5 Habits for a Brighter World

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These past few months have brought a lot of challenges.

Through them, I’ve been inspired by the energy of my friends, students and fellow yogis who keep finding ways to move forward, act with compassion and share their light with the world. Believe me, friends, the world needs this light.

Everyone has their unique story, gift and energy but there are a few habits that people who shine seem to share. Let’s call them, five habits for a brighter world.

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Keep smiling!

Act, don’t react

One thing I notice about positive people is they are active. They don’t wait around for the perfect moment or situation to arrive, they just do what they do. When things get rocky, they don’t get into a flap. Instead, they focus on what’s important and let the storm pass.

Make time for yourself

The kindest, most generous people I know are not martyrs. They don’t put other people’s agendas first and they don’t minimise their own needs. To the contrary, they take time to do yoga, laugh, go for lunch, read books, or whatever else feeds their spirit. Because they feel well and happy, they are able to transmit that energy to other people.

If you can’t see the bright side, see the funny side

People can be frustrating. Life can be ridiculous (or tragic). These are facts. The people who thrive anyway seem to be the ones who can find the humour (dark or not) in the vagaries of the day-to-day. That doesn’t mean you have to be happy about everything that happens, just that you can look at things from a different perspective.

Feed the good in you

People who have positive energy literally feed it with good things. Eating well is essential if you’re going to feel well, and you have to feel well before you can share that goodness with anyone else. This means making time to eat and enjoy food, it means creating healthy food rituals, it means celebrating and savouring the things that nourish you.

Try something new

The folks who have energy and enthusiasm tend to be the ones who are always exploring. They aren’t stuck in ruts. They enjoy learning new things, seeing new things, discussing new ideas. They challenge themselves to get out of their comfort zone and try something different. This willingness to change, to be a beginner, to experiment, makes them open-minded and flexible. It also creates the opportunity for new connections and experiences — which gives them a chance to spread their good vibes even further!

What are your top tips for fostering positive energy? Share in the comments!

 

 

Celebrate Pride Inside 2020

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If you missed the glorious outdoor explosion of music, dancing, love and joy that is Pride Day then you need to check out Pride Inside where Pride events run until 10 July

Pride Inside Logo

Image: PrideInside.uk 

In ordinary years Pride is a global celebration and affirmation, with millions of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies fillings streets and squares around the world for a huge, joyous party.

Covid-19 has curtailed or halted many of the traditional gatherings. This creates an emotional, social and spiritual gap as, for many, this is a cherished opportunity to gather and find strength in solidarity.

Pride Inside was created as a way to gather, celebrate and empower the community through, “parties, performances and workshops from a kaleidoscope cast of LGBTI+ activists, performers and artists“.

Events include a master class on writing queer stories; a Bollywood hip-hop party; and
a discussion of love and anger with a queer black Buddhist.

For a full list of events — all free! — visit Pride Inside Events.

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Photo by Toni Reed on Unsplash

Family Yoga Practice

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Practicing yoga with your family — whether partner, kids, extended blood relatives or chosen family — can deepen your practice and connections. It can also challenge you!

Sri Dharma Mittra says: ““Two effects of practicing within a family: positive impact you have on those around you and the limiter effect of the family.”

Let’s start with the ‘limiter effect’. What does that mean?

I think he means that when you practice as a family or couple you’re choosing to adjust to another person, which limits your ability to do things the way you normally would.

We think of ‘limiting’ as negative but actually, this is the opposite. Limiting our habitual approach means embracing something new. Maybe we spend more time on pranayama or warm-up postures; maybe we skip an inversion because our partner not ready for it; maybe we mix up the order of the sequence to keep the kids engaged.

This leads to the first point — positive impact on those around you. Think about how important yoga is to you and how much you benefit from your practice. That is a tremendous gift to share. By practicing yoga with your family you can introduce them to movements that will strengthen and tone their bodies; help them improve flexibility and range of motion; reduce their stress and anxiety; regulate their cardiovascular and digestive system.

Those of us who practice regularly may forget what it felt like to not practice yoga and take for granted the stability, calm and wellness. Practicing with a family members, seeing them experience the benefits of yoga, sharing this journey with them, is an enriching and affirmative experience for both of you.

We are now many weeks in to a period of intense togetherness and no doubt some (all?) of us have felt the strain of increased time spent with family. Doing yoga together is a great way to cool off and create common ground.

What do you think about practicing yoga with a partner or family?
Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

4 Ways to Boost Your Motivation

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Sometimes, doing the right thing is hard. Sometimes, doing anything is hard.

Motivation, like willpower, is a finite resource. We often start the day full of plans, excited about what we want to do, and then find ourselves losing focus and energy. Sometimes, conversely, we start feeling slow and distracted but find our stride.

What makes the difference when we’re feeling lackluster and like nothing matters?

It turns out that there are (at least) four ways to boost your motivation in a healthful, positive way — allowing you to accomplish more and feel better.

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Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Fuel the engine

Have you ever notice how your motivation seems to trickle away as lunch or dinner-time approaches? Our bodies need energy to run, which means we need FOOD. Like a vehicle, if we run out of fuel nothing the engine stops.

