Embracing Change

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‘A change is as good as a rest,’ we’re often told. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say that; nothing quite rivals a good lie-down (preferably for two weeks, right around now, with a stack of books to read). But over the years I’ve learned to embrace change in a way that I never would have expected when I was growing up. I loathed change. I wanted everything to be the same, always and forever. As disasters unfolded (my mother’s death, my father selling our beloved childhood home, other relationships unravelling), I realised: change was pretty unavoidable. But I can’t say I came to like it much, even then.

You might have heard me share my love of yoga on VH in the past – but I do think that it was when I seriously started to practice that I truly learned to go with the flow. One of my favourite yoga teachers (hilarytotah.co.uk) has a wonderful saying, which I truly subscribe to: ‘Flexible spine, flexible mind.’ And I do honestly think that yoga enables me to deal with everything the universe throws at me, and adjust to the ever-changing landscape of my life.

Recently, I’ve had a couple of changes to deal with – one small, one more impactful. Someone who worked for one of my businesses landed her dream job – and was leaving pretty quickly, to take up her new role. I wouldn’t dream of trying to change someone’s mind when they make an announcement like that; by contrast, when someone’s decided to move on, they’re mentally half-way into the new job and I’ve learned to let them go as soon as possible. Nevertheless, it was going to leave a hole which everyone else was going to have to work that big harder to fill, short-term ­– including me.

We’d been all bobbing along quite happily, taking the status quo for granted – and suddenly, it was change-a-go-go. But after 24 hours wondering how to fill her job, I had a flash of realisation. We didn’t have to find someone to sit in an office in London – which in turn meant I had to trek up from the seaside for a few days a week, mostly to make that person feel motivated and ‘loved’. Before launching this venture, I’d always run my businesses close to home – and suddenly, the possibility opened up to do so again. (Infinitely my preferred option to spending a lot of time in bustling, polluted, overcrowded central London.) By staying calm – largely thanks to yoga and meditation, I’m 100% convinced – rather than run round like a headless chicken, in panic mode, I was able to see that this change really was a golden opportunity to do things better. And so often, I’ve discovered, that’s the way it turns out – if you embrace the change, rather than fight it tooth and nail every step of the way. When you become stressed and angst-y, it creates a type of mental paralysis – and you can’t see beyond the here and now.

The other change was pretty trivial, by comparison. It involved a tree. Or half a tree, laden with plums, that broke off when it got weighted down in a torrential rainstorm a couple of weeks ago. Trouble was, I’d built my much-loved shed under the shade of that tree – the only flat, shady place in my garden. Suddenly, there’s no shade. If I want to lie and read a book (are you sensing a theme, here?), then I now have to do it in sunshine. There’s something about losing a tree – or even half a tree – which, while it’s nowhere up there with losing a human being, is still incredibly upsetting. It makes a garden look like its two front teeth have been knocked out. (Old enough to remember the hurricane of 1989? There were countless homeowners and park-lovers who suffered from a kind of PTSD after all those trees blew down.)

I could’ve cried. I could’ve got hysterical. I could’ve raged. (Against the eternally unpredictable elements.) But instead, I decided once again to embrace the change. Look on it as the universe’s way of telling me to get a bit more vitamin D. To appreciate the way it opened up a view I hadn’t had before. To give that bit of the garden a little makeover (while also being grateful that the half-a-tree had missed my shed by millimetres).

What I’ve definitely learned about change, though, is that in order to be able to deal with it, I have to have in place a fundamental routine – my ‘wellbeing’ building blocks, if you like. Taking my supplements, every day (as advised by Shabir, of course!) Walking daily. Doing somewhere between 10-15 minutes of meditation every morning, while my Rare Tea Speedy Breakfast brews, in preparation for powering me through my morning. Yoga, at least every Friday (and more, if I can manage it). I also need to spend an hour a week in the aforementioned (and now sunlit) shed, writing letters and cards to friends (and feeling grateful, as I do so).

These are things that fuel my body, my soul and my mind – and knowing I will be doing them day after day, year after year, not only helps to ensure that I’m as healthy as possible, but sets me up for dealing with the other, way more unpredictable things in my life. Only twice in my life have I experienced a can’t-get-off-the-sofa depression (both after broken hearts) – but I’m convinced it was by establishing a routine every day that I could depend on that got me through it, when life felt deeply rocky and uncertain.

We never know what life will throw at us – and we’re often told that what matters isn’t what happens to us, but how we deal with it. I couldn’t agree more. But it was Stephen Hawking, no less, who once simply said: ‘Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.’

I’ll take that, Professor…

Owning Our Own Bodies

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As children, we’re very connected to our physical bodies – all being well, we move freely, our bodily functions happen naturally. Once our minds start kicking in there’s a sense of disconnection: our thoughts start to take control, we start to care about what others think. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are shaped by everything around us – our home environment, the food we eat, the emotions we experience and the wider influence of the culture and the society we grow up in. When we’re young, most of us are encouraged to be active, but often once we leave school, this falls by the wayside.

