Self-Care is Not Selfish

Self-Care is not Selfish

Why you can’t give from an empty cup, and how self-care is something you do for others too!

 

At this time of year it’s so normal to feel overwhelmed. (I’m writing this a few weeks before Christmas). There’s presents to buy, work deadlines to finish, parties and other social events to go to…

Even if we really enjoy all these things (maybe not work deadlines), it is still over-stimulating for our brain. If we’re not careful we will feel depleted and emotionally empty come the long-awaited Christmas day!

What I will try to convince you of in this mini blog is this: taking a few quiet and reflective moments to yourself (even in place of doing stuff for others sometimes), will help you be a nicer, more patient and more pleasant person to those around you!

Read on to hear about my personal reflections as well as a little bit of science on yoga and mental well-being.

 

For me personally…

I am very aware when my cup is empty. It happens when I don’t dedicate any time to myself to go for a run, do my yoga practice, or read quietly now and then. (Reading quietly is still on my ‘wish to do list’, but I’ll get there one day!)

When this happens I get irritable, snappy and generally less content in every moment. This was the feeling I had when I had post-natal depression, due to not have ANY time to look after myself. I instantly felt happier when my 7 month old baby leaned to nap in a cot, and have me back 1.5 hours a day!

For me, spending 30-60 minutes a day on moving my body in a mindful way (mostly yoga) makes me noticeably calmer, kinder and more giving to others.

So…. Am I doing yoga for me? Or for others? …..hmmm, interesting question…

 

Some Science on Yoga & Well-being

But this is not just about my personal experience. There’s plenty of scientific evidence showing that a yoga practice increases a range of well-being related outcomes.

For example, a systematic review of 14 studies on yoga and a positive mental health outcomes found that the majority of studies showed a beneficial effect of yoga (Domigues et al., 2018).

In this review, studies comparing a yoga group with a control group found the following health outcomes for the participants doing yoga:

  • Mindfulness: Four studies found higher levels of mindfulness in nurses, nursing students, young adults with rheumatoid arthritis and health care providers.
  • Positive Emotions: Two studies found higher positive emotions (positive affect) in low-active menopausal women and in sedentary adults with arthritis.
  • Emotional Resilience: One study found a significant increase in resilience in adults with anxiety or depression.
  • Mental Well-being: Two studies found increased mental well-being in physically-inactive older adults and in adults with symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Life Satisfaction: Two studies observed improvements in life satisfaction in menopausal women and nursing students.
  • Self-Compassion: Two studies observed significant increases in self-compassion in nursing students health care providers.
  • Self-Esteem: One study found significant increases in self-esteem in sedentary adults.
  • Coping and Relaxation Skills: One study found significant increases in coping and relaxation skills in health care providers.
  • Empathy: One study found significant improvements in empathy levels were found in nursing students.

 

A happier you = a nicer you?

So, after reading the long list above, do you see how spending a little time on your OWN health and wellbeing could actually benefit everyone around you, too?

Being more mindful will help you be PRESENT with your friends, partner or children.

Obviously, having higher positive emotions, mental wellbeing, emotional resilience, coping skills, and empathy are going to help you have fun and fulfilling times with your friends and family.

And then self-esteem, self-compassion and life satisfaction will make YOU feel more worthy, loved and happy!

 

So, is self-care selfish?

If you were to spend 30-60 minutes on a yoga practice on a Saturday (while your partner looked after the kids), what would you feel? Would you feel guilt? Would you feel selfish?

Perhaps you do feel this way. Many of us do!

But have a look at these two scenarios, and think about what would be the best thing for everyone:

  • Having you 100% of the time, not completely present, with lower mental wellbeing, empathy, emotional resilience, life satisfaction and coping skills. Or…
  • Having you 95% of the time when you’re happy, present, with high positive emotions and more empathy and emotional resilience?

Food for thought…

 

The take-away message

I have observed that women with families, especially, find it difficult to choose the option of doing something for their own health and wellbeing. There’s always more washing, tidying and sorting to do, and the kids just NEED you all the time.

(Sorry guys and anyone without children, but this message is especially for the mamas!)

Listen up, lovely women: self-care is NOT selfish.

If necessary, ASK for more help so you can look after yourself. So that you can re-fill your empty cup. With a full cup you’ll be able to give even more love, care and attention to everyone around you.

Happy mama = happy everybody!

Need a little help?

If you need a little help getting started with 15-20 minutes of mindful yoga at home have a little look at my classes… 😉

Learn more about BendyLife yoga...

I hope you enjoyed this mini blog. 🤓

Please share your views in the comments below!

Jolanthe x


Reference

Domingues, R. B. (2018). Modern postural yoga as a mental health promoting tool: A systematic review. Complementary therapies in clinical practice, 31, 248-255.

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


Mindfulness for A Crazy Life

Mindfulness for A Crazy Life

What is Mindfulness? And How can I fit it into my busy life?

 

Do you ever realise you pretty much rushed through every moment of your day?

Or have you been at the end of a car journey, and didn’t really remember the details of driving?

Or do you feel your life is just rushing by?

 

We operate on Auto-pilot

This is because we are often on… auto-pilot! Automatically doing our daily tasks, with our minds already planing the next thing on the to-do list. And in this process, we never TRULY experience and enjoy our present moment!

