Easter Bank Holiday

No classes on Easter bank Holiday 2021! Hope you’re all finding peaceful space to connect inwardly and outwardly as we transition into the new season and towards a new post-lockdown social landscape. Hopefully in-person classes will resume from May 17, I will update times and venues as soon as I have confirmation. Until then, it’s all on Zoom, full timetable resumes from Tuesday 6 April.

I’m booking now for therapeutic Thai massages from April 20th to help ease physical and mental states. Get in touch to book your session.
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In the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder, it’s hard not to be reactionary. This feels like an assault on all of us: our feelings of safety, our trust in the world as a kind and just place, protected by the systems of law and governance. It follows close in the wake of the broader post-George Floyd uprising of consciousness around systemic racial inequality. All against the backdrop of a global pandemic, post-Trump, post-Brexit, post-austerity… a series of destabilizing events that have been simultaneously divisive and unifying.

I’m working my way through Adam Curtis’s sprawling and intense Can’t Get You Out of my Head: An Emotional History of The World (Feb 2021, BBC iPlayer) which weaves a narrative through topics such as populism, the rise of individualism, collectivism, conspiracy theories and the corruption of money and power across the globe, from Nazi Germany through to Communist China. The outlook is unsurprisingly bleak and cringe-worthy for white liberals and radicals, shown throughout history to have little effect on the larger powers. It documents too the rise of surveillance technologies and the abuse of power, the layers of which are mind achingly labyrinthine.

Watching the series unfold offers a lens through which to try and make sense of our feelings about Sarah Everard. Illy Morrison writes insightfully at @mixing.up.motherhood (and she writes this compassionately, with the utmost care for Sarah’s grieving family, as do I) that this is how women of colour feel all the time. Under threat. Their children in danger from rather than protected by the police. We might all know Breonna Taylor’s name now but we have not all experienced how this is to exist in a constant state of adrenal arousal, the fear of real harm from the systems allegedly in place for our safety and wellbeing.

Illy explains: ‘Sarah was a cis white middle-class woman and I send all of my condolences to her family because this should never have happened to her, but I have to make it clear that for many Black women, we know that we couldn’t be Sarah because not even a year ago, police stood over the bodies of women like us and took photos to send to their friends, not even a year ago police ignored the suspicious death of a girl found dead on a beach that looked just like us
For many of us, this is why all of this cuts deeper.’

The UK government’s reaction to this is to impose tighter controls, following on from the heavy-handed policing of peaceful (and socially-distancing) women on vigils for Sarah around the country, BLM marches and Extinction Rebellion protests preceding and throughout lockdown. The news this morning includes plans for increased surveillance to ‘increase women’s safety’. What this means, in reality, is greater control, the demise of our civil rights and our ability to protest or defend them publicly.

In yogic terms, rooted in Buddhist philosophy, division is a cause of suffering. Identifying with a self or even a group, characterized by and separated from others, keeps us in a state of fear, anxiety and confusion. We cannot find peace when we are in this aroused state. Biologically the brain resorts to simplified mechanisms, primed for survival. We become more knee-jerk, reactionary.
We feel attacked by, suspicious of and fearful of others. We can feel lost in a sea of information, unable to find or trust any truth. This is characterised by the rise of individualism at the expense of collectivism that Curtis documents.

“The great big shift, which is the root of our age, is that somewhere in the late 1960s, the radical left who talked in terms of power, society, overthrowing the power structure – all that rhetoric – gave up. And instead, encouraged by radical psychotherapy, they went for an alternative idea which said, ‘Okay, if you can’t change the world, in terms of power structure, what you do is change yourself.’”

This reflects Carl Jung’s belief that world change would evolve through individual journeys of self-reflection and improvement. But surely we have to bring the individual experience back to the collective? We all have glimpses of this. From the murders of Sarah Evarard or Diamond ‘Kyree’ Sanders, the 23-year-old black trans woman murdered in Cincinnati on March 3, we are reminded of our collective field, we feel empathy. The same ripples of shock, horror, grief, sadness resonate through us all. When we witness emotion, the same signals fire within our own brains, we feel each other’s experience.

We can feel the same with positive emotions. The collective exhale when we are told we will be able to see our loved ones again after lockdown. The feeling we get when we practise yoga together as a group. Mudita is sympathetic joy, one of the Brahmaviharas, qualities to develop that lead to enlightenment on the Buddhist path.

