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5 ways to overcome fear and anxiety

Natalie Snooke - Thursday, July 07, 2016

There isn't a person alive who doesn't experience fear.

As a coach and teacher who has had the privilege of working fairly intimately with hundreds of people over the years, I get to witness the positive and negative effects of fear first-hand. 

Being able to experience and move past fear, nervousness, self-doubt and worry is a skill most of us could become much better at. 

When we successfully manage our fears we live courageously, make good decisions, participate fully in relationships and enjoy a fulfilling life. And we feel good about ourselves!

Yet if our fear isn't addressed and well-managed, especially with the pace and complexity of modern life, it can easily become chronic anxiety with debilitating health, wellbeing and social impacts. 

Anxiety disorders have become the most common illnesses in Australia and the western world. According to Beyond Blue in Australia now one in every three women and one in every five men will experience anxiety - as will one in every six young people aged 16-24. That's pretty staggering when you think about it.

So what exactly is fear?

We know about the 'genuine form' of fear. It's one of the four primary human emotional states along with happiness/pleasure, sadness and anger. Fear's job is to let us know when things aren't 'quite right', to guide us to be safe and to look after ourselves. Like making us wait on the kerb so we don't cross the road in front of traffic. Healthy fear enables us to make good practical choices for how to live. 

Fear also has what I'll call a 'lesser form' that causes us the most problems. These subtler, more common fears come in the form of niggling worries, self-doubt, negativity, criticism and even procrastination. They are fears that we 'perceive' to be true, yet aren't. Things like: 

  • fear of speaking-up
  • worrying about what other people think 
  • fear of being rejected or not liked
  • fear of failing
  • fear of not being good enough
  • fear of not being able to cope. 
Which ones do you relate most to?

The impact of these lesser fears accumulates and puts us in a state of stagnation, confusion, defensiveness or makes us feel like we're just surviving - none of which are helpful in the long-run. They keep us stuck from taking healthy risks and meaningful steps forward in our personal or professional lives - and prevent us from being the person we'd really like to be or from living the life we'd rather be living. 

When we take a closer look at our lesser fears we find they're actually not that accurate, big or scary, its just that we've believed them and built-them-up to be that way. More on that later.

Mindfulness and breaking down fear.

If we break-down each fear experience it actually has two components: a thinking or story component; as well as an energetic component of felt sensations in the body. Most often we pay too much attention to (and get lost in) our 'story' and not enough attention to simply 'feeling' the raw bodily sensations of our fear. By developing mindfulness or self-awareness we get much better at being with our fears as a way of releasing them. Again, more on that later.

Fear also also tends to be a rather slippery emotion. Sometimes it hides beneath sadness or anger or even beneath the surface of our conscious awareness. We might strategically bypass or deny our fear but nonetheless it goes about sabotaging us and prevents us from being happy, without us even being aware of it. 

We all have the capacity to see through and overcome our fears. It's about putting fear into a healthy perspective, learning to be brave, putting into place helpful skills and practices and believing in your 'best' self. How?

These five approaches will get you on your way.

1. Understand that the root-cause of fear is your mind.

At its fundamental level, the root-cause of fear is over-identification with the egoic mind (as well as the limbic system that controls our emotions). We believe that we ARE our thoughts or emotions. We believe (and give unnecessary power to) the negative stories and self-beliefs that we tell ourselves. We lose the ability to see ourselves beyond our thoughts. 

Know that there is an aspect of you that is not fearful, an aspect that is beyond fear and doubt. Although it might be awkward or challenging at first, learn to get in touch with and experience this part of yourself. 

Take three deep breaths to relax and begin to notice yourself as the 'aware presence' that just witnesses your fearful thoughts and emotions - that part of you that is free and beyond the fear itself. (If you're having trouble relating to what I'm saying, don't worry, just keep reading because one of the other approaches will probably resonate more for you!)

2. RAIN - recognise and accept yourself as you are.

The RAIN approach, developed by psychologist and teacher Tara Brach, is a simple way of befriending and overcoming all sorts of emotional states including fear. It reminds us that all emotional states are temporary, they come and they go if we give them the chance to do so. The power of this step-by-step approach is in accepting yourself just as you are and showing self-compassion. 

Recognize what is going on. You might say to yourself: 'right now I am scared' or 'right now I am feeling anxious'.
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is. There's no need to change anything.
Investigate with interest and care. Become curious about what's going on inside you. Observe your thoughts and the sensations in your body.
Nourish with self-compassion. Go gently with yourself in the process. Treat yourself kindly. Let go of expectations and judgments. 

3. Adopt a life-long mindfulness practice - how yoga and meditation helps overcome fear.

Begin a regular yoga and/or meditation practice and stick with it over a number of years to experience its full fear-busting benefits. 

Yoga involves working mindfully with the body and the breath to enhance and balance our flow of energy. When we practice authentic yoga regularly over a period of time our energy flow increases and we become more and more attuned to noticing and accepting all of the various sensations, thoughts and emotions that dwell within us in any given moment. For example, we might notice when we become scared before attempting a new yoga posture. Our yoga teacher is there to gently encourage us to safely 'feel and meet' this fear rather than running from it, denying it or indulging in it. Despite the fear, we give the posture our best and be happy with our efforts. 

A similar process happens in meditation. We train ourselves to be mindful, to focus and notice things that arise in us moment by moment. If fear or self-doubt arises we learn to gently 'be' with it and to give it time to dissolve. Over time as we become more skilled we become better able to experience fear and its impacts on us tend to lessen. 

By applying these skills we learn in yoga and meditation we become skillful in overcoming fears in our daily life. And when we stop resisting feeling fear, we give ourselves the opportunity to open to the deeper peace and joy that's naturally within us. This is the ultimate goal of yoga and meditation.

According to Yoga Australia the peak professional body for yoga in Australia, there is a growing number of scientific studies that confirm the evidence of yoga and meditation's positive health and wellbeing benefits on anxiety.

4. Get support with therapy or coaching.

When we are facing our fears we are really confronting ourselves. Getting the support and confidence of someone else is crucial if you are really serious about overcoming your fears - I know that I would not be who or where I am today if it wasn't for the valuable support of both professions at different stages of my personal growth. I truly believe that it takes the support of someone else to allow us to grow into our fullest potential.

A good psychologist or therapist will support you to understand and be with your fear and anxiety. A good life coach or executive coach specialising in mindfulness will also help you to deepen your self-awareness, identify your unique vision, values and goals and take meaningful steps to move you forwards. Both professions will teach you invaluable skills that you can adopt and master for happier everyday living.

