A Grounding Guided Meditation

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It’s the time of year when we could all use a little more rest and rejuvenation. Parties, shopping, social engagments and travel, coupled with the high tensions and expectations that this season brings, can leave us feeling overwhelmed and overstretched. One of my favourite practices to combat these feelings is Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is a type of guided meditation that takes you out of your conscious mind and allows the opportunity for deep rest and restoration. It is said that 30 minutes of Yoga Nidra is the equivalent of 4 hours of deep sleep.

With that in mind, I have created a 15 minute grounding Yoga Nidra to help keep you steady and centered in the midst of all the hustle and bustle. Take a few moments over the next two weeks to come back to yourself, and I think you’ll be surprised at how nice it can feel.

Wishing you all a calm and peaceful holiday season! I’ll see you in the New Year 🙂

 

 

Presence

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I wrote recently how a digital detox helped me to feel more spacious and present. It’s all well and good to remove distraction while on holiday – but implementing the same isolation when back at home, at work and in real life is much more difficult.

A few things I’m loving right now that have helped create that same feeling of peace back home:

The Minimalists Podcast

If you haven’t heard of these guys, please check them out. While minimalism begins with a conscious cull of material possessions, it’s also a way of life. I find there are a lot of similarities between minimalism and yoga- it’s all about stripping back the layers of noise and distraction to come back to your true self. I always feel inspired to continue living consciously, mindfully and presently after listening.

Moment App

This app tracks phone usage. I cannot recommend it highly enough. You can set a daily limit for phone usage, and also see which apps have held your attention most during the previous day. It tracks the number of times you pick up your phone and when you’ve reached your daily limit, it buzzes and wails until you turn it off. It’s made me much more mindful when using my phone, and I find myself more easily limiting mindless checking and scrolling in an effort to save my phone time for when I really need it (connecting with friends, using the map when out and about, etc)

Daily Meditation

This month I’ve been strictly meditating for the same amount of time every day. It’s been both difficult and wonderful. In my last post on discipline vs freedom, I wanted to cultivate more balance, and my daily meditation has helped achieve this. For some ideas on how to meditate, check out my Instagram page @laurenewilkie (I did a meditation challenge a few months back), and also my October 2016 blog archives (I featured meditation ideas all that month). Daily meditation gives my mind space and sets me up for the rest of the day. As one of my teachers put it, a daily meditation practice gives everything else a bit more space.

Essential Oils

I’ve been diffusing some essential oil blends for relaxation, peace, and uplift. My favourite blend at the moment is doTERRA Frankincense, Cheer and Citrus Bliss. Frankincense is the oil of truth which reminds me to stay true to my inner guidance and not get waylaid by other voices; Cheer is (obviously) the oil of cheer and keeps my outlook positive, and Citrus Bliss is the oil of creativity, which helps to bring motivation and drive when it is lacking. In combination, these oils keep me grounded and steady, but moving forward – living mindfully and present, as I desire.

What do you do to keep a sense of presence and peace in your life? I’d love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments or find me on Instagram @laurenewilkie. If you’d like to learn more about incorporating essential oils into your daily life, click here.

Photo credit: @paula_sandersonphotos

Yoga for Travellers

Tight hips and sore back after sitting for too long? Whether you’ve been too long in a car, on a plane or at a desk, this short yoga sequence will help unlock the spine and hips to have you feeling back to normal quickly. Repeat the sequence on the opposite site, and finish by spending a few minutes with your legs up the wall to help with circulation (and jet-lag).

 

 

Pins and Needles

Acupuncture has been around for centuries, but I first discovered it (and the wonderful Julia Oji) when I looked for an alternative to deal with seasonal allergies that conventional medicine couldn’t provide.
Since then, I’ve seen Julia regularly, at times more often than others. Her treatment helps with a wide array of issues, but I also see her when I need a little boost or I’m feeling a bit off.

I asked Julia to explain how acupuncture works and how it can improve wellness and increase vitality.

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In a nutshell, what is acupuncture and how does it work?

Acupuncture is one branch of a traditional medical system that has ancient roots in China (other branches of that system include Chinese herbal medicine and ‘tui na’ which is Chinese massage therapy).

