Mountain Yoga!

Mountain Yoga!

mardi 7 novembre 2017

This is the story of a Girl

THIS IS THE STORY OF AN ORDINARY GIRL

MY BODY, MY BATTLE

HAVE YOU HAVE HAD THE FEELING THAT YOU WERE NOT IN THE RIGHT BODY?

TO NOT BE STANDING IN YOUR FULL NATURAL ESSENCE?

Have you ever had the feeling or have the feeling that you are burying, hiding who you are?



Let me explain …..

As a young girl I was always  a bit “too big” in all senses of the word – too tall, too large, too much. I always felt a bit different, I spoke loudly, I was always loud, always “too much”. I never felt like I looked like or acted like the other “little girls”. 

I went o my ballet class just like the other girls and just like them dreamt of being a ballet dancer on the big stage, graceful and full of light elegance. In my head I was that beautiful ballet dancer, the reality was very different.

Ballet dancer in the skin of a “big fat cow”!

As a young girl I read a book called “Clumsy Clara”…. An extremely clumsy young girl. One day she finds fairies in her garden as she is about to step on their homes the fairies cry out for her to stop. With their help she learns how to walk on tip toes, pay attention to her surroundings and walk with grace, lightness and ease in between their homes. I never felt I reached that second step I just always had the impression I was stomping all over everything. And Grace? Ooffff very little in my body and gestures.

Considering my size (or at least the size I felt), my clumsiness and my huge booming voice I spent many long years with the Clumsy Clara image as my “friend” – or as a girls called me at school – “you BIG FAT COW”!



GOOD GIRLS V/S BAD GIRLS

At the same time as being under the impression of being the skin of someone else, I felt quite sincerely that I was not the “model child” everyone wanted me to be but that I didn’t and that I wasn’t living the life I was supposed to live.
There were so many socially acceptable rules, ways of being, pretending, doing the right thing, especially when in “polite company”. I often found myself confronted by major difficulties and constantly the feeling that I was acting and hiding my deeper, true feelings, my identity. The feeling that I was swallowing who I was and not to be living my true nature.

A little bit like in the film Brave – and yes despite the hair colour I am exactly like her, wanting to live freely, riding on my horse through the forest! My mother always used to say I should be polite, quiet, respectful, clean, never show your true feelings and desires, always hide what you really think, bury your passions and sacrifice for …. Well there was always a reason to sacrifice…. Essentially hide who you really are to “fit in” socially, at work etc… to fit into the “norms”

TOO MUCH

People used to tell me often that I was TOO MUCH! Too intense, too much energy, too loud, too strong, too much, too much, too much!

The ballet dancer quietly hid herself away and dived into activities more suited to her “too muchness” – horse riding, hockey…. And over eating! Because over eating became a true source of comfort. Hiding when and how I was eating, hiding behind my kilos, making people laugh through my jokes, making them think that all was ok. My loud voice, my jokes, my larger than lifeness all helped push away the opposite sex and helped me hide behind a mask – after all isn’t that what I was supposed to do.


ENOUGH!!!

Then at 16 I decided that I had to change my body. That it was time to loose some weight and take control of things. I started to loose weight with the help of my Mother and the Doctor. I thought that I would feel happier, better in myself if I lost the kilos. Diets, weight loss, regaining the weight, loosing it again… where was I in all of this? I spiraled into years of ups and downs weight wise and self estime wise and still the happiness was far from present. I was a yoyo in a diet spiral.

And boys when they started to look at me? eeekkkk help !!

Instead of finding myself in the midst of all of this, instead of finding happiness it just got worse! I had no clue who I was and how to feel “right”! I equated weight loss and the ideal body with Happiness. Happy = slim right?

How wrong can you be!

I finally did discover boys, sex, alcohol – I understood nothing except that all “that” helped obliterate further the unhappiness felt inside. I let myself be abused by situations, people, alcohol to the point of black out. I starved myself, drowned my sorrows, ate too much, ate & vomited my way through evenings, was guilt-ridden, starved myself again, practiced excessive sports activities. A cycle of destruction. I spent chunks of my life aware if the harm I was doing to myself but incapable of stopping it!