5. Choose LOVE over fear.

The opposite of fear is love. Fear cannot exist where there is love. By this I mean seeing the goodness in life and adopting the attitude, confidence and trust that life is 'for us' instead of 'against us'. 

Choosing to live from a place of love means that you are ruthlessly committed to creating and finding goodness, hope, peace and harmony in yourself, in others and in the world - as opposed to competition, blaming, one-up-manship and the need to prove oneself - which are all fear-based. Love opens and expands. Love is courageous. Love is strength. Choosing love evokes our greatest human and spiritual potential.

Choosing love is however not for the faint hearted, but it is powerful beyond words! I recommend books and talks by empowering spiritual teachers/leaders such as Michael Beckwith, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Tara Brach and Marianne Williamson - and I'm sure there are others. 

Embracing life and overcoming fear are one and the same. At Momentum Coaching & Yoga we stand for, honour and support the best, most courageous and most loving version of you - always.

With love,
Natalie

What is mindfulness?

Natalie Snooke - Friday, April 29, 2016

Mindfulness. I well remember the time in my early 20's when I first made the discovery. When I realised I could 'observe' my own mind without getting involved in its story. 

I was at a communications skills workshop with well-known facilitator Rachel Green, who had us in pairs talking and listening. One person had to talk while the other person had to listen and at the same time, watch their own internal dialogue and reactions. As I was listening to my partner, I realised that I could also see what was going-on with my thoughts and reactions without getting caught up in them or in the other person's story. It was one of those light-bulb moments. 

Up until that point in my life, it hadn't really dawned on me that I could actually 'watch' my own mind. 

It was like I had discovered a new way of being with myself - not that I had any idea of the significance of this discovery at the time, I just thought it was pretty cool! And later as an adult, this realisation would deepen, become the cornerstone of my life and lead to tremendous growth and joy, as well as my fair-share of frustrations along the way.

I had discovered the art of mindfulness - the capacity of human beings to be mindful or self-aware. 

We all have an inner-observer. A part of us that is simply aware or conscious of what is going on around us and, that can also be aware of whatever is going on within us. It is widely accepted amongst scientists that the capacity to be self-aware is what distinguishes humans from other animals, yet its significance and importance is often misunderstood and under-valued, especially when it comes to our happiness and sense of fulfillment in life.

In fact, mindfulness is the essential ingredient of creativity, wisdom, authentic happiness and living to our highest potential. 

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness has several aspects to it. As we make our way through life it means to:

  • be aware of our thoughts, feelings, senses and physical experiences, moment to moment;
  • pay attention to our immediate surroundings;
  • be at ease and allow whatever is happening and;
  • be kind and intentional in our thoughts, words and actions.
The concept of mindfulness originates from the ancient Buddhist tradition and the Pali word sati meaning to remember. It is understood that without having some foundations of mindfulness, something to anchor our attention to, we simply 'forget' to be present. And this leads us to suffer and be unhappy.

Although mindfulness is a simple approach, and most people can understand it, it isn't easy and takes effort to put into practice. 

Unfortunately our conditioning and our habits, the things that we do mindlessly, get in the way. We've trained ourselves in unhealthy ways - with the help of things like Facebook, Thermomixes and a materialistic, complex and technologically-driven world - to have a fairly scattered quality of attention. Somehow, we've convinced ourselves that we feel good when we multi-task and get as many things done as quickly as we can, whilst often paying little attention to the details and to what we are thinking or how we are feeling in the moment. 

Because we tend to be two-steps ahead and focussing on the future (or 'shoulding' about the past) rather than in 'the now' we therefore 'miss out' on a lot of what's actually going on inside us. This means that we can't access our creativity, we aren't able to be in our hearts and fully connect with others, we miss the warning signs that our body isn't coping or all too often, we feel like we don't know who we are anymore. I witness many people who suffer from one or more of these symptoms - also known as a mid-life crisis.

Is this making sense?

Consider how mindful you are in a typical day. If you:
  • spend most of your time remembering or regretting about what you 'should' have had, said or felt and/or;
  • spend most of your time thinking, planning, hoping or worrying about what you're going to have, do, say or feel like 'next' and/or;
  • drive somewhere but once you arrive you cannot remember anything about the journey you've just taken and/or;
  • find yourself forgetting someone's name after you've just been introduced to them only moments before, then this would indicate that you are normal! But that you're not paying full attention in the present moment - you're not being as mindful as you could.
Mindfulness is not about perfection.

Sure, being mindful one hundered percent of the time is a challenging task and we are not seeking some impossible perfection! Part of the paradox of mindfulness is that it's about accepting and allowing ourselves and life to be just as it is, warts and all.

With mindfulness, there's a middle-path to explore, a way for us to create balance between accepting things as they are and putting in meaningful effort to create greater ease and harmony. Most of us would find we'd feel more naturally happy and satisfied with ourselves, others, our work and our life if we were more self-aware, more allowing and more mindful. 

The benefits of mindfulness.

Plenty of research compiled at the American Mindfulness Research Association shows that mindfulness reduces stress at work, improves heart health, enables us to better manage our food intake and improves the quality of our relationships. Being mindful or not can be the difference between: being stressed or being comfortable; feeling anxious or feeling at ease and; suffering in life or embracing life as it is.

When we become more mindful, we gain clarity about what's really important to us and we're able to peel away some of the unnecessary complexities of life. 

One of the best ways to cultivate mindfulness is through a regular meditation or yoga practice. These kinds of body-centred practice trains us to remain present and anchored to our body and our breath, as well as to be allowing and kind to ourselves, moment by moment. And anyone can learn these skills.

To learn more about mindfulness and how to practise it in daily life, we recommend starting with our Beginner's Meditation Courseand Beginner's Yoga Courses, run throughout the year at our centre in Melville.

Over time, mindfulness allows us to suffer less and to love more. It leads us inwards, back to our heart, to the greatest ease and joy that's available to any human being. Are you open to it?

Wishing you well in the moment!
Natalie

How to be calm and content even when you're not on holidays

Natalie Snooke - Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Returning from India, after several weeks on retreat and holidays - exploring temples, meditating and practicing yoga for extended periods, laughing with local village men and women, walks along the beach, shopping for colourful fabrics and gifts, savouring spices and zesty foods - having amazing experiences without having to worry about cooking, cleaning or other daily chores, it would be easy to feel sad and regret being back home.

But that's not the case.

Like many clients and students I work with, I used to think that being truly content and calm was only possible when I was on holidays. During those times when I wasn't working, when I didn't have bills to pay and when I didn't have to do things I didn't want to do. Then after one holiday I had to plan the next holiday to get me through.

