Geeky wellbeing favourites: January
2021 reflections and the usual yoga science highlights
2021 started with a family emergency that meant travelling back to Greece at the peak of the pandemic, and ended with me getting Covid-19 and spending NYE watching Netflix on my own. In the middle, we’ve had various additional family emergencies, moving house (apparently one of the three most stressful life events), living in a building site with builders in every day for the past 7 months, and a client with no sense of planning or reasonable deadlines. Oh, and a pandemic that doesn’t seem to be ending too.
I know it could be a lot worse. But let’s just say it’s been a stressful year.
In fact, if I think back, I would call 2021 a shit year. The shittest year I can remember. The year where my anxiety grew a personality of its own and at one point was even able to give me a fever.
There is a cliche in the wellbeing world, which I’m sure you are familiar with: making gratitude lists. It’s one of those cliches that I have resisted for years because it feels nauseatingly positive, and let’s just say I’m more of a glass half-empty person who enjoys her half-empty view of life.
And yet, one day, on one of my walks, I started thinking about 2021, which we have established was the shittest year I can remember. Because, in reality, among the shit some really wonderful things also happened in 2021. Actually, some incredibly wonderful things that I am, gulp, grateful for. And when I think about it that way, suddenly 2021 seems a little less awful and actually kind of ok.
Chance: At the start of 2021 I felt incredibly confused about teaching yoga. I hadn’t really been teaching classes at all since the start of the pandemic, and I wasn’t sure if I could still call myself a yoga teacher. By the end of the year, I had pitched, sold and filmed an online course to MoreYoga, and pitched and ran a workshop of poetry, yin yoga and yoga nidra (and have something exciting planned for next year too). I am grateful to MoreYoga for the opportunities, but more than anything I am proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and exploring something different.
Creativity: 2021 was meant to be the year of writing, but my plans were quickly thrown off-course. And yet, I continued blogging semi-regularly and also launched this newsletter, gradually building up my readers (thank you!!!!). I continued writing poetry, but also took a chance (again) and entered a micro-fiction competition, in which I have progressed to the second round. In fact, I never thought I would enjoy writing fiction, but have since written several micro-fiction stories and one short story. Although I made zero progress on the writing project I was meant to be working on in 2021, I think I can, in fact, call 2021 the year of writing.
Community: I’ve met so many wonderful people over the past 2 pandemic years, and for this I am incredibly grateful. The Yoga Treat community and everyone I’ve met through there (including my wonderful penpal) restored my faith in the yoga world. My poetry group has maintained my love of poetry and the written word. My Artists’ way group kept me motivated and inspired to experiment, play and write different things. And last, but not least, the Stoic Salon group – and the “28 days of joyful death writing” programme – helped me tackle some of my biggest anxieties around death through philosophical discussion.
So there, those are the three things I am grateful for. Maybe there is something to this practice after all. And thank you, my readers, for being interested in the things I find interested and subscribing to this newsletter!
What would you like to see more of this year? Send me your thoughts and feedback!
Yoga science highlights
Yoga (and walking) for Parkinson’s disease – This meta-analysis re-analysed data from other clinical trials and studies evaluating the effects of exercise (including yoga, walking, cycling, dance and tai chi) on Parkinson’s disease. All physical activity led to improvements in disease activity (as measured by the UPDRS, BBS and TUG scores), but yoga and walking overall were best. Yoga also led to improvements in depression and cognitive abilities.
Yoga for women’s heart health – Small study (40 women) showing that 6 weeks of yoga (including asana, pranayama and meditation), practiced 5 days per week, significantly lowered the women’s heart rate compared with the control (doing nothing). There is a body of work showing the benefits of yoga in cardiovascular disease, and this small study adds to the idea that yoga can offer benefits in heart disease prevention.
Yoga for neuropathic pain – Another systematic review and meta-analysis, this time looking at neuropathic pain (ie pain originating from the nerves rather than the muscles or joints). The consensus among experts is that exercise, including yoga, is beneficial in reducing the intensity of neuropathic pain and should be part of a holistic pain management programme. There are specific recommendations for pain associated with different conditions, so check it out if there is a particular condition you are interested in.
From the blog this month
Why I thought “Breath” was disappointing (and a little worrying) – There is a lot of food for thought in this yoga bible, but frankly I’m disappointed by the science-washing and the missed opportunity to put forward something great. Maybe science communication should be left to those with some scientific training after all.
Meditation for a healthy immune system – A meditation retreat drives many changes in immune gene expression that could be beneficial in a range of diseases. But its extreme nature doesn't exactly make it practical.
For Christmas this year, I got Covid-19 – Yes, I'm one of the hundreds of thousands of people who recently tested positive for Covid-19. This pandemic will not end unless more of us get vaccinated - and yoga community, I'm looking at you too.
You may have missed…
Which yoga mat should I buy? – The most common piece of advice that I have been asked for since lockdown began is “which yoga mat should I buy?”. Over the years, I’ve done a lot of research, rejected, tried and bought a lot of mats. This is my list of the best mats out there.
What did the Victorians think of yoga? – Some historical gems of discussions of yogic breathing practices and of their therapeutic benefits on body and mind. Enjoy!
#yogaeverydamnday – A bit of yoga-inspired poetry