#reasonsforbeinghappy – week 4

I can feel it.  We are almost through January and Spring is not too far now. The evenings are getting lighter and in the garden, crocuses are beginning to peak above the leaf-mould canopy, to warm their growing stems in the ever-low  sun. The threat of snow still looms but with the longer days comes hope, a sense that all will be well and that good is coming.

1. Bulbs-a-springing

Crocuses, daffodils and snow drops, all beginning to appear in my garden. The fruit of last year’s labour when I planted what felt like a tonne of bulbs.

2. Birds-a- singing

Two homemade bird boxes (courtesy of a very handy hubby and the local wildlife club!) one pretty fresh water-holder, a peanut feeder, mealworm feeder, seeds and a fat-ball holder. Plus a big compost bin and lots of year-round green foliage have all helped to bring birds back to my garden. I just love slow weekend mornings spent watching the birds out the window, feeding and enjoying our garden wares. The excitement felt by my children last weekend when a blue tit explored one of the bird houses was just immense. We even have a resident robin! Stay tuned for a new post about how I brought nature back into my urban garden.

3. Baby arriving!

January can be a tough time of year. The highs of the holiday season seem like distant memories as we fall back into our daily routine and try to give our bank accounts a break. So nothing could warm my heart more this month than the news of a new baby! Congratulations to one of my dearest, oldest friends, we can’t wait to meet her!

#reasonsforbeinghappy from around the blogosphere:

@KitchenGoddess3: #reasonsforbeinghappy I’ve been on a fantastic long weekend to Edinburgh.The perfect chance to recharge my batteries

What are your reasons this week? Let us know below!

Jaime xx

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Seasonal Yoga – Winter

I was lucky enough to find a new class this week. Housed in a beautiful local environment centre, I’d been to this place lots before with my children; where we’d walk, forage and stop for hot chocolate on chilly afternoons. This week I followed up on a poster I’d seen on one such afternoon and grabbed a spot in a Kundalini Yoga class. My previous yoga experience has mainly been with Dru Yoga (and of course my beloved Yoga Studio app) so I was excited to branch out and develop my practice. I learnt so much in that first session and having spent the past 24 hours rolling the new wisdom around in my mind, I want to share a mantra that really stood out to me; work with the seasons.

In Winter, we naturally want to hibernate. We plump up to keep warm and as the sun rises later, so we find the waking harder, forcing our feet to find the chilly floor in the cave-like room, like early daffodils eager to bloom in the midst of January. The midst of Winter. We spend our evenings curled up with blankets and we slow down, a little, saving big plans for Spring holidays and long summers. Well this week my sleepy eyes were opened; we can, and must, extend this mantra into our practice. Don’t fight Winter, go with it. We are naturally less supple in the cold and for most of us, the last thing we want to do is wake ourselves up with a dynamic set of poses. Like birds who stop singing in Winter, we too need to conserve energy to survive the winter hardship, save the exertion for the Spring and for now, hibernate. Give in to the season and give yourself time, check your awareness as it flows from the top of your body and into your feet in soft waves. Do this in abundance. Now is the time to indulge in you and indulge in the still and the quiet.

In terms of yoga, Winter is not the time for ferocious challenges, for a billion rounds of sun salutations or for contorting your rigid muscles into new poses. Save it. Save it and be glad to know that you can tackle these with joy in the sun-blessed mornings of Spring, but for now be rested. Meditate and keep a soft, flowing practice, indulge in savasana and bring your focus back to the gentle fizz of awareness in your body.

Light a candle for your practice this weekend and lay still, check your awareness from top to tail and then hug your knees to your chest, gently pivoting them forward and back as you breathe in time. Compress – breathe out, release – breath in, letting your tummy fill deeply with air. Compress, release, compress.

Indulge in you this winter.

Jaime xx

Image credit: www.bevitality.com

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#reasonsforbeinghappy Week 3

Ok, so it’s not strictly week 3 but thanks to a busy start-of-term, I’m only just catching up on the blog! Anyway, labels, timekeeping and routine have never been strong points of mine! I’m here to champion the chaotic, the spontaneous and the late. Spend your time having the fun, rather than being punctual in documenting it. That’s my blogger motto anyway!

Here are my latest happy things:

1. Wildlife Walks
It’s been a gorgeous start to January here in Kent. Mornings lay heavy with grey-white mist and afternoons soon warm with low Winter sun-beams, penetrating the cold air in long, golden strands. We’ve had some lovely walks this week and have explored some new beauty spots in our local area; like Bedgebury Pinetum and our local favourite; the Ashford Community Woodland. Boots thick with mud, red noses and misty breath, all synonymous with glorious Winter walking.

2. Young Poet in the Making

My eldest daughter stood up in front of the whole school this week and impressed us all with her poem about the colours of Mexico, beautifully read and wonderfully written. I love poetry and I’m so pleased my children are also inspired to write; it’s good for the soul! Huge proud mummy moment!

