What’s in a name?

May 7, 2017

What’s in a name, huh? Apparently quite a lot actually – as I’ll unfold for you in today’s post. We jump about a bit so bear with me, and allow me to start with a story about a t-shirt I bought this week…

It’s a plain grey and fairly unremarkable t-shirt, apart from the word feminist emblazoned across the front. I wore it the day it arrived (isn’t that always a sign that you love something – when it’s on the minute it’s been bought?). I’m normally pretty blasé about slogan tees but this one is different somehow, because being feminist is a big part of who I am, and behind the word is a set of principles I believe in most strongly.

I believe in equal rights, and a just, contributory, fair society where we’re all judged very simply on who we are and how we behave as our most beautiful, unpolished, unedited, natural selves. I hate any suggestion that we should conform without good reason, and I loathe seeing judgement passed over others because somehow they don’t conform to a norm.

In this vein, I also believe in my right as a woman to be the sole ‘owner’ of myself – free to represent ‘me’ in any manner I wish, including by the name I wish.

Which brings us some way back to the point of this post.

Where names (and women’s names in particular) are concerned, I don’t believe that if you get married you should necessarily take your husband’s name. And I also don’t believe that you should necessarily adopt the title ‘Mrs’.

[Now that’s not to say I believe you mustn’t. If this is your choice, then of course it’s your choice – and I stand by what I said earlier on letting each other be our own selves, however that manifests. I have no beef whatsoever with this, and many of my friends have gone down this road. My feelings are that I don’t believe you should have to. So do what you want, not what you feel you should, and all kudos to you.]

Unsurprisingly then given the above, I was adamant when I got engaged that I wouldn’t be taking his name after marriage. And that the only transition in my title would be from Miss to Ms. Until somehow my mind was changed.

I was born Miss Lisa Nichols and on my wedding day I became Mrs Lisa Innes. And if I’m honest somewhere along the way I became excited about it too. The husband was never keen on me keeping my name, and definitely not keen on the Ms. – and nor were many others I mentioned it to either. So the alter ego that was in charge then (the one I called my ‘autopilot’ in this post almost a year ago now) got me on board.

Except then I got divorced. And immediately that this happened, I shifted from Mrs. to Ms. (which felt good!). I kept the Innes though – it was all too overwhelming to make any decisions about that – too unstable, too new, too raw and too turbulent. But things move on. And so today, 7 years since getting married and 3 years since getting divorced, I’ve begun the process of changing my name…again.

It’s taken such a time because I’ve been unsure of what to do with it to be honest. I’ve known I didn’t want my married name for some time, but reverting back to my maiden name has never seemed entirely right either (though it would be simpler!). Don’t get me wrong, I’ve toyed with the idea but it just bothers me on a number of levels. At a symbolic level for example, on the day I was married I was handed to somebody else and I don’t now want to be ‘handed back’. If there’s anything I’ve learned these past few years (full disclosure – am still learning) it’s how to be me and so I want a name that is representative of this individual self.

So it was no to Innes and no to Nichols.

[An aside… The former is hopefully easy enough to understand, the latter perhaps less so. For sure though there’s no hidden statement, or agenda. It’s simply that that person is gone – gone 7 years now – and I’ve grown and evolved so much since then that taking the name again is an impossible step backwards. It also feels to me like clouding what is a positive and empowering decision with something that seems like (though believe me it’s anything but) a showcasing of failure. Even just practically, facilitating a change back to my maiden name means producing my divorce certificate for all and sundry – which is something I’m not willing to do.]

Which means what then?

It’s been percolating for some time but now I’m sure. I’ll be changing my name to that of Ms. Lisa James.

It is a family name actually – from my Mum’s side – but there’s no hidden statement in that either. It’s a name that has roots for me but is one that I’ve not held before – which makes it at the same time new, forward-facing, and representative of an evolution of self.

If I’m honest some of the delay in me making the change this has been in not wanting to be seen to be making a choice between one parent and the other (my parents are also divorced) but I hope I’ve now been able to explain myself well enough to both that this is avoided (and if not then fingers crossed this post helps).