John Stirk writes in Deeper Still: ‘A group with a unitive focus creates a local field of consciousness… Individual minds contribute to a group mind and collective mentality.’

In practice, the seeds of light – self-improvement, calming of the mind, relaxation, the care and acceptance of the body, the strengthening of the physical and emotional aspects of our being that we may experience on the mat – need to be brought to fruition through attitude and action. Bringing attention to our potential, our power to effect real-world change. This is the message from Curtis’s docu too – that rather than operating like a Google search, simply amassing and reacting to random date, that we take time to listen deeply and respond intelligently.

The documentary ends with a quote from anarchist anthropologist David Graeber: “The ultimate hidden truth of the world is that it is something we make and could just as easily make differently”.

The stories we construct, or are constructed for us through our conditioning, are just that: stories. We can observe their narratives unfold without attaching to them as absolute truth, knowing that there are innumerable intersecting truths at any one moment. Coming back, again and again, to the heart, the breath, a calmer, less dualistic state, through our meditative practises, that allow us to be more reponsive.

Right to Protest Action:
The government’s new Police Crime Bill will criminalise nearly all forms of effective protest. The second reading of the Bill is happening today.
The RIGHT TO PROTEST is the backbone of British democracy and it needs ? protecting ? now ?
ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE TODAY:
? Contact/ email/ tweet your MP today and ask them to speak out and vote against the bill.
– Find your MP here: https://www.parliament.uk/…/contact-an…/contact-your-mp/
– Example template letter: http://bit.ly/EmailTemplatePCSCBill
– If emailing, ensure to include your name and postcode so you can demonstrate you are one of their constituents
? You may also want to share Liberty’s briefing on the bill and its implications: https://www.libertyhumanrights.org.uk/…/protest…/
? Sign this petition to protect your freedom to protest: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/…/protect-the-freedom-to…
? Educate yourself about what is happening. More information is available here:
– Government website: https://www.gov.uk/…/police-crime-sentencing-and-courts…
– Guardian article: https://www.theguardian.com/…/new-anti-protest-bill…David Graeber

Mothers’ Day

Beyond the saccharine of the marketing. A day to celebrate humanity. Because, whatever our stories (and I’m guessing most of you, like me, have some complicated issues going back through time surrounding motherhood, as well as perhaps your own hang ups about your own status of motherhood) it’s a universal. We all came from a womb, a mother, who evolved from a mother, from a mother, and so on, back through time. At this point in time, we will only evolve forwards through time through mothers.
Regardless of the stories. The behaviours. The doubts. The ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of mothering styles, choices, means, techniques.
So yes, mothers should be celebrated, in all their diversity. Explicitly this includes mothers of children not alive, trans mothers, non-binary mothers who have not birthed their children, mothers of all colours, sizes, physical and mental states, single mothers, surrogate mothers, adoptive mothers, mothers who have birthed in all ways, mothers who have fed their babies, carried their babies, raised their babies in all possible ways. Mothers who have not raised their babies. Childless mothers who bring their love and nurture into the world in ways beyond birth. Mothers who have been victims of their own traumas, who have and who have not worked through this in their own lifetimes. All mothers.
Because without all mothers, none of us would be here.
Celebrate the incredible miracle of motherhood that is creation.
Free of the individual stories, the universality of motherhood.

Find a space to sit and connect with your breath. Visualise behind you your ancestral mothers, going back to the beginning of humanity. Regardless of any stories you know (you might notice in your tissues or the patterning of your breath, the reactivity to these stories, notice them arise and allow them to pass. Notice too and judgement, positive or negative, that arises and allow this too to drop away; Know rather that each of these women was a vital conduit of the universal energy, the life that brought you to this moment).

You might visualise any descendants you have sitting in front of you in the same way, again free from the stories or judgements based on behaviour, known or projected, free from desire or fear.

Feel the connection, like light or colour, pulsing back and forwards through time, connecting you.

Expand this outwards to everyone you know, each connected back and forwards through time to ancestors and descendents.

The same for every sentient being.

All connected.

Like an endless tunnel of light, interwoven webs of connectivity, every being like a star in and endless constellation of life.
Just as every cell in every being is connected in an ever-shifting patterning of form, the group field of energy expanding in all directions, infinitely. From, to and beyond Mother Earth.