This is SO normal in our crazy, busy, over-filled lives. So no judgement from me! I’m right there with you!

“I’m just so busy – this is just life for me!” I hear you say.

Well, I will try to convince you that, the busier you are, the MORE you need some mindful (mentally present) moments in your life.

…and you’ll be surprised to hear, that there is a REALISTIC way of getting these moments!

 

What exactly is Mindfulness?

It’s more simple than you might think. Mindfulness originates from Buddhist teachings on meditation, but don’t let that scare you! It’s not really about meditating for hours on end.

Mindfulness is bringing your attention to your senses: touch, sight, smell, hearing, taste and proprioception (feeling your body’s position). Usually one at a time!

For example, you might bring your attention to the feeling of your body, slowly moving from your feet to your head (this is a body scan). You might bring your attention to the sensation of your breath. Or you might focus on particular sights, sounds, tastes or smells in your environment.

This can take anywhere from 10 seconds to ….as long as you want!

Sounds simple – right?

While it’s essentially simple, it’s nevertheless difficult to stop and apply a moment of mindfulness when you’re in a crazy busy time of your life! (I feel your pain!!!)

So…  hearing WHY mindfulness is important might help to increase your motivation to stop and take a mindful moment more regularly.

 

Why is Mindfulness good for me?

Stopping the hamster-wheel in your mind for a moment is SO. GOOD. FOR. YOU!

But I think, intuitively, you already knew that.

When you stop, observe your senses and slow down your breath (aka. have a mindful moment), this slows down your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, lowers your cortisol level (the stress hormone) and basically signals to your body that you are safe!

These are all physical and mental things that we struggle with when we are too busy. So adding in a little mindfulness is ESPECIALLY important for the busiest of us!

Yes – it’s difficult to fit it in, but keep reading! The next section shows that it doesn’t have to take a long time!

A lot of scientific research has praised the benefits of mindfulness, but I want to focus on a lovely systematic review study by Howarth et al. (2019).

This is why…

 

Just 5 to 25 minutes of mindfulness!

Ana Howarth and her team at the University of London reviewed the findings of 84 experimental studies looking at mindfulness. But what’s most interesting is that the vast majority of these experiments only gave ONE single session of mindfulness to their participants (only lasting between 5 and 25 minutes)!

Amazingly, 93% of the experiments resulted in significant positive health effects!

There was a mix of study participants. The majority were ‘general’ healthy people, and 19 studies included specific groups of people with an underlying health issue.

In BOTH groups, a very BRIEF mindfulness session had positive results!

 

Improved memory & lowered stress

The study’s results indicate that including very SHORT mindfulness moment into your life could increase how you enjoy yourself day-to-day AND how productive you are at work!

This is so because mindfulness improved:

  • Memory and attention
  • Cortisol (the stress hormone), negative emotions and overall emotional regulation. Both in a real-life context, and when stress was induced on-purpose in an experiment.
  • Lowered perceptions of pain (when induced by an experiment)
  • Cardiovascular reactivity (which indicates better heart health)
  • Healthier eating or smoking behaviours

 

Reduced pain & lowered blood pressure

And not only did ‘generally-healthy’ people benefit from stress reduction and improved mood, but people with serious health conditions benefitted from a very BRIEF mindfulness experiment.

 

Specifically, the study saw:

  • Lowered blood pressure in hypertensive men with chronic kidney disease
  • Improved body satisfaction in participants with eating disorders
  • Reduced pain-related distress, and lower perceived intensity of pain in patients with chronic or acute pain.
  • Improved brain-function for those with a traumatic brain injury

 

How do I fit Mindfulness into my CRAZY life?!?

I’m sure you appreciate the amazing findings by Ana Howarth and her team at the University of London (2019), but are still thinking:

“That’s great, but I HAVE NOT got time to sit and breathe!”

And I hear you loud and clear.

The beauty of mindfulness is that is doesn’t have to be a proper ‘session’. You can fit it into you life in little ‘snacks’! (Just like how you can exercise by exercise ‘snacking’ – see my blog on this here).

 

Some examples that are EASY to fit in to a crazy busy life:

  • 2 minutes of mindful breathing in your car after you’ve dropped of your child at nursery or school.
  • 3 minutes of mindful breathing as you stand in your garden, letting the winter/summer sun warm up your skin.
  • 2 minutes of mindful breathing as you wait for the kettle to boil in your office kitchenette
  • A 5 minute body scan (maybe listening to an audio guide), just as you come home from a stressful day of work.
  • A 10 minute yoga practice (or a longer one!) where you focus on mindful breathing and feeling the sensations in your body.
  • 1 minute of mindful breathing while you’re in the loo!!!

Do you get the idea? You can do it at ANY time of day, in ANY clothes, in ANY place!

 

The take-away message?

Basically – the busier you are, the more you NEED mindfulness. Or you risk life passing you by like a runaway train. (As well as risking an upward creeping blood pressure and stress level!)

And, thankfully, it is POSSIBLE to add very SHORT mindful moments into your day. This can be as simple as a few slow breaths in your car, stopping to let the sun shine on your face, or a short yoga practice on your kitchen floor.

(Hint hint: I can help you with that short yoga session! I have a bunch of 10, 15 and 20 minute online classes!)

 

To conclude…

I hope that this blog will help you to realise that you deserve those mindful moments.

