Yoga and Mindfulness Reflections on the Election

By now we all know the results of Tuesday’s election in the US.   This isn’t meant to be a political post, though it is about politics.   But I know many people, including myself are grieving and/or feeling numerous intense emotions right now and at such times people often turn to their yoga and meditation practices and teachers for comfort. I have some thoughts I wanted to share that have been evolving over the past few days. Feel your Feelings: This has been an important part of healing for me ever since I discovered mindfulness in 2008. Being able to check in with what you are experiencing, positive or negative, notice where you feel it in your body and acknowledge it is a main tenant of mindfulness. Too often we feel we have to push down our emotions and “put on a happy face”. For slices of the yogic community the idea of a positive mindset is the ultimate goal.   Do yoga, become happy. Don’t get me wrong, positivity is great and I don’t have a problem with being happy, but no one can be happy all the time. And on Wednesday there was no way I could be positive.   I was (and am) grieving and I knew the smartest and healthiest thing I could do for myself, and for my students, was acknowledge that reality and ask for help. I knew people would be coming to yoga looking for solace from a stressful day, there was no day I could help them find that. While I was met with mostly sympathy and support I was also shamed for not just “relaxing” and “spreading the love”.   Yet at the moment, trying to do that would be inauthentic, it would be pushing away my true self, working against one of the goals of yoga. It was tempting to take on that shame, and ignore my feelings. But the more I thought about it I wondered where those feelings would go, I knew they wouldn’t disappear, if I pushed them away where and when would they show back up? I was feeling real grief, it wasn’t just going to go away because I got up and showered and taught a yoga class.   My practice and teaching has always been seeded in mindfulness. One of the best articles I’ve come across in the past few days is this piece from Lions Roar ( The first take away I got from it was this quote from Ethan Nichtern of the Shambhala Meditation Center of New York

“Tomorrow I will try to follow the lead of those whose vision I trust to see how I can help move our world forward with compassion. But today, it is OK to grieve the fact that we have taken a massive emotional and spiritual step backwards. Please remember, the point of meditation is not to suppress your feelings. It is to make friends with yourself. On days like this, meditation is simply a way to remember a glimmer of your own basic goodness. Please remember it is OK to feel exactly what you feel.”

Thankfully another blessed yoga teacher offered to sub my classes for me. I was able to take the steps I needed to start making friends with myself again.  All of this is to say; if you are feeling positive or feel that you can put on a big smile and help yourself and others feel better that is amazing and I honor that in you.   But you should never have to fake it.   Many people are grieving right now, and it’s ok to be one of those people.   Your grief is real, and if you are feeling it please don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I had been saying this since early Wednesday morning but this Huffington Post piece summed it up perfectly.

If you are in despair ask for help.   Talk to your partner or a friend. Find a helpline. You don’t need to put on a smiley face or “fake it till you make it” when dealing with grief. And when you are ready….


Practice self-care: I know “self care” has been a catch all in the wellness industry but I think at times like this it is so important to remember you can’t help others until you are ready to help yourself. And there are going to be a great deal of people who need help.   So find something that you know makes you feel better and do it. Yoga works for me, when I finally found myself ready to get back on the mat I found great relief in grounding poses and some cleansing Lion’s Breath. I also know for some people when grieving or in anger the idea of yoga sounds like torture. Go for a walk in nature, go kickboxing, cuddle a dog, and bake a cake. Do something to connect with yourself. Don’t forget yoga is about compassion, not just for others but for yourself as well.   And when you’ve surrounded yourself in love…

Share some Love: I’ve seen lots of posts and articles about spreading love and compassion to the “the other side”, reaching across the aisle to Trump supporters. If you are ready for that, bless you. Personally for me I am too angry at the people, all of the people, who voted for Trump.   Yes I know people are hurting and that inspired many people to make the choices they did, but they put their own hurt above the safety and protection of their fellow Americans, and I am not ready to love them.

But love someone. Show a bit of extra love to your partner.   Not ready for that yet? Find a dog to play with, animals are often easier to deal with than humans. Puddles is blissfully ignorant and getting on the ground and playing with her has put a smile on my face. Buy a homeless person something to eat. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to and ask them how they are and really mean it. Donate to a cause that matters to you, especially if you are worried it may be affected come January, and do it in the name of someone you know could use some encouragement.

None of these things is going to change reality or build that time machine I keep dreaming about. But if you can find some relief for yourself and others you’ll be ready for the work we have ahead of us. And it’s a lot.

Finally, a few “yogic resources”

Lion’s Roar:   Even if you aren’t a Buddhist, if you have any interest in spirituality this is a very comforting read. The Meditation for Working with Difficulties has been helpful for me before but provided some of the best feeling I’ve felt all week.   And it is only 7 minutes.