Contentment and calm in daily life is closer to us than we might think. At our core, in our heart we are peacefully happy. It's our nature. It's the very foundation of our being, yet somehow along the pathway of life, we've managed to 'unlearn' and forget this.

Contentment and calm is about creating - and recreating - daily balance so that we can know this within. It's about being clear about our real priorities and putting them into practice everyday. 

Holidays and taking regular time-off from work are essential for our wellbeing. But if we realise that we don't have to be on holidays in order to feel peaceful or happy with ourselves, then we can save ourselves a lot of extra energy, effort and frustration. Not to mention money.  

Being home and back working at Momentum, despite the fact that I had business emails and projects to catch up on, bills to pay, a garden to tend and meals to prepare, I found that I could really enjoy these responsibilities and duties. I could commit to simply doing each task fully - living in the moment without wishing I was back on retreat. I could also relish moments of joy like gazing up at the golden full-moon. And I've come to realise that its because of a few simple, fundamental things that have become my way-of-life over the years, things that I do everyday that don't take a lot of time, that has allowed a deep, positive impact to accummulate. 

Sure, my life is no bed of roses, I still have my moments! But generally I'm able to be calm and content most days, no matter what I'm doing or what life demands of me. 

The secret is simple and often. So here they are. 

Meditate in the early-morning. Getting up around sunrise and spending (at least) the first 10 minutes of every day sitting in silent meditation or contemplation is profoundly powerful. Relax as you focus on the natural breath. Doing this connects you within and creates a calm focus for the day ahead.

Practice gratitude. Writing in a journal about five things, people, opportunities or your character-traits that you are grateful for, big or small cultivates genuine gratitude and compassion. Try and make your five different everyday. This practice is heart-opening and expands your presence. The vibration of gratitude makes us more receptive to the good in life. 

Know your purpose. Knowing what you're doing and why you're doing it is personally empowering. Find out the bigger purpose to you and your life, that underpins everything that you do. And if you aren't sure about this, then start to question yourself or seek some life coaching support to clarify it. It makes all the difference! 

It's this type of approach that we all need to adopt if we are sincere about wanting to be calm and content in our everyday lives. Then our holidays can truly add to our wellbeing and to the rich tapestry of our life-experience, rather than become a desperate escape from the very life that beckons us to realise who we are and embrace this, each and every day.

How will you start your day tomorrow?

Natalie

The 9 healthy habits for living to be 100

Natalie Snooke - Monday, November 30, 2015

We all want to live a long, happy and healthy life. But you might not believe that its possible to be 100 and still be active and enjoying every minute. Here's how.

Global research reveals that living to be healthy, disease-free and 100+ is not as rare or as complicated as we might think. 

Making simple lifestlye choices are the key to slowing down the aging process and positively influencing how long and how well we will live. No matter how old you are and where you live, you can learn how to, starting today.

Debunking Myths

With so much information available around on healthy living, it can be confusing to know what to believe so this research was designed to identify the key factors for longevity. What things really made a difference?  

Do health supplements make a difference? Do we need passion, purpose or spirituality? Does organic verses non-organic matter? Should we practice yoga or should we run marathons? Should we be vegan, vegetarian, eat fish or eat meat? And what about our genes? 

For over five years National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner and a team from the US National Institute of Aging examined cultures around the world. They identified the areas with the highest demographic proportion of people aged 100 years or more - areas where life expectancy is up to 12 years greater than it is in Australia - and identified the common lifestyle characteristics that made them live longer. They called these areas 'blue zones'. 

The four blue zones are found in Sardinia Italy, Okinawa Japan, Nicoya Costa Rica and surprisingly, in California USA. 

What was discovered in these blue zones, not only do people live to be ripe-old-ages of 100+ they are also mostly free of chronic disease. They live vigorous, engaged lives and it's rare that they die in hospital beds or nursing homes. That's good news for everyone. 

The Truth Revealled

Nine common relatively simple factors, making up the optimal formula for longevity, were found.

1. Move naturally every day. None of the blue zones 'exercised' per se. They incorporated natural movement in the tasks of their day, like walking as a mode of transport and tending to their garden. In Sardinia, men of 102 years of age still ride bikes to work.

  • Although it might mean a little inconvenience, create space for daily physical activity. 
  • Choose to work or go to schools closer to home that you can walk or ride a bike to instead of driving a car. Or ride or walk a part of the way. 
  • Do active household chores like raking and sweeping as often as you can, rather than getting others or machines to do the work. Most of us would do well to take a leaf out of our grandparents' book!
2. Practice mindful eating and reduce food intake by 20%. Those in Okinawa have a saying ''Hara hachi bi' which reminds them to not over-eat and to stop eating when they are 80% full. They also make eating a ritual and conscious activity. In Nicoya they also ate a light dinner early in the evening.
  • Practice eating less and stopping before you are completely full to leave enough room for digestion (this is also an ancient yogic practice called mityahara). 
  • Use smaller plates and bowls.
  • Try making your evening meal lighter than your lunch, and eating early in the evening,
  • Serve food first, put the rest away and then sit to eat mindfully. All-you-can-eat buffets with second and third helpings were not a part of the blue-zone cultures.

3. Eat a mainly plant-based diet. Across all of the blue zones there was a prevalence of plant-based foods including vegetables, grains, nuts and tofu (that wasn't necessarily organic). 

  • Increase the amount of fresh vegetables and plant-based protein foods in your daily diet.
  • Consider having set meat-free meals or days.
  • Notice how you feel after eating less meat after a period of time.

4. Drink red wine...in moderation! A daily intake of no more than two serves of red wine per day was found to be common amongst those living the longest in the blue zones.

5. Determine your life purpose. In Okinawa, they have a life-purpose called an ekigai or a 'reason to get up in the morning' with them throughout their life and there is no word for retirement. It gave their life value. 

  • Why do you get up in the morning and do what you do?
  • Develop a heartfelt personal vision or mission statement. 
  • Write down a list of things that naturally draw your interest and curiosity, looking for the common threads and finding ways to make that basis of your life. 

6. Simplify to relieve stress. Each of the blue zones communities practised the habit of taking rest. For those in California, it was an established seventh-day ritual.

  • Reduce your daily to-do list to just the most important to allow time for rest.
  • Practice giving yourself more time to arrive somewhere early, rather than rushing to be late. 
  • Spend quiet time without television or computers to help to soothe your nervous system. 
  • Learn life-skills such as yoga and meditation for relaxation.
  • These may seem like a small things, but they can have a big, cumulative impact on your overall sense of wellbeing. 

