Body Positivity & Diet Culture

How much do you love your body?
How willing are you to trust your body and listen instead of measuring and controlling?
For a long time, we have been obsessed with our body, the external visual we portray to the world. We starve and restrict, poke and prod, fill and augment, cover and hide our external canvas in the hope that we will be seen, heard, accepted and worthy of someone’s time and love.

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How Do You Deal with Stress?

Stress, we all feel it and in today’s society it is sometimes a badge of honour to be worn proudly on your chest. Never mind that your mental, physical and emotional health will suffer greatly from prolonged stress. Never mind that your relationships will suffer. If you are stressed and running yourself into the ground, then you are working hard and eventually all of this grinding will pay off.

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What Masks are you Wearing???

In a world of filters and Photoshop it has become glaringly obvious that we don’t want to have to analyse the stories and posts we scroll past to see what is real and what is fake? Calling out, judging and shaming people in the media and our immediate worlds has become the norm for most people whether they do it openly in the comment section or silently in their minds. We are crying out for the truth in every corner of our lives. But mostly we are just living a life in drag, portraying carefully constructed, entertaining characters to the world.

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Rewriting Your Story

Your life story is important and can have profound effects on others when shared to help or inspire. However, often we get fixated on ‘our stories’ or lack thereof. We forget our stories are not who we are but what we have lived through and lived by up to this point. Our stories tell of the lessons, blessings, tragedies and miracles that have happened to date. They teach us, help us to grow and develop on our journey but they should not define us.

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Retreating into Nature and Practice

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Eagles Rock Retreat, Carlingford

 A couple of weeks ago I had the absolute pleasure of visiting and teaching at Carlingford Yoga at Eagles Rock Retreat. Nestled amongst the Cooley and Mourne mountains and rolling fields with spectacular views in every direction, it really is the perfect place to switch off and unwind.

 

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Carlingford is in Co, Louth and is part of Ireland’s Ancient East, sharing energy and history with scared sites such as Newgrange and Lough Crew. For me Eagles Rock Retreat exudes that magic and energy making it almost impossible for anyone not to unwind, relax and reconnect with nature and themselves.

 

 

 

Stuart and Martina host yoga weekends at Eagles Rock and are so warm and inviting that we really didn’t want to leave. Their house has beautifully decorated bedrooms and living areas where you can chill, read a book or have a chat. The food provided all weekend is fresh, wholesome, vegetarian and most of all delicious. Let’s just say we were never late for any meal and we wanted all the recipes to try and recreate them at home.

 

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The yoga studio sits at the back of the house, east facing to catch the rising sun for early morning meditations and practice.  With windows all along one side of the room, you will be blown away by the amazing views and peace that perpetuates the studio. It was the most amazing place to teach and hold space for the ladies I shared the weekend with. Martina teaches the classes if you are attending without a yoga teacher and she is a wonderful teacher.

(I attended a retreat with her a couple of years ago and she really is amazing!)

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When we arrived on Friday evening at the long and winding driveway, I knew it was going to be a special weekend and I wasn’t wrong. It was my first retreat to teach at, usually looking for that peace and solace myself, now I was part of creating that for the women who came with me. This was a hen weekend with a difference, this hen (a very good friend of mine) wanted a weekend to relax, unwind and practise yoga and I was delighted to be able to facilitate the yoga for the group.

We arrived at different times and got settled into our new, cosy rooms. We didn’t all know each other so we spent the evening walking around the countryside and chatting over dinner.

The rest of the weekend was spent practising Hatha yoga in the morning, a strong flow to energise the body for the day and gentler Yin practice in the evening with some deep relaxation known as Yoga Nidra.

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There are plenty of tracks and trails around the house for both the avid hill walker and the slow-paced stroller. On Saturday, we ventured down to Templetown beach and into Carlingford town for some tea and cake.

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Strolls along Templetown Beach

 

DSCN1836I created a journal for the weekend, with some insightful questions and techniques to use over the weekend or when they got home. Surprisingly colouring the mandalas was the biggest hit, lots of creative energy wanting to be expressed with this group. Often, we spend so much time looking after others and getting things ‘done’ that we forget to check in with ourselves and the things we want and need in our life. Then get frustrated when we get into a funk and can’t comprehend or articulate why we feel off centre. Journaling can really help us understand, express and let go of things in our lives that no longer serve us.

 

 

My stay brought me lots of peace, growth and gratitude for time spent in great company, in a spectacular venue with beautiful energy. I will be definitely going back again soon as a guest or teacher, either would be bliss!!

