How I Escaped My iPhone For 3 Whole Days

By accident, that’s how. I left my wall charger in Hermanus on a recent weekend away and then The Band took my car charger with him to Afrikaburn. And it has been the most wonderful accident, learning experience and eye-opener.

Day one was just a huge adjustment – it felt as if I was walking around without my knickers on. It was half fun and half filled with anxiety – I kept having these happy moments when I realised that I hadn’t checked my phone for hours, followed by a sense of ‘what if I’m missing out on Stuff and don’t even know about it’ anxiety.

Day two was my chance to go out and buy a charger – I got to the fabulous Buro store in Stellenbosch (go there if you ever want amazing, personalized service – they never cease to impress me) and it was closed, since it was Workers’ Day, which I had forgotten about. I was surprised that I felt really relieved to see the doors locked and the sign telling me to return the following day. It felt like someone had just given me an extra day’s holiday. And by now I was really relishing the silence and the fact that I was solely responsible for what information I was consuming – and when. I had completely lost that feeling that perhaps someone was trying to reach me and getting offended that I wasn’t responding. My dearest friends know that I sometimes need to go underground and that it’s nothing personal. And since I had both my kids with me all the time and The Band was without signal of his own in the desert, I realised that there was no need for me to feel any obligation or need to be available at all.

Late afternoon on day three saw me returning to Buro and purchasing a charger. I arrived as they were locking up for the day but being the awesome people that they are, they ushered me in and allowed me to make a quick purchase. I plugged in as soon as I got home and have just switched on my phone to find the following waiting to be consumed by unsuspecting old me, either on Twitter, Facebook or by email:

  • The One Thing You Should Be Doing For A Bloat-Free Belly
  • 6 Reasons To Start Using Coconut Oil As Toothpaste
  • Drinking enough water is vital to good health & when you do is just as NB
  • The 6 Mental Steps I Took to Manifest A 6-Figure Salary
  • 3 Ancient Ayurvedic Rituals To Rock Your Mornings
  • Here’s what gluten really does to your food
  • 10 Ways Moms Can Balance Home and Family
  • Seven tips for purposeful parenting
  • 5 Prenatal Yoga Moves Every Mama-To-Be Should Try
  • How to Overcome Anxiety and Depression Without Medications

It’s pretty clear from the headings what sort of newsletter I subscribe to, what pages I like and who I follow on Twitter: things that are supposed to uplift, inform and empower me; things that are specifically designed to help me reach my full potential – as a working mother, a yogi, a woman, someone who has to continually watch myself to make sure that my emotions are in check (more about that in another post) so that I can maintain my balance… as a human being on this planet. And when I saw all these things waiting for me, instead of feeling supported, I felt a cold, small but vice-like hand of panic tightening around my heart. I felt my breath becoming instantly sharper and shallower, and I realised why I have been feeling so relaxed the past few days: I have been in control of my thoughts and my feelings. I have been entirely able to dictate what information I consume, when. I have not had to second-guess what I have been doing, thinking, eating, wearing, cooking, or how I’ve been disciplining or what I’ve been feeding my children, not for one second. I had eaten my morning oats with gusto and no concern about the ghastliness of gluten; I have let my kids have what we call ‘piggy night’ last night because I just did not feel like going through the rigmarole and soap opera that is bathtime can be at times; I have used normal toothpaste and I have washed my bath out with Handy Andy (gasp) because I ran out of my natural cleaning products and just did not feel like driving to the shops to buy more. I have read actual books – fiction, not self-help – and I have been a total rebel and slept for 11 hours one night and for 7 the next because I was excited about clearing out my linen cupboard and didn’t want to go to bed until it was done.

And I have felt happy about it!

It has been interesting for me to see the amount of pressure I allow these sites to exert on me. How sensitive and suggestible I am in terms of feeling that I could / should be doing (everything) better. How I really am a work in progress when it comes to being more gentle on myself and not doubting myself. How you really don’t miss out on anything unmissable if you are out of radio silence for a while.

Moving forward: I am going to unsubscribe from a bunch of these newsletters; I am going to unfollow a whole flock of tweeters and I am going to unlike a horde of Facebook pages so that I have fewer sources of unsolicited advice waiting to ambush me every time I log in / on. And I am officially banning my phone from my bedroom in the evenings. It is going to charge in the kitchen while I sleep and I am going to use my old-fashioned alarm clock to wake me up.