7. Belonging to a faith-based community. In California the men and women living in a Seventh Day Adventist community live up to 11 years older than average Americans. They follow a small set of common values and lifestyle habits throughout their lives. For one day per week, they have a 'sabath' a strict rest day and often take a nature walk. Prayer was also found to be a part of the Sardinian blue zone group.

  • Get to know yourself on a deeper level by exploring your spirituality.  
  • No longer just for church-goers, spiritual communities and groups, such as reflective peer support groups, some yoga centres or meditation groups bring people together in ways that foster connection, practice and conversation based on a spiritual or deeper meaning of life. 

8. Put loved ones first and make family a priority. In Sardinia, where they have an extra six years of longevity, the older they get, the more wisdom they are celebrated for.  They show great respect for their elders and this also has a positive influence on their youth.

  • What does family connection look like to you? 
  • Create family rituals like walks, games nights or Sunday dinners to unite your loved ones. 
  • Consider how you might spend more regular time with your family to promote togetherness. 

9. Choose the right tribe. In Okinawa, it was found that people belonged to a small circles of life-long friends called a moai where the challenges and joys of life were all shared freely. 

  • The people that you surround yourself with influence your health more so than almost any other factor. 
  • Choose to be around people who share similar values as you, who prioritise their physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing in ways that inspire you rather than turn you off. 
  • Maybe its time to reconnect with or refresh your tribe!

"The calculus of aging offers us two options: We can live a shorter life with more years of disability or we can live the longest possible life with fewest bad years. As my centenarian friends showed me, the choice is largely up to us." Dan Buettner. Watch his TED talk here.

At Momentum Coaching and Yoga all of our coaching, yoga and meditation services support the findings of the Blue Zone research. We encourage you to try (and try us again) for yourself.

May you live a happy, healthy and long life,

Natalie


Why people give up on yoga and how to stay on track

Natalie Snooke - Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Why_do_people_give_up_on_yoga_momentum_coaching_yoga_perthWhy do people give-up or struggle to get back to their yoga, even when they know it's what they really need? 

Helping yourself and finding the answers might be simpler than you think.

Yoga - when we apply ourselves to its practices, its positive values and approach to life - brings great health, happiness, wisdom and love. Yoga (including the practice of meditation) can cure disease, reverse the effects of ageing, balance the nervous system, connect us to our loving heart and bring us vitality and emotional resilience to live life to the full.

The benefits of yoga and meditation are there for everyone - ask anyone who's been practicing for a few years and they'll tell you how it sustains their life. 

Yet paradoxically, it's often the case that many people start yoga, with the best of intentions, enjoy it's benefits for a short time, even grow to love it and then let it go. Often without ever really stopping to question how or why. Sound familiar?

Everyone has Problems with Yoga

The truth is that everyone encounters problems with their yoga! Yoga's systematic, inside-out process is cleverly designed to test us out. To coax each of us to reach our best potential by rising above whatever challenges us, both on and off the yoga mat. 

We can expect that there will be negative circumstances that have the potential to get in the way of our yoga - if we let it. Usually within the first three months of starting yoga, and regularly thereafter, most people will run into something that challenges them to keep up their regular practice. Momentum_Coaching_Yoga_Melville

When we find ourselves challenged in continuing our yoga classes or doing our home practice, we need to take a moment to stop, be honest and notice how our thinking and behaviour patterns are contributing to the challenge. This is part of yoga.

Challenges can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Sometimes they're obvious - we might get sick - and sometimes they're more subtle and show up in our thinking or attitude. More about these challenges later in the blog.

By just being aware whenever we're finding yoga a challenge is a fantastic first-step - in doing so, we can consciously overcome it. Then rather than giving-up, we summons our wisdom, strength and courage to meet the challenge. We gently persevere, find a way around it, minimise it's impact, get some support or modify our approach. 

The secret to happiness and freedom through yoga (like life) is found in how we overcome our challenges. Those who benefit the most from yoga are those who find a way around their obstacles and continue to practice. Take this example.

The Stress of Life

Say you've had a particularly stressful day at work, where nothing seemed to go your way and just before you're ready to leave, your boss gives you another project to add on to your already-over-loaded workload.

You normally go to a yoga class after work but today you feel totally over it. Your mind is numb and you don't feel like doing anything else apart from crashing on your couch with your favourite glass of cab sav. Somehow, you know that yoga would really help you out but today you feel like you've had enough. What do you do? 

How_to_Stay_on_Track_with_Yoga_Momentum_Caoching_Yoga_PerthFirst of all, you acknowledge and accept that you're being challenged! 

Rather than react and give-in to frustration, you take a moment to pause, take a deep breath and decide to make a start on your new project in the morning, when you're fresh. 

You listen to your wisdom (that you'll feel better by doing your yoga) knowing that it will uplift you and shift your gloomy mood. You gently acknowledge and put-aside the tempting thoughts to bail-out and you take the next step towards leaving work on-time to get to your yoga class. 

When you get to your class, you find that your teacher gives you just the right words of encouragement you needed to hear to help you put things into perspective. You feel happy again and you feel good about yourself having made the effort. And the next time it happens, having gained some inner strength from last time, it's that much easier not to give-up your yoga for the sake of a challenge.

Ok. I realise that this might sound idealistic and that sometimes things might not be that straightforward. But you get the gist. There are ALWAYS thoughts, feelings and attitudes that you can work through and wise, helpful choices that you can make, to help yourself when it comes to yoga. Or anything else for that matter.

More About the Most Common Obstacles

The good news is that you don't need to spend too much time problem-solving your yoga challenges. Yoga philosophy takes care of that. 

The recognised authority on yoga, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali written around 2500 years ago describes the obstacles and mental distractions (as well as solutions) that are likely to arise on the yoga journey. They are common to everyone. They are a natural, predicable part of the yoga process so we can take some comfort just by knowing this. 

Here are the six main obstacles to be aware of and ways to overcome them.

1. Sickness
Any sickness or disease means there is energetic instability in the body/mind and yoga is about recalibrating and balancing this. If you are unwell, it can be easy to assume that you shouldn't start or continue yoga. On the contrary, some yoga will generally benefit. Yoga can take many forms and with a skilled teacher, can be effectively targeted and safely modified to suit a range of illnesses and ailments. As a guide, if you have a headcold/flu, continue to practice gently, unless the symptoms are in the chest. 

Before you decide to give-up your practice, speak to your teacher about what they can recommend. At Momentum, we are used to accommodating students and are happy to have a chat to your treating doctor, specialist or physio about your needs, knowing that sometimes medical professionals have a limited understanding of the full range of potential yoga practices that can safely help you.   

