When life throws you a curve ball, what can you do to help your body and mind truly recover from a stressful event?

I guess you’ve already figured out that I blog about what’s happening to me, so yes, I experienced a partcularly stressful event. Well actually there have been several stressful events in our life over the last year: a financial one that started back in October ‘14 and won’t be dealt with entirely until 2015 comes to a close, a medical one when my beloved daughter had a seizure at Christmas last year, a few family ones as various family members go through their own stressful events, and in March this year the stressful event that tipped my balance, sent me on an emergency flight back to the UK and turned my world rather upside down.

After a BIG thing happens in your life, how does one return to being an empathetic coach, an active member of the wellness community in Hong Kong, an inspired writer, a devoted wife, a patient mother, a considerate employer, a dedicated yoga practitioner who is up with the lark every morning? How does one do all of these things when actually all you want to do is sit in your pyjamas and watch re-runs of Game of Thrones to distract you from what your little world has temporarily become.

How could I possibly coach others and guide them towards their best, balanced and joyful selves when I was experiencing sabotage to my own balance?  After all, coaches are human too.

Of course it depends on what the event was, how long it lasted for and how directly it affected you.  It depends on the support system you have in place to help you out.  It depends upon your attitude towards the event, whether you internalise or externalise the cause, and your desire to recover from said event.  It depends upon your ‘base point’, your ‘normal’ – what are your expectations of what normal should be?  Are you quite unused to high stress and discomfort as part of your daily life?  Or have you been forced to accept discomfort for so many years that it now feels part of your normal and you’ve forgotten how to fully recover at all?

Well, for me at least, recovery needed to be efficient and it needed to be effective.  That type A, list-maker, box-ticker came back into play and I needed to ‘achieve’ my normal again.  So I enlisted all the help I could get.  I asked an amazing spiritual advisor I know for a Skype call, I met with my endlessly supportive health and wellness coach here in Hong Kong, I chatted online to my business coach in Tonga, I talked to my oldest friends whom I’ve know since the beginning of high school, I talked to my newest friends in Hong Kong, I talked to family, I think I probably even talked to myself.  That ‘support network’ of people whom I cherish so dearly were absolutely one of the main reasons that I was able to initiate the recovery process, to start to heal.

But still my cortisol levels were all over the place, of course I gained a few pounds as my body had gone into ‘fight or flight’ mode and was holding on to everything it could get, my menstrual cycle dropped from a healthy-for-me 28/31 days to a mere 20/22 days and my skin, that has been ‘as clear as a bell’ since my late 20’s when I changed my lifestyle, suddenly started to break out.

It was happening to ME, the COACH!  Those things that I tell my clients about all the time, the visible physical effects of stress upon your body, were taking over MY body without being invited and I was afraid that I’d start to feel like a fraud. But no, thankfully all it did was strengthen my resolve to heal and to put to test the theories of physical, emotional and spiritual recovery that I discuss with all my clients, all the time.  I’d healed once before, after leaving the finance industry, and I needed to heal myself again.

So, ‘in the outside world’, I saw my clients and coached them with as much love, grace, honesty and energy as I could muster.  I saved-up my positive energy for them and they kept making all the progress that they so well deserved for their efforts.  And being with my clients, as always, gave me so much inspiration and purpose that every session was even more uplifting than the last.

But behind closed doors I slowed… right… down…, I honoured my body and S-T-O-P-P-E-D. (Wow…even as I typed that the world around me seemed to stop turning, just for a moment). I slept – a lot!  I spent more time with my amazing husband and daughter; my strength, my loves.

We need to STOP in order to heal.  We need to talk, to cry, to scream sometimes.  Then we need to stop (again!) and allow the healing to continue. But how long does that part take?  I’m not entirely sure for everyone and of course it depends on the crisis, on the stressful event and on how that translates for them.  But if we do not allow ourselves to stop, to honour the process and accept it, to actively engage with it, then I don’t believe we can fully accept the pain we are feeling, to face it head on, to really get to know it and understand it, to enable us to recover.

If you try to keep going, to keep those plates spinning, the wheels turning, then eventually the whole thing will come crashing down around you.

Do you honour your pain?  Do you face the darkest parts of yourself in which the pain resides?

My yoga practice, as ever, was my unavoidable and absolutely necessary mirror.  The mat literally took on a reflective quality as it shone brightly, right into my eyes (every damn morning) and lit up the places I least wanted to look at, both physically and otherwise.  And I felt real, true pain in my body in a whole new way that I’m certain was an embodiment of the pain I was feeling inside (that was a little ‘hippy-dippy’ I know, but for those of you who practice yoga regularly I’m sure you’ll concur).

Recently I finished another truly exhaustive and exhausting yoga intensive training through which I was able to delve deeper into the whys and wherefores of the pain.  It has taken me most of this year to heal and it has taken most of this year for that physical pain to dissolve – see the pattern?