I did everything like a man – worked hard and fast, treated men pretty much the same as they often seemed to treat women. I cut myself off from my body. I was incapable of letting go, letting softness in, incapable of following my feelings, letting to soft voice of my womanhood speak to me. The natural pulsations of any woman’s body were pushed aside as being “dirty” and I should be a “good girl” – an echo from my Mother and Grandmother – and yet I would have sex with an element of alienation to both my body and being almost like it wasn’t me in the actual physical act.

“That is not how good little girls are”

Devoured by anorexia and bulimia, lost in my identity as a woman – what the hell was that? – I pushed forwards in my carrier with the gusto of a block and the ambition of Magaret Thatcher, social life of Brigitte Jones with her urban family and alcohol filled evenings and weekends. Bloated and motivated by an inner energy that not even I understood I pushed forwards…. To where I had no idea! I felt shame and guilt for nearly everything I was doing desperate to be the GOOD GIRL on the one hand HAPPY on the other (that was a long shot) and always looking elsewhere - at 1000 mph and with massive energy - or everything.

I was going head first into a wall at 1000 mph not knowing how to stop myself!


RELIGION & SPIRITUALITY

Despite my body and my “external” identity that disobeyed me at every turn I had always been attracted to religion, by churches and abbeys, by God. The notion of universal energy, this strength from somewhere else, somewhere/something bigger than us drew me in. A refuge certainly but I felt at home within those sacred walls.

At 14 years old I was visited by the spirit – or angels – During a prayer meeting. People from my church group placed their hand son me and an incredible shaft of energy and light filled by body – I was flooded with this sensation of strength, another type of “force” or light that I had never fet before. I started to speak in a different language one that doesn’t exist – speaking in tongues they call it in the bible -  everyone around me was nodding like they understood every word!

I wanted everyone to know about this but I quickly understood that this was not really the kind of information to share – not even with my own family who were quick to mock and then to say please don’t talk about this Charlotte “you will be judged or looked at like a freek” – wasn’t I already one?

Everyone did indeed treat me as a little mad when I started talking about God and the Holy Spirit … so I just stopped talking about it. I never stopped believing but it just became another thing that I kept hidden away. Everything was kept deep down inside. Buried in the same box as “no sex please we are British, my desires, my visions of being a ballet dancer, my hope that one day I would live the life I wanted to live. It stayed buried for a long time and got covered in the layers of self-abuse that ensued.

FACED WITH MYSELF

Following a break up with my long term boyfriend in my late twenties various major questions started to raise their heads. 3 weeks of total self destructions – parties, no food, lots of wine, my urban family in full swing and work to the max – I started to feel that I should take control again of my life. Ow the hell was I living, why?! Who was I in the midst of all of this?

My ex husband Christian, was not a chance meeting. He arrived in my life at the right moment to put me on the next path and place me firmly in the direction of self discovery …  I met him on the ski slopes of Val d’Isère. My ski instructor who became my husband and father to my 2 children. He helped me, supported me, encouraged me in all my courses, retreats, teacher trainings, paths to self discovery. He was at my side for many years – still is really – and despite the fact that we are now divorced I still have a lot of love for him as a person – but we grew apart as I became the person I was supposed to be he became less of the man I needed to be with. We were not making each other shine and be happy.

And my body in all of that ?????

I had become immunised to my body, detached,. Bizzarly I was also the slimmest I had been in a very very long time. And yet I wasn’t happy. Far from it! My husband no longer touched my body, I flt oddly alienated from my body, my life, my couple, my inner voice was crawling up to the surface to say that I wasn’t living the life I should be. I realized that I super sad and very lonely. On the outside everything looked amazing – I lived 6 months in the mountains, 6 months in the Ardèche, I had a ski instructor for a husband, two beautiful girls and was living as a yoga teacher – everything looked golden so why was I crying inside!

