Thursday, 3 October 2019

Why I love my Yoga Listening Partnership (and my parenting one!)

Anyone who knows me would be completely unsurprised to learn that I found my first listening partner at a Red School workshop on "Wild Power" connecting to the power of the menstrual cycle.  I knew that any woman attending that workshop would likely be one with whom I could share my life challenges.

I had first learned about Listening Partnerships from a friend who had found hers invaluable in managing a busy life as a self employed woman with two young children.  I was all too familiar with the experience of finding the mother child relationship more of a battle field than a powerful nurturing experience.  The idea of sharing the struggles of parenting with someone who according to the rules of "listening partnership" would neither pass judgement or offer advice sounded like a God send!

I have never been one for following strict structure and I had heard rumblings that Red School also loved the concept of Listening Partnerships so had created their own.  I thought I would go for it and chatted to someone I had just met in the break and asked her if she wanted to try it!

Three years later and our partnership is going strong.  We have supported each other through the worst and the best that life could throw at us from bereavement to GCSEs!  I added a second listening partner to my life when I felt like I wanted to speak to someone whose life experience maybe looked on the surface very different to my own but who had the key similarity of being a sole practitioner yoga teacher running their own studio.

What both of these partnerships have given me is:

Practice Listening

I am a talker.  Talking and moving are what I do daily in my career as yoga teacher.  I came from a noisy family and we were always talking over each other and I haven't quite got out of the practice of feeling the need to be heard.  In a listening partnership I knew I would be heard - we had both made the promise to listen to our partner uninterrupted.  What I didn't expect was how therapeutic it would be to listen.   In one of the last interviews given by John O'Donohue he talks about the value of deep friendship - the conversations that can be had that cut deep, in which you really feel your soul has been heard and you can hear the soul of another.  Not only did listening offer me that but it also gave me insights into my own situation and because my role was to listen I didn't have to think up clever or useful responses.  My opinion was not required so I could listen with all my heart.  It made me appreciate the value of listening in a way I hadn't in the past and it makes me more mindful of the need to deeply listen outside my partnerships - although my friends will attest to the fact that this is a practice I definitely need!

Speaking with No Need of Advice

Often I find I don't need my problems to be solved - just heard.  It is lovely to have all the space I need to speak and unravel what is happening.  A listening session might be all about something that occurred that day or an issue that has been hovering for a while.  Whatever comes up that day it feels good to express what is happening with no need for advice.  This reminds me of a therapy session without the therapist!  After a session I come away feeling lighter - and because my listening partnership is separate from my every day life, I have no concern with regard to confidentiality.

20 minutes of Magic

20 minutes seems to have something wonderful about it.  It is the ideal amount of time to nap - or what I prefer Practice Yoga Nidra.  It is the amount of time that works best for me to meditate - although if I get out of practice it can seem like forever!  And it is the time I have found works best for listening.  We are then dedicating approximately an hour of our time to each other - a manageable amount and it feels like all the time I need to let my concerns unravel.

If you would like to create a Listening Partnership - I am running a group where all participants can learn how they work in a little more detail and get some practice!  This group will be for yoga teachers and you can find out more and book your place for Monday 14th October here:
https://finchleyyoga.com/creating-a-yoga-listening-partnership/

Friday, 15 March 2019

The Pill, Peri-Menopause and Me: My experience of choices around contraception

I have been finding myself chatting to colleagues and friends about peri-menopause and at the age of 45 it feels like a good time to look back over the years of contraception choices.  The other day a friend of mine said she would like to come off the pill so she could feel what her natural cycle was and that is something I have been doing for the last 5 years.  It is quite staggering to look back and know I was on the pill from the age of 14 to 40 (aside from a couple of breaks to become pregnant and give birth)

From menarche aged 10 to 14 years old I experienced strong period pains.  I also had the usual teenage complexion - some oily skin - a few spots.  I do not recall how I was first prescribed the pill but that is what happened when I was 14 and I was delighted.  The results as I saw them were:
* no more period pains
* no more spots
and I could even manipulate my periods so that I didn't have them when I went on holiday.  I am not sure I even knew what ovulation was or that being on the pill would mean that I was not ovulating and I certainly had no concept of the potential side effects of starting the pill at such a young age - the potential for weaker bones, a higher risk of mental health problems, the fact that my body had not been given the chance to learn its own natural processes and the removal of a very useful signal of something being wrong (amenorrhea - not having a period - is a sign that all may not be well and going on the pill would mask this)

I thought very little about this and felt mature because I was on the pill - it was a box I could tick that proved I was an adult (something I believed in many ways at 14 - and as I looked much older than I was adults were very happy to treat me as if I were older - a danger I am very aware of now I have at teen of my own.)

