If you haven’t yet heard of ASMR chances are you’ve at least come across it whilst scrolling through cyberspace. Technically it stands for ‘Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response’ but loosely speaking it’s those oddly satisfying videos of people unwrapping boxes, cutting up soap, or, moving into pure ASMR territory Read More…
Clearly you don’t need me reminding you there are only 28 something days left to Christmas, possibly fewer if you’ve been slow to click onto Gill’s December opus.
As we emerge hazy eyed (and far poorer) from the ashes of Black Friday, it’s easy to lose perspective in the demented, alcohol addled run up to Christmas. That ginormous schmaltzfest where standards of perfection (of the Richard Curtis, gently falling snow – the sort that never clogs up the M25 – variety) are nigh on impossible to ever live up to. The end of year is also a time of mass reflection. The sudden self-flagellation that we haven’t achieved quite as much as we’d set out to.
And yet, sometimes it feels even managing the everyday hamster wheel is ball-ache enough. Throw in a young family, ten loads of extra laundry, the endless sorting out of sports kit and midnight sessions foraging through the recycling bins for suitable cereal boxes from which to make a rocket out of, and it’s a wonder that any of us are actually still standing.
Now might not be the time to ponder whether you really can have it all (personally I think you can although how you define ‘”all” obviously has a lot to do it with). I shall focus instead on my children’s school’s current mantra of good being, well good enough. It’s a two fingers salute to the pursuit of perfectionism (as well as presumably managing the expectations of a legion of pushy middle class parents). Earlier this year, an assembly hall of parents were shown the attached YouTube video. There was plenty of tacit nodding, a few (silent) tears, as well as me getting the giggles. Especially when it came to the sex bit. Watch it and find out for yourself.
Good enough being good enough was an approach pioneered by a British psychoanalyst called Donald Winnicott in the 1950s. Winnicott specialised in relationships between parents and children and in his clinical practice, he often met with parents who felt like failures: perhaps because their children hadn’t go into the best schools, or because they argued at the dinner table or their house wasn’t always completely tidy (plus ca change). No child he insisted needed an ideal parent. They needed an okay, pretty decent, usually well-intentioned, perhaps a little grumpy but basically reasonable father or mother.
Winnicott wasn’t saying this because he liked to settle for second best but because he had learnt first-hand the toll exacted by perfectionism and realised that in order to remain more or less sane (which is a pretty big ask anyway), we have to learn not to hate ourselves for failing to be what no ordinary human being ever really is anyway.
It takes a good deal of bravery and skill to keep even a very ordinary life going. To navigate the challenges of relationships, marriages, work and children is quietly heroic. The point is, most of us can’t get off the hamster wheel for a myriad of reasons which involves mortgages and putting food on the table but turning into the world’s busiest person or a moaning martyr isn’t the answer either. My hamster wheels life hacks to help me get to the end of the day smiling include the following in no particular order.
Reminding myself that tidying is for losers
It’s all very well having floors and surfaces that you could eat off (nope, definitely not in this house) but there’s no point in being the tidiest person in Britain if you are also the dullest, so overwhelmed are you by your endless to-clean list . Stop talking about how much drudge you have to do each day (have you noticed everyone’s eyes glazing over??) and start channelling that energy into convincing your partner to split things more equally if you don’t do so already or finding something interesting to talk about which leads me neatly onto my next point.
Your civic duty to be interested and interesting
Counter intuitive this may feel but bear with me. Even as someone with little ‘give’ in the work/mum juggling act, I try very hard to find time to do things that make me curious. That ray of escapism is never more important than when life is a never ending treadmill. Doing or seeing something that makes your soul soar, will refresh and energise you in ways you can’t imagine. You will return to the task in hand with Herculean amounts of vava-voomness. As someone wise once said, keeping the spark in your relationship is important but not nearly as important as keeping the spark in yourself.
The great outdoors, or even just stepping out your front door
Go outside, stop, really look and listen. Notice the colours, the sky, the stillness, the damp, the mist, the changing of seasons. Think about what it really means to be alive. I promise I am not going God-y on you but life really is there for the living and how we choose to live it is ENTIRELY up to us. Days when I make the effort to do all of this just go so much better.
A zero inbox is such a fake metric. Accept that your to-do list is never really going to go away. Actually, now might be the time to be thankful that you have a to-do list.
My daily bath
Run a bath, the world looks so much better from the inside of my bath, preferably with Gill’s Atlantic Seaweed in it (fabulous for anyone who suffers from bouts of insomnia, dry skin or who just wants a bit of cocooning). There is always time to have a bath. Always.
With summer drawing to a close and autumn just beginning, Shabir joined Trinny Woodall in the bathroom to discuss the causes, symptoms and treatments available for some of the most common post-summer health and beauty concerns. Read More…
It’s miraculous how the brain adjusts to noise. When I lived literally spitting distance from the roaring Westway/M40 and the every-two-minutes rumble of the Metropolitan Line, in London, I barely noticed those sounds, after a week or two of ‘adjustment’. Read More…
In the age of the Insta yogi the ancient Indian art of practicing of postures to enhance our health and wellbeing seems to be ever more accessible. Yet there remains a mystical air about it and the Sanskrit names of the different styles can be baffling – the yoga schedule at one of London’s popular studios has a roster of around 300 teachers and roughly 30 styles of yoga to scroll through. On offer are tongue twisting classics such as Kundalini, Iyengar, and Astanga, as well as Westernised modern hybrids Forrest, Acro, Jivamukti, which, even as as a teacher with 500 hours of training under my belt, feels overwhelming when it comes to choosing which class to go to for myself.
