As I sit on a train heading for London, the sun is rising and it is always stunning when the horizon starts to glimmer in a kaleidoscope of oranges and reds. It makes me wonder in awe at the amazingness of life and this planet we call home. October is also the time of the year (at least in the United Kingdom), where the nights are starting to draw in and you can feel a slight chill in the air.
Sandwiched between summer and winter, autumn is the “cooling off” season. Most vegetative growth decreases. Animals begin to prepare for the dearth of food that generally comes during the winter, gathering supplies or traveling to warmer climates. Our digestive system starts to slow down, ready for hibernation. We start to move less. The property market tends to slow down. Trees are starting to shed their leaves in preparation for winter.
Autumn tends to be windy, changeable, dry, rough and cool.
It is generally regarded as the end of the growing season. Also known as the harvest season, autumn ushers in a time of celebration for many farming cultures when they gathered in their crops.
Generally, this time of the year is a time to focus on stability, grounding, warming and nurturing. What we also want to prevent a sense of heaviness setting in too soon, before winter, is to keep our systems moving gently.
So, here are some tips to help you through this time of the year:
Develop a daily routine of waking and going to bed at the same time. Whilst we want to keep moving and prevent sluggishness and lethargy from setting in, we also want to contain that within a structure that will support us during this time of change.
Regular physical activity. Be moving. Find something you love doing, and keep doing it. Get to the yoga studio. Go to the gym. Get outside for a walk. Put your favourite tune on and dance around the house to it. Anything! Just keep moving. This will also help our digestive system moving well.
Have a nourishing diet that will help balance the characteristics of air, space and movement, which are prominent in Autumn. Soups, stews and warm grain ‘porridge’ are ideal choices. Cooking with warming spices such as cloves, ginger, cardamon, nutmeg and cinnamon will be beneficial to maintain balance and wellbeing throughout the colder months. Avoid cold and raw foods. Sip on warm water/herbal teas throughout the day.
The change in season is a good time to detox an rid the body of accumulated toxins. Ayurveda focuses strongly on prevention. Now is the time to prevent seasonal changes affecting your health and wellbeing over the coming months. Swap your personal care products over to cleaner ones. Do a 30 day detox (which I’ll be doing starting October 7th), to give your digestive system a break.
On that note, go for a colonic irrigation session. I had my first many years ago, and the therapist recommended having it done twice a year, when the seasons and our diet change.
Read. Keep your mind active by nourishing it with a good book.
Ultimately, find the balance and ride the shift in the season. Till next time ….
Last week, I posted on my personal Facebook profile an account of what I’m going through as I navigate my way through the peri-menopause phase of my life. And I received an incredible response. I did think that I would get some response, but the comments posted were incredible, and it made me think about how isolated we have become as a society but also as women. It was also very enlightening how women thought about this phase and what they are choosing to do about it. So, I thought I would expand on my thoughts further about the subject.
If you haven’t read it, here it is …
It’s been an interesting few years as I journey through the peri-menopause phase of my life. This, coupled with a serious shoulder injury, driving the growth of our businesses forwards and being less active, I have experienced many different emotions about my body. And the reason I write this is because I know, and see many posts from others going through this transition too, and I wanted to share my two pence worth. Having spent more than 25 years in the fitness industry, I’ve been subjected to the pressure of looking a certain way. It started when I was asked to present a masterclass at my very first fitness convention; I was asked by my boss to lose some weight and get a tan. Mind you, I was much lighter then than I am today. A few years after that, I was at another fitness convention and was told by my new boss that I was too thin and needed to gain some weight. I will say that throughout that entire period, till the peri-menopause kicked in, I was a consistent size 8 and weighed in the region of 52-55kg. Today, I weigh an extra 10kg. Am I happy with my body? No, but not in the way you think. The only time I ever monitored my weight was when I used to compete in Tae Kwon Do, where I had to maintain my weight because I was competing within a weight category. Aside from that, I’ve always just gone with how my body functions and how it feels. So, no, I’m not happy with my body. However, I am surfing the emotions of this phase of my life. I’m riding the highs and the lows. I take pride in the growth of our businesses and the people in my teams. There are days when I feel bloated and my clothes don’t fit as they have done. I can wake up and my joints ache. I can deliver a training course and inspire people to take action greater than the remit of the course. I sleep with a little fan on my bedside table and use it when I need to (it’s a life saver!). I am working towards my vision of healing the planet and I’m attracting the right people to help me on my way. I cry at the slightest thing and I lose my temper. I have chosen not to take any HRT; instead, I’ve chosen to monitor and supplement my diet. Some days I’m good with that, and others not so. It is an initiation right into the next phase of my life as a woman. Some chapters will close in the coming year, and new ones will open. I ride it. I embrace it. It reminds me that I am alive.
So let me share my view on the fitness industry in this blog (I’ll blog about the other two over the month).