That taking a moment is SO GOOD for you. And because you’ll be less stressed and more attentive it’s also good for everyone AROUND you!

You deserve this. ❤️

Need a little help?

If you need a little help getting started with 15-20 minutes of mindful yoga at home have a little look at my classes… 😉

Learn more about BendyLife yoga...

I hope you enjoyed this mini blog. 🤓

Please share your views in the comments below!

Jolanthe x


Reference

Howarth, A., Smith, J. G., Perkins-Porras, L., & Ussher, M. (2019). Effects of brief mindfulness-based interventions on health-related outcomes: A systematic review. Mindfulness10(10), 1957-1968.

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


Yoga for Mental health

Yoga for Mental Health

Does a sweaty Ashtanga yoga practice contribute to long-term wellbeing?

 

You’ve probably heard that yoga is good for reducing stress.

But what do you picture when you see a ‘stress reducing’ class?

You probably DON’T picture a person sweating and breathing loudly in lots of plank poses, Upwards Dogs and Downward Dogs… (aka. Ashtanga yoga!)

Well, this week I’m reviewing a recent scientific study that compared the mental wellbeing of long-term Ashtanga yogis (colloquially called ‘Ashtangi’s’), with people from the general population.

This topic is near and dear to my heart because a regular Ashtanga yoga practice has saved my sanity a few times in my life already. I’ll elaborate a bit more on at the end of this blog!

 

How is Ashtanga different?

If you think yoga is chilled out… then Ashtanga yoga will come as a shock to you.

It is a dynamic flow of movement and breath that puts you into poses which heat you up and build strength in your whole body.

When in an Ashtanga class, you always start with Sun Salutations. This is a warm-up routine that flows through forward folds, (sometimes a handstand), plank poses, Upwards Dogs and Downward Dogs. By the end of this warm-up….. you are WARM!

 

No room for worries!

Ashtanga yoga synchronises each inhale and exhale with a movement, and creates a state where your WHOLE mind’s bandwidth is taken up with the yoga practice. This means that there is no more space for your mind to think about worries and other thoughts. So, it is like a moving meditation, or also called being in a ‘flow state’.

Traditionally, Ashtanga yoga is practiced on 6 mornings a week, and the remaining day is the well-earned rest day.

It is quite a demanding schedule! And requires people who have a normal job to get up at 5am to do their practice.

(Of course, you can still benefit from Ashtanga in a slightly less intense and rigid way – more on this later!)

 

Biggest Ashtanga study yet…

The study by Morris et al. (2023) is the first of it’s kind that has used such a large sample of long-term Ashtangi’s. There has been a lot of research on ‘yoga’ in general and on Ayengar yoga (another type of yoga which focuses more on stretching and less on building heat), but not so much specifically on Ashtanga yoga.

As Ashtanga yoga generates a real exercise effect (heat, sweat, muscle ache etc.), it needs to be studied separately from the more relaxing forms of yoga.

 

What did the researchers do?

Morris et al. (2023) recruited ‘Ashtangi’s’ who had practiced this style of yoga for at least 5 days a week, over least 12 months. They ended up with 213 long-term Ashtangi’s, of whom 20% had actually practiced for more than 10 years!!

The researchers asked this group to complete a special questionnaire called the PERMA scale which gains an understanding of 8 aspects of wellbeing:

  1. Positive emotions
  2. Engagement
  3. Relationships
  4. Meaning
  5. Accomplishment
  6. Overall wellbeing
  7. Physical health
  8. Negative emotions

The PERMA questionnaire had previously been used on a very large group of 31,966 representative of the general population of adults, and this data was used as a comparison.

 

How did the Ashtangi’s perform?

The results were pretty clear!

The long-term Ashtangi’s scored higher on ALL positive aspects of wellbeing (positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, accomplishment, overall wellbeing and physical health). And they scored significantly lower on the one negative aspect: negative emotion.

For the nerds out there; all these differences were statistically significant (p<0.001)!

 

The longer, the better

The researchers also investigated whether these positive wellbeing effects were stronger when Ashtanga yoga had been practiced for more years.

And, you guessed it, this was the case! The more years that someone had dedicated to the Ashtanga practice, the more positive they scored on the PERMA wellbeing scale. Specifically for the aspects: positive motions, relationships, meaning, accomplishment, overall well-being and physical health.

Well, I’d like some of that please!!

 

What is it about the Ashtanga lifestyle?

The question that begs to be asked is:

“WHAT is is about Ashtanga that led to these high scores on the wellbeing scale?”

As this study was not a controlled experiment, we can’t say with confidence that it is the movements in the Ashtanga yoga style that cause this upward shift in wellbeing.

In fact, there are a multitude of factors at play in an Ashtanga yoga lifestyle which could each contribute a little to the higher scores.

