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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

How to Believe in Yourself Despite Your Self-Doubts

Natalie Snooke - Wednesday, April 29, 2015

All of us experience self-doubt, but it doesn't have to hold us back. 

Working mindfully and courageously with self-doubt is the doorway to greater self-belief.

I well remember the first two weeks after I'd opened Momentum as a centre, I was plagued with self-doubts. 

I remember sitting at my desk, in the lovely new space, trying to think positively because I'd created my dream and there was so much opportunity ahead. Yet all I could focus on was this awful, gut-wrenching ball in the pit of my stomach. Along with that feeling was a heap of voices telling me: What do you think you've done! You can't do this? What if you fail? How will you pay the bills? You won't manage! 

Theses voices taunted me day and night. And try as I may to avoid them or quash them with positivity, they stayed put. It was a biggie. Life was keen for me to really get-to-know self-doubt like never before. 

Self doubt breeds fear.

Like a greedy beast, self-doubt zaps our confidence and steals our joy. It breeds insecurity and fear. 

Why?  On the physical level, our pre-historic limbic brain that's responsible for the stress response of 'fright and flight' senses that we're going into new territory and wants to do its best to 'keep us safe'. However its unlikely that we're about to get swallowed-up by a saber-toothed tiger - but on a systemic level, unfortunately we run like a machine and we don't know the difference. 

We all have our own self-doubt triggers - when we feel overwhelmed or under-resourced. When we step outside our comfort-zone, or sometimes even when we just think about it, we can expect that some fear and self-doubt will arise, it's only natural. Self-doubt is part of being human.

However, as adults if left-unchecked self-doubt has the capacity to over shadow self-belief. It can completely sabotage our chances at creating happier circumstances, at leaving unhappy relationships or at the very least, about feeling confident and good about ourselves. 

So, if resisting or fighting self-doubt doesn't work, then what does?

It starts with understanding.

Like joy, like anger, like sadness, self-doubt is a part of us. Treating it like a friend, rather than an enemy, it needs our acceptance and understanding. If we pay close, gentle attention to our fear and self-doubt and be willing to explore it, rather than running away, then we'll have the best chance at being happy and moving forwards, despite it.  

Self-doubt doesn't have to hold you back. The following tips will help you to manage yours.

Notice your red-flags.

Learning to recognise your self-doubts starts when you become mindful of your negative self-talk, that I like to call 'red flags'. Start by looking out for your particular red-flag sayings, easily recognised as all-or-nothing statements, things like: 'should' 'can't' 'never' or 'always'. Which ones can you relate to?

When you do this, your might notice many more than you bargained for - that's normal! Don't be put-off by what you observe in yourself. Being aware is a very powerful first step that you can build upon.

Transform the energy.

Self-doubt voices often have the pitch and tone of a child. A bit like a tantrum. As you notice a fed-flag, child-like self-doubt voice, transform it's negative energy into a positive response. For example, if you hear "I will fail' respond to it (in your mature adult voice) with 'If I fail, then I'll try again.' 

You might even try making a list of your top 10 red-flag sayings. Be sure to also write your adult response beside it.

Doing this transforms the self-doubt into an opportunity for growth. And it gives you a chance, even if it might seem like a small thing in the moment. Over time, your capacity to transform self-doubt into self-belief will strengthen.

Listen to your supporters.

Surround yourself with like-minded, positive and purposeful people who can inspire you and help to bring out your best. They will remind you of your dreams and help to uplift you when you forget your self-belief. Remember to call them or get in touch when you need to - and be committed to returning the favour.

Be mindful of your family members. We love them, yes. But sometimes, although well-meaning, our siblings or parents unconsciously want to keep us safe, and this retards our growth. Accept their opinions, respect their views, but don't take on someone else's fear as your own. Be discerning and recognise the difference.

Remember your skills and successes.

Whenever you get lost, do your best to remember the valuable skills that you've learned along your journey already. For example, if once you had a problem with angry people and have learned to be more confident around them, remember that you do have the ability to learn and succeed, when you choose to.

Remember your successes, what you've accomplished, even the small ones. Milestones that you have had in your family, personal life, career and business so far. A bit like stepping stones, each one has, in some way, led you to where you are today. Have confidence that you are not at the end of your journey and will continue to learn, develop - and succeed.

Let go of perfection.

There is no state of perfection, except where you are right here, right now. This life is perfect for you and all that you need to be happy, self-doubts included.

Let go of thinking that perfect happiness will only be there if you can overcome your self-doubts. Self-doubt will always be here, in some shape or form. We just get better and better at seeing and dealing with it.

