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Finding Your Fairytale

I used to live for the fairytale; some days I still do.

Life has a way of dulling our belief in love as we get older, and I sometimes really struggle with that reality. I often feel like my outlook on love is out-dated in that the notion of loving someone, truly, and being loved in return has always felt like the reason for it all to me. The idea of having someone to share your life with and pour your love into every day has always filled me with a sense of purpose and contentment. The fairytale was always a dream I was determined to make my reality, but as we journey through life and experience real relationships it becomes clear that actually things aren’t always so black and white and perhaps, despite our best efforts, the fairytale simply doesn’t exist.

After discussing relationships with a friend the other day and how they can end up being way more difficult or complicated that you ever imagined, he made the statement, ‘you realise the fairytale doesn’t exist.’ It’s been stuck in my head ever since.

Up until a few years ago, I was sure that I would never accept less than what I knew was ‘true love’. I would never stay with someone who had made me cry, or said something mean to me in a fight; I would never settle for someone who had a doubt in us working, or could bear the thought of living without me. But with the journey of living comes a new perception as you gain experience and understanding of things that you otherwise didn’t really know much about. There isn’t always a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ way to love, as I originally thought, and sometimes you realise that with great love comes great complications, and bumps in the road that you never expected to endure. It isn’t always so clear-cut and determined; and maybe that’s ok. Maybe embracing that allows us to gain even more than we first believed possible.

No matter how compatible you are, or how much you love someone, there will be times when you just annoy the hell out of each other, and have rows over stupid things (or not so stupid things haha). As individual human beings we can’t always be aligned. You’re bound to have different opinions on something, or develop habits or traits that get on each others nerves at times, but I think the main point to remember is that loving is a choice. You choose to love every day. It doesn’t just happen; it isn’t something that just exists as we do; it’s the manifestation of conscious action and investment into loving a person continuously.

The idea that the fairytale doesn’t exist a) doesn’t sit well with me and b) I don’t believe for a second. There’s too much love in this world to be disheartened by the idea that fairytales don’t exist. I think it’s fair to say that the fairytales we grow up with probably are slightly unattainable. It isn’t often you hear about your pal meeting Prince Charming and living happily ever after – no, unfortunately life is a little bit more complex than that. However, I think the underlying principles of fairytales are true. You meet someone, you enjoy the courtship and process of slowly falling in love, and the happily ever after comes from the fact that having someone to share your life with does help to ease the burdens of life. It brings an abundance of happiness and beauty that aids the creation of life characterised by laughter, joy and companionship (with a little bit of heat on the side) which is a fairytale in itself.

You create your own fairytales.

Each relationship has been on it’s own journey; the two people in it have travelled their own path together and have their own story, their own history, to share. No relationship is foreign to enduring hardships or challenges, but the beauty is found in the perseverance to continue in spite of such things. These unique character traits combine to create that couple’s unique fairytale. It might not conform to this universal standard conditioned into us, but that doesn’t make it any less true or beautiful.

Any relationship you look at, any love shared between two souls, allows two more people to find their own fairytale and, in a very broad interpretation of the phrase, live happily ever after. Each ‘fairytale’ may never be shared with the world, it may never touch the hearts of millions, but it stays close to the hearts of those who live it, day in day out, and that’s pretty wonderful.

We all know that a relationship doesn’t define your life, and you don’t need a relationship to complete you or make you happy by any standards. But regardless of that fact, dare to believe in the magic of love again, and let the notion of living a fairytale once again become a space for possibilities to blossom in your life.

Inversions – Friends or Foes?

Inversions are a weird but wonderful thing that can seem somewhat overwhelming, and even a little terrifying at times, but have so many amazing benefits on the mind and body.

The notion of turning your body upside down defies almost everything we’ve been taught about our existence. We spend our days walking around, standing still, sitting up right – literally every position that constitutes our day-to-day lives involves this form of body positioning. The only time this changes is when we lay down, and even that only really happens when we go to sleep. Our busy schedules keep us on our toes constantly, and with our relationship to gravity never really changing, it’s no wonder that our bodies start to deteriorate as a result.

That is our starting place. Despite some concerns and critiques people formulate regarding inversions, the truth is that inversions are our FRIENDS. They’ve been used as a type of therapy for a number of disorders and diseases because of the unparalleled benefits they bring about, and this article sheds light on some of the most convincing ones that may come as a surprise to you.

1. IMPROVED CIRCULATION AND COGNITIVE FUNCTIONING

By turning our relationship with gravity on its head (literally) we are reversing every physiological process that takes place in our bodies, but most importantly in our circulatory systems. It may seem like an obvious point, but often the real benefit of changing our gravitational relationship isn’t always explained.