2. Sensory Overload
The colours, sights, sounds and responsibilities of modern life draws our attention continuously outward, external to our body. Living this was takes up a lot of energy. We become mentally distracted, our nervous system remains on hyper-alert, our focus of attention weakens as we try to take too many things on-board and we tend to feel disconnected and 'lose' ourselves. 

Yoga and meditation is supported by moderation. Too much of anything becomes an obstacle to practice. Moderation in eating, drinking, talking, working and exercise, as well as sleeping and rest is important. Notice the areas of your life where you tend to over-do things and start to bring it into better balance. When we're in balance, it's easy to be kind to ourself and to do only what is important or needed, rather than everything we tell ourselves we 'should'. The energy you save is invaluable and can then be put to good use in your yoga or meditation.

3. Lethargy 
A lack of energy or feeling of inertia happens to us all from time to time. When you notice this, first of all it's important that you adjust your routine and make conscious choices to manage your energy inputs and outputs - eat regular, nutritious meals, get a good night's sleep, have a good balance of work-rest-play and reduce your social interactions. 

Yoga postures, movement, breathwork and relaxation is designed to replenish rather than reduce your energy, so bear this in mind. The sooner you can start or return to yoga, the better you'll feel. Don't be tempted to wait for life to be perfect for yoga, as it often isn't! 


4. Doubt
Thinking things like "Yoga won't work for me or or I'm not flexible enough for yoga" or "I don't need to do yoga today" are very common mental misconceptions.

Doubt arises when we don't have faith in ourselves or trust in the potential of yoga. Most doubt is not true and is just a veil of the mind that can be proven otherwise.

To address your doubts, talk to a trusted friend or yoga teacher to allay your fears. Draw on your courage to try, practice and keep practicing, until you see through your doubts.

5.  Haste
Being impatient, careless or hasty with your approach to yoga can also be an obstacle. Doing so may mean that you injure yourself or because of high expectations, feel disappointed and don't continue. Remember that yoga is a journey, with many gems along the way, so consider having a realistic long-term approach. 

Be prepared to go carefully and to take things step-by-step. Remember the race between the hare and the tortoise? The tortoise always wins the race in yoga too.

6.  Apathy
Having a defeatest attitude towards yoga can be one of the more subtle obstacles to yoga that lurks away underneath the surface. Check your attitude on a regular basis. Remind yourself of the things you have to be positive about! Remember how far you've already come in your yoga (and in your life) and call on the support of your family, friends, fellow students and yoga teacher. 

If you choose to be positive, then positive benefits will flow to you.

Freedom from suffering is one of the basic tenets of yoga. And it is often our suffering and lack of well-being that first brings us to yoga. By gently persevering through our challenges we can and will experience greater freedom in the body, mind and heart through yoga - but we have to trust and give the process of yoga a real chance.

After 10+ years of practice myself and having stepped through many challenges, I can honestly say that the rewards are totally worth it! But more about that another time...

Best wishes as you meet and overcome your yoga challenges.
Namaste.
Natalie

Optimism and resilience: the positive benefits of being creative

Natalie Snooke - Thursday, October 08, 2015

No matter what your age, your occupation or your life path, it is never too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity. The biggest mistake you can make when it comes to creativity is to think that you don’t have any! 

We all have the seeds of creativity within us. To be creative is to be human. To bring what is inside you out into the world, as only you can, for the pure sake of your expression and enjoyment, is to be creative.

How to be more creative.

Think of creativity as more of a state-of-mind than an end-product. Sure, sometimes it’s about producing something but equally it’s about being more open and creative in our approach that yields us the same pay-offs.

By keeping a conscious, present, open-minded and open-hearted attitude in how you approach things, from the big projects to the smallest of everyday tasks, you'll experience creativity benefits both now and as you age (more on that later in the blog.)

Remember your creative childhood?

As children we played, invented, danced, coloured, built, explored, devised, spray-painted, carved, bombed, burned, rallied, jump-started, dressed, cooked, joined, thread-and-needled, smashed and fixed just about anything and everything, where several hours would often go by effortlessly and our mothers would come to find us happily engrossed in our business. We didn’t think twice about it. Being creative was all that we knew.  And yet sadly as we grow into adults and experience our fair share of life's challenges we simply ‘forget’ how to be playful, spontaneous and creative.

If we neglect our creativity then a valuable part of our soul withers away and we can end up feeling (unnecessarily) grumpy with ourselves and disenchanted with our life.

There are as many forms of creativity as there are people.

Let go of the idea that to be creative you need to be able to paint or draw. Art is just one form of creativity.

Creativity is about joy and exploration in a myriad of forms, rather than mastery. It’s anything that allows you to enjoy, explore and express your perspectives, views, beauty and/or ideas. Just about anything you do can be approached creatively.

The big benefits of being creative.

Practicing creativity generates many benefits. According to researchers Ebersole & Hess (1998) it has been shown to:

  • Increase resilience
  • Maintain your sense of integrity
  • Help to resolve conflicts
  • Give a greater sense of well-being and personal growth
  • Help to build better relationships
  • Make thoughts and feelings become clear.

Ruth Richards, psychology professor at Saybrook University and Harvard Medical School says that encouraging creative behaviours makes us more dynamic, conscious, non-defensive, observant, collaborative and brave. 

Studies of older people who practice creativity found that they stayed healthier for longer, had fewer visits to health care providers, used fewer medications, were more outgoing, more socially active, less lonely, and more optimistic. 

How to Boost Your Creativity

Ask yourself: what interests me? What intrigues me? What have I always wanted to try but haven’t? What work, process or routine chore could I re-engineer to make it more fun?

Make a list of all the things that interest and intrigue you. Include big things as well as small things. Even though you’ll probably have mind-blanks and blocks, gently persevere with yourself and keep writing (without editing) until you have at least a half-page of writing. Let yourself ponder and have fun with it.

Like anything that you want to improve, you can boost your creativity by simply paying more attention to it and setting the intention to bring more creativity into your life.

Try changing a routine or habitual pattern. If you always go to the same café for coffee, change the route you take or change the café and notice what you see.

Renew an old hobby. Dig out the guitar, your scrap books, your favourite recipes or your tools.

Start a journal. Expose yourself to more arts. Spend more time in nature. Go bush-walking. Play and explore.

Give your creative side the air-time it needs.

We have the tendency to lead overly busy lives which has the effect of drowning-out our ‘inner voice’ and the cornerstone of our creativity. To become more creative it’s important that you can slow down and carve-out some regular time (eg 2 hours) in your schedule for creativity, just like you would schedule a work meeting or dentist appointment.

