By Doris Richardson-Edsell, Yoga teacher and nurse
There is something enriching about not speaking, especially for an entire day.
When you are silent, things become clear in your mind, body and soul, and then you get in touch with that deeper part of yourself. It is there right in front of you but you do not always see your spiritual self that wants to take care of you; offering your internal guidance that helps you to just be. When you find that pleasant area in your mind, you will know it well as it speaks to you; telling you that today will be good, and that all days are valued, even the ones where you are struggling with life; the good and bad days need to be honored.
Find time today to just be in silence, whether it is a mindful, meditative walk or just being with yourself in the silence of your home; focusing on your breath and nothing else. It does not have to be a long time; just time to be without distractions and noise; time to think about nothing but your slow breath; a mindful way to get in touch with yourself and your inner soul.
Soft music in the background helps to find silence for the day. It sooths your soul and gives peace and harmony to your day. Find a way that is yours alone; silently sitting, lying down or walking in silence. Beginning a meditative way about yourself can be so enriching; you begin to speak slower, do everything more mindfully and your body thanks you with a slower pulse and lower blood pressure. Some will begin to notice the change in you; commenting on how peaceful you are.
Beginning with you in a graceful way
When your day begins with slowing yourself down to see where you are going and taking the time with each step that you need to do, you become calm and centered. And you find that listening to your body and its needs for the day, brings you to a place where you are taking care of all of your many selves; mind, body and soul.
These are the many ways to begin each day with a smile.
Doris Richardson-Edsell is a a registered nurse, yoga instructor, author, mother and grandmother. She has worked as a counselor and group therapist at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, New York, for over 25 years.
As an author she has penned a series of books on the topics of health and wellness, including plant based dieting, weight maintenance and vegan cooking. Her latest e-book, ‘Maintaining Your Weight: Staying in the Center’, will be available on Amazon.com from 26th September.
If you enjoyed this post and would like to read or hear more of Doris’ expertise, you can check out her webpage, Body Mind Health, where she discusses and advises on all topics concerning holistic healing and health.
You can also tune in to catch Doris on a2Zen.fm tomorrow (25th September) 11pm EST when she’ll be interviewed on Angela Levesque’s ‘On Health & Healing’ show regarding the true meaning of ‘being healthy’.
Last week an all-Parliamentary group in the UK released a report on ‘Wellness Economics’. The report is part of the British Prime Minister David Cameron’s ongoing intention to measure the well-being and happiness of the country’s citizens and is yet another cog in a really interesting global wheel that has been turning for some while.
With chronic illnesses and diseases on a continual rise, there has been a slow shift across western societies towards preventative health practices and proactive wellness. This report, with its emphasis on the necessity of tackling poverty and job instability, claims that this is still fundamentally about creating a healthy, hale and happy society: “We care about recessions because we care about unemployment, and we care about unemployment because we care about people’s well-being”.
Economics and well-being are, of course, intrinsically linked. On a private level, the pressures of having little or no money can cause stress-related illnesses to manifest as well as push people into making choices that also affect their health negatively, such as buying cheap, low-quality food or turning to drink, drugs or overeating as a panacea for their problems. On a public level, the consequences of an unhealthy society also creates economic as well as a social problems. According to the World Economic Forum’s Healthy Living Initiative the global economy will lose an estimated $47 trillion through what it calls chronic noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) – i.e. heart problems, cancer, respiratory diseases, diabetes, etc. – and mental health disorders. Such NCDs, it claims, have four common risk factors – tobacco and the harmful use of alcohol, plus physical inactivity and unhealthy diets.
Thus the link between economics and well-being is circular in nature with health influencing the economy and the economy influencing health. So, the fact that certain leaders now want to redefine this relationship is to be lauded – or is it?
On the one hand, making changes which are aimed at benefiting people is a good thing. Even the simple step of using the word ‘wellness’ when talking about ‘healthcare’ can make a difference. I mean, let’s be honest, when we say ‘healthcare’ what we really think is ‘sickness’ and ‘sick care’. Wellness, on the other hand embraces all that makes us feel and look good in the areas of fitness, beauty, nutrition, mindfulness & spirituality as well as traditional and alternative medicine.
Wellness also has a much broader reach across a lot of sub-categories that may, in more traditional thinking, have been viewed as on the periphery of the health industry – i.e. certain alternative medicines, spas, meditation, even yoga. However, there is a large body of evidence to now suggest that when traditional healthcare and wellness practices are approached holistically people’s overall health and well-being is elevated and healthcare costs are then reduced.
Nonetheless, while our countries’ leaders may really be trying to step in the right direction and this sideways move in thinking about peoples’ well-being is not just fancy footwork to please the electorate, do we really want them deciding what actually constitutes ideas of well-being?
