Say NO to your brain

Your brain wants to stay comfortable…

 

Our brains are wired to keep us comfortable.

You might think “is that such a bad thing? I like being comfortable”.

But to always stay comfortable (in the short term) would mean…

  • Lie-ins every day till 11:00
  • Never exercising
  • Eating almost constantly
  • Never doing something scary like public speaking
  • Never making new friends
  • Never starting that exciting business idea
  • Basically, never going out of your comfort zone!

And, you guessed it, that would lead to a host of outcomes that would make you LESS happy and also less comfortable in the long run!

(Such as having very low fitness, an unhealthy weight, a lack of/a boring social life, un-fulfilled dreams and passions… etc.)

Do those sound as enticing as lazy lie-ins every day?

 

Your brain doesn’t help you…

So, while your brain might automatically choose short-term comfort (and short-term happiness), it doesn’t automatically choose the behaviours that lead to longer-term happiness and comfort!

For example, your brain wouldn’t naturally lead you to:

  • Engage in strenuous exercise
  • Fore-go the sweet treat after a meal
  • Take a deep-dive into your crazy business idea
  • (Basically all opposite scenarios to the list above!)

Yet, these actions, while feeling uncomfortable at the time, will lead to medium- to long-term GAINS in comfort in the physical sense (a fit and healthy body) and the mental sense (a sense of achievement and happiness).

 

Choosing the dis-comfort

Once you understand that your brain’s automatic choices are often NOT in your mid- to long-term best interest, then you can start to say: “NO” to your brain.

To choose the best options for your mid- to long-term health and happiness, you usually have to get comfortable with a little dis-comfort.

For example, going for a run (or other exercise) can be uncomfortable physically, but gives you cardio-vascular and bone strength benefits later on.

 

Your brain’s resistance to yoga

This is where yoga comes in.

Yoga is, indeed, a little uncomfortable! (Raise your hands if you agree…)

Of course this applies mostly to the yoga styles that involve deep stretching and challenging strengthening poses.

Many people want to gain flexibility, good posture and strength from a yoga practice. Others aim to avoid the aches and pains of general ageing. These are all valid mid- to long-term goals which all require a little discomfort in the moment!

A more traditional aim of yoga is to put your body in somewhat uncomfortable/challenging positions, in order to train your mind to stay calm through deep and intentional breathing. This gives you the skill of staying calm in the face of discomfort – which will help you in so many other situations in life.

If you are new to yoga, your brain will probably have a resistance towards practising it. Your brain will not like the idea of getting a bit uncomfortable, or getting up early on a Sunday, or skipping the 3 glasses of wine on Friday or Saturday evening.

BUT if you listen to it – you will NEVER gain all those amazing goals listed above!

 

Examples in my life

Dark chocolate! (I have a real problem…)

It’s very easy for me to crunch through several squares after lunch and dinner, without really paying attention to it. This gives me a short momentary burst of pleasure, but how does this serve me in the long run?

 

My yoga practice when my toddler naps.

After a long morning of toddler entertainment, finding the motivation to do yoga while Ashley naps is hard. I would just looooove to sit and scroll my phone, or also have a nap, rather than do my yoga practice.

It takes a monumental effort, and stern words against my brains immediate desire for vegetating on the sofa, to get on my mat.

But doing a yoga practice 4 days a week consistently has resulted in much more physical and mental benefit, than chilling and phone scrolling would have given me!

 

What about YOUR brain?

Can you think of a scenario where you feel pulled soooooo strongly to the short term comfort? But you know, in your heat of hearts, that in the longer term, you’d benefit more from doing something else?

If you are a Bendywife Yoga member, perhaps your brain is stopping you coming along to my Sunday morning LIVE class from 8-9am….

  • Your brain would rather enjoy the extra hour in bed…
  • Your brain would rather enjoy an extra glass of wine on Saturday…

(no judgement!)

But, ask yourself: In 4 weeks time, what would benefit you more? 4 hours of yoga, or 4-glasses of wine and 4 lie-ins?

Maybe it’s time to CHOOSE to say NO to your brain! 😉

 

Credit where it’s due!

This mini blog was inspired by Nicky Bevan, a cravings and mindset coach.

Nicky is especially good at helping clients manage their food cravings and, in so doing, helping them to get to a healthier weight.

To learn more about Nicky’s work check out her website: https://nickybevan.com.)

Ready to choose for yourself?

(Instead of letting your brain choose?)

I challenge you to make a small change.

Something that gives you only very short term comfort, but that you KNOW doesn’t help you long term.

Perhaps get up at 7:30 this Sunday and join my 8:00am LIVE class! 😄

Just say “no, brain!”

