Sunday, 25 January 2015

Yoga Teacher Training Week Three

Once again this week has absolutely flown by. I guess that's what happens when you're doing something you love with people who make life so beautiful... It's also what happens when you have a lot to laugh about, and boy have we had a lot to laugh about this week!

The highlight has to have been in pranayama (breathing techniques) class when our teacher Upendra - possibly the most authentic and happy yogi I have ever met - described one of the techniques with an accompanying instruction to "contract the anus" illustrated by a hand action bringing all his fingertips together in a crab-like action...apparently it's meant to awaken your kundalini energy (yogi speak for an electric-like current running up your spine), but whatever it's meant to do I couldn't take it seriously as every time the phrase "contract the anus" was used in sync with the hand action we all giggled like a group of fourteen-year-old girls in a sex education class! We had also all assumed that the hand action was some sort of yoga mudra, as these are often used in pranayama, so we were all "contracting the anus" whilst copying the hand action. It wasn't until half way through the class that we realised the hand action wasn't actually at all necessary, and Upendra was only showing us his illustration of an anus contracting...(I apologise if you're reading this over a civilised cup of tea on a Sunday morning!). It was quite possibly the strangest lesson I've experienced thus far...

Or so I thought until we had Upendra for another class where he was to teach us his own version of yoga postures. This lesson began with a hardcore dance tune blasting through the speakers and thus the most surreal 15 minutes of a "yoga" warm-up began... The same tune was played three times in a row (one can only assume that it's his favourite, or he only has one on his iPod), and we literally just jumped around, kicked our feet in the air, and wriggled on the floor for a good 15 minutes. I haven't laughed that much in a really long time, I even cried I was laughing so hard! It was absolutely ridiculous and we all loved every moment. After all that jumping around we were well and truly warm, and we did settle down into some sort of relaxed slow hatha yoga flow and some yoga nidra (essentially lying on the floor for guided meditation). It was the strangest mix of insanity and relaxation. Once again we had experienced another special class by Upendra that left us all feeling totally bemused but in a state of pure joy...

And that's what I think he really wants to teach us: life can be silly, life should be fun, and that laughing is the best kind of medicine. He takes the yogic life seriously; he meditates constantly, he shares his knowledge, he promotes a peaceful way of living, he practices the physical postures, but most of all he walks round with a massive smile on his face spreading happiness and love. Really it's about experiencing the world like a child, but living in it like an adult. We could all do with an Upendra in our lives to see a wonderful example of just how this can be achieved.

Another phrase that he constantly reminds us of is that "everything is Om". When I first heard it I didn't think much of it, in fact I just thought it was a yoga cliche that was thrown around all too often. But actually it's quite a good way of looking at the world, no matter what your world view or religion may be. It basically just means that everything is oneness. We are all one. The world is one. And everything tiny thing that happens has a knock on affect on something else, and that affects the next thing, and so on. It's the ripple effect. It encourages you to think about each action and every word with consideration of how it might affect others, and if everyone was more aware of this oneness I really believe the world would be a better place.

Aside from all of Upendra's life lessons, this week the more physical side of the course - our morning Ashtanga yoga practice - has been interesting. You'd think that by week three I'd be feeling super strong and flexible, but actually this week I've found myself stiffening up quite a bit. Ashtanga is a strong yoga practice, it constantly requires you to actively stretch in the poses - meaning that you must contract certain muscle groups in order to stretch and strengthen at the same time. It can be a very frustrating practice - you will go through phases where you feel like you haven't made much progress, and annoyingly for me that's how I've been feeling this week. Apparently that's fairly normal, and apparently the hard work put in now will pay off in the future, you just need to keep working at it to receive the rewards. I think this is true for most things in life, and it's one of the reasons I love yoga so much: the lessons you learn on the mat will make you stronger and more resilient for life off of the mat. Our teacher used a lovely phrase in one of our morning practices this week, encouraging us to work on our roots and we will achieve our wings, both in yoga and in our real lives. So whether you practice yoga or not I want to encourage you to put the hard yards in now, it won't be easy and there will be times when you want to quit, but persist and breath (breathing is the most important!) and you will make it through, and you will grow your wings.