For example, last year the former Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg attempted to pass a bill to ban super-sized soda drinks being sold in New York City. This was part of the Mayor’s overall health policy for the city which included bans on indoor smoking and trans fats as well as an initiative to reduce salt in food. Bloomberg readily admits that his fight against Big Soda was as a direct result of the cost of obesity on the city and the country as a whole (Obesity incurs $190billion alone in annual medical costs in the US).
Yet, while some may view this as a positive health stance, the moral implications of a government deciding what people can and cannot drink and eat is surely questionable. Also, if this bill had been passed and then adopted by other US states and eventually other countries, would that have opened the door to heavy legislation on all sorts activities and behaviors deemed ‘unhealthy’ by powerful governments?
The same could be said for David Cameron’s introduction of the national happiness campaigns which have begotten the above-mentioned report. His Happiness Index received a lot of attention when he first discussed it nearly a decade ago. Yet while creating a Happiness Index as an alternative to GDP (which only measures economic output) may sound both progressive and positive, do we really need governments to concentrate efforts on promoting one single picture of mass happiness rather than creating the conditions that allow individuals to pursue happiness and well-being in all its kaleidoscopic colours?
In the main, I like that elected leaders are getting to grips with the idea that there are other measures outside of monetary wealth such as health, leisure, the environment, governance, housing, education and work-life balance that determine quality of life. However, just as GDP can’t tell you who in the country has their pockets full and who doesn’t because it only measures an average per capita output, doesn’t that also mean that a happiness or well-being index will also not highlight those individuals or population groups within a single ‘well-being economy’ who have possibly slipped between the cracks and are not doing as well as others? (And how depressing would it be anyway to realize you hadn’t achieved everything the index claimed you were supposed to achieve to make you happy?!)
It is interesting, and not before time, to see western politics turning down a path towards better health and living conditions for people. Nonetheless, this journey is one that needs to be taken in unison with the citizens whose lives they’re trying to change. Genuine citizen inclusion will make all the difference in ‘wellness economics’ becoming a real manifesto for healthier, happier lives for all.
What are your thoughts on this?
People come to yoga (or yoga comes to them) at different times in life. Regardless of age, circumstances and geography. With this in mind we wanted to make a space on this blog so that people could share their own yoga journey. We’re happy that yoga practitioner of many years, Kathy Scott, founder of the Yoga Salon and a woman who has brought yoga to so many people in numerous unique and fun ways, is our first invited guest to post her story.
Looking back on my life it feels like I was always somehow chasing the light…
I was living a cool, crazy life in London in the late 90’s. I had started a serious Masters in Cultural Theory & Criticism and was completely immersed in everything from opera to visual art, music, theatre and dance by day. By night I was immersed in the underground club scene and ripping up various dance floors till dawn. My mother had recently died and I was determined to escape feeling anything about it. This hedonistic lifestyle was the perfect solution – I kept running away until I started running on empty.
One morning on my way home from a party I noticed a poster for a Hatha Yoga classes outside a tube station in North London and felt somehow drawn to investigate it further. The class was in a dance studio at the local gym, which was mostly populated by gangsters and hardcore bodybuilders. I tentatively showed up to check out what it was all about. I can remember struggling and shaking through that first class. I came up against contracted and stuck places everywhere – in my body, in my mind and especially in my heart. I felt totally inadequate as everyone there seemed completely in the yoga zone but somehow I ambled through with a lot of grit and not so much grace.
I can distinctly remember the afterglow now, emerging slowly into the cool night air and feeling properly alive for the first time in my life, ever. I remember walking home past the hip-hop kids in the park ‘smiling out loud’. It felt like coming home. I kept showing up and soon began to practice regularly, intensely drawn to the slow, sweet release.
The journey has been like a long passionate love affair with plenty of resistance and tears along the way. It has lured me all over the world from the beaches of Sydney to the jungles of Goa, remote ashrams in the wilds to huge gatherings in New York and San Francisco. I am lucky enough to have practiced and studied with some of the most gifted teachers on the planet and become friends for life with fellow yogi nomads.
It’s an intimate journey that goes deeper and deeper – it keeps on giving. The practice has become a path of transformation helping me to climb slowly back into my body and finally connect with my heart. It has led to amazing opportunities to share some of the learning’s and to set up The Yoga Salon with my best yogi friend Mari Kennedy. Together we have taught in art museums, theatres, parks, festivals, circus tents and other extraordinary cultural spaces with live music and great company. We are now gearing up for our first international adventure and taking The Yoga Salon to Portugal. We have designed the experience to bring people on that journey of transformation through yoga, exploration and creativity. We are interested in what happens when people come together to connect and play in inspiring surroundings. If you feel the call to adventure check out www.theyogasalon.net.