 

 

I can’t recommend Carlingford Yoga, Eagles Rock Retreat highly enough for anyone who needs a weekend to unwind, relax and connect with mind, body, spirit and nature.

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3 Steps to start a Daily Mindful Practice

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Mindfulness is defined as paying attention, on purpose in the present moment, in a non-judgemental way. Mindfulness or meditation doesn’t mean sit there and think of nothing. It is simply a practice of awareness. In the practice you bring your awareness to your breath, to your body to whatever thoughts or emotions are floating around and instead of being consumed or overwhelmed by them you just observe as they pass by like clouds.

snowglobe-nail-artThink of a snow globe, when you shake it the snow goes everywhere, and it is hard to see anything except the snow. When the snow globe is placed back down, eventually the snow settles and it is easy to see again. When we are stressed, anxious, overwhelmed it is hard to have clarity about the situation or life in general. However, when we slow down, breath and allow all the thoughts or emotions to settle we can see clearly again. Our mindfulness practice allows us to do this.

There are so many benefits of practising mindfulness, here are few;

  • Less stress and anxiety. Felt not only on a mental and emotional level but felt on a physiological level from the nervous system first and then the other organs.
  • Improved focus and concentration
  • Makes us feel better, happier
  • Increased patience and compassion
  • Lowers blood pressure and regulates our heart rate
  • It calms and balances us in mind, heart and body
  • Increases our energy levels
  • Increases the strength of our immune systems

Apart from the health benefits on a physiological, emotional and mental level mindfulness practice can realign us with who we really are. Most people are running and racing from one activity to the next, never slowing down or pausing to check in with themselves. They become accustomed to stress, anxiety, ‘busyness’ or switching off in front of the TV for hours as a part of modern day living. They see and believe that they will feel better when they get over what happened in the past or reach the point in the future that will make them feel better.

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This way of thinking however is not very helpful or beneficial to us. When we think like this we are like a boat floating without a rudder in the middle of nowhere. Sure, we may be staying afloat and moving but we have no real direction or destination in mind.  Mindfulness helps us to stay in the present moment, to respond instead of reacting unnecessarily to things that bump off the side of our boat. It helps us to settle the boat when the water is rough. It fine tunes our awareness so that we can see the big waves coming towards us and instead of trying to fight the wave (that is coming either way) we let it pass and say, ‘surf’s up’ or get ready for a ‘wipe out’. It also allows us to take control of the oars or the wheel again and move toward the destination we want.

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3 Steps to getting started

  1. Commit

The first step in starting any new skill or habit is to commit. Commit to yourself first. Maybe even sit with your thoughts on this for a few minutes. Why do you feel drawn to this? What is your intention for this practice, what do you want to get out of it? Less stress or anxiety, more peace? Then tell a friend or a loved one about the challenge you have set yourself so that they can support and hold you accountable (in a non-judgemental way – if you feel you have no such person then you can share with me in the daily posts)

  1. Prepare

You don’t need any special equipment to start your mindful practice. You just need somewhere to sit comfortably with a straight spine (on a chair, in lotus position, on a cushion or bolster) where you won’t be distracted or interrupted. You can set the timer on your phone (then turn it on aeroplane mode) and bring your attention to your breath. If you want to light a candle or play some relaxing music this can help to get you into a relaxed state.

  1. Pick a time that will best suit your lifestyle and routines and try to stick that time as best as possible. Of course, things will get in the way but if you pick a time that is least likely to be interrupted it will be easier to establish and maintain the practice for the month and hopefully after.

Remember as with everything in life the practice is an informance not a performance, informing us of where we are at that particular day on that particular time.

Join me on my instagram page for the Mindful March  challenge and take 5-10 minutes each day for yourself to establish a mindfulness practice and reap the benefits in mind, body and soul!!! I will be sharing lots of tools and techniques each day to help you to create a practice that suits you best!

Love and Light,

Mel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mindfulness for Children

Children, you would probably agree, are for the most part happy and carefree, living in the present and enjoying every little minute in life. They are our biggest teachers, reminding us to live in the moment, finding wonder and joy in a puddle of water or a rainbow while the rest of us keep rushing to our next item on our to-do list.

Working with children you realise how the seemingly little things can be massively important in their little world. They may not have scary things like mortgages or high-powered jobs but trying to figure out this mad world when you are still in primary school is no mean feat. Often, they do not understand the emotional, physical and mental processes going on within them let alone have the ability or skill-set to express themselves to a parent or guardian. In fact, most adults find this extremely difficult but have learned to park these feelings or suppress these challenging emotions in some way instead of dealing with them.

