So, I got to thinking of all the many reasons I practice yoga and meditation, and continue to do so after nearly 30 years of consistent practice and 10 years of teaching! Yes, the strength and the flexibility, yes the calmness of mind and the tool kit of tricks to keep me mindful, patient and kind. But when you get right down to the nitty gritty I honestly can say the main thing that keeps me on my mat is freedom. Yoga gives me the kind of freedom I need from the restrictions, challenges and confines of everyday life. And I think this is likely to be true for why many other people start and continue to practice yoga as well.
Of course, your move towards yoga is likely to start with a need to be free from some form of physical restriction; a sore back, tight hamstrings, frozen shoulder or solid calf muscles. These are often so easy to fix with a bit of work and commitment. I can’t tell you how many times yoga teachers get confronted with the statement …”But I can’t even touch my toes!”. Our bodies can become solid, calcified and stagnated with sitting, with lethargy and with the restrictions of office jobs. No wonder our bodies feel tight, sore and stuck. You just need to consider the list of ailments above, ‘tight’, ‘frozen’ and ‘solid’. Yoga begins with liberating the body, with freeing the joints and mobilising the muscles that support our bones. We all deserve a body that is strong & mobile, free from illness, from tension, pain and rigidity.
Then there are those who wish for freedom from emotional ties and binds. From the hooks of broken relationships, repetitive negative self-talk or painful feelings of grief and loss. These are not so quickly or easily solved but can be worked on, again with some effort and focus, until the ties are slackened and the freedom light becomes clearer at the end of the tunnel. I should know, one of the most profound times of my life was when I needed my yoga the most. When my husband was ill with a brain tumour for a full 5 years, ending in his passing, and leaving me with two small boys. I desired, craved even, some freedom then. I wanted the pain of grief to stop, the work load – made necessary by new financial demands – to decrease and the challenges of getting out of bed each and every day to tend to my children’s needs to ease off. I even considered a quick death of my own then. A fast track to freedom, I thought. But not for those left behind. So, I worked hard at a different sort of liberation. A way to release myself from my suffering, to ease the knots of my muddled mind and to relax the solid block of stress in my back, hips and jaw. I got onto my mat and practiced yoga. I cried lots, stretched lots, focused on my back bends and upper body strength and began to piece myself back together again. (Some of you who remember my Pantiles Yoga days might also remember that I had lots of pictures of caged birds around… Finally know why!)
So, freedom arrived, slowly and steadily and I embraced it. Letting go of the negative and celebrating the good stuff, as best I could. It also came with an inner strength and a type of knowing that is hard to describe. What I did know was that this feeling had been hard won and could not be given. Over the next 10 years, I became so free that I allowed myself to be tied up once more in a new and beautiful bind of marriage. One that we both chose and embraced. A certain choice, not a need or requirement and totally free from any guilt, conflict or underlying hidden agenda. I also choose to be wound up in the lives, mood and needs of my children, (yes, it is a choice!). Knowing, as all of us parents do, that however much yoga I practise, I will still have 3 loads of laundry to work through each weekend, pesky homework requests and a meal to put on the table at the end of every day. It’s no longer a tie, or not always anyway. It’s a challenge yes, and sometimes I crave another escape, to the sea, to Thailand or maybe even the moon! And then I re-find my feet, anchor myself to the earth, get out for a walk, get back onto that mat or sit in meditation and let that tether release me back into my true self once more. We also all deserve a mind that is strong & mobile, free from illness, from tension, pain and rigidity.
Hate, fear, anxiety, depression, loneliness are all cages. They are all ways we get trapped and often can’t imagine a way to escape. Financial concerns, health worries, relationship stresses, separation from friends and family are all ways we can feel imprisoned with no way out. If you listen to the Dalai Lama, or Desmond Tutu in their recent book JOY you start to realise that whatever your imagined prison there is always a way out, always. That way out starts in the mind and it can begin with a sense of yoga – of balance and harmony. Of recognition and understanding and of forgiveness, hope and faith. Then we have the liberating power of choice and perspective. Perspective is said to be a ‘skull key’ that open all the locks that imprison our happiness. Archbishop Tutu says in his book, “You see that in the most seemingly limiting circumstance we have choice and freedom, even if that freedom is ultimately the attitude we will take”.
This change of perspective is fundamental, and meditation really is the only way to train the mind to be flexible enough to be able to shift its perspective on any situation before the ‘rot’ sets in. This focus on regular meditation practise is as important to the mind as moving is to the body. You can’t just ‘do it’ once, or once a week even, you need to practice often, ideally daily. Did you know that the Dalai Lama sits for 5 hours a day?! And Desmond Tutu sits in prayer for 3- 4 hours a day, and these are spiritual leaders. Even they can’t and don’t rest on their laurels, (although I’m pretty sure they have someone to do their laundry!). They train and retrain their minds daily so they are toned and fit, ready for whatever life throws at them and confident in their own ability to keep an ‘open’ or free mind, one that is slow to react and broad in spectrum. I’m not suggesting that we all try to sit for hours at a time, this is a work in progress, just like life, so we can start with little and often. Remember that just 5- 20 minutes of quiet contemplation a day will make a big difference, as will 5–20 minutes of gentle yoga and movement.
Why am I telling you this? Well, apart from an opportunity to openly share part of my journey, I’ve decided to change my classes to celebrate this new insight. From now on I will teach FREEDOM FLOW and hope that somehow, somewhen this sense of feeling free will rub off a little on you too! My classes will aim to develop freedom in your body, mind and heart leading to more joy in your world and more perspective in your thinking. I am also teaching a Meditation Pure & Simple class on a Monday evening which will tie in with a weekly theme and deepen the work you do with me on your yoga mat. I hope you will join me on this liberating journey towards setting yourself free. In the meantime, I encourage you to read The Book of JOY – Lasting happiness in a changing world. By His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Abrams, and start to realise the awesome reality of your own freedom, it will lead to so much joy! I promise.
My other top tips for Freedom!!!
1. Count your blessings. Let’s get you started – 1. you can read, 2. you have a technical devise, 3. you have access to the internet, 4. you have access to lots of great yoga teachers locally, 5…….
2. Make real connections with people. We need people, we are not alone and we only suffer when we believe that we can, or worse should, cope alone.
3. Find as many different ways of looking at lots of situations. Really look from each and every angle. Take my broken rib recently, it wasn’t great but there were so many different ways of looking at that one situation. I could have stayed with the negative but I chose to find a positive and worked with that.
4. Give a tree a hug, get out into the wild, party with your friends, share a secret with your enemy, dance in the moonlight, sing in the shower, start painting, listen to FREEDOM by George Michael a little bit to loud, do whatever it is that takes your fancy, just so long as you remember that you are already free and you had better start to believe it!
My classes and booking links:
Book Freedom Flow with Lucy on Tuesday or Thursday at 9.30am and 12.30pm.
Book Meditation Pure & Simple with Lucy on Monday at 6pm
Start Beginners Yoga with Lucy on Wednesday at 2pm.
All other bookings are private 1-2-1 session with Lucy by appointment, £60 for one hour, tailored to you and only you!
If this blog has struck a cord with you and you would like to share some of your experiences, or work with me, please do send me an email, Lucy@flowtunbidgewells.com.
Finally, I would like to thank Lucy Jane Crowley Photography for all these wonderful photos of me messing around in the woods!