Lisa’s death – one of my closet friends in the mountains Lisa died after many years of fighting cancer. I was with her almost up to the end a sacred time. This opened up some inner doors. Deep searching and inner revelations. I was also finishing my teacher training with Shiva Rea and was on a path of Bhakti Yoga which lead to a lot of tears! 

Lisa always told me to live life fully – you only have one after all!

This time in my life was a real revelation and for some reason a real sexual revelation – I realised that for way too many years the box that had been buried deep in the inner realms of my being needed shaking up! I had to change the way I was living as a person, as a woman.

STANDING IN THE WAY OF THE LIGHT

Birdy sang this song a while ago and it expressing how I was feeling in my marriage. Every story has an ending and despite the fact that Christian had given me s o much confidence in many ways in myself and helped e along the way (and me him I hope) he was standing infront of my light!

I was ready to shine but he was standing there infront of me not deliberately but her was there.


DIVORCE, A NEW LIFE, SHINE

AND ON A MORNING NO DIFFERENT FROM ANY OTHER
SHE MET HERSELF IN THE MIRROR
AND SHE QUITE LIKED
WHAT SHE SAW


DO YOU THINK THAT WE ARE BORN FREE OR THAT WE BECOME FREE?

The answer is both but I had spent so many years thinking that you had to be a certain way, do a certain thing that I no longer had any idea who I was and how on earth I could find my freedom!


EMBRACING YOUR TOO MUCH!

So why am I explaining all of this to you – my body battles, my life, my marriage and divorce etc…
Because the body keeps everything stored, like a usb key. It reflects everything that you think, do, feel, bury deep within, live out loud….

I was always associating my body with my identity. My hatred for my body translated into all realms of my life I hid who I was and buried all my passions, desires and inner thoughts.

Until my body and my identity as a woman did not exist ! I became an observer of my own life!

A BATTLEGROUND OF SELF DENIAL

I tried to give a good impression to be everything everyone wanted me to be – a good girl, wife, mother, business woman…I was (am) very good at it! But the more you bury, the more you deny yourself the more you need to scream out loud!

Inside me there was a vibrant colourful unicorn desperate to get out and be free!


AND WHAT IF OUT THERE AND ODD = EXTRAORDINARY?

Our weaknesses could actually be our strengths !!!

SO ONE DAY SHE JUST DID IT!

So I took an enormous step in 2012 – the start of the Aquarian    Age according to Rebecca Campbell in her book Rise Sister Rise “- an age for and held by women!

Never do things again because “society tells us we should”, because our parents or partners tell us we should
No more pretending – you only have one life Charlotte!


Follow my : DHARMA
Moksha in yoga means = FREE


STENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES!
After a lot of self reflection I decided I should walk in my own footsteps



THAT…..

MY DIFFERENCE = unique
MY BIG VOICE = my voice can be heard when I sing, teach, talk
MY DIFFERENT NATURE OR TOO MUCH = Exceptional
MY BODY = my playground for pleasure & happiness
MY INTENSE WAY OF THINKING & LIVING = My tool for working & being creative

MY DHARMA = TO BE AUTHENTIC TO MYSELF AND SHARE THE INNER LIGHT

I encourage you to take some time and think of all those moments in your life where people have told you to do or be something you did not want to. Where you have buried your essential being.

Think about your own inner voice
Think about what your Dharma is
What is your inner voice saying where are your foot steps leading you
All those times you have been told that it is too much, not great……

Then take a deep breath, close your eyes AND LET THE IMAGE OF WHO YOU ARE FILL YOUR SOUL


Then shout it out loud !!!!!!

lundi 18 juillet 2016

I am Not a Yoga Teacher


...If it means can I take that perfect instagram photo on a beach in California or do the splits or wrap my legs around my head and balance on my finger nails then no I am not a yoga teacher!


