Wednesday, 18 March 2015

You have gifts & talents. How are you using them?

Each and every person on this planet has gifts and talents that are unique. You might be a naturally gifted athlete. You might have a musical talent. You might have a gift for making people feel special. You might have a smile that instantly lights up a room. You might be able to make a really good cuppa. You might be a gifted communicator. You might be a talented scientist finding the cure to cancer. You might bring joy to people through dance. You might be really good with a hoover (something I pride myself on ;)). These are just a few gifts and talents that you might have - there are millions more out there. So take out a pen and paper (or your notes app if you're more digitally inclined) and make a list of at least 5 of your own gifts and talents. Go on. Do it. And don't be shy, we all have things that we're good at and I won't make you show your lists to anyone else, so you can be honest with yourself here.

Have you got your list? Good, you can carry on reading. (If not, go on, make that list - I dare you!). Read over your list. That's a nice little list you have there. You're a pretty awesome human being. Give yourself a nice little hug for your gifts and talents. It's more than okay to be proud of yourself and we all need to acknowledge our good points from time-to-time.

Read over your list one more time with a question in mind: how am I using my gifts and talents? If you're a naturally gifted athlete and you haven't put your trainers on in over a year then think about this. If you're musically talented but your guitar is collecting dust then something is up. If you have a gift for making people feel special but have spent the whole week in your living room watching catchup TV then something is wrong. You get the picture. If you're not using your gifts and talents then my first piece of advice for you is to change that. You have been blessed with these gifts and talents for a reason and your first duty in life is to use them to bring yourself pleasure.

But don't stop there. If you are already using your gifts and talents to bring yourself pleasure, then read over your list again and ask yourself: how am I using my gifts and talents to help others? If you're a gifted athlete but you're just going on that daily run to keep yourself fit then what's the point? If you're a talented musician but you keep your music to yourself then why bother? If you have a talent for hoovering but you only hoover your own bedroom then what good is that doing? Hopefully you get my point. Run to train for a race and raise money for a good cause. Play music in a public place to bring people joy. Help your housemates out by offering to hoover the whole house. Use your talents to bring hope and joy to others.


Use your gifts & talents to spread the love! 

I want to develop this point by celebrating some of my inspirational friends who are using their gifts and talents in extraordinary ways. I am blessed to know a whole bunch of people who use their gifts and talents to really make a difference to the lives of other people, often with little or no rewards. But they do it out of love, compassion and hope, and this is what we should use our gifts and talents to express. So as you read through this little list of inspirational people I am honoured to know, I encourage you to think about how you can use your gifts and talents to serve the world, after all, what's the fun in keeping them to ourselves?

  • Vicky Ferguson who uses her gift of overwhelming love and inspirational personality to support the street children of Mombasa through her project Glad's House
  • All of the team and volunteers at Street Child United - especially Joe, Jo, Karin, Jess, Alex, John, Elisa, and Ruth - who use their amazing array of communications talents, organisational gifts, and huge hearts to work day-in-day-out to ensure that street children are provided with a global platform to be seen and heard. 

Street Child United volunteers in Rio de Janeiro, April 2014
  • Garth & Gill Hewitt who have used their talents of music and their gift of love to create support for various causes in Palestine, Nicaragua, and South Africa (to name a few) - you two are inspirational!
  • My Mum who has used her gift of looking after children to volunteer for various toddler groups and Sunday schools over the years.
  • All of the project leaders related to Street Child United who use their gifts and talents relentlessly and with unconditional love to help street children within their respective communities. You are all incredible.
  • Tom Hewitt who has used his talent for surfing to create the inspirational Surfers Not Street Children project in Durban, South Africa. 
  • Clarity Coddington who uses her creative talents to consistently inspire children in schools and on the streets from London to Rio de Janeiro. 
  • Laura Youngson who uses her gift for science to support The Lightyear Foundation and her talent for enthusing others by making them feel like they can always contribute.
  • Chloe Szakacs who is a gifted yoga teacher and is using her talent to provide free weekly yoga lessons for the homeless in her hometown in Canada. 

