Aug 01 2016

Yoga @ The Fringe


Welcome to the Edinburgh Fringe 2016! Another year of hope and hustle. Keep your cool, re-energise, hide away and close your eyes for an hour a day….Yoga @ The Fringe offers a daily morning class 9-10am during August 6-25 at Venue 201, T (Tank) Bar, 235 Cowgate. Right in the heart of the city! Breathe to banish stage fright, stretch to re-engergise and release tension with a deep relaxation; all giving you the stamina to last the month of August. Mats are provided. Please book beforehand, but drop ins welcome if there’s space. Call Lisa on 07429 540849 or through holyroodyoga@gmail.com.                         Take an hour to smell the flowers   Come and try some Sivananda Yoga postures to re-energise and give yourself some stamina and peace

Nov 26 2014

INSTRUCTIONS FOR LIFE – A FRIEND’S CARING WORDS


          INSTRUCTIONS FOR LIFE     I’d like to share with you a potted version of emails from a very wise and wonderful friend, who guided me out of a crisis from across the other side of the world. I hope you might find it as helpful as I did. In order to stay alive and stay sane…every day..   THE BASICS BREATHE deeply and slowly and get some fresh air every day. DRINK plenty of pure water. EAT fresh live food – no dead industrial crap. Every day. Fresh organic veggies & fruit (not juice!), whole grains, beans, nuts & seeds, avocado – at the very least – very little sugar and salt and minimise the poisonous ethanol. You NEED this. To get anywhere. And SLEEP. Good sleep. Enough sleep. MOVE – lots of quick walks – or run if you can – or do plenty of good, low impact stuff, like yoga or swimming – anything that gets the blood going, outside as much as possible. PEOPLE Connect / reach out to other people in whatever way you can. POSITIVITY Write 3 positive things you are grateful for every day in a notebook. (This is crucial) Catch the inner chatter – take note when it is negative / self blame etc – and correct it – you wouldn’t talk to your baby like that or anyone else – or expect anyone to talk to you like that – so don’t do it to yourself… Reprogram the thought to the positive in any way at all -small and big – it all matters. Include a random act of kindness to others (just an appreciative email or a smile to a stranger or anything).   OK, once the basics are taken care of, I think the next mission (the self image etc.) will seem a LOT easier. And will start really working. Then everything else will fall into place.   BEING PRESENT   However, accept that it’s fine to cry – flow through the pain – a big delicious painful part of life is misery – if you’re not crying and in pain – then you’re not pushing yourself enough to have a better life and what the hell are you on this Earth for? People who climb Everest – you think they don’t expect pain and the feeling they are going to die? We are human beings and we do amazing things – that what we’re here for … a slug would do the same if she had the chance to take such control of her life.   Do not feel terrible FOR anyone – just feel terrible that life is so painful – but do NOT feel terrible like as in “guilty” – that is religious fucked up control shit. You are a shining light – an example and an inspiration to your others in taking control of life and making big moves to a higher ground. Even if it takes a while for people to see that – to get it – know that they definitely will – you have to be patient and KNOW that YOU are on your path and don’t expect anything from them – or anyone – just be. One of the keys to happiness is managing expectations.   CLEAR BOUNDARIES   Don’t feel guilty about setting clear boundaries and begin to make concessions because you feel bad – like ‘oh well, yeah, ok, I didn’t really mean it, you can come back and try this or try that or stay till this or that’ – NO!. Creating a boundary sends a signal that means start dealing with it! A clear boundary will help the other person kickstart the journey they need to go on. Anything else is just selfish crap to protect yourself from guilt or fear or general bad feelings.   FOCUSING ON LOVE   Keep catching yourself when you think or act based on a FEAR… think of and ACT on LOVE. All in life is either Fear or Love. LOVE OF YOURSELF AND OTHERS.   Simple meditation (even 3 minutes of closed eyes, silently repeating a word so you don’t think of anything else – or look towards the sunrise and count breaths or whatever just to give your mind a break) – By stopping thinking we can allow ourselves to see the truth.   Watch out when you use words to box yourself in unnecessarily. Stick with the hard work of training yourself to see the greatness of reality, including how the past does not have to shape your future. How today goes and tomorrow will be is all comes down to decisions and training. Your heart can and will be as open as it ever was – maybe even more so!! Throw off those shackles !!! And watch your words – they are powerful weapons we all wield unlicensed, often with highly destructive results. And about the bad stuff… Just remember it’s all about YOU – how can you think, feel, and be better in the situation; better, more compassionate, more centered, more objective, more loving of yourself which translates to compassion for others. It’s super hard; the central challenge for life itself. Notice and adjust one’s self only, rather than be hurt or shocked or freaked by others. So hard I know, but beyond simple, practical, self-protective actions like making sure whatever necessary barriers are in place against danger and harm, there only remains this self-focus, self-work, which leads to compassion and ultimately saves the day….   Obvious I know, but that’s what friends are for I guess, repeating the obvious, over and over…   And so, now I’m passing on his words, with gratitude and love.        