Here are just a few things that may have increased their wellbeing:

  • Dedication to a physical / spiritual practice. I mean, just think if YOU dedicated 90 minutes each day on something that helped you quiet your mind and made you fit. (No housework, no kids, no work during that time).  That ‘me time’ alone would probably make you calmer, happier and more collected!
  • Waking up early consistently (and thus going to bed early consistently). It’s nooooo secret that sleep is important for our mental and physical health. Have you ever been long-term sleep deprived? (I have!) And it definitely dragged down my mental state.
  • Exercising for 6 days a week. Perhaps it was simply the physical and mental benefits of getting sweaty 6 days a week! Ashtanga yoga builds a lot of strength and tones the body. So dedicated Ashtangi’s definitely notice a difference in their body.
  • The mental focus/meditation invoked by the Astanga practice. The ‘flow state’ or meditative state achieved in Ashtanga yoga may have altered their brain chemistry. There is research showing that long-term mediation does have measurable effects the brain! (Steeter et al. 2007)

 

How is this relevant to me?

“But I don’t have the time for this!?!?” I can already hear you say.

And nor do I! I can’t see how, with a job and a young family, someone could do 90 minutes of yoga early in the morning 6 days a week. (Well, it WOULD be possible if I went to bed at 8pm and woke up at 4am…)

Buuuuuuuut as that will NOT be happening anytime soon, let’s see how we CAN make it work for a more realistic lifestyle…

 

Making it REALISTIC

I personally think that these well-being benefits came from the long-term dedication to a mind-body practice which gets you into a ‘flow-state’. Nowhere in the study did they prove that it was necessarily the 6 days a week part, or the part about the yoga taking 90 minutes!

So, we can distil the essence of this Ashtanga lifestyle into a more realistic one for the every-day person.

To me, this looks like a 20 or 30 minute Ashtanga yoga practice 3-5 times a week. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in the morning (but it COULD be if that works for you). It could be before lunch or before dinner. As long as you can find that 30 minutes of quiet time to get into a ‘flow state’ while you’re getting sweaty!

 

My personal story

To finish this blog (which has got a little longer than I planned!)… I’d like to add a personal account of how a regular Ashtanga practice saved my sanity.

On two occasions in my life I have felt very emotionally low, you can even say depressed. One was when I had a very hard time after I almost failed my PhD exam. The way this manifested was a downwards spiral almost into alcoholism.

At this time in my life I found Ashtanga! And it helped get my focus back into my body, and not just locked up in my head. This was the start of a very positive change for me.

The second time was when I had post-natal depression, which spiralled into suicidal ideation at times… Only when I managed to get my baby to sleep in his cot for naps, and fitted in a short, daily Ashtanga yoga practice, did I start to feel like myself again.

At both these difficult times, the dedication to daily Ashtanga yoga gave me the ‘excuse’ I needed to spend some time on myself. The excuse I needed to allow myself to breathe deeply and slow down the monkey brain for just a little while!

Yoga homework

I don’t expect anyone to practice yoga for 90 minutes, 6 days a week!

But I dooooo recommend planning-in a SHORT yoga session, 3-5 times a week.


Start small

So, I invite you to look at your diary and start small. Can you do 15 minutes, 3 times a week? Let’s start there!


Open your diary

Block out three 15 minute clocks in your diary, at times when it is realistic for you.


And if you need a little help getting started with Ashtanga yoga, go along an have a look at my classes!

Happy sweating!

Learn more about BendyLife yoga!

I hope you enjoyed this mini blog. 🤓

Please share your views in the comments below!

Jolanthe x


References

Morris, B., Jackson, J., & Roberts III, A. (2023). Effects of long-term Ashtanga Yoga practice on psychological well-being. Mental Health and Social Inclusion.

Streeter, C.C., Jensen, J.E., Perlmutter, R.M., Cabral, H.J., Tian, H., Terhune, D.B. and Renshaw, P.F. (2007), “Yoga asana sessions increase brain GABA levels: a pilot study”, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol. 13 No. 4, pp. 419-426.

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


The Power of Self-Compassion

The Power of Self-Compassion

You don’t have to be your biggest critic…

 

When you make a mistake, have a rough day or have an emotional meltdown…. what do you do?

If you’re anything like me, you might ruminate on the things that have happened, and wish you’d done a whole bunch of things differently!

It can leave you feeling self-critical and down.

I know the feeling!!

But what if you could be kinder to yourself, more compassionate. Just as you would be for a close friend or loved one?

As it happens there’s a WHOLE research field dedicated to self-compassion. And it’s fascinating!

In this mini blog I’ll reveal how self-criticism has affected me personally when I was teetering on the edge of post-natal depression.

I’ll also (very briefly) summarise what the research has to say about self-compassion, based on the fantastic review by Kristin Neff, a pioneer in the world of self-compassion (Neff, 2023).

 

My personal story…

The most recent time that self-criticism (dare I say self-hate) has affected me was about 8 months ago. I was super exhausted and had almost no time to spend on my own health, passions and business, because I’m a mum to a little (lovely) human.

(This is the perfect storm that often leads to postnatal depression for many, many mums and some dads).

Due to my general state of frustration and tiredness I was very quick to snap at my husband, and would often start and perpetuate arguments. I could see that the way I was acting was reactive, unkind and unfair, and I started hating myself for it.

 

Negative spiral

This became a negative spiral, that led to more frustration and more self-criticism and more snappy arguments, dragging me lower and lower.

So….. why am I revealing the less-than-glamorous bit about my life?

Well, practicing more self-compassion could have REALLY helped me here.

I could have had self-compassion for my low-mood and snappy reactions to my poor husband. I WAS going through a super challenging time after all!

I now understand that self-compassion would have stopped the negative cycle of self-hatred that was pulling me down.