What’s also solidified it for me these past couple of months has been a speeding up of my understanding and acceptance of self. I’m finally ready to just be me. I know who that is, and I’m ready to give her a name.

So, James gives me ‘me’, James gives me roots, and James gives me my future. It’s not quite official yet but it’s coming. So hello Lisa James – I’m very pleased to meet you.

NB – my personal Twitter and Instagram handles have now changed so you’ll find me on both as @_lisjam. All other change will follow as the paperwork is signed, and official documents changed.

All about that mat…

February 19, 2017

It’s a question I got asked a lot before becoming a yoga teacher, but now even more so – that question of course being ‘which yoga mat would you recommend’?

So…in a slight aside from my usual blog post, I thought it worth documenting my thoughts – an easy reference guide for my students, but also handy for anyone else who stumbles along. Note I’ve only referenced mats I have personal experience of so the list is far from exhaustive! There are hundreds of different mats out there, and I don’t have the luxury of knowing them all, so to be clear this isn’t to say all the rest aren’t any good – just that these are the best I know.

Starting at the top then…

Yogamatters Sticky Yoga MatCheap and cheerful but decent quality

The Yogamatters Sticky Yoga Mat is great value but good quality – which is why it’s often the one you’ll find at your local yoga studio. Available in a large range of colours (stock changes fairly frequently so worth an ask if the colour you had your eye on isn’t available) it’s thick enough and has a bit of grip to it too.

Weight: 1.2kg
Price at time of writing: £17

 

 

Yoga Mad Studio Pro Mat

Another budget option – and another studio fave

Offering an alternative to the above mat is Yoga Mad’s Studio Pro Mat – just marginally more expensive, and in a different range of colours. Again you’ll find plenty of studios kitted out with this mat so if you’re starting out it’s a safe (and sturdy) choice. Plus, as with the first option it’s machine washable – so easy to clean!

Weight: 1.5kg
Price at time of writing: £25

 

 

Yoga Mad Evolution MatOne more from Yoga Mad …more cushioned this time

If you’re after a mat that feels more cushioned but are still on a budget, this Yoga Mad Evolution Mat might be a better option. It’s still a 4mm mat but will feel springier due to the different material and, in many ways, is more akin to the Sweaty Betty Eco Yoga Mat listed later on. It comes with a carry string so is easy to transport around too (and if you need more ‘spring’ again there’s always a – more expensive – 6mm version too).

Weight: 1kg
Price at time of writing: £32.99

 

Sweaty Betty Super Grip Yoga Mat

A super grippy option – probably only if you have a problem with slipping

One of my students recently bought Sweaty Betty Super Grip Mat and, as you might expect, it is seriously grippy! It’s not something I’d recommend to most students as the level of ‘stick’ will probably be too strong. But, if you find you have a tendency to slip out of your down dog no matter what you try, you might want to give this one a shot. And of course, it looks pretty smart too ;)

Weight: 2kg
Price at time of writing: £55

 

Yoga Mad Tree MatAnother grippy one – used by my beautiful friend elladoesyoga

The Yoga Mad Tree Mat is a late addition the the list, having seen it in use only very recently. It’s comfortable and spongy and, though not nearly as sticky as the previous option, it is very grippy (due to what they call ‘abrasion resistance’). It is a natural rubber mat, so there might be a slight odour to it on first use but I’d expect that to fade quite quickly. One thing you should note though is that the rubber used has the same origins as latex so it’s not for you if you’re allergic!  

Weight: 2kg
Price at time of writing: £55

 

Sweaty Betty Eco Yoga MatMy old mat (that I loved!) – springy and cushioned, will last an age

Another Sweaty Betty listing for you. This one, their Eco Yoga Mat, is my old mat and one that I really, really loved. It lasts an age, is super comfy to practise on and has two sides to choose from in terms of grip. It’s pretty light which is a bonus for carrying to class and last time I looked there were three colour variations – what more could you want! Highly recommend this one…

Weight: 1kg
Price at time of writing: £40

 

Planet Sadhana PS Pro Lite MatAt use in a highly popular London studio – this one’s a trusty option if you have a regular practice

As with the Yoga Mad Tree Mat I only discovered this Planet Sadhana PS Pro Lite on the weekend, while on a training workshop at Islington’s The Life Centre. Hard-wearing and firm but cushioned too it’s a great option for the list. As with the Mandukas that follow it will get better with use – so the more frequently you practise the better (and more quickly) this mat will work for you.

