The benefits of waking up at 5am

For many years now (not always by choice) I have been a ridiculously early riser. Back at University I would often be up and about at 4am, mostly because once I woke up, I struggled to get back to sleep, but also because I realised that getting out of my bed was more productive than lying there feeling frustrated about the fact I couldn’t sleep.

As the years went on and this ‘problem’ persisted, I took a conscious decision to embrace my ability to wake up so early. I began to think of all the things I could get done whilst everyone around me is still asleep.

Here is a list of my favourite things about waking up at 5am every day:

Sunrise

Watching the sun rise in silence and seeing a new day begin with light flooding over the earth, is probably my absolute favourite thing about early mornings. The cold, dark silence gradually becomes warmth and light and I’ve found it to be the perfect time for self-refection, meditation and stillness. The ultimate way to start the day.

Silence

Most people (in my house anyway) do not get up at 5am. I used to find this kind of boring, being the only one awake, until I realised how much more peaceful it is to wake up to the sound of silence. No interfering energies bombarding mine during my most peaceful state, no rushing, no voices, no tension, just me and my rested mind enjoying the bliss of not being disturbed. It is probably the only time where I can have full focus on what I am doing without distraction and I treat the solitude of the early hours as a blessing. I learn more listening to the silence of the morning than I do throughout my entire day.

Yoga

The morning is my favourite time to practise yoga and meditation, mostly for the two reasons above – sunrise and silence. There are no disturbances, interfering energies, irritating sounds to distract me, so I have at least two hours every morning to go deep into my practise with a clear mind and full focus. I am also motivated to get straight on to my mat before others rise so as not to waste any of that blissful peace.

Productivity

By getting up so early, you give yourself a massive head start to the day. Normally by 9am when the rest of my household are getting ready, I have already ticked off most of my important habits for the day, before they have even had a glass of water (yes it’s not a competition, I know). My morning list looks something like this: make bed, lemon water, yoga practise, meditation, herbal tea, run or walk, stretch, shower, clean space, meal prep. By getting up and five and getting straight on with things, I have used four hours of my time productively, without distraction and feel a great sense of achievement with completing all of the above by 9.

Early nights

Getting up early means that I feel ready to sleep earlier. This is great because the evenings are the times that I feel I struggle the most with fighting unhealthy habits or wasting my own time. By 9pm I am in bed and all I feel like doing is reading until I fall asleep – because I know I have to get up at 5. I don’t feel like overindulging in snacks or alcohol as I don’t want to feel awful waking up so early, and I don’t want to sit and watch trash on tv because I know it’s a waste of my time and staring at a screen will make it more difficult for me to fall asleep.

Healthy habits

Being so productive so early on in the day sets me up to achieve what I intended to do. I feel motivated from completing my morning tasks and ready for the day ahead. I feel like I have a clear mind and want to do good things for myself rather than procrastinate and make unhealthy choices. I gift myself invaluable time to practise deep yoga, long meditation and other self-care activities such a journaling, running, meal prep, cleaning etc, which all enable me to feel grounded and good in myself.

Avoiding unhealthy habits

Similar to above, I find that going to bed earlier and waking up earlier helps me to avoid more triggering times of the day – which for me is the evening, where I am feeling tired, looking for distraction or excitement and things that I think I want but don’t actually need, eg bottle of wine, binge watch shows etc. Having this structure to my time allows me to be rested and clear at the times I need the most and helps me to avoid triggers that cause me to behave in ways that make me unhappy.

Self-care

Some say self-care is selfish. It’s not. You cannot give to others if you have not given to yourself, just as you cannot pour water from an empty cup. It’s true that we all have commitments to work, other people etc, and that we cannot, all of the time be saying ‘sorry, just need to go have a bath and care for myself right now’. It’s true that with the fast-paced world we live in it can be extremely difficult to carve out time in the day to look after ourselves. But this is probably one of the best reasons to get up early, because you are gifting yourself with time that is only yours. You can do the things that you need to do without having to explain yourself because everyone else is asleep. The hustle and bustle of the day, where you have all these things to do for others has not yet started. Make self-care a priority by giving yourself the time you need, without excuses. You will see that by doing so, you have more to offer those around you because you have given to yourself first.

I could go on, but I think the above reasons are enough to give a motivation to join the “5am club’. Once you start getting up early your body will adjust and you will get used to it. Naturally you will want to sleep earlier and feel fresh waking up. As you build the habit, this routine will create a strong structure in your life where you can get more done, have time for self-care and extra hours for the things you want to do, enjoy silence, experience your true peaceful state before disruption and distractions from the day ahead and make mindful choices for yourself from a clear mind. You will get better sleep, probably avoid unhealthy habits without even trying, and be able to offer more of yourself to those around you because you’ve given yourself one thing none of us seem to have enough of, time.

Side note, 5am may not be for you. Your work schedule, commitments, habits, lifestyle may not compliment this lifestyle and this post is not intended to say one way is ‘better’ than whatever works for you. I am just sharing the bliss that I personally find in the early hours of the morning, but am completely aware that every person is different and what works for one person has no guarantee to work for another. Perhaps you revel in the joys of staying up into the late hours of the night and that is when your get most done!.. something I will never know. Either way find your quiet time, use it wisely and always listen to yourself to find what works best for you, as that is something only you know. 🙂

Ashtanga yoga got me through the pandemic

I’ve been practising yoga daily for almost four years now. What started as curiosity, quickly became obsession. I realised that not only was yoga benefitting my physical health, but also subtly yet effectively changing the way I saw myself and the world around me.

Pretty quickly I realised that this new found love of yoga was not just a hobby, but in fact the most powerful recovery maintenance tool I had ever discovered.

As someone who has suffered with mental illness in the past, namely eating disorders and addiction, and has an on going war with anxiety and depression, I’ve tried a lot of things to help myself get better. Therapy, tablets, you name it, I’ve tried it. But yoga. Why had I never done yoga before? (I know why, because my mum is a yoga teacher so of course I resented the practise for the years of it being suggested to me. I dubbed it slow, boring)

So back to the point. I became fascinated by yoga and how practising it daily could change me so much. I taught myself basic poses and sketchy flows in my tiny bedroom and spent hours a day trying to teach myself to handstand in the restaurant I worked at. I went to some vinyasa flow classes but other than that I was pretty much teaching myself by copying things I had seen online.

It wasn’t until I took my yoga teacher training in Rishikesh, India a year or two later, that I was formally introduced to Ashtanga.