Know that all your personal stories, thoughts, feelings and emotions, however consuming they may feel: ‘Am I a good enough mother?’, ‘I am…’, ‘my mother is/was…’, are not a definition of truth, rather a brief snapshot in an infinite sea of passing experiences.

So reacting to is a distraction. Rather listen, observe and allow to pass. Responsiveness arises when we allow in this way. Expansive as the time you may take for yourself today to simply be. Mother. Mothered. Part of a unifying whole, drawing on the energy of this wholeness and therefore not alone in your experience right now, whatever it is.

Wherever you are on your mothering journey, we see each other. We feel each other. Every single one of us connected with love ?

Lift in Lockdown

BOOK NOW: Jan 24th

2pm – 5pm on Zoom

£30 p/p waged, £25 non-waged

Allow us to hold a safe space where you can be cosy, comfortable, and deeply relaxed.

Our theme ‘Lift in Lockdown’, welcomes the release of that which does not serve us and encourage and sustain inner beauty and peace.

Embracing uncertainty, we can build capacity to adapt, thrive and help shape our changing societal landscape.

We have designed this deeply nourishing Sunday workshop for you – an afternoon includes calming and healing meditation, pranayama, mantra, self-enquiry writing, sound and gentle releasing and resilience-building asana.

We will include some Self Thai Yoga Massage techniques which you can also practice on your loved ones. You may choose to come with and share the event with a loved one in your household or come as you are; able to enjoy practising together as a community.

Our desire is to build capacity for Conscious loving Awareness and to Observe ourselves with loving Kindness.

You are asked to please bring a notebook and pen, a yoga mat, blankets and cushions for lots of comfort.

If you are challenged financially and would like to join us, please get in touch.

Boulder Brighton 5 Comp Day

unnamed-1Warm ups, Thai yoga massage tasters and partner yoga session

I will be on hand during the Boulder Brighton FIVE event, an exciting day of competitions, to help with warm-ups, thai yoga massage tasters and a partner yoga session before the finals.

Comp yoga warm-ups
13:15-13:45 Open Comp warm up
14:15-14.45 Fun Comp warm up

Fun, fast-flowing, strengthening yoga sessions to prepare body and mind for the comps, we’ll look at ways to warm up muscles, open the joints and explore balance (adaptable for all levels of experience, every body welcome).
Upstairs in the yoga room

Thai yoga massage
17:00-18:00 Shoulder & foot Thai Yoga massage clinic

10mins slots, downstairs by Traverse, book on the day

Partner Yoga & Massage Session
18:00-19:00 Partner Yoga & Massage Session
The perfect warm down after the comp! Stretch out and relax together, learn some simple and accessible yoga and massage techniques to use after climbing with friends.
Upstairs in the yoga room

Book your slot/spot for any of the yoga/massage sessions, email leonie@centredspace.net.

All Yoga & Massage sessions will be run on a donation basis, collecting for the Dorset Bolt Fund, a volunteer run organisation that maintains the safety equipment in our local sea crags (https://dorsetboltfund.co.uk/)

Compassion and lasagne

58d0cf4813e442201eb26cc341fcf704539034f4Today I made a veggie lasagne.
This is both unremarkable and totally remarkable.
I came into the house earlier, with 20 minutes ‘between things’ and a quiche set out to make… ingredients ready… pastry out of date and mouldy beyond use.

Hell!

Projection of impossible equation:
washing to hang out
+ dishwasher to unpack
+ swimming kit to pack
+ Skype meeting to stick to
+ admin
+ two children to collect from school
+ two swimming lessons
+ 20 mins at home later with hungry post swimmers to feed before dance class for older child
+ a partridge in a pear tree
= AAARRGGGGGGHHHHHH! + chaos.
Take a breath.
What is in my cupboard? Both literally and metaphorically.
What can I NOT do right now?
What can I?

20 minutes later a veggie lasagne made, the cheese sauce possibly a little runny.
Swimming kit packed.
Ready for Skype meeting, more or less.
Maybe you’re congratulating me at this point, recognising the juggle of seemingly ‘trivial’ tasks. But that’s not the point.
Maybe you’re not judging me for the mess in my kitchen. But that’s not the point.
Maybe my partner doesn’t mind that there’s wet washing to hang and my ‘job’ is not complete. But that’s not the point.
Maybe my kids would be just as happy with beans on toast. But that’s not the point.
The point is, I have done what I can, in the time I have, with the resources I have available to me right now.
My expectations may have been unrealistic.
Any self criticism is unnecessary.
All that in 20 minutes, a microcosm of the everyday… with kindness.