The first sign that all may not be as rosey as it seems occurred when I was in my mid 20s.  I noticed that I bled a little after sex.  I didn't do anything about it for ages.  I felt well - I didn't really think it was anything that was that unusual.  However, eventually I took myself off to the doctors and was referred to a gynaecologist and when they took a look they noticed that my cervix had thinned and that was the cause of the bleeding.  Their response to this was to do something that I remember referring to as "sandblasting my cervix" . I can't remember the exact details but they described it in a way that felt to me as if they had numbed it burned it and allowed it to heal.  They were pretty sure that this thinning had been caused by the pill I was taking and rather than stopping I decided to change brand.  My cervix had been bleeding and I treated this as little more than an inconvenience.  It took for me to be part of the "Yoga Therapy for Women's Health" training with Uma Dinsmore Tulu to revisit that time and recognise that both I and the medical profession maybe should have given this fact a little more pause.

At this moment in time I was flat sharing and we chatted pills and I changed once again to one that had been specifically designed to improve the skin (did I remember to say that as a child I was also put on antibiotics for my skin - another practice common in the 80s - and I did not have acne - just a friend who had told me that if I asked I could get antibiotics and it would stop me getting spots) .  So I changed pill and carried on.

In my late teens I developed an auto-immune disease (you can check out my blog on that) Whether there was any connection between this and having my hormones played with at such a young age and the condition I will never know.  There is very little research done on the differences between men and women in connection to auto-immune disease and women's bodies are treated very much like men's down to the medication prescribed and the quantities.  What I do know is that I was put on the pill at 14 to mask pain symptoms and that the cause of the pain itself was never addressed.  The pill was the plaster placed on the problem.

After my children were born I continued to take the pill.  I remember the huge amount of fear I felt both times I came off the pill to try to become pregnant.  I had experienced such strong pain as a child I was fearful of experiencing that level of pain again.  I became pregnant two months after coming off the pill first time and the second time I was in the middle of a severe bout of the auto immune disease I first experienced as a late teen.  I don't remember my periods being particularly painful at this time but I was very keen to return to what I viewed as the safety of the pill once my children had been born.

Having been on the pill for many years I am very aware of how effective (or not)  it has been as a contraception for me.  The pill is often bandied about as the safest form of contraception.  The reality for me was that there was often a month when I forgot to take my pill, so needing to use another form of contraception to be safe, there were times when I was sick or taking antibiotics.  At least every 3 to 4 months I was needing to use another form of contraception and or take two pill packets in a row to therefore preventing a bleed,  and as is the case for all of us the pill never protected me from STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and it also meant that because I knew I when I was protected from getting pregnant by the pill I was more likely to make unsafe decisions and not talk to a partner about whether we felt that sex was the right next step.  I also absolved any partner I might have of any responsibility for preventing pregnancy and because they were never part of that conversation it would make any conversation about choices surrounding pregnancy much more difficult to approach.
Throughout this time I was not ovulating.  I didn't give myself a break to have a "natural period" . I didn't even consider the fact that my periods were due to synthetic hormones.  Even when I came off the pill to get pregnant I did not consider the fact that the major difference was that I was ovulating so there was an egg that could be fertilised.  My whole reproductive system remained a mystery that, to be honest I wasn't that interested in.

When I reached the age of 40 I was at the point where I felt that periods were just an inconvenience.  I didn't want any more children so why on earth did I have to go through taking the pill and having periods.  I looked for alternatives and got a leaflet from the GP.  I went a couple of times to get a coil fitted but each time I went the nurse said that it wasn't quite the right time for my body - so I took that option off the table - although the hormonal coil was very much flavour of the day at my doctor's surgery for women who had decided they wanted no more children.  

