Becoming A Human Pretzel

I gaze towards our guru – a blonde, bright blue-eyed version of Hugh Grant with the accent to match and beautifully bronzed skin. Perched peacefully on his mat, legs comfortably intertwined like a pretzel, he speaks words of affirmations.

“Choose a positive word to focus your practice on today,” he soothes.

“Confidence. Joy. Love. Peace. Whatever the word, keep coming back to this focus throughout your practice.”

And so begins the best yoga experience of my life.

Surveying the room, I am surrounded by glowing yoga gods and goddesses. All with radiant sun-kissed skin, lean limbs and muscles so sculpted I wouldn’t be surprised if they had all stepped off the set of a photoshoot straight into the joglo. With perfect posture and rhythmic breathing, they effortlessly flow from downward dog gracefully into half-plank with as much ease as I walk. Every movement is fluid, agile and elegant.

Meanwhile, shaky legs and twitching muscles accompany every clumsy position I attempt. Sometimes I forget to breathe and my mind wanders to what I am going to eat for lunch. Salty sweat trickles down my nose and drops onto my mat. I look to my left. There’s an Amazonian-like beauty next to me performing callisthenic type movements, her skin glistening with perspiration. Then here I am. My clothing saturated with sweat and my rigid knees hinged in protest.

“… And forward fold. Exhale,” blonde Hugh Grant instructs us with a voice as tranquil as trickling water.

“Now remember to come back to that positive feeling.”

I had started the yoga practice with the word ‘enjoyment’ in my mind. Part of my genius plan to fool my subconscious into believing I was loving every minute of contorting my inflexible body into positions I deem are only possible for those with double-jointed limbs. Now my focus had shift to ‘determination’. Determined to enjoy the class. Determined to keep my thoughts from wandering. Determined to one day become as ridiculously nimble, tanned and exceptionally good-looking as the yogis neighbouring me.

It’s safe to say, I am no seasoned yogi. It’s not a practice I have ever excelled in, nor truthfully enjoyed. I have stretched (and I use that term loosely) my way through various classes here and there in attempt to discover my inner Zen. I even signed up for a whole month of Bikram Yoga once – because exercising in a dark, windowless, 40-degree room is always a great idea. Regardless of these previous attempts, I have always found the gradual, smooth (yet surprisingly difficult) movements of yoga very unpleasant and somewhat monotonous. When I am meant to be meditating, my conscious-mind seizes the quiet as an opportunity to entertain disruptive thoughts. More experienced at fast-paced cardio workouts and interval weight training, the slow speed of yoga has always bored me.

Until now.

With ‘determination’ as my guiding light, I silence my mind of distraction and hone in on the singsong of the birds chirping their morning melodies. Positioned in tree pose, with my eyes closed softly, hands in prayer position over my heart chakra, I return back to the present moment, remembering where I am and how lucky I am to be here. I am practicing yoga in a traditional joglo in Bali. There are lush green gardens surrounding me – the smell of morning dew on the grass still fragrant. My stiff shoulders tremble as I unfold my arms but I still feel at peace. I am starting to respect the movements of my body.

Inhale. Exhale.

Spending the month of January in Bali, quite possibly the number one Yoga hub of the southern hemisphere, has coincided perfectly with my 2016 goal of practicing yoga once a week. Within the first 18 days I had given Yoga four opportunities to convert me from a hater to Eloise ‘yogi’ Smith. Four different classes with four different teachers in four different settings. After the first experience in which mosquitos irritatingly buzzed by my ears and attacked me persistently, all whilst I dripped with sweat in the 35-degree heat, I am surprised I even gave Yoga another shot.

Guru Hugh with his turquoise eyes and soothing voice (I don’t even like English accents usually) may be partially to thank for this sudden rise in enthusiasm, but I do think the credit can be extended further than that. This Yoga class, which by the way was 90 minutes but felt like 45, was the most peaceful and serene I have ever experienced. Despite being out-bended by supple women twice my age balancing on their heads while I remained in child’s pose, I was able to let go and be in the moment. I relished in the beauty of nature and focused my mind back to my positive feeling every time it wandered off. I even managed to progress my pigeon pose from dying bird to something more reminiscent of a graceful swan.

Unlike my attempt to become a gnarly surfer chick, the longevity of which failed to surpass just one lesson (but that’s a whole other story), I am persisting with Yoga. Acknowledging how out of my element I am with this whole Namaste thing, I’ve realized the only way to become the sexy, flexible yogi I have always dreamed of, is to continue feeling uncomfortable until it becomes comfortable. To sound totally and utterly cliché, nothing ever starts out easy. It is with continued practice, patience and consistency that success comes.

I still have a lot bending to do until I too become a human pretzel, but I am opening up my heart chakra to the possibility of falling in love. Yoga, I am willing and ready to be wooed!

Love Eloise x

Another Year Over

It’s that time of year again when everyone is starting to think about their New Years resolutions and set intentions for the coming 12 months. We’re all gearing up to kick start 2016 with big plans and a list of carefully thought out goals. Usually including something along the lines of ‘get fit and healthy’, ‘stop eating junk’ or ‘give up drinking’. All of the above are especially common after the party season and all the Christmas (over)indulging. In fact, I feel like I need to write a couple of those ones down myself.