Maybe meet you there….
Yogi, curious cultural connecter & nomad, Kathy Scott has been practicing and teaching yoga for over 10 years. She is deeply influenced by the teachings of Elena Brower, Seane Corn, Sally Kempton, Kia Miller, Tara Brach, James Higgins and many more luminaries on and off the mat. She is behind many creative art projects including The Yoga Salon, The Trailblazery, the ireland : iceland project, and The Wonderlust Stage at Body & Soul. She teaches regular Yoga & Mindfulness classes at The Yoga Room and at The Fringe Lab, Temple Bar in Dublin City Centre. She has hosted yoga classes at Ireland’s national theatre, The Abbey Theatre, Galway Arts Festival, Dartmouth Square and The World Famous Spiegeltent. She also teaches in the corporate sector and private one-on-one classes in Ireland.
If you would like to share your yoga journey on our blog please get in touch here
As Muuyu’s Teacher Manager and owner of a small yoga studio in Berlin, people often ask me which are the best yoga styles to practice and what are the differences between them – “It is still yoga we are talking about, right?” I hear while listing all the yoga styles and names. Kundalini, Vinyasa, Bikram – for many people it really is a whole new world and so they often need help discovering which styles will work for them.
My first advice is that when you’re trying to figure out the type of yoga that’s best for you it’s a good idea to take some time to think about why exactly you’re choosing to practice yoga. What is the specific need that has led you down this path – Do you need help managing your stress levels, have you other specific health issues, are you hoping to lose weight or stay in shape, or wishing to supplement another form of athletic training with your practice? Or perhaps you’re looking for a more spiritual way to live your life and you feel yoga can help.
You should also consider your own fitness level and the kind of person you are. For instance, if you have some physical limitations such as a back injury or a heart condition you need to take that into account when choosing a style to practice.
Whether you’re a bit of a thrill seeker and love an activity that’s energetic and challenging or whether your idea of perfect ‘me time’ is to take a moment of reflective contemplation in a relaxing, quiet space, can also determine the type of yoga that will work best for you.
So, I thought I would highlight just five popular styles to start you thinking about the best practice for you. I’ve also listed the teachers on Muuyu who are teaching those specific classes, which means you can get on your mat, book a class and begin your yoga journey straight away!
- Style: Hatha (gentle, slow-paced)
- Focus: Basic yoga poses and relaxation techniques
- What it involves: Postures, which help to strengthen the body, stretch the muscles and make them lean and supple
- Benefits: Stress relief, provides physical exercise, and improves breathing
- For whom: Beginners and people wanting a solid foundation of yoga postures and breaths
- Muuyu Teachers: Lisa Ware, Rachel McBride
- Style: Vinyasa (Generally fast-moving but there are also gentle “slow flow” classes)
- Focus: Breath-synchronized movements which work to create a flow throughout the practice
- What it involves: ‘Flowing’ from one pose into another
- Benefits: Improving muscular strength and flexibility, toning and tightening the body
- For whom: People of all levels with the goal of building body strength
- Muuyu Teachers: Hilary Douglas, Bill Lynch
- Style: Ashtanga (fast-paced and intense)
- Focus: A physical style which simultaneously calms the mind
- What it involves: A nonstop series of yoga poses using a special breathing technique to focus the mind and control the flow of breath through the body
- Benefits: Relieves stress, improves coordination, and helps with weight loss
- For whom: Fit people looking to maintain strength and stamina or lose weight, and those who want to get in touch with their spiritual side while maintaining a physical workout
- Muuyu Teachers: Alyson McWilliams, Hilary Douglas
- Style: Kundalini (each class has a different energy)
- Focus: Harnessing your inner energy
- What it involves: Meditation, postures, chanting, breathing exercises –some teachers even incorporate singing and dancing
- Benefits: Finding emotional balance, strengthening and balancing the nervous system
- For whom: Those who want a more spiritual experience as well as a workout
- Muuyu Teachers: Dona Davidge, Sohan Kaur
- Style: Bikram (expect to sweat!)
- Focus: Flushing toxins from the body and enhancing what your body’s physical capabilities.
- What it involves: A series of 26 poses is repeated twice in a room which is heated to 100 degrees or more
- Benefits: Cleanse the body of toxins, enhances flexibility and can speed up recovery from injury.
