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How to make fear your friend

Heard the phrase – ‘Keep your friends close and your enemies closer’?   The same goes for ‘fear’.  When we allow fear to take control we become over-whelmed, fatigued, sad, find it difficult to carry out day-to-day tasks and behave in ways we’d prefer not to.  In six steps I’m going to show you how to befriend your fear, see it for what it is and use it as an opportunity to raise your energy levels, let your true self shine and, experience life to the full.

Fear blocks our potential

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While fear is a good thing – primal, instinctual and there to keep us safe from harm if we remain unaware of how fear is dominating our day-to-day lives, it can do more harm than good by stopping us experiencing the truth of who we are and the endless possibilities available to us as a result.

Get to know your fear

Have you noticed the number of fearful thoughts that run through your mind on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour and minute-to minute basis?  From insignificant thoughts, like a fear of ‘putty’ (which features quite heavily in my household at the moment with two primary age children obsessed with squwidg-ing it all around the house), to fears of being rejected or singled-out and then bigger fears which feature you or a family member being involved in an accident or developing a life-threatening illness.  How many fear-based thoughts are actually doing you any good?

ana-tavares-598934-unsplashFor example, by the time I was around five months pregnant with my first child I had developed an immense fear of giving birth and equally so of doctors and hospitals.  I spent hours fretting over how I was going to deliver my baby and the many scary and disastrous outcomes that could be.  I had diligently tuned into fear by focusing on my preconceived ideas, birthing stories from other mums and episodes of ‘One Born Every Minute’.  I felt confused, ashamed for thinking badly of a situation that so many aren’t as fortunate to be in, emotionally exhausted and completely out of control.

Ask for help and do something (anything no matter how big or small)

Intuitively, I turned inward and asked myself – ‘If there’s anything within my power, that I can do to turn this situation around, what is it?’

Almost as soon as I’d admitted my fear, I had a willingness to change the situation.  I made a request for help and felt the huge weight of responsibility lift.  The simple act of doing something, anything, helped me see the situation differently and with a more positive perspective.

 

mark-adriane-259950-unsplashMy research involved tuning out of negativity and into positivity.  I began to research positive childbirth stories which required little or no medical intervention and talked to my midwife, my Pregnancy Yoga class mates, friends and family about how I was feeling.

As a result, I came across a system called ‘Hypnobirthing’ which included tools such as movement, breathing techniques, relaxation methods, visualisations and affirmations.  This made perfect sense to me, given my background in Yoga.  I also chose to visit a couple of hospitals where I could give birth which reassured me.  To my relief these facilities weren’t as scary and sterile as I’d pictured in my mind.  They were quite the opposite – warm, welcoming and very supportive.

Change is challenging – be kind

Changing perspective, opening ourselves up and moving forwards fearlessly isn’t always easy.  Many of our fear-based beliefs are there for a reason and have kept us safe (or in a comfortable place) for a long time.  When we move forward and do so with a new perspective we begin to shine a light on our vulnerabilities and insecurities.  This can feel very uncomfortable because sometimes we don’t like what we find and emotions can begin to surface.

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Whenever I felt uncomfortable during the process I would do something nourishing for myself such as moving through a gentle Yoga routine, taking a bath, watching a film, eating a healthy nutritious meal or enjoying a walk by the beach.  A good option is also to write your thoughts and feelings in a journal – particularly if you find it hard to vocalise all that you’re holding inside.  Click here to view our previous blog ‘What’s not to love?’ on the topic of self-love useful for cultivating love for yourself.

I also armed myself with positive affirmations (positive statements that describe a positive outcome in the present tense) so that whenever I felt fearful thoughts creep back in I would have something positive to feed my mind with.  For example, “My mind is strong, my body is strong, my baby is strong.”

Visualise success but let go of the outcome

marcos-moraes-67911-unsplashWhile I was working towards my goal of giving birth naturally, with as little medical intervention as possible, I also knew that nature was at work and as we all know, nature is unpredictable and holds a power, support and wisdom of its own.

While I did all that I could to achieve a natural birth, I also let go of the outcome.  Aware that my baby’s birth wasn’t completely up to me and that medical intervention was a possibility, I did my best to make friends with all outcomes.  “I am open to whatever direction my baby’s birth takes.”