Does this sounds like anything you’ve experienced?

 

What is self-compassion?

Kristin Neff is a leading researcher in the field of self-compassion psychology. This is how she defines self-compassion:

“Self-compassion is a way of relating to the ever-changing experience of who we are with kindness and acceptance, especially when we fail or feel inadequate.

Self-compassion does not require feeling better than anyone else, it simply requires acknowledging the shared and imperfect human condition.” (Neff, 2023, p. 201)

I love her words, as she gives us permission to be imperfect and to care for ourselves unconditionally anyway!

 

Three magic ingredients…

Kristin Neff has conceptualised three important components of self-compassion:

  1. Self-kindness vs. self-judgement. Taking a benevolent and supportive attitude to our shortcomings, rather than condemning ourselves coldly. Acknowledging our shortcomings while caring for ourselves regardless.
  2. Appreciating a common humanity. Recognising that life challenges are part of being human, an experience we all share.
  3. Mindfulness vs. over-identification. Being willing to turn toward, feel and acknowledge our own pain. Yet, not to over-identify with it. Observe it as a temporary state that will pass, rather than something we “are”.

(All of these, especially 1. and 3. are remarkably similar to a mindful yoga practice!! …more on this later.)

 

Why be self-compassionate?

“What is the point of all this?” You may ask…

Well, there are over 4,000 scientific journal articles documenting the positive effects of self-compassion on wellbeing! (Neff, 2023)

I want to keep this blog brief, so I’ll just make a short (and very incomplete list) for you. Self-compassion has been linked (scientifically) with…

Reduced:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Suicidal ideation and self-harm
  • PTSD
  • Eating disorders
  • Body image concerns
  • Shame

And increased:

  • Happiness
  • Satisfaction with life
  • Hope
  • Gratitude
  • Curiosity
  • Vitality

These outcomes were found in a large range of studies using cross-sectional, longitudinal (surveys across time) and experimental methods. If you want to dive into this research yourself have a look at Kristin Neff’s excellent review here (Neff, 2023).

It’s an amazing list of mental health benefits from something that is essentially quite a simple mindset shift!

 

But isn’t it narcissistic?

Perhaps you’re thinking that being kinder to yourself and ‘loving yourself’ unconditionally might sound like a soft option or somewhat narcissistic. But that is a common misconception!

To change your mind, it helps to know the difference between self-compassion and having high self-esteem.

Self-esteem is a positive evaluation of your self-worth based on how you perform in daily life and how you compare with others. High self-esteem, while being good for mental health, HAS been linked with narcissism (Crocker and Park, 2004).

Whereas self-COMPASSION does not rely on judgments or evaluations of your performance. Instead, self-compassion is a way of caring for, and accepting, ourselves especially when we fail or feel inadequate.

Self-compassion does not require feeling better than anyone else, it simply requires acknowledging the shared and imperfect human condition.

 

What’s it got to do with yoga?

Apart from stretching, yoga actually works on changing how someone relates to their own body and mind.

Have you ever attended a yoga class that made a real psychological difference? (You felt happier, lighter or more hopeful afterwards?) The teacher was probably using mindfulness theming…

In the most satisfying yoga classes, a teacher invites the student work on their mindset / mind-body-connection throughout the breath and movements.

Some common themes I always find running through my classes are:

  • To observe everything going on in the body and mind, without judgement.
  • To be kind to, and grateful for the body.
  • To notice any uncomfortable sensations and thoughts, and realise that they are just that, sensations and thoughts. That they do not define your inner self.
  • Not to focus on ‘achieving’ a pose, but to accept where you are.

 

Yoga is self-compassion

After reading Kristin Neff’s three components of self-compassion, I realised that a mindful yoga practice has A LOT in common with them!

Especially with point (1) Self-kindness vs. self-Judgement, and point (3) Mindfulness vs. over-identification.

So, practicing yoga in a mindful way, while fostering a non-judgemental and accepting attitude towards the body and mind, is an act of self-compassion.

I make that yet another string to yoga’s bow!

Homework

I invite you to have a look at my latest on-demand yoga class called:

Flexibility Flow

In this class I use the theme of self-compassion as I guide you through poses to stretch the hamstrings, shoulders and hips.

It’s just 30 minutes!

 

(If you’re not yet a BendyFriend, have a look at my offerings.)

Learn more!

I hope you enjoyed this mini blog. 🤓

Please share your views in comments below!

Jolanthe x


References

Crocker J, Park LE. 2004. The costly pursuit of self-esteem. Psychol. Bull. 130:392–414

Neff, K.D., 2023. Self-compassion: Theory, method, research, and intervention. Annual review of psychology, 74, pp.193-218.

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


Finding Acceptance

Let’s Celebrate our Differences!

 

One thing I LOVED about my yoga teacher-training was that we were all so different, but there was absolutely NO Judgement.

We spoke about, investigated and celebrated these differences. This was the first time in my life that I felt completely, 100% accepted. Warts and all!

Even if you’re not in the game of becoming a yoga teacher, this is SO relevant to you too.

YOU are unique.

YOU are fascinating.

YOU are amazing!

I hope to convince you that you can notice and accept your uniqueness! To observe it with curiosity and without judgement.

AND you can honour your unique body and mind in ways that will bring the best out of you.