So my love-hate affair with my phone continues, but I look forward to this continued awareness and taking control of its dominance in my life. Give it a try – switch yours off for a weekend and see how you feel, and let me know!

“How do I know when I’m getting better at yoga?”

This is something that I am asked fairly regularly by people that come to my little Stellenbosch yoga studio. Another question is: ‘How often should I practice ideally, in order to get the maximum benefits?’

There is no one or simple answer to either of those questions, and they are both worth asking. At the risk of being one of those annoying people who doesn’t give a straight answer but rather launches into a long-winded anecdote, allow me to tell you a quick little story…

I took a few days off work (my day job, not teaching) this week so I could go with my family to the gorgeous coastal town of Hermanus for a short break. It was such a treat to give my kids the undivided attention that they deserve and thrive upon, and I specifically didn’t take my laptop with me because I felt I needed to switch off and relax and recharge after a couple of pressurised weeks in the office . I was introduced to a lovely little studio in Hermanus called Yoga Heart by my dear friend and fellow teacher Leli Hoch a few years back and whenever I am nearby, I make a point of dropping in for a class. So, I was extremely excited about fitting in a ‘still’ class yesterday morning, at 10.30am on Wednesday. I elected to walk along the magical cliff path, my favourite thing about the town, rather than drive, and ended up hopelessly underestimating how long it would take me to get to the studio – I would have been almost half an hour late.

And this is where the answer to the above question started becoming clear: although I was initially annoyed with myself – really pissed off actually – at having got my planning so badly wrong, swiftly followed by a real sense of disappointment at the fact that I was going to miss my class that I had looked forward to for a while, both those feelings were gently wiped away by a real, deep-seated sense of ‘oh well, that clearly wasn’t meant to be; I guess that means I’m supposed to be doing something else then’. And to cut a long story short, I ended up finding a lovely secluded bench along the path where I rolled out my mat and did some fabulous breath work and meditation instead.

It was one of those really lovely moments where I really, genuinely felt that I have made progress in my yoga practice. At a time that I’ve been pulled away from my mat a lot, what with work pressures and family commitments, and through which I’ve been aware of a little voice in the back of my mind nattering on about how long it’s been since I tried out a new arm balance, for example, or why I haven’t taught a workshop for a while, or why I’m not meditating for as long as I would like to each day, it was almost a relief that find that I actually have come to a place – after all these years of practicing yoga – where I am finding a growing flexibility. And I’m referring to a flexibility in my mind and heart, rather than my body.

I am a bit of a control freak. I like things to work out, especially when I have taken time to plan well. I have often felt that people who say ‘it wasn’t meant to be’ are subtly making excuses for not having got out of bed early enough or who are just sugar-coating real disappointments because that’s what they think that they should do or say. And sometimes I need to think carefully when I find myself saying yogic cliches, like ‘everything happens for a reason’ (I say that a lot) as to whether I really think that or if it’s just another platitude. So, it was a wonderful, liberating, uplifting and reassuring feeling to find that I really didn’t mind missing the class after all. And that I didn’t beat myself up about not making the class. And that I really, genuinely, felt in my heart of hearts that I was supposed to be on the cliff path on my own rather than in a studio with a bunch of other people.

So, I guess the short answer to the question is you know you’re getting better at yoga when not just your body but your mind starts showing distinct signs of increased flexibility. The ability to go with the flow. When you find that you are having a real shift away from the negative ways and thoughts and habits that hold you back and keep you trapped. They can be big or small. They can change. I’ve been practicing yoga for almost twenty years and this is the first time I’ve really felt this particular shift. Made the entire trip to Hermanus worthwhile.

As for the question about the ideal amount that one should practice, I’ve always said that it’s whatever you can manage. Some folk say you should aim for at least 2 classes a week… I say that there’s no point in stressing yourself about getting to a class if it’s not working in your life. Do as much as you can, but by that I don’t mean as many classes a week as you can: just do whatever you can – even 5 minutes a day is good (my go-to home pose is Cat Cow) so that it’s a pleasure in your life and not a chore. If it works for you, you will probably find that you start gravitating towards making more time for yoga in your life. If it doesn’t work for you, don’t force it – but that’s probably a good indicator that there’s something that you may want to have a little look at, to figure out why there is resistance towards getting on your mat. We all have it sometimes. Nothing to freak out about, just a little flag that pokes up and says ‘hey, you may want take a deeper look at this’…

More about that in my next post!