Chloe who is using her gift for yoga to inspire the homeless. Image source: http://tinyurl.com/nnvgnao

This list is by no means comprehensive of all the inspirational people I know, and how gifts and talents can be used to make the world a better place. But I wanted to share just a few examples with you to show how you can use your gifts and talents to not only bring happiness and hope to yourself, but also to others. Happiness and hope are not meant to be kept to ourselves, they are meant to be shared, and what better way of sharing it than using your gifts and talents to create it?

No matter how big or small your gifts and talents might seem to you, you never quite know how just by using them with love you'll be able to make a difference.

So I challenge you to look at your list one last time. Appreciate the gifts and talents that you've written down. The world needs you to use them. It is your responsibility to think about how you can use them to bring happiness, joy and hope to others. Know what you have to do? Go and do it. 

Namaste y'all!

Love Lucy x

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Celebrating women & you

On Sunday my Facebook feed was wonderfully full of friends and media celebrating inspirational women. The 8th March has been International Women's Day since 1913 and is a day which is set aside to celebrate women's achievements and to promote gender equality. This year more ever it seemed that the general public, the media, and campaigns such as He For She were all focused on celebrating women and proclaiming the need for closing the gender gap. Now although I believe in equal rights for all, I'm not about to write a post on gender equality as there are many others who know much more about the subject and who can do a much better job of laying down the facts, but what I do want to do is encourage you to be confident as a woman and to let you know that you're perfect as you are, as well as to encourage women worldwide to support one another and to build one another up. 


Image source: Pinterest

I am a big believer in focusing on people's good points, and often find myself thinking thoughts such as "she's so pretty", "I love her coat", "that's a great thing you're doing" etc., and I always used to internalise these thoughts, being almost embarrassed to complement my fellow females. Instead I'd often turn these thoughts into a negative, comparing myself thinking things such as "she's so pretty, why am I not as pretty?", "I love her coat, why are my clothes no good?" and "that's a great thing you're doing, why can't I do something like that?". 

It was my own silly fault that I had these negative thoughts, and they only served to deepen my insecurities. Going to an all-girls school from the age of 8-18 also didn't help much. On the whole I had some really lovely friends there, but during the awkward young teenage years I was bullied by a few of my peers, and some of their comments have stuck with me to this day. One particular incident that has stuck with me happened when I was 13-years-old; one of my classmates was going around the class pointing out the girls she deemed pretty enough to "be a model". On reaching me she pointed and laughed in front of the whole class: "you definitely couldn't be a model". And she was right, as things have turned out I could never have been a model, but for an insecure 13-year-old girl it was a crushing comment that dented my already-low confidence hugely. The comment was delivered either through negligence or through a genuine desire to cause pain, either way was it really necessary? And what did it achieve? The answer is no. It achieved absolutely bugger-all. 

Life isn't a competition. We are each perfect in our uniqueness. We ladies are not here to compete with one another, we would get nothing done if this were the case. There is no reason whatsoever for us to put each other down, it doesn't make us stronger, it doesn't produce positive results, it only causes pain and exposes our own insecurities. And so by my experience, by internalising positive thoughts about our fellow women and also by expressing negative ones, these are surefire ways to keep confidence low. So why not try vocalising positive thoughts about your lady friends? (And your man friends too for that matter!). I also believe that "your vibe attracts your tribe" (so the saying goes ;)), so if you are an openly positive person then I am sure you will attract other openly positive people who will help to make you feel even more positive, and the positivity circle will continue! 

Since being more open about my positive thoughts on other women I have most definitely noticed a change in my own thought pattern. The more you vocalise positivity the more it is affirmed, and by saying out loud "I like this about you", you immediately create an environment of positivity and there is little room for any negative voices in your head. Furthermore I find that if a complement is genuine the person who has been complemented will a) be unavoidably pleased and b) will often offer a genuine complement back. When people are complemented it breaks down that barrier of embarrassment which I previously mentioned, and they're much more open to expressing their positive thoughts. 

