What do you REALLY need?

Last night saw women from previous mindfulness courses attend for a A Mindful Top-up

As with any new endeavour, there’s always the ‘honeymoon period’ and we have good intentions to continue with a chosen practice or activity.

All too soon, our tendencies and our defaults creep back in and it becomes harder and harder to maintain the enthusiasm, especially once outside the regular weekly classes now that they’ve finished.

This is why meditation and mindfulness needs community – practising and discussing the highs and lows in a supportive group helps to keep the momentum alive.

So last night we looked at the 3 stages of progress and how we cycle through the stages in all that we are doing in life, not necessarily mindfulness.

In addition, the importance of an intention.

The reason you found your way to the classes initially may no longer be valid and other elements have moved and changed in your life.

It is so important to ask yourself regularly…”What do I need?” and wait for an answer. Then ask yourself…“What do I really need in this moment?”

Tuning to our present moment needs is key to keeping the momentum and encouraging us to embed the formal as well as the informal practices into our lives.

Meditation Solutions for Women in Watford include:

Regular monthly meditation sessions
Introduction to Mindfulness courses
A Mindful Top-up – sessions to keep your mindfulness practice going

Full details can be found here:

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Nourish meditation

Early bird ends soon!

With only 26 days until the early bird offer expires are you planning what you would like to do or achieve next year?

Now into its third year, my yoga retreat at the amazing Watermill in Posara, Italy offers a week of complete nourishment on every level.

Today I’m focusing on the meditation offering: We begin each morning at 08.00 with meditation – a gentle, guided practice to help ease you into the day and it also introduces the theme of the day’s practices.

Within the morning meditation I offer a day’s writing prompt for those that wish to have a little more focus.

Meditation also features in the main yoga sessions (post-breakfast and lunch) and we complete each day with a silent meditation in the studio, which by then is lit by candles – it’s truly beautiful.

As it is both a retreat and a holiday for you, all offerings are optional, as you are of course free to do as little or as much as is offered.

The retreat runs from 25 August to 01 September 2018 and is ALL INCLUSIVE – yes, you read that correctly.

Simply get yourself to Pisa airport and our hosts, Bill and Lois, take care of the rest.

For further details & to secure your booking with a deposit & take advantage of the early bird visit:

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A Mindful Top-up

The most recent course of A Mindful Woman finished with joy and with sadness.


Joy that the women who attended received so much benefit from the sessions.


Sadness in that the sessions themselves had come to an end.


Just one of many testimonials can be seen within the image (above) and as a result of the wonderful feedback, I have decided to create something new.


A Mindful Top-up

This is for women who have completed a mindfulness course either with myself or another provider. It can often be difficult to maintain the momentum once a course has completed and the aim is to support you in order that the benefits can keep on being realised.


Our first top-up session is scheduled for Monday 04 December, just in time to boost and flex our mindful muscles before the demands of the Christmas season take over.


For further details, please visit A Mindful Top-up for more information & booking.

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Something to think about

A taboo topic has always been periods. Another topic that isn’t as well known, is that many cannot afford to purchase sanitary protection.


Think about that for a moment.


Thanks to the initiative of Bloody Good Period we can all help by making donations of sanitary items.


w/c 30 October, I am collecting on behalf of a friend who will be taking sanitary donations along to the charity.


Should you wish to help, please bring items along to any of my classes this week.


Alternatively, you may wish to make your own future arrangements.


Please consider the needs of those who bleed.


Thank you.

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Meditation: A New Focus

Last Saturday saw the last mind-training slogan (Lojong) in our monthly meditation sessions. We have been using these pithy little reminders for two years, which are teachings condensed into a one-line reminder. Having covered 24 of the 59 little gems (in no particular order), the time has come to create space for new ways of reflecting. Join us to find out more!

There is nothing stagnant about a meditation practice: as explained to the wonderful group of women on Saturday, it is ever evolving and can arise in any given moment wherever we find ourselves.

Whilst it is important to have concentrated ‘sitting’ time, it is as important to recognise for women, we have to take our moments as and when we can too.

