Homeless CIC

On Friday we met with Georgie from Wirral’s Homeless CIC to hand over the cheque of all the monies raised and also the donations of hats, gloves, scarves and underwear. We hadn’t realised quite how much we had collected until we came to put it all in the van to take round. Check out the picture below!

Yogasmiths Christmas charity collection of hats, gloves, scarves and underwear

You can check out details of all the prizes that were donated and up for grabs here; https://yogasmiths.org/2019/12/07/yogasmiths-christmas-party-charity-raffle-collection-for-wirrals-homeless-cic/

You can find further details about Wirral’s Homeless CIC here: https://www.facebook.com/Wirralshomeless/

Yogasmiths Christmas Party, Charity Raffle & Collection for Wirral’s Homeless CIC

Hi Everyone! We would like to remind everyone that it is less than a week until our Yogasmiths Christmas Party & Charity Raffle in aid of Wirral’s Homeless Community Interest Company.

Our party will be held at Tanskey’s on South Parade (on the prom) in West Kirby on Thursday 12th December starting at 7:30pm. It is free to attend and you do not need a ticket. There will be the opportunity to purchase raffle tickets (£1 per ticket) on the night and the raffle will be drawn at 9pm. This will be a lovely evening to escape from the all the craziness of the General Election TV coverage and an opportunity to socialise, support a worthy local charitable organisation and to have a dance!

This is the 3rd year on the run that we have supported this local Community Interest Company who tirelessly work all year round to support our local homeless and other vulnerable members of society. We firmly believe that a society should be judged on how it treats its most vulnerable members and initiatives likes this one should be highly valued by all Wirral’s residents.

(Check out the blog from the 2017 Yogasmiths Christmas Party here https://yogasmiths.org/2018/01/13/yogasmiths-christmas-charity-raffle-donation-to-wirrals-homeless-cic/ )

In Yoga the Bhagavad Gita details the 4 paths of yoga, one of which is Karma Yoga. This is the Yoga of selfless action and charitable donations and charitable work are examples of this path of yoga.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our class members for their support, we have a huge number of wonderful prizes for this raffle, the best so far since we started in running them in 2017. Many prizes have been donated by class members and also from local businesses. Check out the list of prizes at the end of this blog and also links to the local businesses that kindly donated prizes.

Wirral’s Homeless Community Interest Company are based in Birkenhead feeding and supporting local homeless people and other vulnerable members of society. They provide fresh, healthy home-cooked meals to the homeless community in Birkenhead each night, along with packed lunches and snacks at the weekend. They also provide tents, sleeping bags, toiletries, underwear, socks, hats, scarves and gloves. They are often looking for volunteers to cook food; volunteer drivers to pick up meals from addresses on the Wirral and deliver to Birkenhead in the evening; as well as donations of the above items along with microwavable plastic tubs for food.

You can follow Wirral’s Homeless CIC and all the great work they do on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Wirralshomeless/ and on their Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/wirralshomeless

You can also donate directly to Wirral’s Homeless CIC via their Paypal at https://www.paypal.me/wirralshomelesscic

The following local businesses donated prizes for our raffle, thank you to them all;

Susan Maire Sports Massage https://www.facebook.com/susanjmaire/
Ground Cafe in Hoylake https://www.facebook.com/groundhoylake/
Dancing in the rain – https://www.facebook.com/DancingintheRainIrby/
Sweet Pea Cafe – West Kirby https://www.facebook.com/thesweetpeacafe/
Karma Indian Restaurant – https://www.facebook.com/karmaindianfood/
Spectacle Warehouse – https://www.facebook.com/thespectaclewarehouse/
Tanskey’s Bistro – https://www.facebook.com/tanskeysbistro/
Nail Elegance – https://www.facebook.com/nailsmostelegant/
C Saw Hair – https://www.facebook.com/csawhair/
Kerry Clegg Montgomery Hairdressing – https://www.facebook.com/KerryCleggMontgomeryHairdressing/
Designed by Mel – https://www.designedbymel.co.uk/
Eden Floral Design – https://www.edenfloraldesign.co.uk/
Esperanza Holistics – https://esperanzaholistics.com/
Tropic Skincare by Suzi – https://www.facebook.com/Tropic-Skincare-by-Suzi-545434092461828/

Below is the list of Raffle Prizes that we currently have, there are lots of lovely things to win! The Raffle will be drawn at the Yogasmiths Christmas Party.