Weight: 2.2kg
Price at time of writing: £45

 

Manduka Pro Yoga MatWay too heavy to carry around but the Manduka Pro is my home mat…

If you’re after a mat to carry around I can assure you the Manduka Pro isn’t the one! It’s weighs a tonne (ok more accurately 3.4kg) and is in no way portable. But…it’s my long-tested, trusted and loved home mat so it had to make the list. Firm but comfortable, sticky but cushioned, and slightly larger than your normal mat it’s a lifetime mat and rolling it out each morning is a joy. If you’re after something that you’ll keep at home in a convenient spot I do like this a lot.

Weight: 3.4kg
Price at time of writing: £84

 

Manduka Pro Lite Yoga MatLast but not least, the lighter version of the Manduka Pro

There is a lighter version of the Manduka Pro – the Manduka Prolite. At 1.4kg it’s a fraction of the weight and most definitely is portable. It’s got all the same characteristics as the heavier version but is slightly smaller (you lose 5cm on the width – back to standard mat size) but if you’re a Manduka fan it’s a good option. I’m not as in love with this version as I am the Pro but I do have two of these at the moment that I use in 121s, and I’ve also seen at least one of my group class students with one too. Just like the Planet Sadhana mat and Manduka Pro it will need wearing in.

Weight: 1.8kg
Price at time of writing: £60

Carrying your mat

Of course now you have a mat, you need an easy way to carry it! The simplest option is a basic two-loop carry strap – like this Yoga Mat Strap from Yogamatters (which at just £4.50 is an absolute bargain) – though if you want to get a bit snazzier you’ve also got something like this Tantra Mat Holder by prAna (currently £13.50). If you’d rather a bag though there’s a whole range – from Yogamatters again, or any other yoga retailer.

There we are then – my current mat recommendations! If anything changes I’ll come back and update the post but otherwise, feel free to get in touch if you have any questions – or a mat you’d like me to take a look at ;)

Lis

 

Intentions? Or goals?

Quite regularly at the beginning of class I’ll ask my students to think about their intention for that day’s practice. I often give them examples too – such as moving through the practice with ease, being kind to themselves, or working with a sense of the ground beneath their feet.

I’m conscious though that the idea of an intention is very easily confused with that of a goal, even though the two are vastly different. Sometimes I’ll try and explain this as I open class but other times I decide that there’s quite enough of me blathering on as it is!

Long story short then I decided to write it all down – so I can give people some food for thought before they come to class (and even if they’re not coming to class at all!).

Differentiating intentions from goals

A really simple way of differentiating intentions from goals is to remember that whereas intentions are internally-focused (about how your inner self relates with itself and others) and very much about the present moment, goals are externally-focused and driven by our desires for the future.

Put a different way, if an intention is about how we wish to behave, a goal is about what we want to achieve.

Let’s take an example – the age-old ‘I want to/need to/am going to lose half a stone’. It’s all about the destination (the future), and about how we appear to the outside world. ‘I’m going to make mindful decisions about what I eat’ on the other hand is both about the now (the present) and our internal decision-making processes – our relationship with ourselves.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, a set of (considered) intentions can actually help manifest the goals that we have set in life so it’s true that one may lead to the other (or it may not!) but crucially you can sense that there’s an authenticity, or truth, to the latter that just isn’t present in the former. There’s a kindness too – a more gentle touch.

Intentions guide us in our decision-making – not just once but many times, over and over. So to come back to the example, mindful decision-making about food is around for the long-term, whereas the half a stone weight loss is here and gone – forgotten once it’s achieved, or if never achieved at all providing us with yet another stick with which to beat ourselves.

Why intentions?

We tend to think that happiness is caught up in what we have or how we look – it’s perhaps why we have such goals in the first place. But the reality is that focusing on the external to affect the internal is, frankly put, a road to nowhere. There’s no happiness in this, bar a fleeting rush of adrenaline as the goal is achieved. And what happens next? You just set yourself another, and kick the whole cycle off again.