Last week I visited Kew Gardens and this was my practice: walking (mindfully taking in sights, sounds and sensations); sitting (there are many convenient benches at Kew!) and picking up little treasures that the trees and plants had discarded, as well as a few feathers courtesy of the Canadian Geese.

Everywhere is in effect our meditation cushion: we can bring the same focus when walking to when we are sitting. Sometimes it may even be more productive to do this.

Our next Meditation for Women is on Saturday 04 November from 10.00 until 12.00 in Central Watford.

My next offering of A Mindful Woman starts Monday 22 January 2018 – book before 01 November and receive a saving.

Full details can be found here: Meditation Solutions for Women

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Yoga Tree Sisers

Retreat to Yourself in Italy

One of the wonderful gifts following a retreat, is to receive the feedback from those who attended.


Following last month’s retreat in Italy, words have been filtering through from the guests I had the pleasure of spending a whole week with, in which I shared the delights of yoga, meditation and creative pursuits – all with one aim in mind: to nourish the women on every level.


The image below contains recent feedback which has moved me very deeply.


Yildiz Feedback


It is one thing as a teacher of so many years to believe and trust in the practices and direction you wish to guide individuals, but quite another to have it reflected back to you in such a deep and meaningful way.


This alone sums up the reason why I teach women and focus on women’s needs through everything that I offer.


To find our way home – a returning to that essential element: love.


Should you wish to join me and those who have already re-booked to attend next year’s retreat the details follow.


Yoga Retreat to Italy, staying with our delightful hosts at The Watermill, in Posara, Tuscany


7 nights ALL INCLUSIVE retreat (airport transfers, meals, drinks, day trips and of course yoga, meditation & more!)

You can secure your place with a deposit and not have to pay the rest until next year.

Please visit The Watermill for further details.

An early bird is available until 31 December 2017.

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Women's Stories Watford (1)

September & Starting Over

Summer is a source of richness in so many ways. We have good weather generally, though here in the UK that definitely seems to be an optional extra. There’s also opportunities for many of us to unwind from our normal rhythms and try to reconnect with relaxation, which can take many forms from gardening, painting, writing or any other number of pursuits.


The return to schedules and school drop-offs and pick-ups can feel like our time away from it all was nothing but a distant memory.


If this is you already, as here we are at the end of the first week of schools starting back, then you may be interested in a one-day workshop I have coming up on Saturday 23 September. I liken it to a retreat in a day.


Moving through gentle yoga (so it’s suitable for every woman), meditation and prompted writing exercises, we once again have an opportunity to listen…to listen to our inner voices rather than the clamour that’s happening around us.


Past participants left feeling refreshed and energised, yet inspired in different ways.


Full details and booking can be found here: Women’s Stories – one day can help you reset that inner balance once again.

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refuge area

Emergency Refuge Area

[Image: source]


On my recent return journey from my family vacation (which was rather wonderful – 2 weeks unplugged in Devon and Dorset), I noticed some new areas on the motorway.


Emergency refuge area – with our motorways in the UK being increasingly widened to accommodate the continual swell of traffic, we are seeing the use of the hard shoulder as an additional lane in times of congestion, as well as the loss of the hard shoulder completely in order to ‘add’ an additional lane. The signage stood out to me owing to the use of the word ‘refuge‘.


“Mmm, this is great information, but what’s this got to do with meditation?” I hear you ask.


Refuge: (noun) the state of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger or difficulty; a place or situation providing safety or shelter.


It provided me with an opportunity to contemplate refuge and meditation, and it didn’t bring to mind a busy arterial traffic route slicing through the countryside.


For me, my meditation practice provides a daily refuge from the changing demands of life. It’s where I invite my life to sit on the cushion with me.


In her book, True Refuge, Tara Brach talks of coming home to the true refuge of presence. “I’ve come to see that through [this] meditation, I was exploring the movement from outer refuge to inner refuge. By regularly contacting these facets of sacred presence within me, I was deepening my faith in my own essential being.” (p59)


Meditation provides us with the means to listen, deeply, in stillness, to all that is present. This is the refuge – the awareness of mind not to keep driving through our life at speed, without taking a necessary pause.