Vouchers
Yogasmiths block of classes gift voucher
Yogasmiths block of classes gift voucher
Tanskeys afternoon tea for one voucher
Tanskeys afternoon tea for one voucher
Karma Indian Food voucher
C Saw cut & finish hair voucher
Susan Maire Sports Massage voucher
Susan Maire Sports massage voucher
Dancing in the Rain £30 gift certificate 
Sweet Pea Cafe coffee and cake for two voucher
Amazon voucher
Ground £20 voucher
Fox & Hounds voucher
Evans Shoes voucher
Nail Elegance gel nail polish voucher
Kerry Clegg Montgomery Hairdressing voucher
Posh Hair and Beauty voucher
Esperanza Holistics voucher
Tropic Skincare by Suzi Facial Voucher x 2

Bottles
Three Mills Rose wine
Casa Turano Pinot Grigio
Co-op fairtrade Chardonnay 
Baileys
Ron Miel La Indiana Honey rum
Sainsbury’s Asti
Liverpool Gin
Freixenet Prosecco
AlliNi Prosecco
Spumante Prosecco
Bottega Gold Prosecco 
Highland Black Scotch Whiskey
Hardys Crest Shiraz
Captain Morgan Rum 1L
Captain Morgan Rum 70cl
Carlos Rodriguez Tempranillo
Lamb’s Navy Rum
Christmas Prosecco
Toro Loco Wine and olive oil set
Sainsbury’s Mulled Wine
Bella Cucina Prosecco
Green Mountain IPA box
Famous Grouse Whisky x 2
Ballycastle Country Cream
McQueen Gin
Jean Juviniere Sloe Gin
Famous Grouse gift set
Martini Prosecco
Cockburn’s Port Set
M & S Prosecco
Gluhwein Mulled Wine
Etienne Dumont Champagne

Chocolates
Box of Roses
Thornton’s chocolates 
Linder White chocolates 
Chocolates with hand knitted Xmas jackets
Quality Street
Hotel Chocolat Prosecco & Truffles

Toiletries 
Bath House Feel Gorgeous gift box
Esquire shower gel gift set
Ted Baker body spray for her
L’Occitane shower gift set
Bayliss & Harding sweet mandarin and grapefruit gift set
Ragdale Hall Spa gift set
Spa shower gel collection
The White Company hand and nail gift set
Rituals gift set

Candles
Oud & Bergamot candle
Yankee Candle simply home gift set
Torc velvet rose candle
Yankee Candle Medium Jar Candle
Alusi Multi-flame candle
Yankee Candle scented tea light candles
Parks Aromatherapy candle

Miscellaneous 
Amazon Echo dot 
Dirty Dog Sports sunglasses
Richardson Sheffield Cheese Knives
Mr Lister’s Quiz box
Doll with home knitted clothing
Lavender eye pillow
Lavender eye pillow
Notepad gift
Ladies scarves bundle
Perfected Fusion hair styler
Crofton glass Bon Bon jars
Melinera Storage jars
Yoga Cats Calendar
Designed by Mel print – Phone Box
Designed by Mel print – Telephones
Eden Floral Design – Xmas table centre piece
Warrior Yoga Mat
Green bottle water bottle

Photographs from Museum of the Moon Event at Birkenhead Town Hall on 13th November 2019

Hi Everyone, we have received some wonderful photographs taken by the official photographer at the Museum of the Moon event where we taught a yoga session under the moon in Birkenhead Town Hall. The session took place on Wednesday 13th November 2019.

The wonderful photographer was my old friend Mark McNulty who I DJed with for many years over in Liverpool at Liquidation / Uptight in Le Bateau. It was a nice surprise to run into him. You can check out his website and social media channels at;
http://www.markmcnulty.co.uk/
https://www.instagram.com/markmcnulty/
https://twitter.com/markmcnulty

Thank you to everyone who came to the event, it was such a great experience to teach under the Museum of the Moon and a real once in a lifetime opportunity. Thank you to the Culture Team at Wirral Council and Imagine Wirral.

Check out the picture below and let us know what you think!

Thanks Paul & Steve x

BWY Foundation Course 1 Tutor Training in Grantham

As many of you know we spent Tuesday – Friday last week in Grantham on the British Wheel of Yoga foundation course tutor training course led by Belinda Emberson with Dawn Wesselby.

The BWY Foundation Course 1 is a wonderful personal development course for those who want to delve a little deeper into the rich tradition of yoga. It also will give a solid foundation in yoga for those who wish to become yoga teachers.

Paul & Steve with Belinda Emberson!

There were long days of training involved (9am-7pm) and we learnt a lot from the tutors and also from our peers on the course. It was a wonderful opportunity to share ideas and practice how we would deliver the BWY Foundation Course 1.