So to summarise the three lessons I've learnt this week that I wanted to share with you all:

1. Never forget your inner child
2. Everything is Om
3. Work on your roots and your wings will grow

Oh yeah, and don't forget to "contract the anus" if you want to get that kundalini energy flowing...!

The coming week is my last week of Yoga Teacher Training, I really can't quite believe how quickly it's gone, but I am so excited to be an official yoga teacher in just 5 days time! And as before, I can't seem to upload photos onto my blog as I'm using my iPad, so if you want to see photos please follow my Instgram: lucyvictoriajackson

If you have any questions about yoga, the course, or just life in general please do drop me a message :)

Namaste!

Love Lucy x

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Yoga Teacher Training Week Two

So I'm not quite sure where this week has gone, but apparently I'm now half way through my 200 hour yoga teacher training course! 100 hours down, 100 hours to go!

Week Two has been pretty full on - lots more yoga (of course!), many more breathing techniques, too much veggie curry, and trying to stick a rubber tube up my nose and out of my mouth as this is apparently a traditional yogic cleansing technique! Needless to say I failed miserably at that challenge. We do have two more sessions on cleansing coming up this week, so I'll let you know if I'm at all successful...

On a physical note, after two full weeks of yoga I'm already feeling stronger and more flexible - it really is amazing how quickly the body can adapt to intensive and persistent training. I wouldn't say I've lost any weight - there's too much curry available for that! - but my body has noticeably adapted to the physical challenges of the course. I'm pretty sure there's a few muscles that are looking slightly more toned!

Continuing along the food thread I've maintained a completely vegetarian diet for the whole two weeks. We get to eat out at the weekends but I've decided to see how my body reacts to having no meat for an entire month. So far my tummy has been really happy and I haven't missed it much at all, however I'm pretty sure that when faced with a fry up on my return to the UK I'm not sure I could turn it down. The food at Kranti Yoga Village is incredible - most mornings I have vegan porridge with loads of fruits and cinnamon, and then lunch and dinner is usually curry with veggies - it is all absolutely delicious and freshly prepared. However one thing that my fellow yogis and I have been craving is fresh salad, as that's not as readily available here, but luckily around Patnem and Palolem beaches there are some amazing salad places and so Sunday lunch has been replaced with salad! - we really are wild! We're also all off the alcohol (another thing that I shan't be keeping up when I get home!) so when we occasionally do make it out of the yoga village for a night of dancing in the sand we order in the fresh juices - I can highly recommend pineapple, ginger and mint. Seriously delicious.

On an emotional level this week has come with some challenges. One of the main lessons we've had to learn is to not be afraid, and to not turn away from difficulties. This is a tough one as every day we're faced with new asanas (postures), new information, and new philosophies. And then you naturally begin to think about challenges that you've faced before you came out here - many of us on the course have faced quite a few of them - and this was what made me crack during a slow flow class on Tuesday. The theme of the class was "be who you were born to be". I know that sounds a bit hippie and possibly a bit obvious, but actually if you think about it for a moment it's a really lovely message. So many of us spend time trying to be clones of other people - copying famous people, wanting to be like our friends, imitating our idols - and if we're really honest none of this fulfils us. And why is that? It's because we're not being our authentic selves. We spend so long seeing the beauty in others that we don't see it in ourselves. And if we don't see it in ourselves then how can we share that beauty with the world? The world needs you to be you. It's your responsibility to be you. The world needs YOUR beauty. And that's what got me in the slow flow class, I had my first cry of the course - not because I was sad but because I was proud. Not so long ago I was afraid and I did have some difficulties to face, but I took them on and I beat them. I did this so I could be true to myself, and I can tell you hand on heart that I have never been more certain that I'm now living how I'm supposed to. So really I had already taught myself the lessons that we learnt this week, but I wanted to share that with you as if I can do it, then you can do it too. Don't be afraid, don't turn away from difficulties, and you will overcome them to become who you were born to be.

So what's next for the course? Well, by Wednesday this week I have to have my first lesson fully planned ready to practice for my assessment in the final week where I'll teach it to 10 of my fellow students. My theme for the class is going to be on heart opening, but I'll share more of that nearer the time. I also have to get my anatomy knowledge up to scratch (thank goodness I took A level Physical Education!), learn the majority of the Ashtanga yoga primary sequence with Sanskirt names, as well as get my head around the various yoga philosophies... It's going to be a busy but amazing week.

