yoga

If you’re already into yoga, look away now. If not, this is purely to persuade you boozy, sweary, anti-airy-fairy lot out there that you can have a tiny bit of yoga in your life without becoming vegetarian, teetotal, or just plain smug, boring and openly proud of your farts.

You may have seen a few pompous yoga magazines out there. I was once offered the editor’s role on one yoga title but I turned it down when it became clear that the advertising and editorial content was just too interwoven. In fact, I was expected to sell the ads as well as edit the magazine. Anyway, that’s another story. I went to work on Packaging Magazine instead and became a guru of high density polyethylene.

I pick up a yoga mag from time to time but five minutes later wonder why the hell I just spent £5 or more just to look at improbable pictures of beautiful people doing the splits on white sandy beaches, standing on their bonces by tranquil Thai waterfalls and being caught unawares in an effortless lotus pose meditation, by a very expensive camera that just happened to be there, set up with perfect lighting in a chic city studio that costs an arm and a (very flexible) leg to join.

And not just that, but the typos! Seriously, being a yogi does not excuse you from flabby spelling, ‘flexible’ facts and awkwardly positioned textual layout, not to mention using that awful self-righteous ‘wisenheimer’ language that makes most ‘normal’ people want to vom their guts up.

On top of that, you’re bombarded with adverts for very expensive ‘yoga wear’ that all looks the same to me and anyway, what’s wrong with my cheap black lounging pants and top that double up as pyjamas, saving time and reducing the stress of changing? Most of the yoga get-up I’ve seen looks like you have to bend yourself into quarters to even get the bloody things on.

I’m certain that there are plenty of people out there who would benefit enormously from a spot of yoga in their lives but who are put off by the elitist, self-satisfied, hypocritical baloney that sometimes surrounds it.

Sure, I’d love to have the time and money to go on a retreat in India, to absorb wholeheartedly the spirituality and the strict regime of an ashram to cleanse my body and soul (and liver). But after six weeks of it I’d also probably end up wanting to punch someone and run to the nearest pub/steakhouse.

For people like me – busy parents who swear too much and sometimes find themselves drinking by mistake, most of us would agree we all need a bit more self-care, but only if we can fit it in between trying not to kill our kids mid-meltdown and reaching for that bottle of whatever it is that we promised to give up forever.

Is this you?

Then yoga can still help and I’m going to show you how. No fancy words or phrases. You might not even realise it’s yoga, but it is. You’re going to feel better very soon, I promise.

Breathe
Take a deep breath in through your nose, hold for a second, then breathe out. If you’re snotty, breathe through your mouth but this will dry your mouth out, so take sips of water.

Sit or stand tall
Feel your neck and spine lengthen. Imagine more space between each vertebra. Tuck your tummy in and tilt your pelvis up slightly. Relax your shoulders.

Hang like a gorilla
From standing, feet hip-width apart, hinge forwards from the hips and let everything hang. If your hands don’t reach the ground then bend your knees and rest your upper body on your thighs. Feel your spine stretching out. Let your head and arms be heavy. You can make ‘ape noises’ if you want. I do. Come up slowly and stand tall again.

Be a rainbow
Stretch hands up, interlace your fingers, palms towards the sky and reach over to one side. Don’t lean forwards. After a few seconds, stretch over to the other side. Come back up and stand tall. Deep breath in and out through your nose. Our bodies very rarely do any lateral stretching in daily life, so this is a good one to add in. Be that rainbow!

TIP: When doing these exercises, to help you focus on your breath, make an ‘ahh’ sound at the back of your throat when breathing, while keeping your mouth shut. This is called ‘Ujjayi’ breath, meaning ‘victorious’, but you don’t need to worry about all that crap. Think of it as the ‘ocean breath’, where each breath sounds like the ocean. This has a calming effect and stops your mind from wandering too far. Are you still with me? Oi!

That’s it for today!
You already look better and are becoming aware of your spinal health. Congratulations! Have a glass of something you’re addicted to or treat yourself to a hot bath with the door locked where those flippin’ kids can’t reach you.

Next time we’ll look at simple poses to do first thing in the morning (you can even do them in bed, so there is literally no excuse) and last thing at night. Yep, even if you’re tipsy.

