Going Plastic Free with Mere and Meadow

Mere and Meadow Logo
Mere and Meadow Logo

Trying to be as friendly to our environment and going as plastic free as possible is definitely a passion of mine which it why it’s an absolute pleasure to team up with Maddy from Mere and Meadow.

Maddy has been a regular at my weekly classes for a while and back in April she decided to set up her own Warrington based plastic free business, offering a range of plastic-free and zero waste home and body eco swaps. And as this month is Plastic Free July We think it’s perfect timing to take the challenge and cut out single-use plastic. To celebrate this Mere are Meadow are offering Even You Yoga students 10% off one order from our range of plastic free and zero waste home and body eco-swaps* in July. Simply apply the coupon code EVENYOUYOGA to the cart at checkout. We especially love lighting a natural soy candle from our Run With Wolves range during Savasana, Yoga Nidra and other restorative practices.

Plastic Free WarringtonMere & Meadow’s plastic free living tips

Introduce changes slowly – it’s not all or nothing

When going plastic free start by using up what you have first and then when you notice you are running low on a particular item, start to find an alternative that will work for you and have it ready for when you need it. Like all new habits, taking things slowly makes the changes much more manageable and, before you know it, you’ll have a whole host of plastic free swaps in your home.

Share your swaps with others – start conversations

A recent study in Australia revealed that one of the biggest motivators for people to avoid single use plastics was actually knowing that others were avoiding them too! When you tell others about what you are doing you will be surprised by how quickly avoidance can become normal, or how many of your friends and family have been considering doing it too and just need a little guidance and support.

Enjoy the process – bask in the warm glow

Just like the energising feeling of satisfaction, achievement and motivation you experience after a yoga class, making conscious decisions to make changes that have a more positive impact on the planet will leave you feeling good. And it should. No matter how small, or how many times you may feel like you are taking a backward step, each time you make a sustainable choice take a moment to appreciate the difference one person can make.

Getting Started Remember, we can all start a journey towards plastic free progress, rather than plastic free perfection. You may be surprised to find that making these changes will have a positive influence on your creativity, health and wellbeing. Head over to Mere and Meadow now and support a fellow local business as well as doing your bit for our planet. *Excluding refillable liquid products.

Mental Health Awareness Week

You’re probably already aware that this week (18th – 24th May) is Mental Health Awareness Week.

This is a week that’s organised every year by the Mental Health Foundation to raise awareness of Mental Health Issues and to help drive positive change around mental health problems.
Each year the Foundation assigns a theme for Mental Health Awareness week and for 2020 it is Kindness.

 

“One thing that we have seen all over the world is that kindness is prevailing in uncertain times. We have learnt that amid the fear, there is also community, support and hope.”

Mentalhealth.org.uk

Never has the concept of kindness been more relevant, important and recognisable than during the last few weeks of the COVID-19 lockdown which is why I wanted to jot down just a few of my own thoughts on kindness and in particular showing kindness towards yourself.

The Kindness of Strangers

Despite it being an incredibly uncertain time, there are actually lots of things that I’d like to keep about lockdown once it’s over and one of those is the kindness of strangers.

Just yesterday, my Husband and I went out for one of our daily walks, we passed by several dog walkers, families out with their children and couples enjoying the warm afternoon. Without fail, each and everyone one of them smiled and said ‘hello.’ I’m not sure that would have happened pre-lockdown.

I know it sounds a bit soppy but every time someone smiles at me as I jog near them through the park, or as we both step aside in order to observe social distancing my heart is warmed a little and I hope that my smile and greeting in return has the same effect on them.

Of course it’s not only this, there have been so many acts of kindness during this pandemic and it’s something that we should all be proud of, whether it’s clapping on your doorstep for key workers, shopping for an elderly relative or neighbour or being the designated organiser for your family Zoom Pub Quiz.

Kindness Starts With You
The other thing about kindness I believe; is that it starts with you.
You have to be kind to yourself as well as others.
Perhaps it’s been all the uncertainty of late or just the slower pace of life making it seem louder, but my inner critic has gone into overdrive these last few weeks. And believe me, when she wants to be, she can be a bit of a cow!

I’ve always found this idea of the inner critic a strange one, why are we so hard on ourselves? Why do we say things to ourselves that we would never dream of saying to another person?

Some psychologists believe we’re hardwired to think this way, that it’s part of our prehistoric brain and the functions it has in place that protect us from harm and danger. Your inner critic wants to keep you in a nice safe comfort zone where you won’t come to any harm.

It’s because of this, and in honour of Mental Health Awareness Week I wanted to share with you some of the things that I do to show kindness towards myself as well as some tips on how you can be kind to others whilst still observing social distancing.

 

1. I Am Awesome….

This is the practice of writing down every day at least three reasons why you are awesom. Your reasons will be unique to you and it doesn’t matter whether you think they’re small or big; just think of something that makes you awesome and write it down.