Oct 11 2013

Feel the fear and come to class anyway


I’m really looking forward to welcoming some new, curious students at my upcoming beginners’ workshops over the next two weekends. St.Margaret’s House in Meadowbank is having an Open Week from the 12-21 October and it’s great fun to be part of all the amazing activities including art exhibitions,  crafts, music and dance that are going to be on display to the general public. I am always amazed how a forbidding ugly looking building like this hides a buzzing hub of colour and creativity on the inside. 6 floors of artists’ studios, art exhibitions, theatre, Zumba, belly dance, burlesque, judo, massage, self-help groups,  craft workshops etc. etc. The variety of activities on offer seem to be growing all the time. I’m happy to be getting enquiries from people who openly admit to being nervous and intimidated by coming to a class. When I first went to meditation lessons in a group I felt exactly the same way but wouldn’t dream of admitting it to anyone. I wanted to do everything perfectly, and was ashamed about not being able to relax! Needless to say, it didn’t help much. I almost quit as the anxiety I felt about ‘not being able to relax fully’ was getting too much for me. I’d created this whole idea about who I thought I ‘should’ be, and be able to do and it took an honest conversation with a friend to let go of the idea and give it another go. Learning to accept whatever I felt meant that I wasn’t ashamed of it, or fighting it, or wanting it to be any different from exploring and noticing what was there, without any judgement. It took a few years to really start to understand how this works. Accepting it is not the same as not wanting to progress or to give up trying. You hear this again and again from spiritual teachers – it is only by accepting where you are at that you can begin to change it. It is a seeming paradox that I struggled with for a long time. What on earth were they talking about? Acceptance can only happen when you extend a sense of kindness and compassion to yourself. When you accept something – a feeling, a thought that you have – then you can allow yourself to experience it without creating a wall of resistance, denial or avoidance. And then it goes away. As one of my first meditation teachers used to say, likening your endless stream of ever so important thoughts, one incessantly leading to another, to noisy cats; ‘don’t feed the cats just because they are miaowing, as they will just come around and miaow some more. That is not the way to quieten them down. Ignore them enough and they will learn to go away’. So it is in this spirit that I welcome all newcomers to my beginners’ workshops this and next weekend in Studio 6.17 at 12-1 on both Saturdays and Sundays. I welcome you to an atmosphere that is free of judgement, competitiveness or stress. This is about learning to manage your stress as we all get stressed. This is about treating yourself well, as we all need to treat ourselves well. This is about starting to understand your habits and your self-concepts. This is about quietening down enough to notice what is there inside your mind and body. And if you find your body doesn’t do what you want it to do, or what you think it should do, and if during relaxation your mind is like a busy intersection of thoughts with horns blaring and drivers with road rage, or a very very long, frustrating traffic jam, that’s OK too. We’ve all been there. Or your thoughts might seem like miaows from a cute but annoying little cat that is begging for attention, because every time it miaows you reward it with attention or food. It will live if you ignore it for a bit. And become much less annoying. If you don’t know what on earth I’m talking about now, trust me. Just show up on the mat enough times, and you will. Eventually. How ever long that takes.

