Image: Google Images / Huffington Post

New Year; New Intention

With the approach of another new year, generally people’s thoughts turn to setting resolutions and intentions.

 

Some of the most popular themes are…

  • Spending more time with family
  • Getting fit / losing weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Get a new job
  • Learn a new skill
  • Reduce stress

All of which are worthwhile as they can help to uplift your life and the lives of others too.

 

In America, 45% of people are likely to make resolutions, yet 73% give up before reaching their anticipated goal.

 

At the first meditation session of this year (2015), I encouraged my students to let go of the idea of a resolution and instead to look at their intentions.

 

So take losing weight as an example – it can be really useful to ask ourselves what’s the reason behind this? It could be wanting to become healthier; to have more energy in order to engage in activities with friends, family; being able to take that adventure holiday you’ve always wanted to. These are just a few examples, but rather than saying “I want to lose weight”, we are qualifying what losing weight will give us and others around us too.

 

Many people decide they want to give meditation a go as they either know someone who does it and appears to be having good results or the glossy magazine we’ve just picked up has mentioned it in an article.

 

A brilliant endeavour, but it’s really a good idea before embarking on this or any new practice to look at your motivation from the outset. What are you hoping it will provide you with?

 

One of the first practices I always suggest to new students is 3 minutes, twice a day. In the morning – sit and contemplate your intention for that day. Just sit for 3 minutes, no more, no less.

At the end of the day – sit and contemplate how well you maintained that intention (without judgement). Just sit for 3 minutes, no more, no less.

 

Try this for a week (any less and you won’t see any results) and notice what happens for you.

 

Meditation classes re-start again in January in Watford, Hertfordshire. If meditation is on your list of things to try, consider joining our friendly, supportive group. We meet once a month on a Saturday morning, so you don’t have to rush home from work of an evening, but instead come along feeling a little more refreshed after a busy week. Full details can be found here: Meditation & More

 

Below is a short video from one of my students sharing what she has found beneficial from attending sessions for the whole of 2015:

 

Meditation appreciation from Claire Murphy on Vimeo.

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the watermill

Unplug & Unwind

There’s still time to grab an early bird offer for my 2016 retreat in Tuscany, Italy at the Watermill at Posara.

 

Full details can be found here: Yoga Retreat

 

Here’s a draft itinerary for our inspirational Unplug and Unwind retreat: It will alter a bit, perhaps, because of the weather or the needs of the group.

Monday

  • Morning: guests arrive at Pisa airport between 11am and 1pm
  • A late lunch at the mill (all meals at the mill will be vegetarian. Omnivores catered for on request!)
  • 5pm: introduction to the week followed by yoga session/relaxation at mill
  • 7.30pm: Welcome dinner in nearby Medieval walled town of Fivizzano eating traditional Tuscan fare. (There will be lots of vegetarian offerings, but also local hams and a pasta with a meat sauce for those who like it.)

Tuesday

  • 8am: wake up- tea/coffee/juice and fruit available for participants
  • 8.30am meditation session at the mill
  • 9.00am yoga session at the mill
  • 10.30am: brunch at mill
  • 11.30am trip to Fivizzano market
  • Free time at the mill with optional massage/shiatsu sessions to be booked by guests
  • 5.15pm to 6.45pm: yoga/relaxation
  • 7.30pm: Dinner at the mill
  • Extra at cost after dinner: Shiatsu sessions
  • 9.30pm: silent meditation, or guests free to spend the evening as they wish

Wednesday

  • 7.30am: silent meditation
  • 8.00am: breakfast
  • Excursion day to Lucca or the Cinque Terre – with packed lunch if desired
  • 7/7.30pm return to mill for dinner at 7.45/8pm
  • 9.30pm: silent meditation, or guests free to spend the evening as they wish

Thursday

  • 8.00am: wake up- tea/coffee/juice and fruit available for participants
  • 8.30am: meditation session
  • 09.00am/11.00 yoga session at the privately-owned Convento dei Carmine
  • 1130 noon brunch at mill
  • free time at the mill with optional massage/shiatsu sessions to be booked by guests
  • 5.15pm to 6.45pm: yoga/relaxation at the mill
  • 7.30pm dinner
  • 9.30pm: silent meditation, or guests free to spend the evening as they wish

Friday

  • 07.30am wake up- tea/coffee/juice and fruit available for participants
  • 08.00am silent meditation
  • 08.30am/10.00am: yoga session at mill
  • 10.30 brunch at mill
  • Afternoon excursion – wine tasting
  • 5.15pm-6.45pm: yoga/relaxation
  • 7.30pm dinner
  • 9.30pm: words and music meditation

Saturday

  • Depart after breakfast (08.30am/09.30 am)

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The Way to Peace

Take refuge in your breath,
Let go of the mind and rest in the breath.
Like the very dearest of friends,
Your breath has accompanied you through all the pains, sorrows and joys of your life.

Take refuge in your breath,
With loving attention follow its every movement,
Unravel the mystery of where the breath finds repose.

Listen with rapt attention to your dear friend,
The breath has been speaking to you since you were born.
Discover the mantra it whispers to you continuously,
Affirming the infinitude of your Being.
HAMSA is the ground on which this mad dance of existence pounds on…
Unravel the mystery of where mantra arises, and where it dissolves.

Abide in Stillness –
the refuge of the breath,
the source of mantra,
the womb of all,
where form and emptiness embrace,
where Truth alone is revealed,
where Love dissolves the illusion of diferences

(Taken from Kali’s Bazaar penned by Kalidas p57)

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News, Views & Tips

A Simple Phrase That Can Prevent Arguments and Resentment

Grace Furman, Tiny Buddha:

“It’s not the events of our lives that shape us, but our beliefs as to what those events mean.” ~Tony Robbins

I am always making up stories about what others think of me or what they really meant when they made that comment. And I typically make up the worst case scenario. According to my brain, everyone is mean-spirited and ridiculing me.