It’s your experience – own it, embrace it, get into it

 When the time came for my baby’s arrival I saw my situation as an opportunity to face my fear of doctors and hospitals and of giving birth.

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I felt empowered, applied what I had learned, visualised success, focused wholeheartedly on doing my best, let go of the outcome and that day the stars aligned.  I delivered my daughter, gently and safely in water, within five hours and with no pain relief.  It was a magical experience and I loved every minute.  I recognised that the experience wasn’t happening to me, but that I was the experience and I was in full control.

Fear is an opportunity to learn and grow

ashley-rich-87733-unsplashHad I allowed fear to run the show I wouldn’t have learned how strong I am.  I wouldn’t have experienced the sheer joy, bliss and wonderment I felt when I delivered my baby.  I also developed an upmost respect for the medical profession and now see doctors and hospitals as a place to go for support rather than seeing them as a threat.  This is a far cry from the fear-based scenario I had planned out only a few months previously and I’m forever grateful for that.

Face your fear and do it anyway

taylor-ann-wright-417893-unsplashWhile I have used my experience of childbirth as an example here it’s possible to apply these steps to facing any fear.  Whether it be a fear of cotton wool, a fear of driving in the dark, a fear of flying, a fear of wearing a bikini on the beach, a fear of your children not eating broccoli – use your fear as an opportunity to get to know yourself by shining a light on your vulnerabilities, while opening you up to your own inner strength, which is far greater than you could ever imagine.

  1. Get to know your fear
  2. Ask for help and do something
  3. Be kind to yourself
  4. Visualise success and surrender the outcome
  5. Own your experience
  6. Fear is an opportunity

What holds you back from moving forwards in a positive direction?  Post a comment below if you’re happy to share your fears.  Possibly a great step in confronting your own fears.

If you’re experiencing fear of any sort Yoga can be a great support.  Prana Mama Yoga’s classes are suitable for all levels of ability and, as well as providing a great way to improve fitness, strength and flexibility, classes are there for you to make time for yourself to nourish your body as well as your soul.

If any part of Pregnancy or being a new mum is worrying you, Prana Mama Yoga can offer you support and information to help you achieve the most in your journey into motherhood.

Click the following links for class schedules and information on the types of Yoga we offer.

Pregnancy YogaPostnatal Yoga / Mum & Baby YogaAshtanga Yoga / Weekly schedule

 

What’s not to love?

For many people the run up to Valentine’s Day can be somewhat nerve racking, as most of us try to predict how our ‘love-o-meter’ is going to fair on the day.  Is my partner going to send me flowers or chocolates?  Am I going to receive a card?  Does anybody care?  Sound familiar?  Fear no more.  I’m going to give you some steps to help you cultivate love for yourself and recognise the deep, powerful source of love that lies within.

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The ancient Yogi’s realised that searching outside of ourselves for love is human nature and very normal (phew!), having accrued thousands of years of turning inward through meditation and spiritual study.

They discovered that the only way to find lasting happiness, joy, good health, abundance and a zest for life is to love yourself first.  Loving yourself awakens you to a more peaceful, loving state and from that place you’re able to offer the same to others.  Whereas, relying on external circumstances to buoy-up your ‘love-o-meter’ status really only ever leads to heart-ache.

 

 

Before we get started, I’d like to get one thing straight:  The type of ‘loving yourself’ I’m talking about here isn’t about generating an air of superiority over others.  Truly and honestly loving yourself means letting go of self-judgement, self-criticism and sadness so that you can open up to who you really are – great, worthy and an epitome of love.  Tuning into this frequency of love puts you in a position to heal, transform and do good with your life.  Isn’t that what we’re here for?

When I look around the Mum and Baby Yoga class that I teach every week, I see mums and their babies loving one-another without question.   Babies are delighted to be in their bodies, as they explore every movement with great wonder, love every aspect of their mother and express their feelings (positive and negative) openly, unreservedly as and when they feel like it.  They are love personified.

So what happened?  When did loving and approving of ourselves wholeheartedly change and why do we find it so challenging to love ourselves when we are the same person as we were, when we were a baby?  When you consider all that you’ve been through in life to bring you to this moment surely you would love yourself even more?

