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How getting up earlier can change your life

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My day used to begin with chaos. Chasing kids. Grown ups shouting. Kids crying. Looking for things. Rushing breakfast. Dishes left in the sink. Rushing out the door feeling harassed.

My introduction to early mornings was basically insomnia. When I had a lot of work on or things that were stopping me sleeping I started getting up to deal with problems rather than lying in bed worrying about them. First thing in the morning my brain was clear and bright. I could power through work that later in the day would take twice the time. Everything seemed so conquerable in those quiet early mornings. 

But I didn’t want to get up early just to work more. So I began using this time to do my own yoga practice, meditate, prepare a healthy breakfast – and generally get ready for the day. There was a bit of trial and error. 5am gave me loads of time but I felt tired in the afternoon. 6.30am wasn’t early enough to make any kind of difference.

At the moment I’m up most days between 5.30 and 5.45am. Some days I choose to lie in – some days I sleep in. Some nights I sleep badly and don’t even consider it. And that’s all ok too. Some days I do a power of work before 6am. But most days I do exactly the same thing. I try to make it a routine, the same each day, so I don’t have the stress of even simple decisions.

It’s not for everyone but if you’re interested in getting up a little earlier and seeing what that can bring to your life, here’s a wee guide I’ve put together.

Why get up early?


Calm over chaos

For me the biggest benefit of getting up early is that it enables me to start my day as I mean to go on. I no longer wake up in a rush, running late and frantic. The difference in our house is tangible – there is still chaos, but we are calmer and have time to spare each morning. Before I’d often feel harassed as I started work, still covering from the rush. Now I’m always in early and prepared and calm.

More Time

It gives you time. We all run around saying there aren’t enough hours in the day .. we’ll here’s an extra couple for free! This is your time, before the rest of the world awakes. However you choose to spend that time is up to you (some suggestions below).

Move / Exercise

First thing in the morning is a great time to move your body. Move and sweat and shake off that sleepiness. Whether that’a slow burn yoga class or a sweaty 20 mins of HIIT. You could even go for a walk or an organised swim (yes in the dark – taking necessary precautions of course).
Getting exercise in early wakes you up and sets a tone for the day – it also means there is no chance you’ll be too tired or busy for it later on!


Meditate / Pray

Whether it’s a practice of sitting for 20 minutes every day, time to pray or your own spiritual practice or even just listening to a 5 minute guided meditation, or taking a moment to think about / write down what you’re grateful for. How often do we run out of time for this practice later in the day, or feel too tired at night.

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Nourish yourself

When I leave enough time for breakfast I’m more likely to eat well – to take time to include fruit or make food that nourishes me for longer. Sitting down mindfully enjoying this meal starts my day well. When I don’t leave time it’s a piece of toast on the go.


Work

I try not to get up specifically for work however when I have a lot on I do sometimes sit down to get through it first thing – I find my brain works better and I think clearer without the distractions of the day. I can generally get through work much more efficiently at this time. But I prefer to use it for other things.


Calm and organised day

Time breeds times. I not only have more time for myself to do whatever I choose but I also have time to tidy up after breakfast and make preparations for the day – so when I come back to the house I’m already steps ahead rather than chasing my tail.

Common sticking points or questions


What about the dark winter mornings?

To be honest I actually prefer the dark mornings. There is something truly magical about feeling like you’re up before the rest of the world. I love the quietness – it feels almost sacred. On the mornings I go down to the studio I love that moment of stepping out under the dark sky and looking up a the stars and the moon. It’s hard to explain but it is beautiful – even when it’s cold / rainy / windy. It makes me feel alive!


What about bed time

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Ask yourself what you do with your evening time. I found that after 9pm if I was still up I was either: watching TV, playing on my phone or buying random stuff online. I was very rarely doing anything that nourished me. It may have felt like relaxing but actually it was just zoning out. And all those things affected my ability to fall asleep.


Getting up early shouldn’t mean getting less sleep – aim for 8 hours a night. So if you’re planing on getting up at 6am try to get to bed by half 9 so you can be asleep by 10. Work backwards and create a routine that involves putting away your phone, maybe a warm drink (non caffeinated), a good book or whatever else helps you relax.


What time should youget up?

There is no perfect time – it depends on your life and your schedule. The idea is to get up earlier than you need to.. Work back from what time you need to leave the house / be at your desk. Maybe it’s just giving yourself an extra 30 mins, maybe it’s an hour, or even 2. Try it out and see what works for you.


