Twenty-Four

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So tomorrow is my twenty-fourth birthday. If I could use one word to reflect on the year that has passed between my twenty-third birthday and now, it would be strength. I have found a strength that helps me to get back up when I fall. I have found an inner strength to do what I know I am meant to do, teach. The road to being a teacher is going to be a hard one but I know that my passion, dedication and strength will get me there.

I have also realised the importance of gratitude and appreciation of the little things that make me happy. It isn’t easy for me to be positive but I always try to think of at least three things I am grateful for each day. No matter how bad my day may be or how I feel about the direction of my life, I always try to step back and evaluate the blessings in my life rather than the imperfections.

Some days I do feel stuck, like the world is passing me by, the clock is ticking and I am no closer to getting the life I want, but I am learning now to stop, notice my negative thoughts, then change them. This is something I learned in therapy and I am starting to slowly apply it to my life.

I have to keep telling myself that my life path has its own timeline and what may take someone one year to do, may take me five, but it doesn’t matter. I strongly believe that in life ambition will lead you to success, perseverance will lead to positive actions and positivity will lead you to happiness. I remind myself on a daily basis of my goals and I always see each day as another small step towards achieving them.

My challenge for myself during the next year of my life (before I reach the grand old age of 25) is to start living in the present moment. This is something that I struggle with and is the root cause of my anxiety. With a combination of studying Buddhism, meditating and practicing yoga, I am slowly but surely on the way to learning how to be mindful and just ‘be’.

Another challenge in my path this following year will be balance. I know that when I start my teacher training in September (if I pass this maths test), I will struggle with the work-life balance. Finding time to relax and enjoy life, with the chaotic, stressful and challenging year of studying, working and learning.

Whatever happens in the 365 days between now and my twenty-fifth birthday, I hope that I find joy in the little things, I hope I learn to believe in myself more, to laugh, love and live each day with a positive attitude because life is passing me by and I don’t want to waste any more time worrying about things I can’t control or choosing to live an unhappy life or surrounding myself with people that don’t allow me to be the best version of myself.

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Colour Me Calm: The Adult Colouring Book Craze

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We all remember the joy that colouring books brought to us when we were small, our parents would give us a colouring book and some crayons and we would stay quiet for hours, focusing on staying in the lines, with our tongues sticking out and wrinkles on our forehead.

Unfortunately, as we turn into adults we close the doors on our childhood, we forget everything we used to enjoy and focus on making a living, worrying about money and what we think we should be doing with our lives. We tell ourselves that everything we did when we were children should be left in the past and we should just be adults, responsible adults who have lots of important decisions to make.

I’ve always loved colouring, as a child I would entertain myself for hours, scribbling and drawing and using felt tips to colour in blank silhouettes of cartoon characters and princesses. This is why I stopped. There were no colouring books suitable for adults, until now. It might be the latest craze that will fade into obscurity in a few months time but I think it’s an excellent idea to get adults in touch with their inner child. Instead of getting caught up in the anxieties of modern life, why not sit down, switch off your brain for a little while and colour? Brilliant.

Studies have shown that colouring is a great way to relax and turn off the world. We’re so animated all of the time, whether it is scrolling down our Facebook news feeds to see what our friends are up to, working in a busy office nine hours a day or travelling on trains and buses, we find it difficult to just stop and focus on one thing. Psychologists say that colouring stimulates areas of the brain that are related to motor skills, the senses and creativity and when we enter that creative state of mind, naturally our worries melt away, it’s the perfect relaxation technique.

Some adults will shake their heads in dismay at grown-ups sitting down with a box of crayons and a book of patterns to colour in on a Friday night but if it transports them to a place where they feel calmer, happier, even nostalgic then what’s the harm? I have always found colouring to be therapeutic and since buying my ‘adult’ colouring book, I have found a new hobby that enhances my creativity, makes me feel calmer and keeps me entertained when boredom hits. The first day I opened my new colouring book, I left my laptop screen and coloured for nearly three hours. I think that’s the longest I have been away from a screen for a while.

If you feel like you need an escape from your every day life and want to reconnect with your childhood innocence then pick up an adult colouring book from your local book shop, try it, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Yoga Pose Of The Day: Cobra Pose

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English Name: Cobra Pose

Sanskrit Name: Bhujangasana

Yoga Level: 1

Benefits:  Cobra pose strengthens the spine, stretches the chest, lungs, shoulders and abdomen. It has the ability to stimulate abdominal organs and relieve stress and fatigue. It can soothe sciatica, can be therapeutic for asthmatics and some yoga texts claim that it can increase body heat, destroying disease and awakening kundalini.

How to do it: Lie on your stomach on your mat. Stretch your legs back and place the tops of the feet on the floor. Spread your hands wide under the shoulders. Hug the elbows into your sides and press the tops of the feet and thighs into the floor. Inhale, straighten the arms and lift the chest off the floor. Smile. Enjoy this pose.