Social Media v Reality

Now-a-days if you do not have an instagram account with at least 500 followers or way more, facebook, snap chat etc….  you are apparently a nobody in the world of yoga and well being. It seems that the number of followers you have, the likes per day, the presence you have on social media gives you your status and credentials as a teacher of this ancient art and discipline way more than years of experience and study. As we trawl through the beautiful images on the perfect hand stand, splits or back bend in an idyllic spot miles away our eyes are pleased with the image, we may even think or aspire to the « one day I hope to be able to do that and why not in that kind of location ». But does this desire, these images, constitute & create a good teacher and yoga practitioner ? Lovely images yes – the body is inspired, the ego attracted by the challenge but is the heart filled with joy, is the mind eased and connected ?


We all come to yoga for many reasons and often even if we started out for very physical reasons as indeed I did we quickly feel the subtle shift of something deeper, wider and more special, internal happening. As a practionner we can aspire to these flexible acts of dexterity – whether we get there or not is another matter. As one wise yoga teacher once said its not the ability to touch ones toes that counts but the journey on the way down. 

As a teacher should we able to do all these postures and should we post them on instagram ? I always thought the yoga path was related to healthy well being, inner strength and harmony, calmness of mind, connected and balanced living. Yes, my body has progressed over the years and come to achieve many postures although these super bendy challenges & some technical balances remain a little allusive. As I now teach and have done for years and as the « market » has progressed, boosted and nourished by instagram, it seems the bar has been raised so that it is expected of the teacher that they can do ALL the postures AND they can perform & post them at will & on social media. 

I remember a teacher friend of mine, Alessandra Pecorella,  once saying about Yoga in London. It was a few years ago and the market has moved on even further but she said at the time « If you don’t turn up with live music and fire eating jugglers now people are not interested ! » Years of devoted practice, study of the sacred texts, of sanskrit, deep meditational practice seems some how not to count if you can’t « perform » as a bendy toy and attract 1000 simply from a photo. 

Shiva Rea – a very experienced and highly accomplished teacher & friend of mine - once told me she turned up to teach a class in London and the students were actually standing around the edges of the room with faces that sent a « so impress me ! » expression & message. She said she so wanted to shout out in true Africain style accent « I will not teach you until you can show me some respect ! I will NOT teach you» because the word teacher or guru should at the very least encourage that respect, conjure up some form of humilty.  Not a « so show me attitude » but a keen and humble interest to learn and gain experience from one who knows. Information from the person teaching, what they and are passionate & knowledgeable about and wish to share with you.  Shiva did not shout out at them but swallowed a humble pill and went in and teach an honest and beautiful class. She won the students over through the yoga practice and her flowing message.

I also remember once in India I was asked by a lovely « nodding-head couple » (if you have travelled to India you will know what I mean)  what I did for a job and I said I was a yoga teacher. They simply heard the word teacher and said whilst nodding « ooooo teacher, very good. Teacher is very good ». It seems in India the word teacher commands a respect and certainly not a « well go on then prove it attitude ». They are simple ready to sit and listen to what you have to share with them regardless of a photo clad instagram account.


So why am I saying all of this ? Well I suppose because I feel a little sad that the yoga trend and market has moved more towards the images and the « product » we are selling rather than remain on its beautiful origins of simple practices to encourage the body and mind to feel connected inside. I feel sad that the message of yoga is dilluted into the gymnastic world of beautiful bendy toys and that we are being carried along on the wave of advertising the body beautiful. As I vere towards my fifties I suppose I also find it hard to « compete » on this level of yoga external prowess. But mostly I feel sad I suppose that no matter what I do I too look at these pictures and want to be those people. I am being sucked into the world of marketing.

BUT and there is a big but…. At the end of the day and every day I still roll out my mat for me, not to achieve the hardest postures in the world but to create some space in my day, my body, my mind. I roll out my mat with a attitude of devotion and prayer and with a desire to root down and create strength, rise up and create joyful energy. And pretty much every day I go and teach super happy to have a job I adore and share my experience of yoga with students who are often simply just happy to have an hour to themselves and leave feeling a little happier, more grounded & sereen whether I turn up with fire eating jugglers or not ! I turn up and so do they. We move, we breath, we practise, we lay still together and we as individuals guided by a common inner need – whether our legs are behind our heads or just vaguely in contact with our hands – to connect and feel a part of a bigger beautiful picture.