I have been teaching children for nearly 10 years now (How the hell did that happen??) and I have seen children from all walks of life come up against challenges which they didn’t have the skills to deal with.

I see them growing out of their childlike wonder and amazement earlier and earlier and start using words like stress, worry and frustrated more often. They are growing up in a world where stress is a common place word in most households as parents and families in all their shapes and sizes try to hold on to and better themselves in their careers, keep a roof over their heads while paying for all the wants and needs of a family. While they struggle and strive to meet the materialistic needs of their family they try to ensure everyone is fit and healthy, cared for emotionally and mentally and at the same time share and elicit morals and values. This is a huge undertaking in and of itself and then you add in the day to day scheduling and organising and melt downs of everyday life, it is no wonder most people are dealing with stress on a daily basis.

As adults we are looking for more and more ways to deal with the stresses and strains of modern day living and we are learning these skills and trying to implement them in an already busy schedule. If we don’t see instant positive results a new habit, it usually gets thrown by the wayside. That is why I think it is so important that children learn these skills from a young age and have the ability to utilise them whenever they are faced with a challenging encounter or situation.

Mindfulness-1024x659Meditation and mindfulness has huge physical, emotional and mental benefits. Research and studies continue to prove the positive effects that meditation and mindfulness can have on the body and as adults, more and more of us are drawn to these practices.

So, what are the benefits of meditation and mindfulness on the body?

  • Less stress and anxiety. Felt not only on a mental and emotional level but felt on a physiological level from the nervous system first and then the other organs.
  • Improved focus and concentration
  • Makes us feel better, happier
  • Increased patience and compassion
  • Lowers blood pressure and regulates our heart rate
  • It calms and balances us in mind, heart and body
  • Increases our energy levels
  • Increases the strength of our immune systems

One of my students in my mindfulness class was sitting at the kitchen table after school one day doing her homework with her mum and brother. As often is the case, the battle for completing homework commenced and tempers started to wear thin. This little girl instructed them to calm down, take a breath and be mindful of how they were acting. She was FIVE at the time!! She shared her awareness an instantly diffused the whole situation and brought some light and laughter to a day that could have ended in tears and frustration for everyone.

2017-11-19 20.56.24Mindfulness and meditation also helps children (and adults) become more emotionally resilient. Emotional resilience means not getting overly angry, worried, frustrated or stressed over something and if you do having the tools and techniques at hand to help you to calm down instead of reacting in a way that won’t help the situation and or make it worse. Mindfulness and meditation can help children to relax and calm down and keeps things in perspective while encouraging positive self-talk and action.

Whether your child is dealing with anxiety, emotional challenges or is happy and carefree, practising meditation and mindfulness can have many positive benefits and rewards.

Top tips for mindful practices with children

  • Chill Out Zone

cosy cornerCreate a cosy corner where they can relax, chill out, reflect and calm down if feel the need to. Help them arrange, set it up and it will really feel like their own and they will want to use it then. Have a calm down teddy, worry teddy also works really well for the little ones. This will be a great tool to help them calm down independently and be more aware and mindful of how they are feeling.

  • Take 5

Using the sense is a quick and easy way to help calm and relax your child. Take 5 – Sit down, be still, take a big deep breath and uses your senses. What can you feel right now? What can you hear right now? What can you see? (images can be inside their head or in their environment) Can you smell anything? Can you taste anything?

This is a lovely one to do when you are out and about, at the playground, at the park etc.

  • Just Breathe…

Breathing techniques are one of the best tools to use as often it is useful to have something to focus on. I use these breathing techniques in  my class all the time, they directly engage our nervous system to help calm down the whole body.

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  • Attitude of Gratitude

Helping children to practice gratitude everyday can help them to have a more positive outlook but also move away from frustrating or worrying thoughts. It can be easily incorporated into the bedtime routine – what 3 things are you grateful for today?

  • Quiet mindful time

Most adults are too busy to slow down and be creative or sit with their thoughts. For many it is their worst nightmare. But it is in these moments of quiet and clarity that we have our light bulb moments, our creative thoughts or emotional awareness.

Children are constantly on the go or engaged in a game, toys, TV and when they are not they have the complaint that they are bored. Encourage and enable your child to take some quiet time for themselves, to be creative. Ensure them that you are still there if they need any help while allowing them to be more aware of their responsibility in their happiness. They could do things like draw, colour, doodle, write, journal, jigsaw, cook, bake, play instruments, crafts, knitting – anything really that is quiet and calming and not on a screen.

 

HAPPYdef

Light & Love,

Mel