3. Saving Orphaned Rhinos
On Monday, I had the pleasure of introducing a speaker from conservation charity OSCAP, at school assembly. She spoke of the imminent threat to South Africa’s wildlife, particularly the rhino, and what we could all do to help. In response to this we have begun a colouring competition at school and have also been selling beautiful rhino pins and bracelets in order to raise money for a new rhino ambulance. These ambulances are specially designed to pick up orphaned rhino calves in the wild who tend to stay close to their murdered mothers and then invariably die due to starvation/dehydration or predation. I am so pleased we can help this wonderful cause. If you would like make a donation or purchase a pin/bracelet please get in touch!

What are your #reasonsforbeinghappy this week?

Jaime xx

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#reasonsforbeinghappy Week 2

Wow it’s late. Well actually, it’s fairly early, but it’s been long time since I’ve posted. Too long. I’m sat writing this in the midst of a three week holiday break and having just had the loveliest of Christmases. This term was my final one as an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) and so the blog was put firmly on the back burner whilst I completed the last of my assessments. It’s been a busy year! As we approach New Years Eve, my #reasonsforbeinghappy this week reflect more broadly than they have before, and, look forward happily to the coming year.

Ok so here goes!

Week 2

1. A year of unbelievable highs This was the year I began my job as a fully qualified NQT. It was the year my brother came home from the US and it was the year I married my life partner and father to my children. There have been some pretty heavy lows, a true roller coaster, but 2014 will definitely be one to remember!

2. An Abundant Christmas

Food, family, fun. Not necessarily in that order but all three nonetheless. This Christmas felt special. Newly married, with my long lost brother home, felt more complete than ever. Simple time together, good collective homecooking, walks, chats, reading and sharing. Playing. A great way to end the year!

3. New Year, New Routines
I rarely commit to specific ‘new years resolutions’ as such but always try to begin the year with a general idea of where I’m headed and what I’d like to achieve. Last year was so ‘big’; marriage, committing to vegetarianism, completing my teaching program, that I feel perhaps the smaller things were swallowed up in the chaos. This year for me, I hope, will be one of reflection, presence and stillness. I have been reading A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle and feel ready, more than ever to, as Tolle puts it; awaken to my life’s purposes. This 3rd happy point will remind me to let go of society’s (and my own) limiting expectations, approach negative aspects of life with a non-thought-based response and fully embrace the present. I also hope to bring my somewhat scatty yoga and meditation practice into a more positive daily routine, where I am aiming to eat better, rise earlier and read more.

What are your new year #reasonsforbeinghappy? Remember, being happy is our natural state, strip away the collective societal ego and look to the unwavering happiness, love and peace underneath.

Happy New Year! See you in 2015!

Jaime xx

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#reasonsforbeinghappy

Week 1

Welcome to my new weekly feature! I have begun this weekly treat, to encourage us to seek out the positives in our lives and to show gratitude for the things, people and experiences we already have and value most. It carries a catchy hashtag as it’s title, which I will use to discover the happy-making events shared on twitter and the blog’s Facebook page, and will include some the best ones in the post each Sunday.

Here are mine this week:

1. A beautiful, fun, relaxing half-term week with my girls. As a busy primary school teacher I rarely get to spend quality time with my children during term time. I am however, lucky enough to work at my children’s school, so during those long busy days I at least get to snatch hugs and waves as we cross paths throughout the day. Although nothing beats being ‘mummy’ during the holidays.

2. My brother’s home! After seven long seven years away my wonderful younger sibling has now returned. It’s been really special getting the chance to catch up in the flesh and having him spend some time with his nieces. They adore their ‘Uncle Dan’ and as a wondering spirit, no matter how far away he may again go, we’ll always treasure the bond we have.

3. My amazing husband returned home with delicious chocolates on our third ‘monthiversary’ this week! We were lucky enough to have had a beautiful summer wedding in July and it still feels as though we are on that same high we felt many weeks ago. He’s a very special man, I have a feeling his name will be making regular appearances on my #reasonsforbeinghappy list.

#reasonsforbeinghappy from around the globe:

@JessLMontgomery:

getting to spend some quality time with old friends this weekend #reasonsforbeinghappy

@_SugarRose_:

spending the day decorating cakes and working on marshmallow recipes- veggie option too! #reasonsforbeinghappy

Amy of Amy Loves:

#reasonsforbeinghappy – I’m surrounded by love & support, every single day which makes me very happy x

Did your #reasonsforbeinghappy appear this week? Thank you for sharing with us and spreading the joy!

From the most dazzling sunrise, the bluebells in Spring or reading bedtime stories with your children, showing gratitude; taking stock of how lucky we really are, is a one-way street to wellness, enlightenment and most of all, happiness. So tell me, what are your most precious #reasonsforbeinghappy this week? Please share your lists below, with as many reasons as you like, and spread the gratitude!

Jaime x

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Pondering the Point

I recently spent the night sleeping under the stars. No tent, no yurt, no canvas teepee strung up with lights. Just a friend and blankets and a balmy night. It’s the small things that change us, that open up doors and give us vision, an ability to see things we largely would have missed before. This experience is one of the things that inspired this post.