A friend told me that she had just had a hormone inserted into her arm that lasted for years and meant no more periods.  How fabulous, I thought and went back to the GP to get mine.  I remember having greasy hair and feeling very strange - apart from the (as I saw it) advantage of not having periods, everything else was a negative and I soon had it removed.  So I returned to the pill just as my eldest daughter experienced her first bleed.

It was at this time I started reading the book "Yoni Shakti" and it was this that caused me to take stock.  It was only at this time that I even realised that I had not ovulated in years.  The natural  highs and lows of the natural menstrual cycle had not happened for me.  I wanted to find out what my real body felt like - and what a revelation.  I took a deep dive into Menstrual Cycle Awareness.  I started to understand the flow of my cycle - the sexy feeling at ovulation and just pre bleed, the letting go of menstruation, the bouncing energy of the post bleed time.  

I have spent the last five years starting to understand the natural flow of my own cycle.  Sometimes it really feels too late but I am grateful to have found it.  So what am I doing about contraception - for me condoms have provided and answer - there are very few other options out there although I do have friends who use natural fertility methods and others who use the "honey cap".  I do have the sense that I have "served my time" . I don't want contraception to be my sole responsibility any more and I would be more than happy if my partner decided to take it upon himself to have "the snip"

Peri-menopause is a natural time in our lives when our periods are likely to become less regular.  We might have periods that are closer together or further apart. We might miss ovulation one month.  Our system slowly changes so that our body prepares for a time when the cycles stop. Menopause marks that end and is only recognised as such a whole year after our final bleed.  If I was on the pill or any other form of hormonal contraception how would I know at what stage my body would be ready for this natural and slow transition (I know there are many variations on this theme as there are for menarche but it is likely that the peri-menopause will last up to ten years)   At 45 I have been watching the daily changes in my cycle for a few years now.  I feel comfortable that I can observe the changes as they occur and that the gates are fully open to discuss these changes with friends and colleagues.  

I have wanted to prepare myself for peri-menopause and menopause and to support those women in my yoga community who are at that stage in their lives.  There has been a natural slowing down and focus on strengthening poses, breathing practices, meditation and yoga nidra in the post ovulation part of my cycle.  I have attended menopause workshops and learned more deeply what practices will support me and my students during this change in our lives.  I am part of a women's circle where I know I am safe to discuss these natural changes and I know that if I choose I can look for support within the medical and menstruality professions.

I am glad that I am now pill free and that this gives me the opportunity to witness my peri-menopause.  The use of hormonal contraception and the total lack of non hormonal alternatives offered by the NHS needs to be part of the peri-menopause conversation.

 On the nearest Friday to the next new moon 5th April 1130-1400 in our Moon Circle at Finchley Yoga we will be looking at thresholds.    Menarche, Birth, Miscarriage, Loss, Peri-Menopause, Menopause and beyond.  I am glad that there is a space where we can share our experiences and outside of this circle I would like more of us to share and support each other as we step into the stages of our lives.  Each stage is represented in yoga by a goddess.  Not as a pathology but as a gateway.  The yoga I teach and practice connects deeply to the gateways we pass through at each stage of our lives.  

Do contact me and post below if anything in this blog has touched you and you are welcome to come and sit with us in circle at our next Finchley Moon Circle.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Yoga Teaching Sustainably: Keeping my love for teaching...Standing on one leg!

One of the most challenging things about teaching yoga is getting the balance right.  For me the balance involves being there for my teens (getting that balance right can be challenge enough!) and having the emotional and physical energy I need to teach my classes.  Right now what feels good is between 6 and 8 classes a week.  I also feel comfortable supporting my students in a class that is no larger than 12 students. 

In a week I would usually teach 5 group classes of one hour 30 mins and one or two private classes.  I want to give fully of myself in those classes.  In order to do that I want to feel fresh and enthusiastic as I step on the mat.  I would like to have had time for my own personal practice and to have been inspired in some way by what I choose to teach that week.  This week we have been focussing on grounding and feeling into the root chakra.  Inspiration for the class has come from chats with yoga colleagues, the Yoga For Recovery session of the Yoga Teachers Forum London where I was part of a group of teachers learning how yoga is shared with people and families who are affected by addiction.  I had been dipping into one of my favourites yoga texts "Yoni Shakti" and I often love to be reminded of the beautiful lesson plans my teacher Barbara Joseph gave me way back when I was doing my teacher training.  Along with that I have a listening partner who supports me in my personal live journey and a colleague who is also a yoga teacher who supports me emotionally and who I support in turn.  There is also an online group that is very nurturing called Yoga Teachers Support and Mentoring and I will sometimes drop in there to feel the support of a wider community. 