You’re going to have to forgive yourself here for being human.  Over the years we gather impressions, perceptions, ideas and opinions which have been imposed on us to keep us safe.  However, the majority of them have been negative, derived from a source of fear and/or the feeling that something is missing.

These impressions have gradually built up to create a safe, protective shell around us.  While it’s cosy, comfortable and familiar within, the shell is also distorting the truth of who you really are.

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If we don’t see or get to know our ‘shell’ we carry out our lives within its context, be it helpful or not, without even realising that we’re doing it.

Starting the process of ‘loving yourself’ puts cracks in our ‘shell’ and with practice, overtime it is possible to break down the barriers which prevent us from understanding who we really are, what makes us tick, what makes us feel peaceful and able live a life of fulfilment and joy.

Here are a few simple steps to help you love yourself more…

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Practice Yoga or take up a Yoga class

While Yoga is a great physical practice it also has a very positive effect on the mind too.  It helps you to let go of stress, shine a light on who you are, how you think and behave and ultimately open you up to your purpose in life.  The philosophy of the practice also has a lot to offer in helping you accept life’s challenges and move through with a bit more ease.  It’s certainly not all about touching your toes.  Anyone can practice Yoga and if you can breathe you can do Yoga.

 Become aware of your thoughts

Become aware of your thoughts as if you’re watching them from a far.  Meditation is a great tool for putting some space between you and your thoughts.  It takes practice but can be very simple – click here to check out my last blog to learn more about the benefits of meditation and some easy ways to get started.

Be willing to see differently and choose a more loving perspective

Be willing to let go of thoughts of self-criticism and judgement.  We always have a choice.  Choose to replace negative thoughts with a more loving perspective.  Affirmations can be extremely effective.  For example, if a negative thought towards yourself comes to mind say to yourself…

  • I love and approve of myself
  • I love myself just the way I am
  • All that I seek is already within me

Practice gratitude

Be grateful – be grateful for being you, for another day, for the sky, the grass, the trees, for your family, for anything you can think of.  Being grateful helps us see and enjoy what’s already around us and within us.  It generates good feelings.  Write a list of things you’re grateful for and refer to it often.

Let it go

Practicing forgiveness helps us to let go of old patterns of thoughts and behaviours that aren’t serving us and allows us to be present in the moment.  Forgiveness helps us release resentments that we may have held onto for years.

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Cultivating love for yourself is a topic very close to my heart.  It can be challenging and it’s not always easy, but it’s incredible how a very subtle and simple shift in thoughts/perception towards yourself can make a huge and positive difference to your life.  I hope you enjoy this blog and get something from it – if only to realise that loving yourself is actually a ‘thing’.  It was a revelation to me 🙂

The healing benefits of Yoga are for everyone to enjoy and benefit from.  If you’re interested in joining a Yoga class then Prana Mama Yoga’s classes take place in Daviot and Kintore (Aberdeenshire) and suitable for all levels of ability and experience. Click here to view our weekly schedule.  Prana Mama Yoga is teaming up with Rona Yoga  to host an evening of Yoga, ‘Yoga…and so to bed’ geared to induce a better night’s sleep at the Daviot Village Hall on Friday 23rd February 2018 from 7pm.   Click here for further details and a booking link.

With love to you as you love yourself more, Lis x

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Keep your cool this Yule with an easy mindful meditation

The festive period can invoke huge swings in thoughts and feelings – such as ‘excitement’ and ‘joy’ at the prospect of seeing friends and family as well as ‘fear’ of not getting everything done in time and perhaps even ‘sadness’ at the thought of absent loved ones.  If we don’t get these thoughts and feelings in perspective, they can leave us feeling stressed, overwhelmed and drained.

I’m going to share with you two simple meditations that will help you hit the ‘pause button’ for a few moments to find that place of calm and the awareness within yourself to enjoy those precious moments to the full.  A regular practice over the festive season will help you to feel refreshed and restored for 2018.