Nutrition, Yoga and Your Relationship with Food: Guest Post by Bettina

Have you ever wondered how yoga is so powerful when it comes to improving your relationship with food and as such why I love to use yogic tools in my health coaching? Well, here is why:

  • Yoga brings awareness to the table: it helps you to connect to your body so that you can assess when you are full or not, when a meal is satisfying or lacking.
  • Yoga brings mindfulness to meals: it engages all your sense in the meal so nourishing you more than just on a physical level if you take your time, chew slowly and avoid distractions.
  • Yoga brings relaxation to mealtimes: it activates the parasympathetic nervous system so ensuring optimal digestion and better nutrient intake.
  • Yoga brings attention to your thoughts and emotions around food: it allows you to be more compassionate, loving and curious towards what you eat, how you eat it and the judgements you have towards yourself around food and your body.
  • Yoga brings peace of mind to the plate: it allows you to pause and listen to your mind and body.
  • Yoga brings focus to the process of eating: it can help you detect when limiting beliefs are raising that may be triggered by mealtimes.
  • Yoga brings conscious breath to meals: it delivers smell and the oxygen taken up by your body contributes towards burning calories.

Sounds like magic, right? Trust me, it isn’t. It’s more a re-connecting with your body, nourishing your whole mindbody, loving yourself deeply rather than pushing and punishing yourself with the newest diet fad, the perfect exercise regime or a rigid mindset. So, how about you take a deep breath, right about now, followed by a long exhale... and start listening inwards. What can you do today to really nourish yourself as a whole, even if it goes against all the rules you are currently imposing on yourself when it comes to food and exercise?

I would love to hear what you think, so leave a comment below.

Bettina is a Health Coach and Yoga Teacher and the author behind the A Vibrant Life Blog. She empowers busy women to live their life from a place of truth and authenticity by helping them find a balanced nutrition and exercise regime that leaves them energized and nourished and by guiding them to overcome negative mindsets and limiting beliefs about themselves and their bodies.

Bettina’s ‘anti-diet’ approach, her in depth knowledge on the research behind common nutrition advice, her incorporation of yogic techniques into her coaching and her balanced approach to a healthy lifestyle that leaves restrictive eating and punishing exercise regimes behind helps people to incorporate small, healthy habits into their daily life effortlessly, connect them with their own bodies so that they can find out what food and movement habits work best for them and leaves them energized, nourished and happy.

Bettina has received her Health Coaching credentials by the Institute of Integrate Nutrition (USA) and her 500 h Yoga Teacher Training qualification by the Devon School of Yoga (UK). She also holds a PhD in Biology and brings in her research knowledge to break down confusing nutrition advice and research for her clients, so that they can live life vibrantly.  You can learn more about Bettina  and contact her at her website A Vibrant Life. 

Summer Holiday Meditation

Enjoy this short meditation specifically designed to be done while you are traveling. Perfect for trains, planes and any other sort of transport (not while driving please). And check out my special offer for more ways you can add some yoga and mindfulness to your holidays this summer. [audio m4a=""][/audio]

Yoga and Nutrition

Yoga and Nutrition. These things are assumed to go together,but why? I started looking into this and it turns out there isn’t one simple answer. One of the things I am asked about all the time is vegetarian diets. Many people assume that I am veggie because I am a yoga teacher, but the truth is I am not. I was vegetarian for about a decade but started eating meat again before moving to Ethiopia and I’ve never gone back to the vegetarian lifestyle. It turns out I personally feel better as an omnivore! Now that doesn’t mean I am scarfing down Big Macs or eating a steak a day. Mainly I’ve become more aware of where ALL my food comes from. I only eat meat when I know where it came from, and when that place passes the ethical standards of a happy healthy life for the animals AND the workers. I also, as much as possible, want my food to be locally sourced. I care about the environment and eating strawberries flown in from California in January goes against my values. These values actually contributed to why I STOPPED be a vegetarian even when I returned to a place where it was easy enough to keep being one. Reading numerous books on the global food system (The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: Our Year of Seasonal Eating are two of my favorites) I began to realize that I had no idea where my vegetarian food was coming from, who produced it, or in many cases, how it was produced. Who was growing the soybeans going into my tofu? How were they paid? What did it cost to ship the wintertime kale to my local whole foods? Whose land was it grown on? I started becoming a more informed shopper and eater, informed in part by the yogic teachings of Ahisma, compassion for all living things. Some people see this to mean eating vegetarian and vegan, and I applaud them for that. Yet to me compassion isn’t about sparing an animals life. It is also ensuring human workers have rights. It is ensuring that we aren't harming the earth as it grows the food we consume. Instead of taking myself out of the meat food chain it is supporting local farmers who treat animals humanely, ensuring they have healthy lives, peaceful deaths and all of their body is used to nourish other bodies and the earth.

