How was it in Poland?

benita yoga retreat in poland collage-2019

In May we spend time practising yoga and relaxing in this magical place in the mountains. It was fantastic, wonderful place, great people, lovely weather, delicious food.
But as they say, images speak the thousand words, so I’ll leave you with this video capturing some moments of our stay in Poland.

Also some still images available HERE.

Who’s coming next year???

Who Needs a Retreat?

Walk-in-the-Mountain

I have been wanting to do this for a while. Thinking about how I want it to be, where and when I want it to happen. I didn’t rush the process, I allowed the opportunity and answers to unfold when the time is right. And so the day has come to invite you all to a yoga and gong retreat.

It seems like everyone these days is organising some kind of a retreat, from a weekend mini-retreats in the city to longer 2-3 weeks retreat in some remote parts of the world to meet different needs. What I would like to offer you is based on the yogic and ayurvedic knowledge that I understood, assimilated and experienced in over a decade of regular practice. What have I learned? What have I experienced?

We meet in different studios, do various classes, attend events, workshops and these all can inspire us, teach us, help us to restore health and balance our life. But, there is something else that retreats can give us…. the opportunity to focus on our body, our needs, our experience, our entire self only, without any distractions, anything that could occupy our mind. There is just you, your body, your mind and your breath ? All basic needs are met, everything is provided so you can find space for yourself and connect with yourself in a safe environment. It sounds so simple but is so powerful and so needed these days. We’re living in the world full of opportunities, but also the world full of noise and stimulae for the mind and the senses. Sometimes it’s not so easy to stay with healthy rhythm of the day, healthy eating, physical routine, open and positive attitude towards life and future. Sometimes it’s just too much, sometimes we wish we could just run away for a moment, right? A retreat acts as an escape to some degree, so allow yourself to escape.

What we may notice during a retreat, when we’re ‘away from it all’ is that we can go much deeper into our yoga practice, our breathing, we do it regularly every day without any excuses, distractions or uncertainty whether we’ll be able to make it to the class today or we need to stay late at work. For some of us it may be actually a completely new experience to practise every morning and let me assure you… it feels amazing! It will give you a new perspective and maybe deeper personal insight. I can say from my experience, that one of the most profound healing experiences happened to me when I was away from my daily duties, being completely present and free ?

We may also find it very liberating that we actually have time for doing nothing ? Sky gazing for example or going for a walk in the forest instead of doing something considered as more productive. And these simple ways of spending time relaxing, observing, walking, dreaming, singing, dancing or whatever else you feel like doing will begin to influence and heal our mind and body.

Did you know that one of the most significant factor for personal happiness is relationship with other people. They say we could be as wealthy as a king, yet miserable, if we have no friends. Or we could be as poor as dirt, yet happy, because we’re surrounded and supported by friends. This is so true and yet again in our busy lifes we so often forget how vital connection with another human being is. Our retreat will provide an opportunity to meet people who, like us, want to relax, restore, re-balance, maybe let go of something. And I know it can be a little intimidating sometimes especially if we need space for healing or grief but the fact that there are other people around you with similar fears can really serve you. We will be accompanied by like-minded people, potentially making friends that will last longer.

Having all these wonderful sessions daily, delicious healthy meals, lovely people around, being in vibrant healing nature with beautiful views you may decide to go off line for a couple of days. Wi-Fi is limited and rather slow allowing you to stay in touch but rather discouraging you from staying on facebook all day and check news every five minutes. You may even realise that having your phone on airplane mode is the best part about getting away ?

If I can summarise it all I’d say retreats to me are more than just a holiday, it can be a very powerful step toward personal transformation on both, physical and mental level.

Join me this May in a Spring Yoga & Gong Mountain Retreat.

Acknowledge your emotions

Being a yogi may not mean you’re always blissful. In your life journey there will be dark moments, when old emotions are triggered, let them come. Don’t ignore them as what you resist persists. Acknowledge what is happening, give yourself permission to be vulnerable, to cry or laugh… express your emotions and allow yourself to just sit with this experience. At the same time you don’t want to judge how you feel, you don’t want to comment on your emotions, just let them be.