So ladies (and gentlemen), I urge you to open up. Celebrate the positive. Complement your friends. Complement your family. Complement your colleagues. Complement strangers. But only if you really mean it. And this will foster an environment around you where women build one another up, where we feel genuinely happy for one another when good things happen, and where we are genuinely proud of each other's achievements. 

I've been extremely blessed growing up with a mother, aunties, sister and grandmothers who have all supported me and inspired me. I have amazing friends from all walks of life who have each helped me in their own ways. I have had some really strong female role models who have helped me to realise that there are no limitations to what I can achieve. And I have been extremely blessed with the opportunities that have been provided to me in terms of education and experiences. Thank you to all the amazing ladies who have inspired me and supported me; there are too many of you to name but you are all amazing and I'll let you know in my own way over time how grateful I am. 

To finish, I know I said this post wasn't going to be about gender equality, but despite us being in the 21st century it is still an issue, and so I do urge you to look into projects which champion girls rights to see how you can get involved. Check out campaigns such as the Street Child United girls programmes, He For She, This Girl Can - and see what you can do to help celebrate and support some wonderful women, as well as bringing your own voice to the table. 

And guys, we love you too, without you we would not be able to do what we do, and without us you would not be able to do what you do. Let's work together on this for a just world in which gender is not an issue. Let's celebrate all humankind. Guys build up your fellow guys. Guys build up girls. Girls build up guys. And of course, girls build up girls. Let's all support each other. 

This post has been a little random, but I just wanted to share with you all my experience of how being positive towards our fellow women can really make a huge difference. This is of course true for all our fellow human beings, but there is an unhealthy tendency amongst us ladies to feel like we're in competition with one another, when in fact the opposite is true. We're a team and if we work as one then we really will be unstoppable!

So practice telling yourself that you are perfect as you are, practice being openly positive, and I am sure that your world will become a much more supportive and happy place. 

Namaste y'all!

Love Lucy x

Monday, 2 March 2015

Are you happy? If not, whatcha gonna do about it?

I'm sure I'm not the only human being in the world who regularly asks themselves the question: am I happy? Asking this question is a way of checking in with ourselves, and is essential in helping us to maintain a positive mind-frame. It's a question we all deserve to answer "yes" to, at least most of the time. So, ask yourself: am I happy?


What even is happiness anyway? According to the Oxford Dictionary to be happy is "feeling or showing pleasure or contentment", "having a sense of trust and confidence", and "being satisfied with the quality and standard". With this in mind, let's deepen our questioning, ask yourself the following three questions:

1. Do I experience and express pleasure regularly in my day-to-day life?
2. Do I have confidence in myself and those I surround myself with?
3. Am I satisfied with my quality of life?


Once you've asked yourself these three questions, I am almost certain that you'll have a better gauge on your current state of happiness. In all honesty you probably don't need these extra questions to know whether you're truly happy or not; if you're candid with yourself you'll already know in your gut, but these questions can be useful in understanding either why we are happy or unhappy and which area of our happiness may be lacking.

In my experience, if just one of these three areas is off balance then your overall happiness will suffer. And trust me, I've learnt this lesson the hard way. I spent years of my teenage life and early-twenties stuck somewhere between mildly unhappy and deeply sad. Some of the responsibility for this can most definitely be placed on hormones and my susceptibility to depression and anxiety, however I believe that it was also because I wasn't questioning my state of happiness; I was simply accepting it as something that I couldn't change. Or perhaps I didn't want to change it, after all maintaining happiness is hard work and many of us are scared to allow ourselves to actually be happy.

But I reached breaking point. I was coming up to twenty-four and I decided that I didn't want to spend another moment being unhappy. For me the realisation of arriving at this moment was a long journey; on reflection I think it's a journey that began because of yoga practice. Yoga allowed me to have the head space to look inwardly at my true self for just a few hours a week, and over a period of about two-and-a-half years I realised that a) I was not happy b) I deserved to be happy c) I could be happy and d) I was in charge of my own happiness. As a result of this over the last year I have made my happiness my mission, and boy does it feel amazing!

I started by asking myself the three questions.