Firm the shoulder blades against the back, puffing the side ribs forward. Lift through the top of the sternum but avoid pushing the front ribs forward, which only hardens the lower back. Distribute the back bend evenly throughout the entire spine. Hold the pose for fifteen seconds and breathe. Release from the pose slowly with an exhalation.

Yoga Vocabularly: Kundalini, in yogic theory, is a primal energy, or shakti, located at the base of the spine. Different spiritual traditions teach methods of “awakening” kundalini for the purpose of reaching spiritual enlightenment.

Yoga Pose Of The Day: Happy Baby Pose

English Name: Happy Baby Pose

Sanskrit Name: Ananda Balasana

Yoga Level: 1

Benefits: Happy Baby Pose gently stretches the back, the spine and inner groin. It calms the brain and can relieve fatigue and stress.

How to do it: Lie down on your back with your legs straight. Exhale deeply and bend your knees up to your stomach. Inhale and grip the outsides of your feet with your hands. If this is difficult then you can use a yoga strap and wrap it around the middle arches of your feet. Open your knees slightly wider than your torso and bring them up towards you.

Position each ankle directly over the knee, so your shins are perpendicular to the floor. Flex through the heels. Gently push your feet up into your hands  as you pull your hands down to create a resistance. There you have it, happy baby pose.

Yoga Vocabulary: Yoga Strap – A  popular prop used during yoga practice to help achieve poses that are a bit out of the reach for beginners. It is often used by those who haven’t quite achieved the flexibility necessary to perform a full pose. 

Yoga Pose Of The Day: Corpse Pose

English Name: Corpse Pose

Sanskrit Name: Savasana

Yoga Level: 1

Benefits: Savasana is a resting pose but has the ability to relax the body and the mind. It can help relieve stress and mild depression, it can help lower blood pressure, reduce headaches, fatigue and insomnia.

How to do it: Savasana is a difficult pose for many people. It appears that you are just lying down on the mat and having a rest but the corpse pose is much more than that. It’s essential that your body should be placed in a neutral position. First, sit on your mat with your knees bent, feet on the floor and lean back onto your forearms, take your time. Life your pelvis slightly and with your hands, push the back of the pelvis towards the tail bone. Return the pelvis to the floor. Inhale. Slowly extend the right leg and then the left leg, pushing through the heels. Release both of your legs, soften the groin and see that your legs are angled evenly. Soften but don’t flatten the lower back.

If you need to, support the back of the head and neck with a folded blanket. Using your hands, lift the base of the skull away from the back of the neck and release the back of the neck down towards the tail bone. Reach your arms toward the ceiling, perpendicular to the floor. Rock slightly from side to side and broaden the back, ribs and shoulder blades away from the spine. Release the arms to the floor and turn them outwards, stretch them away from the space between the shoulder blades.

Relax. Take some deep breaths and close your eyes. It’s important to be aware in Savasana, soften the root of the tongue, the jaw, the nose, the skin of the forehead, let the eyes sink to the back of the head. Stay in the pose for at least five minutes. To get out of the pose, simply roll gently with an exhalation onto one side. Take two or three breaths before pressing your hands against the floor and lifting your torso, dragging your head slowly after. The head should always come up last.

Yoga Pose Of The Day: Downward-Facing Dog

English Name: Downward-Facing Dog

Sanskrit Name: Adho Mukha Svanasana

Yoga Level: 1

Benefits: Downward-Facing dog has many benefits, it’s a great pose to energize the body, calm the brain and relieve stress and mild depression. It can improve digestion, help prevent osteoporosis, stretch the shoulders, calves, hamstrings, arches and hands. It can also help relieve symptoms of menopause, it can also relieve menstrual discomfort when the head is supported. Downward-Facing dog can also relieve headaches, insomnia, back pain, fatigue, it is therapeutic for asthmatics and can help people with high blood pressure, flat feet, sciatica and sinusitis.

How to do it: Sit on your mat on your hands and knees. Make sure your knees are directly below your hips and your hands are slightly in front of your shoulders. Spread your palms wide, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under.

Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. At first keep the knees slightly bent, if this is enough for you then stop there. Downward-Facing Dog is a beginner’s pose but can be difficult for those with stiff legs. If you are ready to improve on the pose then lift the heels away from your mat. Lengthen your tail bone away from the back of your pelvis. Lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling, and from your inner ankles draw the inner legs up into the groins.

Once you have achieved this, exhale. Push the top of the thighs back and stretch your heels onto or down toward the floor. Straighten your knees but be sure not to lock them, keep a slight bend or you will overstretch the muscles in the legs. Keep the head between the upper arms; don’t let it hang.

Adho Mukha Svanasana/Downward-Facing Dog is one of the poses in the traditional Sun Salutation sequence. It’s also an excellent yoga asana all on its own. Stay in this pose anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. Then bend your knees to the floor with an exhalation and rest in Child’s Pose (see previous yoga of the day pose).

Yoga Vocabulary: Sun Salutation Sequence – A dynamic asana sequence, also known as Surya Namaskar means to bow to or to adore. Each sun salutation begins and ends with joined hands (Mudra) touched to the heart. The placement means that only the heart can know the truth. 