The reality is that true happiness is borne of living authentic, in touch with ourselves, lives. And one of the ways that we can facilitate this is in setting and living by intentions – because, when they are true and authentic, these intentions have immense power to both change the way that we live and to change our experience of life.

But how?

Now all this is well and good, but how do we go about setting our intentions? Let’s take a look…

We set goals by using the mind to create an apparently desirable picture of the future. So it stands to reason that to generate authentic intentions we have to bypass the mind, and get a bit deeper. Meditation is one way, and asana (the physical practice of yoga) another. Simply allowing oneself to exist in silence for a little while too can work – the common theme being the removal of distraction and tuning in to that subtler, harder to hear, voice within.

When we’re working on setting intentions and something arises say it out loud if you can, or test it quietly in your head if you’d rather. Remember that your intentions are meant to be guides not dictates, so check in with how it makes you feel. Empowered? Or disempowered? If the latter, it’s probably time to start again.

My own intentions

To conclude this entry then, how about a look at my own intentions? I have a number – including a few that I’ve been working with for some time! Here’s a quick peek:

  • I intend to make mindful decisions about what I do with my time (I’m prone to people-pleasing and exhausting myself doing the things I think others want me to do)
  • I intend to be kind to myself, to be my own best friend (I can easily be my own worst critic – and there’s really nothing more miserable and demoralising than listening to yourself give yourself a hard time)
  • I intend to find ease, in even the most difficult of situations
  • I intend to live a life that is authentically mine

What about you?

What are your intentions?

(And if you’re not quite sure perhaps this was the prompt you needed to begin an intention of exploring what it is to live from the inside out, rather than the outside in…)

yogalustco_loveandlight

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”  – Viktor Frankl

For the second time this year I’ve awoken to face the day only to find that our reality has shifted. In June it was Brexit and today it’s Donald Trump.

Now this isn’t a political site nor a political blog. But whatever your political and economic beliefs it is very hard to deny the intolerance that has underwritten both these campaigns. And it’s that intolerance that for me more than anything else is hard to swallow.

In yoga we recognise everyone and everything as possessing the same energy, the same light (if you’re more scientific perhaps reframe this as matter). And that likeness makes the idea of intolerance very alien. How, for example, can we choose to judge someone who is made of the same stuff as ourselves? How can we hate someone who fundamentally is the same as ourselves? How can we challenge their rights? How can we attack their freedoms?

Where in all of this is our humanity?

(Humanity being defined as ‘humans, collectively’ and/or ‘the quality of being humane – of benevolence’.)

Where is the collectiveness? The benevolence? Kindness? Compassion?

Patanjali’s yamas and niyamas teach us to be non-harming (ahimsa), to act from a place of truth rather than fear (sauca), to share and give back (asteya) and to dedicate our lives to living life with one eye on how it impacts the wider world and benefits the greater good (isvarapranidhana).

All I can really conclude this morning is that more than ever we have to dig deep and come together – celebrating our connectedness and finding similarity in our differences.

Find yourself a yoga class today – drop in, connect and find peace – ready to move forward again as one.

The power of equanimity

November 4, 2016
Equanimity_yogalustco

Equanimity. It’s a word I think about more and more these days, which in itself is interesting given that it’s not something that I would associate with the vast majority of my life to date. I’m (correction: I was) that person who got pulled from pillar to post by both her own feelings and those of the people around her. Who rode a rollercoaster of emotions every day – extreme highs and extreme lows all bundled in together. And who was probably a bit unpredictable to be around – my Dad once described me as lighting up a room, you just were never sure what colour that light was going to be…

But now…equanimity. Or for sure a growing amount of it.

Equawhat?

Simply defined (thanks Google!) equanimity is “calmness and composure, especially in a difficult situation”. There’s more to it than this though – you just have to dig a bit deeper.

Because this definition implies that it’s a transient state – something admirable to achieve in the face of a challenge, for example: ‘it was impressive to see that she remained equanimous in the face of such disastrous results’. But in Buddhism however, equanimity (upekkha) is described as one of four sublime states of mind (the other three being loving-kindness, compassion and sympathetic joy), not a passing thought or emotion but rather a “steady conscious realisation of reality’s transience”.