My Highlight of 2012: a 5 day Silent Retreat at Bodhi Khaya

I was fortunate enough to secure a last-minute space on the long-weekend silent retreat that Sue Cooper facilitated at the beautiful Bodhi Khaya in the run-up to Christmas, and it has got to rank up there as my number one experience of last year.

2012 was a year of huge change and upheaval for me, on many different levels, what with moving house twice, the loss of my very precious Granny, and a number of other personal challenges. So when I read about this retreat, entitled ‘Finding Balance in the Midst of Change’, I leapt at the opportunity to attend – even though it was just a week before it was due to run. Sue very gently let me know that it had been booked out for months already, but assured me that she’d get in touch if there was a cancellation. I can’t recall the last time I put as much energy into willing something to happen as I did that week, and with just days to go, I got the beautiful phone call to tell me that there had indeed been a cancellation, and I’d better pack my bags.

I’ve attended a semi-silent retreat before, with Cheryl Lancellas of SA Yoga Safaris at the Blue Butterfly Resort in Tulbagh (with my yoga besties, Nicole Shea and Leli Hoch) but never anything as intense as this promised to be, so there was an element of apprehension as the time drew closer, however this was replaced by a huge sense of relief, gratitude and curiosity as the day dawned. As I took the turn-off to Bodhi Khaya, between Gansbaai and Stanford, it struck me that this was exactly the road on which our very special family friends, the Harrods, used to own a farm called Grootbos (next door to what is now a game reserve by the same name), and as I drove into the actual gates of Bodhi Khaya, I realised that this was, indeed, the farm that the Harrods had owned a number of years back. It was an emotional realisation and led to an overwhelming feeling of coming home, of belonging, of being safe, and of being exactly where I was supposed to be. The last time I’d been on the farm was around 1998 or 1999, just before I left to go to London, and yet it felt like yesterday. At the time, I was in the process of getting over a very painful breakup, and I remember how the peace, quiet and beauty of the farm and its surrounds were like a balm to my raw emotions. And here I was again, feeling decidedly delicate, and once again almost felt that my breath was taken away by the natural beauty of the place.

The retreat was the most amazing, uplifting, healing and enlightening experience that I have ever had. The silence was simultaneously challenging and beautiful, and I honestly have never been in a place that appealed to my senses on so many levels and in such an intense manner. The crisp white bed linen, the green of the trees, the flavours and textures of the exquisite food that we were presented with each day, the blue of the sky, the silky feeling of the water in the two mountain ponds, the pinks of the water lilies, the breeze on my skin as we did Chi Kung under the swaying trees, the smell of the incense as we sat down to each of the many meditation sessions that took place each day, the sensation of the grass crunching underfoot as I walked to the horses’ paddock and the roughness of the path as I walked the labyrinth, the feeling of my yoga mat underfoot as I practiced every day, the sound of the chickens clucking as I lay on my back looking up at the clouds in the day and the sound of the night jars as I lay on my back looking up at the stars at night.. perhaps it was the silence that seemed to enhance everything about the long weekend. Whatever the reason, it was a tonic and a privilege to experience.

It wasn’t all sunshine and roses, of course – being alone with one’s self for such an extended period of time, and without all the usual distractions, means that you have no choice but to sit down with all the different emotions and issues that may arise, look them squarely in the eye, and figure out how it is that you are going to move forward embracing these things rather than trying to push them out of the way or pretend that they don’t exist. It was a safe and nurturing environment in which to do this, and I came away from it with a deep sense of peace and acceptance, as well as forgiveness – for others that I may have been harbouring anger and resentment towards for a long time, but specifically forgiveness for myself, for all the ‘wrong’ decisions and actions that I may have made and done in the past, and that I’m no doubt still going to make and do in the future. The theme may have been ‘finding balance in the midst of change’ but one of the biggest things that I got out of it was a rediscovery of what it feels like to be kind and compassionate towards myself. Sue, wonderful Sue, refers to ‘holding oneself in an embrace of compassionate awareness’, and this is something that I have carried with me every day since I got back.