1. Did I experience and express pleasure regularly in my day-to-day life? No. I did not. I was scraping through life, accepting circumstances that were not bringing me pleasure, and not appreciating things that could.

2. Did I have confidence in myself and those I surrounded myself with? No. Self-confidence is something I've always struggled with and due to various reasons I found it hard to have confidence in those I had made closest to me.

3. Was I satisfied with my quality of life? No. I wasn't being true to myself, I wasn't doing what I should have been doing with my life, and I wasn't living where I should have been.

I then had to do something about it. It has not been easy. I've had to make some serious and tough decisions, I've had to make big lifestyle changes, and I've had to take a long hard look into the mirror to give myself a bloody good talking to! But it is possible. You are not stuck. You are not your state of mind. You have the power to be happy.

I imagine that for many people the answers to at least one of these three questions will be similar to my answers from this time last year, and that is perfectly normal, but the actions you need to take will not necessarily be the same.

But what did I do?

1. I gave myself a massive virtual shake and made myself acknowledge everything in my life that I could get pleasure from. I've always exercised regularly, but I made myself exercise with awareness and with gratitude as to what my body was allowing me to do. I took more notice of what I was eating and began to have fun with trying and making new healthy recipes. I spent as much time as I could in the outdoors, taking simple pleasures from the natural world and exploring London city by foot.

2. I then gave myself a stern talking to. I tried to focus on my positive attributes, and would tell myself that any negative thoughts were not permanent, not true, and I could acknowledge them but I did not have to accept them. I made big decisions as to who I surrounded myself with and focused on my amazing family and friends, and began to really appreciate the pleasure and support they gave me.

3. I moved back home to live with my family. I made a big decision to give up a "proper job" to train to be a yoga teacher and to follow my heart. And ultimately, although it may seem like I've moved back a few steps, this has been the best thing for me and I can now see a clearer happier path ahead.


As I've mentioned, the actions you'll need to take will not be the same as mine. You are unique, and your journey is your own. But I hope that by sharing my experience you will be reassured that you deserve happiness and that you are in control of your own happiness. You and no one else. Yes, that can be a little terrifying, but it's also amazingly encouraging and inspiring.

There will be external factors in life that will dictate your happiness to a certain degree, but it is your responsibility to find your inner happiness, and once you've mastered that I can almost guarantee that you will find the uncertainties in life will test you but they will not break you.

So I encourage you: look at your state of happiness, if you're happy that's great - well done you, keep it up! - but if you're not, then choose to do something about it. What is blocking your happiness? What can you do about it? What are you going to do about it? And then do it! It won't happen over night, and it's more than likely that you'll have to take baby steps to get there, but work at it and it will happen. And if you're already happy, or when you arrive at your happiness, do everything you can to maintain it. Happiness is something that you really have to work at, so once you've got it pour your heart into it. Spend your time doing things that contribute towards your happiness, be with people who make you happy and who in turn you make happy, and keep working on your true self and your purpose in life.

For me the most amazing lesson I've learnt from all this is that if you are happy and if you uninhibitedly express that happiness then the people around you will respond with even more happiness and your whole bubble will become a generally happier place! Don't believe me? I dare you to give it a go!

If you have any questions about happiness, life, yoga, anything (!) please leave me a comment below or send an email to lucyvicjackson@gmail.com and I'll be more than happy to have a chat.

So go, find your happiness! Time is precious. What are you waiting?

Love Lucy x

Friday, 27 February 2015

Yoga Teacher Training in pictures

Many of you followed my four week journey to becoming a qualified yoga teacher back in January. Thank you SO much for all your support and kind words, it really does mean an awful lot! But those of you who did will have noticed that I had various issues uploading photos via the iPad whilst I was away, so now I'm home and am back on my trusty Mac I thought I'd do a little visual post to round up my Indian yogic experience. It really was the most incredible journey and I am super excited to share my newfound knowledge with you all now I'm home - it's great to have these experiences, but if you can't share the love then there really is no point to them. Happiness and love are meant to be shared, so join me on this little visual journey, and hopefully you will be even a teensy bit inspired to try some yoga and feel the love!


Welcome to the Yoga Village!