(Please note, I didn’t have time with all this to photo, upload, edit my own lasagne pic so this is someone else’s less messy version 😉 )

Don’t miss now missing your ‘self’

Reading this article this morning (Dear Motherhood, I miss me), it strikes me how painful this idea is, of ourselves, the ‘me’ being a person that was in the past, ‘before motherhood’ or the feeling that we will ‘get back to…’ feeling or being a certain way, or perhaps in time we might evolve to be… whatever.
For me, this is where yoga and mindfulness are so important: letting go of the past and not projecting into the future. Sure, motherhood can be all these things, described in the article – isolating, hard, thankless, joyful, overwhelming… – and it’s vital we talk about it with frankness and compassion (this is why I et up UMEmamas as a support network for parents) but if you hang on to a sense of identity that is based on where you have been, a feeling of being defined by your career, say, or being seen as a certain kind of person (parent or not), there is an inevitable sense of suffering, of loss.
We can feel this with age, too, that sense of ‘missing’ our youth, perhaps feeling regretful for the passage of time, opportunities now past, bodies changed, friends lost… but all this is futile because we can’t go back. Just as the teenager who tries to appear older, or the toddler who tantrums at their inability to perform some physical task or control what’s for dinner, cannot speed up time.
It is not that that this sense of loss isn’t very real and that we can’t experience these feelings, more that if we attach to this fixed identity, we can’t see or be what is present. Why is the ‘me’ as a mother, in my pyjamas with unbrushed hair and milk sick down my back, listening and responding to my child at three in the morning, less valid than the ‘me’ on the mat, engaged and present, listening to the gradual opening of my shoulder or feeling my feet settling, my breath flowing; or the me in a business meeting, dazzling a room full of people with my intellect and ideas?
This is a constant, whether we are parents or not, the practise of letting go of our attachments to being perceived in a particular way we prefer or like less, to our anxieties, to our sense of a fixed self.
At this time, interestingly, I am coming to this feeling of shifting identity as a mother at the point where my youngest has started school: as I leave her, my last child, and walk back through world with no small hand to hold, no clear indicator to the outside world that this very important aspect of ‘me’ even exists, I find myself noticing the sadness, the feeling of loss at no longer being part of this world, but at the same point recognising that this isn’t more or less ‘me’, just different, time and context evolving, experience moving with time and space.
Life is painful, sad, tiring, boring, frustrating, beautiful, inspiring, frightening… (add in every/any adjective), and we all have the full spectrum of physical and emotional experiences. The art to peace, just being, self-acceptance, comes in recognising all this, holding it equally, and quietly observing that, just as the breath flow, the sea follows the tides, or the clouds move through the sky, it is all equal, all held, and all loved.

Read The myth of ‘me time’

Number Four

Meditation on impermanence as my last ‘Baby’ starts school!

Number Four

You were my last, the accumulation of a body stretched and practised enough for ease, for romance, for oxytocin, for peace in the living room… Instantly absorbed into the chaos of your big family, easy going, suck, suck, suck, slung around in the sling baby. Yoga baby.

Up at one… two… three… four… baby, but just breathed in, every stroke of your duckling hair the last, because I knew you would grow, I knew we would never be like this… like this… like this… like this… again, Baby.

The last one to breastfeed; no rush to stop, nothing to do but this, nowhere to be. You not even drinking but sucking, sucking, sucking, sucking… me drinking in the exquisite, ephemeral, exhausting nature of being needed by you, by anyone, like this… for the last time.

Four years, number Four: my little companion. No rush. Dreams, plans, practicalities… all at arms length, not waiting for but knowing they’d come, being with you in the ever shifting here and now. Each first – smiles, giggles, steps, words… the last time. Savoured.

School, the first day. The last time: the end of being Mama, like that. Not sure what like this feels like. What I am shifting again.

Breathing, tears on the surface, letting go.

Rain, rain, RAIN

autumn leaves in the rain
This morning we awoke to the sound of rain, the clouds obscuring the light of yesterday’s sunshine.

This shift in the weather is the perfect way to start the day, an invitation, a reminder from nature to experience what is now. Michele McDonald developed RAIN as an acronym for a simple mindfulness practice 20 years ago:

Recognize what is going on;
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;
Investigate with kindness;
Natural awareness, which comes from not identifying with the experience.