So how do we find our own yoga style? Technically speaking, whenever we strike a downward facing dog, warrior or tree pose, we’re practicing Hatha yoga, which is just one aspect of a vast body of knowledge which encompasses all sorts of life enhancing practices, wisdom and teachings with the overarching aim of helping us become happier, healthier, calmer versions of ourselves – and maybe even a glimpse of bliss (known as Ananda).
Yoga’s evolvement into the modern styles we know today began in the 1930s when physical culture became popular in the West and began to merge with Indian yogic techniques. One legendary yogi of that era named T Krishnamacharya is widely credited as being the catalyst for making these practices accessible to us. His star pupils included Indra Devi, cited as the first Western female yogi who went on to teach the post war Hollywood elite including Greta Garbo and Gloria Swanson. Also, BKS Iyengar whose eponymous, rehabilitative form gave us the now ubiquitous foam block and strap; as well as Sri K Pattabhi Jois – his athletic Astanga practice inspires the vinyasa flow classes so many of us love today.
That we now have such a choice of styles is a positive thing, and beyond the bendy hipster yogis on Instagram, there is a class for everyone – regardless of age, gender, faith, body type, flexibility and fitness level. Follow our guide below and most of all trust your instinct and try out the styles which inspire you the most.
Flow with it
Vinyasa styles are great if you want to get moving. It’s all about linking postures with the breath an idea which stems from Pattabhi Jois’s gymnastic, twisty Ashtanga. It can be physically challenging, like rock star-esque yogi couple Sharon Gannon and David Life’s Jivamukti fusion, so look for beginner level if you’re just starting out.
Yin yoga is a restorative practice to deeply relax – a much needed counterbalance to our 24/7 switched on lives and full-speed activities including running, cycling and vigorous yoga styles. Classes involve very few postures held for several minutes and focus on letting go into connective tissue and stretch deeply.
To improve posture, it’s hard to beat Iyengar’s millimetre precise alignment method. It makes even complicated yoga postures available to all through the use of props such as foam blocks, straps and wall ropes to hang off. Iyengar teacher training is most vigorous of all styles – good if you’re working with an injury or a particular postural imbalance. Also look out for Scarivelli – a softer take created by one of Iyengar’s first female students, Vanda Scarivelli.
Sometimes yoga practice needs an injection of something new or daring to push the limits, and there are plenty of experimental styles to try. For example AcroYoga (where yoga meets acrobatics) is the one to challenge your fear trust issues as moves are performed with a partner. Challenge your fear by hanging upside down in AntiGravity where postures are performed in a parachute silk hammock.
Self transformation is at the heart of all yoga, and Kundalini is one of the more ‘out there’ styles to take you out of yourself. A spirited system of meditation, chanting, and breath exercises developed by Yogi Bhajan, it became popular when its founder Yogi Bajan brought it to the US West Coast in the late 60s. No need to be put off by the white turbans! It’s a great way to uplift and energise.
Mindfulness is a term that has been thrown around for the past few years. While some are well-equipped to meditate for ten minutes a day in a bid to be more present, others struggle to employ rigorous self control after a long day at the office and a yoga class feels more like 60 minutes of torture rather than much needed relaxation. For the latter there is a new approach making waves in the UK and it’s called Sophrology.
While Sophrology might be relatively new to the UK, it has been around for years and is popular across the continent. For some, the mix of visualisation, positive thinking and breathing techniques might still feel a bit too similar to mindfulness practices, but if you’re au fait with a yoga class but haven’t quite mastered the art of meditating this could be worth looking into.
What is Sophrology?
The word Sophrology means the science of consciousness in harmony. Essentially it’s still about connecting with yourself, but it takes a more practical approach with gentle stretches and movement (both sitting and standing), as well as breathing and visualisation techniques. If you nail the philosophy you should find managing your stress levels easier, see an improvement in your sleep patterns and generally feel more confident and self-assured.
How does it differ from traditional mindfulness?
While both methods encourage you to be more in-tune with yourself, Sophrology goes one step further to ensure that your body keeps up with your mind and is just as well maintained. It’s for this reason that people employ the Sophrology method before an important meeting or competition. In Switzerland, senior students are offered sessions in the lead up to their exams to keep anxiety, stress and nerves at bay.
What should you expect from a Sophrology session?
‘Sophrology can be practised in groups or in an individual session with a Sophrologist. After a brief discussion with the clients about what they want to achieve during the session, the Sophrologist will use his or her voice to guide them through a sequence of simple exercises including relaxation, breathing, visualisation and gentle movement,’ explains Dominique Antiglio, author and founder of BeSophro.
Where to start…
First and foremost, you have to work out which issue you want to tackle, be it overcoming nerves for an up-coming work event or generally just lowering your stress levels. There are Sophrology sessions available, but if you’d rather start at-home BeSophro offers online classes and if you can wait until September, Antiglio will be releasing her book to guide you through her 12-step method.