 

Observing without judgement

So, going back to my budding yoga-teacher friends.

Every day we would practice 1 1/2 hours of sweaty yoga together. We’d learn anatomy together, often identifying muscles and bones on each other. We’d eat meals together. We’d practice teaching yoga to each other. We’d sleep in shared rooms.

SO we learned A LOT about each other very quickly.

We quickly knew that some of us were naturally flexible, others were naturally strong. These two extremes are generally mutually-exclusive at the extreme end. So a very strong person tends to be less flexible, and vice versa.

Rather than feel ‘less-than’ others, we’d study and investigate how some poses were naturally easier for some of us, and then marvel at how the less bendy of us were so strong in arm-balance poses.

There was NO judgement. Just observation and interest.

We all knew that everyone had their own ‘super power’ and that these were wildly different from each other.

All of this introspection and comparison was in the name of learning about different bodies, because our future yoga students would all be different, and beautifully unique too!

Mind-body types

It wasn’t just out bodies that were different, but also our minds and personalities. We observed and marvelled at these differences too!

We were all learning Aryuveda, India’s traditional ‘life science’, and so applied what we learned on each other.

Aryuveda describes people to have different mind-body constitutions (Doshas): Vata, Pitta and Kapha (or a mix of 2 or all 3 of these).

 

In short:

  • Vata-types are light, airy, creative, but prone to overwhelm and anxiety
  • Pitta-types are fiery, strong and driven, but prone to frustration and bossiness
  • Kapha types are loving, grounded, and calm but prone to laziness and weight gain

(For a more in-depth description of this see my previous blog: Your Mind-Body type.)

 

Finding Acceptance

We all enjoyed identifying and discussing what Aryuvedic mind-body constitutions we had. We shared with each other the things we found helpful (balancing) and what was our kryptonite (what brought us out of balance).

This exercise brought us so much closer together. It helped us understand how to interact in the best way, and how to be accommodating of each others’ needs.

Everyone quickly realised I was very ‘Pitta’. So if I was a little bossy at times, they’d shrug it off because they knew that was my pitta-personality coming through.

Similarly, the Kapha types of the group loved chilling out on the sofas in the afternoons. So I wouldn’t be offended if they declined my offer of a long walk after class!

(I’d just find another Pitta to join me!)

We also understood that the Vata-types of our group (and yoga teachers are often Vata) reeeeally needed their rest in the weekends. As all that learning, movement and socialising quickly had an overwhelming effect on them.

All in all, we observed and respected our differences, without judgement.

This was the FIRST time in my life that I had such an experience, and it felt AMAZING.

After the 4 intense weeks together I had a whole new appreciation and acceptance of my own uniqueness and that of everyone else.

 

How can this help you?

Have you started thinking about how YOU are unique while reading this?

Undoubtedly, you will have a mind-body constitution that is 1, 2 or all 3 of Vata, Pitta and/or Kapha.

But I urge you to understand that one is not better than the others. They each bring amazing different ‘super-powers’ and well as some different tendencies to keep in check.

When you are aware of your underlying Dosha type (Vata, Pitta and/or Kapha), then you can recognise your strengths and also be more understanding and accepting of yourself when things don’t quite go to plan.

 

A personal example

Knowing that I am a mix of mostly Pitta (productive and fiery) and some Vata (light and airy), I value my creativity and willingness to work hard, yet I know that I am prone to stress, anxiety and snapping at loved-ones (getting a bit heated).

So, I try to avoid becoming frustrated by cooling myself down with a regular yoga practice and mindful breathing, and taking a pause before reacting to someone.

But when I do get heated, and trust me…. it happens, then I try to be forgiving to myself. (And of course, I apologise to whomever took the brunt of it!)

Yoga Homework!

I invite you to observe and study your own tendencies.

Don’t judge! Just observe, notice, be curious.

Try to identify your ‘super-powers’ and value them.

Then try to identify you ‘kryptonite’ and ways in which you could help yourself become a little more balanced.

(If you’re unsure what Dosha constitution you are, and what could bring you into balance, then read my previous blog that goes into more detail! Your Mind-Body Type).

Ps. Also do some yoga! 😜

I hope you enjoyed this mini blog. 🤓

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


Buddah Mind

Yes, thanks

What if every moment could bring you happiness?

 

Isn’t it frustrating when things don’t go the way you were hoping?

  • When you’re stuck inside because it’s raining… 😒
  • When you are ill and cannot attend that exercise class you love… 😔
  • When your child is ill and needs to come home from nursery/school? 🥵
  • When your flight is cancelled? 🤬

I could go on (and I’m sure you could think of a huge list too!)

 

Budda mindset

What if we could be happy, regardless of what life throws at us?

According to Buddhist monks the key to happiness lies in surrendering, with acceptance, to whatever the present moment has gifted you.

The Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh (11 October 1926 – 22 January 2022), was known as the ‘father of mindfulness’ and for teaching the lesson of saying ‘Yes, and thank you’, to all that the present moment brought.

Now, of course, it’s easier said than done! We are not monks!

However, we can work at coming just a TINY bit closer to the level of mindfulness and surrender that the Buddhist monks have mastered.

 

Practicing acceptance

I’m not writing this blog from the viewpoint of someone who has mastered this. I am JUST as quick to get annoyed as anyone else!!