On the last day, when we were permitted to talk again, I found that I just wasn’t ready for it. The chat seemed so noisy, so superficial, so intrusive. It took me a number of hours before I felt that I was ready to re-enter the ‘normal’ world, and to leave the magical playground of Bodhi Khaya / Grootbos behind, but of course life doesn’t stop – even though it did feel like a period of suspended reality – and now the on-going challenge is to attempt to maintain the same level of awareness, consciousness and mindfulness as I walk through my regular life. I have already signed up to go to Sue’s next silent retreat in the run-up to Christmas this year, and I cannot wait!

10 Easy Ways to Love Your Home Yoga Practice

From talking to my students at my yoga studio in Stellenbosch, I realise that many yogis are so daunted by the idea of cultivating a home practice that they simply don’t do it at all, rather waiting for their one or twice a week class at the studio, or in their minds they build it up to be an insurmountable task and feel so pressurised to get it ‘right’ at home that it becomes a slog rather than a pleasure, if and when they do actually get to it. It took me a long time before I really felt comfortable and at home in my home practice, and now I can’t imagine my life without it. Whether it’s a couple of rounds of Surya Namaskar in the morning before my kids wake up, a few cat/cow stretches before I go to sleep or a full hour of mindful movement, it’s what keeps me sane and centred.

So, it was a delight for me to find this lovely article by Cheryl Warrick. She puts it so clearly and concisely, and I just love her summary of how to fall in love with, and build upon, your home practice. Read on for inspiration and some simple tips…

You have a home yoga practice but, sometimes you worry that you are just not “doing it right.” Sound familiar?

I have great news for you.

There is no “right way” to practice yoga at home.

Each time you step on to your mat, you are opening a fresh inquiry into understanding and relating to your body, mind and spirit. Each day your body is different, so each practice is unique.

Here are ten ideas to help you practice at home with a sense of curiosity, playfulness and ease:

 

1. Set your intention.

Take the first few moments on your mat to settle into your body. Close your eyes. Draw your awareness inward and set an intention. An intention can be any simple and heart felt truth or desire you wish to manifest.

This practice helps you align with your higher self.

 

2. Ask yourself what you need from your yoga practice today.

Honour what your body and mind are asking for.

 

3. Keep it brief.

Sometimes we think we “should” practice for a full hour or more. Give yourself permission to practice just a few poses that you are comfortable with. Notice how it feels to do less instead of more.

 

4. Take your time.

Practice each pose slowly and mindfully. Become aware of your transitions between each pose. What do you notice between each pose?

 

5. Be gentle.

Notice if you have a tendency to be critical of yourself as you practice. Meet yourself where you are today and practice in the body you have right now. Can you extend compassion and acceptance toward yourself?

 

6. Practice gratitude.

Take a few moments in your practice to find something or someone to be grateful for.

Practicing gratitude helps boost your mood and helps anchor you in the present moment.

 

7. Pay attention.

Meet yourself with acceptance and non-judgement.

What do you notice about your body and your mind before you practice?

What shifted after yoga?

 

8. Journal.

Keep a small journal and pen next to your yoga mat.

After you practice make note of any insights from your practice.

 

9. Follow your breath.

The breath is a bridge that connects the body and mind.

Begin to notice how your breath feels as you move.

Gently anchoring your attention on the breath creates deeper awareness of the present moment.

Send the breath to any part of the body that feels stagnant or stuck.

 

10. Don’t forget Savasana (corpse pose).

Coming into a quiet resting posture at the end of your practice is one of the most important and most difficult poses.

The gift of non-doing allows your body to soak in all that you have done in your practice.

**

Keep your yoga practice going!

I’d love to know more about your home practice. What keeps you coming back to your mat? What do you struggle with?

Published November 1, 2012 at 9:20 AM

About Cheryl Warrick

Cheryl Warrick, M.Ed, RYT is a 200 hr. level certified yoga teacher, reiki practitioner, wellness coach and artist. She is the Director of Yoga Services for the Domar Center for Mind Body Health in Waltham, MA. Her passion is to inspire her students to discover and welcome a sense of curiosity, balance and ease in their yoga practice. To learn more about her go to www.cherylwarrickyoga.com .