I offer regular monthly pauses for women in my meditation sessions in Central Watford, as well as a 5-week introduction to mindfulness: A Mindful Woman.


To find out more, please drop by my website for further information: Meditation with Claire



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Yoga, Mental Health & Michael Stone

[Image: source]

My personal world was rocked recently. It all started on Friday 14 July when a post on my social media newsfeed had such impact, that everything went to freeze-frame for what felt like a lengthy time.


A teacher, an inspiration, it’s difficult to find the appropriate way to describe him, Michael Stone was all this and more, was said to be on life support in a coma in hospital.

At that time, information was sketchy, so naturally, as is human-nature, we began to fill the gaps ourselves with a narrative that we felt was most appropriate.


Perhaps he had an aneurysm or had had a stroke? Why else would he be in such a critical condition considering that to everyone, he was fit, healthy and had such vibrancy?


The update when it came on 16 July was devastating to many across the world within Buddhist, yoga and meditation communities alike. He had been taken off life support.


An official statement was released by Lion’s Roar which bought with it, the courageous revelation from Michael’s wife, Carina Stone, that he had battled with bipolar. The circumstances behind his death are covered with sensitivity in the statement, and therefore I don’t feel any need to mention them here.


As a result the news has sent a shock-wave through the communities he inspired. With it, sadly, has also come much rhetoric as to his lack of transparency about his mental health issues.


It brings with it, the issue of each person’s rights to privacy. It is not for me or others to question his motives about his diagnosis, his choice to not reveal it publicly, or indeed, suggest a narrative around the events of 13 July.


What is apparent is that Michael, like many, many others, was suffering. The extent of that suffering for me is quite unimaginable, but I can understand it to a point. The desire for a release of the inner turmoil can be both seductive and over-powering.


I have read many articles that have since debated whether anyone should in fact take medication, and this has led to further debates on over-prescribing and the use of street drugs. This in itself is the reason why so much stigma still persists around mental health. Yoga can be a tool to help support with many conditions, but it does not offer a cure. We need to be mindful of this subtle, but important difference.



My hope is that when the essence of shock settles, others, like me, will choose to remember all that Michael was to everyone, rather than focusing in on one aspect of his life.


We are all a sum of our many parts. In this I am reminded of something I heard on a podcast interview many years ago. Apologies that I am unable to remember the name of the person who spoke these words, but they have remained at the forefront of my actions and I often remind my daughters of them too:


We are never any better than anyone, but we are always just as good.


I particularly appreciate the reflection of Matthew Gindin in this regard. As practitioners we would serve our teachers best by not putting them on a pedestal, which ultimately elevates their position in such a way that we forget their common humanity. It would also mean they are at liberty to be able to live without fear of judgement or discrimination.


Sending love, prayers and healing to Michael’s family, friends and wider community.


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feels our love

Supported Squats for Birth

Within the pregnancy yoga classes that I teach, I also incorporate aspects of active birth education too. It creates a more rounded class and allows context for many of the postures that lend themselves from yoga into the birth environment.


Squats are often discussed, and I like to offer two variations where the labouring woman feels totally supported. It also means that she is not bearing all the weight and effort.


Below you will find the variations I teach:


flipped supp squat

This variation can be performed with your birth partner sitting on a chair as in the picture above, or it would transfer to them sitting on the side of the birth pool and being able to support you whilst you are in the water.

With this option you would not be getting up and down between each contraction as you are able to enjoy the full support of both your partner and the water.



Supported squat

This option gives your partner the opportunity to fully support your weight from behind, meaning less effort for you.

Important Note: If your birth partner has a back condition, it is important that they lean against a wall for support in order to protect their back from strain.

Your partner takes their forearms under your arms / armpits and you hold their hands. Make sure you are allowing your body to lean against your birth partner, and then drop into a complete squat. It is important that you let go completely and allow your partner to take your weight.


Information and images taken from my self-published guide: Birthing Positively – Create the birth that’s right for you – available for £10.00 in class, or via post (p+p charges applicable).


To find out more about my pregnancy yoga classes and the education that I offer, please visit my website: Claire Murphy Yoga


All images in this blog are copyright to Susan Alexander Photography


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