❤️

I hope you enjoyed my ramblings. 🤓

I’d love to hear your views in comments below!

Jolanthe x

Strength, Posture & Mindfulness

I’ll help you gain body confidence and contentment

with short, easy-to-follow yoga classes from your LIVING ROOM!

On-demand and LIVE

Check out what I offer!

I’m a Small Business

Give yourself the gift of self-care for a super affordable price, while supporting an independent, small business!

I enjoy getting to know each and every new yoga student – so can’t wait to meet you!

Love, Jolanthe x


Kindle your Fire

Tapas – not the Spanish kind…

 

Mmmm… Did that make you think of olives and cheesy potatoes?

I always get a giggle in my yoga classes when I say that!

However, the Sanskrit concept of Tapas is very different from indulging in delicious Spanish food. In fact, it comes quite close to being the opposite.

 

Kindling your inner fire

Can you think of times when you’ve felt sluggish and heavy? Times when you found it reeeeeally difficult to get your body moving or to get started with a work/house project?

This was a time when you could have used some Tapas! (…not the food…)

Tapas is one of the Yamas from the 8 limbs of Ashtanga Yoga created by Patanjali, a fore-father of yogic philosophy. (There are 5 Yamas and 5 Niyamas – and these are like 10 ways of how to be a decent human being!)

Tapas is all about putting in the work. Getting a little uncomfortable. ‘Feeling the burn’ or missing out on some indulgences. Tapas is about kindling the inner fire – or ‘Agni’ in Sanskrit.

But why should we set our insides on fire??? (Figuratively speaking)

 

Fire of Transformation

The purpose of Tapas is to create transformation physically, mentally or spiritually – or all three!

A few examples are:

  • A body transformation could look like increasing fitness, building muscle or aiding digestion.
  • A mental transformation could look like burning through old habit patterns to create new, healthy ones.
  • Spiritual transformation could look like gaining a whole new perspective on life and happiness.

 

Tapas in a yoga class

I LOVE using this concept in my yoga classes.

Exercise is one of the most obvious ways of creating the internal fire. Therefore, to encourage Tapas, I like to lead my students through poses that will get them nice a sweaty and get their thighs burning.

In such classes I often use poses which require students to exercise some determination and push their fear boundaries (e.g. an arm balance like Crow Pose).

 

How would Tapas help you?

Is there something that you have resistance against? Something that would help you, but you just can’t find the energy or will-power to do it?

For example:

  • Starting that DIY project
  • Meeting a work deadline
  • Starting to run once or twice a week for exercise
  • Loosing a few pounds (ps. I’m a fan of healthy eating, not calorie counting!)
  • Attending my Sunday morning LIVE yoga class…. 😜

Can you think of your own example? Well, THAT is the thing that requires Tapas for you! And the important question to ask yourself is…

Are you wiling to ignite YOUR inner fire of transformation, to make this change?

If you are, read on!

 

Accepting discomfort

For you to make this change, it will require some discomfort (e.g. muscle ache) and a sacrifice of some comforts (e.g. sacrificing a weekend lie-in, or a pudding every night of the week).

THAT is Tapas.

And the more set in your ways you are, the harder it can be to endure the Tapas of change, the inner fire required for change.

BUT! Once you understand that inner fire is necessary to create the transformation you’re seeking, then the uncomfortable feeling of it might be easier to accept. You might feel that discomfort, that burning and, rather than backing off, you might think “this burn is good for me, it will transform me”.

And once you have ignited the fire of Tapas, it will help you carry on with that activity that you need for your transformation. It’s like a fire: difficult to get started, but once a-blaze, it will carry-on burning strongly!

 

Knowing when to back off

OK, OK, OK, so inner fire is a good thing. However…

Just like any power in this world, Tapas can be used for good or for bad!

You might come across situations where, actually, the best thing for you to do is to back-off. This is the case when you’re injured or too exhausted, or when the building blocks of something aren’t right.

Tapas should be used together with the two Niyamas ‘Svadhyaya’ and ‘Ishvara pranidhana’. Together they echo the Serenity Prayer:

“Grant me the courage to change what I can (Tapas), the serenity to accept what I can’t change (Ishvara Pranidhana), and the wisdom to know the difference (Svadhyaya)”.

Sourced from the book: Yoga Beyond the Poses, p. 63.

Ready to BURN? 🔥

Are YOU ready to kindle your inner fire?

To help you on your way, I’d like to invite you to practise a few of my strength themed classes this week!

Whether it’s a 10-minute class, 30-minutes or a full hour – doesn’t matter.

Just. Get. Moving.

Open your diary, and plan it in!