- For whom: Those who like to push their bodies to extremes, athletes and people recovering from physical injuries or looking to lose weight
- Muuyu Teachers: Matt Devine
Of course, there are many other yoga styles out there and new styles are developing by mixing yoga with dance, Pilates or acrobatics. You can continue on your path to finding the right one for you by trying out as many or as few as you want. And please feel free to let me know whether there is a particular style that I haven’t mentioned here which you would like to try and I can recommend a great Muuyu teacher for you!
It seems that as a start-up, Muuyu just hasn’t managed to tick all of the typical boxes.
Resources: Overstretched and under-financed – Tick! Employees: Similar! Environment: Open and engaging; Spontaneous meetings that result in 500 colored stickies being posted on all available wall-space – Tick!
Gender-bias in favour of men: – Tick…wait…what?!
It’s true that the CEO of the company, Matt Devine, is a guy. Muuyu was his idea in the first place so we’re all quite happy for him to take responsibility for that! However, until recently there were more female employees in the company than male and even, while some folk have moved on, women still make up a large part of the team.
This is far from the usual picture though. According to the Center for Women’s Business Research in the US, while women own approximately 40% of America’s private businesses when it comes to venture-backed startups that figure plummets to less than 10%. The 2012 ‘Women at the Wheel’ report which was carried out by Dow Jones and studied venture-backed startups over a period of 15 years, claimed that 1.3% of privately held companies had a female founder, 6.5% had a female CEO, and 20% had only one or more female C-level executives.
Europe’s start-up story has a similar plot-line. In fact, that was one of the reasons why American entrepreneur Jess Erickson set up the Berlin-based Geekettes, a network of female tech entrepreneurs and professionals. She, like everyone else with adequate eyesight in the German capital could see that the internet start-up sector was swinging and yet there were very few women at the party. Her company, which holds regular network meetings, runs courses and workshops, mentor programmes, pitch sessions and hackathons for female entrepreneurs, aims to encourage more women to step up when it comes to, well, startups.
Geekette now has over 700 German members and branches across the globe including New York and London. In Germany, where according to BITKOM, the German Association for IT, Telecommunications and New Media, over 100,000 new jobs in the Internet sector have been created over the last five years, it is people like Erickson that are ensuring that women can be viable contenders for those positions.
But at Muuyu, gender equality runs to more than just a head-count. As a small (but perfectly formed) start-up of eight we, in fact, represent a host of different nationalities, cultural backgrounds and age groups. So even before we separate the men from the not-men, diversity is a given and therefore an integral part of our company culture.
On both a social and strategic level this is really a good thing.
Firstly, problem-solving, while it may take a little longer when you are eight equal voices with eight differing perspectives, happens within a much broader frame of reference.
An additional benefit to managing our issues by looking at them from all angles is that we’re also strengthened as a team because we learn to bounce off, listen to and lean on each other.
From a strategic point of view it’s also hugely important for any startup to mirror the demographics of its target market. As Muuyu is an online yoga platform it thus goes without saying that a large part of our customer-base will be women. Including female perspectives in the decision-making processes, then, is kind of a no-brainer.
And here’s the thing: even while women make up less than 20% of the startup sector, those companies that do include women generally perform better. In fact, studies have shown that an average of 30% of companies with more gender diversity had better success rates from IPOs.
So what’s the problem? Isn’t it time to drop the gender imbalance in the startup scene?
Looks like Muuyu is ticking the right boxes after all.
Siobhan is the Head of Communication and Content with Muuyuand a co-founder of the company. Born in Ireland she has close to 20 years’ experience working in the areas of PR, communication and journalism. She is also the editor of the Muuyu blog. Siobhan has been practicing yoga on and off for most of her adult life. However it was while doing a post-natal yoga class when pregnant that she really began to connect with her practice and she has been a regular practitioner ever since.
Connect with Siobhan here.
It was back in 2007, whilst doing my teacher training that I registered the name Muuyu. Being from Zimbabwe, I knew that the tree was a really positive, powerful symbol of stability and peace. It was also only 5 letters, 3 of them the same, and available as a dotcom! My idea at the time was to create a social network to connect all the great people I met on teacher training, most of whom I still haven’t seen for over seven years. However, at the same time that I was thinking about this a new platform called Facebook was really starting to take off …so that put an end to that idea!
Following my training I returned to Australia, which was where my family had moved, and it was there that the idea of Muuyu as a live interactive yoga platform, connecting like-minded people, really started to take shape.
My Dad and I were sitting on a bench in front of our house looking out across the sea. We began to chat about family, about staying in touch, and also about this new business idea that was slowly percolating in my mind. He said it was a pity I was going back to China, where I was living at the time, as he had wanted to do my yoga with me.