From the moment I entered the fitness industry as a Trainer/Presenter, there were expectations of how we should look. You may think that it is unsaid, however, I will say that it was spoken about and I have had it said, not only to me, but also to other colleagues too. Personally, I have been told that I had to lose weight (I was about 48kg at the time), get a tan, get leaner, as well a gain weight (I was 48kg at the time). Who told me this? My line managers at the time. There was also a time where there were massive discussions in the printed press about how a group exercise instructor should not be up front teaching a class if they were overweight. The argument was that if they were training and fit, they would not be that size, and being that size would not be encouraging to their class participants. I also remember sitting in a workshop, and the Presenter basically telling off the entire room, and highlighting the fact that there were instructors in the room who have “got bigger” over the past couple of years.
If you are selling fitness, then you should be fit; indicating that fitness implied lean, slim bodies. I went through a period in more recent years where our “physicality” for the job was crucial, again implying that we should not be carrying any excess weight. And all through this time, I have been with colleagues who have experienced eating disorders get worse, and those who did not, develop disordered eating.
Twenty five years ago when I was lecturing at the university, a final year student of mine wanted to study the prevalence of disordered eating amongst group fitness instructors for her dissertation. She was not able to get the study off the group as the instructors she approached could not be honest enough to complete her questionnaire.
Today, these instructors are older and with the women, going through peri-menopause or menopause, and they are carrying this silent, judgemental voice in their head and on top of that, another voice has appeared. The voice that says, “You’re too old to be doing this.” And I see them literally fighting against this voice to prove it wrong. They want to be proud to say that they are fitter than friends who are the same age, or that they can hold their own against their younger counterparts.
Why do we feel we have something to prove? Are we that afraid of our age, that we are afraid to become old? Is it ageing that worries us, or is it that we are afraid of becoming insignificant? I wonder if there is an underlying fear which results in a fight to stay lean, and fit because that is what is perceived as being youthful in the fitness industry.
The fact is, we are ageing.
It just is and biological ageing begins from around our late twenties. I am not denying the fact that there are truly inspiring men and women who continue to compete all kinds of sports, and good for them! If that is what you love doing, then keep doing it. You do not have to compare yourself with others, let alone those who are younger. It is the intention with which we do what we do that is crucial.
My questions to are:
Are we coming from a place of kindness and love, or from a place of lack and insufficiency?
Are our lives not full enough and our legacy non-existent that we need to keep fighting?
Having lectured for years on exercise physiology and obesity, I know full well the implications of that and health. The excess weight that I’m referring to is not what would be deemed as obese. I am referring to a softening of the edges, and who knows what the future holds once I move in the menopause phase? Could it be that my hormones start to settle and my body follows suit?
This is part of our journey through life as women. I cannot speak for all women, but I wonder if women in the group fitness industry have a distorted body image of themselves. Are we being kind to ourselves, and what are we doing to nurture ourselves through this phase of our lives?
I am most probably rambling here … could that be my hormones?
Ah wait … I haven’t had my mind health supplement today!
How many times each day do you mean to say one thing, and say another instead, because you are worried about what others might think? How often do you wake up in the morning with one idea in mind for what you want to accomplish, only to find yourself doing something else because of social pressures or personal anxieties? Do you dress the way you want to dress? Do you listen to the music you really like, or do you follow the herd? Are you working the job of your dreams, or the job of someone else’s dreams?
I feel it is harder than ever to be yourself when society want you to be mass produced. When we reflect on history, so often the big moments, good or bad, occurred because of social obedience; where people have been too afraid to speak up for what they believe in, and decide to follow the crowd. That’s how a movement is started, isn’t it? The first follower.
But no lifetime, no matter how successful, will be truly rewarding or happy if you cannot learn to love yourself and be yourself.
So, yes, I am encouraging you to be brave this month and do what feels good for you!
Yoga is about taming our mind, our subconscious mind, so that our mind becomes our servant, rather than the other way around. Maybe it is just me, but I find as we get older, we log away more experiences and these can cloud our judgment, to the point that we even lose ourselves, who we truly are. On the other hand, many find that as they get older, they reach a point, a moment, where enough is enough, and they would much rather release the chains of expectations, and be themselves.
Through yoga practice, we come to realise our habitual thought processes and we get to choose if those processes serve us well, or not. And if they don’t, then change them, get rid of them, because whilst we still hang on to those habitual masks, we will never truly honour ourselves and we may even hit burn out.
So on the your yoga mat this month, I encourage you to drop all expectations you have of yourself and your yoga practice. Allow yourself to be truly in the moment. Your teacher is just a guide, not an authority. Take the guidance of your teacher and the structure of the practice into your heart and move how it feels good for your to move. Will you move through your practice based on what your head is saying to you, or will you move from your intuition? How will your breathe? How will you rest?
Off your mat, consider these questions:
Could you describe your strengths and weaknesses with confidence?
When you are around others, do you ever feel strained and uncomfortable and find it hard to relax?
Has anyone ever told you that they thought you were one way, but then when they got to know you better, realised you were another way?
Do you ever pretend to like someone you really don’t?
Do you ever act like you don’t care what others think, but deep down it really stings when others judge or reject you?
Awareness is everything. Don’t put pressure on yourself to change overnight, and be compassionate with yourself. Trust that if you set the goal of being more real, via the dropping of your habitual masks, you will be able to do this with time.