In teaching I find that I am in a position of "holding space" for my students.  I intentionally bring to class breathing, moving and meditation practices that can be used in our lives.  When delving into the root chakra this week we looked at:
* Finding our feet - what it feels like to be grounded
*Story telling as a means of conveying powerful messages
*Masculine/Feminine balance
*The connection between our instep and yoni
*Bone strength and squatting
*Using partner work to experience how it feels to be supported and to support someone else - how that can allow both parties to feel stronger
I love yoga as a tool for life - it supports my life and I like to share how it does that and how it can support others too.  Once I have taught two classes in this way in one day I feel ready to step away from teaching on the mat.

When I trained as a yoga teacher none of the training focussed on what life would look like for me as a yoga teacher.  I knew that my teacher trainer worked in publishing and taught one or two classes a week and led teacher training on weekends.   Right at the end of the training we drew up posters (it was 2004!) and discussed advertising.  At no point was any support system discussed once we had our certificates...and mine was one of the most thorough trainings available at the time consisting of a deep grounding in anatomy, a thorough understanding of lesson planning and significant teaching practice throughout the course.  Since then I have learned what it means to "hold space"   As a yoga teacher I have found myself is a place where I have supported students through many life changing experiences - when we step into a safe place it can feel good to share.  When we open up our bodies sometimes we feel safe to open up to our teachers and I have held space for students overcoming grief, cancer, hysterectomies, anxiety and many other life challenges - I have come to learn that this is the heart of yoga teaching and practice.

Yoga can have a profoundly positive impact on lives - that is why I practice and teach.  However, I can't do this as a Monday - Friday full time career.   I am regularly checking in with myself and working out what a sustainable practice is.  I have always been the full time carer of my children and until recently that involved a large amount of my time and it still takes a considerable amount of my emotional energy.

My youngest is now in secondary school and I am re-assessing where I place my energy.  One thing I know I won't be doing is increasing my teaching schedule.  Each of us has a different energy level - we have an idea of what can work for us both physically and emotionally but I wonder if full time yoga teaching that supports us fully financially is something any of us would even want to aspire to if we want to ensure that our own well is kept replenished so when we dip in for sustenance of our own the water there is abundant and has not gone dry.

It is worth while for all of us to look at our teaching schedule and ask ourselves as teachers:
How many classes am I teaching a week?
What are my energy levels like?
Do I have a personal practice that is supporting and sustaining me?
Am I sufficiently emotionally supported in my teaching?
What does my support structure look like?
Am I giving myself what I give to my students?
Do I feel that I am giving fully to each student who is attending my classes?
Do I have sufficient time for my life outside of teaching?

One of the reasons I set up the Yoga Teachers Forum London is so there would be a place where yoga teachers could meet with each other to feel supported.  For me it was a really important step in recognising the need for all of us as yoga teachers to start from a place of sustainability - so we are giving ourselves first what we feel called to give to others.

You can find my classes and more information about the Yoga Teachers Forum London at www.finchleyyoga.com 

Friday, 22 February 2019

Sex, Pleasure, Intimacy and Yoga...

This week I was chatting with Sarah Rose Bright who is a sex, pleasure and intimacy coach.  She has a vision to bring her work to yoga studios and we chatted about our work and I was surprised by the level of synergy in our work.

She works with women to bring them back to their bodies so they have confidence in their own sensuality.  So do I.  Although I work with both men and women many of the tools are the same although some of my practices I do reserve for women.  We move our bodies and notice what feels good.  One of the poses that is most easy to do this is the all fours position or "cat"  We move our bodies in a range of ways with the all fours as the base - maybe swinging our hips or circling the shoulders all the while checking in with what "feels good" - this is a practice Sarah does in her workshops.