In our usual upright positions, blood is drawn downwards through the body, so by reversing this effect the body has a chance to reset its circulation and flush the entire bloodstream with fresh oxygen and nutrients. There is evidence to suggest that cardiac output is increased as a result of inverting (Manjunath and Telles, 2001) and therefore the healthy functioning of the internal processes within the body are naturally enhanced, too.

By getting the blood flowing, and also moving to the brain specifically, it’s common to feel re-energised and invigorated after an inversion as well. This also has profound impact on your concentration,

2. BALANCES HORMONES (REDUCES STRESS/ ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION)

Through the process of re-oxygenating the bloodstream, there is an increase in the exchange of nutrients within the body. As nutrient-dense blood circulates, waste products from various glands in the endocrine system are removed. This, in turn, enhances the circulation of hormones in the body and improves the functioning of the system that regulates your hormone balance.

It is widely believed, and the little evidence that has been conducted supports, that a positive correlation exists between the practice of inversions and a reduction in stress, anxiety and depression.

3. TONES & STRENGTHENS

Whilst there is no ‘quick fix’ to transforming your body, inversions are unparalleled poses to incorporate into your fitness workouts if you’re looking to lose weight and sculpt your body. Demanding high levels of core and upper body strength, as well as the constant engagement through the legs and feet once inverted, inversions challenge your body by forcing you to engage core muscles in key areas.

Inversions inevitably tone your body and by incorporating an inversion practice into your daily/regular fitness regime you will absolutely see large benefits in the way your body looks, but more importantly, how it feels.

4. IMPROVES POSTURE AND SPINAL ALIGNMENT

To put it bluntly, and as I’m sure you’re all already aware, the majority of us have pretty crap posture. It’s not something we generally tend to think about or pay much attention to, yet, it’s a hugely important factor with regards to our health and physical capabilities, especially as we’re constantly on our feet/ hunched over our desks or straining our spine in some way or another.

By bringing our awareness and focus to our posture when we’re inverted, we automatically increase our attention on it when we return to our usual upright position. Understanding our spinal alignment, and ultimately what a correct standing posture should be, we, as a result, focus our attention much more so on this integral positioning outside of inversions as well.

5. THEY’RE SO FUN

The final reason why inversions are beneficial to us is that they’re SO much fun. They create a space where you can explore your own body, and learn to express yourself in a new way that may not have occurred to you before. There are so many ways to play around with inversions and pour your attention into something that ends up being a pretty wicked trick, if nothing else.

You can practice with your pals, a variety of props, whatever you fancy and just make it a time to reconnect with yourself in an empowering and fun way.

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Whilst little research has actually been focused on the effects of inversions, the majority of people who have a regular inversion practice, coupled with the research that does exist on the subject, both demonstrate and support that there is a positive correlation between inverting for a few minutes a day and improved mental, physical and physiological wellbeing.

If you take anything from this article, please let it be that it’s time to start taking care of yourself in every way. There are so many ways you can improve your health and wellbeing through pure and organic means, especially at times when it can sometimes take a backseat to other priorities in your life. Listen to your body, love your body and start treasuring it like your own little cosmos that it is!

And if you aren’t familiar inversions, I’d seriously suggest giving them a go – keep an eye out for my upcoming Sirsasana (headstand) tutorials that will be materialising in the very near future.

 

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Citations:

Augius, K. Endocrine System (Hormones) and Inversions. Ethereal Body. Physiotherapy and Wellness. Available at: http://etherealbody.com/Endocrine_System_and_Inversions.html

Caron, C., Faure, B., Breniere, Y. (1997). Estimating the centre of gravity on the body on the basis of the centre of pressure in standing posture. Journal of Biomechanics, Vol. 30(11-12). Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0021929097000948

Manjunath, N. K. and Telles, S. (2001). Effects of Sirsasana (Headstand) Practice on Autonomic and Respiratory Variables. Indian Journal Physiological Pharmacology, Vol 47(1). Available at: https://www.ijpp.com/IJPP%20archives/2003_47_1/vol47_no1_orgn_artcl_2.htm

Scriven, A. 7 Reasons You Should Practice Inversions Daily. Do You Yoga. Available at: https://www.doyouyoga.com/7-reasons-you-should-practice-inversions-daily-54480/

 

What Does Yoga Mean to YOU?