We try our hardest to grasp onto things and not let them go but – whether it’s happiness or hurt we’re so desperately trying to cling on to – the reality is that at the moment you reach for it, it’s already gone.

And if that sounds somewhat dry and boring, think again. There’s immense power (see my previous post on samtosa) in realising and accepting that the world around us, the reality we live in, is constantly changing – not just from day to day but second to second. Reaching for things that no longer exist encourages longing, makes us feel lost and engenders a belief that our lives are somehow lacking.

It causes us pain.

Living life with an understanding of the bigger picture however,  with full knowledge of its inevitable transience and change, provides us with space within which to not react to such things as pleasure and pain, success and failure etc. It allows us to develop a centred approach to life, from which we become less embroiled in events and emotions, and from which we can develop an inner strength and balance – that equanimous approach.

Freedom

Aware that our personal sense of well-being is entirely of our own making then, ultimately equanimity delivers us freedom.

Imagine that – finding a freedom to just be in the moment, without expectation. A freedom to experience, and be experienced just as we are right now. A freedom from all of our stories.

Sounds good to me…I’ll be continuing to cultivate this one (and introducing it to class too!).

All change!

September 11, 2016
All change!

Well. What a month it’s been!

I’ve been uber busy in work, uber busy with yoga, ramping up the running and trying my hand at being a website developer. It’s been a bit full-on if I’m honest, and, yes (not news to anyone who knows me), I’m a little bit exhausted.

But….it’s here! The new yogalustco website is live and I really hope you like it. It’s early stages yet and there’s plenty more to do, not least getting a new timetable and booking engine up and running. But for now a breather.

I’m (yay!) off paddle boarding this afternoon – a well-needed break – and then it’s back to work.

Thanks for being with me on the journey all.

With much love
Lisa

I loved you

June 18, 2016

I loved you.
You hushed me.

I loved you.
You stifled me.

I loved you.
You squashed me.

I loved you.
You mocked me.

I loved you.
You belittled me.

I loved you.
You shamed me.

I loved you.
You disrespected me.

I loved you.
You ignored me.

I loved you.
You denied me.

I loved you.
You abandoned me.

I loved you.
You broke me.

I left.
You blamed me.

Lessons from lessons

June 12, 2016

As is pretty normal in my world (being INFJ and all), I was busy running hundreds of disparate thoughts around my mind as I walked to work one morning this week, when a number of them converged to form the basis of this blog post:

  • An instagram challenge – #invertalert – that I’ve been participating in this month (where I attempt an inversion a day and post a corresponding picture)
  • A blog post I read about taking responsibility for the way you view the world (credit where credit’s due – shared with me by the other half)
  • The lessons I’ve been learning from teaching over the past couple of months

think it all started with the Instagram challenge but in truth it was likely overlaid with the worldview blog post too. But I guess the roots of it aren’t really what’s important…

Because whether you want to call them Instagrammer yogis or yogi Instagrammers – people who post yoga selfies on Instagram get a pretty bad rap. And it only takes a quick Google of the term “yoga selfies” to prove it. The general argument? It’s not ‘yogic’. To quote this article, it “inspires lust and desire” and results in us “trivializing yoga” while in this one they’re simply classed as both “creepy and hypocritical”.

So I’m thinking about all this in relation to this Instagram challenge and wondering if I’m doing a bad thing by participating in it… Am I a hypocrite? Am I somehow bringing shame to the practice? Am I indeed less of a yogi for it?

And then (so perhaps the Instagram thought did come first!) I transitioned to Benjamin Hardy’s worldview article – remembering not only how I’d agreed with his statement that “Whether you’d like to admit it or not, you’ve chosen your beliefs.” but how its closing lines had included the statement “What will you believe?”

So what did I believe? What did I choose to believe?