We check in every class with how we are feeling using the seasons - I relate this to the menstrual cycle. Winter = bleed Summer = ovulation.  I often make specific reference to the feeling of power and energy that can come with ovulation.  Sarah also helps women tap into their feelings.

In class breath is a constant that can help us feel a certain way.  An even breath can bring a feeling of equilibrium.  We often close our eyes place our hands on our bellies to feel our breath.  Breath is also used in Sarah's work.  On occasion in class we massage our bellies, even more often we will massage our feet, or our neck and shoulders - sometimes our faces.  On occasion I give guidance on how to massage the breasts (not during inner winter) and encourage women in the class to do this in their own time without their bras- also encouraging them to understand their breast better - to follow the natural changes that occur throughout the cycle - the times when they feel more sensitive... in Sarah's work she has the breadth to take this further but the basis is the same.  Touch is a gateway to feeling.  Touching ourselves in a way that brings pleasure is a gateway to more.

One of my favourite meditation practices is the Heart Womb practice (adapted for men to be the Heart Gut practice) . This is a deeply powerful practice for women with or without wombs.  A woman who attends my classes said she felt it to be deeply healing as she had experienced a hysterectomy and it allowed her to reconnect to that space.  We use the practice of breathing into the heart and the womb and making the energetic connection to enhance our creativity, be grateful to our wombs for all they have given and to forgive ourselves for the pain that part of us may have given.  I do not know if womb connection is part of Sarah's teaching but I like to think it would be.

On days when men are not present in class I may create a breast and yoni yoga nidra.  Yoni is the yogic term for "cunt" a term that was hijacked as a swear word but that simply means - labia, vagina, and clitoris - our "lady landscape" . In nidra I use breath to connect the heart, breast, yoni and third eye.  It is a practice I enjoy for myself and that I love to share.  Again it can be a profoundly healing practice for women - I have been told that by a woman who had experienced breast cancer and loved the practice for bringing love back.  Breast and yoni love are part of the self love process involved in work like Sarah's.

She asked me if I felt brave doing this work - and I don't - I teach what I practice and I regularly practice all of the above so it feels totally natural to share it with my students.  I was trained in "Women's Health Yoga Therapy" by Uma Dinsmore Tuli and since then my teaching naturally follows that pattern.

Yoga has a little talked about history of "me too" It is a beautiful and sensual practice that has been hijacked by men who have used it to take advantage of young women.  I have certainly been to yoga classes led by attractive men and taking part in a practice that can make you feel so good can be a natural gateway to danger.  I feel very privileged that I am a strong woman with no inclination to follow that path and that I have had the most wonderful male and female teachers who have honoured my femininity and sensuality.  I am delighted that Sarah feels called to take her work into the yoga community.  The world would be a more beautiful place if we all connected more to our sensuality.

You can find my classes at www.finchleyyoga.com and my facebook @finchleyyoga1

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Yes I do want to do that! Yoga and yes..or no

Consent is being banded about right now.  I am reading about it through such a narrow lense.  The lense of sexuality.  How far do I want do go.  No means no.  For me as a woman, yoga practitioner and teacher consent goes so much further.  As I have travelled on my journey as a teacher I have come across amazing teachers who have chosen to work with vulnerable people.  They have taught me the huge value of permissive language.  I have learned the importance of giving people options.  Ensuring that when the direction is made to close the eyes the option to keep them open is clear.  When a direction is made to move in a certain way it is with the knowledge that if it doesn't feel right then listen to that.  The understanding that making a choice to be in a room to practice yoga does not mean you have to do anything that has been instructed.  I have learned more and more what a responsibility it is to teach yoga and that practicing yoga can give us the key to what feels good in our bodies.

I have chosen a path in yoga that is permissive - the teachers I love do not dictate exactly where I place my foot or how to breathe.  They have guided me into an understanding of what feels good.

This is one of the many reasons I would love my daughters to fall in love with practicing yoga with a teacher who understands at the deepest level the importance of choice.  I have decided to open up my studio to other teachers.  The teachers who enter the space do so either as part of the Yoga Teachers Forum to share with others and feel part of a wider yoga community or because they teach and share something I want to experience.  The one exception to that is the Yoga for Teens Class.