You may be sceptical having heard the word ‘meditation’ but bear with me…I’m NOT going to ask you to sit cross-legged under a ‘Bodhi’ tree and empty your mind for hours at a time.  However, I am going to ask you to continue with your day-to-day activities, eat chocolate and you can even keep your eyes open if you want to.

‘Mindfulness’ is a type of meditation that takes you away from the chatter in your mind and straight into the present moment, which cultivates a sense of calm and awareness.  Once the exercise is finished you are in a better place – clear about where you’re going next and what you’re going to do, so that when you get there you can give it your undivided attention and experience the moment.  What’s a greater gift than giving yourself or a loved one your presence?

Here’s how to do it…choose a regular day-to-day activity such as hanging out the washing, giving your child a hug or even wrapping a gift.  While you’re carrying out the activity ask yourself five questions…

  1. What am I doing now?  (Acknowledge the physical sensations that you can feel)
  2. What is my emotional state now? (Am I feeling calm or overwhelmed?)
  3. What is my mental state now?  (Am I thinking about what I’m doing or am I thinking about something that happened earlier in the day or something that’s going to happen later?)
  4. What can I hear now? (Notice sounds close by and those further away)
  5. What is the quality of my breathing now? (Is it fast and up at the top of my lungs or is it full and slow and is my belly moving as I breathe?)

If your attention wanders, then simply and gently invite your attention back to the exercise (this is very normal and being aware of your attention wandering is where the magic lies).

I love to practise this mindful meditation when I’m hanging out the washing.  I breathe in the fresh air, feel the temperature on my face and hear the trees moving in the wind.  I notice my feet on the ground and the texture of the clothes in my hands as I hang them out.  I tune into how I’m feeling and where my mind is.

This exercise is soooo simple and allows me to push the ‘pause button’, take a breather and be in a better place to choose my next activity.  For example, if I have good energy I will begin another household chore.  If I’m tired I will take note and think about when in the day there might be an opportunity for me to relax or perhaps even get to bed earlier.

This practice can also help improve memory.  By focusing on what you’re doing it’s possible to eliminate annoying habits like losing keys.

Another technique which is great for this time of year is the ‘Chocolate meditation’ and here’s how to do it…

 The Chocolate meditation

Choose a piece of chocolate – a variety that you don’t usually eat or haven’t tried before (shouldn’t be too difficult at this time of year).  Good quality flavoursome chocolate will work really well.  If you’re not a fan of chocolate – try another confectionary.  Preferably one that takes a little while to dissolve.

  1. Take the wrapper off and feel the chocolate with your fingers – notice the temperature and the texture.
  2. Smell the chocolate or sweetie and allow its scent to sweep over you.
  3. Notice the sound as you break off a piece.
  4. Look a the confectionary and allow your eyes to consume every detail.
  5. Put piece in your mouth.  See if you can hold it on your tongue without moving or chewing it.  Chocolate has over 300 hundred flavours.  What do you notice?
  6. If your attention wanders (which is very normal) and you notice, simply acknowledge the thought or feeling and gently invite your attention back to the chocolate (the present moment).

If you’d like to have a go at some more meditation then Prana Mama Yoga is running a “Festive Meditation for Beginners” class to raise funds for Kayleigh’s Wee Stars on Wednesday 20th December ’17 at the Kintore Public Hall from 7.30-8.30pm.  For more information or to book a place go to our events page

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you.  Because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.  Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it”. Roald Dahl

Yoga is for everyone…

Welcome to Prana Mama Yoga where our mission (Dharma) is to help you feel healthier, happier and more peaceful in everyday life, through the practice of yoga postures, meditation, breathing exercises and some practical philosophy too.

At any stage of life the practice and philosophy of Yoga offers us a way to find balance between our body, mind, emotions and even our spiritual side.  When these parts of ‘being’ work in harmony the mind becomes clear, we feel a sense of peace and we feel fit and energetic.  As a result life is richer and more enjoyable.  We make better choices and find ourselves in a better place to support our families and take part in the wider community.

Prana Mama Yoga offers pregnancy and postnatal yoga, Ashtanga yoga and meditation classes and workshops in Aberdeenshire.

“May you be filled with loving kindness, may you be well, may you be peaceful and at ease, may you be happy…” A Tibetan Buddhist Blessing

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