It’s officially autumn in London and I’ve already broken out my cosiest parka. True to form I’m loving kicking through piles of leaves, warming up all my drinks, and ‘ironically’ picking out matching jumpers for the dog and I – but I’m no longer such a fan of my pre-6am alarm.
I don’t actually have a choice about whether or not to get up early; I have to for work. And while in some ways that makes things simpler, I’m always looking for ways to make stumbling around early doors feel even a tiny bit more civilised. Of course there’s the obvious – leave your alarm on the other side of the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off, and pack a bag the night before so you don’t have to faff about first thing – but how can For those of you who dread getting up in the dark – here’s what works for me.
- Leave your clothes on the radiator the night before. Putting them on will feel like a cosy cosy hug even in a cold rented flat.
- Be unambitious. Particularly pre-6am. 99% of us are not going to be able to make hot water with lemon, oil pull, sit in meditation for five minutes and make a list of our intentions for the day before getting to a 7am class close to work. Don’t set yourself up to fail. If you are up, clean, ready for the day, and out of the house on time you’re doing fine.
- Leave a beanie hat and umbrella beside the front door. I’ve made it this far so many times, been so proud of myself for being so organised, then at the last minute realised it’s been pouring and my day is on a downer before it’s even started. Anticipate this.
- This travel mug is my early morning best friend. Find yours. Use it religiously. The three minutes it takes to make a coffee are worth it when you’re on the bus/tube/walk.
- Give yourself one morning a week (mine is a Sunday) where you can stay in bed. Wake up, make coffee, find a cat/dog/child/other half to snuggle up with, go back to bed, read a book. It will feel like such a treat it will make getting up on all the other days worth it.
- For the love of whatever entity you believe in, do not drink coffee after 4ish the day before. It will stop you sleeping. I don’t care if you think you’re immune to caffeine. You’re not.
I know I sound crazy – particularly now I’ve got to the point where I actually enthuse about early starts – but trust me, this stuff makes such a difference. And if nothing else works, that smug feeling when you realise you’ve skipped rush hour and feel bright eyed and bushy tailed by 9am will – I promise – power you through the darkest of dawns!
I used to dream about one day being at Wimbledon. I could taste the strawberries and cream. I could see myself curtseying there at center court. And I didn’t make it there, obviously, as a tennis player, but let me tell you even though I had a mic in my hand instead of a tennis racket for ESPN when I went to cover it for the first time; to me it was like ‘check! Wimbledon.’ You have to be creative in reaching your goals and I think that’s what really helped me so much in my life both professionally and personally. Just not being too rigid. Having goals and setting goals, but being flexible with them and knowing that it might not quite look like how I think it’s going to look and that’s okay.
Somebody asked me the other day why it was important to be flexible. I reeled off a few of the physical reasons, which is I think what they were asking for (on the surface at least) but then the other night I came across this quote by Robin Roberts, courtesy of Joanna Goddard at Cup of Jo (it was part of this post – which I loved).
Because it’s not just the body that we’re training in a physical asana practice – it’s the mind, too. And flexibility doesn’t just look like touching your toes, and doesn’t ever have to.
I say this in classes all the time and completely stand by it. But occasionally how it feels good to move is also how it looks good to move. This video – which I am obsessed with – explains what I’m talking about.
Hands up – who started looking into yoga because they were trying to fix an injury? I’ve raised mine too! And recently I’ve had a larger than normal proportion of people coming to me asking about niggles, pains, limitations etc and so I thought I’d round up a few thoughts on how to work with an injury here. Please note – this is neither specific, personalised nor medical advice, listen to your physio team, and if you’re injured and new to yoga talk to a teacher first before jumping in to follow a video on YouTube.
Injuries are horrible. And not only is the physical side of them frustrating, limiting and painful, but the emotional ramifications of getting hurt are often more powerful than we give them credit for. I came to yoga because I hurt myself surfing; not super seriously, but badly enough that I’ve been left with mild sciatica I rely on my practice to keep in check. And it was actually when I did my first headstand (supported, terrified) and came down and realised my head hadn’t fallen off that I started to appreciate how protective of myself I’d become. My fledgling yoga practice had helped iron out the discomfort in my neck, yes, but more than that, it pushed me just far enough that I stopped walking around feeling as though I was going to break.
Yoga can be super healing – it can keep the body mobile without high impact, it can release muscular tension, build strength and balance, and improve proprioception which can reduce the risk of further injuries. But used in the wrong way it can also make things worse. So how should you practice if you’re hurt?
First of all, rather than seeing an injury as purely a negative, can it be an opportunity to learn a little bit more about your body? If it’s a long-term thing caused by imbalance, can you use your yoga practice to build strength in those weaker areas? Maybe thinking about going back to basics – revisiting the first poses you learnt, looking at them with fresh eyes, focusing on alignment, posture, core strength, finding ease in the breath. You could even start to think really creatively about your practice and how you modify it to suit your specific requirements – can you be open minded and original in your use of props to support the weaker areas? Maybe propping yourself up – or one side of yourself up – with blocks, or bolsters, or using a strap to keep the arms in alignment while they rebuild strength?
An injury can also be a great opportunity to explore forms of yoga you may not have considered before. Iyengar can be amazing for teaching alignment and posture, restorative can be the best way to soothe the body, reducing stress and therefore inflammation and so speeding up healing. And yin can work wonders if moving at all feels like it’s too much!
If you’re working with an injury, though, please do be mindful. Talk to a teacher about your specific circumstances, never work into pain, and be honest with yourself if something feels as though it isn’t working. You can come out the other side with a deeper understanding of your own body and what works for it, with greater strength and mobility and a practice that’s less about your ego and more about a true connection with your body – with just a little bit of creative thinking. Go forth and yoga!
Any questions please do get in touch; and if you’re working with something whether it’s big or small I’d love to hear how you’re getting on.
THANK YOU YOGA GIRL. This is literally all I want to listen to during standing flows right now.
I have heard it said that a Sunday well spent brings a week of content and as I sit here with my second coffee of the day, I can’t help but agree.
Sundays are actually my favourite day of the week – generally they’re full of eggs, toast, yoga, dog walks, pub trips and cosy evening films. Yesterday, though, I ventured a little bit further afield to teach at the first ever Bridges Manor charity event. Ming and Bianca had organised the most incredible yoga brunch in aid of Destiny Rescue – an organisation doing amazing work saving girls from sex trafficking, and one I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t previously heard of – and packed their beautiful home full of even more beautiful and inspiring women in the process. I took everyone through a chilled out morning flow class, and then we headed in to brunch, and the world’s most amazing goody bags!
I can’t urge you strongly enough to check out Destiny Rescue – and keep an eye out for Ming and Bianca who are probably going to take over the world in the next few years. Just fyi. Thank you so much for having me girls!