How to do it …My Top Tips!

Set an alarm and when it goes off, jump straight out of bed!

It sounds obvious but getting out of bed as soon as your alarm goes off is the best way to do it. Don’t stop, don’t snooze, don’t give yourself an option or a decision to make – should I /shouldn’t I? I could just have another 5 mins. Just do it. It’s much much easier when you’re out of bed.

Make a plan for what you’re going to do and prepare the night before

Doing exercise in the morning? Leave out your workout clothes the night before. Doing yoga – get your mat ready the night before. Journalling – have your notebook out. Know that you have to tip toe around sleeping partners or kids – put your stuff somewhere you can easily get ready.


Cut out the decisions

Try to do the same thing every morning. Every single morning the first thing I do is drink a glass of water. I know what I’m wearing, I know what I’m doing, I know what I’ll eat. It makes it so simple and stress free. Have everything ready. The last thing you want is to start thinking – what am I going to do just now and where are my leggings / yoga mat.

Set a night time routine

As important as a morning routine is how you go to bed. Set a bed time and aim for it. Be strict. Get to bed at the time you decide and don’t take your phone with you – GET an alarm that isn’t your phone so you’re not tempted to look at your phone at night.

Is it for you?

That’s up to you to decide but try asking yourself – what qualities would you like to invite more of into your morning and, indeed, your day? Would getting up early enable you to do that? Would it support your goals and aims? And if the answer is yes, maybe it’s time to give it a go.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – are you a convert? Have you always got up early? Or are you a night owl?

If you’d like to try it this November we are running 30 days of Gratitude – daily 6.30am yoga and meditation classes focussed on gratitude week days throughout November. In studio or online.

Go to www.sandwickhillstudios.com

Me, my phone and a digital detox

Why I have gave up social media for a week

Last week I gave up Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp for 7 days. There is loads of evidence out there for why and how phones and social media are hurting us and pretty much everyone I know wants to cut down their phone usage. We all have our own reasons but here is my own personal motivation (you might notice a theme towards the end):

  1. Presence. I am not present in the moment when I am looking at my phone. I am checked out. I am looking with longing (or often with numbness) at a stranger’s holiday pictures, or cute dog, or hashtag autumn leaves.
  2. Work. A lot of my work is done through social media making it difficult to create boundaries between work and play.
  3. Physically my phone makes me ache. On days when I do a lot of social media posting / planning / batching I get sore thumbs, sore neck, sore shoulders and sore jaw – how telling!
  4. Wasted time – how often have I picked up my phone for one reason and finally looked up 30 mins later and can’t even remember what I’ve been doing or why.
  5. Anxiety. I worry my posts aren’t attracting new customers / aren’t informative enough / aren’t as pretty, attractive or glossy as others. My yoga posts don’t look like that yogi in a bikini on top of a mountain at sunrise. I don’t post enough. I post too much and so on.
  6. Anxiety. When I am somewhere beautiful or see something that blows my mind , I first think – wow look at that. Then I think, I should take a picture to use for my social media feed.
  7. Anxiety. When no one likes a post I spiral into thinking my business is going to shut down and doubting my own worth.
  8. Anxiety brought on by guilt for continuing to use my phone even though I can tell it’s messing with my life (see all of the above).
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My set of reasons may be different from yours (assuming you also want to change your relationship with your phone) but I’m sure you’ll find one or 2 similarities. 

Note: I specifically haven’t mentioned sleep here but that’s a biggie for many – a few years ago I set limits on my phone so that I couldn’t use it between 9.30 and 7am and I generally stick to this. I try not to look at my phone after 8pm. On the days I do look at my phone before bed, I notice a significant difference in my ability to fall asleep and sleep well

Note 2: I haven’t mentioned emails here as I actually deleted the email app from my phone a while ago which was a huge relief for me – I now focus on emails at specific times when I’m at my desk. That won’t work for everyone but it made a huge difference to me.

What happened…

You’ve probably heard that phones and social media are largely regarded as highly addictive. I was amazed how, even without social media apps on the phone, I’d automatically pick it up several times a day,. Without the social media there to follow through I would stand looking at the phone wondering why it was in my hand at all.

I felt less anxious straight away and over the course of the week. I was able to switch off from work completely in a way that I don’t normally. I felt I had more time. I didn’t miss endless scrolling but I dd miss using it as an easy way to stay in touch with friends.