I heard recently someone saying that we live in emotional dark age, we’re expected to hide emotions so we put a mask and get so used to pretending that after a while we completely disconnect from feeling.

-How are you?
-Good, thank you.
Why do we even bother asking?

Be honest with yourself as much as you can. This is the most intimate relation you have. Your emotions are always there to tell you something, so listen to them, they are like compass in your life ?
So… find space and time to pause and turn your gaze inwards, ask yourself how you feel…. enjoy the conversation, enjoy this space ?

Not to Worry

This is a hard time of year for me, always has been. Christmas fever is over, New Year has started and lots of expectations, plans came with it. It would be perfect if they all came true, wouldn’t it? I’m good in talking about plans but not in bringing them to life. Because what’s coming with all the great plans I have is usually lots of fear and doubts. So at some point I start procrastinating, postponing the actions, finding excuses, distractions for the mind.

BE A WARRIOR NOT A WORRIER….. I read it once printed on a yoga top.

You could say easier said than done. And it’s true, it feels so hard sometimes to be strong, we worry so much about so many things, about our health, our family, our job or about not having it. Mass media feeding us regularly with bad news (who wants to listen to the good news, right?), local or global, economic, political, national or religious conflicts. All this slowly sinking into out mind which is then analysing all the data and creating certain conclusions.

And we are also bombarded with the solutions to our problems, lots of informations about how this medicine or that equipment can help us achieve what we want or help us with a problem we have. Don’t you think it would be wise first to use the tools and techniques that are free and we all have access to? To see if it makes any difference in the quality of our lives, to see if we can learn how to control our fears and insecurities and eventually to live a peaceful life. I don’t see why it shouldn’t be possible, it is possible. But it requires some work from us. So if you have enough of being a worrier give it a go.

It all comes down to controlling our mind to use it the way we want it. Our mind is just one of our tools as a human beings, we want to be able to use it wisely and not letting it control us.

We also have to stop running away from what we think and say, how we act and react to the world around us. Once you start noticing your thinking process, then ( and this is the hard part ? you need to reprogram your mind and stop judging and rating everything. Have you actually noticed that we put labels on everything and everyone? Including ourselves, our looks, our thoughts and actions. If you want a peaceful mind you simply need to stop. So see if you can notice what your mind is doing but not giving it any comment or judgement. There is no right or wrong, it just is and you decide if it’s serving you or not.

Once you have all the above in mind find a spot where you can comfortably sit, in a chair or on a floor, mat or blanket in a cross-legged position. Make sure your lower back is supported and neck and shoulders relaxed, you may need a wall.

If you’re busy it may take as little as 5-10min. But to be honest if you think you don’t have even these 5 min to spend, you probably need more ?

Rest your hands on your knees, gently lengthen the spine up creating a bit more space in your ribcage.

Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath. Let your breath be as natural as possible, don’t force it, don’t manipulate, just let the air come in and out in the rhythm comfortable for your body.

After one or two breaths your mind may start creating a story or comment or picture. And you may not notice it for a while, letting it take you somewhere as usual. But at some point you will notice and then without any judgement bring your attention back to your breath. Don’t force your mind to do anything, it won’t work. Just acknowledge what your mind is doing and come back to your breath.

Your mind will be wandering many times and every time you realise you’re not fully present bring your attention back to your breath.

This is one of the simplest ways to start meditating. And why am I linking it to being warrior not a worrier you may ask? Well, once you start using this quick technique regularly you will see that your mind is mostly analysing the past or projecting the future. Being constantly in the past is not going to change it, the past is gone. Worrying so much about the future doesn’t make much sense either as nobody knows what will happen, we may predict but we don’t know.

Practising awareness and being in the present moment helps to take all the chatter in the head away. And once there’s no noise in the head, we don’t worry so much and have space to start living the present moment fully. This is the only thing we have… the present moment.

It may be a long way, boring process of repetitions, but I don’t want to be terrorised by my own mind. Do you?