As with last week I'm having trouble uploading photos via my iPad, but if you want to keep up-to-date with my trip then do follow my Instagram account: lucyvictoriajackson

So remember: be who you were born to be. You are you, and you are beautiful.

Namaste!

Love Lucy x

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Yoga Teacher Training Week One

Accept where you are.

Accept where you are in the pose. Accept where you are in your practice. Accept where you are. This is probably the most important lesson I've learnt during week one of Yoga Teacher Training - both for my practice and for life - accept where you are and go from there. You are where you are so make the most of it and be present in the moment.

I haven't posted on my blog in a while - I've been distracted by life, work and big life decisions - but under my new mantra that's okay: it is what it is and I accept where I am. However that doesn't mean that I'm not going to pick it up again and make some progress, as the next lesson I've learnt out here also echoes that sentiment - keep going, keep practicing, keep asking questions and you will improve. Again these lessons can most definitely also be applied to life more generally.

So why have I come half way round the world to Goa, India to train to teach yoga? It's a question that I could spend a whole day writing about, but the simplest answer is that yoga helped me to realise that I deserved to be happy, that I could be happy, and that I was in control of my own happiness. Once I realised this I made some huge and difficult life decisions and have been happier than I could only have dreamed of being not so long ago. It's because of this gift that I want to teach yoga. I want to share this knowledge and strength with others so that they too can be in control of their own happiness.

Enough of the soppy stuff (for now!). My reasons for doing the course in Goa are that a) it's the spiritual home of yoga b) it's a really good price and quality of teaching, and c) it's as good an excuse as any to come to India! The school I'm studying at is the Kranti Yoga School in Patnem beach, Goa, and the course I'm doing is a 200 hour Ashtanga yoga teacher training course (YTTC). It's pretty intensive - 200 hours of yoga and learning within 4 weeks - but it is the perfect location and opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the yogic way of life! My accommodation is literally right on the beach - at night I can hear the ocean from my bed and when I step outside my front door there is sand between my toes - it is total bliss. The food is also amazing - we're all on an Ayurvedic diet which is too complicated to even explain in a whole post, but it's basically purely vegetarian and really delicious (I'm not usually a veggie but I'm not missing meat at all out here!).

Despite the idyllic location the course itself is challenging. We do 3 hours of yoga and breathing techniques before breakfast! I think this week the idea was to push us to our limit to make us see how strong we are and how much we can learn in such a short space of time. It is physically tiring, but already I feel like I've adapted to the physical challenges and rhythm out here - but it's also emotionally tiring and that's what I think I'm going to struggle with most. Embarking on a YTTC is not for the faint hearted - you are forced to face your emotions and experiences, to accept them, and to let them go. You must spend a large amount of time in your own mind, constantly checking in with yourself and challenging yourself to be better.

And that's where your fellow students come in. They are the emotional support that you need to get through the course. I've been so blessed this week and have met some incredible fellow yogis - some of whom I can already tell will be friends for life. Everyone at YTTC is open and ready to let go of whatever might be holding them back - and trust me, we've all come with our baggage and emotional crap. And that's okay. You accept where you are and go from there.

So that's a whistle stop tour of my YTTC week one, but I just wanted to share it as I think it'll be a really interesting journey - one which I hope I can use when I get home to benefit my friends, family and anyone else who wants to try yoga.

Two final lessons I've learnt this week that I want to share with you all is that you are stronger than you think you are and that light can come out of darkness. There are a particular few friends have experienced a lot of pain this week and may need this message more than others right now - hopefully you can read this. Light will come come out of the darkness. Just keep smiling and sharing the love.

I'm writing this from my iPad and am struggling to upload pictures to accompany the post, but if you want to see what I've been up to then check out my Instagram: lucyvictoriajackson

If you have any questions about yoga, India, life please just ask :)

Namaste y'all!

