Monthly Archives: January 2017

Chinese New Year (and why yogis should embrace it!)

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Happy New Year! Yes, yes, it’s all a distant memory for those of us who organise our lives according to the Gregorian calendar. But in countries where the traditional ‘lunisolar’ Chinese calendar is used, millions of people in red attire are celebrating the start of the Year of the Fire Rooster. And the rest of us can benefit from doing the same, because – like the science of yoga – the Chinese New Year gives us tools for becoming masterly in our lives.

PTY chinese new year blog - tulsi bird costume

Welcome to the Year of the Fire Rooster!

Chinese New Year (also known as the “Spring Festival” in mainland China) always begins with a new moon, somewhere between the 21st of January and the 20th of February. This year (2017), it started on Saturday 28th January, when we moved into the Year of the Fire Rooster – and celebrations will continue for the following fortnight, ending with a ‘lantern festival’ on Saturday 11th February.

Chinese New Year and the Zodiac

The Chinese associate each new year with one of twelve animals and one of the five elements of Chinese astrology, namely: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water (which are then further divided into Yin and Yang categories). This means that the years run in 60-year cycles; the last time we were in a Yin Fire Rooster year as we are now, for example, was 1957, and before that, in 1897.

According to tradition, this information can help us both anticipate the events of the coming year and understand the personalities, relationships and destinies of the people born during each year.

No more monkeying around

We’ve just emerged from a Fire Monkey year – an intense and chaotic period, according to Chinese astrology. You don’t have to cast your mind back too far, to see that this description fits very neatly indeed. As noted in this Mystic Mamma blog, “Last year’s current schooled us all in crisis management as the Fire Monkey’s erratic impulsiveness and dramatic flare produced an unprecedented bit of theater in American politics.”

If 2016 was a year when everything was taken apart, when the ground was laid for new and radical ideas, 2017 is the collective prompt to get up and get on! The year of the Fire Rooster is about putting everything in place again. People who are born during a Fire Rooster year are said to be “rather impatient in life, always feeling that there is something missing if they don’t get things done.” So don’t be surprised if you suddenly start feeling the urge to start crossing off the things you put on your 2017 dream list, too!

What’s your Chinese horoscope sign?

It’s both fun and useful to know your own Chinese zodiac sign. Whether or not you believe in the Chinese system of astrology – or indeed, any kind of astrology – doesn’t matter. Such things offer us a colourful way of contemplating our own lives, and they spark the imagination. We’re naturally interested in stories – watching the telly is just a modern version of sitting around a fire telling stories. With knowledge of where our birthdays fall, according to Chinese astrology, we can look at our lives and our behaviour from a fresh perspective.

Find out your Chinese zodiac sign

In our classes this week…

Chinese New Year celebrations

Get your dragon flow on!

Wear red! As good old Wikipedia explains on its page about the Chinese New Year, “Clothing mainly featuring the color red or bright colors is commonly worn throughout the Chinese New Year because it was once believed that red could scare away evil spirits and bad fortune… Red is a color of good luck.”

As well as wearing red for protection from negative energies, the Chinese perform dragon and lion dances throughout their New Year celebrations, which have as their soundtrack loud drum beats and ear-shattering clashes of cymbals. Although we’ll be leaving the noisier elements of the Chinese New Year out of our classes, be prepared to get your dragon flow on!

Making your dream list

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In the last Peacock Tree Yoga blog, we urged you to put your New Year resolutions to one side, hunker down in front of a fire and eat bean stew with your loved ones. We were promoting ‘hygge’ over ‘harrrrgh’ as the way to begin the year. And we still are, but remember the bit about that cosy and intimate setting being perfect for discussing your plans and dreams, thoughts and schemes for the coming year? We’re going to expand on that in this blog.

Making your dream list

Although there’s no harm in setting goals, there’s no need to rush ahead and attempt to meet those goals immediately, as previously discussed. Instead, we recommend using nature’s ‘down time’ to make a dream list. Think about what you’d like to experience this coming year – the places you’d like to go, the artwork you’d like to see, the languages you’d like to speak, the new tricks you’d like to learn. Share your dreams, and listen to other people’s.

Creating the right setting for making your dream list

We’ve already discussed what constitutes ‘hygge’, but for this particular exercise, you should put a few other measures in place, too:

  • Identify and then talk to the people you’d like to do this with, unless you’d prefer to do it alone.
  • Schedule some time – set a reminder on your phone, put it on the family calendar, write it in your diary. However you do it, be sure to allocate yourself this time.
  • When that time comes, switch off your computer and your phone – filter out the distractions, and give your mind the freedom to explore the topic in hand.
  • Arm yourself with a pen and a notebook.