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When I downloaded the apps again I was amazed how quickly I fell back into high usage – one week of cold turkey wasn’t actually effective in changing how I used my phone. I immediately picked up the same habits (dare I say I actually binged more than normal).

It became clear that for me the phone isn’t the only issue. I don’t want to belittle the addictive nature of social media and smart phones, but I also came to realise that my own lack of mindfulness and awareness around my phone usage, is an area I can make positive changes. Actually my phone doesn’t need to be a ball and chain – it’s a tool and it can serve me.

Why I still love my phone

Life is about balance, so I decided to make a list of the reasons I love my phone and to remind myself why I have it and how it serves me. 

  1. Connecting – my phone makes it easier to stay in touch, to drop in with friends, to share a picture or a memory, or something that makes us smile. . I know group chats are a nightmare sometimes – but they have helped through everything from breastfeeding at 3am, so many parenting queries, organising birthday presents and Christmas nights out, and of course reminding me when it’s a non school uniform day.
  2. Work. Do you remember making posters to advertise your work? Printing and sending booking forms? Photocopying. Distributing. Taking out an advert. Taking bookings and enquiries via snail mail. It’s a different world of course, but in general I can do most of this with so much less effort.
  3. General usefulness – ok so this isn’t social media but the following apps – you just make my life easier. Spotify / music streaming… seriously, taking a stack of CDs to classes… the thought! Maps! Maps you have saved me from being lost time and again. Camera – I use you too much, but I have captured moments and memories that I never would have otherwise. Podcasts & audible – you enlighten and entertain and challenge my thinking. 
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Biggest lessons

  • My phone is not the enemy. 
  • Mindful use of phone is the answer for me. And yes I do definitely need to cut down.

Social media is addictive and it’s essential (for me) to have a mindful awareness of my relationship with social media and boundaries in place.

My phone highlights areas in my life I need to do some work – creating meaningful boundaries between work and play, and also my own sense of worthiness and deep insecurities. Instead of cutting out the phone, can I also work on these areas?

How to use your phone more mindfully

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  • Stop and notice. When do you pick up your phone? Is it when you’re bored? When you’re overwhelmed with work? When you’re lonely? Try to notice what happens exactly before you go on social media – are you struggling with something and it’s a way of escaping? Are you avoid an emotion – sadness, anger, frustration. For me personally it’s often when I am struggling or bored with a difficult admin task.

Be honest. If you’re calling it work, is it actually work or is it just selfies and scrolling?

  • How do you feel after you’ve scrolled? Do you feel inspired? Joyful? Or do you feel anxious? Sad? 

There is no right or wrong answer – the exercise is all about noticing and honestly looking at YOUR relationships with your phone. If your social media content inspires and fills you with joy, celebrate it! Share that post, interact. But if it leaves you feeling that you’re not good enough – question if you should be following that account.

  • Be ruthless in choosing the content you consume.

Unfollow any accounts that regularly make you feel anxious or not good enough.

Social media can challenge and bring about change for good. Evaluate any content that challenges or triggers you… does it motivate you to make positive change, learn or have difficult conversations? Or does it just leave you feeling that you’re failing, or that things are helpless.

  • Take a phone inventory – list all the ways your phone serves you!

Podcast, chats, timer, alarm clock, camera, finding out what’s on, staying in touch with that friend who only communicates by FB messenger, school reminders, fitness apps, booking apps, recipe apps, mindfulness and meditation, audible… go through it all. Some of it you’ll want to keep, and some of it is just taking up space.

Which of these serve you – truly bring something in to your life. What can be replaced or deleted? Which can be relocated e.g. emails / recipe apps / buying a watch!

  • Set time limits

Taking into account all the ways your phone serves you, how much time realistically do you think you need / want to be on your phone each day. This will vary greatly for everyone – especially for those who use their phone for work. Again there is no right answer!

Use this to set your time limits. I’ve previously fallen into the trap of setting unrealistic time limits which I failed to stick to. Following this exercise I’m being really specific about time on specific apps, and keeping my evenings and mornings phone free. It’s definitely worth carving out phone free time on a daily basis. A quick google search will show you how to set these limits.

There is loads of evidence out there about how screens effect our sleep so do try to avoid your phone an hour before you want to go to sleep and if possible don’t have it in your bedroom at all.