So am I yoga teacher ? I have used yoga along the years to heal my mental issues and addictions, to heal and nourrish my body as the years have passed. I have a reasonable number of followers on social media, I can do the splits (it took me 40 years), just about get my legs behind my head and do my free standing hand stand on some days …. But mostly I enjoy the simplicity of the yoga message, the yoga practice and sharing that live, face to face with students I can look in the eye, smile at, hug at the end of the class, breath and be with. 


So am I a yoga teacher ? You will have to ask my students….. Namaste

dimanche 3 juillet 2016

How has yoga changed your life?

Has Yoga Changed Your Life ?

A journalist asked me recently so « how has yoga changed your life ? »
OMG I mean where do you start ?

From spotty overweight teenager to busy career girls in London riddles with anorexic & binge drinking tendancies to yoga teacher mum of two organiser of festivals & yoga classes on and offline living in France. 
Yep on the face of it everything has changed !

And yet….
Ok so lets start with the Ayurvedic principles of Doshas & Prakritis – well why not ! Fundamentally we are hot-wired to be the person and character that we are. We have a blue print we cannot change – we are born with it. A unique pattern of Vata (air), Pitta (fire) and Kapha (earth). It is like an ayurvedic DNA which is called our Prakriti. This not only forms many of our physical characteristics but also many many of our personality traits. Any parent with two or more children will tell you that despite the fact they they « brought their children up the same » they are both incredibly different. The whole nature versus nurture debate.

So why say all of this in response the initial question ?
Because fundamentally I haven’t changed. I am the energetic whirlwind I always was full of life and fire and very little earth (although I do have a strong homing instinct and have to have a « chez moi » in place to function and be all the many and varied people I am or seem to be now a days.

However there is a definite BY & AY – Before Yoga & After Yoga.
A little like the BC & AC - Before Children & After Chlidren – because yes, lets face it this is a definite life factor for those « in the know »…. Similarly in yoga there is a before and after. Yoga is not a step or spinning class. You don’t usually go there to get fit there is usually a deeper rooted reason why you end up on a yoga mat in a studio with a teacher talking in « yoga speak » - you know the soft voice that guides you into the realms of « this is a totally fffing impossible pose but she is making it sound and look so easy I am going to give it a go for the greater good of my body and soul….. »


Chatting recently to a friend who knows all about internal battles and who like me has fought weight gain and loss over the years with good, bad & indifferent results, she said that she believed we were born with tendancies to get fat, be large, put weight on by just looking at a bar of chocolate. I am not so sure this a physical tendancy. Yes we are born with our body types and character – as per the Parkriti debate - but does that mean we are also born with tendancies to be and do things to ? If my mother had not fed me solids at the age of 5 weeks, if I hadn’t been made to finish my plate of food, if the girls at school hadn’t called me a fat cow & a loud-mouth would I have later on confort ate, been over weight ? Life throws all sorts of events at us and we can choose how we deal with them. Mine BY was a definite move towards over-eating then starving myself, partying so hard, smoking & drinking then destroying myself with guilt and self-loathing.

So AY ? Was it a magic wand when I turned up on my yoga mat and wrapped myself into pretzel-like shapes ? Did my life and my character and everything radically change about me all of a sudden ? No of course not. But it set the wheels in motion – it took time but to brought me back to where my Prakriti wanted me & needed me to be. It helped me learn to appreciate and love all the aspects of my natural character. Well nearly all !

Years of ashrams, early mornings, hours of yoga practice, meditation, plunging into parts of my brain and my body I didn’t know and sometimes didn’t want to know. 
All of this « yoga » showed me my path and taught me to BE more. Simply BE. Not TRY to be.

