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Self-discipline Archives - Peacock Tree Yoga

Get strong with the Peacock Tree Yoga 21-day Plank Challenge! #peacocktreeplank21days

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Ready to take up the Peacock Tree Yoga 21-day Plank Challenge?

We'd love to see your creative planking too!

We’d love to see your creative planking too!

Following our hugely successful 7-day #peacocktreelent, we’re upping the ante and challenging you to build yourself up to a three-minute plank, over the course of 21 days!

Why we run the Peacock Tree Yoga 21-day Plank Challenge

The Peacock Tree 21-day plank challenge is your opportunity to create strength in both body and mind; to develop your will power – and build a core of steel in the process. And it’s perfect for powering us up as we move into the firey months of the year!

It’s not as hard as it sounds – you just need to build up gradually by following the plan. But beware – once you’ve discovered your potential, there’ll be no stopping you!!

Print off the 21-day Plank Challenge practice sheet , stick it to the fridge, and while you wait for the kettle to boil at the start or end of the day, for example, get on your yoga mat and plank like there’s no tomorrow!

The Peacock Tree Yoga 21-day Plank Challenge schedule

Keeping track of your progress

Can't afford a hunky PT? Never mind, we'll support you! #peacocktreeplank21days

Can’t afford a hunky PT? Never mind, we’ll support you! #peacocktreeplank21days

Try your best to meet your daily goals – and give yourself a sense of satisfaction each time, by ticking the relevant box (as flamboyantly as you wish!). And let us know how it’s going – post your photos and films on Instagram and Facebook – but don’t forget to tag them with #peacocktreeplank21days!

Oh, and if you want to give us and your fellow students a laugh, feel free to get playful with it – find a strange location to practice, do it in your work clothes, or try some plank variations!

But above all, enjoy it – be grateful for what your body is allowing you to do (even on days when your body doesn’t allow you to meet your goal), really feel how your body is changing and becoming stronger, and join in with our online conversations for support and motivation throughout the challenge. Not part of our Facebook community? Come into the fold!

Not sure how to do plank properly?

The simplest, safest and easiest way to build yourself up to a three minute plank is to adopt dolphin plank, which involves resting on your forearms with elbows bent, rather than on your hands and with straight arms. Keep your toes tucked under and your body and legs off the floor, in a strong horizontal line (like a plank!).

Plank

Is your plank straight?

If you find it too difficult to hold the full posture, drop your knees to the floor for extra support – just make sure your thighs and torso are in a straight line. And do try to lift your knees again as the challenge progresses – you might surprise yourself!

If your neck hurts, you can always place a block or a stack of books beneath your face and rest your forehead on it while you hold the posture.

If you’re familiar with plank and other core strength exercises, you might like to work on some plank variations – be it a high plank, a side plank, or an acro yoga plank…

Beware of a cheating bottom!

Your biggest foe during this challenge will be your bottom. It will either try to cheat, by being higher than the rest of your body, or it will be lazy, sagging down to create an unwelcome dip in the centre of the posture.

Not sure if you have a cheating or lazy bottom? Then check yourself out in a mirror or ask someone else to tell you if your body is in a straight line.

Ready? Okay, download the The Peacock Tree Yoga 21-day Plank Challenge schedule and get planking!!

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A week of #peacocktreelent

Well done everyone and thank you SO much for getting involved with #peacocktreelent. You’ve amazed, inspired and amused us with the things you chose to give up – from coleslaw (yes, really!) to your car, technology, the daily mail on-line (ha!), packets of haribo . . . to name but a few – WE SALUTE YOU! Here’s a look back on some of your Facebook and Instagram posts – click on the images to read the comments that accompanied them.

DAY 1 – Letting go

DAY 2 – Motivation

DAY 3 – Alternatives

DAY 4 – Temptation

DAY 5 – Support

DAY 6 – Benefits

DAY 7 – Insights

Launching into Lent with Peacock Tree Yoga (#peacocktreelent)

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Lent is traditionally about giving something up (more on non-attachment in a moment…), and we definitely think that’s a good idea. But this year, we’re asking you to commit to doing something too: We’d like you to keep us all up to date with how it’s going, and help create a supportive and encouraging community, by using #peacocktreelent on your social media posts.

PTY rob yoga kula blog photo 6

Let’s support each other OFF the mat, too!