  • Out of sight, out of mind

I often accidentally on purpose leave my phone in the car or in the studio, in a jacket pocket or even in another room. When it’s out of sight I tend to forget about it, and the effort of going to find it is enough to prevent me aimlessly scrolling. Of course this isn’t convenient or preferable for everyone but adding a barrier by not having your phone in direct sight or on your person, will automatically help you cut down on usage.

Photo by Jou00e3o Vu00edtor Heinrichs on Pexels.com
  • Take time off

Although a complete 7 day detox didn’t solve my problems, it was so lovely to have a break from it, and I’d absolutely do it again. Plan in advance so that people who need to can still contact you. Be specific – is it your phone or a specific app you need a break from. Is it something you could do 1 day a week, or 1 weekend a month? Be realistic and decide what works for you.

  • Address what’s at the heart of the issue – not just the phone

If you’re using your phone to escape certain emotions – can you deal with the emotions instead? If social media makes you question your worth, can you work on that as well rather than just cutting out the social media? Be honest with yourself.

  • Be compassionate with yourself

Go easy on yourself. Your phone usage is not something to beat yourself up about. It is not another way you are failing at life. In many ways we are the guinea pigs. We have been given this technology, this convenience, this incredible technology but we are all still struggling to find the balance. It will take time, it will take mindful awareness, and it will take patience. But it will be worth it.

Thanks for reading! If you found anything useful please give it a go, or share with a friend. It’s really a very varied and personal topic so don’t just take my word for it! Let me know your experience of digital detox / phone use / setting limits! What’s worked for you? xxx

A year of Sandwickhill Studios

It’s our one year anniversary… ish. It has resonance in truth but but it’s all a bit blurry as Covid prevented any big official openings (although we had planned for end of April), and in truth it actually prevented us completely finishing for some time after.

We did, however, have our brand launch party on 25th April last year when we unveiled our new name, and 50 of us (in early lockdown delirium) put on our glad rags and did the twist on Zoom. I’m counting that moment as the official birth of Sandwickhill Studios! Last night we celebrated our first birthday party with an online cocktail party and, yes, we twisted again … like we did last summer.

So here’s how our first year went!

What’s been great?

The community! Without a doubt the online community we created and nourished over the past year has kept me going through it all. What was filled with doubt initially, has become a source of comfort and joy. Familiarity and friendship at a time when everyone seemed very far away. I’ll always be grateful to those who trusted me enough to just jump on board last Spring. Truthfully it brings a tear to my eye.  Thank you to those of you who believed in me and our dream and signed up to come to online classes, not knowing what they’d be like, or if you’d enjoy them or how long it would be. I totally believe the whole country went through a period of madness, so thanks for sharing that with me! 

Day dreaming

Having a dream come true!

My dad was a mechanic and we had a garage when I was little. It was a very high ceilinged building with big stable doors and high windows that started half way up the building. Everything in there was tinged with oil and there was sawdust on the floor, but I remember being small and at the rare moments when it wasn’t full of cars, I’d dream it was my own dance studio. 

I forgot for many years but when we started thinking about building again it seemed familiar, this idea of a high ceiling dance studio of my own, like the idea had always been lurking there at the back of my mind, buried with other childhood dreams.

Over the past few years the dream has become clearer and clearer. I’d fall asleep imagining all the little details, people coming and going, the sound of music through the building, the dance studio smell (yes it’s a thing – lycra, leotards, sweat, unknown magic?). Seeing that come true made it all worthwhile. 

One of my favourite things right now is sitting at the front desk as classes are arriving. Seeing all the wee ones running in in their dance gear, the mums chatting (socially distanced of course) around the door, the tinkle of ballet music from one studio, the bass from the other studio as the dancers warm up). Just sitting and taking it in and feeling the buzz and the love. The realisation that yes, we did need 24 parking spaces!

Oh man, I’m almost set off crying again!

The team!

I’m a self-employed only child and an introvert, so it’s easy for me not to be in contact with many people. I’m used to working alone, bad at delegation, could do better at communication, a slight control freak and awkward at small talk. 

Despite all that I always knew Sandwickhill Studios was never just about me working alone. When brainstorming names these ideas came up “Kirstie’s School of Dance”, “Kirstie’s studio”. But Sandwickhill Studios was always about the community – providing a specialist dance and fitness locally, and a much needed place for other instructors to hire. My own business was always about employing a wide range of instructors to provide variety and fill in skill gaps.