This is not an uplifting way to live one’s life. The pessimistic stories I create are generated in part by my low self-esteem, and by convincing myself they’re true, I continue to fuel it. My constantly negative perceptions affect my relationships with others and overall mood in a harmful way.

I recently experienced a huge breakthrough…[Read original article]

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Pelvic Floor Focus #1

A topic that is often avoided or spoken of in hushed tones is that of the pelvic floor. Not in my classes though! I regularly discuss and teach about pelvic floor function in both my women’s wisdom and pregnancy yoga classes in Watford.

 

As women, there are many taboo areas of our bodies that many amazing women in the mainstream are now challenging to bring out into the light.

 

The beauty of shining our awareness on these often hidden, dark recesses of the female form is that it brings acceptance, reduces the sense of shame that’s often experienced and above all else, it’s incredibly educational. Women are now so blessed with the ability to find out more about their lady parts than our own grandmother’s were ever able to.

 

So the first part of the focus needs to be on ‘releasing‘ the pelvic floor muscles. “Why would you do that?” I can hear many of you ask.

The reason is quite simple…we have spent far too long holding and squeezing the muscles of this area of our body, that we’ve forgotten how to let go of them. Secondly, a muscle that is really, really tight is weak.

 

One of the biggest problems with incontinence is that women are told to do more pelvic floor work / kegels. Whilst this may be necessary, they are often not taught how to engage the muscles properly with the breath, but often just squeeze and squeeze harder. This results in these muscles becoming fatigued and less responsive.

 

How to release the pelvic floor

Being able to relax and release these muscles first of all, will lead to better function and reduced pain (if being experienced). There are many ways of releasing, but I have suggested two exercises below you may like to try.

 

Exercise #1

Visualise your vaginal muscles as though they were a tight flower bud: On the inhale (really important we work with the breath), imagine that the muscles of the vagina are slowly opening like the petals of a flower.

Be aware if you find yourself bringing in tension. If this happens, pause for a few breaths and get a little more comfortable then begin again.

Ensure your body feels super supported (refer to image below).

Try this for 5 breath cycles

Picture1

 

Exercise #2

Sit bone spread – taking the Child’s pose posture which we use quite frequently in class. If your bottom does not reach the heels of your feet, don’t worry! Place a cushion there.

Bring your hands round to the back of the pelvis to first locate your sit bones just to help you identify the area we are working from (these are the bony protrusions you often feel when sitting down and then wiggle from side to side you get a sense of where they are).

Again working with the inhale, imagine that your sit bones are spreading apart as you breathe in.

Try this for 5 breath cycles.

Picture2

 

 

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Raspberry Leaf Tea

I am often asked by women attending my pregnancy yoga classes in Watford, what raspberry leaf tea is and the best way to take it.

There are many wonderful websites and resources around, but I like to make use of the information guides made available from Expectancy as the information provided is very solid and up-to-date too.

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The aim of the pregnancy yoga classes I create are to offer as much information as possible on a wide variety of topics that help inform women.

Classes are held on Thursday evening’s at 7.30pm!

 

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Introduction to A Mindful Life

January 2016 marks the 5th year of offering this course in Watford and many have appreciated the benefits of exploring mindfulness for themselves.

 

What are the benefits of a mindfulness practice?

Regular practice will help you…

  • Learn how to respond (rather than react)
  • Reduce stress
  • Understand how to be more present in your life & as a result, find more pleasure in each moment
  • Improve your overall mood and trials* have shown that it can help improve quality of life if experiencing chronic pain and depression
  • Boost your immune system*
  • Reduces blood pressure and lowers the risk of hypertension*

 

Structure of the course

We will meet for 1 hour 45 minutes every week for 5 weeks, where you will be introduced to a different aspect of mindfulness and have the opportunity to practice meditations, discuss your experiences and receive the support you need.

 

Each week you will also be given home practices to undertake. The suggested practices are very easy to assimilate into even the most busiest of schedules and are very approachable.

 

Your learning is supported with reading material sent via email after each weekly session, together with mp3 recordings to support your home practice where applicable.

 

More details on the course can be found by clicking here

 

* References on mindfulness for health:

Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., Hopkins, J., Kreitemeyer, J. & Toney, L. (2006), ‘Using self-report assessment methods to explore facets of mindfulness’, Assessment, 13, pp. 27–45

 

Morone, N. E., Lynch, C. S., Greco, C. M., Tindle, H. A. & Weiner, D. K. (2008b), ‘“I felt like a new person” – the effects of mindfulness med- itation on older adults with chronic pain: qualitative narrative analysis of diary entries’, Journal of Pain, 9, pp. 841–8

 

Kabat-Zinn, J., Lipworth, L., Burncy, R. & Sellers, W. (1986), ‘Four-year follow-up of a meditation-based program for the self- regulation of chronic pain: Treatment outcomes and compliance’, Clinical Journal of Pain, 2, p. 159; Brown, Christopher A., Jones, Anthony K. P. (2013), ‘Psychobiological Correlates of Improved Mental Health in Patients With Musculoskeletal Pain After a Mindfulness-based Pain Management Program’, Clinical Journal of Pain, 29(3), pp. 233–44; Lutz, Antoine, McFarlin, Daniel R., Perlman, David M., Salomons, Tim V. & Davidson, Richard J. (2013), ‘Altered anterior insula acti- vation during anticipation and experience of painful stimuli in expert meditators’, Journal NeuroImage, 64, pp. 538–46

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