We practised for an hour and a half every morning and I hated it, kind of. The rigorous sequence of physically demanding postures, held to the slow breath count of our teacher for a period of 90 minutes, was intense and more challenging than I thought yoga could ever be. I felt frustrated in difficult poses, with the teachers echoing count to five intentionally slowing as he saw me struggle. I felt annoyed at myself for failing to memorising the sequence quickly. The long Sanskrit names listed across my cheat sheet looked like a jumbled mess of letters that I couldn’t seem to etch in to my mind. The repetitive sequence made me feel both love and hate. I loved to know exactly what was coming next (even if I had to look at my sheet), and at the same time, the thought of subsequent poses filled me with dread, boredom and resistance.

I felt intrigued by this style of yoga… A self-confessed fan of self-punishment, the structure and discipline required, along with the objective of enduring discomfort, really spoke to me. It was challenging and a lot of me didn’t want to do it, which enticed the part of me that always wants to push myself to my limits.

After the course I went back to ‘fun stuff’.. handstands, vinyasa flow, ‘moving my body how felt good’, that kind of thing. But after some time I lost inspiration and something was leading me back to wanting that feeling of freedom through strict self-discipline that I had got from practising ashtanga in India.

I began attending guided ashtanga classes almost daily and developed a better understanding of the primary series. As I managed to memorise more and felt confident enough to attend my first MySore class, bam, all studios shut, the global pandemic struck and the world as we knew it basically ended in the blink of an eye. Very dramatic, but lockdown did cause us all to change and adapt our lives completely within a short space of time, so what I mean is that it felt like the world had ended.

I was suddenly stuck at home (like everyone else, I know), flat – gone, job – gone, yoga studios – gone, routine – gone. Fuck. As a creature of habit I momentarily panicked about how I was mentally going to survive this pandemic without routine, structure and purpose I guess. I desperately didn’t want to lose my yoga progress so I utilised YouTube, my cheat sheet and my notes from India and practised the same guided primary series every single morning at 5am. At least if i did nothing else in the day I would have done this.

Many mornings I felt exhausted and unmotivated. What was I going to do all day in the abyss of nothingness. All I knew is that I had to do ashtanga. I had to go through the motions at whatever pace I could that day and everyday, because it was my one and only task. It reminded me that I am strong, capable, determined and resilient. It allowed me to cultivate the peace my racing mind required to be able to cope with the triggers lockdown presented me with; boredom, loneliness.

For a while I called it my morning torture, because that’s what it felt like. I struggled through the practise, physically and mentally. But as I continued to commit, persistence saw my body and mind remembering, becoming stronger. My once tired and jerky transitions became a fluid synchronicity with the symphony of my own breath. I was becoming lighter in body and mind and silent precision replaced heavy inaccuracy.

I stuck to it rigidly and after a few months, I had finally memorised the sequence through nothing other than repetition. I put my cheat sheets away, shut down the YouTube page and began to practise solo, guided my nothing by my own breath and memory. My jump throughs emerged out of thin air it seemed, but I realised it was the consistency and repetition of movement that allowed me to ‘achieve’ this.

It has been about ten months now, of doing this rigorous practice daily and I can see a lot of change in my yoga. Sure my body has adapted, strengthened and lengthened and I can go much deeper into many of the poses, but what is more fascinating than the body to me, is my mind. My focus on breath has changed everything and I use it to complete a steady and precise practice, each pose as important as the last and the next, every finger and toe active, every gaze held without distraction. My balance has improved for sure and that has much more to do with my steady mind than my body’s strength.

I now look forward to waking up at 5am every day, when it feels like the rest of the world is still asleep. In the silence of the early hours, my room dimly lit by nothing but candles and a salt lamp, I move through the sequence as seamlessly as I can. I’ve found a sanctuary within myself thanks to ashtanga yoga, and I am so grateful to have had it guide me through this difficult year.

How to start yoga

‘I want to start yoga but I have no idea how…’
Here are four simple steps so you can begin your yoga journey today.

  1. Research.

    Like with anything you’d like to know more about, research is your obvious first step. We are lucky enough to live in a time where the answer to basically any question you have are easily accessible via Google. When I first considered taking up yoga one of the first things I did was google ‘how do I start yoga’, then ‘what is yoga’.

    You will find that there are a variety of styles of yoga, and taking the time to read about each will prove useful in helping you to decide which style may best meet your needs. To save you the trouble, here is a brief overview of a few different styles of yoga you are likely to come across:

    Ashtanga yoga
    ‘Ashtanga’ means ‘8 limbed path’ in Sanskrit. This style of practice involves a very physically demanding sequence of postures that is memorised by the practitioner.
    In Mysore, India people would gather to practice Ashtanga at their own pace, led by their own breath. So a Mysore Ashtanga class at a studio will be an individual practise with teachers offering adjustments to students.
    A led Ashtanga class will be guided by a teacher so everyone moves at the same pace – more suitable for new students.

    Vinyasa flow yoga
    Adapted from Ashtanga yoga in the 1980’s, vinyasa is essentially a flowing sequence of postures coordinated with breath. Unlike Ashtanga, the sequence is not set and will be different depending on your teacher.
    Considered the most athletic style of yoga, vinyasa flow has become increasingly popular amongst those who want to move and sweat. It is a work-out as well as a work-in and is a common practice found in most commercial studios.

    Hatha yoga
    In Sanskrit ‘Ha’ means sun and ‘tha’ means moon. Hatha yoga is a pathway to creating balance and uniting opposites.
    Normally moving at a slower pace than other styles, with focus on alignment, breathing and traditional exercises. Haha yoga is a great place for the beginner to start.

    Iyengar yoga
    Named after and developed by BKS Iyengar, this style of yoga pays great attention to detail of alignment and precision in the performance of postures.
    Combining breath control and postures, props are often used to help students perfect their form and go deeper into postures, safely.
    A great style for those working with injury or looking for a more relaxing practise.

    Kundalini yoga
    With as much focus on the spiritual aspect of the practise as the physical, kundalini classes often combine chanting, mantra, breath-work, invigorating postures and meditation.
    With the aim of releasing energy within your lower spine and body, kundalini can be an intense practise.

    Yin yoga
    A meditative practise that is slow paced. Lots of seated postures held for longer periods of time.
    Yin is a relaxing style of yoga where much of the work is done by gravity.

    Bikram yoga
    The sequence of 26 basic postures, each performed twice in a room heated to 105 degrees and 40% humidity. Studios often refer to the practise as ‘hot yoga’ in order to disassociate with the founder, Bikram – who faced sexual offence allegations. The ‘hot yoga’ sequence may differ slightly depending on where you practise.
    The heat of the room increases flexibility, raises heart rate and makes you sweat, so make sure you are well hydrated before and after the practise.

    There are a number of other styles, but these are the most common that you’ll likely come across in local studios.