This system views the body holistically, the physical and the mental/emotional states intimately connected. Disease is considered to be, in essence, an imbalance of the energies of the internal organs that each have influence over particular physiological processes and mental/emotional realms. Acupuncture, by stimulating the energy or ‘qi’ of the body and its organs via points situated along a network of channels, aims to restore equilibrium and bring the whole system back to health.

What do you recommend for someone who doesn’t like needles?

The first thing to note about the tools of an acupuncturist’s work – the needles – is that they’re nothing like hypodermic needles used for giving injections; they are much finer, hardly thicker than a hair. When the needle punctures the skin you may not even notice; however, there is generally some degree of sensation – sometimes a tingly, electric feeling or a dull ache – when the needle contacts the body’s ‘qi’ or energy.

So, the needle sensation is usually minimal and acupuncture needles are nothing to be scared of (honestly!) Nevertheless, there are some individuals out there who are genuinely ‘needle-phobic’. Luckily, for these people there’s an alternative: ‘tui na’ or traditional Chinese massage is based on all the same principles and theory as acupuncture and uses a variety of pressure techniques to stimulate points and channels, rather than utilising needles. Tui na can be used on its own of course, but in my practice I often combine acupuncture and tui na – especially when treating musculoskeletal conditions – and find the two disciplines complement each other to great effect.

What conditions can acupuncture treat?

Acupuncture can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions. Some of the most common that I encounter are musculoskeletal (backache, frozen shoulder, repetitive strain injuries, traumatic injuries, sciatica and so on), digestive complaints such as irritable bowel, headaches and migraine, insomnia, anxiety, painful periods, infertility, hay fever and rhinitis or sinusitis.

In a sense, we acupuncturists are like your average GP in that we see patients with every type of condition. The ones I’ve mentioned are our ‘bread and butter’ but there’s hardly a month goes by without me meeting a patient with a condition that I’ve not heard of before (chikungunya anybody?)

It’s worth noting that the NHS now commonly refers patients to acupuncturists for pain management, acknowledging that it can be helpful in dealing with chronic musculoskeletal pain for which painkillers are not the long-term answer. If  you fall into this category, why not ask your GP about acupuncture referral? You might be eligible to receive a course of 6 (sometimes more) free appointments. In addition, many private health insurance companies these days offer cover for acupuncture.

How many treatments are needed and how often do you recommend treatment?

There are no hard-and-fast rules but, as a general guideline, if you’ve suffered with your condition for more than a year, an initial course of 4-6 weekly treatments will usually be required, with follow-ups spaced more infrequently after that. A condition that’s recently occurred, on the other hand (e.g. you’ve pulled a muscle in your back whilst gardening at the weekend), may only need one or two sessions to put you back on track.

Unfortunately, there are always those who are looking for a ‘quick fix’. Safe to say, if you’ve had chronic constipation triggered by poor diet and a stressful job/domestic situation for the best part of your adult life, the constipation isn’t going to magically vanish after one or two treatments!

What should someone look for when finding an acupuncturist?

The best recommendation is word-of-mouth. However, it’s also important to check that your practitioner is a registered member of the either the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC), the British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS), or the Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ATCM) – all governing bodies that demand high standards of safe practice amongst their membership.

Acupuncture has been around for centuries, and over that time different ‘schools’ or styles of practice have developed, not only in China but in countries like Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Your acupuncturist may be a ‘Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)’ practitioner, a ‘Five Element’ practitioner, or they might be a Western medicine-trained practitioner such as a GP or physiotherapist who has learned some basic acupuncture methods to incorporate into their work for the benefit of their patients.

My advice would be to make contact with your therapist before booking an appointment and find out as much as you can, especially with regard to their experience in treating your condition.

What’s the most interesting acupuncture experience that you’ve had?

Where to start? I’ve been in practice over 20 years and never cease to be amazed at what can be achieved with acupuncture, especially when a patient fully takes on board the holistic nature of Chinese medicine, incorporating its principles into their diet, lifestyle and general outlook. I can also vouch for the efficacy of acupuncture from a personal standpoint, having used it to help myself recover from a slipped disc among other things.  

Julia practices acupuncture in London at the Brackenbury Natural Health Clinic and in Canterbury.

December Grounding Playlist

This time of year often makes me feel frantic and airy, so to stay grounded I incorporate lots of rooting poses and strong beats into my yoga practice and yoga playlist. Here’s what I’m practicing to at the moment.