Love Lucy x

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Delicious raw chocolate fudge - recipe by Madeleine Shaw

One of my favourite weekend pastimes is to make (and then eat) delicious nutritious food. Being so busy during the week it's the perfect way to relax and to thank your body for putting up with the stresses of modern-day working life. Someone who inspires me in my weekend kitchen escapades is Madeleine Shaw; I've followed Madeleine on Instagram for a while now, and her recipes always look so tasty. She's a qualified Nutritional Health Coach who wants to encourage people to become the hottest, healthiest, happiest version of themselves, and her recipes are designed to enable people to enjoy their food whilst being healthy. I've tried a couple of her recipes over the last few weeks and they've all been amazing, but her raw chocolate fudge recipe is something else. It's also super simple to make. In all honesty, this is one that you really must try to believe just how delicious it is.

Here's some I made earlier...:


Ingredients

100g of coconut oil
100g of almond butter (I use Meridian) 
50g raw cacao powder
100g of honey
1 tsp of vanilla extract
A pinch of sea salt

The directions are also really straight forward - click here to see how Madeleine does it. 

The only downside is that some of these ingredients can be rather expensive - especially the coconut oil and raw cacao powder - but if you shop around a little you can often find some good deals. I may also try my next batch using drinking chocolate powder, just to see how a cheaper version tastes, however then you miss out on the antioxidants in the raw cacao. Another ingredient I may try adding in is grated orange peel as this could be a tasty seasonal addition for the upcoming festive period - a bit like a healthy Terry's chocolate orange! 

I really would recommend giving this recipe a go, it's my new favourite weekend treat, and it's packed full of goodness so can be enjoyed as a guilt-free indulgence.

Let me know if you make it, I'd love to hear what you think! Also be sure to follow Madeleine on Instagram and to sign up for her newsletter for some other amazing healthy recipes. 

Love Lucy x

Sunday, 19 October 2014

What to do when you're feeling blue

Psychologists largely agree that there are six basic human emotions: anger, fear, disgust, surprise, happiness and sadness. It is our ability to feel these emotions, to recognise these emotions, and to handle these emotions that makes us truly human. Truly beautifully human. Our emotions set us aside from other creatures; they inform our words, our actions, and our decisions on a daily basis. In my experience, we cannot really control our emotions, they come and go based on our surroundings, our experiences, our hormones: we are in a constant state of emotional change - it's all part of our human nature. Now I'm not about to launch into an essay about emotions, and I'm not claiming to be a qualified psychologist, but I've been feeling a little blue recently, so I thought it might be helpful to get it all in writing - after all, bloggers are mainly preaching to themselves!

On a daily basis our social media feeds are filled with photos of our friends, celebrities and influencers having fun with their friends, visiting nice places, enjoying great food, and generally painting a rather happy existence. John's had a great night, yoga girl is on the beach (again), and Sarah's tucking into a delicious meal - everyone's happy and more than willing to share it with the world. Happiness is well documented in social media land. 

Anger, fear, disgust and surprise all seem to have their place too - Fred tweets his anger to South West trains that he can never get a seat in the morning, people all over social media are pretty fearful about ebola, everyone's expressing their disgust about the latest child abuse case, and Laura's surprised by the ending of Gone Girl. (Disclaimer: not all of the examples here are fact). It seems that these five emotions are each well documented and accepted within society and people are not afraid to discuss them. But in my experience this isn't so much the case with sadness. 

Due to the recent tragic loss of Robin Williams, depression and other such mental illnesses are discussed more frequently in the media and myths surrounding these illnesses are gradually becoming demystified. However sadness is not to be confused with depression. Depression is a mental illness, sadness is simply a human emotion. Yet sadness makes us feel so uncomfortable, even embarrassed. So, let's discuss sadness. Let's dispel the discomfort and accept that it's part of our human nature. Quite often we ignore our sadness and simply let it pass. But what if we used it as an opportunity to grow and to embrace feeling fully human?

Let me put it out there: sadness is normal. It is a normal part of being a human being. It is simply a human emotion, and one that we must feel to be completely human. And really that is a beautiful thing. It's not something to be embarrassed about or to shy away from. It's okay to be sad from time to time. It simply means you're alive. 