Teen Yoga is now taught at my studio.  Although I am trained in Teen Yoga and really enjoyed teaching my nieces and nephews an impromptu class when we were together over the festive season I knew in my heart that I wasn't the right person to teach my girls in a class setting (in the lounge or their bedrooms no problem - sometimes there is nothing more fun than playing around with headstand after school or creating a yoga nidra together when tucked up in bed).  There are challenges I can see them facing now that I know a little yoga can help with - it is so much more than exercise but they need to be taught by someone who knows they need to enjoy the class and that it can't feel like a lesson where they have to "behave"

What are they facing and why do I keep the class single sex:

If I thought primary school had its challenging it is nothing compared to the minefield that is secondary education.  As pre teens and teens the girls are facing regular difficult choices.  Should they drink alcohol at a party?  How can they feel more comfortable when in the presence of a boy they like?  How can they feel calmer when they take tests at school?  How do they cope with conflict in school?  I can't hold their hands through these situations but can yoga help them make decisions that they are happy with?   Yoga practicers can be really challenging - it can feel like a risk to try to balance in a particular way or to bend in a particular direction.  Taking safe risks can help teens become less likely to take dangerous ones.

When the girls move in yoga they are giving regular opportunities to check in with their bodies - how do they feel.  They will become more aware of what feels good and what doesn't feel good.  When working with partners they will learn to let their partners know how far they can move before it begins to feel uncomfortable.  This is a form of consent - yes this feels ok - know this doesn't.  Yes it is ok to go this far but then stop.  In class they have the opportunity to notice how they feel when they step into the room and whether that has changed when they leave.  How they feel could then become more important than how they look to others.  All this experience can be taken off the mat and into the world.

In class they will also access their breath - notice when they can breathe deeply and when they might be holding their breath.  Breath awareness is a tool they can use in exam situations.

I haven't given my girls the option to say no to yoga classes.  I am not sure where that puts me in terms of consent.  However, I am confident that what they will be learning in their weekly yoga class with a teacher who has helped many girls feel more confident in their bodies and calmer in their minds are skills they can take with them into the world so they make decisions that feel right because they have a better understanding of their "gut feeling" and are more likely to feel what works for them.  And maybe they will fall in love with yoga like I have and know they are being given secrets that can help them navigate the crazy world of teen life...

All my classes including the Teen Yoga class with Dianne Murphy can be found at www.finchleyyoga.com

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Then the delight, when your courage kindled, And out you stepped onto new ground...*

I was in synagogue last night - not a place where I feel at my most comfortable.  I find it difficult to connect to my heart and kindness in a building created for the purpose.  However, it was the evening of the Day of Atonement and one of the aspects of synagogue I often appreciate is the sermon.  Rabbi Jonathan really lives his religion - he has created a place of true community, supporting asylum seekers, searching for places of unity and connection between the Israeli and Arab community, connecting with religious leaders of different faiths to find common areas of support and finding many diverse ways to support his congregation.  The fact that it does not feel like home to me is because I haven't taken the time to really make it my community.  With my daughter's coming of age ceremony within the Jewish community imminent it is something I feel a "should" about in the coming months.

So, last night Rabbi Jonathan spoke about kindness and community.  And as he spoke I thought about what that means for me.  I have also been listening recently to David Whyte talk about friendship and both of these linked together in my mind.  It is the Jewish New Year and a time for reflecting on the past 12 months and when I look back to last September I did not have a Yoga community that felt like home.  I had friends I could call upon and we would often arrange to meet each other for a cup of tea and I am part of the Womb Yoga community and The British Wheel of Yoga but there was nothing that gave me a strong feeling of "community"

It was at that time that I set up The Yoga Teachers Forum London.  I set it up because I was feeling lonely as a teacher.  I love my connection to my students but I wanted to be with other teachers who understood my experience as a sole practitioner.  In almost every therapeutic vocation I can think of there is a mentoring system but there was nothing official in place for me to feel supported and heard by my peers in person.  Now the forum exists and takes place at my studio on a monthly basis on a Wednesday afternoon I feel the seeds of that community growing.  We meet and discuss an area of yoga led by one of us with a particular love for that area.  We each pay £5 suggested donation to Shelter and we have the opportunity to connect and share with others who have the same passion.  Out of the initial seed that was planted last Autumn other offerings are emerging including workshops on teaching tween yoga (a workshop after my own heart!) and Yoga Nidra (one of my favourite aspects of yoga teaching and practice)

