Thought for the Day

Many young people are preparing for exams now – whether it is end of year, GCSEs, A Levels, or Uni exams. Yoga is well known to combat stress. In one study we did together with the CBeebies, cortisol (the stress hormone in the body) dropped by 30% at the end of the class, but more interestingly, the whole class started with a 20% lower cortisol rate than the control groups. This means that week on week, your stress is reducing and the benefits are cumulative.

1 – when we stretch our body, we are indicating to our brain that we are relaxed as a stressed body is a tense body.

2 – when we breathe deeply, we activate the baroreceptors in our lungs which tell the body to relax

3 – when we turn ourselves upside down, the heart gets to relax as it no longer needs to pull the blood back up from the bottom of the body

4 – we focus on one thing, the breath or a mantra, in order to train the brain to be strong and not wander or ruminate, which is the basis of so much anxiety. To be able to focus, brings success in any field.

5 – Philosophically – we distinguish between what is real and what is unreal. We look at our lives and we see it in a philosophical perspective, where we are no longer at the centre, but just someone who is learning lessons, whatever they are – this brings us into a more detached mode of thinking.

So when you get home, lie down and pop your legs up the wall and breathe deeply. Make sure your outbreath is longer than your in breath for about 15 to 20 minutes and you will soon feel a difference.

Good Luck!

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Why are young people ‘disembodied’ and how can we help?

As I was training a group of secondary school teachers, psychologists, social workers and psychiatrists last week to share yoga and mindfulness with teens, it became more apparent than ever that poor mental health of our young adults is not showing any signs of abating. As the group shared the reasons for coming on the course, many mentioned how the young people seemed disconnected from themselves.  The psychologists used the term disembodied.

Many young people, they felt, were disconnected from their bodies, viewing their own bodies as objects, to be controlled or punished with food or exercise, but not to be listened to or respected. Many live their lives as it were, outside themselves, viewed through the lens of the Instagram or snapchat conversation.

Our bodies are wise temples of information, prompts and intuition, our bodies never lie. When we practise yoga, we get in touch with our bodies and we feel into pleasure, as well as aches and pains, to discover and listen to underlying emotions.

When we ignore messages from the depths of our bodies, we are more likely to live in our minds – our minds were never meant to be our masters, they are the servants of our intuition, our knowing. But when the mind runs riot, it plays havoc with our lives and we end up out of balance.

We concluded on the last day of the course that we need to bring young people back in touch with their own bodies, so they might be less likely to fall foul of the vagaries of shifting mood states, emotions and destructive thought patterns that can lead to anxiety and depression.

We need to connect the body with the mind and recognise a third, even wiser dimension, which can guide us towards a more fulfilling life, some call it the soul or the spirit. Yoga opens us up to this possibility.

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Present Gift

Last week I had the privilege of spending time with 23 students and 7 teenagers in the South of Spain. There was no Wi-Fi, TV or other distractions. It was a good 20-minute uphill hike to the nearest village. We all found the daily meditation and yoga practise a beautiful reminder of how to slow right down and be present.

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Mind the mat

In our accelerated society, it has become the norm to be activated through sensationalist shocks. When we do this, we immediately feel the need to “fix” something that is broken. When we are told how many teens are depressed, in states of anxiety or suicidal, it grabs our interest and we listen. We feel good, when we then feel we can do something to “help”.

I am the first to recognise the awful situation many young people are in today, having worked closely with teens for the last 30 years.  There is a lot of talk about the “mental health crisis” of our young.  How do we get a proper handle on this and some real perspective?

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Namaste in House of Commons!

It has been an extraordinary week but maybe for me personally, what was most extraordinary was on Monday evening, where everything happened in slow motion.

The exiting on to Parliament square, Big Ben towering over hundreds of people with Corbyn placards and a fervent, excited energy quivering over the entire area, which reminded me of the main square in Prague during the velvet revolution.

Entering into the House of Commons through airport like security and noticing immediately fellow yogis, simply because of their energy amidst the fervent rushing about of politicians.

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Why do one in ten children in the UK suffer from a mental disorder?

I heard a story – an anthropologist went to study the songs of the Huichol Indians and found that they were almost all about rain. She asked the chief, “why is this?” The chief responded, “We sing about what we long for, what we miss and what we need. That is our yearning and our song. Why do you think people in the West just sing about love?”

In the UNICEF report card 11 (2011), the UK came 16th in a list of 29 developed countries in measures of well being.

Obesity is at an all time high, and self-harm is rising at an alarming rate.

The long awaited report from The Department of Health, Future in Mind, was published on the 20th March 2015 and looks at how we can promote, protect and improve young people’s resilience to stress and wellbeing generally.

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This week I asked my boys why they do yoga, #broga!

My year 8 yoga class (12 yr old boys) is entirely made up of boys, more and more each week. Noisy, rambunctious and lippy, they take about 10 minutes to calm down. I am used the crazy chat by now, the giggling, the shoving and the teasing comes as par for the course.

Suddenly from being cute little kids, their voices have dropped, their shoulders broadened and they are perceived as thugs in the eyes of society, reflecting our own brutish nature, projecting it onto these relatively innocent boys.

And then comes the calm – how are you today?

“My girlfriend broke up with me”
“My chemistry teacher told me off”

“I hurt my leg in rugby”
“I have a big match tomorrow and I am worried about my knee”

“I feel so tired, can we just do yoga sleep?”

Then the class commences, the chaotic, arm balances, spontaneous partner work, until finally they beg for mercy, they beg for the peace of yoga nidra, like babies, the crawl down onto their mats, checking each other out – slowly letting go of the expectations, the constant judgment and assessments and let go…..the most beautiful point of my day and of their week, it seems.

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Better than, more gifted, more flexible, less able, more friendly, less sociable, ADHD< Aspergers, dyspraxic, dyslexic…….

On and on these labels, “help” teachers and parents to differentiate in a class, categorising and measuring outcomes, people, products.

As OfSted looks at “inclusion”, and we take side glances at Finlands’ non-streaming, all inclusive successful and happy school system, it strikes me how aptly yoga fits into these categories.

Are we not all looking to belong, to connect, to be part of a whole? Where does this longing come from? It comes from within, yoga says, it is your brithright, it is the truth, this connection, that you may feel on a forest walk or in the midst of a giggling fit with your best friend, or in a big group of friends, on a roller coaster, as you scream together. This is the truth of human existence.

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