  2. Self-Assessment

    Ask yourself the following question and using your answer and your research, get an idea of which style of yoga might meet your requirements best.

    Why do I want to start yoga?

    If your answer is fitness related, ashtanga, vinyasa or hot yoga would probably best meet your needs.

    Restorative, hatha or iyengar would all be good options for a greater focus on relaxation.

    If you’re looking to begin a spiritual journey, kundalini would be good place to start as it incorporates chanting, meditation and is equal parts spiritual and physical.


  3. Now you know a bit about yoga and you may have an idea of which style to start with, you should just start!

    Either sign up to a local studio for a 30 day introductory offer (most studios offer these) and book yourself into some classes. If this isn’t possible for whatever reason (Covid, money, distance, whatever)… get straight on YouTube and type ‘beginner *style* yoga class’. There are thousands and thousands of classes to choose from; you’ll be completely spoiled for choice.

    Two channels I would specifically recommend are Yoga with Tim and Yoga with Adriene. Both provide 30 day programs / challenges and deliver classes with clear, concise instructions.


  4. Commitment.

    Like with anything in life, if you want to see results you have to put the work in. Progress takes time and consistency, so try to carve out even just five or ten minutes a day to practise. This could mean setting your alarm five minutes earlier and making an effort to meditate for five minutes before you start your day. It could also mean rolling out your mat for ten minutes to stretch while your dinner is cooking.

    The 30 day programs available on the web are really useful for this step. They push you to build a habit from scratch and keep you motivated.


  5. Patience.

    Starting anything new is not easy; you have to keep at it and put in the hours. Yoga is called a practice because you really do have to practice.

    Try not to get frustrated with yourself and just enjoy the wobbly journey. Remember those elegant insta-poses that flood our feeds did not happen over night, they came through years of practise and dedication.. so don’t ever compare your practise to anyone else’s; you live in a different body; your practise will look different from the next persons!

10 reasons to take up yoga

I could probably tell you 100 reasons as to why incorporating yoga into your daily life is beneficial; but for the sake of not making this post super long, I will tell you my top 10.

  1. Benefits mental health

    After struggling with mental illness for around a decade (namely eating disorders, anxiety and depression) and trying every kind of therapy my family could think of (CBT, Psychotherapy, Hypnotherapy, Prozac – you name it, I’ve tried it), nothing worked for me the way yoga has.

    Taking the time to practise every morning relieves me of symptoms of anxiety, alleviates depression, helps me to connect to and accept my own body and self as I am right now and allows me to flow through the rest of my day in a state of calm, rather than panic.

    I noticed the drastic difference in myself as soon as I started practising regularly and have never looked back. It has become the most vital tool of my recovery maintenance; my medication if you like, in its most natural and effective form.

  2. Connects mind-body-soul

    We have become so disconnected from ourselves. In the age of technology where our minds are constantly distracted and flooded with jargon as we watch life through screens, we often become lost in a trance and lose touch of reality and ourselves. We forget to check in with our-selves and notice how we are truly feeling.

    Allowing ourselves the time to breathe, move our bodies and switch off from the outside world, enables us to connect back to our true selves, noticing the things we may normally ignore and giving us the tools and time to re-connect and understand who we are on a deeper level.

  3. Physical benefits

    This reason in itself comes with a long list of reasons…

    – Improves circulation
    – Increases strength, flexibility and balance
    – Corrects posture
    – Prevents cartilage and joint break down
    – Protects the spine
    – Increases blood flow
    – Improves bone health
    – Boosts immune system
    – Lowers blood pressure and blood sugar
    – Prevents digestive issues / aids digestive system
    – Supports connective tissues
    – Releases tension
    – Aids sleep
    – Regulates adrenaline glands
    – Increases focus
    – Up’s heart rate

  4. Discipline

    Disciple is freedom. Yoga is as much of a joy as it is a form of self-discipline.

    It’s not always easy to summon the motivation to get on the mat and move, but it is always worth it. It’s not uncommon that the days I feel like practising the least, are the days I in fact needed it the most. I have never left my mat regretting practising, no matter how unmotivated I felt or lazily I moved through the motions.

    The practise of self-discipline is useful training not just for maintaining a regular yoga practise, but also for all aspects of our lives and holding ourselves accountable for keeping our promises to ourselves and others.

  5. Balance

    Balance physically, but also balance in life.

    Yoga has enabled me to find a healthy balance in all aspects of my life. It has transformed my once all-or-nothing mindset to one of compromise. By letting go of the things I cannot control, I can appreciate the ebbs and flows of life with a different (and certainly more relaxed) perspective. It’s helped me to be able to live and experience, rather than exist and resist.

  6. Self-care

    The term ‘self-care’ has been thrown around the internet for a while now. To be honest I deemed it as a kind of lame excuse for self-indulgence, so naturally I rolled my eyes and turned the other way… but what does it actually mean?

    The Dictionary definition of ‘self-care’ is:
    ‘The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.’
    ‘The practise of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress’.


    It was only when I began to practise yoga, that I could fully understand what this all meant. Taking action to preserve my own health or to protect my own happiness is something I have never even thought about before, let alone done. I began to realise that the more time I spent on myself, doing things that benefit me, that feel good; the better I felt in every aspect of my life. I realised that ‘being selfish’ can in fact be an act of selflessness; in that if you take care of yourself first, you have more to give to others.

    Although self-care can be anything from a hot bath, to a nap, a walk or an afternoon reading a good book, I feel that no activity embodies the practise of self-care as well as yoga does (for me anyway). When you practise you are giving yourself time and permission to check-out of reality, to focus on absolutely nothing but yourself. It is your gift of time to yourself. You are taking care of your body, mind and spirit simultaneously and the difference this act of self-care can make to your life is incredible.

  7. The power of the pause.

    What’s next. What’s next. What’s next.

    I used to be completely obsessed by time. Watching each second tick away as I anticipated the next activity, distraction, self-soother, break, meal, event. I was never in the moment because I was always either looking back, reminiscing over lost memories, or looking forward, attempting to tell my own future, feeling anxious or desperate as I waited for that next thing.

    Savasana, or corpse pose, was (and still is) the pose that I find most difficult. For anyone who isn’t familiar with it, it’s that pose right at the end of a class, where you lie on your back with your eyes closed, allowing your body to completely relax. And that’s why I found it so hard, because I didn’t know how to relax, I didn’t know how to do nothing.