This ‘acceptance of the present, regardless of what it brings’, is something I am working on. And I will have to keep working my whole life!

There are a few examples that I can draw on from my own circumstances where I could bring in this mindset:

 

I have a STINKING cold right now.

Because of it, I am taking it a little easier on exercise and giving myself some slack with how productive I am. I could think ‘Yes, thanks’ for having this cold, as it has offered me the reason to take some rest. (Well, as much rest as life with a young toddler can give….).

When I am better again, I will be able to say ‘Thanks’ to the cold for making me appreciate the feeling of functioning at 100% again!

 

Nursery illnesses (related to the point above!)

Some of you may know that our 16 month old toddler just started nursery! And, those who have experienced this transition will also know that this brings a new virus EVERY week! And the need to look after an ill child when you have lots of work to do.

To be honest, this has been a big source of frustration. 🥵

However, what I have been working on is being thankful for the snuggly moments it has given me with Ashley, who wants to cuddle and breastfeed all day long when he’s ill. Everyone tells me this time goes fast, and I believe them!

 

A difficult yoga pose!

Of course I need to mention a yoga-related example too! When I am practicing poses that are difficult for me (e.g. Wheel and Crow pose) I try to say ‘yes please and thank you’ to the physical discomfort it creates in my body.

 

What are your recent examples?

Can you think of ‘gifts’ the present has brought you recently, which could be viewed from a different perspective?

 

Gratitude for the small things 

It goes without saying that we should also say ‘Yes and thanks’ to all the more obviously joyful things that happen to us! However, this generally comes quite naturally.

Even so, it’s important to be consciously grateful for the small, beautiful things in life:

A beautiful sunset

A delicious meal

Time socialising with friends

An un-interrupted hour of yoga! 😆

 

Emotional wellbeing

Scientific researchers have been investigating whether gratitude is useful for physical and mental health over the last decades (Jans-Beken, 2020). 

In a large literature review, Jans-Beken et al. (2020) concluded that there is good evidence that both a personality disposition of being grateful (trait gratitude) and intentionally calling up gratitude in specific situations (state gratitude) are associated with better emotional wellbeing. They also found that having a grateful disposition was associated with lower chances of more serious physcho-pathologies (depression, anxiety and stress).

These findings ring true for me on an intuitive level. What about you?

 

Honouring your feelings

I couldn’t finish this blog without mentioning that when difficult things happen in life, and when you feel emotions such as sadness and anger, these are all valid! You are allowed to feel these feelings, and some stuff that happens to us is truly sh**!

I don’t want to accidentally bring across a message that whatever you are feeling, you should be happy!

The act of plastering on a smile and denying our difficult feelings is called ‘Toxic Positivity’, and doesn’t help anyone process what they’re going through.

The life skill is to allow yourself these feelings, acknowledge that they are present, and then, once you’re ready, try to say ‘yes please’ to all the unexpected things that have come along with this difficult situation. 🙏

 

So, let’s practice this!

This week, I invite you to consciously say (maybe out loud or internally) ‘Yes please, and thanks’, to a difficult situation that arises.

It doesn’t have to be a major incident! (I hope not for you!)

It could be the smallest thing that doesn’t go your way, but that gets under your skin.

 

Practice this during yoga?

Another way you could practice this is to get on your yoga mat at home! Find a virtual class to follow, or practice by yourself.

Whenever you encounter physical or psychological discomfort, think ‘Yes please, and thanks’.

Poses in which this could arise are plank/side plank/chataranga, hip openers, shoulder strengthening balance poses, or deep back-bends!

Let’s open the diary, and plan in your next practice… 🙏

 

Reference

Jans-Beken, L., Jacobs, N., Janssens, M., Peeters, S., Reijnders, J., Lechner, L., & Lataster, J. (2020). Gratitude and health: An updated review. The Journal of Positive Psychology15(6), 743-782.

Thank you for reading my blog!

If you feel moved to try some yoga yourself (even if you are a complete beginner), then you can have a go at trying some on-demand classes completely for FREE!

Love,

Jolanthe Xx

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


You are an onion!

You are an onion!

Huh?! I hear you say. 🤔

Well, this is a metaphor for an idea in yoga philosophy which I find really inspirational.

Let me explain…

 

The Koshas

In yoga philosophy, living beings are seen to be made up of layers – like an onion! There are 5 layers, starting from the most superficial:

– The physical body (annamaya kosha)

– The breath/energetic body (pranamaya kosha)

– The mind/thinking body (manomaya kosha)

– The emotional/wisdom body (vijnanamaya kosha)

– The bliss body/true self (anandamaya kosha or purusha)

 

We are a lampshade!

Another lovely metaphor used in the book ‘Teaching Yoga Beyond the Poses’ is that when all our layers are in harmony, we shine, like a lamp, with intricately cut-out shades all in alignment.

Conversely, if out of alignment, our inner light is a little dimmed by one of these lampshades that might be stuck in a funny position.

 

Purusha – true self

The inner most layer is our Purusha, the core of the onion, the light inside the lampshade.

A concept that has helped me in times when I’ve felt very blue is that our Purusha (true self) is separate from the layers surrounding it. So in fact…

We are not our bodies.

We are not our energy levels.

We are not our thoughts.

We are not our emotions.