As practising Christians will know, giving up something we enjoy, but which is not necessary for our survival, is a central part of Lent. In recognition of the 40 days and nights Jesus is said to have spent fasting in the desert, believers go without for the same length of time – ending their ‘penance’ just before Easter Sunday.

Lent and non-attachment

Going without something we like but don’t need is a familiar concept within the world of yoga too. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, ‘aparigraha’ (not being possessive – over objects or people, for example) is listed as one of the codes for living known as the Yamas. The Yamas, which focus on matters of the self (small ‘s’) and what we should avoid doing, sit alongside five Niyamas, which are more about our behaviour in the world and how we should behave.

Find out what happened when Steve gave up technology for a month

As yogis, we can use Lent to practice not wanting things we don’t need, thereby removing our attachment to them – as discussed in our blog, Spring clean your mind for Lent. It doesn’t really matter what we choose to give up – only that it is something that has the ability to cause us distress if it is taken away – something our minds have become ‘sticky’ towards.

Marking Lent with Peacock Tree Yoga (#peacocktreelent)

Giving something up isn’t easy. But it can be made easier by having a supportive network around you. And that’s what we’re trying to achieve with our social media campaign. We want to build the same vibrant, friendly community online as we have in our classes!

We’ll share our experiences – our frustrations and revelations, the highs the lows – in the form of images on Facebook and Instagram, and we’ll group our photos by tagging them with #peacocktreelent (please do this – it makes it a lot easier for us to find your photos and videos!)

Of course, you’re welcome to get started as soon as you like – we know many people will want to begin on Wednesday 1st March, when Lent officially begins – but we’ll be online, sharing our own Lent pictures as well as daily ‘prompts’, from Monday 6th – Sunday 12th March.

Get creative!

Tulsi drinking a babychino before the start of #peacocktreelent

Tea? Coffee? Babychinos? What’s your weakness?

Throughout that week, we’ll include ‘prompts’ in our own posts, to help give a focus to the images you post. So on the first day, for example, the prompt will be ‘What I’m giving up for Lent’. You might simply post a picture of a bag of coffee. Or, you might choose to post a picture of an empty cup, a coffee cup stain on a table, or a selfie in which you’re holding your favourite (empty) coffee mug.

The comment you add to your photo, should you choose to, might also give us some insight into your experience of Lent – so on the first day, for example, you might tell us what you’re giving up for Lent and why, or explain how reliant you’ve become on that thing. Whether you include a comment or not, please remember to use the tag #peacocktreelent!

Get ahead…

For those of you who might want to plan ahead (apparently this is a thing on Instagram), or at least have an idea of the sorts of moments you could capture and tag with #peaocktreelent on Instagram or Facebook, we’ve listed the prompts below. You don’t have to use them in chronological order, or at all, however – other moments might come up that reflect your experiences better, after all.

  • Mon 6th: Letting go (what you’re giving up – a habit, a behaviour, a type of food… More ideas here
  • Tue 7th: Motivation (what’s motivating you to do this?)
  • Wed 8th: Alternatives (how you’re filling the gap)
  • Thur 9th: Temptation (moments when you’ve been close to falling off the wagon)
  • Fri 10th: Support (friends, family, clubs and groups that are helping you stick to your Lent goals)
  • Sat 11th: Benefits (examples of how sticking to your Lent goals is benefiting you)
  • Sun 12th: Insights (what your Lent goals have taught you)

Any other business

Below are a few other important bits of information about our week of social media Lent support. If you have any other questions, please do send them to us (email is best) and then we can add the information to the page and everyone can benefit from your inquisitive nature!

  • You can carry on using #peacocktreelent for the entire 40 days of lent, if you like! – we’ll continue to be inspired by you!
  • You can use other #s alongside ours if you’ve committed to another challenge, such as the Trussell Trust’s #40in40 challenge.
  • There’s no limit on the number of posts you tag with #peacocktreelent.
  • Oh, and if you’re giving up social media for Lent, print this blog / take a screenshot ASAP, capture your experience on camera throughout the week commencing Monday 6th March, and send your photos to us at info@peacocktreeyoga.com !

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

Mindful Eating for a Happy Christmas

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How do you feel when you think about ‘Christmas food’? Does your mouth water? Do you resign yourself to the fact that you will over-eat and plan to make up for it in the New Year? Do you panic at the thought of there being lots of ‘fattening’ foods to avoid? Then it could be time to start practising ‘mindful eating’…

Tulsi with cake mixer for mindful eating blog

Eating should always be a pleasure!