    Practising this pose has taught me patience, which has transferred itself to all aspects of my life. Rather than feeling stressed and angry whilst stuck in traffic or waiting for a delayed train, I now take a moment to pause, realise that the circumstances are completely out of my control, but remember that my own reactions are completely within my control. Will feeling stressed and angry make the train arrive faster? No. Will watching the clock make the seconds tick quicker? Still no. Will my anxiety resolve the current issue or make it worse? Probably make it worse. Will breathing and remaining calm make you feel better? Most definitely.

  8. Karma Yoga

    Karma yoga is taking the philosophy of yoga and putting it into action. It means selfless service, humbling the ego, embodying the ‘unity’ that is yoga, being part of something bigger than yourself.

    Karma yoga is the yoga of action. It is about purifying the heart through acts of selfless-service. It teaches us compassion for ourselves and for others, and kindness without exception or gain.

    This practise is something we can all be doing in all aspect of our lives. Community service, volunteering, taking the time to listen to someone, holding a door open, giving up our own time to help someone else are all great examples of the practise of karma yoga. If everyone was practising this all the time, wouldn’t the world be a much nice place?

  9. Concentration and focus

    Focusing on synchronising breath with movement is a powerful tool for improving our concentration span. Doing this for an hour each morning has allowed me to learn to still the mind, de-clutter the mess and thus give my head more space to utilise my concentration span and ability to focus on important tasks throughout my day, without my mind wondering.

  10. Self-study

    In oder to be able to heal ourselves, we must first understand ourselves. Yoga provides us with the tools we need to dig deep, to look closely, to discover things about ourselves we perhaps never knew were there.

    This can sometimes be uncomfortable; perhaps we have buried certain things and experiences deep within ourselves because we would rather not face them. We may have done this consciously or subconsciously. Unblocking, releasing and letting go of the pain, suffering, or negativity that we tend to hold in the body is one of the most wonderful powers of yoga. Finding, acknowledging and then letting go of what no longer serves us.

    As you move further along your yoga journey and deeper into your practise, you will find yourself uncovering so many interesting things about yourself, about your body, your mind, your life. This practise of self-study not only proves imperative to self-healing, but also extremely useful in all aspects of life. Being able to understand yourself means leaning who you truly are. Accepting who you truly are is the practise of self-acceptance. Practising self-acceptance leads on to the beauty of self-love.

    Loving yourself makes life a whole lot easier.

I made it to the Bahamas, finally

After six months of lockdown spent at my family home in Surrey and several cancelled flights out to the Bahamas, I finally, quite unbelievably, made it.

The journey itself was long, 40 hours door-to-door to be precise, with a 17 hour stop-over in Toronto. Before flying we had to get a negative Covid test certificate (no more than 5 days before travel), submit this to the Bahamian Government and wait for a Health Visa approval, have temperature checks whilst flying and wear a face-mask from start to finish.

The wait in Toronto (which saw me sleeping on my yoga mat with mice running round my head) was made longer when it actually came to boarding our connecting flight. A number of people had failed to acquire the correct documents, meaning they couldn’t travel and all the luggage had to be removed from the plane.

When we reached the Bahamas and passed immigration a wave of relief washed over me. The entire lead-up, preparation and journey could have seen us turning round at any moment, and I couldn’t quite believe I’d actually arrived in Nassau.

We queued for well over an hour to have a tracking app installed on our phone to ensure we remained in quarantine for two weeks. The app can see exactly where you are and works like a walkie-talkie, meaning someone can check on you at any moment.

It’s been a week and a half now and I can safely say, despite being confined to our apartment, I’ve felt more like myself than ever before.

What happened this year has completely humbled me and I can see that quite obviously now. I’ve discovered what is most important and witnessed ‘everything is temporary’ on a global level, when Corona Virus changed everyones lives, basically overnight. Lockdown has seen me learn to appreciate things in a different way and feel gratitude on another level.

I moved to the Bahamas around this time last year, and the difference I feel in myself, sitting in the same chair typing away, is quite drastic. Having less, has definitely made me live more. The thing of most value to me now, is the present moment (what it always should have been, I know)… the sand between my toes, the warmth of the sun on my skin, the company and time with my Dad, peace and quiet, away from everything, away from my own relentless mind even. Last year I never appreciated any of this how I do now. Also I can sleep. I’m suddenly unbelievably tired and it’s as if I’ve finally relaxed and given myself the permission to rest, to go slow, to flow through each moment, expecting nothing and absorbing everything, good or bad.

I credit yoga party for this change in myself. Lockdown gave me the opportunity to practise for hours every day where I made a lot of progress in the primary series and was also humbled by injury. I also credit my family – for pulling me through the difficult times where anxiety got the better of me and I didn’t believe I could cope, my friends – for reaching out and checking in on me, and myself – for maintaining self-discipline through a time of such empty space and keeping my head above the water, even when I didn’t want to.

My days right now are spent practising yoga in the morning, running and walking on the beach, studying a diploma in journalism, swimming in the pool, writing, walking in the evening and falling asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.

The ‘new normal’ scares me

As the lockdown rules are slowly relaxing and we are beginning to see glimpses of ‘the new normal’, I realise that after this long, blurry nine week stretch of isolation, I am in fact more afraid of lockdown ending than it continuing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m reaching a level of insanity I’ve never reached before I’ve reached many times before, where I have a thousand crazy ideas a day of the things I’m going to do with my life, then suddenly forget them all.. they dissolve to nothingness as I roll myself into a ball, a crying mess, trying to pretend that 7pm is as acceptable hour to go to bed, just so I can turn it all off and hope that tomorrow will be lighter.

I can see it all in clear stages. The beginning, when it was still cold, the confusion of everything changing almost over night; the anxiety of losing my house, job, money and independence for a period of time that seemed to have no end. Then easing into it, feeling riddled with guilt over my slight excitement of being given permission by everyone, by the prime minister, by the world to play out one of my most dangerously unhealthy coping mechanisms; isolating myself. I didn’t have to feel guilty about hiding myself away, cutting myself off, which in turn made me feel guilty, because global pandemic. The days it rained, it dragged, time stood still. The days the sun shone bright and I felt motivated to try new things, to begin new projects, to laugh, to move, to enjoy the moment. Then it rained again, then it was sunny again. The adrenalin when I couldn’t sleep, I had to move, then the sleepiness that washed through me and I felt as though I could barely walk.  The writing, listening, learning, watching.  The crying, the misery, the panic attacks, the anxiety.  It seems I’ve crammed every emotion, every feeling, every state of my being in to the past nine weeks and its left me feeling pretty exhausted. But then I feel guilty for feeling this way because of course who is actually exhausted are those who have suffered directly because of this pandemic, those who have been risking their lives, working non-stop to save lives; whom I am incredibly grateful to.