Mindfulness also plays a role in my integration of yoga and nutrition. Mindfulness is a key component of yoga and mindful eating is one of the many ways we can incorporate more mindfulness into our lives. Mindful eating doesn’t have to mean spending hours silently chewing swallowing and digesting your food. It can just mean carving out some time (often as little as 15 minutes) to be present with what you are doing, in this case eating. Noticing the taste and textures of the food. Noticing what it feels like to be full. Noticing what it feels like to enjoy a meal without distraction. This can start as a random practice but you may soon discover you incorporate it into most of your meals. I lived with an eater disorder in my teens and I know how easy it is to allow stress and unhappiness to affect the way I feel about my body and what I put it in. Mindfulness has helped me become more aware of how I am feeling throughout my day AND at the table and more aware of how my mood effects what I eat and how what I eat effects my mood.

You can bring yoga to your table both with what you eat and how you eat it. If you want to learn more about this particular topic I have good news. I am teaming up with Nutritionist/Metabolance Owner Claudia Kaiser for 2 back-to-back Yoga and Nutrition Workshops on 11 June at Radiant Light Yoga. You can get more information and sign up here.

Enhancing Your Practice: Private Yoga

For all of April I’ve been exploring ways to enhance your yoga practice outside of yoga classes. This week’s topic, Private Yoga! One of the greatest ways to enhance your yoga practice is to invest in a private yoga lessons.   Unlike yoga classes private yoga gives you the opportunity to move deeper into your practice in the way that is best for YOU.

Private yoga is the opportunity to work one on one with your yoga teacher on a practice that was designed for your own needs. This can mean a variety of things. It may be to develop a practice to manage the effects of an injury or recent surgery. For some people who have specific goals or objectives (add flexibility, reduce tightness in lower back, manage weight, reduce stress) private yoga means that their yoga practice is not dictated by the whims of their yoga teacher.   We probably all know that feeling. All day you’ve been looking to stretching out our hips in yoga class only to discover that your teacher planned a class focused on arm balancing or back bends.   This isn’t a bad thing, you may get something you didn’t even realize you needed, but you didn’t get the hip opening you were looking for.   With private yoga class you have the opportunity to discuss your changing wants and needs with your teacher at every class.   Ever get a GREAT adjustment from a teacher, allowing you to feel GREAT in a pose, only to realize you don’t remember what she showed you or how she adjusted your body?   With private yoga sessions you can go through poses in a step-by-step way that allows you to practice a pose in a way that you can retain and continue to practice on your own.

Private yoga sessions also work to balance your mood and well-being. As a private yoga teacher I also know one of my jobs is to help my clients find balance. If clients to an evening class come in “buzzing” I might suggest we focus on relaxing while in the early morning we may harness that energy towards a strong physical practice. If a client tells me they’ve had a stressful day at work I am able to use that information to teach them Breathwork to reduce some stress, as well as a physical practice that can enhance the relaxation response.

Private yoga can be scary. Unlike a public class where you can “hide’ in the back or let go of your focus in a private class the teacher is always looking at YOU.   Your teacher notices all the ways you can enhance your pose, notices when your eyes look distracted and notices when you are fidgeting during savasanah. Don’t worry, you won’t get in trouble! What you will get is personalized instruction to improve these aspects of your pose.

Private yoga is, of course, more expensive than public offerings.  There are numerous reasons for this.   As noted above, you are getting the teacher’s undivided attention.   Every posture will be explained and instructed to best fit your body on that particular day. Sequences will be designed for your own level of experience and your goals. When I work with clients I also design sessions around the time of day and even their menstrual cycle if women’s health is a focus of our work.

With private yoga sessions you also have more accountability, from both your teacher and yourself.   My private yoga students all go home with homework to practice throughout the week. Homework is typically taken from what we worked on that day, perhaps a few poses I determined could use more work, or a meditation that really resonated with the student.   My students can contact me throughout the week to update me and check in about any challenges they are experiencing. In this way we are also cultivating their home practice, giving them the tools to be able to practice their yoga whenever is best for them.   For certain private packages I also include recordings of meditations, another tool to foster home yoga practice.

Private yoga isn’t right for everyone.   It may seem like a way to ensure you do yoga, but if you aren’t willing to put in the work you won’t get much out of it.   Private yoga is an investment, of time, money and energy to your own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. It is an amazing way to practice self-care and learn to better know and understand your own body and mind.

If you are interested in learning more about private yoga you can read about my private yoga packages  and contact me to chat today.