This approach might sound a bit unromantic, however the reality is that if you are already busy and don’t set aside the time in advance, it’s unlikely to happen if you just leave it to chance. Make a commitment to yourself that you will keep this appointment. Make arrangements to be child-free or get creative with your children, if that works for you. Be prepared to decline other offers that come along. Do whatever you need to give yourself dedicated creative time. 

What have you got to lose? Go get creative and see what a positive difference it can make.

If you struggle with creativity then you can always reach-out for one-on-one support and accountability through Life Coaching or join us for some regular yoga to get your creative juices flowing.

May your creative seeds blossum and grow.
Natalie

How to practice authentic yoga

Natalie Snooke - Friday, August 14, 2015
Despite the modern popularity of yoga as a form of exercise, asana or the physical postures, form just the tip of the yoga iceberg.
 
And whilst I don't mean to scare anyone or bombard you with mystical mumbo-jumbo, whether you're trying yoga for the first time or the hundredth time it's important that you know if what you're practicing isreallyyoga or not.And therefore realistically what you can expect to get out of it.

Authentic yoga is spiritual in nature. Yoga is a process of self-discovery and awakening to our highest Self. Authentic yoga involves mental discipline and a philsophical commitment to yoga as a way of life that leads to inner happiness and freedom.
 
Beyond all the hype of sexy postures on yoga magazine covers, adorned bodies and lofty promises that say yoga is all sweetness and light, it's important you know that the true gifts of yoga require real work, and are worth working for.
 
After all, authentic Yoga is powerful, beautiful and profound. It has the potential to blow your mind without needing to give you the best body, or anything else for that matter, other than to reveal the natural, loving essence of who you really are. And you deserve to enjoy the entire fruit of yoga and not just to eat the skin and throw away the flesh!
 
Yoga's Traditional Roots

Yoga has its roots dating back to the Indus civilisation some 5000 years ago, where ancient texts such as the Vedas, the Upanishads and later the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali described highly evolved rituals, mantras and practices in order for one to overcome the limitations of the body, the delusions of the senses and the pitfalls of thought. As such, Yoga is recognised as one of six classical schools of Indian philosophy. Meaning that 'Yoga' is a complete system, for attaining higher consciousness and liberation from ignorance and suffering - and reaching one's highest potential.

Only in relatively modern times has the role of yoga asanabeen over-emphasised to such a misleading extent that the phrase 'doing yoga' and 'yoga class' have become common mainstream expressions albeit used incorrectly. Asana is a small, though quite useful part of a much bigger system that is designed for spiritual liberation, and actually not for just a healthy, strong or flexible body.

Yoga is a spiritual system with a physical component, and not the other way around.

As Swami Jnaneshvara of the Himalayan Yoga Masters Tradition states "To understand the recent devolution that Yoga is only a physical exercise program is one of the most essential steps for the modern seeker of authentic Yoga."
 
That is not to say that the practice of authentic Yoga is reserved for Indians or those wishing to give up their life and meditate in the Himalayas! Yoga is a timeless system that surpasses creed and culture, although it must be practiced carefully and patiently over a long period of time if it is to be truly effective. If it is to bring us any long-lasting ease and inner joy.
 
Authentic Yoga
 
The main objective of Hatha Yoga (the branch of yoga that is most widely practiced in Australia and other Western countries) is to create an absolute balance of interacting activities and
Yogi's celebrating sunset
processes of the physical body, mind and energy. When this balance is created, the individual's consciousness naturally expands beyond their usual limitations. Increasing depths of love, creativity and joy are all the natural byproducts of the process of liberation. However if Hatha Yoga is not used for this purpose, then it's true objective is lost.
 
On an authentic Yoga path, under the guidance of an experienced and knowledgeable teacher, a yoga student follows a number of different aspects to bring about holistic self-development:
  • Relationships - building relationships with others and contributing to society through values and practices (known as yamas and niyamas) such as non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing and non-possessiveness. This means taking responsibility for our behaviours and actions towards others, and actively cultivating qualities that make us a more compassionate, understanding, peaceful and well-rounded. Which all makes life much easier for us.
  • Senses - training the senses in order to consciously and positively regulate them, known as pratyhara. This means monitoring cravings (or attachments) and getting away from what we don't like (aversions), knowing full well that unless we train ourselves we're likely to live like on a pendulum, swinging from one attachment and aversion to the next, without finding a natural balance in the middle. Yes, it is possible through authentic yoga!
  • Body - working with the body through postures and movements so as to make it flexible, strong and steady, called asana. Then the body can sit still for the deeper practices of pranayama and meditation.
  • Breath - training the breath to make it smooth, slow and serene, also known as pranayama. From a serene breath naturally comes a serene mind.
  • Mind - dealing with the mind and emotions at all levels, including concentration (dharana) meditation practice (dhyana) and overcoming the habituated patterns of the mind and emotions which show up in everyday life that lead to dissatisfaction and suffering. Then reaching a state of mental clarity and expanded states of consciousness.
The overall goal of Yoga is beyond each of the parts. If a balanced approach is not taken, and one part is emphasised over the others, then we will only encounter further obstacles to their self-growth and not be able to reach their full potential.
 
Progress on the authentic Yoga path is characterised by life becoming generally easier, the heart becoming more open and the mind becoming generally quieter, although there will be ups and downs along the way.
 
I remember my very first idea of Yoga. To me it meant 'hippies putting their legs behind their heads'. And I couldn't have been further from the truth. After 10 years of solid practice and teaching, I can honestly say that the limbs of Yoga keep working away to smooth out my rough edges and create deeper stillness and clarity than before. From this experience, I know that authentic Yoga works and that I am still a work-in-progress.
 
So next time you're tempted to explore yoga or to try and take a short-cut, remember what authentic Yoga is all about. I encourage you to dive-in. Find good teachers who you resonate with. Ask questions. Practice breathwork and meditation. Develop a home yoga practice. You won't be disappointed and your potential will probably surprise you!
 

With blessings,
Natalie

Why its important to know your strengths

Natalie Snooke - Thursday, July 30, 2015

Four_Powerful_Ways_to_Optimise_Your_Strengths"Realising our strengths is the smallest thing we can do to make the most difference" - Alex Linley

One of the most powerful tools that everyone has is natural strengths. Call them gifts, talents or even quirks.  We all have them. Yet when it comes down to it, I often meet people who are genuinely confused or shy about owning or developing theirs!

Studies in the field of positive psychology show that strengths help us to experience less stress and greater well-being, plus reach our goals with greater ease. 

Once you know your strengths, using them on a day-to-day basis is a very effective way to boost your energy and healthy self-confidence. But it doesn't stop there. Its knowing and being mindful of when, how and how much to use your strengths over the course of your life's journey that ultimately leads to growth, transformation and to being the best person you can be.