My aim is to help you to be naturally more aware of your body and its needs, to strengthen your lungs, help you stay calm, raise your levels of self-esteem and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be more likely to put the stopper in before you get to the end of the bottle. And if you don’t, it doesn’t matter. Don’t beat yourself up. Just be kind to yourself as much as possible and everyone else will benefit too.

I promised no fancy stuff, so I’m not even going to finish this with a ‘Namaste’.

Peace, dudes.
x

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This week at school I covered a plethora of subjects, from Geography to Maths, Music, English, Art, Science and three PSHCE lessons discussing euthanasia, transgender children, and depression. With varying levels of knowledge because, believe it or not, I was lying about the ‘veritable genius’ bit).
I sent one student out this week for persistent rudeness in class, but otherwise gave no detentions and dished out lots of merits, some where they were due and some just because I was feeling generous and the kids hadn’t actually maimed me in any outwardly obvious way. I sang, without warning, ‘Silence is Golden’ during a rare moment of tranquillity and, in another class, when I asked for a little decorum, was asked what decorum was, my answer being, ‘well, it’s not this’.
I also had the small matter of a student dislocating her shoulder in PE this afternoon. Oh, the things they’ll do to get out of a bit of exercise! At other times, I put up display material (a brief but welcome holiday for my brain), I mentored students (one of my favourite bits), answered and sent emails about the dullest of things, and had a good old impromptu chat with a young student who has the same type of epilepsy as me and we compared notes on our seizures instead of getting on with the maths they were supposed to be doing. And that was, in a weird way, much more fun.
Oh and I might have sworn a little bit in the staffroom today too because, after all, it was ‘f*ck it Friday’.
All this for £8.40ish an hour, but I don’t care about the money because I really do love my job. If you ever fancy being a pretendy teacher, doing a job that can be really hard work, predictable in timings but unpredictable in content, drives you potty, stretches every fibre of your patience and requires you thinking not just on your feet but standing on your head while reading from a cover sheet, where you sometimes feel undervalued but also elated when you know you’ve done a great job, and best of all, where you can leave at 3pm and forget about it until the next day, then being a Study Supervisor might be just the ticket.
It’s the ticket for me. And, of course, it stops the rock & roll goddess bit going to my head.
And now, on a rainy Friday evening, a personal one-to-one PSHCE lesson in drinking wine moderately. Oops, that’ll be a detention then. Must try harder. Or less hard? Hmm. Depends on perspective, I suppose.

Six years ago today

Posted: May 12, 2016 in Uncategorized

Six years ago, I experienced a day I will never forget.

In the morning, 16 weeks pregnant, I went to my midwife appointment to get my baby’s heartbeat checked out. Having miscarried before, more than once, I was expecting the worst. But, in her words, it was “a good strong heartbeat”. I was so excited that I rang my mum, as I was on my way to be observed in a lesson for the PGCE I was studying for at the time. As I walked past the admin buildings at what was then NCYPE (now Young Epilepsy), I rang my mum to tell her about the heartbeat. She sounded a bit sniffly, but when I asked her what was up she said she was coming down with a cold. Fair enough.

I took my lesson – music & movement for special needs students – and the observation went well. I was at last successfully pregnant, I was possibly the beginnings of a good teacher, my little brother had recently had a beautiful baby boy, and I was feeling happy about everything.

Then I saw a voicemail had been left on my phone. It was my cousin, in Ireland. He’d left a slow and solemn message, simply saying hello and asking for my younger brother’s number. I rang my mum back again, asking what the hell was going on. ‘Don’t worry’, she said, ‘it’s just your family being weird as ever.’ Ever the optimist, I forgot about it and carried on with my day.

Early evening, I was back at home and, I seem to remember, grappling with iron tablets and the stomach ache they were causing. There was a knock at the back door of our tiny cottage. Joolz answered. It was the elder of my younger brothers, Adam. I later found out that Joolz had known he was coming. He had come to tell me that my nephew, Theo, the 5 week old son of my younger brother, had died. My family had known since the morning, but knowing that I had so much going on that day, had chosen to tell me later, in person, gently.