Feb 09 2013

Return of the Light – a toast to Imbolc!


Light is returning. As most of us brush off our Christmas and New Year indulgence and sloth, and reluctantly struggle not just to fit into our work clothes, but our slower selves into industrial rhythms again, it’s good to feel even a gentle ray of sunshine on the old face once more. So many people I’ve been speaking to, as well as myself,  look back on 2012 as a year of massive upheaval and change in all sorts of unexpected ways. There’s a lot of hope that 2013 is going to be better. 2012 was quite a roller-coaster for me, to say the least, so this year the focus is on developing inner happiness, stability, acceptance of the good and bad in life and my own being..all of which dedication to a regular yoga practice conveniently helps with! A visitor to Edinburgh from Seattle suggested that 2013 would be a year of cleansing. I need to remember this every day. I arrived back in the UK with just one suitcase, having shed all other possessions, so it’s scary to see how quickly the clutter is accumulating again. One day perhaps, I might be like Gandhi or Einstein and not be like a magpie collecting shiny little objects for my nest, that will just clutter my house and my brain all over again. Cleansing negative and self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviours would be good too, but that takes more patience and persistence..and faith that it’s both possible and worth doing. Cleansing of course, is a natural inclination after the Christmas period. It’s great when you naturally reach for a piece of broccoli because you actually prefer it to some foul radioactive-looking sweet left over from a child’s stocking!   The ancient festival of Imbolc (pr.Imolc)  just came around on February 1st-2nd. Most people have never heard of it – its memory has been overshadowed by the equally ancient festivals of Yule and Hallowe’en. The poor forgotten Imbolc is also a special time, where traditionally people began to welcome the return of the light after the darkness of winter. It’s a time when the cold earth becomes warmer and more pliable. Those of you who’ve seen the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray might know that there is a vestige of this celebration left in North America. It may have been influenced by traditions  from Ireland and Scotland, as well as Germany, as the traditions here lasted longer than in most places. In Ireland, Imbolc became incorporated into the Christian celebration of St.Brighid’s Day, where girls made a ‘biddy’, an effigy of St.Brighid to parade around houses in the community, and receive food from families. In the Highlands of Scotland, the young women of the community went around with a figurine, collected food from all the homes with which to hold an all-night extravaganza of feasting, singing and dancing. Exactly what you need to get you through a potentially grim February. Just like with Groundhog Day, Gaelic legend has it that if Imbolc is sunny the winter’s going to last a while..it was a beautiful day, so we’ll see! My son is still longing to play in ‘proper snow’, so maybe he had a quiet word with the Cailleach, the divine hag of Gaelic tradition…who becomes reborn into the young maiden at this time of year, and will try anything to make her winter last as long as possible…to make sure it was sunny on the 2nd February. By this time, hopefully we are all becoming more outward facing, optimistic and productive. Here’s an old Candlemas carol that expresses this tradition: Christmas hath made an end,              Well-a-day! well-a-day!               Which was my dearest friend,               More is the pity!               For with an heavy heart               Must I from thee depart,               To follow plough and cart               All the year after.   The message is “hold on, there is hope…the bitter days of winter are near their end..” A wonderful article in the Huffington Post brings this idea of hope to a personal, psychological issues. Here’s the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/teo-bishop/imbolc-2013-faith-made-of-fire_b_2591318.html It was the perfect day to hold my first workshop in Scotland, with the help of my yoga student and friend, Marge Mather, who is a long-time mindfulness meditation student and teacher. We had a small group, but, in the way that these things tend to naturally go, there were many points of connection between the participants which boosted the general feeling of well-being. Apparently Imbolc is a traditional ‘women’s day’ amongst Wiccans, and the time for initiations into groups for spiritual practice.  Everyone gracefully excused my slightly croaky voice delivering the opening chant – thanks, ladies – the chant that I never have time to do in a normal class.  Some of you might be glad of the usual time restraint! We could actually feel the rays of sunshine on our skin as we performed the Surya Namaskar (Salute to the Sun). After yoga class, we had a tea break; once we’d shared our Yogi Tea amongst us in delicate china cups we were ready to hear about the importance of mindfulness in our everyday life – from remembering to lock the front door in the morning to noticing our incessant flow of thoughts without judgement. Marge led us through two meditations, which everyone related to in personal ways and found very useful,including me. Thanks, Marge! We just had time to chat briefly about the 8 limbs of yoga, beginning with yamas (the moral restraints of non-violence, truthfulness in word, thought and deed, non-stealing, moderation in all things, and non-possessiveness) and niyamas (the positive qualities of purity, contentment, austerity, study of sacred or inspiring texts, and living with an awareness of the Divine, in what ever personal form that takes) which form the basis of a yogic lifestyle. None of these things are easy to follow to the letter: but rather than letting them seem like a looming set of burdens impossible to achieve; rather remember they’re a result of thousands of years of  trial and error, intuition and accumulated wisdom in facing the perennial human condition. They’ve been handed down to use – like an intricate map of a well-trodden path towards peace and happiness. The joy of it is that any small, sincere effort towards any of them reaps massive rewards. Lunch was delicious – thanks to Jon and Rachel and staff at Just the Ticket. Everything was cooked along yogic nutritional guidelines – vegetarian and well-balanced – to aid one’s yoga practice and physical and emotional equilibrium. We had corn bread with split pea soup, and a wonderful array of rice and salads; topped off with incredibly moist carrot cake with herbal tea. Everyone was slightly reluctant to leave, I think – so we’re going to do it again on the 2nd March. Come along, and bring a friend to add to the amazing mix of personalities and nationalities whom I’ve been privileged to meet and teach since my arrival in Edinburgh… Namaste Lisa