Simply put, knowing your strengths is key to unlocking more of your natural potential.

By strengths I mean a "pre-existing, natural capacity for a particular way of behaving, thinking or feeling that allows you to thrive".  They're not attributes that you would like to have or admire in someone else. They are what you already are - and are becoming. Although it may come as a surprise, strengths are not static. They evolve as we do. 

A part of healthy self-growth is about refining and expanding your repertoire of strengths over the course of your life. 

Step #1 - Know Your Strengths.

When you're at your best, what are you doing? Think about what comes easily and naturally to you. What gives you a buzz? What things did you love to do as a child and did effortlessly? For example, were/are you: adventurous, caring, quick-thinking, gregarious, calm, organised, determined, patient, team-oriented, curious, goal-focused, analytical, creative, passionate, intelligent, empathetic, open-minded and/or precise?  

It's important that these attributes are expressed in your day-to-day life. Otherwise you're likely to experience disappointment, frustration or find it difficult to make head-way along your chosen path. Use these attributes as often as you can, according to context and situation, without overplaying them.

For my strengths, out of that list above, my top three would be creative, empathetic and organised. These parts of me get lots of airplay in my day-to-day personal and working life. Which is probably why I love what I do and the life I have (mostly anyway!)

Practice: Identify your natural strengths and if you're not sure, then ask your partner or a trusted friend or sibling for their input. Then go about putting them into practice every day. 

Step #2 - Know Your Weaknesses. 

This step can often be a clincher! But don't skip it. Everybody has weaknesses or things that challenge them. We can also call these our shadow-traits or blind-spots - they're the parts of us that we'd prefer not to own or admit to. Knowing about yourself warts-and-all helps you to grow and to become a 'whole' person. And it will also make you more likable - and lovable.

What are the things that you find challenging or draining? What do you know about yourself, but find it hard or don't like? For example, are you: fearful, arrogant, impatient, impulsive, greedy, moody, passive, undisciplined, stubborn, shy, short-sighted, vague, controlling or negative? 

These are the areas to focus on for your development. Although these aspects will probably feel de-energising, they have their place. Take a deeper level of responsibility for your weaknesses in day-to-day life. Acknowledge when you notice them at play. Have honest conversations about them with your loved ones. 

Although it was awkward at first, and I'm not sure it will ever be feel completely comfortable, coming to terms with my weaknesses is something I keep working on. I've realised that having a level of honesty about myself, to myself, just makes things easier in relationships and a whole lot less painful in the long-run. My weaknesses would be: impatient, moody and controlling.

Practice: Choose one weakness to focus on for a week at a time - and try not to be hard on yourself. Mindfully and gently investigate what's going on for you inside, in the moment, when it's playing out. Be curious rather than judgmental. Notice what's happening in your body, emotions and mind. By becoming more aware of your weaknesses, over time you will develop more self-control and the negative impacts will lessen.

Step #3 - Discover Your Unrealised Strengths.

This aspect of you is something you are good at and enjoy doing, but do it less often. There is a likely untapped potential to developing this aspect of you into a strength.

Explore putting your unrealised strengths more into action. Remain on the lookout for the right situation or opportunity to surface where you can utilise this skill, attribute or behaviour. Try setting a goal or intention to practice on a regular basis. 

My unrealised strengths from the initial list are: curious and precise. By being precise, rather than generalising, and being curious rather than controlling, I'm noticing that it helps me to delegate responsibilities when I can and allows others to understand me more easily. Just like you, I'm a work in progress!

Practice: Try setting a goal or intention to put one unrealised strength into action. For example, like me, if you choose precision, your intention might be 'When I tend to generalise things in a conversation, I practice being more precise about sharing exactly what I am thinking and feeling.'

Strengths and weaknesses are good approaches to self-development that always have something valuable to teach us. The beauty is, that we never stop growing and evolving, no matter what's going on in our lives, and tuning-in to the strengthened people we are constantly becoming makes for a very rewarding ride. As the saying goes, we might not be able to stop the waves, but we can teach ourselves how to surf!

If you'd like to uncover and develop your natural strengths, as well as be honest about what challenges you to help improve your relationships, then I'd love you to consider my Life Coaching or Mindful Leadership Coaching.

Here's to YOU!
Natalie


Five ways yoga strengthened me in pregnancy and as a mother

Alison Hilton - Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Pregnancy_Yoga_Course_Momentum_Coaching_Yoga_Melville

There are many false claims about what yoga will and won't do for pregnancy and motherhood. 

Pregnancy yoga won’t determine whether or not you have a natural birth, a caesarean birth or anything in between. Yoga won't make you a miraculous super-mum able to be eternally peaceful. Pregnancy, birth and the unique motherhood journey are all events that unfold very much outside of our control. 

The biggest gift that practicing yoga will provide you is a way to face and accept everything that comes from being a mother.  Yoga offers the loving arms to hold you when things are tough, the strength to endure sleepless nights and a space to remember how amazing you truly are!


Here are a few ways I used yoga to handle some of the tougher moments I've encountered whilst pregnant and as a new mum.

1. Pranayama (Breathing)

My baby needed surgery. It was a difficult situation - but I knew what to do to give myself support. I used my breathing techniques as a shelter to create calm. While it was still such an emotional time, I wasn't just being blown around in a storm of that emotion. I could come back into myself and create moments of stillness with breath. At a time when circumstances were so out of my control I found I still had the power to help balance myself.

2. Chanting and Positive Intentions

As a yoga teacher, you might expect me to be really “into” chanting! And yes, there were certainly a few beautiful Sanskrit chants which nurtured my tired and aching body and lifted my spirits. But even simple intentions and positive phrases like “this too shall pass” or “breathing in, breathing out” were of immense value - especially late at night with a baby who hadn’t yet learnt the difference between night and day.

3.  Relaxation

If you are a person (like me) who could never sleep during the day, then deep relaxation is definitely for you! Resting while your baby rests; even if you don’t actually sleep is crucial. Sleep deprivation is awful; it has a huge physical and emotional effect on the body. Unfortunately, there is the temptation (or guilt or expectation) about “getting things done” whilst pregnant and when you are a new mum. Pregnancy_Yoga_Course_Momentum_Coaching_and_Yoga_Melville

Yoga practices help with relaxation by teaching you the difference between feeling tense and letting go. Tuning into the need to unwind and relax is one of the most important lessons you can teach your baby, and an amazing gift to yourself.

4. Being in the Moment

Throughout all the challenges and new things to learn, learn to stay present and enjoy the moments! 