Over the past few months we’ve had 16 different teachers delivering classes for Sandwickhill Studios. I’m still blinking reading that. 

I’m no longer teaching 30 classes a week (what on earth was I thinking???? When did I breath?). 

I have more time with my kids, I’m home for bedtime more often, and dinner time and weekends (don’t worry, competition season 2022 will put an end to that !).

And for me, that’s the future. Partnership working, creating a well rounded package for both our young dancers and our adult classes, and balancing that with my own family life. 

Online

I can’t not mention online…

I love it and hate it. 

But I think I love it more than I hate it. Though sometimes I’m not sure. 

It was hard learning something new but it was exciting too.

When the technology doesn’t work often there is a lesson to be learned, but sometimes it seems that there is no lesson and no apparent reason, and that’s frustrating. 

What started as me and my laptop / phone is now me and a mixer and 2 mics, and 3 box lights, and a camera, and a laptop and an amp. And I find that a lot to deal with.

I’ve enjoyed working in different ways though, and also being able to reach new people who otherwise couldn’t have attended class. I see a future in online classes for many reasons – rolling out of bed at 6.30am yoga in the comfort of hour home in the middle of winter definitely beats tackling the dark frosty mornings, not to mention the convenience for those without childcare or living remotely.

I would say I love seeing you guys online, and often I do, but more often than not I see an ankle. My favourite pilates movement is 1 leg circles as I usually see lots of feet for that one, which is better than just seeing the sofa behind you. 

Part of my introverted self finds a comfort of hiding on this side of the camera. I can walk out of shot for a breath or to fix my hair. I can switch off my mic if I’m going to sneeze.  I can pretend I’m really confident, when I feel anything but.

I can sit for a moment between classes, unseen.

But none of this makes up for the lack of bodies in front of me to teach, and the interaction and laughs and feeling the vibe in the room.

What’s been hard?

Sometimes it’s just 10 little black boxes staring back at me and I wonder if anyone is actually out there… 

I missed not having a real launch party. I missed not having any buzz about the opening. I’d always imagined it would be a fresh start and a way to attract people who had never considered coming to our classes before, who would be drawn in out of curiosity and enticed to sign up when seeing our beautiful new studios.

In reality it feels like a huge secret. When parents drop off their kids they’re not allowed in the building. Our cosy reception area, which I’d pictured full of people, is empty. The reduced class sizes mean we don’t always have space for anyone new, and we prioritise these spaces for our current members. I worry that we’ve missed that special sparkle that draws people to a new business or venture.

7 moments of my first year that have made me just STOP, filled with wonder and awe and love

The first yoga class back in the studio – just that moment of “ah – this is what I’ve been missing”. I can’t explain it… an energy, a feeling, a togetherness.

Christmas (of course) – I loved our first Christmas in the studio. What a vibe – what a buzz. From the Christmas shopping day when the place was bustling (with socially distanced) shoppers and local businesses, to the Christmas crafting days – tea, and adult company, what’s not to love? Christmas Zumba, parties with the kids, trees and fairy lights and paper snowflakes, and watching the Nutcracker on the big screen.

Online events – these have been such a saviour for me. You might have been able to tell but they got me buzzing each time. People sometimes ask how I stay motivated and avoid burnout and  things like this really help. Having something, anything, to look forward to, to dress up for, to get excited about. The rave night – I was absolutely high as a kite on endorphins. The 70s disco – I curled my hair for flipsake and wore a pair of heels, and sunglasses – inside in February… on my own! The hoedown back in June, the Irish night with Cheggs and his Riverdance debut.

Seeing the seasons for the first time – over the past year I’ve had the joy of witnessing the studio in all weathers from inside and out, and I’m regularly surprised as it’s all new. Over the years I’m sure I’ll stop noticing, but for now it’s all new… How dark it felt when there was snow on the veluxes. The joy of the disco ball in winter evenings. How you can see the sunrise through the window and reflected in the mirrors so it’s almost like a double sunrise. How the evening light hits the wooden floor, just so. The sun trap at the front door. The shadows of sheep wandering the field as the sun sets.

Closing up – in the evening when all the kids have gone and the online classroom has been closed down, and I’m in the building on my own, I wander from room to room, checking the lights are off, enjoying the peace. I stop and I look at what we’ve created and I feel really proud and always, very, very grateful.