Dec 28 2011

‘Mary waits’ – the light in the darkness


Having been spared a vicious start to our first winter in Scotland, my husband claims he’s the one who’s brought freakishly warm weather over from the Caribbean with him. Today, I’m looking out onto a gloomy, typically rainy day interspersed with alarming gusts of wind (in the Caribbean we associate this with a hideously destructive hurricane fast on its way) which has spared the children a long, bracing walk in the park, a fact which they are delighted about. I suppose this is what Scots call ‘dreich’, a wonderful new word to me, and wonderfully descriptive of this Edinburgh weather. On Christmas morning, I allowed myself a rare moment of ‘cloud- watching’ in the vaguely blue sky through the window, pretending that I was still asleep. I quietly smiled at the background sounds of thumping between rooms, wrapping paper being uncaringly ripped, and early morning sweets surreptitiously consumed. The clouds sped by, rapidly changing their hue, each with a tinge of golden pink sourced from the late sunrise.  My sun salutation that morning was one of simple gratitude for the beauty of the sky, while lying under the warm duvet. As my worry about whether the children had enough presents this year evaporated into joy at us being alive and being together, I knew why I’d had to insist we live in a flat with a view of the park. 3 days before, on the 22nd, our 7 year old son had woken up relieved, saying ‘Phew, the longest night is over!!’ I had assured him that he wouldn’t always have to get up in what felt like the middle of the night, and walk up a hill dressed in more layers than he knew existed, to be left in an alien building and made to line up in queues with noisy strangers.  Of course, he’d be doing all of that from now on, but at least eventually leaving the house in daylight, and find that those slightly intimidating children with new accents in the line up had become good pals.  The 21st of December, though always a time for shedding negativity and destructive attitudes, this year’s solstice was supposed to be energetically much stronger than usual, and the whole transformative energy of the Winter Solstice was going to be lasting 3 whole days. I did indeed have a very fruitful and connected meditation in the evening of the 24th. I wasn’t about to let that pass me by, even though I nearly missed it! I have to thank Michael Winn and his newsletter/blog on www.healingtaousa.com that he sent me for alerting me to this fact; this time written with his new bride-to-be, Jen for inspiration about this time of year, and the value of trust, patience and trusting your own feelings and vision. I think if you ask most people they will tell you that in 2011 they have had a tumultuous year with a great deal of instability and insecurity, lots of movement and restlessness, often fraught with anxiety as change announces itself. I have scoffed at various warnings about 2012, and reassured two anxious children that the world is not about to blow up and cease to exist, but I do understand on a gut-level that this year has already begun a process of radical change in readiness for next year, in terms of new thoughts and beliefs of how we want to govern ourselves politically and economically, and also how we deal with money, equity and sustainable living. It certainly seems to be a time where all the cards in the pack are being thrown up in the air, and we are waiting to see how they are going to land. It is also time for us to figure out individually and collectively how we want things to be from now on, and try to guide the process firmly but kindly. I would also like to thank Lorna Brown for her beautifully-inspired painting of a pregnant Madonna. Lorna is an Edinburgh-based artist who kindly invited me to the viewing of her work along with delicious drinks in her elegant home one evening after I had babysat her two lovely children.  