As a general rule, I don’t really do the whole New Year resolutions thing. I think having goals to work towards is great, I even encourage it, but there’s just something about the idea of ‘resolutions’ that I don’t love. Maybe it’s because 99%* of the time (*not an actual statistic) they end up broken. It has almost become inevitable, accepted even, that new years resolutions are destined to fail. There’s never much longevity in them and people are pretty blaze about it when they don’t last. It’s expected really.

With ‘goals’ on the other hand, our attitudes are a little bit different. We are far more focused and motivated towards success. Achieving a goal is something to be proud of and when we don’t quite get there we can feel like we have let ourselves down. This is why I prefer to set intentions and make goals, not resolutions.

So in 2016 I intend to:

  • Exercise daily – I do exercise regularly but sometimes I can be a little lazy and make excuses not to workout. In 2016 I am going to find 30 minutes of activity every day. Even if it’s just a short walk on my rest days for active recovery. The only workout you ever regret is the one you didn’t do.
  • Start yoga once a week – I am not much of yoga person, preferring to get my heart rate up and sweat on in the gym instead. But I have developed quite a few niggling muscle and joint issues that I know will be helped with stretching, strengthening my core and increasing my flexibility. Time to get bendy!
  • Focus on my career and harness my creativity – 2016 is the year I will chase my dreams. I am determined get out of retail for good, follow my passion and start pursuing my creativity. I need a change and I am determined to make a career out of my writing. In fact, in January, I am heading over to bali for 4 weeks for a Travel Writing Internship with Global Hobo, which I believe will be a catalyst to bigger and better things.
  • Daily Gratitude – The more you express gratitude for the things you do have, the more things you have to feel grateful for. Every day I try to take the time to meditate on the things I am thankful for. From January 1st I will start a gratitude journal in which I will write down 5 things every day that I am grateful for.
  • Be the fittest and healthiest version of me – I say this every year and every year I feel like I fail on this one. Why? Because to be honest, it is pretty ambiguous. Like, what does that actually mean? The thing with goals is they need to be both specific and measurable for them to work. Think numbers. I have a body fat % I want to achieve and that is what I am aiming for in 2016.

So what are your intentions for 2016? And how are you going to stick it out?

If you are someone who struggles to stay committed to goals and new years resolutions, you might like the idea of Promise Or Pay. Promise or Pay is an awesome little initiative where you make a promise to achieve a goal but if you don’t stick to it you pay money to charity. Your promise is made public on the website and people can also donate to charity on your behalf if you do achieve your goal. So its a win-win, AND it keeps you accountable.

promise-or-pay-info

The close of another year is also a time when we reflect on the past 12 months, the good, the not so good and the amazing! It’s an opportunity to think about all the things that we have achieved (or did not achieve), the challenges we faced, the people we met and the lessons we learned.

For me, looking back on 2015 makes my heart swell with gratitude and joy. I actually would go as far to say (and this is a big call), that 2015 was the best year of my life so far! Not because everything was perfect. It wasn’t ALL rainbows, sunshine and smiles. But even when I was faced with challenges I pulled through and found an inner strength I did not know I had. In life there are no mistakes, only lessons learnt and thats the approach I had towards any ‘wrong turns’, which were never wrong turns at all. They were part of my path for a reason and those reasons were valuable lessons.

I also met some of the greatest people this year, in circumstances I never could have foreseen. People I now cannot imagine my life without. Including my soul sister and someone I now consider one of my best friends. (You know who you are). Someone who is equally as awkward and dorky as me, but also has a heart of gold and so much love to give. Someone who has brought out a part of me that I feel has been hiding and just waiting to escape up until this point and I am so thankful for that. Someone who I have the most intense, deep, spiritual and emotional conversations with one second, and then we will be belly laughing on the floor the next.

I really came to genuinely and wholeheartedly love myself this year. I have become accepting of the person I am and have no concerns of what people think of me anymore. I cannot even begin to express how elevating this is. To be so content and happy with the person I am has only strengthen me and helped me to grow further.

I put a lot of faith in the universe this year, trusting in the timing of my life and guess what, things really did seem to fall into place seamlessly. I know that things can only get better and better from here and I am so thankful to have had the best year of my life in 2015.

Cheers to the New Year! I cannot wait to see what 2016 brings.

Love Eloise xx

Running Towards my Goals

So, how is everyone going with their new years resolutions and goals?

Jess Running

One of my goals this year is to be able to run 5k without stopping. Progress is slow so I’m glad I’ve given myself a whole year to do this. Last night I tied up my laced and went for a run along my favorite coastal path. It’s an 8.8k length of pavement with a lot of hills to test me.

If there is one thing I know, it’s that I am not a born long distance runner. I love sprinting and I actually find it easier to sprint up hills than maintain a steady pace. So it’s been a lot of walking, then running, then walking, then sprinting, then dying, then running.

I’m getting there.

Jess xx