I’m a typical example of this. I enjoyed country dancing, going swimming, playing netball, tennis and rounders at school, but this faded away in my teens as I got interested in parties, going to the cinema, boys. By the time I went to college and got my dream job on a magazine, I found myself sitting at my desk writing for long periods. There was a certain amount of running around for interviews, going on photo shoots and appointments, but there didn’t seem to be any time for exercise beyond that. In any case life was so full and fun, I didn’t think about doing any formal classes or activities. In fact, I’d begun to consider myself as no good at sports, and now I can see that I lost confidence in my body and that this had quite an effect not only on how I saw myself, but also how I treated myself. Read More…

No Pain, No Gain

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Recently, three days into a week long yoga retreat I woke up in the morning with my lower back practically seizing up. It was a bit a of shock because I’ve been going to classes regularly for years, and although I’m not the world’s bendiest yogi, I am used a reasonable level of flexibility. Although I managed to get through the morning session moving somewhat gingerly, as the day went on my back continued to tighten and I noticed my mind going into overdrive. What have I done wrong? Did I push too far the day before? Why have I wasted so much time and money on yoga? It all added to the tension to the point where I could barely walk. Luckily, the afternoon session was a meditation – and although I had to lie down because it was too painful for me to sit in the classic cross legged position, I felt it ease off a little as I relaxed. Later that evening, the teacher explained that many students suffer some sort of pain – usually around day three of the retreat and that it was a psychosomatic reaction. It was not something I wanted to hear. I just wanted to relax and take it easy. Read More…

Getting Your Yoga Mojo Back

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Summertime, and the living was l-a-z-y… Does that sound familiar? Somehow, when it’s sunny outside, the allure of our indoor exercise regime dips, doesn’t it? Rather get a bit of extra vitamin D than hit the mat or the gym. I know I’m guilty of it myself, swapping my usual twice-a-week sessions at yoga class for extra-long walks or swims in the sea.

Well, if you’ve ever been on a diet, you’ll know what it’s like occasionally to lapse. There’s generally a lot of self-reproach that goes on, sometimes a feeling you’ve ‘blown it’, so what-the-hell: why not head straight for the biscuit barrel…? It can be the same with exercise – especially if summer’s left you feeling healthy, and you’re not necessarily panting for it like a dog with a lead in its mouth. Read More…

Understanding Ayurveda

Understanding-Ayurveda

It was when Aveda, the trailblazer of holistic beauty products hit the UK in the mid 90s that I first became aware of Ayurveda. Aveda’s founder, Horst Rechelbacher had been to India in the 1960s and discovered yogic practices to heal himself of his rock and roll hairdressing days and these practices became part of his life. He ended up studying at an Ayurvedic hospital in Himalayas and fed this knowledge into his range of luxury naturals for hair and body, shortening the word to coin the now global brand name.

I remember being intrigued by the word Ayurveda. It comes from the ancient language of Sanskrit (a sort of Indian equivalent of Latin) and has two roots – ‘ayus’ which means daily living and ‘vid’ meaning knowledge. From this, Ayurveda translates as knowledge of daily living, although it’s often referred to as the science of life. Now wellness, green juices and all things yogic are uber fashionable, we’re surrounded by products which use herbs and methods from the Indian holistic medical system. Tulsi herbal tea; Gotu Kola supplements; hair conditioners with Neem Oil; Shirodhara hot oil massage, to name a few. Yet how many of us really understand its origins? Read More…

Feet on the Ground

Feet on the Ground

At an Ayurvedic retreat in India recently, it was recommended that I walk on the grass barefoot. Later when I was wandering around the garden, post thunderstorm, it felt a tad awkward to discard my flip flops, but when I did, it felt so good. Surprisingly good in fact. The grass was velvety and springy underneath me, my feet and toes free to spread, my legs and whole body open to move naturally. I had this plugged in sensation and was totally energised as a result. It wasn’t just physical, but emotional too. It reminded me of all the long hot summers as a child being able to run around barefoot – the freedom and joy it gave me. Back then, the Doctor had recommended to my mum that both my sister and I walk around without shoes and socks whenever possible as a way to exercise our feet and toes, to develop strong arches. The Indian Ayurvedic Doctor had advised it more as an emotional experience – to feel connected to the earth – for a sense of grounding.

The idea of ‘grounding‘ is much talked about in yoga. That each posture works by a gravitational pull – feet rooted to the floor, the weight of the lower body from pelvis down pushing into the earth, the rest of the spine extending upwards towards the sky (or it might be hands and feet on the ground, sit bones reaching upwards in the case of Downward Facing Dog, the classic ‘v’ shaped inversion). Yogis call this the two way stretch, and it has a deeper spiritual meaning too – transcending our earthly selves to higher consciousness. The Lotus flower being the visual analogy, with its roots extending deep into the mud beneath the water, disguised by its flat leaves floating on the surface and beautifully exotic petals opening up to the light.

Read More…