So, be kind to yourself. Treat yourself well. Learn to slow down and relax your expectations. You are more capable and worthy than you give yourself credit for.

Get in touch with your essence.

Beyond the limited-self-doubting you, there is a wise, peaceful presence. The witness, the observer, spirit, God, your essence or your higher Self, whatever you choose to call it. This is the part of you that is not touched by fear or self-doubt. Trust THAT about you. This part of you is eternally here, is always peaceful and available, even in your toughest hour.

Self-awareness practices like yoga and meditation help you to get in touch with this aspect of yourself. And the fellow students and teachers in your community will understand and be happy to remind you and support you.

Self-believe emerges through self-doubt. It's a journey.

Over time, as you apply the above approaches, and adopt others, you will develop a healthy perspective on self-doubt, and self-belief will grow. Your self-doubts are only your thoughts, they do not determine your worth - and they are not WHO YOU ARE.

Be prepared for the journey, exploring and learning along the way, with self-doubt just part of the terrain and not as the driver.

Healthy self-belief says:
I can try new things, despite my doubts.
I can be happy, despite my doubts.
I am worthy, despite my doubts.
I believe in myself, despite my doubts.
I can succeed, despite my doubts.
And I have the potential for a wondrous life, right now, despite my doubts.

If you're ready to step beyond self-doubt and be supported to shine, then read more about what I offer through Life Coaching.

Go mindfully, with courage!
Natalie

Mindfulness Liberates Loneliness

Natalie Snooke - Monday, March 30, 2015

Mindfulness Loneliness"I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone, it wasn't. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel alone."
~ Robin Williams

One of the greatest instincts we humans have is the instinct to connect. To be in the company of another. To feel validated. To share something in common, whether that's an interest, a project, a house, the same values or even a life. Yet to be able to connect sincerely with others, firstly means to be able to connect with ourselves. And that often means overcoming loneliness.

Around ten years ago when I started to practice yoga and was becoming less interested in socialising just-for-the sake-of-it, I remember going through an intense period of loneliness, where I just longed to 'connect with' someone. It usually happened on a Friday night. Not having planned anything and thinking I would be fine, I would find myself with pangs of loneliness like I'd never had before. I'd make these desperate last-minute phone-calls to a series of friends, in the hope that someone would be free for some company! Unconsciously, I was trying to escape myself. As life would have it, I often ended up alone and was forced to come to terms with my loneliness.

As Robin Williams describes, the other form of loneliness comes from feeling lonely, in spite of being around others. Whatever form of loneliness we experience, it's a state that can be very debilitating and ultimately lead to depression and suicide.

However, if we come from the perspective that 'life happens for us' and not 'to us' then, then no matter how it shows up and no matter how uncomfortable it feels, loneliness can be a gift. Something that teaches and leads to healing and transformation. 

If we become skilled at being with loneliness, then we don't need to suffer it's bleakness. We can learn to experience the inner freedom that is possible, even in our darkest lonely moments.

Mindfulness is a powerful tool in overcoming loneliness. Taking this approach works well:

1.  Acceptance. Loneliness starts with gentle acceptance, like you would a friend. Recognising and accepting that right now 'here is loneliness.' Not need to fix it or change it. This is the honest truth in the moment.

2. Body and mind awareness. What does the energy of loneliness sound and feel like? Be curious. What are its thoughts? What does it feel like in the body? Does it feel stuck, perhaps heavy, like a big lump of mud in the belly or fluttery like butterflies in the chest? Give it your bare attention.

3. Letting it Be. Allow the energetic feelings and mental story to just be there. Even though it may feel yukky. Watch mindfully, without getting caught in the story. Watch how any sensations and thoughts shift and change.

4. Breathe. Be mindful of the breath and try to breathe more evenly and more fully. Even though it will probably be hard to do, do your best to take some gentle, deeper inhales and exhales. Notice any effect the breath has on the thoughts and sensations, even if they disappear. 

5. Find your inner peace. Notice that even though thoughts and sensations may be there, there is also a part of you that is untouched by the loneliness. That conscious 'awareness' or that part of you that just 'watches'. Be in touch with this peaceful observer. Connect with the sense that this peacefulness is beyond the loneliness. Free of any suffering.

When a mindfulness approach to loneliness is practiced and mastered over a period of time, then loneliness states subside and can be completely overcome. However, if symptoms persist despite your individual efforts, it is recommended to seek professional counselling, therapy or coaching support.

At Momentum, our mission is to inspire and empower others to be self-aware and to make a conscious difference! We provide ways for people to meaningfully connect with themselves and others through our classes, events and coaching

May you be well and happy.
Natalie 

Why Yoga is Number One at Beating Stress!

