Nurture your body and your spirit
To nurture means to care for, support and encourage while someone or something is growing and it’s one of our core values at Live and Breathe Yoga. We strive to show how the traditional practice of ashtanga yoga can fit anyone at any level. We do this by encouraging our students to believe in themselves so that they can heal, dream and grow. Whenever possible, we use local and organic ingredients and eco-friendly products and non-toxic chemicals in the studio. I also encourage the teachers to nurture themselves by making time for their own practice and often organise self-care activities for us to do as a team together.
As a Mum, I have nurtured Elsie every day for the last 2 ½ years however I have had very little time to nurture myself. I find time to prioritise nurturing my relationships with my family and my friends, but when it comes to nurturing myself, it doesn’t come so naturally. My own self-nurturing has become my last priority since becoming a Mum – I’ve neglected my practice, my body, and my spirit for long enough now and have felt very much out of balance. Old injuries that had been healed came back, new aches and pains appeared, my skin lost its lustre, the motivation for anything creative almost all disappeared, and I gained weight. I’m telling you this so that you know I struggle too. Most of us don’t have our Mums around 24/7 to nurture us, so we need to take the responsibility and find time to nurture ourselves. About a month ago I realised it was 40 weeks until I turned 40 and it was the kick up the butt I needed to take matters into my own hands and start taking care of myself again. I got a new journal and wrote in the front some things I wanted to do and the way I wanted to feel by the time my next birthday came around. Every day I write down the little steps I have done that day to get there. By writing things down, it keeps me accountable and you know what, it’s already working! I had my first pain-free practice in 4 years and in fact, last week, three different people mentioned that I looked great!
Winter is a great time to slow down and start looking after ourselves as it’s when nature also slows down. Plants stop growing, and animals hibernate. It’s usually when our immune systems are pressured and we often end up with colds and flus.
It’s a time for rest, renewal, rejuvenation and focus, so it’s important to reflect this in our yoga practice and other health supporting rituals.
This month at the studio our focus is on helping to nurture your body and your spirit, and I’ve come up with a few ways you can rest and restore yourself.
I used to be able to sleep anywhere, at the drop of a hat and I totally took it for granted. When Elsie arrived, I had no strategies for the onslaught of sleep deprivation I was I about to endure. If you’ve been around me the last 2 years you’ll know how little sleep I’ve had since Elsie was born. I’ve started to bore myself with how often I complain about it, and if I’m honest, I really don’t know how I managed to get through the severe sleep deprivation. I never let Elsie ‘cry it out’ but there have been countless nights where I have! I can now appreciate how important sleep is for overall health, and I put it down as the MAIN REASON everything else in my health has gone pear-shaped. Winter time is the time to sleep more (think hibernation) so if you can, try to go to bed early to get an extra hour of sleep a night. This isn’t something I can do just yet, as Elsie still doesn’t like to go to bed early but at least now once she does fall asleep she stays asleep (touch wood!) and boy what a difference it has made to my spirit and self-belief. My mantra is when in doubt, have a sleep! The Legs up the Wall posture pretty much saved me from insanity during the deepest darkest nights, and I urge you to use it if you are having trouble sleeping too.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that helps with energy production and ‘fuels your tank’ and also helps with stress. Eat magnesium-rich foods like almonds, cashews, pine nuts, flax seeds, spinach, kale, kidney beans, lentils, bananas, strawberries and avocados – to name a few. You can also supplement with magnesium tablets or powder but please see a professional naturopath before you do so to be sure you are getting the right dose.
I am a self-confessed bookaholic, much to Harry’s amusement and despair. To cosy up on the couch with a cup of tea and a good book for a few hours is a great way to change gears. It’s tricky to sit and read with a spirited toddler demanding my attention, so I’m going to try audio books instead – it’s not the same as feeling and smelling pages, but it’s good for now. I’ve just downloaded my first audiobook so I’ll let you know how it goes. Reading is still one of the best ways to learn about the wonders of the world. To learn is to nurture our mind and fill it with wonderful ideas, exciting stories, and inspirational experiences. You could maybe even go old school and borrow a book from the library – they also have audiobooks!
Any activity can be turned into an opportunity for mindfulness if we can practice savouring. Thich Nhat Hanh famously said, “Drink your tea slowly and reverently.” We can apply this to anything we do by being fully present with what is happening right here and now – even washing the dishes can become a spiritual practice! Make a point each day to savour the sunset or sunrise, stop and listen to the birds, sit back and people watch in a café, feel the cool breeze or warm sunshine on your skin, lay on the grass and watch the clouds float by. By acknowledging where we are right now, we can practice contentment with what is. Don’t dwell in the past and feel bad about it and worrying won’t make the future go away. Learn from our experiences in the past, plan for the future but always live in the present. Anne Dillard said, “How we spend our days is how we live our lives.”