Between Pushing and Letting Go

benita yoga barking and dagenham east london

‘Yoga is a dance between control and surrender – between pushing and letting go – and when to push and when to let go becomes part of the creative process, part of the open-ended exploration of your being.’

Joel Kramer

Do you feel that you’ve tried everything and it’s still not working?

I feel like this in my yoga practice sometimes. I know the technique, I prepare properly but the pose is still not available to me.
And then I say to myself: ok, maybe not yet, maybe my body is not ready. I take the step back and stop pushing.

When I give my body time to digest all the work it’s done in preparation for the pose then my mind is not so fixed on the pose anymore.
Only letting go of expectations allows me to go deeper in my yoga practice. And this works every time I’m stuck.
Pushing and trying creates more tension in the body, frustration and self-doubt in the head. There’s no space, no energy, no subtlety and we’re so exhausted with trying.

If we can let go and our mind is not in charge anymore then things start happening in more natural rhythm and life becomes an enjoyable experience.
In the world where everything needs to be improved to perfection, where we’re expected to be constantly better and achieve more, instead of finding space and freedom we may get ourselves into uncomfortable and tight place where it’s hard to breathe and move with ease.

So think about it for a moment and see where you need to push and where you can let go.
When the time is right whatever you’ve been preparing yourself for, will come.
And if it will not……well….. then apparently it wasn’t meant to be… just let go ?

To stay inspired and keep practising

Hi Friends,

Since I started discovering yoga I’ve been constantly looking for guidance and some inspiration to keep me motivated and on track.
I’ve noticed certain benefits of yoga after few weeks or months of practice, such as less pain in my lower back, deeper breathing and calmer mind. It was the best motivation to keep going.
But at some point your mind may get bored with your body doing the same over and over again. And you may think your body will never be able to do this or that pose. It may be true, may be not.

Some of the yoga poses will feel easier in your body than others, some of them really challenging and some absolutely out of reach… at least this’s what we may be telling ourselves. For me if the pose required more upper body strength or being upside down I’d do anything to avoid even trying it ?
One side of me was so inspired by hundreds of photos of advanced yoga poses on social media and the other was saying: you’re gonna break your neck if you try this.

Over time I started training my mind to stop criticizing all the time and training my body to be steady, mobile and ready for more advanced poses.
Taking small steps and repeating until you feel your body gets stronger, lighter and ready to go further is the key to go deeper into your yoga practice. Persistence and patience does pay off.

Sometimes I’m recording my own yoga practice, mainly to see what I’m doing, how I’m moving my body. And I put this video together as a reminder that sometimes things don’t look perfect, sometimes we may be disappointed with our body, with what it looks like, with what it can or cannot do. It’s important to remember that sometimes it takes more than one try for things to work. And it takes some determination and patience.

So don’t give up on your body. It’s a wonderful vehicle that should carry you through this life with joy and courage.

Be brave,
Stay with your practice,
Keep consciously moving your body with the breath,
Look for inspirations,
Ask questions,
Experience,
Help your body reach beyond the point your mind thinks is the limit,
And remember you’re good the way you are ?
See you on the mat ?

Stop the glorification of busy

One of the things that hits you when you come to live in Western society is that saying ‘I’m busy’ is something people expect you to say if you’re a working professional. It almost raises your social status.

Some of you know my work experience and that I’ve been in a corporate financial world for some time. Just like a lot of others coming to London I wanted to find a good job somewhere, where I can use my experience and skills, learn something new, improve my English and get a decent payment for my work. I can’t actually say I found my first job in the City, because I guess I’ve been always lucky to get a job without looking for it. Opportunities were always coming to me and I was just saying ‘yes’ each time. And so I got the job in Investment Banking sector. I’m old enough to remember reality from the other side of the Iron Curtain so I appreciate the easiness of living in West. With a job like this I felt like a queen ? For a while…..