The first flutters of the baby moving, hiccups in the womb, the first touches of birth, smiles and baby fingers around your hand are all amazing moments. Enjoy the beautiful moments, especially if things have been a challenge. Pregnancy and motherhood are not smooth sailing all the time, nor are they guaranteed to be. By keeping focused on the present (rather than dwelling on the past or being impatient for the future), you can remove many of the pressures and expectations.

5. Asana – The Physical Postures

Carrying a baby around in your womb for nearly ten months is a huge physical undertaking. Your body will get tired and sore at some point. By learning and actually practicing the different asanas (physical postures) you can help relieve some of the aches and pains.

I was surprised after birth how much I needed asana. The challenges of breastfeeding and holding a baby all day created soreness and stiffness in my shoulders and neck that I simply was not prepared for. But take it easy, with your asana practice, your body is ever evolving and changing and sensations in the body may be quite different from day to day.

During pregnancy, we spend considerable time focusing on the health and wellbeing of our babies, being conscious of what we eat, drink and how we exercise. It’s logical to be aware that these things can affect our unborn baby.

However remember too, that the relaxation and yoga practices that create calm in you as a mother, can instill a calm in your baby's psyche that goes well beyond their time in the womb. 

If you'd like to learn how to bring these empowering yoga techniques and perspectives into your experience of pregnancy and birth, then check out my upcoming Pregnancy Yoga Courses. 

Enjoy the exciting journey ahead.

Alison Hilton

10 Tips to Movivate Your Yoga and Meditation this Winter

Natalie Snooke - Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Don't become a fair-weather yogi! A regular yoga practice through winter has a plethora of benefits for our physical, mental and emotional health, that goes well beyond the winter months.

Here's 10 great tips on how you can (and why you should) reap the rewards from your yoga this winter. 

1. We create our summer body and mind in winter. Even though it's important not to limit our yoga and our motivation for practice to the physical body - knowing that a healthy body is just the tip of the yoga iceberg - the body is where positive self-awareness and self-esteen start. 

It's a fact that when our prana, our lifeforce energy flows freely through the body, the body is able maintain homeostasis. That means it can naturally fight off infection, balance hormones and maintain a healthy body weight. Practicing a variety of yoga asana (postures) as often as you can is key. Standing yoga postures tone and stengthen the leg muscles. Foward bends stengthen the digestive system and tone the abdomen. Arm balances develop focus, confidence and upper-body strength. Back bending strengthens the nervous system and realigns the spine. Sun salutations warm and energise the whole body. Plus, when summer comes you'll help yourself avoid freaking-out at the thought of bearing your body at the beach. 

2. Change your mindset. Know that what you choose to think and do, you become. The law of karma, as well as the scientific equation of cause and effect, says that every thought and action now has a corresponding future outcome or consequence. We are powerful creatures! 

Each time you choose to set a positive intention to practice yoga, and you follow-through, you make it easier to set intentions and follow-through tomorrow. Like putting coins everyday into a piggy-bank, your savings soon mount up. Each time you choose and follow-through, your capacity to accomplish whatever you set out to do, in all areas of your life, is strengthened.  

3.  Catch procrastination. Don't be fooled by it, procrastination doesn't bring freedom. It's the mind's fearful way of keeping you stuck in unhelpful patterns of inertia and inaction. Like a hungry-ghost, procrastination tends to have an insatiable appetite that devours lots of energy - the same energy that could've been put into completing the very action you're putting off.  

As a practice, catch the FIRST time you procrastinate about getting up early to do your home practice or put-off getting to your yoga class. Overcome it's message and take action instead. You'll feel much better for it. Each time you step beyond your procrastination, you create greater inner freedom. 

4.  Have full faith that your yoga and meditation works. The paths of yoga and meditation have been successfully trod for over 5000 years - and they work. Remember how you are today, compared to how you were before you started? Have full faith in your practice continuing to serve you well, to enhance your self-awareness and bring you health, vitality and inner calm - providing you continue to put the effort and energy into regular practice.

5. Be organised.  Doing little things to organise and prepare yourself can really help. Arrange your work schedule so that you leave on time to get to your classes. On Sunday nights or at the start of each week, block out your practice or class times in your diary and set reminder alarms. Pack your yoga gear and mat in the car to save you time or a trip home. Roll out your yoga mat the night before. Make your practice space warm and inviting with candles. Simple habits can often make a big difference. 

6. Reflect on and recommit to your long-term goals in life. How does your yoga or meditation practice link to your life goals and direction? Why do you practice? 

Take a pen and paper and make a list of all the ways your practice helps you to live life with greater happiness and ease. Focus on the benefits. Maybe it's about being less anxious so that you can take the next step in your career with confidence. Or perhaps you want to be more patient and less reactive. Maybe it's about easing your back pain in the longer term. Or to go through your days feeling calm so that you remember to smell the roses and do what's most important.  

7. Don't forget the breath. Pranayama or breath control exercises are a valuable yogic practice, especially during winter. The right nostril connects us to the warming, uplifting energy channel called the pingala in our pranic body. Doing practices where the inhalation or exhalation (or both) is slow and controlled through the right nostril energises and warms the body, as well as energises and uplifts the mind. Remember that you should always get instructions for pranayama from a competent yoga teacher first. And a period of still meditation or savasana should also be practiced after pranayama.

8. Register in our 21 Day Winter Challenge! Starting on 10 August this popular program is on again to help get you committed and accountable to practicing yoga or meditation at home or in a class at Momentum for 21 days. For those who are self-motivated, it's also the time to set clear intentions and to making a fresh start on accomplishing any goals that you've struggled with in the past. We'd love to have your participation.

9. Start again. Every day is a new day. If you've fallen off the regular practice wagon, don't beat yourself up.  Learn and let go of the past and set a new intention to get back on track, starting now. Every student and teacher of yoga and meditation, me included, goes through phases where our motivation for practice waxes and wanes. Being able to brush-yourself-off, persevere and start again is always possible. Find what you can love about this beautiful season and flow-with the unique energy, light and depth of the winter.

10. You are not alone, share the joy. If the cold, wet or darkness of winter gets you down, share your practice time with a friend, it will help you to stay committed. Go to classes more regularly and enjoy the company of your fellow yogis, your sangha. The paths of yoga and meditation aren't easy alone and we are all here to inspire one another. Sharing your practice challenges, goals and intentions with a friend or your teacher helps to shift your mind and open you to fresh ideas.

Whatever the weather, whatever your mood, whatever your state of mind, your yoga and meditation practice remain your trusted companions to serve you through thick and thin. 

Enjoy the winter wonderland.

Natalie


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