When you're feeling down try to focus on things you're grateful for and things that make you happy

That being said, no one wants to be a sad Sally too often, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to share some of my tried and tested tips for overcoming those times when you are sad. Firstly make yourself a good cuppa and then:

  1. Acknowledge it. You're feeling sad - acknowledge how it feels, recognise it as sadness. How does it feel? Why do you feel this way? Perhaps you've had a bad day at the office, perhaps you're grieving, perhaps it's your hormones. Acknowledging that you are sad and addressing why is a great first step to using it as an experience to learn from and to grow. 
  2. Talk about it. Find a friend, a relative, anyone who is willing to listen and just talk it through. Why are you feeling sad? Is there anything they can do? Do you simply need someone to listen? But once you've talked it through with a couple of different people try not to dwell on it. Listen to their advice and try to move forward. It's great to acknowledge it and to have the courage to talk it through, but there's only so much people will listen to, and you won't grow if dwell on it for too long.
  3. Quiet time. Once you've acknowledged it and spoken to other people about your sadness, have some time alone to process it. Quiet time is your time to process emotions, to process experiences, and to heal and grow. I was feeling sad for much of last week so on Friday night I came home, rolled out my yoga mat under the stars, did a yoga practice, and then sat quietly for about half an hour just being quiet and having a good cry. And that's okay. I was sad, so I cried. I'm human. That's what being human is. And embracing that human emotion actually does us a world of good.
  4. Focus on things you're grateful for. Being sad does not mean that you're being ungrateful, so even when you are feeling down remember to practice gratitude. Even use that happy social media feed that you've been presenting to the world as a tool for this - remember what an amazing holiday you had in the summer, look at that photo of you with your friends - just try to be grateful. And try not to think about the things you don't have at present; U2 were perfectly right when they sung "what you don't have you don't need it now" so just be grateful for all the things you do have right here, right now. 
  5. Make a plan. My short term plan-making advice would be to do something that makes you happy almost instantly - don't sit in your quiet time forever just dwelling on your sadness; you've acknowledged and processed it, now it's time to get over it. Meet up with a friend that makes you smile, go to a gig, go for that run, dance around your living room - just do something that will be fun. And if you're sadness is rooted in something more long term, i.e. you're always getting sad about your job, or you're always sad about not having money etc., then make a more long term plan of action. This way you're being proactive in finding a solution and you're less likely to get so sad about it in the future.
So don't be afraid of sadness, embrace it as part of your humanity. Of course if you think your sadness could lead to depression, or if you think you are depressed, then do seek professional help. Also if your sadness is rooted in something such as grief then this process will take a lot longer and the wounds will be harder to heal, but hopefully at least some of these tips will be useful to you. 

The Beautifully Healthy Project is all about celebrating the Beautifully Healthy version of you, and to be Beautifully Healthy is also to be Beautifully Human, so take everything that goes with that. The happy, the sad, everything. Just be you. Just be human. 

Love Lucy x

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Weekend treat: spelt flour & coconut milk pancakes

The weekends are precious. After a long working week it is our well-deserved time to relax and enjoy life. And call me boring, but there is nothing more I love doing on a weekend morning than having a lie-in, going for a run, doing some yoga, and then indulging in a delicious brunch. This is my perfect weekend morning formula and it's exactly what I need to rejuvenate me after a long week sat at an office desk. And it is even more perfect if the brunch is my favourite healthy spelt flour and coconut milk pancakes! 

I have been know to post photos of my healthy pancakes on Instagram, and I've often had people ask for the recipe. If I'm being totally honest about my kitchen habits, I don't often weigh or measure my ingredients, so I was a little sceptical to share my recipe (it's really just a case of chucking in lots of tasty ingredients and hoping they turn out okay - hence my really specific measurements below!), however I thought I'd share the rough recipe regardless of this as it's really not fair on humanity to keep such a delicious food secret for any longer. 