I remember when I jumped on this crazy train, I thought I could handle everything. I saw how different environment it was to what I was used to, but at the same time I knew that I’m not like most people around me. I wasn’t partying, drinking, socialising, even eating out, as I’ve been always trying to prepare my own meals. Weird, right? I was doing fine being me in this new environment and simply working hard.
The funny thing is that being aware of something doesn’t mean it won’t affect you. It will… maybe not straight away, but little by little, step by step. An example? What strikes you first when you’re in the City in rush hours is the pace people move in. After some time you get used to it and then some time later you start running just like others. It’s not a choice, not happening from one day to another, it’s a process that happens almost somewhere in the background of what you’re busy doing.
So things that were strange to you originally, start slowly sinking in, all the busyness, necessity of being busy, necessity to rush (you don’t want to be a looser and left behind, do you?), the amount of work that’s never ending no matter how many hours you’d spend in the office, omnipresent stress keeping everyone in the rhythm of work and finally after the credit crunch in 2008 the fear of loosing our jobs.

When I encourage my students in the yoga class to try re-connecting with our body, tuning into it and really learning to listen to it, it is because we tend to ignore what our body is telling us. Even the pain is not stopping us, we just take the painkiller and….. continue being busy. I definitely wasn’t fully connected with my body and only medical test results and visits in the hospital made me stop, analyse my situation and realise what was happening. My body was telling me that I wasn’t coping with the situation very well. But most importantly what it was showing me is that the life I had wasn’t making me happy, it was a comfortable life, but at some point lost its taste, colours and intensity. And it wasn’t making me a better person. Two main emotions that took over were fear and anger, skilfully hidden so nothing was showing outside.
I’m not trying to demonize the places I’ve been working at or people I’ve been working with. We are all trying to live a happy life as best as we can, each in our own, very individual way. When I look back now I appreciate my experience because I know that if it wasn’t for this experience, my first yoga classes probably wouldn’t have such a profound effect on me. I believe that everything happens for a reason and I guess I needed to try to realise this is not how I want to live.

So I changed my life. But it didn’t change overnight, at least not in my mind…. it wasn’t the end of the story with being busy. When everyone left early in the morning to go to work, I stayed at home and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was so used to the fast pace, fixed rhythm and ‘doing as much as you can’, that I felt guilty being un-busy! In our modern world it’s almost equal to being unproductive. Luckily I have yoga and time to observe and learn, self-study and tune into myself again. And I’m so grateful for this wisdom. I don’t feel guilty any more, I feel privileged to be able to practise yoga and share my experience and yoga knowledge with other people. We all so, so need to relax and start listening to our inner self, our true self.
Of course you may relate to my experience, you may not. But I think we all get into the dark place at some point in our lives and by simply more conscious breathing and being in our body we can help ourselves. Isn’t it great?

I’m still going through a detox time, but I already feel I can breathe more freely, have more space and strength in my body and most importantly learn everyday how to calm and control my busy mind.
And maybe one day I’ll start dreaming of flying again ?

Don’t let anyone convince you that you have to be busy to be successful in your life. The successful life is a happy life. If you need a break and feel you’re loosing control, stop and allow yourself to relax and let go of anything that’s simply not serving you.

Yoga in Hackney Downs at The Well Garden

Great news ?

I’ve started teaching yoga in Hackney Downs @ The Well Garden, East London.

Every Tuesday 8:30 – 9:30 am and every Thursday 13:15 – 14:00.

The Well Garden Studio is a wonderful environment to give you a place of tranquility to take time for yourself; to release your body and mind from your daily stresses and find your way back to a place of peace and harmony.

Spread the word and drop in if you’re around.

Here is the full address: The Well Garden, The Village Green, Hackney Down Studios, 17 Amhurst Terrace,E8 2BT, London

The Well Garden is located directly opposite The Russet Cafe. Next to the A-Side B-Side Gallery.

Free car parking is available : Please ask for The Well Garden parking permit at reception and display clearly in you car window. Please don’t forget to give it back afterwards!!

For more DETAILS or TO BOOK please CONTACT ME or THE WELL GARDEN. You may also give them a call on 0203 095 9735.