So, what is your experience right now?

Sit comfortably, either cross-legged or kneeling on the floor or a chair with your knees, ankles and hips aligned. Feel your sitting bones (you can manually take the buttock flesh out and back to ground yourself) and notice your spine. Allow your body to feel its way intuitively into sitting a little more symmetrically, more upright, so that the body invites the breath to naturally flow.

Notice any physical or emotional sensations as they arise and pass through the body mind. You may become distracted by these feelings or thoughts, you may notice internal dialogue. Each time this happens, just notice that and bring your focus back to the breath. The physical sensation or the emotion is not suppressed but you also don’t need to become caught up in it. Just as you watch the rain, you cannot hold on to a particular raindrop, each experience comes and goes.
No single raindrop is the rain.
No single experience, thought, sensation is ‘you’.

You don’t need to label the experience as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘desirable’ or ‘undesirable’. You are not ‘succeeding’ in your practice if you remain focussed or ‘failing’ if you are distracted.

This is the same as if you were practising what you perceive to be a challenging pose in a yoga class. I often come across this, for instance, teaching students inversions. Many people encounter fear, old stories of inadequacy, anxiety about falling, failing… The more they become caught up in ‘thinking’ and either deciding not to try or caught up in the trying itself, the less likely it is they will ever come into the headstand.

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the aphorism that we often come to is:
“Prayatna shaitilya ananta samapatthibhyam”(II:47)
“Perfection in an asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached.”

B.K.S. Iyengar

When we calm the mind, sensitively, intelligently and spaciously explore a pose, and, most importantly, let go of our expectations to reach a defined point we perceive as a goal, then our bodies are more likely, with time and practise, to open into the physicality of the postures. This attitude is inherently generous and kind, gradually revealing the nuances in the body.

It is the same when we are pregnant and preparing for birth: many women I encounter get caught up either in fear or in the need to control the outcome of their birth. Either of these mental states takes them away from the actual experience of their pregnancy or birth. In scientific terms, the focussing of activity in the logical, linear left brain, leads the woman to becoming disintegrated, where she needs to fall into a space of intuition, trust and connection with the primal part of her brain that effects natural chemical and physical responses that correspond with the progress of birth. Caught up in her thinking brain, there will be more associated stress, often reflected in more shallow breathing, her muscles will tighten and become more adrenal without enough oxygen and her birth will literally be ‘held’ by the brain.

In both these physical scenarios, as with the attitude we may take to the rain, if we can Recognize the anxiety, any negative projections that arise (suffering, ‘dukkha’, we cause ourselves – we are the only known mammals to do this! – by imaging outcomes in the future based on current events); Allow ourselves to settle, physically, mentally and with the breath into what is right now; Investigate these sensations with space, intuition, without getting caught back in the cycle of projection and judgement; opening ourselves to Natural awareness – we are not attached to or defined by the experience.
As the weather constantly shifts, so do we, everything that we ‘are’ is realigning, moving, beyond ‘control’. In these moments of awareness we are free.
Enjoy the rain!

Leonie as a teacher

‘As a teacher Leonie expresses one of her defining personality traits, that of generosity. It seems to be a natural instinct for her to support. She does not only in the way she teaches yoga but in the kind of classes she sets up which commonly express her deep passions for social cohesion and supporting the underdog so that nobody goes unnoticed.
I am very glad to say that when I go away to teach retreats abroad Leonie is one of my main covers especially for some of my busiest classes. I always feel very happy leaving classes in Leo’s hands because I know she will look after them with the upmost care and skill and at the same time I feel she is supporting me while I am away as she will often promote upcoming events that I run in my absence.
Leo has been excellent in her regular attendance at both classes and events with me that keep up her CPD which is an indication of her commitment to her own practice and studies and to her sense of support for things that she believes in.
If you are fortunate enough to have Leo teach you personally or run yoga classes at a venue that you manage you can be sure that she will look after everyone with equal care, love, professionalism and enthusiasm all of which are augmented by her great sense of humor. Furthermore she will promote the classes with the skills that she has developed from her sister career as a journalist and help weave together a community of practitioners.
Leonie has a strong interest in yoga for pregnancy and post partum as well as for women generally, children and family groups. She is highly skilled and passionate and Leo comes therefore with my highest recommendation as a yoga teacher of integrity, warmth and a deep understanding of her subject.’
Jim Tarran, founder of Vajrasati yoga