Hectic schedules can make it difficult to keep regular meal times but it is critical you eat often, and enough, to keep your mind and body in motion. Packed lunches, dried fruit and nuts, or natural energy bars like Nakd are good on-the-go options.

Make time for yourself

To often, looking after our own needs falls right to the bottom of the to-do list. We’ve all had those days of, I’ll take a break after I finish X and Y. Or, as soon as Z is sorted out then I can relax.

Guess what. There is ALWAYS more to do. We could literally work 24/7 from now until we dropped and there would never be a ‘perfect time’ to take a break. We have to change our mindset from me-time being a reward to me-time being the foundation that makes everything else possible. When we are connected to ourselves, energised and content then we can address other aspects of our lives with motivation.

Move your body

There are two ways to feel exhausted: over-exercising and under-exercising. The sweet spot is doing regular, stimulating physical activity that strengthens your body and calms your mind. Yoga is a perfect daily practice, either at home or in the studio. You can also supplement it or change things up with running, hiking, swimming, walking, dancing — whatever takes your fancy and keeps you moving.

Connect with others

Isolation can creep up on you — even if you’re surrounded by people. Rushing through your day having perfunctory conversations with colleagues or acquaintances doesn’t nourish emotional needs. It is important to take the time to consciously connect with our friends, partners and loved ones. Especially in recent weeks, many of us have been more socially distanced/isolated than ever before, so it is even more crucial that we make time for conversations and connects that feed our spirit.

When our physical, nutritional, psychological and emotional needs are met we will naturally find ourselves energetic, positive and motivated.

Share your motivation-boosting tips in the comments!

The Anywhere Yoga Retreat

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This is the first year in a long time without a Yoga Holiday With Paul retreat. Normally, this week would be spent in the Algarve with a group of lovely students, enjoying yoga, music, laughter, beaches and sunshine.

Early in the Covid-19 crisis we hoped it might be possible to continue the retreat but the situation remains what it is. The airlines cancelled the flights, which affirmed the decision to remain at home and use this week to ‘retreat’ in other ways.

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Photo by Luke Ow on Unsplash

While there is undeniably something special about YHWP and the experience of gathering specifically to do yoga, there are ample opportunities to go deeper in our practice right here, right now.

Above all, we should seek and savour connection. 

This is the perfect time to connect to ourselves. Mindfulness is an avenue for this connection. We begin, by being aware of our breath when we awake; by taking time to feel the texture of our sheets, the refreshing water in the shower, the aroma of our morning tea or coffee.

During the day, we can connect by making time for meditation, taking a walk in nature, or practicing yoga. We can also connect with ourselves by opening our hearts to others in a spirit of compassion and unity.

To find this connection the mind needs to be quite, your breathing needs to calm and slow, so you feel an unshakable PEACE. Take this into what is to come. 

How do you connect? Share in the comments!

6 Ways to Celebrate Intl Yoga Day

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International Yoga Day is Sunday, 21 June. This is a chance to pause and be grateful for our yoga practice and the community it nurtures.

Here are six ways to celebrate International Yoga Day.

Wake up with Sun Salutations

Energise your mind and body by starting your morning with Sun Salutations.

Make a smoothie

Choose delicious ripe seasonal fruit, whip up a smoothie, and enjoy a relaxing, refreshing meal in a glass. Need ideas? Try the spring berry tahini smoothie or these summer smoothie recipes.

Check out the Intl Yoga Day vlog competition

People around the world have been uploading short videosof their home practice — watch, learn and be inspired!

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Give your home yoga space some TLC

Make sure the place you practice is inviting, comfortable and inspiring. Check out these tips on how to rejuvenate your space.

Practice with a friend

Reach out and connect with community by sharing practice with a friend. Fire up your favourite video chat app and enjoy being together!

Set your intention

Take some time to reflect on your yoga practice and set your intention for the coming weeks, months or even year. Do you want to learn a new posture? Try a new style of yoga? Meditate more? Go on a retreat? Whatever it is, now is a great time to prepare to move your practice forward.

Share your ideas for celebrating International Yoga Day in the comments!

 

 

 

Compassion in Action

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We are more powerful than we think. Regardless of who we are or what we do, we have the power to make other people’s lives (and the world) better by choosing compassion.

Compassion in action can be as simple as checking in on a friend or ordering extra groceries for a less-able neighbour. We can express compassion through our words, attitude, work and volunteering.

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Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

The only requirement is that we be alert and willing to act. When we’re wrapped up in ourselves, it is hard to have compassion. We have to be attentive to those around us.

One amazing example of compassion in action right here in London is the Sikh Welfare and Awareness Team, aka Nishkam SWAT.

They say, “We have a vision where every person we meet knows they are loved and valued, lives safely, with respect, faith, hope and care for themselves and others, achieving their full potential and positively contributing to and transforming their communities”.

We work on the ethos of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first Guru of the Sikhs:

  • Naam Japna, remembering God.
  • Kirat Karni, earning an honest living.
  • Vand Kay Shako; selflessly serving others, sharing income and resources

 

The SWAT team has been running a homeless outreach in central London for more than 10 years. Starting with one location where they provided meals, the outreach has expanded exponentially — reaching as far as Argentina!