Cheating on yoga with Pilates!

I was into yoga before I started Pilates so I guess you could say yoga was my first adult love, after dance. Yoga is for everyone, but many people who are naturally flexible (and often hyper mobile) are drawn to yoga because it gives us a sense of winning – we can already touch our toes! Having grown up in the dance world I was pretty comfortable with stretching, and back then, that’s what yoga was to me. A nice long stretch class. Of course many years later I realise it’s much more than that (that’s a topic for another blog post!).

I only started doing Pilates more regularly when I started teacher training. I had been teaching Zumba for a couple of years. Zumba, as you may or may not know, involves a fair bit of hip shaking, booty popping fun. I had gone from a full time desk job to teaching 5 Zumba classes a week (amongst other classes) and I was starting to feel a bit achey around my lower back – most likely as a result of excessive inexperienced twerking and no core strength.

Ever the strategist, I started to think about the longevity of my career. Zumba was MASSIVE at the time, but I didn’t know if it would last, or what the next big craze would be, and I wanted to add something that would help look after my body and that I would enable me to teach regardless of crazes, fads, my own abilities. I hoped to start a family and wanted something I could carry on whilst pregnant and essentially for the rest of my life (even if I broke a leg) – yes I’m that dramatic, and my long term planning covers every possibility. Having decided to make a career out of moving my frame, I was determined to protect and look after my body and already having a home yoga practice, it seemed to me that what was missing, was Pilates.

Our teacher training started with a couple of intense classroom weeks where we started each day with a Pilates class. I remember getting the train home at the end of each day and literally aching – not just from the Pilates but from the effort of sitting upright as our rigrouous (and wonderful) teachers ensured we maintained good posture as we sat, listened discussed and learned. My body changed more quickly than at any other time in my life – with seemingly very little effort. I held myself differently. My clothes fit differently. My body literally changed shape and I continued to feel stronger and stronger.

But more than that I felt like I’d been given a secret super power. I remember giving surfing a go on my honeymoon – which was within 6 months of starting Pilates. Until then I’d really struggled with popping up (when I very occasionally dabbled). I didn’t have the strength to quickly bring my whole body from lying to being upright in one movement. I remember the first time I went surfing after taking up Pilates and literally I sprang on to my feet – much to my own amazement. It didn’t even feel like an effort. 


The first time I got to grips with headstands wasn’t after practicing loads of yoga – it was after throwing myself into Pilates. Again it just felt effortless as my legs floated upwards. I also remember the shock doing daily Pilates and then kicking my legs in the air and discovering I could balance there (on my hands) for more than a few seconds.

My relationship with Pilates changed again through pregnancy and after having a c-section with my first child. It was a shock to feel so weak, and so unstable. I had taken so much for granted but I enjoyed re-discovering my strength and stability – it actually proved a huge learning opportunity for me to discover more about my body works, understanding the importance of pelvic stability only when I understood how it felt to have very little.

People often ask me if they should do Pilates or yoga – as if it’s some sort of conundrum. When the answer to me seems obvious – you should do both (or at least elements of both)! Sometimes my Pilates practice is more like a yoga session and sometimes it’s the other way around. I love rooting my awareness in conscious movement of the body and breath – I get that from both. I love switching off from what else is going on and concentrating on moving my body with mindfulness and awareness. I love balancing mobility with stability and I get that from both.

There are different styles of yoga and Pilates and different styles of teachers so it’s hard to generalise (apologies therefore for the huge amount of generalising). In the end it’s all labels – I follow many yoga teachers whose teaching encompasses the principals of Pilates and I too often blur the lines. Yoga isn’t just stretching. Pilates isn’t just core. Sometimes my yoga practice leaves my abs burning, sometimes my Pilates practice leaves me feeling at my most flexible.

I’ve noticed that many students find the switch from one to the other a challenge at first. But what great things don’t challenge us at first? The 2 complement each other so much it’s worth sticking with. And I often find that what you’re initially drawn to isn’t always what you need – like me as a flexible 18 year old enjoying the stretchiness of my first yoga classes, when really a bit of stability and strength would have served me better (disclaimer: I’m not suggested you can’t find stability and strength in yoga).

We need both mobility and stability for our bodies to work at their best. Whether that comes from a a yoga class or a Pilates class doesn’t matter. But it’s important that we include both in our practice.