This is probably one of the most powerful things that I do whenever I feel that inner critic rearing her ugly head. It’s not always an easy practice and takes a bit of getting used to because no, it isn’t bragging or big-headed, both of which were thoughts I had when I first started this practice. It’s neither of those things, it’s simply a way of singing your own praises because let’s face it, we ARE all awesome in our own indvidual ways and the more you do this, the more you will benefit it will have so it’s back in my morning routine at the moment for sure.

2. Meditation

I’m a huge fan of meditation and it’s been a part of my life for around 15 years. Meditation for me, is the route to finding that inner part of me that is at peace, and isn’t hindered by negativity or attachments – the real me if you like.

It’s the version of me that has dropped all the layers of attachment that have built up; the ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’ thoughts. It’s the me that has complete clarity and in the context of the inner critic, it’s the me that can see through all the BS that my inner critic comes out with and is able to move forward positively.

3. Self Care

This seems to have become a bit of a buzzword of late, but it doesn’t make it any less relevant and it’s amazing what a difference a small act of self care can have on your mental wellbeing.

Self care doesn’t mean you have to lounge around in a bubble bath if that’s not what you enjoy. Self care is about finding something that you enjoy doing, something that puts a metaphorical deposit in your energetic bank account.

It could be a hot bath but equally it could be cooking, reading, or listening to your favourite guilty-pleasure song on full blast and singing into your hair brush. If you have a pet it might be some chilled out cuddles or a walk in fresh air to your local park. Make a self-care appointment for yourself today.

4. Practise Gratitude

A bit like with the I Am Awesome practice, taking a few minutes each day to write down at least three things that you’re grateful for can be a fantastic way to boost your mental wellbeing, make you feel a greater sense of satisfaction with your life and help you sleep especially if you take the time to write at night before you go to sleep.

5. Complete a random act of kindness for someone else.

It’s really amazing how offering a little gesture of kindness to someone else can boost our own happiness as well as the person you’re giving to. And as I mentioned at the start of this blog there have been so many everyday acts on display during lockdown that it’s actually easier than you think whilst still social distancing.

    • Write a letter to a friend or send them a hand-written card
    • Offer to do some essential shopping for a relative or neighbour
    • Set up a virtual Spa hour via Zoom – get your face masks at the ready, maybe a glass of fizz. Start out with a good chat, finish up with softer skin.
    • Send an inspiring quote or poem by email or text to a friend who you think it might help
    • Say hello to that dog-walker you see on your daily walk and maybe ask them how they are today.

What’s so amazing about kindness is that even the smallest of gestures can have a huge impact, it costs absolutely nothing and its contagious in a totally good way.

And if you want to find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week click here to visit the Mental Health Foundation Website.

References

mentalhealth.org.uk
psychologytoday.com
positivepsychology.com

Make friends with the wobble

In every yoga class, there’s always a balancing posture, and in every class we wobble in that posture. Some weeks it’s more than others and some postures create more wobble than others, but we try anyway because the wobble is part of the practice, and the more we practice maybe, just maybe, the easier (and less wobbly) it gets.

Once we feel we’ve perfected one balance, we might move onto a harder one or change something about the original one to create more of a challenge. We like to feel like we’re making progress at something, it’s human nature.

I love it when my students try closing their eyes in tree pose because if there’s one thing that’s bound to bring on smiles and laughter in class, as everyone furiously tries to stay composed, it’s that. And I always say to everyone when we practice balancing postures; ‘embrace the wobble’ or ‘make friends with the wobble’ I encourage the smiles, ‘don’t worry if you fall out of position or need to put a foot down’ I say to them, ‘just compose yourself and try again.’

Never has this idea of ‘embracing the wobble’ been more relevant than right now as we all navigate our way through this COVID-19 situation.

 

Total transparency alert; I’ve seen bowls of jelly that are less wobbly than I’ve been over the last few days. Whether it’s been wobbling about my family’s health, figuring out new ways to share yoga and even the stress that comes with a simple trip to the supermarket.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people out there who are worse off than I am, who are having bigger struggles than mine. The point I’m trying to make is that, we’re all wobbling right now, about lots of different things that are both big and small and all those wobbles are perfectly valid after all, the wobble is there to keep us safe. When we wobble in our tree pose, it’s the body’s way of trying to find steadiness in the balance so that you don’t fall over and it’s no different here where the worries and fears that you might be experiencing at the moment are part of your mind and body keeping you safe.

But just as we do in our yoga practice, what I’d really like to encourage is: not to shy away from that wobble, instead place your awareness on it, notice what you’re feeling and try making friends with it. Observe your thoughts, emotions and any changes in your physical body and allow those feelings to flow through you. I know that perhaps it all sounds a bit fluffy and ‘yoga speak’ and whilst I’m also a huge advocate of curling up under the duvet and hiding away for a few hours, I also know that at some point you have to get out from under that duvet and look those feelings in the eye so that you can not only move through them but then move forward in a positive way.