One painting she had done immediately resonated with me and its message (for me, anyway) has since stayed in my consciousness. It was called ‘Mary waits’ and it was a dark indigo painting, with the subtle impression of Mary sitting cross-legged, with a swollen pregnant belly, waiting to give birth. It was something I have never given much thought to, seeing how the emphasis is always on the end result of Jesus in the modern tradition of this Christian festival.  It reminds me of the fact that in West Africa it’s not the person who was actually born who receives the presents and the fuss on a birthday, but it’s the mother of the child – the one who actually made/let it all happen through a lot of patience and a lot of pain. Sometimes we are too eager to see change, and anxious for results, without being willing to go through the necessary growth through pain.  I think it is the faith that something better will come from the pain, and even the belief in a vision of a better future, is the key to allowing ourselves to go through letting ourselves embrace sorrow, grief, pain in order to let it go and move on in what ever way is best.  ‘Mary waits’ reminded me of why I enjoy the symbolism of Christmas, even though I am not a practicing Christian in a traditional sense. I really love the idea of the Madonna (Isis) bringing forth the Christ child; reminding us that allowing the nurturing side of ourselves and having unconditional love for ourselves is necessary for us to bring forth the light; our best qualities; our higher consciousness, if you like. Remembering that in the depth of winter, and during the longest nights, it’s the sitting quietly, patiently, trusting, being faithful, listening to our inner voice that speaks so clearly if we let it; that these things will help us to follow our true path and allow us bloom again when Spring comes. When we are too eager to see change, we make our New Year’s resolutions with a sense of unkindness towards ourselves; that we’ve passed another year not doing what we would like to do, and doing things that sabotage our health and our happiness. What has happened to the way you make New Year’s resolutions over the years? Do you, like most people, start with gusto (way too much to sustain) and then fall off after about 3 weeks, laugh in a slightly guilty way, and by Spring time have totally forgotten what resolutions you even made? Maybe you despair of your power to create any meaningful and lasting change? If you ever made them, have you stopped bothering at all ? This year I know I need to focus on quite a few things; the main one being the cultivation of patience (which I thought I had, but realize I have a long way to go) and while we’re on the subject – the discipline to finish things that I start with a careful focus and following up of all the important details; the courage to tackle things I find unpleasant and normally avoid as long as I can get away with it; developing a strong core, both physically and emotionally; and allowing myself to fast (and simultaneously rest) on a regular basis – in order to recharge without any feelings of either guilt or deprivation (which are of course both sides of the same coin).  The Sivananda yoga tradition encourages you to take a positive quality of character each month and actively develop it. Think I’ll start with patience.  Patience and passion share the same root word ‘pati’ which means ‘to suffer’. Sometimes we need to suffer during the birth process, with faith in the resulting joy.  Since I’ve written this, by the way, the sun has come out!

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