Hi everyone and Happy New Year!
I hope you are all well and the first few days of 2019 have been kind to you. I've just returned to London after a lovely few days teaching a New Year Retreat at the beautiful Tilton House in the South Downs. Such a treat.
It was a delight to see the New Year in with such a lovely bunch of retreatees and consider what we want to bring into the year ahead. A lot of what we talked about was how traditional new year resolutions can sometimes bring with them a sense of self-punishment rather than self-nourishment. Whilst I will always be warmed and inspired by our human desire to grow and change, I do worry that new year resolutions can sometimes come from a place of feeling that we are not good enough as we are; that there is a perfect self ahead of us that we are striving to become, and that we could and should get there if only we tried hard enough. I worry that this feeds into our sense of shame and low self-worth when we fail to reach these unattainably high standards we set and then feel bad about ourselves once again.
Winter is a time of year when energy is low in general. In yoga terms there is less 'prana' around. It is a time for quiet contemplation, warming, conserving energy, resting and reflecting. By spring there is more energy available, something that is reflecting in nature as new life, blossom, flowers bloom. It concerns me when, in the heart of winter, people start eating salads and burning calories under strip lighting in gyms at 9pm at night. Is this really the path to true wellbeing, nourishment and self-care and self-worth for the year ahead?
Within the philosophy of yoga we are made up of 5 different layers of being (called Koshas or 'sheaths') and to be truly well, happy and healthy we need to ensure that all of these layers of our being are being looked after and nourished. These layers move from the more dense and tangible (our physical body) to the more subtle (our sense of spirit / bliss) but all are equally as important to our sense of wellbeing.
These 5 layers are:
the physical body (our physical being / bones / muscles etc)
the energetic body (our breath, circulatory systems, energy levels)
the mental body (our mind)
the intuitive body (our higher mind, the sense when we 'know' what feels right)
the bliss body (our spirit, seen in our sense of joy, when our spirit feels uplifted and we feel whole).
Connecting to Joy
So that when we consider what we want to bring into our year ahead can we consider how we nourish our body (can exercise feel nourishing rather than punishing)? How do we enable ourselves to have more energy? Do we rest well? Is our mind content, able to be present, calm and clear? Do we listen to our intuition when it's speaking to us?
But the one I find most important, and most often missed, is prioritising what brings us joy, what light's us up, makes us feel whole. Rather than denying ourselves things or striving for perfection can we remember what makes us feel whole already?
Over the last few years I have recognised that to be really happy, well, productive and able to look after others I need to make sure this joy layer is being nourished. Whether it be visiting an art gallery, getting out into nature, connecting with friends, these are not luxuries to be built in once the to-do list is complete (which let's face it, it never will be) but things to prioritised on our to do lists. Often the busyness takes over and I forget, but I'm grateful for this framework to remind me of what is missing and what I need to reconnect to it.
So before the busyness kicks in too fully perhaps you would like to find a moment to sit in your favourite spot and write a list of what brings you joy. Notice how you feel in your body when you look at this list. We did this as a practice on the retreat and one person commented that most of the things on their joy list were free. This year I've created some little cards on which I've drawn and written things that bring me joy. So that when I need to remember I can rummage through this list for inspiration and reconnection.
What I love about yoga is that by its very nature it nourishes us on each of these layers of our being. And when we change one layer, it automatically creates change in the other layers. No wonder we come out of yoga feeling so much better!!
So if you wish to be nourished on every level in one go, it would be lovely to see you on the mat.