As I find that monthly meeting so nurturing I started looking for other ways to connect to people who feel like my community.  The monthly moon circle that now takes place monthly at Finchley Yoga is another way I can feel supported.  In this case it is with other women.  Melonie Syrett holds a beautiful space where we can listen and be heard.  Our last meeting was attended by a woman who had never sat in circle feeling the connection of other women - it was so powerful to be witness to and I always want to be part of something that connects women deeply to each other - I also believe in the power of these groups for men - there is something that feels very safe about being in a circle in this way.

Both of these groups are touch stones I didn't have a year ago.  David Whyte in his conversation about friendship talked about old and new friends.  I feel that I am at the cusp of a new beginning with friendships created through the Moon Circle and Teachers Forum and I needed for those friendships to be concrete and in person - online communities can only take me so far.  I also feel that my listening partnership has great value and that is conducted via facetime - it still feels very real.  I am also grateful for friendships that go back to key touchstones in my life, school, university, daughter's starting nursery and for the foundation stone of friendship - family.

Forging new connections can feel scary and can take time.  My youngest daughter is embarking on a huge test of community, starting secondary school.  She has just left behind a school that felt very safe, full of teachers and students she knew well, a place where she was known for her sporting prowess, kind and fun nature.  Now she is in a new place where she has to trust that children and adults will see her for the gregarious, generous, fun, energetic, interested and kind girl she is.  It is a vulnerable place to be and I want to support her in the best way I can and wish I could be a little bird perched on her shoulder, encouraging her on her way.

So as I look towards the new year I want to be part of helping my local yoga community feel like a supportive world, where there are opportunities for mentoring, shared listening, regular meetings and many ways for us to feel held and more connected.

You can find the Yoga Teachers Forum London on Facebook and the monthly Finchley Moon Circles
on our Finchley Yoga page and also at www.finchleyyoga.com
*quotation from "For a New Beginning" John O'Donohue

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Taking The Best Risks!

I am on a high!  I have just finished the first of 4 sessions of a beginners climbing course that means I will be able to take my kids indoor climbing.  I only did it so I could take them to a climbing centre and supervise.  I have a huge fear of climbing and really never thought I would be able to take the first step off the ground.  The teacher and the group were super supportive and before I knew it I had reached the top of the climbing wall.  I still feel a little sick thinking about it and now I know what having a fear of heights can really feel like.  But along with the fear has come a sense of achievement and as I write this I can't help but have a big grin on my face!  I also loved that I am doing the course with my 14 year old daughter so that she can see me face my fears, fail and try again.  Even learning to tie the knot to climb was a real challenge for me.  One of the people on the course was a lovely woman called Caroline who partnered both me and Zoe in the climbing.  She was so patient and kind that I asked her if she was a teacher.  Her answer was yes and it made me feel so good to know that there is a class of Year 5 kids out there being taught by a woman who is so clearly suited to her job.

One of the things I loved about learning to climb is the team work involved.  You have a huge responsibility to look after your climbing partner and when you are climbing you have to trust your partner too.  So I am learning so much and renewing my trusting practice too!

Having done the teen yoga teacher training it is now very clear to me that I am not the right person to teach my children yoga in a class.  So I am really delighted that I have found an amazing colleague through the Yoga Teachers Forum London to teach my girls.  At first I asked her to teach my daughter in Year 10 because it was so clear to me that she would benefit from all the yoga techniques there are that help with:
- body image
- exam stress
- compassion
- social cohesion
- autonomy
- safe risk taking
And then I thought about the stresses of starting secondary school and also asked her to run a class for my tween.  Thinking about the climbing I did today I can see a strong link.  Gabi will teach the girls poses they might find really challenging - so they will be taking safe risks trying out things they may never have thought they could achieve.  They will practice partner work, where they will need to learn to trust each other.  There is much that they will gain from practicing yoga that I gained from taking the risk to make that climb.

So as I step into the autumn term I am going to seek out challenges that can bring me and my girls a little bit of fear and much joy.

Gabi Markham will be teaching teen and tween yoga at Finchley Yoga from 8th October 2018