There were lots of useful practical sessions around planning the course and all the associated paperwork involved. In addition we shared and discussed our favourite yoga texts.

It was an assessed course and I am pleased to say that both of us passed. We will shortly gain the status of being BWY Foundation Course Tutors which is the next rung on the ladder in our yoga journey. Paul had the nerve wrecking slot of being the first to do his presentation on the first day and Steve was second a little later in the day.

On one of the days we were also treated to a fantastic yoga asana session from the lead tutor Belinda. Belinda is a BWY Diploma Course Tutor and also the BWY Foundation Course Officer. It is a privilege to train with such experienced and knowledgable tutors.

It was also great to meet and network with other BWY teachers from across the country and to see some familiar faces that we had met before.

We will be organising our first BWY Foundation Course 1 very soon and look forward to sharing the details with you.

You can find more on Belinda and Dawn at their websites;

https://yogaingravesend.co.uk/

https://www.newdawnyoga.co.uk/

The British Wheel of Yoga Diploma journey

This weekend marked the last day of our British Wheel of Yoga diploma course up in Troon in Scotland with Carol Price. This also marked 3 years since we first met our wonderful tutor Carol Price and began training with her.

A serious end of course picture
Slightly less serious exuberance

Our first teacher training course which we started in February 2016 with Yoga Alliance as the awarding body left us feeling unprepared to teach yoga. I am sure that there are some very good courses out there with Yoga Alliance as the awarding body, in fact I have been on some myself, my first Yoga teacher training course certainly wasn’t one of them.

Feeling quite despondent, we were recommended to look at the British Wheel of Yoga. We found a certificate course running in Salford with Paul Fox (then BWY chair) and Carol Price. I had a chat with Paul and we decided that we would embark on another teacher training course that would actually teach us to teach yoga! The British Wheel of Yoga Level 4 Certificate course has BWY Qualifications as its awarding body which is regulated by OFQUAL. This was more like it! A qualification that we could be proud of. There was a lot of hard work, learning and academic essays to complete. We were also assessed teaching a real 90 minute class with real students. The final day of the course was very emotional and we felt very proud of our certificate. This was a world apart from our previous experience!

We then became aware that Carol Price had a diploma course which was part way through that we could tag on to and upgrade our qualification to the highest level of OFQUAL regulated Yoga Teacher Training available, the BWY Level 4 Diploma. We gave this serious consideration as the course was running in Troon in Scotland and obviously entailed a further significant financial and time investment. We both wanted to continue our learning with Carol and felt it was absolutely the right thing to do.

The diploma top up has been a fantastic experience covering 3 modules on Hatha Yoga & Pranayama, the teaching and philosophy of meditation and progression in yoga.

On the course we dived deep into the ancient texts and looked at how we could make them relevant for our classes and create rich layered lessons. The formal essay writing was the part that I found particularly enjoyable. It really encouraged me to read around the topics and to draw together references and importantly allowed me to work out my own opinions. There was also a further assessment of us teaching one of our real weekly 90 minute classes, and those who come to our classes may remember Carol sitting in the corner! Despite having been teaching for 3 years at the point of being assessed it was still a very nerve wrecking experience. I felt supported and buoyed by the lovely yoga students who attend our class.

Let me just say a few words about Carol Price our Diploma Course Tutor. Carol has been a wonderful guide to us on our diploma course, she never fails to come up with either a wonderful pearl of wisdom, a lovely new mobilisation exercise or an intelligent imaginative sequence. Carol always provided constructive and helpful feedback, one of her catch phrases being “what could make you even better would be….”. Carol has been an extremely important teacher to us and we can’t thank her enough, we will always affectionately refer to her as our Yoga Mama!

Yoga Mama Carol Price with her two boys!

Here is a link to Carol’s facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Celtic-Yoga-264932390858722/

As an already qualified yoga teacher (at least twice over) when embarking on the Diploma top up I was keen to get as much out of it as possible. When deciding to do further training / CPD I want to gain extra knowledge that is going to make me a better teacher. This is certainly what we got in bucket loads from the diploma course with Carol. It has also been a greatly enriching personal journey studying in depth the ancient yogic texts and pulling together formal assignments.

We are both very proud to be British Wheel of Yoga teachers. With an OFQUAL regulated awarding body, you know that you are going to get excellent quality training and rigorous assessment. It may feel like a lot of hard work as you progress through the BWY training but this is exactly why it is worth it. You come out the other end of the training prepared and ready to teach yoga to all ability classes. The staged approach to teaching that the BWY train you in is all inclusive, we have in our classes students who are retired yoga teachers and others who are completely new to yoga, both being able to practice side by side.