This time has taught me to be more grateful for what I have, seen me learning new things daily, about myself and about what I am interested in.  I’ve devoured books, podcasts, information, and spent hours putting into practise what I have learned through asana, meditation, movement, self-care, study.

This time has humbled me through injury and seen me excel in my practise there after; not by ‘achieving’ more complex asanas, but by learning to hear my body speak and perhaps taking a more calm and considerate approach to my physical practise, with more focus on the mental aspects and benefits I had previously taken for granted.

I’ve rested a lot and I have thought a lot, and at times the combination of the two has driven me mad, so mad that I walk 10k in circles round a rugby pitch until the madness subsides and I can face the house again. In other moments I’ve lulled in the abyss that is the gift of space and time, eyes closed, melting in the sun and savouring that sweet taste of having absolutely nothing to do and owing no one (not even myself) an explanation for my rest.

Isolation and solitude are coping mechanisms I’ve utilised for many years, sometimes with good intention, mostly for the purpose of withdrawing from the world and thus my own internal pain. When alone for pro-longed periods of time or in triggering environments, I find my anxiety escalates and my depression slowly bubbles beneath the surface, no matter how hard I practise self-awareness and use the brilliant tools I have now cultivated to work with these things, it comes, it’s there. The longer I leave it, the more accustomed I become to my own company, my own world, and the more difficult it is to simmer down, to break, to find my way back. Nine weeks into this and realising that the prospect of a version of normality is on the horizon, I realise that I am afraid.  I am afraid of leaving this safety bubble that has been globally acceptable, imperative actually.  The prospect of making plans, commitments, socialising, looking for work, finding somewhere to live twists my stomach in knots because hiding has become easy, confidence has dissolved and reality is difficult.

Although on the one hand I was so desperate for an answer, an ‘end date’, a morsel of certainty within all this uncertainty, a marker of when ‘freedom’ as we once knew it would return, I did very quickly let that all go. I surrendered to the circumstances, practising non-attachment, doing my best to live in the present moment without being reminiscent of the past, nor fearful of the future.  I immersed myself in the words of those I believe to speak the truth, the truth that nothing truly exists except for the present moment, that all suffering stems from our inability to be in the present moment.

And just as I am typing the previous paragraph, panicking about what I am going to do, how I am going to break free from this safety bubble and get back out into the real world, I realise that the above is my answer.  Just as I practised non-attachment, surrendering to that which I cannot control and doing my best to live in the present moment at the start of lockdown, it is exactly how I will adjust to the new normal; because everything is temporary, and if we didn’t learn at least that during this, what DID we learn.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2020

It’s mental health awareness week 2020.

I feel like I’ve written about this a thousand, million times, because I have. But it’s something that I will never stop sharing.

The more years that go by, the less I feel inclined to revisit my past. Through yoga I’ve learned to let go of what no longer serves me in order to create more space for new, positive things to enter my life. Saying that, inspiring hope, raising awareness for mental illness and hopefully helping people through sharing my own experience is something that does serve me, and I will always leave space for that as it’s extremely important to me.

So here, once again, you have a brief, (probably similar if you’ve read before, maybe different because time has passed and I have grown) story of my experience with mental illness.

Age 19 I moved to Newcastle for uni. The environment in which I was living was worlds apart from anything I was used to.  Living independently, parties, chaos, alcohol, drugs… I loved it and remember it as the greatest experience of my life, I felt free… but in hindsight I am now aware that perhaps such a big change in my life contributed to my anxiety.

I caught an STD. I felt deeply humiliated and ashamed. I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone, so went through the painful treatment process alone. It didn’t work and in fact got worse, causing me to get CIN1 and then 2, meaning I had to under-go 6 monthly biopsy’s. I would faint from the pain frequently. Still, I couldn’t tell anyone.

The shame engulfed me to the point where I felt resentful towards my own body. I wanted to punish it for letting this happen to me and controlling my diet was the only thing that made me feel better. I also began to lose my appetite naturally became extremely depressed.

I’d disliked my body since I could remember and always thought I was ‘fat’ (i hate that word, but that’s what I called myself when I looked in the mirror) in comparison to my slender mum and sister. I felt double their size and throughout my teens always felt uncomfortable in my skin, as though I took up too much space.

As I restricted my diet my weight began to decrease for the first time ever. I’d tried out fad diets throughout my teens with little success, because to be honest, I loved food!

People began to compliment me on my weight loss, telling me I looked great. After feeling so ashamed and hateful towards my body because of the STD, this was the only thing that made me feel slightly good. So I decided to continue, to go further, now that I had found something I seemed to be good at.

I went back to uni for my second year and drastically altered my diet, eliminating many more foods and food groups. My eating became erratic, I ate strange things at strange times and people around me began to notice both that and my shrinking body.

I felt as though the less space I took up, the more I was worth and although my STD had finally healed, I was already on a mission; habits and thoughts already deeply embedded in my mind.

The next summer at home my family were noticeably shocked and concerned. My behaviour changed and I became extremely withdrawn. My parents urged me to eat more and even tried to stop me returning to uni for third year, but by this point my behaviour was much less in my control than I could realise. My mum told me that I would scream and shout and slam doors when they addressed me about my weight. I can’t remember this at all.

I returned to uni for third year, and over the next few months my weight and health deteriorated rapidly. I was wearing eight layers, constantly freezing, measuring soya milk by the mm just to keep myself alive through the night and barely able to walk up the stairs. I would check my weight up to ten times a day and the number I read would define everything. I would either feel triumphant, veins pumping adrenaline giving me a high I cannot describe, or suicidal, worthless, never good enough.

I was in starvation mode, brain and body barely functioning as I lay energy-less on my bed, springs bruising my frail body, terrified to fall asleep incase I didn’t wake up.

I went to five doctors about numerous things, perhaps subconsciously I wanted someone to notice and help, but no one did. Eventually I went again whilst suffering with a chest infection that had me bed bound. The lovely lady Dr I saw noticed something was very wrong. After several visits to her, a diagnosis Anorexia Nervosa and a referral to the Regional Eating Disorders unit, she made the difficult decision to breach my confidence and contact my parents.

I got a phone call from my parents who were already half way through the six hour drive up to Newcastle. I was horrified. They knew I was bad before I went back, but had (unknown to me) received an email from all my housemates and several phone calls from concerned parents. They would have intervened sooner but because I was over 18 there was little they could do to help me until I wanted help.

From there on everything became a blur. My parents had to take it in turns to stay in hotels in Newcastle whilst I attended hospital visits and units for dietitian, blood tests, ecg’s etc, whilst continuing to attend my University course.

I lied in my food diary, hid things, told lies and did everything I could to manipulate the system and the people who cared about me.

