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from the blog
Sometimes it feels as though the sky is falling in…and sometimes it really does. When things go ‘wrong’ or life takes an unexpected turn, it’s easy to fall into a state of panic, self-pity or despair. And sometimes a muddy combination of all three. Ick.
This has happened to me a lot. Unfortunately, I don’t tend to learn by observation or theory. I’m a learn-the-hard-way kind of girl. I jump into situations where I see an exciting opportunity with enthusiasm and…well, it’s either naivety or faith! I figure I’ll navigate any hurdles if they come along. My heart has broken a lot.
I don’t tell you this so that you’ll feel bad for me…it’s actually a little embarrassing. I just want you to know that I’ve been around the hard-yards block a few times, so I know how it feels when remarkably uncomfortable things happen. The sparkly news is that I have gathered lots of skills and strategies for managing the hard times and I’m listing some here for you in case they are helpful. They won’t all apply to every situation each of us faces, of course, but scanning this list during a rough patch, an idea might jump out at you and say “USE ME!”.
Accept help when it is offered
People won’t offer to help unless they want to. In fact, accepting help is as much of a service and helping – it draws us together as a community and builds relationships. Be helped.
I’m not always very good at this, but I have buckets of evidence that it helps. Eat good food, get plenty of rest, give yourself a foot rub, make a nutritious smoothie, watch an uplifting movie (mine’s the BBC Pride & Prejudice – I find great dialogue and ‘that’ pond scene so comforting!).
This may seem trite coming from a Yoga Teacher, but seriously…just do it. Knowing I was going to list this doesn’t mean it isn’t totally valid. In fact, it’s probably the most powerful of my suggestions. Deep abdominal breathing will help to calm your nervous system, allowing you to make clearer assessments and decisions. Worth its weight in unicorn tears.
Control your thoughts
I nearly called this one “mind control”, but I don’t want you to freak out. Learn to moderate the trains of thought that you allow to have space in your mind. As soon as your mind starts going down a track that is unhelpful, negative, self-deprecating etc., use your willpower to stop it…and plant a new thought to set it on a different track. If you’ve done the Ten Toes Yoga “Learn to Meditate” course, you’ll know what I am talking about. The new thought can be a simple, supportive “[your name], you’re doing fine…keep going…everything is going to turn out great”. If you need to, give your mind something practical to do – start writing a grocery list or write your Mum an email.
Everything you are feeling will feel different by next week. And maybe even by tomorrow. Remembering this REALLY takes the pressure off. Stop worrying and go eat an ice-cream or phone a friend or get on with your ‘to do’ list. Let the situation be whatever it is – distance yourself from it emotionally, give yourself some space.
Detach some more
Repeat after me: No matter how this situation turns out, I am going to be okay. It’s the truth and you know it.
Own your feelings about the situation
You produce your own feelings in response to circumstances. The circumstances do NOT produce your feelings. You choose how to respond. Notice that I said “my heart has broken a lot”, not “my heart has BEEN broken a lot” (as if it was someone/something else that broke my heart)? If you made your feelings, you can change them. Just saying.
[A note about heartbreak - there's nothing wrong with a little heartbreak now and then. Tempting though it is to blame others and their actions, I own my heartbreak, it's no one's responsibility but my own. Feeling is good - it's part of human experience.]
Manage your feelings
Feelings are fine, but letting them run the whole show is folly. Acting out your anger in a way that burns bridges, for example, is not going to help you. I highly recommend a cathartic weeping sesh in private to give those feelings an outlet.
Use your intuition
There is a gut feeling that is different to emotions. It’s that calm inner voice that knows the answers. Practice listening to it now (daily, minute by minute if you can) so that it’s easier to hear when the chips are down and you need emergency answers. (Do the Learn to Meditate course if you want extra help with this!)
Exercise is a powerful way to manage stress. I do Yoga and walk – find something that works for you. Try not to punch anyone, though.
If you need to change something in order to start fixing the situation you are in, start working on a plan. Break it down – articulate the problem in all its pieces and start listing ways to solve it.
When the sky is falling in, you don’t need an umbrella. You’re going to be fine.
Please add strategies you use in the comments below.