❤️

I hope you enjoyed my ramblings. 🤓

I’d love to hear your views in comments below!

Jolanthe x

Strength, Posture & Mindfulness

I’ll help you gain body confidence and contentment

with short, easy-to-follow yoga classes from your LIVING ROOM!

On-demand and LIVE

Check out what I offer!

I’m a Small Business

Give yourself the gift of self-care for a super affordable price, while supporting an independent, small business!

I enjoy getting to know each and every new yoga student – so can’t wait to meet you!

Love, Jolanthe x


Be imperfect

Be imperfect

“I can’t do those yoga poses…. So there’s no point in me doing that class…”

Sound familiar???

We live in SUCH an outcomes- and prestige-focussed world that most of us are afraid of being ‘not good’ at something. We’d rather not even try something, than fail at it, or look silly or look like a ‘beginner’.

I’m not judging! I’m right there with you!

But I’m bringing this up because I feel passionately that we DON’T have to be perfect.

 

‘Perfection’ is all around us…

How many ‘perfect’ Instagram/Facebook/TikTok posts do you see every day? MANY – I’d guess!

This is becoming such a phenomenon that there’s even academic research about it. Academics call it ‘Socially prescribed perfectionism’ and argue that it is, in fact, a serious health hazard (Flett et al., 2022).

It’s not easy to ignore the seemingly flawless skin, the perfectly toned bodies, perfect family get togethers, or tidy and clean kitchens!

I’m definitely guilty of this…. Just yesterday I posted a Reel on Instagram about my day spent filming new yoga classes. This Reel showed everything that went well in the day. What it DIDN’T include was how we started very late because I had to go back home to shave my armpits and cut my toe-nails, which I’d completely forgotten to do!

 

The trap of perfection

Sometimes you hear the word ‘perfection’ or ‘perfectionist’ used in a positive way. For instance, someone might credit their tendency towards ‘perfectionism’ for being good at their jobs.

However…

THIS. IS. NOT. TRUE.

Perfectionism is, in fact, a troublesome personality trait to which a whole field of academic research is devoted! (Just type in ‘perfectionism’ in Google Scholar).

Perfectionism has been associated with burn-out (Hill and Curran, 2016), a range of different psychological disorders (Limburn et al., 2016) and eating disorders (Anderluh et al., 2009) – to name just a few negative associations!

I am, by no means, well-read in this field of research. But what I can quickly tell from browsing through a Google Scholar search is that ‘perfectionism’ is NOT seen as a positive thing by scientists.

The person who says “I’m a perfectionist, that’s why I’m good at my job”, is probably very persistent and determined, and has put in the necessary hard work to improve themselves to become good at their job!

 

Imperfection is liberating

So….. why am I writing about this?

Well, I believe that we’d all enjoy many more activities (yoga/sports/performing arts… etc.) and start more projects (work/creative/social) if we’d be OK with not being perfect.

Summing up the motivation and applying a sincere effort to something is what it’s really about. Not being ‘perfect’.

What do you think YOU can’t do?

(but secretly would like to do!)

…learn a foreign language?

…perform on-stage?

…attend a yoga class?

…run 5km?

Why not start whatever you feel you can’t do with an attitude of “when I first try it, I’ll be a beginner, and I’ll need to ‘learn on the job’. That’s ok. That’s normal.”

This is such a liberating perspective because it opens up the door to soooooo many new and joyful experiences.

 

Ironically…

When you want to do something perfectly, it is likely that you will feel so much anxiety towards that tasks that:

A) You might not start it at all, or

B) You’ll probably achieve a worse outcome, due to the nerves!

Instead… When you let go of the need to be perfect, you actually allow yourself to be more motivated to do something for the joy of it, which means you’ll do it more often and, usually, you’ll get better at it as a result!

 

A few examples about me…

A couple of ways that embracing imperfection helps me are in my own yoga practice, and in working on my online yoga business.

Whenever I get on my yoga mat, I give myself the permission to do the poses only to the level that feels right that day, and the permission to stop at any point if I’m really not feeling it.

This allows me to get over my resistance to practice (if I’m feeling tired or, shock horror, a bit lazy!). So it get’s me started, and uuuuusually I end up doing a pretty intense practice anyway!

When it comes to my online yoga business, I have sooooo much impostor syndrome! I feel like I cannot come close to the famous online yogis out there right now.

BUT! I know I should not let this get the better of me. So I make a great conscious effort to allow myself to ‘learn on the job’. When I started I was a complete beginner in the online entrepreneurial space, and I would never have continued to learn and innovate if I felt it all needed to be ‘perfect’ straight away.