Once you try these pancakes your weekend mornings will never be the same again. So, without further ado, here's what you'll need:

Pancake ingredients (makes roughly 6 pancakes)
  • Three quarters of a mug of spelt flour
  • Half a mug of rolled porridge oats
  • 300-400ml coconut water
  • 2 eggs (the fresher the better - we're lucky enough to get them straight from our chickens!)
  • A handful of chia seeds
  • Coconut oil
Topping ingredients
  • Nut butter (my favourite is almond butter, but cashew and peanut will also work well)
  • Mashed banana
  • Agave nectar
  • Ground cinnamon 
  • Berries, chopped figs, and/or dates also taste delicious on top
Method
  1. Whisk the eggs and add the coconut milk
  2. Once these have combined sieve in the spelt flour and mix
  3. Stir in the oats and chia seeds
  4. Heat a tsp of coconut oil in a frying pan for approx. 2 mins 
  5. Scoop a helping of pancake mixture into the pan and cook for approx. 2 mins each side until golden brown (get your flipping skills ready!)
  6. Ready to serve! Add your nut butter, mashed banana, cinnamon, agave nectar, and any other tasty healthy additions you like! 
  7. Repeat until the mixture is gone... (don't forget to put a little bit of coconut oil in your pan before each one). 
So I hope you find the time to have a go at making this amazing weekend treat over the next few weeks as they really are the perfect way to indulge without feeling too naughty at the weekend - a true Beautifully Healthy outlook on life. Send me your Instagram snaps if you do!

Love Lucy x

P.S. These are also dairy free :)

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Why I practice yoga (and why you should try it too!)

If I didn’t love yoga so much I would begin this post with an apology to all my family, friends, colleagues and pretty much anyone who has met me over the last 2 years – I talk about it a lot! However I am not going to begin with an apology because I’m not at all sorry for being so enthusiastic about something that has hugely influenced my life in such a positive way. And here’s a little post to get it down in writing as to why I practice yoga (and why I tell everyone else to as well!).

The main reason I practice yoga is because it makes me feel freaking awesome. From my first YouTube video 2 years ago, to a year of classes in a Hot Yoga studio, to a yoga retreat in the Canary Islands, to practicing in a field with my best friend, to self-practice at home under the stars – every single yoga practice I have ever done has left me feeling better than when I began it. I can say with full confidence that I have never (and will never) come away from a practice thinking that I wish I’d done something else with my time. I have always come away feeling refreshed, rewarded, and more positive.

Breaking this down a bit, practicing yoga makes me feel good both physically and mentally. The physical side is perhaps a little more obvious – the stretching, strengthening and conditioning that you do during a yoga practice really do help to make you feel stronger and fitter. And there’s also the internal physical benefits – the breathing techniques, the twisting, the inversions (that’s going upside down for you yet-to-be-yogis) are all fantastic for enabling your organs, heart and blood flow to work more efficiently. I’m not saying that it’s given me the perfect body by any means – I still have plenty of squishy parts and insecurities that I’d like to change – but I generally feel better in myself and my appearance which is partly down to the physical practice, but is perhaps more down to the mental side of yoga.


Practicing inversions on the beach! 

 A yoga practice encourages you to stop and to be present with your own mind for the length of the practice. This may sound a bit scary or even pointless, but actually it’s an invaluable part of my life routine and has done wonders for my mental attitude towards myself, those around me, and life more generally. And that would be a positive thing for many others in this crazy world, right? It’s made me much less anxious about life and has made me accept that life won’t always go the way I’ve planned it to, but it will go the way it’s meant to go so just jump in and enjoy the journey.

Since starting to practice yoga I have gone from a self-conscious, anxious, scared young person, to a more confident, more relaxed, and braver slightly-less-young person. I’m not saying that it’s a miracle cure for all mental hang-ups, but in my experience it has definitely gone a long way to helping me to embrace life more fully: let go of the negative, focus on the positive.

And I could go on forever as to how yoga has improved my life and why I practice, but self-indulgence isn’t the reason for the existence of The Beautifully Healthy Project. My aim is to share my passions and experiences in the hope that some of you may read it and feel like you want to make a few decisions that will lead you to a healthier and happier life. And the purpose of this post is to inspire you to try yoga!

So, where do you begin? How do you know which yoga to try? (Goodness knows there are enough styles to choose from!). Where do you go to practice yoga?