Without having since had Arthur, I would never have even begun to understand the pain that my brother and his partner were going through, that day and ever since. I hope I never will.

This year though, for some reason, I felt the pain of that day more than ever before. Perhaps it was because Arthur said something really funny. That he’d swum on his own for the first time. The fact that my bloody CD in the car played song after song that reminded me of that day.

I’m glad it did, though. I’ve cried a lot today. Partly because I’m still so sad about the pain Theo’s mum and dad have to bear each day. Partly because I have a son so near to his age that every time he reaches a milestone I know it’s one they’ll never see in Theo. But also partly because, that day, that week, and ever since, I’ve experienced what a close family we are, through thick and thin, and I’m proud to have them around me. So that makes me cry a bit, too, in a good way.

That day I will never, ever forget. A little piece of my soul died that day.

And, just because I can never write anything without a bit of shameless self-promotion, here are a couple of lines from the song I wrote for Theo:

“Lazy shadow, linger on, please excuse me if I can’t stop holding on…”

Hold on to those you love, near or far…

And, most importantly, rest in peace, little guy X

Often my thoughts turn into songs. But sometimes those thoughts are so wrapped up in an all-consuming, self-analysing, narcissistic cloak, they have to be left as thoughts, otherwise no-one would listen to my songs, and rightly so. But I still have to put those thoughts ‘out there’, if only to stop my soul from turning black. Here are my ‘Notes from the Sauna’:

I’ve been thinking about mistakes, regret and forgiveness.

I have made a lot of mistakes and some of them I will always regret. As much as I try to go all fortified and French and declare with a quite frankly disturbing warble that ‘je ne regrette rien’, I can’t help it.

In any case, a healthy sense of regret is constructive, surely? Regret can’t change the past, nor improve the present, but it can help to shape the future. Like I said, I have made a lot of really, really stupid mistakes. The ones I regret most are the ones that have hurt others. Most of my mistakes I’ve learnt from. Some mistakes I keep on making, regardless. In which case, regret is a fat lot of good and maybe that warbly French bird was right all along.

But the thing that struck me today, sitting in a sauna and sweating out existentialist angst, was that I’d rather have made all of the mistakes I’ve ever made if it meant I could retain the capacity both to say sorry and to forgive.

I spend a lot of my time saying sorry.

I’m good at that bit.

People, throughout my life, have hurt me too. Some have been cruel, used me and then boasted about it to others (yes, you, Mistake of 1985). Some have been violent. Some have told lies and spread false rumours for their own gain, amusement, or very possibly to mask their own wrongdoing. Some have simply not understood me, just as sometimes I haven’t taken the time to understand others. I know I could have done better. I’ve taken responsibility for it all. I could have done more to improve situations, to calm brewing disquiet, to stand up for myself, to not follow the herd, to recognise when I was being mistreated and when I was being unfair to others. Maybe I couldn’t have changed a thing. Who knows? But taking responsibility means I’m in charge of how these things affect me and stops me wasting my life blaming everyone else.

Forgiveness is the key.

Learning to forgive – particularly if the wrong hasn’t been recognised by the perpetrator – is something that can be harder to crack than a walnut with a pair of marshmallows, but once you’ve cracked it, it’s immensely liberating. Taking back responsibility for the way you feel, and forgiving others’ actions – whether or not they’re aware of what they’ve done or how they’ve made you feel – has been the key to me not going utterly insane. The little bit of Buddhism that I practise – not often enough – has helped a great deal with that. I should do it more. But then there’s always beer to fit in, too. Life gets busy.

But yes, my sweaty little sauna session left me realising that, as much as I will always regret some of the foolish and hurtful things I’ve done, I would rather have made my mistakes, and learnt (or not) from them, and have the ability to say sorry (and mean it) and to forgive (and mean it) than to never make mistakes and never be able to forgive.

The lack of capacity to forgive is a prison cell I’m happy not to be locked inside.

But I still can’t learn to forgive myself. That’s another little prison cell all of its own.

I think I’ll be in here for some time.