I used to feel like I was cheating on yoga with Pilates… but I now realise that we’re in a happy family and we all live together quite easily. Although I think I owe yoga a wee love letter of it’s own after this outpouring!

What about you? Are you ready to have an open relationship with Pilates and yoga? Let me know in the comments!

If you’re interested in practicing more Pilates (or trying it out) we are celebrating March Mat-ness – a global celebration of Pilates – at Sandwickhill Studio, by doing Pilates every day throughout March. Join me for 31 days of Pilates online https://www.sandwickhillstudios.com/adult-classes/marchmatness2021

Lockdown Posture

I don’t know about you but I think my posture has seriously deteriorated over the last year. Lockdown has had so many implications and I think this is one that hasn’t been recognised fully yet. 

I already spent too much time sitting at a desk before lockdown but since then my work has moved entirely online. I’m still moving, still teaching, still dancing, but in between times I’m uploading videos, emailing and doing websites.

I’ve never spent so much time online or on my phone – that’s a whole other kettle of fish though!

It’s not as simple as phones / computer / Internet = bad. It’s the world we live in now and there are benefits and freedoms offered by this. Whereas years ago I would have had to design a poster (if you go back far enough I’d be doing this by hand), buy paper, ink, printer, print  poster, and distribute poster – just to let people know what I was offering Booking was another ordeal – printing forms, filling in forms, filing forms – my participants sent me a cheque deposit to hold their space, which was then deposited and everything updated on my paper register. 

That’s all been condensed and it’s all online – it takes a fraction of the time for my customers to sign up, pay and get in touch. It’s a hundred times easier for me to reach them – via social media channels and email – and to accept payment, bookings and stay on top of my registers. 

But the downside is longer hours in front of a computer, or in front of a phone, being reachable 24 / 7, that feeling of being attached to your phone. The work / life balance is more blurred than ever (another big topic), and we are (often) more sedentary than ever.

Let’s do a wee test…. Are you reading this on a phone right now or a computer? 

Is your screen at eye level? Or more likely, phone below eye level and head forward and down.  The neck is designed to support the weight of the head but when the head moves forward it increases the weight and puts huge amounts of strain on the neck leading to tightness and pain in the upper back, neck and head areas.

This doesn’t only happen when you’re looking at a phone – it’s true of computers too, especially if your screen and keyboard are too low. And that’s just your neck and head – there are a whole host of postural issues when we take into account the spine, pelvis and hips. I’m sure we don’t all have optimal working conditions at home and ergonomic office furniture.

All of this is ok if we’re doing 10 minutes at a computer, or an occasional glance at a phone, but many of us are doing longer hours than ever – sitting in the one position, and one that is sub optimal at that. It’s not just working either – as we are unable to see our friends and family in the flesh we are spending more time connecting through social media – again it’s a saviour and a blessing to be able to easily share photos, to chat via FaceTime – it helps us feel connected. But  

Posture matters for so many reasons. Not everyone will have the same poor postural habits and not everyone will have the same outcomes. Not all of us will experience posture related pain such as tension headaches, neck and shoulder pain, imbalances, low back pain, stiffness in hips and shoulders – but many of us will. There are other less obvious impacts too – from our breathing to our confidence levels – all affected by how we move, stand and sit.

So what are we going to do about it!

Well the first thing is, to be aware! When you start noticing how you are standing and sitting at any given point, you can often make small changes without too much effort. The more times we notice we are slouching in our seats / drooping head forward / crossing legs, the more times we correct that posture – even if it’s just for a few minutes. And our body and mind start learning new ways. 

Another key thing is to keep moving. We weren’t design to be sedentary – we were designed to move in a myriad of different ways. So if you’re sitting still , get up and move – even if it’s just walking around your house or taking 2 mins to stretch. Set alarms to remind yourself. Stretch. Don’t worry too much about what you do – they key is just moving. 

I would love to share more of these easy to implement tips, and more information about how to improve your posture. If you’re interested in exploring more about this I’ll be using my experience as a Pilates and yoga teacher, and as a human being working and living in this online world, and helping to empower you to make changes around your posture.

I’m running an absolutely free course starting on Monday 15th February . It’s minimum commitment – the course itself will take less than 5 mins a day. However the effort you put in in raising your awareness and making small changes is where the change will lie. 

If you’re interested in giving this a go sign up here and you’ll receive the info straight to your inbox, starting Monday.

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