I am STILL a baby in this entrepreneurial life, and very imperfect. And that’s OK! I will continue to put in the time and effort to learn more and improve.

What about you?

I invite you to take a moment to reflect.

What is it that you’re not doing, for fear of not doing it ‘perfectly’? Is it a type of exercise? A business idea? A healthy-lifestyle change?

In the coming week, perhaps try to take the first step towards this activity/change with a mindset that you can do it ‘imperfectly’.

 

Let’s do some yoga!

If you are a Bendywife Yoga member, I challenge you to pick a class that is difficult for you and practice it with the mindset of being OK with the fact that you can’t do it all ‘perfectly’.

If you learn how to embrace being ‘Imperfect’ while giving difficult things your ‘all’, then this will transform your life!

Open your diary, and plan it in!

❤️

Thanks for your attention!

I hope you enjoyed my ramblings. 🤓

I’d love to hear your views on this in comments below!

Jolanthe x

Strength, Posture & Mindfulness

I’ll help you gain body confidence and contentment

with short, easy-to-follow yoga classes from your LIVING ROOM!

On-demand and LIVE

Check out what I offer!

I’m a Small Business

Give yourself the gift of self-care for a super affordable price, while supporting an independent, small business!

I enjoy getting to know each and every new yoga student – so can’t wait to meet you!

Love, Jolanthe x

References

Anderluh, M., Tchanturia, K., Rabe-Hesketh, S., Collier, D., & Treasure, J. (2009). Lifetime course of eating disorders: design and validity testing of a new strategy to define the eating disorders phenotype. Psychological medicine, 39(1), 105-114.

Flett, G. L., Hewitt, P. L., Nepon, T., Sherry, S. B., & Smith, M. (2022). The destructiveness and public health significance of socially prescribed perfectionism: A review, analysis, and conceptual extension. Clinical Psychology Review, 93, 102-130.

Hill, A. P. and Curran, T. (2016) Multidimensional Perfectionism and Burnout: A Meta-Analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 20 (3). pp. 269-288.

Limburg, K., Watson, H. J., Hagger, M. S., & Egan, S. J. (2016). The relationship between perfectionism and psychopathology: A meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology. doi: 10.1002/jclp.22435


Yoga for Back Pain

Yoga for Back Pain

Chances are, you have experienced back pain! It’s the…

  • Most common cause of limited activity in people below the age of 45…
  • Second most frequent reason for visits to a physician…
  • Third most common reason for surgery…
  • Fifth most common cause of hospital admission!

These figures are from the United States in 1999 (Andersson et al., 1999), but I am sure that the current UK figures are not much different, as there’s just as much desk work, lifting children, manual labour, stress, and those random movements that suddenly cause a back ache!

 

Does Yoga Help your Back?

There is a common belief that yoga is helpful for a ‘bad back’, but some people also think they shouldn’t start yoga for fear of aggravating their ‘bad back’.

So what is yoga….

helpful or a hindrance for the back?

Personally, I believe my (almost) daily yoga practice is a life-saver for my back. Helping me keep it strong enough to survive the constant picking up and putting back down of a toddler.

Yet… sometimes for a shot while after my yoga practice my back feels a little more delicate. This feeling is always gone within hours or latest the next day, so I take it as being like a muscle ache. Temporary discomfort, yet long-term increased strength!

But that’s just me!

What does the science say???

 

Science on Yoga for Back Pain

There have been many studies evaluating whether yoga improved persistent back pain in a variety of groups. Chang and colleagues (2016) systematically searched the published studies and found 14 interventions of good quality that compared a control group and a yoga group.

These are just some of the findings….

Significant reductions in functional disability, back pain intensity, medication use and depression after 24-weeks of Iyengar yoga (compared with a control group) (Williams et al., 2005; 2009).

A greater improvement in flexibility and reduction in back pain after 7 days of meditation, yoga exercise, chanting and yoga lectures, compared with a control group who also followed a daily routine of exercise, non-yogic breathing exercises, educational lectures and additionally filled their time watching nature programs. (Tekur et al., 2008; 2010)

Significantly better back function after a a 12-week yoga program versus a control group who received a back pain education booklet for low back pain patients (Tilbrook et al., 2011). This improvement remained at 3, 6, and 12 months after the yoga program!

This is just a snap shot of the findings section in the review by Chang et al. (2016).

 

Is Yoga a Risk for the Back?

Chang et al. (2016) found that ‘adverse events’ were equally common in the yoga groups as in the control groups, and reasoned that it was not surprising to see some adverse events, given that all these subjects generally already had back-pain to start with!

Yet, as I mentioned before, it is possible for you to feel more sensations, achy-ness and tenderness in the back after a yoga practice that has exercised this part of your body well!