Natalie Snooke - Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Managing Stress with YogaWhen was the last time you heard yourself or someone say 'I'm stressed'? Or perhaps you just witnessed someone in the throes of stress and they didn't realise it. It was probably fairly recently. As people try and cram more and more into already over-flowing lives, sadly, it seems to have become the modern-day catch-cry.

Stress will mean different things to different people, depending on our personality tendencies and our upbringing. And you how identify and manage your stress can make a huge difference in how you feel day-to-day and the quality of life you lead.

Stress is a mental, emotional and/or physical response to stimulus that is not wanted. It can be situational (based on a scenario that maybe outside of our control) or behavioural (being in contact with someone who's behaviour we find offensive or fearful).

At it's most basic form, even if it sounds harsh, stress is simply us reacting to and not accepting things just the way they are. Often it is the resistance to 'what is' (or 'who is') that creates the stress. Rather than trusting in our capacity to manage things step-by-step, our resistance reaction often becomes more of an issue that the stressor itself! 

Chronic stress, where the body goes into regular or constant states of 'fight or fright' (which is the body's automatic stress response) has a very taxing , and potentially deathly impact. Eventually, because they do not get adequate time to replenish when rested, chronic stress places all of our bodily systems including cardiovascular, respiratory, mental-emotional and digestive systems under unnecessary pressure. And if left unchecked, eventually we will burn out.

Heeding to our body and mind's signals that things are 'not quite right' is always the first step in effectively managing stress. But what it you are so out of touch that you miss this? Well, that's why yoga is so effective.

Firstly, yoga develops our overall self-awareness, we learn to hear the messages our body is needing to tell us. This places us is a good position to do something about it.

Secondly, yoga also helps us to more quickly recognise when we are 'resisting' something. We learn to feel the difference between resistance and freedom in the body/mind - and we become able to relax ourselves, and to positively influence our body's automatic stress response, at will.

And finally, yoga eases the actual physical, mental and emotional symptoms of stress. Put very briefly, yoga postures and movements release tension from tight muscles, breath techniques have a direct influence on emotional reactions and these techniques combined over time, enable the student to also see through mental chatter to a natural stillness and clarity.

Yoga has a three-pronged approach to stress by teaching us to identify stress quickly, to manage ourselves when under stress and to deal with the symptoms of stress. There's nothing else quite like it!

If you haven't experienced yoga before, we encourage you to try it for yourself and see. Our Beginners Yoga Courses are a safe and fun place to start.

Wishing you a stress-less journey.

Being Kind to Yourself

Natalie Snooke - Friday, January 30, 2015

Being Kinder to Yourself'We tend to think that being hard on ourselves will make us strong. But it is cherishing ourselves that gives us strength." ~ Julia Cameron

One of the most common things I witness as a spiritual teacher and a coach is people treating themselves harshly.

We don't realise how easily a harsh self-attitude can creep in and take-over. Unless the people close to us have the care and honesty to give us a gentle nudge, it's very easy to be way tougher on ourselves than anyone else as a habit.  

Here's some of the symptoms to look out for:

* critical or damning self-talk - lots of 'shoulds'
* continually saying 'yes' to others when you really want to say 'no'
* setting unrealistic goals or high standards that just make you a slave to your own devices
* not giving yourself adequate play, rest or time-alone
* comparing yourself to others as a way of having self-worth.

I recommend reclaiming yourself as a human, with a body, heart and mind that deserves to be cherished. Use this as your new mantra! Start today. Set the clear intention that from now onwards I will show kindness and total acceptance towards myself. 

By this, I don't mean quick-fix cover-up actions that have little substance or long-term benefit. Sure, having a facial or your favourite slice of cake can be nice, but we need to be prepared to commit ourselves to looking deeper and working gently and persistently over time, if we're sincere about experiencing the natural strength that comes from being kind. 

Cherishing ourselves means that we:

* tell the truth about ourself, accepting our short-comings - without blaming or needing to fix - we're just human!
* show gratitude for the blessings, gifts and talents we have
* give ourselves regular play, rest and self-time
* set goals that stretch our growth and inspire us
* let go of competition - it's a spiritual drag.

In the long run, choosing to be tender over being harsh dissolves our sense of disconnection and separateness. By deeply connecting with ourselves, we come to know first-hand that we share an infinite connection with all others. We feel a natural strength that is authentic and powerful.

If this message resonates with you, and you'd like some further support, I offer effective Life Coaching programs that help people to become kinder towards themselves. 

Enjoy the journey.
Natalie



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