My first introduction to yoga came from my Dad. As a child I’d watch him do Richard Hittleman’s Yoga from a book. This was back in the Seventies in Africa, so waaaaay progressive then!
Talking to him that day outside our home in Australia, everything suddenly became clear to me. I realized that even though I was living on another continent, I still wanted to be able to connect with my family through yoga. I wanted to be able to do live classes with them, and, in fact with everyone. I just had to redefine how that connection could happen against the obvious geographical barriers. That was when Muuyu was born.
I wrote my first business plan in 2008 and tried to find a video conferencing platform that would enable me to realize my vision of live, interactive yoga practice in real time. But this was 6 years ago and the technology was still way too slow and way too expensive.
So I built my own.
Not me personally, of course, but through connecting with partners and friends who were way smarter than me.
And now, here it is. I hope you like it. I think this platform might become really useful to a lot of people, both experienced and new to yoga.
And hopefully our mantra will shape how Muuyu evolves. And what is that mantra?
A hipster on the train. A punker in the airport. A couple fighting intensely in IKEA. Another couple kissing passionately in the park. A man begging on the street. We encounter numerous people in different settings during our daily lives.
We see, we process, and … we judge.
Why does he need to be so hipster? A pair of regular glasses would do, man.
Such a pity to dye that beautiful hair pitch black.
That must be such a bad relationship. Just leave the flat-pack kitchen and find a counselor.
Kissing in public? Ugh, get a room!
Donating money? Puh! We all need to work – so do you.
The moment we encounter something we trigger an immediate thought and judging process that we hardly have any control over without conscious awareness.
It was two weeks ago during my first Muuyu class with Alyson McWilliams that made me realize this. While we were preparing for our last asana, the savasana (oh, how I love that one!), she said something that was so simple and clear but had such a powerful meaning. It was about respecting differences and focusing on the positive and on yourself. She ended with the wise words “Don’t judge, just observe.”
It may sound very simple now but try it. You will become aware that observing is just a small part of your awareness. What follows is thinking, comparing, and automatically judging. The latter can easily translate into something negative. Such a waste!
And who are you to judge anyway? His glasses are actually way cooler than yours. Oh see, I shouldn’t judge..;)
Over the last few months – heck, weeks, really! – there have been a lot of changes in Muuyu. We’ve been trying to get to the absolute heart of how we can best deliver everything that Muuyu has to offer to the wider world. You see, Muuyu as an online yoga platform providing live classes in real time to students around the globe is doing something quite unique at the moment. It’s redefining how we connect – to our yoga practice, to ourselves and our bodies, to the world that we’re constantly creating.
Yet it’s a simple idea. Really. I mean, think about it.
Bringing teachers and students together in a live class through the internet – what could be easier and more convenient in today’s world of digital interconnectedness where global travel, either for business or fun, is the norm for so many?
As CEO of Muuyu I’ve always known that a platform like this would be great. Great for teachers because it can liberate them to connect with their regular pupils as well as new students no matter where they are in the world. And great for students because it can give them the freedom of practicing yoga with world-class teachers from the comfort of their own homes or when they themselves are travelling. It is also an answer for those questioning how they might find a way into yoga but for geographical, health or other reasons can’t make it to a local studio class.
Still, it hasn’t always been easy for me to fully express all the benefits of Muuyu to others. Sometimes, when you’re so close to an idea, when you’ve been dreaming, living, breathing this idea for so long, you need other people to reveal all that’s been hiding in plain sight, to ask those questions for which the answers have always been intuitive feelings for you in the past, but which you now need to find a way to express openly.
So that’s what the team at Muuyu has been doing. I could say things like we’re ‘developing our strategy’, or ‘analyzing’ and ‘forecasting’ but mostly we’ve been sitting in a room together talking and questioning and dreaming and laughing.
Because a funny thing happens when you put a group of people together in a room to discuss one idea: a whole host of other ideas start to snowball, ideas that I could never have thought or dreamed of on my own. Crazy, singular and smart ideas that all come back to Muuyu’s main intention, which is to help anyone and everyone do yoga their way, on their time and in their own space. They’ve teased thoughts out of me I didn’t even know I was thinking and brought so much new thinking to the table that I feel as excited now as I was when the idea of creating a connected community of people through an online, live yoga platform first started to come into focus for me.
We’re starting to put real shape on these ideas as well as an action plan in place and we promise to keep you updated each step of the way. We’ve been pretty quiet this last while but that’s all about to change as we’ve a whole host of new possibilities that we want to share.
In the meantime, check out our website, do a class – if you’re a first time user whatever class you chose will be FREE! – and while we’re opening up to you, please feel free to share any ideas with us that you might have about Muuyu.