Yoga means so many things to so many different people, but figuring out what it means to you is what’s most important. In our modern, Western world if you hear the word ‘yoga’ your mind probably goes to what you imagine to be a fitness class variation of some sort right? Maybe you know some yoga poses, or styles of yoga, or that meditation is something a lot of yoga people do as well. I don’t know – you know what you know right?

But, what I can tell you is this – most people’s idea of yoga stops at that point; at the physical. In our commercialised world, yoga has become yet another commodity for sale and so it’s advertised to you in a way that will most probably draw you in the most effectively. Whilst the physical side of yoga is undoubtedly an important part, it actually incorporates so much more than that which has become diluted or disappeared in the process of the ancient practice moving from East to West over time.

There are so many ways people can interpret yoga, and after studying it in-depth in my teaching course I was exposed to many things I had been unaware of before. ‘Yoga’ (broadly speaking, of course) has generated a large amount of critique and backlash by those who feel it can, in many ways, resemble a type of religion through its teachings and philosophies. Whilst I can see and understand this viewpoint, it wasn’t something that resonated too much with me. I chose not to take the ancient texts and bodies of literature that I read to be so impacting. For me, what sets yoga apart from any other type of fitness/ sport, religion or philosophy is that it combines them and allows you the freedom to focus on yourself.

Yoga has become incredibly important to me in the past year of my life as i’ve experienced a number of pretty big changes, from graduating from University, moving abroad and dealing with a variety of personal problems – yoga has been the one constant allowing me time to release my pent-up energy and ground myself. No matter what i’m faced with, if I can still my mind, everything makes sense again.

I have always been someone who suffers with intense anxiety, worrying and problem-creation (not solving, unfortunately for me haha) and my practice of yoga has been paramount in enabling me to deal with these things that, at times, can feel so overwhelming and permanent. Yoga provided me a safe place where I could genuinely come to terms with who I am, and a space to work on the parts of myself that could be improved. I know who I want to be, and the space between where I am and where I want to be is what always kept drawing me back in, pushing me to make the effort. This is still what draws me back to my mat every day.

Meditation. To many it’s just a load of mumbo-jumbo, which is totally cool, but I’ve always loved the idea of meditation, but for a really long time not only was my yoga practice merely a physical form, but I genuinely didn’t believe someone with the thought patterns and processes like mine would ever be able to be ‘changed’ by meditating. I was, and always would be, like this and in my head that was that. To a large extent this is obviously true. You are who you are, and you should love yourself entirely. However, that is not to say that you don’t have areas that you couldn’t improve upon or tweak a bad attitude or negative perception etc. You can love who you are whilst always striving to be better, and it’s a misconception to believe that to love yourself you can’t want to be a little different in some ways too. It took me a long time to realise this (if I even have already).  But i’ve come to learn and appreciate the fact that it’s not about ‘changing’ or ‘fixing’ the things you’d like to improve or minimise, it’s about changing your relationship to them.

Changing your relationship.

I found that phrase in itself simply life-changingly transformational. It’s not about getting rid of these feelings or traits, it’s about changing the relationship I have with them so they become manageable and I lead a happier life. My mind seriously does hold all the power, it’s simply about learning effective techniques that allow me, by myself, to still my own mind and find my own form of peace. Meditation is the gateway to that. The dictionary definition of meditation is ‘the devotion of contemplation.’ When your attention is fixed on one thing, fully immersed in it, the mind becomes silent. In line with this, then, anything that requires your full attention is a form of meditation; when you read, if you can’t sleep so you count sheep (has anyone ever remembered getting very high?!), when you focus on your breath. It isn’t just sit in a room with a load of incense and meditate like you’re in a cult, or practicing a religion. Meditation is all about the person doing it, and that’s what makes it pretty beautiful. Whatever works for you is enough, and if you genuinely open your mind to it, to its benefits, you’ll begin to see positive changes everywhere you look.

Yoga for me is a mixture of physical postures and flows which require my full attention and engagement, such as inversions and arm balances, mixed with daily meditation and the attempt to practice mindfulness (different from meditation, can be discussed at a later date) in all that I do. Naturally, I fall short at times and learning to incorporate a new mindset into my life has been challenging but unbelievably rewarding.

If you’re interested in yoga, either as a physical exercise or as something deeper, or are generally just interested in your own self-improvement and working towards finding some sort of stillness within yourself, I think it’s so important to establish your own relationship with what yoga means for you. It might be different from how anyone else interprets it; it might only be a physical practice to you, or only a spiritual/mindful one, a mixture of the two at varying percentages – whatever it is, don’t wait. You have the power to be whoever you want to be, and using your mind and body to help you find that could never be a negative.

Namaste *