 

How this helps us

This is helpful to contemplate when you’re having a difficult time with one of these layers. For instance, if you’re going through depression or having unwanted thoughts, it can help to contemplate for a quiet moment how your inner light/your true self, is not defined by these emotions or thoughts.

Similarly, if your physical body is going through a difficult time, perhaps Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or another illness, then meditating on the idea that this physical layer does not define your inner light/your true self can also be helpful.

Personally, I love this concept!

I often work on visualising a bright inner light in my chest while I’m lying in Shavasana (this is the final relaxation pose at the end of a yoga practice, in case you’re new here).

 

We are all connected

There is another aspect about the inner light/purusha/true self which I find really comforting when I am feeling disconnected and lonely.

It is said that our inner light (you could call it spirit) is part of the Devine/the universal energy/give it whatever name you want!

The most beautiful aspect for me is that the inner light in all of us is connected, between us all, and with all living beings.

 

The danger of loneliness

Before I taught yoga and fitness full-time, I worked as an academic researcher and my topic for a long time was loneliness.

What I learned from my own research and reading countless scientific studies on the topic, is that the feeling of isolation (loneliness) is a serious health hazard. One large study, which pooled data from many other studies, concluded that loneliness was as hazardous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2010).

Eeeek! 😬

 

An uplifting visualisation 

This is another reason why I love the philosophy of Koshas and the Purusha so much.

Even when you are physically alone, you could gain a sense of connection though the following meditation/visualisation (I like to do this one in Shavasana too):

Visualise your purusha/inner self/true self as a bright light, and then visualise strands of light connecting your inner light with the inner light of the others in hour house… yoga class… street… town… country… then world!

It is really up lifting. 😊

 

So, let’s visualise this!

I invite you to pick an on-demand video class, and to PAUSE it during the Shavasana! (Probably best to pick a non-music version).

Then lie in stillness, visualising your bright inner light, and perhaps also visualising how you are connected through your purusha with everyone else in your house, street, town, country… world!

This will truly make you feel warm and fuzzy. 🥴❤️

Let’s open the diary, and plan in your next practice… 🙏

Thank you for reading my blog!

If you feel moved to try some yoga yourself (even if you are a complete beginner), then you can have a go at trying some on-demand classes completely for FREE!

Love,

Jolanthe Xx

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


Unexpected Joy

Finding unexpected joy

Does life seem a little grey right now? This might help…

I’ve been delving into books on yoga philosophy and teaching these days (often Audio books while I am feeding my little boy or driving! 😆).

And I’d love to share this excerpt from the book:

Teaching Yoga Beyond the Poses

(Authors: Sage Rountree and Alexandra Desiato, p.136)

        “There is extra delight in unexpected joys. Once you keep your eyes open for them, you’ll find them everywhere.

Joy can find you in an image, a phrase, a touch. Perhaps you have en eye for four-leafed clovers or heart-shaped rocks. Maybe you delight in a turn of phrase or an unusual but heartfelt complement. Or you could take pleasure in a high-five, fist bump or shoulder pat.

As you appreciate the unexpected joys in daily life, you can also find new, wonderful elements of your yoga practice that bring joy: a tiny shift in alignment that feels huge; a particularly sweet exhalation.”

So, ready to find joy?

You can find unexpected joy in any of the on-demand classes.

For instance, the joy of feeling your hamstrings stretch, or the joy of feeling that burn in your thighs, or the joy of a loooooong shavasana!

Let’s open the diary, and plan in your next practice… 😁

Thank you for reading my mini blog!

If you feel moved to try some yoga yourself (even if you are a complete beginner), then you can have a go at trying some on-demand classes completely for FREE!

Love,

Jolanthe Xx

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 your own Hero

Be the hero of your life

Hey BendyFriends,

This is a mini-blog with some personal reflections.

Feeling powerless in mum-life

Over the last 15 months (since becoming a mum), I have often felt like a victim of circumstance.

I had NO time to myself, I was SO exhausted, I was not able to work, exercise, shower….

When these kinds of thoughts surfaced, I became depressed, wallowed at home, and was not very pleasant to be around… 😔

It’s only recently that I read about the ‘victimhood’ mindset, and that it’s actually a CHOICE to be the hero of your life, rather than the victim. This has massively shifted things for me!

Don’t wait for someone to save you.
Save yourself.

And this is relevant to us all.

How often do you want to blame your work, your partner/family, your body, the weather, your pay-check (etc.) for getting in the way of what will make you happy?

To be sure, victimhood can be absolutely real! But what most of us feel from day to day, its a self-imposed victimhood. And by doing do, we strip away our own power to make ourselves happy.

Be your own hero

If we start to believe that WE are the hero/heroine of our life, then we feel empowered to do the little things that ARE possible, despite our busy circumstances.

Communicate your needs

It might even be that ‘being your own hero’ means setting some boundaries and asking your partner/family for some extra help! (Not just waiting for help to magically appear without communicating your needs).

It’s up to YOU

Make a choice. What do you need to do? Who do you need to ask for some understanding/support to achieve this?

Don’t wait for magic to happen… you are in charge!

So why not open your diary right now, and plan in your next practice… 😁

Thank you for reading my reflections.

If you feel moved to try some yoga yourself (even if you are a complete beginner), then you can have a go at trying some on-demand classes completely for FREE!

Love,

Jolanthe Xx

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