Day One! So pale and naïve as to what was in store...


With some of my beautiful fellow yogis at the beginning of the course


Partner yoga can be an amazing way to deepen stretches (and it's super fun!) - can't believe how far away from the ground my heels are in this, they now go all the way down! It's amazing what can change in your practice over 4 weeks!


Sutra Neti cleansing technique demonstrated by the beautiful Charlie - needless to say there are no photos of me doing this one as I whimped out! I did give it a go but I just couldn't get over the sensation of it going up my nose...something to work on...


Chest opening


Here comes a Kranti adjustment...


Human backpacks to help with chest opening and back bending


Back bending technical class - I call this the human bug!


A little bit more back bending and partner yoga with the beautiful Charlie and Regan


Despite all being off alcohol for the month we still went wild from time-to-time and went out for juices! This one was my favourite - Pineapple, Ginger and Mint mmmmm


Sunday was salad day...we got a bit too excited about salad day, but who wouldn't when they looked like this?!


Of course there were the obligatory sunset-yoga-on-the-beach shots - it's inevitable when you have a bunch of yogis and yoginis living right by the beach for a month!


#yogaeverydamnday


We had a few furry friends at the Shala who often joined in with our practice - meet little Jimmy, I wanted to bring him home (don't worry Dad, I resisted!)


Morning back bending flow in my favourite Shala


Opening my final assessment class in the most incredible location


If in doubt, take a Child Pose! Final assessment continued...


Feeling the love after teaching my final assessment <3


My beautiful class! Thank you so much, you will never know how much you gave me, I love you all!


Receiving my certificate from Kranti - massive smiles all round! :D :D :D


Annnnnd I'm qualified! WOOOOOOO!

So thank you for joining me on my whistle-stop tour of my 200hr YTTC at Kranti Yoga School - it really was the most amazing four weeks of my whole life, and I'm so glad I gave myself the opportunity to live my dream and experience life. If you are questioning whether you need to do the same in your life at the moment I would say chase it and grab it with all you've got. I'm not a huge fan of acronyms but YOLO really is true - you only live once, and you never ever know how long you've got, so why delay your dreams? 

If you have any questions about the course, about yoga, about Goa, about life in general, please do get in touch. The best way to do so is either by leaving a comment here or through my Facebook page: Lucy Victoria Jackson

I am now back in the UK and am looking to set up some classes in my local area of Ascot, Berkshire, and then potentially in London later down the line. But for now I am keen to begin teaching private yoga classes to individuals and groups, so if you're interested please do get in touch! I'd love to hear from you and spread the yogi love!

Namaste y'all!

Love Lucy x

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Yoga Teacher Training Week Four

Four weeks, 200 hours of classes, a lot of laughs, a crazy amount of yoga, three assessments, too many chaturangas, a few tears, two Bountys, 1,000 Oms, a truck load of veggie curry, 100 litres of ginger tea, a couple of bindis, 30 Indian sunsets, a group of beautiful new best friends later, and I can finally say that I'm a qualified yoga teacher!!! I am a qualified yoga teacher. WHAT?! How crazy is that? I think it's going to take a while to sink in!

This week has been a challenging one and I wouldn't have changed a single second of it. I've pushed myself in my practice, in my meditation, and in letting go of expectations (finally!), and it really has paid off. I've tried not to be as hard on myself and to accept where I am in both my practice and in life off of the mat, and by trying to do that just for a week I'm already feeling stronger, happier, and more ready for the next steps in life.

One of my final assessments this week was teaching an hour long Ashtanga based flow class to a group of my fellow teacher trainees. It was a pretty daunting prospect as they all knew exactly what each pose should look like, how it should be instructed, and how to pronounce the Sanskrit names for each pose (well, supposedly! We all struggled with this! Try saying Savasana and Svanasana and let me know how you get on...). The theme of my class was heart opening, and again this was pretty daunting as I was really opening up my own heart to share what's going on in there with my class - I felt pretty vulnerable, but it was me and I was honest so it felt like the right thing to do. We all suffer pain and heartache, and it can be so easy to close our hearts to life and love, but really what good does that do? An open heart can be filled with love and happiness, and in my experience the more you receive the more you can share with others, and sharing love and happiness with your fellow human beings is one of the most amazing feelings in the world. The class focused on poses which physically open the chest area such as wheel and camel, and I encouraged my students to work with their breath to inhale positivity and to exhale everything that no longer served them. I was really quite nervous delivering the class, but my students were amazing and gave incredible energy throughout the sequence. I closed the class with a restorative Savasana and a quote about perfect love from the Bible (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 for anyone who wants to take a look).