What to put on your dream list

Think big and think small, but think always about YOU. So often, we have lists that are mostly to do with nurturing and supporting those around us – as is evident in the responses given to the artist, Alice Instone, who gathered “prominent and inspiring women’s to-do lists and made a number of art works from her own lists”, for an exhibition, entitled The Pram in the Hall. But this is a time to top yourself up with what you need. Besides, the better you feel, the better you’ll be able to continue to serve those around you.

We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list ~ Michelle Obama

These are some of the things on my list for 2017:

As you all know, we are also renovating our house and having a baby – but as they’re already construction(!) I wanted to include some other things too.

  1. Change my dentist from Huntington to Leeds, so that I get to go to Harvey Nicks for lunch when I have a check-up
  2. Set up another weekly savings account bucket
  3. ‘Time block’ 180mins for additional weekly learning on Tai Chi lectures & practices
  4. Put weekend spa date in diary with Andrea this spring
  5. Set up a ‘clearing out the Acomb cupboard’ date with Miss Kelly and then lunch afterwards

Put some dates on your dream list

Visualise the year ahead, see its nature – the growth of Spring, the colour of Summer, the harvest of Autumn, and the deep rest of Winter. Some of the things on your list will naturally fall into these categories – for example, you might paint your allotment shed in Spring, go to a lively festival in the Summer, make a photo album of your holiday snaps in Autumn, and book a Yin Yoga retreat for Winter.

Other things will be suited to any given time of the year. But nature’s rhythms can still help, particularly when it comes to actually identifying what it is you want to put on your dream list.

  • Spring prompts us to ask ourselves what we want to grow
  • Summer invites us visualise how it will look when it’s flourishing
  • Autumn asks us what we will gain from it, what we will reap
  • And Winter wants to know if it’ll let us settle

Hold on to your dreams

Whether it’s in your mobile phone notes, on a scrap of paper in your purse, or learnt by heart, keep your dream list close. Check in with it whenever you get a moment. Seek out and create those moments. Then stop and really feel the joy of manifesting your own dreams, however ‘big’ or ‘small’ they may be.

“Dreams come true. Without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them.” ~ John Updike

The thing about New Year resolutions…

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The tradition of making New Year resolutions is totally flawed. Of course, the idea of identifying areas of our lives that can be improved is a good one. But doing it in the middle of Winter? Really? That’s not such a good idea.

PTY New Year resolutions blog Sleeping cat

Cats don’t make resolutions

Annual statistics tell us that every year, less than 10% of those who make New Year resolutions claim to have been successful, and under half get beyond six months with whatever it is they’ve promised themselves they’ll do less or more of. There’s a reason for this…

As California’s Institute of Classical five-Element Acupuncture so neatly puts it in this article about ‘The Season of Water’, “Winter is for us, as it is for all of nature, a time for internal work: meditation, containment, concentration, and the storing of our energy. We use this season for rest and the filling and maintenance of our reserves, gathering strength for the year ahead… Like the seed that cannot sprout until it has gathered sufficient strength, our ideas and plans cannot manifest with strength if our energy is dispersed or drained.”

Resolve to get cosy

Harvey family for new year resolutions blog

Get cosy with your favourite people

If you really must make a New Year resolution, then make it this: to get cosy. There’s actually a word for this which has become rather fashionable in the last year or so: Hygge (pronounced hoo-guh). We’ve borrowed it from Scandinavia, where the practice developed in response to the region’s long, dark days and the population’s need to find moments of happiness, warmth and comfort within them. Easy to see why it’s become such a popular concept in England!

Perhaps the most lovely thing about hygge is that it’s best done with others, as this New Yorker article explains: “It’s possible to hygge alone, wrapped in a flannel blanket with a cup of tea, but the true expression of hygge is joining with loved ones in a relaxed and intimate atmosphere.” Handily, this is precisely the right setting for gently discussing how we’ll use our energy over the coming year – what our priorities are, what’s important to us, we’d like to achieve.


PTY New Year resolution blog Socks and mug

Woolly socks and tea make good hygge!

Although Springtime is nature’s morning, the time when we begin to see blossom on the trees and new lambs in the fields, there are many signs of growth which come as soon as February. And it’s possible that as we approach the end of January, you’ll begin to feel the culmination of your cosy time and be ready to pour your energy into new projects, too – particularly with us stepping into a ‘fire rooster’ year, according to the Chinese calendar.

For now, however, resist putting demands on your energy – top yourself up instead. Do things that leave you with a full heart, not a lack of energy. Get the fire lit, put a pan of hot chocolate or a bean stew on the stove, slip into your longest, woolliest socks, and gather your favourite people for some good hygge. And don’t forget to bring your woolly socks and fleecy blanket to your yoga classes, too!