A week before the Christmas holidays my mum flew me home. I thought I would recover over the break and return to uni as normal, but I never went back.  I still struggled to believe there was anything wrong with me and thought everyone was over exaggerating or ‘jealous of my self-control’ (they weren’t).

Anorexia worsened and although I somehow avoided inpatient units, I was threatened with sectioning on several occasions. In numerous appointments I was told bluntly that I was going to die. Those words went in through my ears and dissolved to nothing. I was so numb, I didn’t care.

I resisted recovery for ages. I didn’t want to gain weight, I couldn’t, I wouldn’t. By this point I didn’t even want to be alive. I tried and failed to commit suicide on numerous occasions. My life was as existence rather than an experience. I was housebound, extremely sick and saw no way out of the dark world I had found myself in. My soul was drowned beneath Anorexia which had completely embodied me. My family would describe me as unrecognisable, physically and mentally.

I started binging to gain pounds before weigh in’s, to keep myself from hospitalisation. Suddenly, I became addicted and within weeks bulimia had taken over. I would eat and eat and eat and puke and puke and puke. It got to a point where this could happen up to five times a day and the confusion, shame and guilt that came with these new behaviours completely broke me, or whatever was left of me.

I felt out of control, completely humiliated and trapped in a never ending cycle of restrict, binge, purge. Alcohol numbed me from the mental pain I was enduring but exasperated the behaviours making everything worse. I wanted to die. I hated my life, I hated my self and what I had become.

During an episode I would completely zone out, eyes glassy, an out of body experience. I would consume loaves of bread, boxes and boxes of cereal, jars of jam with my bare hands, anything, everything, spilling crumbs all over the floor as I tore apart the kitchen, I couldn’t stop. I didn’t taste anything, I just shoved more and more and more down my throat until the pain in my stomach became so unbearable that I would have to stop. Then I would arrive back in my body, utterly confused about what had just happened. As the reality of the fact I had just eaten an entire family’s weeks worth of food sunk in, so did the pure humiliation, shame and horror. I would spend the next few hours bent over the toilet, or digging holes in the garden to bury my own vomit, desperately trying to un-do what I had just dome, to redeem myself from the utter shame. When I was passing out with exhaustion or couldn’t bring any more up, I would go to bed and cry myself to sleep.    I felt so desperate and in so much pain.

The aftermath the following morning was the worst part. Having to face my family and myself when I felt so deeply ashamed was unbearable. And so I tried to kill myself. I tried to kill myself because i was doing this every day and I felt completely powerless to this monster inside of me.

As I continued to binge my body gained some strength back and my mental state deteriorated. Regardless, I decided to move out and try to live semi normally, whilst battleing bulimia, alcoholism and anorexic tendencies. My best friend and I got a flat and although I was still unwell, the experience of independence showed me what I was missing. The time in between episodes slowly began to increase with the help of CBT therapy and being inspired to live normally. This took time, perseverance, trial and error, lots of relapses BUT the strength to keep getting back up and trying again.  I then fell in love with someone who voiced their objection to my behaviours and I stopped. It suddenly seemed something was more important than my eating disorder. Although I stopped and I physically recovered, mentally I still suffered and was deeply scarred.

Coming out of that relationship several years later saw me physically better but still enduring a lot of un-acknowledged pain. And then I found yoga.

Yoga took me from where I believed I was recovered to actually seeing who I am, and accepting that recovery is a continual journey, not black and white like I once believed. It’s taught me things I never learned before, like how to accept myself and how to begin to love myself, which had changed my life drastically.

Today I am more calm, compassionate and healthy than I’ve ever been, in body and mind. I relapsed a hell of a lot over the years. I changed direction a thousand times. I sank back in to darkness and rose up in to light only to fall back down again. But I kept getting back up, over and over again, and that’s probably my one piece of advice I would give to anyone in recovery. Forgive yourself and get back up, as many times as it takes you.

I feel very grateful to have got through all of the above, because honestly, at a time I didn’t think it was possible. It really is possible though and although the journey itself can seem daunting, be painful; the lessons that are laced between the difficulties are like diamonds of wisdom that will show you more about yourself and life than you realised possible.

Stay strong, keep going and never give up.

You are enough.

XXO

If you want to read more about my journey CLICK HERE 🙂

 

My yoga journey

This is my attempt at giving a very brief explanation of how I found yoga, or how yoga found me.  It is something I could talk and talk and talk about, but for the sake of not boring you senseless, or spending a week writing my feelings down about yoga when I could be practising it, I will try to simplify my journey as much as possible.

So November 2017, I felt like shit. I was working a crazy amount of hours, drinking a lot of alcohol and not sleeping much. I felt tired, unhealthy and permanently hungover.  My anxiety was through the roof and although I desperately wanted to stop drinking every night, I somehow couldn’t, I felt powerless.  This was not surprising to me as my relationship with alcohol had always been rocky; I’d been heavily dependant on alcohol in the past whilst battling mental illness. I quit drinking altogether for a period of two years, but after a break-up, invited it back in to my life and before I knew it, it had taken over once again.

Every day I swore to myself I wouldn’t drink, I couldn’t bare to feel like this any more, I couldn’t face another hungover morning on four hours sleep, weeping on my balcony and considering jumping off.  It was bad. But by the evening, everything was forgotten, my desire to not drink vanished into my glass and was dissolved by the prosecco which I then proceeded to sip down until I would be in the exact same predicament the following day.

Anyway, one day walking home from work I suddenly, completely randomly felt like I had to take up yoga, that yoga was going to be my answer, my salvation.  I say this was completely random because I had never done yoga, nor had any interest in it what so ever.  My mum (teacher of 20 years) had always tried to get me into it, but I had spent a lifetime ignoring her suggestions, dubbing yoga as boring; lying on the floor, wasting time, whats the point? So why this thought suddenly engulfed my mind that day walking home, and why I felt so certain that I had to do it, I will never be able to tell you.

I phoned my mum moments later and told her that I had to start yoga.  Baffled but over the moon, she instantly sent me a list of studios with introductory offers close to where I was living.  I joined TriYoga and two days later I was lying on a yoga mat in the studio at 6am.  From that first class I felt something, something I’d never felt before. Tears slid silently down my cheeks during Savasana and for the first time ever, I literally felt like I had come home, to myself. I could see clearly for the first time. I could breathe.  And in there, in that room, I didn’t have to be anything other than what I was; the noise, the fighting, the resistance within myself all became silent, peaceful and still. The most emotional part of it all was realising that I didn’t hate myself, that actually deep, deep down, I loved myself.  That all the abuse I had and was putting myself through as a form of escapism, never came from a place of self-loathing after all; it came from a place of love and trying to make myself feel better, but not quite knowing how.