 

 

I’d love to know what keeps you grounded this time of year, and what music helps out. Let me know in the comments or drop me a message on Instagram – @laurenewilkie

A practice …

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This is one of my favourite meditations because of its simplicity, the fact that it can easily be done anywhere, and can be adapted to the amount of time available:

Sit or lie comfortably. Close your eyes.

Find your breath.

Notice the rise and fall of your chest and be aware of each inhale and exhale.

Stay like this for a few moments, noticing each inhale and exhale without changing or holding the breath, simply allowing it to go in and out of your lungs.

Notice the length of the breath – is it short, long, somewhere in between? Don’t change the breath as it is, simply observe and allow it to be what it is today.

Start to notice the quality of the air as it comes in, and notice the air as it goes out. What is the temperature of the breath? How does it feel as it passes through the nostrils, the throat and into the lungs? How does it feel in the other direction?

Stay with this practice, continuing to notice each inhale and exhale.

When thoughts arise, observe them, but keep bringing yourself back to the present moment of inhale and exhale, anchoring your mind to your breath.

Stay here for as long as you have, then gently open your eyes.

 

*Side note: notice the breath, but avoid adding judgements to your observation – short or long breath is not good or bad, it is simply a characteristic. If you start to attach judgement, notice the judgement and let it go (this is also part of the practice), with the option of saying to yourself “my breath is ___, and that is simply the way it is right now”.

 

How does this practice make you feel? Let me know in the comments or use #meditateoctober

 

 

 

 

I never wanted to meditate …

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A regular meditation practice is something that has helped me feel calmer, more stable and be more sure of myself. But it wasn’t always this way. Over the next month, I’ll be looking at ways to make meditation less daunting and more enjoyable.

When I first started meditating, I found it SOOO hard. I struggled to find a comfortable way to sit (I thought that the only way to “properly” meditate was to sit on the floor with my legs crossed). I always felt like I was doing it wrong because I couldn’t silence my thoughts and find the elusive “quiet, peaceful mind” and I usually finished the meditation feeling angry and frustrated instead of calm and happy. It always felt like a chore rather than a treat; I had “meditate” on my to-do list every day, and every day, I found something seemingly more important to do instead.

Two things changed all this for me:

  • When I did my yoga teacher training, the meditation teacher (Jake Dartington) said something that really changed my perspective. He said “WHEN thoughts enter your mind, observe them and let them go”
  • When I read Arianna Huffington’s book “Thrive” she says “we don’t ‘do’ meditation – meditation ‘does’ us. The only thing to ‘do’ in meditation is nothing.”

These really changed the way I looked at how I was meditating, and I realised that meditation is an opportunity not just to quiet the mind, but also to observe our thoughts. I realised that the goal wasn’t to have a blank mind, but that meditating is an opportunity to reconnect with ourselves by observing our thoughts, and really listen to what’s going on. From there we can notice repetitions and thought patterns, and make changes based on what we observe.

It’s also an opportunity to STOP doing, rather than another item for the never ending list. It’s a chance to be still, to be quiet and to really listen:

  • How is my body feeling?
  • What’s going on in my mind?
  • What do I feel in my heart?

Once I shifted my perspective, meditation became easier – it became a treat rather than a chore. And on days when I don’t take the time to listen and be still, I notice that everything in my brain is a bit jumbled, and everything in my heart feels a bit heavy.

Now my meditation practice is simple – I have no rules or expectations about how it should be; I let my mood and instinct guide what happens. Sometimes it’s after my yoga practice, but I often do it first thing – before I’ve gotten out of bed or looked at my phone. I put some pillows behind me, sit up in bed and spend about 10-20 minutes checking in before I start my day.

I don’t have a specific routine – sometimes I focus on inhaling and exhaling, sometimes I repeat a mantra, sometimes my mind is all over the place and it’s really hard to stay focused. On days when it feels like a chore, I skip the practice altogether; usually by the  next day I’ve missed it so much that it’s easy to start again.

Whatever happens, I always appreciate having taken the time for myself.

I’d love to hear about your meditation experiences – let me know in the comments below or use #meditateoctober.

And check out my Instagram feed for the upcoming 10 day meditation challenge, starting on 10th October for 10 days #meditation101010

 

Photo credit: @alischillingphotography