I am generally a ‘bright side’ person, my glass is invariably half-full and that got me through the year with lots of bright moments and many, many reasons to smile.  But the real healing was going on underneath those bright moments, my ‘story’ was re-forming itself and I was building up new reserves of strength to leave that story behind me again and return with purpose to walk my path. Suddenly I’ve turned a corner, the story is somewhere in the distance; its still there but I’m no longer lugging it around on my back so I’m able to gingerly pick up speed…

And perhaps this is one of the last stages, ‘going public’ again?  (Last time I did this my yoga practice opened up so much, even the very next day. It’ll be interesting to see if that is the case again – I’ll let you know!)

Are you healing something now? Have you been carrying some old ‘story’ or samskara around with you for a while?  The first step to healing is S-T-O-P, rest, reflect, seek support, find reasons to smile, S-T-O-P, rest, take a look in the mirror through a daily practice, find more support, enlist a coach, talk to your friends, S-T-O-P, rest, eat well, sleep lots and take the time to look into those darker places that are hidden maybe even from yourself.  Face yourself head on, then walk forward along your path with purpose.

With love, Rowena x

My Inner Rebel

My Inner Rebel

How do you reconcile your ‘inner rebel’ with always having to be ‘good’, to eat well, to rise early for yoga practice, to drink less alcohol, to drink more water, to eat kale, to add probiotics to your diet, to find time to make a green smoothie today……blah blah blah!
Trust me, that feeling of, “I must do this in order to be healthy and I should do that to create a more balanced lifestyle” is even more pronounced for a health coach.  I sincerely love living the life that I live and I find so much pleasure and inspiration in coaching my clients, but I somedays feel the pressure to ‘walk my talk’ when actually I just want to let loose and be bad.

But what if being bad on occasion is part of the balance?

I have a pretty strong rebellious side who ruled the show in my 20s and I am missing her a little bit – she was fun! But she is rather a conflict with my lifestyle nowadays and I’m always reminded of the negative effects of her choices on my body and mind after the dancing was over.  She was the one who would drink until dusk, dance until dawn and screw the consequences. She would eat with whimsy, work like a trojan and party until she literally dropped.

I think my missing her has become more pronounced with my ‘1 year of no drinking’ experiment (only 76 days to go!) It’s not like I had a drinking problem when I made this decision last year, in fact quite the opposite. In my 20’s my drinking was typical of Hong Kong’s work hard, play hard mentality, but for me that was long gone in favour of a couple of glasses of wine at the weekend.  Literally two or three, on occasion, hardly the stuff of AA nightmares! But perhaps because I had changed so much, had come so far, and it felt so good to be THIS healthy, I was starting to wonder what would happen if I took it one stage further still.

Does ‘healthy’ have a limit? How far can I take this thing? And why do I even drink anyway?……

……Woooaaahhhhh there! I have met this person before. She is the version of me who thought that way about eating and became anorexic for a few years in my teens. She is the version of me who takes a good thing and spins it with the classic type-A need to achieve and goes way out there to be the best of the best of the best……at being thin in that case……which we all know is a road to disaster. (Thank goodness for my wise mother who saw the symptoms and plotted with the family doctor to take me for a ‘regular teen check up’ so he could tell me I was dangerously thin.)

The type-A the version of me, like the rebel, needs to be reminded that balance is good. No: balance is imperative! A little of the rebel can be fun – too much of her is certainly toxic. A little of the type-A, gotta-get-this-thing-done-now can be productive – too much of her is a disaster zone.

We all have these sides to ourselves, any number of them. Think of them as your board of directors seated at loggerheads around your boardroom table. Who takes charge? That will likely depend upon your time of life, as well as your experiences and your personality type. But they all have a voice and they all need to be heard. To silence any one of them is to create imbalance and internal conflict. Even that one whose voice falters when she speaks as she tells you you’re not good enough to be healthy – “who are you to want more from your life anyway?” – even she needs something. Perhaps its love?

Take the time to acknowledge these vital parts of you, to listen to them, and to ensure that they are all heard.

I do love my life, I feel so blessed, but I do also feel the pressure of ‘should’ in my life and my daily yoga practice (my unforgiving mirror).  I find I go through cycles of serious, diligent practice (type A!) and then of finding it hard to find my way to the mat the rebel returns and I am reminded that I need to feed her some of what she needs. Perhaps I need to skydive. Perhaps I need to have a glass of wine over dinner with friends and enjoy a silly, carefree conversation. Perhaps I need to get in the kitchen and make a batch of yummy raw chocolates to indulge with this evening. Perhaps I need to dance until dawn!

Take 5 minutes today to check in with your board of directors. Who is leading proceedings? Who is left in the shadows, too timid to be heard? What can you do for that person today? Do you need to be bad? Do you need to be good? Do you need to find love for yourself, or to give love more readily?

To restore my balance and reinstate equilibrium I need to allow my inner rebel to take a more prominent seat, yet in a way that allows me to still be the me that I have become. I am a passionate health coach and a dedicated yogi – what will rebellion look like for me?  #maybeayearwastoolong

I must also remember that I ALWAYS feel more balanced after my yoga practice, no matter what, no exceptions.  Never once have I regretted standing on that mat and for that knowledge, for my practice, I am eternally grateful.