We humans are as cruel to ourselves, as we are to each other in this money and materials driven society we have built around ourselves. Like an overbearing, mass, clipped-wing our daily lives have become the zoo of the human world. We seem unable to fathom the extent of our plight, and are therefore akin to the trained animals of the circus the good ones among us may fight for; motivated by regular, insignificant treats and comforted by flat-pack shelter, packaged food and meaningless rules. We are terrified of change, of different, and of running away from the society that keeps us. We keep our eyes on her. Updating, buying, spending, judging; flitting between each empty charade like a chained-up bear, fearful of the whip.

There are many routines, rules and trends that we take part in but don’t necessarily agree with, but why do we do it? What exactly are we signing up for and why aren’t we living now? This life feels real but we spend hours of it frozen in front of meaningless television, we buy food wrapped in plastic, so disguised from its original form that we could not attempt to tell you exactly what it is that we are putting into our bodies. We visit zoos and sea life centres to teach our children about animals; they in turn become comfortable with cages and keepers for habitats. We forget we are animals too, we deny it so much we literally cleanse the natural world away; landscaping the wild, lest it remind us of our true form. Our true home. We live within concrete and plastic, keep pets but eat meat and have never spent a night sleeping unsheltered under the stars.

Strip it back, find you and change your world.

Jaime x

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Yoga and Meditation at Home

There is nothing better than expert advice and support from your local yogi or meditation group, but how are we to improve and develop our practice if we don’t expand on things at home? The truth is, it can be extraordinarily difficult to practise yoga and mediation at home, particularly if you have a busy job and/or family life. As a bit of a newbie, full time teacher and mother of two, I have myself become stumped, when trying to recall my favourite yoga combination a day or two after class. As for meditation; I would spend the entire 10 minutes or so asking myself rhetorically when time was up, or replaying the days events or simply fidgeting and readjusting my position with every twinge or niggle. I just could not achieve mental quiet on my own; in fact at times, the more quiet and still the environment, the more alone I was, the louder my inner thoughts became; I just couldn’t find stillness. This is the most bizarre juxtaposition but it’s more common than you’d think.

There are a myriad of home yoga and meditation apps for desperate beginners to download and use at will but are they any good? I feel as though I have tried them all, but here are reviews of my two current faves: Yoga Studio and Pranayama – Universal Breathing.

Yoga Studio £2.99

This app has been the answer to my at-home yoga dreams! Yes it costs a bit more than the typical £0.69 download but for a couple of pounds you are getting a fantastic resource absolutely brimming with poses, combinations and ready-made classes that you can download and play at your leisure. The poses are demonstrated by a single, simply-adorned female yogi with pleasant calming music accompanying each video, and a voice to guide you through the routine. You can use the pre-set classes or be creative and make your own – perhaps inspired by new poses learned at your recent yoga class. This app will help you to remember and recall those poses in order to practice them properly at home. To enhance this creative process even further, the app can automatically provide ‘linking’ poses to help you move fluidly from one pose to the next – they really have considered everything. One of the best features of Yoga Studio is that once you have downloaded your favourite classes, you can play them anywhere, no wi-fi connection required. Yoga in the park anyone? I am incredibly impressed with this modern, sleek, easy-to-use app, which has transformed my yoga and shaped the way in which I can develop my practice at home.

Pranayama – Universal Breathing £4.99

Before you run away screaming at the price tag, I know, it’s pretty expensive. I have actually only just downloaded the full app at this price, as the free version is just so brilliant in itself and absolutely perfect for beginners. For those unsure, pranayama, universal or diaphragmatic breathing, is simply the art of breathing fully, inhaling deeply, filling your lungs to capacity and releasing the waste air slowly. More expert modifications include sustaining and/or retaining this air between in/exhalations. There are a few key tips to remember when practising your diaphragmatic breathing at home (or anywhere!)

– sit or stand comfortably, relax your shoulders and focus on your lower tummy area; your diaphragm should move out and in quite noticeably as you inhale and exhale deeply.

– it’s not the amount of breaths, but the ratio! Even if you start small I.e. Two breaths in four breaths out, the key is to breathe out for much longer than your breathe in. The perfect ratio for optimum benefit and relaxation is 7:11. I.e. 7 counts in, 11 counts out.

– unless otherwise directed, always perform this kind of breathing through your nose.

The Pranayama app completely guides you visually and aurally through this process and keep count for you, as well as accompanying the exercise with pleasant music. There are lots of different ‘themes’ to choose from for this background music depending on your mood, but I tend to stick with the classic option which I find really soothing. I have also found this practice a real antidote to my early meditation problems and I can now apply the restorative breathing techniques, especially when needing a tool to focus or relax. A must-have tool for any budding yogi or meditation newbie.

Download them here; Yoga Studio, Pranayama – Universal Breathing (free version)

Photo credit: yoganonymous.com

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