I booked yoga classes every day before work at 6am so that I couldn’t stay out drinking. I was amazed that this actually worked, but it did and I stopped drinking over night.  The classes were the best part of my day.  I felt like I was going to this special, quiet place, where I got to take care of myself, to find salvation and to seek redemption.  I realised I got so much more pleasure from an hour on a yoga mat than five hours downing alcohol and living in a hangover. I realised that what I was seeking in alcohol, a buzz, relaxation, escape from the noise, I could find in a much purer form through yoga and that was a magical discovery for me, that kept me going back every day and still does.

I knew nothing about yoga, but did my best to listen and copy everyone around me to follow along with the flow as best I could.  The more I went, the more I remembered and the more I understood that this was not an exercise class, this was not mumbo-jumbo, this was an entirely different world, or version of the world that I couldn’t see at all before, unlocking before my eyes and inside my self.  I wanted to know more, to learn more, to do more.

I went to Australia and Bali for a month by myself over that Christmas and tried to properly face myself for the first time ever.  I practised yoga, meditation, writing and self reflection daily for a month.  This trip was horrendously lonely but completely necessary and life changing for me.  For the first time ever, I could be alone and not self sabotage, not relapse faced with my biggest triggers, loneliness and boredom. I forced myself to acknowledge my own pain for the first time ever and in doing so developed tools through yoga that have helped me to navigate through my life since.

I became fascinated by handstands and then obsessed.  My new dream in life was to one day do a press-handstand. From that day until today, Ive practised handstands for five minutes a day, every day.

In January 2019 I went to Rishikesh to get my 200 hour Yoga teacher training qualification. After only practising myself for a year and a half (a lot and every single day mind), I didn’t feel ready straight away to start teaching such a sacred practise that truly changed my life. I knew my experience so far, although deep for me personally, was merely skimming the surface of something I knew I would be learning for the rest of my life. I felt very aware of the depths that this practice could take me from the onset and the layers of knowledge from all different angles and sources that I wanted to explore, to hear, read, see, learn. A practise so ancient and sacred could not be learned nor understood enough in 200 hours of training and a year and a half of self practise (in my opinion). And going hand in hand with that, it’s the depths and layers of the self that you delve into, discover, peel back as you continue to practise. Although completely qualified, I’ve taken my time to deepen my own understanding of Yoga and what it means to me, as well as developing my own practise and style, so that when I do begin sharing with others (hopefully some day the world) what completely changed my life, the place I am teaching from will be sincere, authentic and as accurate to my own understanding as it can be.

 

 

6 things I’ve learned during isolation

I tried to make a list of 10 important things that I’ve learned over the past 60 days of isolation.  This was more difficult than I thought (hence the 10 becoming a 6), not because isolation has taught me little, but because it’s already taught me a lot in previous experiences… Bringing me to number 1..

1.  I am an isolation expert.

Yes, that’s right, this situation is nothing new to me (the self-isolating part, not the global pandemic part, obviously).

I’ve been practising voluntary isolation for maybe the past three years or so, for healing purposes. I frequently quit my full-time job and book flights to wherever I can afford, in order to purposefully spend extended periods of time in basically complete solitude.  Although these trips are often painfully lonely and not at all the kind of solo holiday people imagine I am going on, they have been of great importance to my mental health recovery and my journey towards understanding and accepting myself as I am.

Previous to these voluntary isolation periods, I spent several years in involuntary isolation when I was suffering with and then recovering from Eating disorders. I couldn’t go to visit friends, drive, go on outings unless they were ‘essential’ (ED unit or hospital). My days were spent at home watching day time TV, counting down the hours till bed time, and suffering horrendous depression because I literally didn’t know what to do with myself or my time. Same as now (bar the horrendous depression, thankfully)

The weirdest thing for me about the current lockdown situation is that it is a global experience, and although we are all isolating, we are almost more connected in many ways than ever.  It’s interesting to be isolating not in solitude.

 

2. Sunrise is the best part of the day.

Since I can remember I’ve woken up between 4-6am.  My eye lids flip open like an old school samsung, mind flooded with unread notifications as I blink in the darkness, overwhelmed by the spiralling tornado of thoughts that I’ve not yet even thunk.

I immediately go outside to see sunrise.  Flames rise, drenching the darkness with gold, dappled light shining between leaves, changing them from green to yellow.  Flowers swivel their petaled heads towards the sun, gazing up adoringly, seeking light, warmth, life, much like myself in this moment.  I close my eyes and allow the brightness to glow through the lanterns that are my eye lids, melting me in that moment, melting the notifications to liquid gold which evaporate away to nothingness, as I become still.

The birds sing and the leaves whisper in the breeze which caresses my face this cool spring morning and it’s during sunrise that I always feel most grateful to be alive.

 

3.  Discipline is freedom.

I realised sometime ago that for me personally, in discipline I find freedom.  Sometimes I find it kind of difficult to differentiate between self love and to put it bluntly, laziness.  I could skip yoga practise every single time I feel tired, which is basically every day… and treat myself in other indulgent ways whenever I feel like it, but then, I’d never really progress or grow.  I’d be stagnant, watching my dreams come to an abrupt halt and all my progress come undone. There is obviously a balance to be learned here, and whilst I do occasionally encourage myself to rest and treat myself, I understand that following a routine and implementing strict discipline upon myself makes me feel so much better in my self, in my soul, in my life, which in turn enables me to be a better person and give more to others.

Sometimes we don’t feel like doing things, but if we can push ourselves to go through the motions regardless, the feeling will come after.  I’ve never regretted getting up and on to my yoga mat at 6am.

 

4.  Make up is a waste of money and time.

To be honest I’ve never paid to have my nails done.. in fact my hands are often a disgrace; bitten nails and fingers sporting week old chipped, cheap varnish.  I can’t remember my last visit to a hairdresser, but it wasn’t within the past five years.  I’ve never splurged money on expensive makeup or skin care, always opting for the cheapest version of the the beauty ‘essentials’ I can find.

But right now, more than ever, all those tubs of matte mouse I smeared across my face during college, all those bottles of hairspray I torched the environment with during my birds-nest phase seem, quite frankly, hilarious.

I’ve allowed my skin to breathe properly and you know why?..  Because in the comfort of my own home, I have no one to impress.  But why was I trying to impress people anyway if I don’t care what people think of me, if I spend hours every day practising self acceptance?