The feedback I got from the class blew my mind. Everyone was so encouraging and supportive; it was a truly humbling few minutes hearing what they all had to say. I also got some really amazing feedback from the assessing teacher - Magda - who is the most inspirational yoga teacher out there. She really knows her stuff, and so when you get praise from her it's a really great feeling. She said that she felt happy to relax and to just let me lead the class, and that she'd be really happy to come to one of my classes! It was incredible to hear. She also gave some really constructive feedback on things to work on which was super helpful, and I now feel confident enough to come home and to share my newfound knowledge!

We also had two written assessments - one in philosophy and one on anatomy and alignment. They were both challenging but I surprised myself and knew more than I thought I did! Philosophy was totally fine - if you read my last post you'll know that everything is Om so that's all we really had to know ;) And then somehow I managed to get 100% in anatomy and alignment, so anyone who practices with me can rest assured that you'll be 100% correctly aligned and I can fill you in on the muscles that are working in the poses!

So I passed all the assessments and have my certificate to say that I am qualified to teach Ashtanga and Vinyasa based flows (still can't believe it!), but it isn't necessarily all the "yoga" knowledge that I'll remember most about this whole experience. One of the most invaluable things I've learnt is how to spend time with myself, and through spending time with myself I've learnt that I really am stronger than I thought I was. As our teacher Upendra has told us time-after-time "you are the bliss" - bliss is inside of you, you just have to take some time to be with yourself to discover it. I think it's about acknowledging that happiness is a choice and that happiness really is in the hands of each individual.

Happiness is also easier to achieve when you're with happy people, and that's who I've been with for the last four weeks - the most happy, amazing, beautiful, encouraging, loving, inspirational people you could ever imagine. My fellow yogis and yoginis here at the Yoga Village have really made this whole experience more than I could ever have hoped it would be. Some of them are most definitely friends for life and I am confident that we'll continue to support and inspire one another in our lives and yoga careers for years to come. Thank you Kranti family, you are all beautiful and I am so blessed to have met you! You've also introduced some amazing new words into my vocabulary ;)

The only sad thing about becoming a yoga teacher is that it's now over, and tonight I'll be flying the nest! For the next two and a half weeks I'll be travelling around Southern India, but as soon as I'm back I'll be more than ready to begin sharing everything I've learnt here and I really can't wait to spread the love! So until then remember:

1. Open your heart to love and happiness - you never know what's around the corner...
2. You really are stronger than you think
3. You are the bliss and happiness is in your hands
4. Surround yourself with people who will support you and love you exactly for who you are

So I'm off on a little adventure (bring on the 14 hour train journey to Kerala tonight!) and won't be online much for the next few weeks - it's time for a tech detox! - but if you want to check out any photos from my course then follow my Instagram: lucyvictoriajackson. If you'd like to book in any yoga lessons with me when I return, or if you've got any questions about yoga, the course, or just want to say hi then please do drop me a message and I'll reply when I have a little internet session on my travels.

I've really enjoyed sharing this experience with you all, and hope that you've enjoyed reading the updates (sorry if I crossed a line with the "contract the anus" story from week three!), and this certainly isn't the end of the journey... I've got so much more to write about and will be continuing to write posts about yoga, health, fitness, lifestyle, well being, beauty etc when I return home. Thank you so much for all of your support, it really means so much - special thanks to my family and friends who have supported me unconditionally and lovingly on this journey. You make me who I am today and I am so blessed to have you in my lives.

So until next time, live the life you love, love the life you live. Namaste y'all!

Love Lucy x

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