Tuesday, 15 May 2018

WHAT'S MORE IMPORTANT THAN HAPPINESS?

How many people do you know that spend all the hours God sends striving to earn money, to build status, to feel a sense of accomplishment in their lives, bring up families, live in the perfect home? How many times have you yourself felt far too busy to exercise, practice self-care whether it be yoga, taking a walk, going for a swim. How many of you really spend enough time on your own personal health & mental wellbeing?  


I was guilty of exactly this. I was too busy, too stressed, too strapped for time. Working in a a demanding competitive environment in Central London,  then bringing up five kids, it was hardly a big surprise to find myself suffering constant pain from a chronically bad back & increasingly finding myself living under the dark cloud of depression.  I gradually began to read the writing that had been written on the wall for years. Despite earlier forays into various exercise regimes, pilates & yoga, I had never really appreciated that I needed these things not simply for physical reasons but for emotional ones. Not just for my sake but also for the other people in my life upon which my actions & mood were having an effect.



Slowly it began to dawn of me what my priorities were. I started to identify what was important to me & what wasn't. My own health, peace of mind & happiness, finding more time to simply be there for others, had not been high on this list for a very long time. Yes of course I had been bringing up my children, it was exhausting. But I realised that I couldn't ever truly be there for them & for others when I couldn't even be fully there for myself.

I realised & not before time that it was tremendously important for me to re-evaluate my priorities. I began to find the time to cultivate my mind & body, to practice self-care, in other words to simply turn up for myself & my mental & physical wellbeing. For so long I had been ignoring myself.

Yoga helps us to work on our minds, bodies & our souls. It helps us to realise our true nature, our true self & yoga helps us to eventually come to appreciate that we are all part of something that is so much greater then ourselves.  Something far more important than our own busy little worlds. Whether we believe in a higher power or not, yoga helps us to learn that we all have the potential for holding a divine light within us. Our own unique light is our personal gift to the world & Lord knows, this broken world could really do with some more love & light being shared around!

As a youngster at school we would sing a song that was always a favourite, maybe you know it - 'This Little Light of Mine'?  We would sing it in morning assembly at the top of our voices. 

"This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine, 
This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine,
This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine, let it shine all the time!" 

Now as a grown adult I have at long last come to learn how important it is for myself & for others to really truly try & let my little light shine! Come join me for meditation, yoga & mindfulness classes, on a yoga retreat at home or abroad or on a walking & yoga weekend in beautiful nature. I'd love to help you get your little light to shine brightly!


Wishing everyone Peace, Love & Light

Namaste 
Elisa


STOP STRIVING START LIVING

Why is it that so many of us are so obsessed with idea of achievement in our lives? From a young age we are encouraged to set ourselves goals & ambitions. Indeed when someone seems to lack personal ambition it is often viewed by society, family, friends as a massive failing on their part.

Then when I started to practice yoga, one of the first things the teacher said was that it was not about achieving goals & that yoga is completely non-competitive.Well that's all very well for him to say, I thought to myself as he executed a gravity defying arm balance, an impossible looking backbend before wrapping his feet behind his ears & reciting an incomprehensible mantra in a foreign tongue. 



Surely we wouldn't be human if we weren't constantly competing with ourselves? Always striving for self improvement. I can recall the buzz I felt when I performed my first unaided handstand away from the wall.  We just love to see ourselves make progress & many yogis, myself included at the time, measure our progress as we accomplish more challenging & spectacular looking asana. Indeed the practice of Ashtanga yoga, which I discovered later on my yoga journey, seemed to be pretty much all about moving on to the next series of impossible looking body contortions as far as I could see. The students not permitted by their teachers to move on to the next phase until they achieve perfection in the primary series.

It was this feeling of never being good enough, never achieving that perfection, that almost led me to abandon my teacher's training course before I'd even begun. It seemed that so many of the other students in my intake of trainee teachers seemed to effortlessly slip into all sorts of contorted knots & dare devil arm balances. 

However as I began to study yoga in more depth & with maturity, I began to understand that impressive though such poses are to look at, achieving them was not what the practice of yoga asana was all about. Some bodies will never perform such poses & nor should they ever be expected or forced to.

I came to understand that the practice of yoga asana is simply about moving with our breath, in a quiet quest to become more united & deeply connected to ourselves, each other & the world. The most advanced yogis are not necessarily the gymnasts, athletes, acrobats or the whippet thin asana junkies posing for their Instagram feeds. The most advanced yogis are those who sit quietly in meditation & who can delve deeply into yin. 

The most advanced yogis know that the practice of yoga is all about self-love & self-care. Taking time out of the day not to pursue far off goals & achievements, but to revel in the glory that is already waiting to be discovered deep within each & every one of us. This prize is not just for the bendy, the skinny, the strong & the young but it is there to be enjoyed by the creaky, the old, the tubby & the weak!

So celebrate what your body can do. Liberate yourself from the idea that we always have to be getting somewhere in our lives & spend time enjoying doing less rather than striving to achieve more. Nowadays my practice is still about keeping my body healthy, strong & supple, ironing out the kinks & creases. However it is much more than focusing on what I can attain with my physical body, for me, my yoga practice is the opportunity to tune in to myself. To turn up for myself & acknowledge how I'm feeling. It's the chance to connect to my breath, to recharge my energy levels & reboot my emotional batteries. I know that after my yoga practice, no matter how much time I've been able to spare, I will always feel better, emotionally, physically, mentally & spiritually. 

Elisa Williams runs yoga classes in Notting Hill, teaches privately in West London & with her sailor husband Dominic, runs yoga retreats & activity breaks overseas & in the UK.

Visit www.elisawilliamsyoga.com