“Blog Cabin”

Posted: September 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

She Shed. Woman Cave. Her Hut. Haven of Tranquillity. Divorce Prevention Unit (DPU). Kaleido Kabin; just a sprinkling of the monikers ascribed so far to the creation that has been brewing, slowly, surely, sometimes surreally, in my little head.
Our family home is a veritable cacophony of clobber and clutter, a barefaced brag of musical instruments, not to mention a museum of my man’s myriad artefacts and a deeply detrimental dose of amps, power tools, chargers, nuts, bolts and reams of ‘in progress’ paperwork strewn across the kitchen, and now my brain is closing down. I can’t breathe. I need some space. A space. My space.
For a long time, I’ve been yearning for this space. Somewhere I can write without my peripheral vision being encumbered with ‘stuff over which I have no control’. Please note, dear reader, that I have bought my husband countless filing systems in the vain hope that he might someday start filing his receipts and paperwork, but over time, the filing boxes have merely multiplied the muddle. Not dodging fault entirely, however, I have accepted a portion of the blame and spent much time de-cluttering my own things. I’m sure I own the fewest pairs of shoes in the history of girldom. Nothing new there. Everyone knows I’m not a shoe girl. Two bags, one for work, one for not-work. I do have quite a few hats, but I do wear them. They disguise my bad hair days. They cover up my face a bit. Everyone’s a winner. And yes, I have books and CDs, but when I shuffle off my mortal coil I want my son to discover some of the things I once read and listened to, by looking at an actual shelf and picking actual things up off it. Not going down the characterless cyber route, by having to guess a password and then by chance happening upon some random music mum had once downloaded onto the laptop or by seeing my ‘recently played’ on Spotify. And would he bother anyway? I wouldn’t. So, I have pared down my possessions to what really matters to me. It feels good. But still, the communal chaos prevails.
So, back to the log cabin. Yes, that’s what it will be. A proper log cabin. I’m using my savings to have it built. I have, for months, been agonising over whether this is a massive, narcissistic extravagance, a ridiculously self-centred pipe dream that should stay firmly in its pipe, and whether I should just stop dreaming and put that money into the mortgage. But then that’s where all the rest of my money is, and life is way too tiny, so the answer to that was a resounding (excuse me) ‘F*CK NO’.
No, for my life to feel like my own again – if that sounds selfish, it is totally meant to – then I need this space. Somewhere for me to write, to play my instruments, to practise yoga (without the usual accompanying dog hair, toys, dogs, postman watching through the blinds at me in a headstand – not a look you want people to see when you’ve been upside down for three minutes and your face resembles a worrisome pink blob). Somewhere to chant when I have my Buddhisty moments, and even somewhere to sleep in times of hormonal imbalance, when the world is a safer place with me secreted at the bottom of the garden.
In my dreams, this little place will also have a secret bunkroom for my boy, so he can join me in my childlike escapism. Even his dad will be allowed in from time to time if he behaves, takes his boots off at the door and promises never, ever to bring so much as a whiff of a cigarette to within ten feet of the building.
I have to keep reminding myself, the money I’m spending isn’t about buying a ‘thing’ but an experience we will all benefit from for years to come. Happy me, happy kid, happy home. I hope.
So, that’s my pipe dream. And now it’s about to emerge from the pipe, like a rather expensive puff of magic. Watch this space. This one, here:
hole

E.T. Exciting Times

Posted: September 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

quill

As a shiny new school year descends upon us, and my pocket-sized person prepares to don his newly labelled uniform and book bag for the first time, I’m heading back to my career roots as a journalist/editor and am available for copywriting and proofreading. And, once my much yearned-for Woman Cave/She Shed/Her Hut has been built, in a couple of weeks, then I’ll truly be raring to go, in my very own creative haven at the bottom of the garden. So, if you need me, in a word creating or correcting capacity, I’ll be right here. Like E.T. Only not as pretty.

www.leanie.com

Very proud to announce the rebirth of my hitherto dormant (but very expensive) website, http://www.leanie.com, which now has a shiny happy new look, a sparkly new lease of life and up-to-date info. Big thanks to my brother Adam for making it happen… Have a little gander and let me know if there’s anything you want to see more (or less) of. But be kind please, I’m only little.

Link  —  Posted: September 22, 2012 in Uncategorized