Friday, 20 August 2010

A Sanctuary Beneath Our Skin

Thrown back into London life after 16 blissful days enjoying the tranquility and sunshine of Provence is quite a jolt to the system. I taught my first class yesterday and it was lovely to see so many of my students again. They reminded me what a valuable tool yoga is to survive 21st urban living.

While the relaxing and revitalising effects of yoga are widely recognised what draws us to it from our busy over scheduled lives is something a little more elusive. Yoga presents a blissful marriage of mindful movement combined with a sense of inner stillness. It is yoga's geometric shapes connected through the breath that serve to create peace and harmony out of the chaos of thoughts and city life. It is when we fully commit to bringing ourselves into the present moment either by anchoring our attention in our breath or the physical sensations of our bodies, that our yoga practice becomes a moving meditation.

It is this that facilitates a very real physical opening and a tremendous release of tension. It is a powerful and effective method of reclaiming our physical bodies and an opportunity to discover how enjoyable it can be to get inside ourselves.

My yoga practice gives me the chance to feel thankful and sometimes surprised at what my body can actually do. If I stay rooted in the present moment I can really begin to experience time away from the endless demands of everyday life and my desire for achievement. Time on the yoga mat creates a place where I can be at one with precisely where I am, a place where I don't feel that I need to be doing more or be anywhere else.

Through yoga we can all discover that sense of holiday stillness and calm by seeking out the sanctuary beneath our own skin.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Time To Embrace Change

Over the years I have had the opportunity to take classes with some wonderful teachers - all have guided me to try things I'd never tried before. 

Being away on holiday at the moment in the warm sunshine of South of France has been an excellent opportunity to rise early before the rest of the family gets up and try new poses or new transitions between poses. My husband Dom is a keen yoga convert and since he started during the summer holidays of 2009, it is incredible just one year on to see how far he has travelled on his physical and emotional adventure.

Yoga helps to open our minds and hearts to new possibilities. It reminds us that change is possible, and that growth is possible. New experiences are a direct demonstration that we are not static, but that we are ever evolving within our bodies. So profound has this realisation been in my husband, that he has even at long last found the courage to walk away from a job that he has despaired of for years and now is extending this spirit of adventure found on the yoga mat into the rest of his life. With no idea of what's to come or how we're going to manage financially supporting a family of seven without the security of his monthly salary, he is just going to slow his life and down see what happens.

It's hard sometimes to embrace experiences that are unfamiliar and challenging, they make us a bit uncomfortable and we might be afraid of failure. However, if we just embrace new challenges in the playful spirit of possibility and just go for it we can quite often really surprise ourselves!

Monday, 9 August 2010


I have just read this newly published book by our friend Mike Dickson that I would like to recommend.
While feeling mildly virtuous and on message by the fact that I read it sitting by the sun heated swimming pool in our house-swapped villa in Provence, wearing my long owned but too seldom worn bikini and a charity shop hat (see unflattering pic sneakily obtained by stalker husband armed with Blackberry!);  like most people I could do a whole lot better when it comes to generosity to others and, come to that, the planet. This very easy to read, non preachy book, reminds us that the world is in a social, economic and environmental mess which let's be frank is largely of our own doing. Please Take One takes a look at where we've gone wrong and sets out perfectly simple and practical advice as to how we can live more generous lives day by day. Importantly it shows us that this subtle shift in how we operate is not remotely difficult to build into busy lives or prohibited by our individual financial circumstances
It brings to mind one of my favourite quotes from Lily Tomlin: ' I always thought someone should do something about that and then I realised I am someone' or to use one Mike included in the book by the Dalai Lama: 'If you think you are too small to make an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito!'

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

One day in Provence

We woke up this morning to the sounds of cicadas and the unmistakable dance of sunshine filtering through the shutters. After a raft of family holidays spent not ungratefully in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, held to ransom by whatever the Atlantic decides to throw at us, there is is a tangible feeling of euphoria. Just to know that the day ahead is going to be sunny and any plans we make will not be rained off by gales or sea fog. In fact the pleasure is in realisation that for once we dont even need to make plans and endless contingency plans to keep the family from mutiny.

Morning yoga on the terrace, a quiet swim before the family awakes and a breakfast that rolled into lunch is to me doing exactly what a family holiday should say on the tin.

Today we can live in the moment, lazy minutes and idle hours in the sunshine if we want them, spontaneous bursts of activity if we dont. We are in Provence on a home exchange. Unfathomably, an otherwise sane French family approached us with the view to spending three weeks in West London, (Shepherds Bush to be precise) and six cheap flights (courtesy of that marvellous website later, we Brits find ourselves here in Ventabren in their lovely villa surrounded by all the vistas and flora of this much celebrated region.

The art historians among our older teens have headed off to Aix for a late afternoon stroll in the birthplace of Cezanne. Although I suspect shopping and a bar may be higher on their agenda, while us parents and younger offspring plan an evening excursion to yet another impossibly picturesque hill town, to quote Henry James:

Summer afternoon - summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language"

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