Yoga Pose Of The Day: Child’s Pose

English Name: Child’s Pose

Sanskrit Name: Balasana

Yoga Level: 1

Benefits: Child’s pose gently stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles. We don’t usually breathe into the back of the torso, so this pose allows you to do just that. Child’s pose calms the brain and helps relieve stress and fatigue, it can also relieve back and neck pain.

How to do it: Sit on your mat, get comfortable. Kneel on your mat, touch your big toes together and sit on your heels. Slowly separate your knees as wide as your mat and exhale. Lay down your torso between your thights. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of the pelvis, life the base of your skull away from the back of your neck.

Lay your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up, and release the fronts of your shoulders toward the floor. You should be able to feel the weight of your shoulders, pull the shoulder blades wide across your back.

Even though Child’s pose/Balasana is a resting pose it still has many benefits and can me nice when followed by any asana.  Stay in child’s pose for thirty seconds, or a few minutes if you wish. Beginners should be able to do this pose but if you have a difficulty sitting your heels, you can fold a blanket and place it between your thighs and calves. To come out of the pose, lengthen the front torso, and then with an inhalation lift from the tailbone as it presses down and into the pelvis.

Yoga Vocabularly: Asana – a posture adopted in performing hatha yoga.

Variation: Extended Child’s Pose – Same pose but with extended arms in front rather than at your side.

Yoga Pose Of The Day: Boat Pose

English Name: Boat Pose

Sanskrit Name: Paripurna Navasana

Yoga Level: 1

Benefits: Strengthens the abdomen, hip flexors and spine,
stimulates the kidneys, thyroid and prostate glands and intenstines,
helps relieve stress and improves digestion.

How to do it: Start by sitting on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Place your hands on the floor behind your hips, fingers pointing toward the feet, make sure you have nice strong arms. Don’t curve your back, keep it nice and straight. Exhale deeply and bend your knees. Lift them up, make sure that your thighs are at a 45 degree angle from the floor, lengthen your tailbone. If you can, slowly straighten your knees. Raise the tips of our toes slightly above the level of your eyes.

Do what feels comfortable for you. If you can only do it with your knees bent then that’s perfectly fine. Next, stretch your arms out, parallel to your legs. Spread your shoulder blades across your back and reach out through your fingers. If you find this difficult then keep your hands on the floor beside your hips and hold onto the back of your thighs. Try to keep the lower belly relatively flat. Breathe easy.

Press the heads of the thigh bones toward the floor to help anchor the pose and lift the top of the sternum. There you have it. Boat pose. Stay in the pose for about ten to twenty seconds. Gradually increase the time that you stay in the pose and you will get stronger and better at it in time. When you are ready to leave the pose,  release your legs with an exhalation and inhale as you sit upright.

A Journey Of A Thousand Miles Must Begin With A Single Step


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‘Peace comes from within.  Do not seek it without.’ – Buddha

I have heard many things when it comes to yoga and meditation and I have to admit it, I was definitely a sceptic. I refused to believe that sitting down and focusing on your breathing for ten minutes could release all of the toxins and the bad energy from the body.

Today I decided to stop talking about yoga and start doing yoga. I have always had an interest in yoga and meditation but never really pushed myself to actually do it. I am so glad that I finally motivated myself. I have suffered with anxiety for numerous years, it crept up on me one day when I was at college and it has lingered over my head ever since. It only takes something small to trigger it, whether it be the stresses of university work, family worries or relationship struggles – my anxiety takes over. My heart beats increases, my chest tightens and I feel like I lose control of my positive thoughts. I sometimes get frustrated because I can still get anxiety symptoms when I don’t have anything stressful on my mind.

Here is where yoga comes in. I didn’t expect a permanent solution, I just wanted an outlet. I also have a hip condition so the idea of yoga has always seemed like an impossible achievement for me. I decided to give it a go anyway and in the process of experiencing yoga, I found meditation. I struggled to let go of the tension that built up in my mind and my body. I didn’t believe that meditation would work, but it did. I entered a trance-like-state without even realising it. I focused on my breathing, inhaling and exhaling. That’s all that I needed to think about. I cleared my mind. My eyes closed. I felt at one with myself. When I had finished I felt revitalised and free of anxiety and tension.

Amazing right? The lesson I have recently learned is a journey of a thousand miles must being with a single step. You have to try new things and find your true self. Take that first step and you may discover something great. I just hope that I stick to my yoga and meditation. I frequently go through phases of doing things. I learn a new subject or skill, I am fascinated by it and for a while it is my new favourite thing until it fades into obscurity. I get bored easily but I feel different about this. I believe that yoga and meditation will help me in every aspect of my life and I am determined to carry on doing it. It is a discipline that I feel that I need right now. I am going back to University in a few weeks and I don’t want the ghost of my anxiety to return. I haven’t had an attack in about six months. University is the number one trigger but now I have my new tools to help me cope. Yoga and meditation will hopefully help me control my worries and my anxious thoughts. I am confident that this is the beginning of a new spiritual journey, something great, something peaceful, something new.