Don’t get me wrong, I think beauty and fashion can be extremely powerful in aiding us to cultivate self confidence and express ourselves. I still choose to buy and wear clothes that make me feel good, comfortable.  I still like a bit of bronzer and mascara to make my skin glow and my lashes long.. But when its just you, you are kind of able to see quite clearly what you are wearing and doing because it makes YOU feel good, and what you do as a way of seeking approval from others.  Personally I can’t see myself going back to wearing any more makeup than I do right now because quite honestly I don’t mind what you think of me and I’d rather not spend precious time or money on the opinions of others when said opinions are actually none of my business.

 

5.  Yoga is life.

Again, something I knew already but really, truly, honestly, I don’t know what I would do during this time if I didn’t have a yoga practise.  It’s my reason to get out of bed in the morning, my motivation to keep going, my calm in the storm, my grounding through anxiety-ridden times, my light in the dark, my stillness in the chaos; literally my everything.

I feel so grateful to have found yoga when I did and I don’t know how I managed to get through all the years previous without it.  I say this all the time and I will say it till the day I die,  YOGA CHANGED MY LIFE. ‘Yoga doesn’t transform what you see, it transforms the person who sees’, and that it did.

 

6.  I don’t miss much.

Is this good or bad?  I don’t know.  But really, if I had to list the things that I miss from my life right before lockdown it would consist of very few things.

My Dad and brother
My dad, stuck in the Bahamas, my brother living in Budapest.  Not knowing when I might get to see them again is pretty hard, but at least we live in a time where we can communicate via video call and all of my family are safe and well.

Friends
I miss social interaction, talking and meeting people for dinner and drinks.  Socialising and community is important to humans so of course we all miss togetherness.

Independence
I struggle to live in my parents house.  I like having my own space and freedom to do exactly what I want, when I want, without anyone questioning or even observing me.  Independence has always been very important to me and I find it difficult when its taken away.

freedom to travel.
The things I would do to be able to book a one way flight right now and travel the world.  But alas, it’s not safe and it probably won’t be for a long time.  All those times I’ve sat around airports waiting for connecting flights, complaining about the journey, I TAKE IT BACK!  The next time I get go to an airport is going to be like visiting a theme park.

And thats it really… I don’t miss my tiny flat, I don’t miss my routine because I can still get up at five for no reason here anyway… sure I miss the yoga studio, but I have my body right here so I am able to practise.

And this is I guess another beautiful thing Ive learned through yoga; non-attachment, or letting go.

“According to Buddhist psychology, most of our troubles stem from attachment to things we mistakenly see as permanent”. Dalia Lama

 

 

 

57 days of isolation.

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I’ve been isolating for 57 days now in my family home in Surrey with my Mum and Sister.

The first few weeks were unsettling to say the least.  After choosing to return to London from the Bahamas late January, because I felt ready to pursue life, save money, change my path.. the arrival of the pandemic couldn’t have come at a more hilariously irritating time.  I say hilarious because if I don’t laugh about the timing of this I will cry. See I was basically isolating for three months in the Bahamas, taking a time out from life, resting, reflecting, cultivating self-motivation … One month after my return to London, just as I was finding a routine, working, saving, living, I was forced into isolation, giving me copious amounts of time to take a time out from life, to rest, to reflect, to basically diminish all the self-motivation I’d cultivated.

Although the Bahamas was fantastic training for what was to come, there is only so much resting and self-refection one can do before they begin to go, well crazy, hence my return.

In the days leading up to official UK lockdown, I quit my yoga studio, left work, abandoned my flat in London and moved back home because there is more space here and I had a feeling things were about to get serious. Although I am so glad I made that decision and so grateful to have had the option to do so, it hasn’t been easy. I am currently living in the home where I spent many years battling and then recovering from Eating disorders and other mental health illness and addictions. Normally I avoid this building as much as I can because I find it extremely triggering and painful to visit… But here I am, on day 57 of spending 24 hours a day in the most triggering environment I could possibly choose, and hey, I’m alive, I’m surviving it, I’m enduring it and it’s showing me that I am a lot stronger than I knew.

Several years ago or even one year ago to be honest, I wouldn’t have been able to cope in this situation.  I mean, I’d have had little choice, but I know for a fact that the circumstances under which I am currently living would have played havoc with my mental health, sending me back into old unhealthy patterns and coping mechanisms. Although I do find some days pretty challenging and I know and accept that I am not perfect, I am proud of myself for being able to survive this as well as I am, and I owe that solely to Yoga, it changed my life.  Without my daily practice I don’t know what I would do… (But I found that out too when I injured my rib and was unable to practise for three weeks (longest three weeks of my life but I will leave that for another post))

And I will be totally honest about my mental state here, during this weird and uncertain time… it’s erratic.  I go from filling out UCAS application forms to study English Literature at universities across the UK, to looking up houses I want to buy with the money I don’t have.  Applying for scholarships in foreign countries, accumulating piles of all my belongs I wish to sell because I want to become a minimalist – whilst simultaneously browsing DePop for new clothes… reading four books at a time, practising yoga at 5am then wondering why I got up so early, realising I have nothing to do, walking for two hours in circles, manifesting winning the lottery then playing the lottery, getting lost in my own vivid dreams, planning elaborate road trips across America in my imaginary converted van, with my imaginary dog, dreaming of waking up with the sun and going to sleep with the stars, hiking up steep mountains, echoing pure silence and overlooking still waters. My mind twists, jolts and changes every five minutes with the seemingly endless cluster of things I want to pursue in this life, but now, when I am finally ready to do so, I can’t.

It’s frustrating.  It’s so frustrating…  Lockdown is frustrating for everyone, for all different kinds of reasons, but what I think is most frustrating for me is that my isolation in the Bahamas allowed me to cultivate motivation to get back up, to delve head first into life, putting myself out there in order to achieve my dreams, and as soon as I finally felt ready, everything in life went on hold and the prospect of travel seems further and further away every day.  I am left in my most triggering space to daydream, wondering into my own mind where I’ve created a special place filled with imagery of nature, beautiful flowers, golden sun and the milky way glowing through the night sky because quite honestly, it’s my escape, it’s more exciting than my own reality right now.

And perhaps that is the challenge or the lesson in all of this, that no matter where you are in the world, happiness is cultivated from within.  I’ve experienced the same empty feeling lying on a beach in Thailand as I’ve felt crying myself to sleep in the painful loneliness of the night in this house.  I had the same twisted knot of fear in my stomach walking through the beautiful rice paddies of Bali as I do walking down the country lanes of southern England.  Your exterior does not change what is inside you.  I watch a blazing ball of fire rise over the earth every morning, I immerse myself in fields or green and examine sweet flowers daily and I gaze at clusters of glittering stars against the dark sky every night before I sleep.  So what I want is already here, it’s just a matter of choosing how my eyes will see it.