Eating more than we really need, and eating food that is convenient but not necessarily what our body needs, is an easy thing to do – even more so during the festive season.  Whether it’s the seemingly endless supply of Quality Streets found in offices across the land, the box of mince pies hiding in every kitchen cupboard ‘in case someone comes round’, or those last few roast potatoes that ‘need eating up’, there’s always something available, always something to reach for without thinking.

For some people, the ongoing availability of food – particularly at Christmas – presents a different problem: they feel guilty about eating certain types of food and go out of their way to avoid them. This has as much potential to bring about an unhelpful relationship with food as the tendency to gobble up whatever is being offered – the mind develops thought-patterns which underpin and reinforce negative ideas about body image. In this way, under-eating can become something we do without thinking, too.

Mindful eating for pleasure and good health

One way of exercising our powers of awareness, so that we can make conscious decisions about what we eat – and, importantly, truly enjoy and benefit from the things we consume – is to practice ‘mindful eating’. Before we go on to the ‘how’, here are a couple of definitions of mindful eating:

“Mindful Eating is allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom” ~ The Center for Mindful Eating

“Mindful eating is eating with intention and attention: Eating with the intention of caring for yourself [and] eating with the attention necessary for noticing and enjoying your food and its effects on your body” ~ Am I Hungry?

As these two statements suggest, there are big advantages that come with eating mindfully – the main one being that when we are aware of what we are doing, we can make choices which will have positive effects on our physical and mental health. The person who has a tendency to unthinkingly swallow more than their fair share of chocolates can choose to say ‘No, thank you’ when offered yet another, and the person who has grown to deny themselves the pleasure of eating sweet treats can choose to say ‘Yes, please!’.

Yoga and mindful eating

Have your cake and eat it!

Have your cake and eat it!

This is all good news for those of us who attempt to live our lives according to the principles of yoga, which state that a healthy mind and a healthy body create the optimum conditions for our practice – and, therefore, for reaching the goal of spiritual enlightenment that a consistent and dedicated yoga practice promises.

Not only this, but by training our powers of awareness through the practice of mindful eating, we can pay more attention to everything else we do: the things we think about, the words that leave our lips, and our behaviour in the world. Practising mindful eating works very much like practising yoga postures – we learn to listen to our inner wisdom. Just as we might acknowledge thirst and quench it with a glass of water, we can identify the need to adapt a posture in order to avoid injury, or to deepen the pose.

How to eat mindfully

One very effective exercise for honing your mindful eating skills is given in ‘A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook’, by Stahl & Goldstein. It involves spending time looking at, smelling and considering what you’re about to eat, before gradually taking in more and more sensory details as you put the item in your mouth and chew it.

If you’ve never done this exercise with us in our classes, have a go at home. Try the exercise with a small a handful of raisins, as suggested in this adaptation of Stahl & Goldsteins’ mindful eating exercise, and then see if you can apply the same technique in other situations – like when you’re sitting at the Christmas dinner table!

Read more about how you can gain control over your desires!

The 21-Day Plank Challenge

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Ushering in the Summer with the 21-day plank challenge

Don’t stop reading now – this is NOT an attempt to throw this Chinese policeman’s record-breaking eight-hour plank into a cocked hat, with your own three-week plank!

The Peacock Tree 21-day plank challenge is your opportunity to create strength in both body and mind, and set your Summer alight! And all with a 3-minute plank.

It’s not as hard as it sounds – you just need to build up gradually by following the plan (see link below) and ignoring the little voice telling you there are better things to be doing than building phenomenal core strength.

How to do plank

plank-challenge-collage

Don’t let your bottom cheat!!

For the challenge, we ask you to adopt dolphin plank, which involves resting on your forearms with elbows bent, rather than on your hands and with straight arms. Keep your toes tucked under and your body and legs off the floor, in a strong horizontal line (like a plank!).

If you find it too difficult to hold the full posture, drop your knees to the floor for extra support – just make sure your thighs and torso are in a straight line. And do try to lift your knees again as the challenge progresses – you might surprise yourself!

If your neck hurts, you can always place a block or a stack of books beneath your face and rest your forehead on it while you hold the posture.