There are so many different yoga teacher training courses out there, I even saw one that was a correspondence course! Choose wisely. How long does it really take to learn a profession such as teaching yoga? In an unregulated arena go for regulated courses, do your homework, speak to previous trainees. Spend your money and time wisely and you won’t regret it.

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

World Book Day 2019 – Svadhyaya (self-study)

In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali one of the 8 limbs of Yoga are the Niyama (limb number 2). These are five virtuous behaviours that Patanjali recommends that we cultivate in ourselves. The 4th Niyama is Svadhyaya which translates as self-study.

There are two elements to this idea of self-study. There is the study of the self and there is self directed study. As today is World Book Day I am going to discuss the later.

Svadhyaya as self-directed study is the reading of books that will enrich our lives and allow us to develop in a positive way. This is very much in line with what we would call “life-long learning’.

It is the study and reading of texts / films or documentaries that will enrich our lives and increase our knowledge of ourselves. Modern research has shown that continuing to learn new things late into life can in some cases help to fend off dementia and cognitive decline.

In his book Samadhi, Gregor Maehle interprets Svadhyaya as prioritising the desire to answer the following questions;

  • Who are we?
  • What is our true identity?
  • What is the purpose of our life?

Svadhyaya has quite a life changing implication here around our consumption of such things as newspapers and television. Are we watching television programmes that inspire us and enrich our lives or do we use television as “chewing gum for the eyes”? Are we reading newspapers that educate us or do they instil us with fear of the world? Svadhyaya is mindful consumption of television and media, being aware of how such things make you feel.

Over the years I have reduced my consumption of television dramatically, only choosing to occasionally watch documentaries and films. This has had a positive effect for me, I became aware that often certain television programmes left me feeling annoyed, frustrated or down. Removing this source of negativity can have an uplifting effect on your general mood. This all comes down to mindfulness and having a greater awareness of how such things make you feel. I have found more time to read books and to undertake study. I have always found books to be a rich source of inspiration not just philosophical books or yoga books but also biographies. Biographies can give us a good insight into other peoples experience of life, this can help us foster feelings of empathy and compassion allowing us to put ourselves in the place of the author.

I have always enjoyed reading and this is something that my parents encouraged in me as a little boy. Growing up we didn’t have a lot of money but my parents always bought me a new book when I had read my current one. Mum would take me down to Chapter One bookshop in West Kirby and would pick a Willard Price adventure book. These books transported me to exotic lands and exciting adventures and gave me a desire to travel when I was older.

I also loved Enid Blyton. Newton Post Office had a selection of children books and I would love looking at the selection of Famous Five titles. I read some of the Secret Seven books but my favourites were the Famous Five. The escapades of the five and Timmy the dog had me enthralled. Their adventures on Kirin Island felt almost possible for me with Hilbre Island sitting in the estuary. I remember my Dad telling me that smugglers used to use Hilbre Island and this made it all the more exciting and real!

When I was 7 years old we got a lovely little dog called Sandy and she was my “Timmy the dog” from the Famous Five stories. We would have lots of adventures in the fields around Newton, finding dens and watching foxes, rabbits and hares. This sense of exploration and interest in life and nature came directly from the books that I read.

This interest in books and knowledge stayed with me into adulthood and is a continuing gift that my parents gave to me by providing me with books as a child and by taking me for walks in nature.

Today is World Book Day, Thursday 7th March 2019. The impact that reading and access to books can have on a child and the subsequent adult is great. I feel that encouraging reading is as important as ever in this age of modern technology. The purpose and aims of world book day from their website are below;

World Book Day is a registered charity on a mission to give every child and young person a book of their own. It’s also a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and (most importantly) it’s a celebration of reading. In fact, it’s the biggest celebration of its kind, designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and marked in over 100 countries all over the world.


This is the 22nd year there’s been a World Book Day, and on 7th March 2019, children of all ages will come together to appreciate reading. Very loudly and very happily. The main aim of World Book Day in the UK and Ireland is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own. That’s why we will be sending schools (including those nurseries and secondary schools that have specially registered to participate), packs of Book Tokens and age-ranged World Book Day Resource Packs (age-ranged into Nursery/Pre-School, Primary and Secondary) full of ideas and activities, display material and more information about how to get involved in World Book Day.

From http://www.worldbookday.com

Support World Book Day in any way that you can, it is a fantastic initiative!

Here is a link to the World Book Day website where there are lots of great resources;

https://www.worldbookday.com