“Setting boundaries is the key to self-love.” ~ Brene Brown. Boundaries are important as they allow us to figure out what’s ok and what’s not ok. “If we don’t have boundaries, we let people get away with what’s not ok, and we get resentful” and none of us want to live with resentment. By having Elsie, I was forced to create boundaries. I don’t like to miss out on anything, and I am really bad at saying no to things as I don’t want to disappoint anyone. But suddenly I just I couldn’t ‘do it all’. And as much as I struggled, in the beginning, I finally have made peace with making boundaries and thank them for keeping me happy and healthy. Take some time to figure out what’s ok and what’s not ok for you. Clear your schedule of anything that doesn’t make you feel supported, say no to things and do less. Watch Brene Brown’s full video here.
Stay warm and wrap up
As the temperature drops, it’s important to keep our neck, feet, ankles and kidneys warm. Try not to have bare feet around the house; wear socks or slippers, wear leg warmers when you practise yoga to keep your ankles warm, wear a light scarf around your neck, and keep your lower back covered up.
Our nervous systems are overloaded every day so it’s important to reduce our exposure to unnecessary stimuli where we can. This is something we take very seriously at the studio and is the reason we do a lot of what we do – the set sequence of postures, candlelit and low lighting, no mobile phones on the practice floor, essential oils burning, no air-conditioning or heating, soft music or silence for relaxation. All of this is to reduce stimulation and therefore reduce stress. Seek out quiet spaces, sit under a tree, enjoy less noise, less light, less stimulating food/drink, less TV and social media.
My idea of peace is to just have one thing on my mind at any given time. Sounds blissful, doesn’t it? Give yourself enough time to get where you are going; before you get out of your car, answer the phone or enter a room take a deep breath; reduce the items on your to-do list to a reasonable level; walk a little slower, stop rushing and change from multi-tasking to single tasking.
Book a day or perhaps just a morning in your diary to pamper yourself. You can make a professional appointment, or if you’re on a budget, then you can do it yourself at home. Or perhaps the best of both worlds, book a professional to come to your home! For example, I often have Brenda my reflexologist come to my place and give me a treatment. Light some candles, switch off your phone, play some soft tunes, get your partner to take the kids out for the morning and soak your feet, give yourself a facial, rub oil into your skin, sip herbal tea and finish with legs up the wall.
Some great and easy ways you can boost your immunity are tongue scraping, dry brushing your skin, drinking hot lemon and ginger tea first thing in the morning, rubbing coconut oil into your joints. For more details check out my Immunity booster blog post here.
Sort out that niggling pain/injury
Many of us have a niggling pain or old injury that doesn’t seem to shift. Slow burning pain in the background can affect your sleep, your mood, and your energy. Stop ignoring it and find a professional to actually to treat it. I have an excellent team of professionals that help me if I get injured, to stay pain-free and allow me to keep going with my yoga practice. I see a physiotherapist for initial diagnosis of injury, an osteopath for treatment of acute pain, an acupuncturist for maintaining my energy levels and sanity and Harry at Spark Movement Studio for ongoing massage treatments and corrective strengthening exercises to keep me in top condition. These professionals and my own yoga practice keep me pain-free, healthy and happy.
When we eat well, we live well. This time of year is great for warm and tasty soups, roasted vegetables, and slow cooked meals. Add black pepper and basil to increase the warming effect of your food. Filter your water and add ginger lemon to your water bottle. Try drinking warm water to flush the kidneys and buy fruit and vegetables that are in season. Our homemade organic chai is perfect at this time of year as it’s filled with lots of warming spices to give us a lift.
Lay the foundation
Winter is the perfect time to go back to basics in our yoga practice and work on foundations and stability. If the foundations of a house are wonky, the rest of the house is wonky, and the same goes for the foundations of our yoga postures. Mula bandha or the root lock engages the pelvic floor and provides support for the pelvis and in turn the spine. When our spine feels safe and secure, it can be free to move the way it is meant to. Notice where your feet are and really use your legs to get the full benefit of the standing postures. When your hands are on the floor, use them to create a good foundation for the shoulders and neck.
All this month at the studio our classes will be slowing down a little, with a focus on renewing and restoring. We’ll be taking you through guided meditations and indulging in longer relaxations.
As a real treat, we are hosting the Ultimate Friday Night IN – an excellent opportunity to move your body slowly, take deep restorative breaths, unwind all the tension of the week and step into the weekend refreshed and deeply relaxed. Think soft tunes, flickering candles at sunset and time to literally slowing down. Check out all the details here.
Hope you can make it into the studio, so we can help you feel really really good. After all, that’s what yoga practice is all about.