Indeed one study did report 11 incidences (out of 156 participants) of temporarily increased back pain after yoga which was deemed non-serious (Tilbrook et al. 2011).

So! What do YOU make of this?

My opinion remains that while short-term discomfort may be induced at times… yoga improves back-health in the long term.

 

How can Yoga help the Back?

There is less research on exactly WHY yoga might help the back, so here is my own understanding of it…

 

1. Keeping your back and core muscles strong

You’ve all heard that to protect your back you need a strong core. Well, the muscles that protect the spine go all the way around it!

Many yoga poses such as balance poses, Boat pose, plank, Chataranga Dandasana (low plank), and the whole Sun-Salutation sequence all increase the strength of these muscles (like a corset around your lower back).

When these muscles are strong and when you automatically engage them while moving around, you decrease the chances of putting unhealthy strain on the back.

 

2. Stretching out tightened muscles that pull on the vertebrae

Various muscles are attached to the vertebrae of the spine. If these are very tight, they can start to pull constantly, causing posture changes or directly causing pain.

One example is the Psoas Major (there is one either side of the spine, see image below). When this is tight it will pull the lower spine forward (think belly out, bum back), and eventually cause low back pain.

To stretch the Psoas Major we need to do hip extension, which you find in Upward-Facing Dog, a deep lunge, Camel Pose, Frog Pose, and Half-Pigeon when arching the back (and any other back bending poses). (Find these in my Sun Salutation, Flexibility for Cyclists, and Mini Back Bend classes.

Another example is the Quadratus Lumborum (see image below). This can get very tight after a lot of sitting, and will then pull on the places where it is attached. Gate Pose is a lovely way to stretch this! (Find this in my Mini Back Release class).

3. Counteracting long-held positions from daily life

In daily life many of us sit for hoooooours on end. This means we are rounding the lower back more than is natural. This could cause a slow shift in the spine to remain in this position. In this case, practicing gentle back bending postures (arching the back) can help counteract this excessive rounding.

Anything else you do repeatedly or for a long time will also have an effect on your spine’s position.

Can you think of what you do regularly?

How do you need to balance out YOUR spine to avoid/alleviate a bad back?

So let’s do some Yoga!

I invite you to follow a class to help you strengthen and/or stretch your back.

We’re all different, but these classes might feel nice/be good for long-term strengthening…

Mini Back Release (20 minutes)

Sun Salutation (20 minutes)

Flexibility for Cyclists (35 minutes)

Mini Back Bend (10 minutes)

Mini Back Strength (15 minutes)

Open your diary and pan it in!

❤️

I hope you enjoyed my ramblings today. 🤓 Please feel free to add your comments below!

Love,

Jolanthe x

Strength, Posture & Mindfulness

I’ll help you gain body confidence and contentment

with short, easy-to-follow yoga classes from your LIVING ROOM!

On-demand and LIVE

Check out what I offer!

I’m a Small Business

Give yourself the gift of self-care for a super affordable price, while supporting an independent, small business!

I enjoy getting to know each and every new yoga student – so can’t wait to meet you!

Love, Jolanthe x

References

Andersson GB. Epidemiological features of chronic low-back pain. Lancet. 1999; 354:581–585. [PubMed: 10470716]

Chang DG, Holt JA, Sklar M, Groessl EJ. Yoga as a treatment for chronic low back pain: A systematic review of the literature. Journal of orthopedics & rheumatology. 2016 Jan 1;3(1):1.

Tekur P, Singphow C, Nagendra HR, Raghuram N. Effect of short-term intensive yoga program on pain, functional disability and spinal flexibility in chronic low back pain: a randomized control study. J Altern Complement Med. 2008; 14:637–644. [PubMed: 18673078]

Tekur P, Chametcha S, Hongasandra RN, Raghuram N. Effect of yoga on quality of life of CLBP patients: A randomized control study. Int J Yoga. 2010; 3:10–17. [PubMed: 20948896]

Tilbrook HE, Cox H, Hewitt CE, Kang’ombe AR, Chuang LH, et al. Yoga for chronic low back pain: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med. 2011; 155:569–578. [PubMed: 22041945]

Williams KA, Petronis J, Smith D, Goodrich D, Wu J, et al. Effect of Iyengar yoga therapy for chronic low back pain. Pain. 2005; 115:107–117. [PubMed: 15836974]

Williams K, Abildso C, Steinberg L, Doyle E, Epstein B, et al. Evaluation of the effectiveness and efficacy of Iyengar yoga therapy on chronic low back pain. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2009; 34:2066– 2076. [PubMed: 19701112]