I needed to answer the question of why I was participating in the challenge – why I was posting all of these selfies online. And I’ll tell you what I realised – it’s got nothing to do with showing off! Just as in no way is it about trivialising yoga. Rather it’s about growing my own practice, developing my focus, building a fitness and strength that enhances and deepens my (very personal) asana practice and that, in turn, enables me to make better inroads towards a consistent and beneficial meditation practice.

And am I alone in this? Not at all. Because if you take a proper look at what’s going on with yoga selfies on Instagram what you’ll see is this enormous, global, community of people working and learning together. Practising together. And teaching…together.

Which does not (in my opinion!) deserve a bad rap.

These people, in general, aren’t pretending to be perfect but being open and honest about their fallibility and the challenges faced in both achieving their poses and completing the prep work required to get there

Which took me to my teaching and the lessons I’m learning from my lessons…

Because I teach from a place of absolute honesty – where I’m just as fallible as my students, and where we work together to achieve things. Which means that when I’m teaching them something that I find difficult I’ll say so – chaturanga (or as one of my students calls it, “no”) being just one of a number of examples. And when someone in class is strong at a particular pose we’ll examine why – so that we can all learn something along the way.

And I’m learning that this is the only way I want to teach. Inclusively. Accessibly. Authentically.

I’m teaching not because I want to help people look great. Or become more bendy. Or feel like they’re a cool yogi type who can wear fancy leggings. I’m not even teaching to make money! Instead I’m teaching because I want to help positively affect people’s lives – my students directly by improving their wellbeing and mental health, and then others in the world by bringing more yogis into being. And if that sounds a bit sucky then I’m sorry, but that’s just the way things are.

As is the fact that I’ll be continuing with #invertalert (with some less than perfect yoga selfies below to prove it!).

#pianomanmax

June 2, 2016

Funny how it takes only the simplest of things to take you away from your day and back into your self…

This guy, just playing away as I popped out to get lunch, was amazing. Thanks Max 💗

A girl has no name

May 31, 2016

So it’s been a while…
…27 days to be precise.

Because, after a prolific couple of months, it’s fair to say my blogging activity has taken a bit of a nosedive. Which you might assume is due to being ‘blogged out’…but in actual fact boils down to what you might call a crisis of identity. A face-off, if you will, between an autopilot that seems to have been running the show for some time and an authentic self that is straining to find her voice.

As you may already know from earlier posts this last couple of years has been a period of significant change for me. Change that, with hindsight, was likely driven by a rebelling of this authentic self, but change that, in reality, has been pretty organic – led by my gut rather than any rational thought.

From leaving my marriage to re-engaging with yoga to enrolling on YTT, it’s all been instinctive. Almost non-negotiable too if I’m honest – things I’ve simply had to do, whether I understood the reasons or not.

But nowadays there seems to be a maturing of this authentic self (I like to call her the ‘me’ me – or mimi, for the fun!) as she realises that to effect long lasting change she’s going to have to take a more active role in life.

But the thing is, the autopilot is strong – significantly older than mimi, quite shouty and very deeply entrenched. And pretty much whenever I’m in doing mode (as opposed to being, the simplest explanation of which I found here) this is what takes over.

Which means that though mimi (me in my heart of hearts, in my very soul) no longer wants to accept being pushed to one side – benched in favour of the familiar – she’s not really sure how to go about changing things. Because even though the old (autopilot) patterns of behaviour have been falling away for some time now, no proven replacements yet exist.

A therapist I recently visited said she recognises this tearing up of old patterns as a distinct stage in a transformation journey that usually happens about two years in (interesting that it’s two and a half years now since I left my old life). A friend of mine though put it in plainer terms – likening it to untying yourself from the harbour only to realise you’re at sea without a map!

IMG_1503

So I have a strong sense at the moment of her reaching to assert her authority but coming up empty-handed as she tries to find the tools (something this therapist is going to try and help with). Which of course helps explain why I’ve been feeling a bit voiceless these past couple of months (well the true me anyway). And why I probably seem a bit more withdrawn, and harder to get hold of, than might be usual.

It’s not that I’m ignoring anyone. Or even that I’m in a bad place. It’s just that I don’t quite know how to be this new me – and if I don’t give her the space and time she needs to consider what, how, or where she might contribute I’ll be back to that autopilot all over again.

 

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