I live my yoga daily, I love my yoga daily…..  I gave up my job as a sales director in IT, I moved to France, I became a yoga teacher……

So has yoga changed my life ?

Yes radically on so many levels – not over night and not magic wand like but yes. And also no it hasn’t. I am the person I am character body and all. I have changed directions, I have changed them again. But yoga has taught that life is not a permanent painting, that we have the power to change some things – attitudes, geographics, jobs – but that we can also not change or do not need to change others just life with them and except them more.

mardi 17 mai 2016

Smile You Are in a Yoga Class

Smile You Are in a Yoga Class

When I first came to France and went to church I was sooooo disappointed. It was so grey and serious. I was used to the Evagalistic churches of my youth, the gospel churches of Birmingham full of singing, raised hands and joyful expressions ! Maybe a little extreme on the fun side of religion but never the less my experience. My Dad used to refer to them as the « Happy Clappers » and mocked me endlessly for my Church outings but to me this was what religion and spirituality was about ! Sadly I have never found that joy in the catholic churches I have frequented – maybe I need to try again – but I am struck by a new phenomena

Yoga Classes can be the same kind of place !

I have been teaching yoga for a number of years now and have been practising for even more and very often – like almost every time – I see a raft of serious faces around me. It reminds me of the Catholic Church. It is as if once you go through that yoga studio door and sit or roll out your mat the yoga concentrated face has to appear and all the fun is gone ! Why can’t the fun stay ?

When I first went to a Gospel Church in Birmingham the priest said at the beginning of the service please leave the aisles free for those who wish to dance. I was 13 years old and I thought YES I have landed in my kind of church ! Very few people stayed seated during the service. There were electric guitares, fabulous voices, raised hands and the incredible ingredient of JOY ! For me this is what it should be like to go to church – a veritable celebration of life. A joyful expression of gratitude.


Now my first ever yoga class may well have been tough and very sweaty as I was not at all good at it physically but even then I laughed. In  all honesty I find it very difficult to stay serious in any environment but I am of the opinion – and it is just mine of course – that a yoga class should be an expression of joy, a celebration of life, what your body and mind can do, want to do. Yoga is of course a discipline and a daily expression of harmony between breath, movement, the splendid force of the earth and the beauty of the skies but discipline doesn’t have to align with dull and sad. A discpline like going to church or going to yoga class CAN and should be a joy, a beautiful gift you are offering yourself. The very fact that you have found yourself in a yoga class probably means that you are looking for something that is missing in your daily life. You might just be seeking some physical release but there is a high chance that you are looking to release some emotional shit too.

If you frown and tighten your jaw line what happens to your face and your body. What messages are you sending to your external and as such your internal being ? Try it. Frown, tighten you face, be super serious for a moment and do a simple yoga pose like Tadasana (standing straight) and lift your arms to the sky. Observe your body. Then relax your face, smile, inhale and do the same thing lift your arms above your head. I can guarantee it is NOT the same experience.

In the Yoga Sutras we are offered the expression of Sthira Sukham Asanam – a posture should be stable, confortable and joyful ! It is written there in black and white !

I still do not go to Catholic Mass – maybe I should – but every day I recreate my own church of joy on my yoga mat. A huge smile on my face and my body, mind and breath become an expression of the joy of living during my yoga session. The whole experience becomes way more like a Gospel Church on a simple external level but also on a visceral, vibrational level.

So I invite you the next time you go to your yoga class or roll out your mat at home before you even start your session take a breath and SMILE for this is an incredible opportunity to enjoy the simple fact that you are alive and have a right to smile your way joyfully through your yoga practice !

Written by Charlotte Saint Jean a Yoga Teacher in France, based in the Savoie mountains and the ski resort of Val d’Isère, mama to two great daughters (www.yogicmummy.blogspot.com), founder of the french online yoga web site www.yogachezmoi.com and creator of the Yoga Festival in Val d’Isère (www.yoga-festival-valdisere.com)
Find Charlotte here……