Just as with our yoga classes, some weeks it’s easier than others, so in the current situation, take just one day at a time.

 

Today you might practice your best tree pose ever (or make it through a morning of home schooling) completely wobble free and with a smile. Tomorrow it might be different, and you might not be able to lift a foot up off the floor (or deal with that team conference call where everyone interrupts each other), but that’s ok isn’t it? We recognise it, we take a break and we try again. One of my favourite teachers who’s work I often use in my own study and practice is Jack Kornfield. In his book A Path With Heart, there is a chapter which talks about ‘turning straw into gold.’ Essentially the straw – as he describes it – is the difficulty that we encounter in life but he says, it is possible to turn that straw into gold;

In a spiritually informed life, these inevitable difficulties can be the source of our awakening, of deepening wisdom, patience, balance and compassion. Without this perspective, we simply bear our sufferings like an ox under a heavy load.’

Jack Kornfield

He encourages us to apply awareness to the difficulty and then to apply that same awareness to how we respond to the difficulty. It might not be easy to do straight away but things like our yoga practice, meditation and prayer can help us with this and can become like a healing balm for us in difficult times.

‘Our difficulties require our most compassionate attention. Just as lead can be transformed into gold in alchemy, when we place our leaden difficulties, whether of body, heart or mind, in the centre of our practice, they can become lightened for us, illuminated. This task is usually not what we want, but what we have to do. No amount of meditation, yoga, diet and reflection will make all of our problems go away, but we can transform our difficulties into our practice until little by little they guide us on our way.’

Jack Kornfield

What happens when we practice a balancing posture for the first time, we might wobble and we might fall, but it doesn’t stop us from practising it again and trying to do it better next time.

If we apply the same logic to this situation, then perhaps we can find a way to navigate the next few weeks skilfully with both awareness and compassion for ourselves and those around us. Go on, make friends with the wobble, you never know what you might discover.

Posture Factfile: Downward Facing Dog

It’s a yoga legend, the pose that everyone’s heard of, but why is it so good for you?

Downward Facing Dog, known as Adho Mukha Savasana in Sanskrit is a staple in my classes and definitely in my home practice.
One of the reasons why I love Down Dog so much is that It’s a pose that has so many variations and can lead onto so many other things so it’s very rare for me not to include it when I practice at home.
It’s also what I call a really good ‘all-rounder’ because it has so many benefits.

    • It helps to build arm strength
    • Stretches the backs of the legs, and in particular can be useful for stretching your hamstrings and calf muscles
    • It’s a pose that also helps to improve circulation in the lower legs so can be especially helpful for runners
    • It’s a pose that is also useful for stretching the soft tissue in the soles of your feet
    • Increases the flow of blood to the brain
  • It also helps to stretch the muscles around your spine, helping to improve posture and flexibility

 

How to move into the posture

There are so many way to move into Dog Pose but I like to teach the posture from an all fours position as I think this is a gentle way into it and it gives you the option to lower

back down to your hands and knees if you need a break.

  1. From a keeling position, come to all fours
  2. Spread your fingers ensuring the weight is distributed evenly between your hands
  3. Breathe in mindfully through the nose
  4. On the exhale, tuck your toes under, press into your hands, lift your hips and start to straighten your legs. (For tight hamstrings, keep a soft bend in your knees)
  5. Once in the pose, try to tilt the pelvis forward so that your sitting bones lift up into the air
  6. Push through the hands and move your chest towards your thighs trying to ensure that your back isn’t rounded
  7. Relax your head to gaze comfortably between your legs
  8. Breathe easy in the pose

For Beginners: Hold the pose for 1-2 breaths initially as you build strength in the arms.

For regular yogis: Hold the pose for a few extra breaths and then once you are strong and comfortable you can begin to explore the variations.

For everyone: When you first move up into the posture don’t be in a rush to straighten your legs, instead spend a few breaths gently peddling the feet, lowering one heel as you bend the opposite knee and then change sides.

 

Variations

  • On the inhale raise one leg up in the air to find three-legged dog, use the exhale to lower the leg before you change sides.
  • You can also do the same with arms, moving one arm to touch your leg / ankle behind.
  • If you have weak wrists or arms or if you are pregnant then place the hands on a wall instead of the floor to make an L shape with your body.
  • Step one leg forward between the hands to move into a lunge position or jump the feet forward and back ‘bunny hop’ style to help build arm and shoulder strength.

Why not join me and practice Downward Facing Dog together with a group of like minded people. Click here to find out more about my weekly classes.

 

 

 

References

Rosemary ‘Prema’ Bennett Handouts

Diane Ambrosini – Instructing Hatha Yoga

Jason Crandell – Get Down Dog