When I look back to the days before I practised Yoga, I think to myself. Really?! How did I not know that? How could I not see that?
I had so much to learn. If I could go back and speak to that young woman, these are the 10 things I'd tell her.
- Move your body. Every single day. Your body needs to move. We were not designed to sit down for hours and hours without moving. Regular exercise boosts your mood. It gets your vital energy, your prana, flowing. Dance. Run. Walk. Cycle. Do Yoga (of which more later).
- Remember to say thank you. Be grateful for everyone in your life. Your family, your friends, good neighbours, supportive colleagues, your teachers, your students, your health carers - the list is endless. Say thank you for the warm sun on your face, the salty ocean breeze, the beauty of Nature, your body, your health, delicious food, places you love to visit, poetry, music, art. Be grateful for everything that fills your life with joy and happiness. And you will find that the more gratitude you express, the more you will manifest people and experiences in your life to be grateful for. Looking for inspiration? Please go to the Mindfulness page of my website where I have included a beautiful gratitude practice to help you get started.
- Declutter your surroundings. Vaastu, like Yoga, is another of the Vedic sciences which emphasises the importance of physical space in our homes as opposed to having every corner filled with clutter. Sometimes we accumulate things because we think we need them to validate us. Wrong. We don’t! We are enough. We have enough. We have so much stuff we don’t really need (I am still working on this). By all means buy that one beautiful things that you love and need, but if your life is literally overflowing with stuff, find other means of fulfilment.
- Trust your intuition. If I had done this earlier, I could have avoided so many mistakes. It's that feeling you get in your gut. It’s being in a situation or with someone that just feels off. Simply put, this is the way our subconscious mind is communicating with our conscious mind. Intuition is also called gut feeling because research suggests that emotion and intuition actually have a physical presence in our gut which is lined with a network of over 100 million neurons and in fact the gut is also often referred to as the second brain. Intuition exists in all of us whether we acknowledge it or not. However, as the feeling can be very subtle it is easily missed or ignored as not everyone chooses to listen to it. Trusting your gut might be difficult at first but give it time - the more we use it, the more we hone it. There’s an expression that sums this up beautifully, "Always trust your gut. It knows what your head hasn’t figured out yet". I wish I had known this earlier.
- Be kind always. This is such an important one and I wish that I had recognised this sooner. Every one we meet is going through a personal struggle of some kind that we know nothing about (however they might seem on the outside) - I know so many people who are struggling right now during lockdown. It takes very little to be kind but it can make the world of difference. Being kind can help us to grow too, moving us out of the “I” and into the “We” - a shift in perspective which benefits us all.
- Spend time in Nature. Ever since I can remember I have been in awe of Mother Nature. I grew up in London but both my parents are Irish and every summer we visited family on the rural west coast. I adored being able to roam the fields and meadows around my grandparents’ houses and tried to identify and teach myself the names of the plants and trees I came across. I also remember from a very young age having a love of natural medicine and a thirst to learn as much as I could about the healing properties of plants and flowers. Fast forward several years and a career as a solicitor in the City which meant a movement away from my earlier passion. But when I discovered Yoga and its sister science Ayurveda, with their deep understanding and reverence for her laws, I have been able to re-connect with my love of Mother Nature. And in turn this has helped me to understand that if we try to maintain as much balance with Nature as possible, we will enjoy true health or swasthasya of our body, mind and emotions.
- Love yourself. Wholeheartedly and unreservedly. I would tell my pre-Yoga self to spend time alone. Connect with yourself. Recognise your limitless potential. Be amazed by yourself. The default of many women in particular is to be critical and self-judgemental. Train yourself to stop these thoughts and replace them with the positive ones. An added bonus is that it will encourage others, particularly younger women, to do the same. This is always a good thing.
- Know your worth. Stop giving people discounts. Never accept second best. If you ALWAYS accept second best, the Universe will ALWAYS send you second best. Reject second best. Recognise that you deserve the best. Believe in our own self-worth. Simple.
- Use affirmations. Even if it does sound a bit weird and new-agey, just be open-minded about the power of affirmations. Our words and our thoughts shape our world. If we continually repeat negative statements about ourselves or about our health, we will keep producing more negative experiences. Positive affirmations create positive experiences. My Yoga practice has taught me that you CAN change your state with positive affirmations. They can quite literally re-wire your brain and change your world. One of my favourites and one that I often practise with my students is, breathing in, “I am healthy and strong” and breathing out, “I am peaceful and calm.’ If you would like some more inspiration, please look up the wonderful work of the doyenne of affirmations, Louise Hay. Repeat affirmations regularly. See what happens.
- Practise Yoga. Of course, I would say this, wouldn’t I. And although I have practised for most of my adult life, I still wish I had started sooner. Wherever you are in your life, whatever your state of health, whatever your age, begin your practice now. The world is in a state of flux. We don’t have the support networks we once did. There are so many demands on our time and energy. We work harder than we ever did. We feel burnt out. The Yoga mat is a sanctuary where, for a precious period each day, we can learn to gently switch off from the outside world and reconnect with our inner peace and stillness.
And now it's your turn.
What are the things you wish you had known earlier? What advice would you give your younger self? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Get in touch today and let me know.