Well, my first piece of advice would be to try a bit at home. That way you can have a go without feeling too self-conscious about all the new breathing techniques and stretches that you haven’t done since you were forced to do gymnastics at school. The first time I ever practiced was in my university accommodation living room. I’d been keen to try it for a while, but was too broke and nervous to go to a class without trying it first, so I put my exercise gear on and literally just typed “Yoga for beginners” into YouTube. Up popped numerous videos, but the ones I found most helpful were by a lady called Esther Ekhart. She talks through simple breathing and safe practice, and the videos are well paced for beginners. After going through these videos a couple of times over a couple of weeks I begun to really enjoy it – it was such a great way to take a break from studying and to refresh my outlook – and so I also downloaded a free app called Simply Yoga to vary my practice. And these yoga sessions in the privacy of my living room kept me going for a good 6 months, until I moved to London and knew that I wanted to get deeper into my practice and it was about time I joined a class.

Now, before I actually went to a yoga class I was rather worried that it would be full of super skinny yogis who could stand on their heads for the whole hour if they so wished (I suppose this is the reason it took me 6 months before plucking up the courage to actually attend one!), but I was pleasantly surprised to see the class was actually a really mixed bunch of sizes and abilities. The yoga classes I started with were Vinyasa and Astanga yoga in a hot room (not to be confused with Bikram!). I really enjoy doing both of these types of yoga as they are strong sequences which encourage you to flow through the asanas (or poses), whilst paying close attention to your breathing. In all honesty I haven’t got to the stage where I know enough about all the different types to suggest which type of yoga is best for which sort of person, and I really believe that the best way to find “your yoga” is to go to a class and persist with a few different ones until you find the style that you most enjoy. Really I would say that it’s best to try as many different styles as possible as many of them compliment each other and that way you keep learning new things.

The number one most important thing when trying to find a class is actually finding a good teacher, so here are my tips as to what a good yoga teacher should be doing:
  • The teacher should ask at the beginning of the session whether there are any beginners, any injuries or illnesses, or any pregnancies.
  • The teacher should demonstrate the asanas (or poses) so that the class can see the correct technique.
  • The teacher should talk the class through the correct breathing techniques and should remind the class of their breathing throughout the class.
  • The teacher should make adjustments to their pupils’ asanas (or poses) if the pupils are comfortable with this.
  • The teacher should not try to impose any spiritual or religious ideology onto their class.
My final point is possibly controversial, and I’m sure many teachers will disagree with this, but in my opinion the yoga studio is not the place to bring up the spiritual path that yoga might lead to as it may be intimidating to beginners, but also many people who practice yoga do not believe in the spiritual side to it. There are also many who have other beliefs and faiths, and yoga should not discriminate against this. The best teachers I’ve had say to make your practice what you want to make it – use it to focus on something earthly, use it to focus on yourself, use it to pray, use it to say a mantra – but just use it how you want to use it, and not how a teacher instructs you to use it. Personally I am a Christian and so use my practice as a time to focus on prayer. But you use your practice how you want to use it. It’s your time. Your practice. Your mind.

And if you’ve got to the stage of committing to a class I don’t really need to say much more because you get it. And the more you attend your classes the more you’ll want to do self-practice, and at the moment that’s what I’m really getting into. Finding a space (usually outdoors) and just totally switching off from the world for an hour or so to reboot, recharge and to show myself some love.  After all, if you love yourself that’s when you can really show love to others, and that’s when you can be more aware of how to be the best version of yourself, which is what we should all be trying to do.

Yoga is such a personal journey, and mine will be different to yours which will be different to everyone else’s, but I really do encourage you to give the journey a go. Life will never be perfect, but if we equip ourselves with tools that help us to deal with the daily stresses and strains then we’ll be able to absorb all the bumps along the way and yoga is a really, really useful tool for helping to do just that. It encourages you to see the positive in every situation and to just focus on the present – not the past, not the future – just the present, and where you are in that exact moment.


Open your heart to new experiences

Lastly I would just like to share that yoga has really given me the energy and the insight to actually live life. For many years I was just going through the motions, like many of us do, but over the last few months I’ve really seen what living can be and I genuinely believe that yoga has helped to bring me to this realisation and enabled me to do something about it.

If you want to ask me anything about yoga or The Beautifully Healthy Project please comment on this post or follow my Facebook page. Also to be inspired by an incredible yogi and human being follow yoga_girl on Instagram!

So breathe, relax, live, love, be present. (And of course, try yoga!).

Love Lucy x