Do you struggle to find balance in life and health?  No idea who your board of directors even are? Contact me to arrange a ReBalance Consultation, either in person or via Skype/Facetime.

(My first rebellion of the day – I’m posting this without having it proof read!  Every typo is for my inner rebel!) 🙂

The Mysore Womb-Room (or/ An Ode to my Teacher from a ‘Newbie Mysorie’)

The Mysore Womb-Room (or/ An Ode to my Teacher from a ‘Newbie Mysorie’)

For those of you who practice yoga Mysore style and for those of you who do not and have absolutely no idea what that even means, this is an ‘ode to my teacher’ and the metaphoric change that occurred in my life since I met him.

My teacher. The day I met you was terrifying. I had already done a little Ashtanga but never before Mysore style. My daughter was only just a year old and there were certainly no bandhas in sight, only a once-flat-ish-stomach (that was honestly only ever really flat if I’d skipped a meal in those days) within which a recently occupied womb was recovering slowly but surely, and below that the pathway where the babe had journeyed to enter the world was still quivering in physical and emotional shock.

But, there I was, on a black mat when you arrived beside me and quickly did away with the ‘cheat sheet’ that I was using to remember the sequence. I went into self-protection mode and hastily recounted that “I-just-had-a baby-so-couldn’t-come-every-day-but-how-many-days-a-week-do-you-think-it-would-be-ideal-to-come-along-so-that-I-could-really-get-the-best-out-of-it-and-and-and…?” (Remind self to take a breath here!)

I will never forget what followed. This calm, strong figure before me with the upturned handlebar moustache and impossible mop of curly hair simply stated,

“practice every day for the rest of your life.”

This was the point at which being terrified turned to abject horror (there’s that fear again!) mixed with a little pig-headed, type-A determination. There was something about this room, about this teacher, that had me hooked. But I couldn’t imagine doing this every…single…day…

Nevertheless something made me keep coming back.  The yogis who inhabited the room became a spectacle from which I could not remove my eyes (drishti…what?!) and I kept on coming, twice or three times a week, most of the time.  All the while our teacher allowed newbie-me on my black mat, allowed every pretzel-like bendy lithe beauty, every overheated sweating mess, every runner with legs of reinforced steel and no stretch, every new mum with not a bandha in sight, allowed us all our own space to be on our own path to figure this thing out.

On my return from periodic global adventures to visit other teachers, you afforded me the luxury of returning with metaphorically open arms to try out what felt right at the time; to slow down, to speed up, to almost stop sometimes, to try something new within the system, to go back to the old, to just be, to be me. Your respect for each individual on each individual mat is awesome, but it is coupled with an unbendable (excuse the intentional pun) rule of law that one must do one’s practice, one must show up in every respect, be on a path and respect the knowledge that is passed down to us through this incredible Ashtanga lineage.

But your understanding that we all have our own journey and your allowance for us to choose our own path within the system is a blessing for which I will be eternally grateful. You allowed me to coax this weak, tight, stiff, overworked, overstressed, over stimulated, uncared for body and mind back onto the mat each day in whatever way I needed to. You did so in such a way that I always felt safe, protected, motivated and at peace. (Well, as at peace as my ever-chattering mind allowed).

And I suppose I should mention that along the way this samskara-stiff body, mind & spirit got stronger, opened and began to heal.

You, my teacher, you allowed the room to be a womb. That womb gave me space to grow, encouraged so many of us to grow, while we were challenged, nurtured, heated, cooled, metamorphosed and rested. Your teachings and the teachings allowed us to grow safely, as completely as we were able to, and to know where our limits were on that day (if we chose to listen!)

6 long years you have been next to us, gently guiding, adjusting as we need it, supporting us all the while, come rain or shine each and every morning. I know I speak for many of us on our black mats when I say that I am eternally grateful for all that you have enabled me to become, for all that you have allowed me to learn about myself and for all that you have gifted to me through your knowledge, your openness and patience, your humour, the peace that you engendered and for your constant ‘being there’ in the womb-room.

Little did I know that the terrifying, wise creature that first addressed me would become a beloved friend whose initial words would one day make so much sense, permeating every part of my life, and would stay with me so deeply so many years later.

Little did I know that today, your last day of teaching in that womb, would touch me so deeply with gratitude, with love and with honest-to-goodness thanks for all that you have taught and all that I have learned.

Little did I know that what you taught me would appear in my own teachings every single day in my coaching practice. I only hope that I am able to regift what you gifted to me – the space to find my own path and the safety of a metaphorical womb within which to do it.

To my teacher, with utmost gratitude, a heartfelt “Namaste”

If you’re seeking balance in your life… If you want to breathe vitality back into your life... Or if you're hoping to bring the ‘life’ back to your life…


I will share ideas, life-hacks, recipes, new techniques and ancient traditions.


You have Successfully Subscribed!