How not to do plank

Your biggest foe during this challenge will be your bottom. It will either try to cheat, by being higher than the rest of your body, or it will be lazy, sagging down to create an unwelcome dip in the centre of the posture.

Not sure if you have a cheating or lazy bottom? Then check yourself out in a mirror or ask someone else to tell you if your body is in a straight line.

Action!

Print off the 21-day Plank Challenge practice sheet below, stick it to the fridge, and while you wait for the kettle to boil at the start or end of the day, for example, get on your yoga mat and plank like there’s no tomorrow!

21-Day Plank Challenge Practice Sheet

Keep going, stay focused, and keep your eyes on the prize! What’s the prize? The ability to hold plank for 3 minutes within 3 weeks, a core of steel and all the strength you’ll need for our next big Yin Yang workshop on June 4th – more details coming soon!

And when you waiver, just remember:

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” – Mark Twain

Spring clean your mind for Lent!

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Imagine what it would feel like to not want anything…

We’re not talking about the things we need to survive, like food, shelter and warmth. Rather, the things we desire – the ‘perfect’ dress, the latest iPhone, that lovely butter with salt crystals in it…

Being free of desire – and the resulting discomfort or pain we experience if that desire is not fulfilled – sounds liberating, and it is! But getting there does take effort. If you’re prepared to put some effort in (and the 40 days of Lent is the perfect opportunity to do so) keep reading.

Why do we have wants and desires?

Spring clean your mind

It’s beautiful – but your happiness is not dependent on it.

In life, we mistakenly think that our happiness is dependent on external factors, such as:

  • Where we are – school, home, work, the local watering hole…
  • The people around us –and what they all do and say!
  • Our possessions – the car we drive or the clothes we wear, for example.
  • What we eat – from the flavours we crave to the aesthetics of fresh produce.

And because we believe that our happiness is dependent on these external objects, we develop minds of attachment towards them – which makes us want them.  On the flip-side, we sometimes think our happiness is threatened by certain people, things and places, and we develop minds of ‘aversion’ towards them.  Minds of attachment and minds of aversion are very uncomfortable, as we ‘loop’ the same destructive, ‘sticky’ thoughts again and again.

How our minds work (and why it’s a good idea to Spring clean your mind for Lent)

It’s easy to mistakenly identify something as a gateway to happiness. We see an object – a beautiful item of clothing, let’s say – and our mind exaggerates what we perceive to be its good qualities. We imagine how good we’ll look in it, we imagine ourselves at events wearing it, what people will say about us... and our mind becomes ‘sticky’ towards it. We want it, have to have it, begin to formulate plans to sneak off and get it… And if that item is sold out when we go to buy it, we experience suffering, we feel loss.

What’s happened is, we’ve given that object power. Before we saw the dress, its existence was of no importance to us – it had no power over us.

How to remove an object’s power

We regain control over objects by practising not feeding our desires, and Lent provides us with an opportunity to do that – to install some self-discipline, to embrace a degree of austerity. It gives us a framework for the work we need to do to free ourselves from our attachments and to create a peaceful mind.

Spring clean your mind

Tap into your Tapas!

We can use the Yogic concept of Tapas to inspire and fuel our efforts, too. As one of the five ‘Niyamas’ (things we should do – The ‘Do’s’, as opposed to the ‘Yamas’, which can be summed up as behaviours we should avoid – The ‘Do not’s!’) Tapas refers to the fire we have within us that allows us to practice mental discipline, to get things done, to do what is good for us and the people around us. In short, Tapas gives us the power – not the objects!

Make a promise to yourself, to Spring clean your mind

Spend a bit of time contemplating what things you identify as sources of happiness, and choose one to give up for the duration of Lent. It could be any of the examples listed above, even something as seemingly innocuous as milk in tea. The point is, if you want it, try not wanting it – exercise your mental discipline! And tell the people close to you what you’re doing – it’ll help you stick to your guns.

Along the way, you will experience a sense of ‘mind friction’. Whatever you’ve chosen to give up, the next time you’re faced with temptation, your mind will be cross with you. Notice that, but don’t react. Tell yourself, “Thanks for that, but right now I choose not to have any.”

In time, your desire will fade and your mind will become more peaceful. You will experience a sense of liberation And that’s where you’ll find the kind of happiness that can’t be taken from you.