They provide meals, support and assistance to people experiencing homelessness in 21 locations, 28 times a week. Amazing!

The SWAT team saw a need in the community, acted upon it, and have touched thousands of lives over the years. I can’t think of a better example of compassion in action.

Take a few minutes today to think about how and where you can practice compassion in action. You may be surprised at the opportunities and the positive impact you can have.

Volunteer or donate to Nishkam SWAT by clicking here. 

Share your ideas for ‘compassion in action’ in the comments!

Seasonal Food: Peas

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Peas are arguably the quintessential British vegetable. They are certainly one of the most familiar, iconic and nutritious parts of a ‘traditional’ British menu. Though that term, luckily, includes a diverse range of delicious cuisines from around the world.

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Photo by Jonathan Farber on Unsplash

Peas are in season, meaning this is the time to enjoy them as nature intended rather than from a deep freeze (that said, flash-freezing is a wonderful, nutrition-preserving way to keep veg fresh and support a balanced diet, year-round).

Why eat peas? Apart from the pleasant associations of fresh peas with a robust Sunday dinner, they are also a versatile and nutritious.

According to BBC Good Food, peas are high in protein and fibre while being low in sugar and calories. They contain iron, B-vitamins and phosphorous, among other essential vitamins and minerals.

What’s great, from a food-lover’s point of view, is their ability to enhance a huge range of dishes — or even stand on their own.

Fresh steamed green peas with just a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice, perhaps a few leaves of mint or basil, are delicious.

Equally, you can add them to clear soups, stir-fries, or add them (raw) to salads for a fresh green crunch.

If you want to make peas the star of your meal, there are loads of recipes and ideas to discover online. Here are a few sites to get you started.

What’s your favourite way to eat peas? Share in the comments!

Slow Down

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BREATHE friends!

Recently I have noticed in online classes that a lot of students still rush into class and rush offline afterwards.

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Photo by Viktor Talashuk on Unsplash

The world is moving faster and faster in terms technology and we’ve gotten to the point we want things instantly. Moving so much of our lives ‘online’ as a result of Covid-19 has only accelerated this process, as we’ve become heavily reliant on technology to work, connect and even do yoga.

It is tempting to get sucked into always-on mode, trying to squeeze in one more Zoom chat or another quick video call. With many of our familiar, non-digital pursuits out of bounds, we find ourselves moving to the rhythm of bits and bytes.

This is a perfect time to slow down. We need to reclaim our human space, and take time observe ourselves and our actions. We need to allow ourselves time and space to breathe and grow, without stress or hurry.

It was Mental Health Awareness week recently and the theme was KINDNESS to all and oneself. Let’s take this message and put into practice. When you feel yourself reacting to an action or reaction, take a few calm, deep breaths and continue with ease.

These past months have been difficult but there are things we can learn from this experience. Let’s not jump back into how we were before the pandemic.

We’ve seen how fragile life can be so let’s not rush through it…

This documentary, Takumi, is about what happens when we slow down and make time for our craft, whatever that may be. Watch and be inspired!

How do you ‘slow down’? Share in the comments!

3 Ways to Rejuvenate Your Space

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We’ve all been at home a lot more than usual in recent weeks. You’ve probably noticed new things about your home — where the morning sun hits your yoga mat, where to set up your WFH office to get the best wifi signal, the dripping tap or the squeaky door.

This time has reminded me is that our space is important to our well-being. When we are comfortable in our surroundings we feel better, mentally and physically. Those of us fortunate to have a home have a blessing that offers comfort, security and shelter.

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Photo by Dan 7th on Unsplash

We can show our appreciate for this privilege by making the most of it, creating a home full of love, lightness and kindness. Here are three ways you can rejuvenate your space.

Fix one thing

There is always something to do around the house, and then something else. It can be overwhelming to know what to do first, so we wind up doing nothing. Break this cycle by choosing just one thing to do: oil the door hinges, get the tap fixed, replace the broken light switch or bathroom tile. Completing one small repair will motivate you to do another (it wasn’t so bad, was it?) Pretty soon, you can build a habit of quickly addressing small issues before they turn into unpleasant tasks.

Repaint your room (or just one wall)

You don’t have to do a full home makeover to perk up your space. Painting just one room or, if that seems like too much, one wall, can lift the whole mood. Even if you don’t change the colour, a fresh coat will brighten the room; if you do want to change the colour, you can conjure a new atmosphere. Chose vibrant colours to increase energy; or cool tones for a relaxing feel.

Buy art

Buying art isn’t the preserve of the wealthy or people who went to art school, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. I’m talking about art in the broadest sense here: something beautiful that moves you in some way. It might be a gorgeous handmade ceramic mug for your morning coffee, a lovely nature photograph, even a piece of stunning fabric to drape a wall or sofa. What matters is that it speaks to you and enhances your space. Sites like Affordable Art Fair, Original Art under £100 or Affordable British Art can help you find pieces that fit your budget and speak to you.

Share your home enhancing tips in the comments!