So the raisin….
As part of our meditation module we spoke a bit about mindfulness. After a session of Yoga Nidra we were told to close our eyes and something small was placed in our hands.
Taking care to notice every tiny detail we were told to feel it, smell it, rub it on our lips, and finally put it in our mouths.
No chewing yet though! We were then asked to slowly start to taste the raisin (we had worked out at this point what it actually was.) We were told to take note of EVERY sensation that followed.
- What did it feel like in our mouths?
- What was the texture?
- What did our tongues and mouths do?
- What did it taste like in different areas of our mouth?
- How did it make us feel?
- What thoughts came to mind?
Slowly we were allowed to take one or two bites and then again notice all the details. We were given 15minutes to eat the one raisin.
The idea of the ‘Raisin Meditation’ is that in performing very simple everyday things, such as eating a raisin, we never really take the time to notice and be mindful of the details. When we take a shower, or brush our teeth, or drink a cup of tea, we normally rush through it without noticing what we are actually doing. Instead we are most likely thinking about all the things we need to do or haven’t done! We aren’t fully awake to, or aware of, so many moments in life. This doesn’t mean we have to get excited about eating raisins or brushing our teeth, but the idea is to just become conscious of the fact that we are performing these tasks instead of daydreaming all the time. We are often living in our heads rather than living in the present moment and therefore are missing some of the tastes, smells, textures of every day life.
Mindfulness has been an amazing thing in my life over the last 6 months, it has helped me concentrate more on the present instead of worrying about what has previously happened or what will happen. I first came across the raisin test in a book I am reading called ‘Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world.’ This book gives you an 8 week Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy programme that I will be starting when I head back to London. So far the book has taught me a lot but the most important thing for me has been realising the simple idea of: Thoughts aren’t facts.
We could all do with slowing down a little, appreciating the little things that in turn will help us stay more present, instead of worrying about what has happened or what might happen. Try the raisin test, for some people it changes their life…. For some people it doesn’t… but then maybe you could give the ‘Chocolate Meditation’ a go….
This recipe is by my favourite chef in the world – Marcos Morey Richardson. I will most likely feature a few of his recipes on this blog! My family has been lucky enough to go on holiday to Majorca over the last 9 years and Marcos has cooked so many incredible meals for us – this mango gazpacho is a perfect fresh starter or serve with some bruschetta as a main – as served at the Keith Street Kitchen!
800g mango (pulp only, stones removed – about 3 medium sized mangoes)
100g yellow peppers
10g white vinegar
75g olive oil
Salt to taste
- Add all ingredients to a food processor until smooth, sieve through a very fine mesh.
- Check for salt and vinegar.
- Add more water if it’s a little thick.
- Chill for a good few hours, serve in a glass with a little chopped up parma ham sprinkled on top.
Note: I discovered recently that I have fructose malabsorption – Mangoes are not the worst fruit in terms of high fructose content but I wouldn’t be able to eat this everyday! I just have to be careful about the other foods I am eating on the same day. I also halved the amount of onion (high in fructose) and it still tasted fantastic.
Right now I am in Sydney doing my 200 hour yoga teacher training and it is intense! As an introduction to the course the 30 of us trainees and about 10 teachers all sat in a huge circle and we were asked to tell the class:
- Who we are and what we do.
- What we love about yoga.
- What brings us to the teacher training course.
It was soon obvious that most people were on the course because something had happened in their lives, such as a physical or mental illness, and yoga had helped them at a time when they most needed it. It was pretty emotional with a lot of tears and tissues being handed round the room. To be honest I did not expect it at all so it was all a bit of a shock. Even though I would say to a large extent yoga has helped me change my life, I realised that people had come to the course as a way of dealing with a lot of pain.
0700 – 0900 Practice – doors are locked at 0700!
0900 – 1000 Breakfast and a much needed shower.
1000 – 1300 Lecture on either philosophy, nutrition, anatomy and physiology, sequencing and techniques, pranayama or meditation.
1300 – 1400 Lunch and swim at the local pool.
1400 – 1500 Asana instruction / practice teach.
The afternoon is dedicated to going through the 62 poses in our manual (a huge 607 page file) learning what muscles they use, what other poses they prepare you for, how to teach them and what the assists to help a student get into the pose would be. Day 1, first pose, tadasana. I thought that this was basically just standing. But oh how wrong I was! This wasn’t just standing, this was full on and hard work…. And this was just the beginning.
My fellow Yogis
The people in the class are all totally different, interestingly most don’t actually want to become teachers at the end of the course…. To give you an idea, here are a few of the different yogi types:
- The people who have read up on EVERYTHING and question EVERYTHING but totally embrace EVERYTHING!
- The very emotional people who are on a personal journey, using yoga as a way to heal.
- The people who find it hard to completely get their heads around and totally understand the philosophy but who are keen to learn and to teach.
Teachers and language
Our teachers are brilliant at using language to conjure up images to help us feel the depth of the pose – especially Kat Clayton. The movement of a pose is how you physically move a part of your body in a pose and the action is the feeling of ‘hugging your outer upper arms in,’ or ‘hugging your right sit bone towards the midline’ …. There’s a lot of hugging going on with our muscles! One of the most interesting and important things I have learnt is that yoga is constantly trying to bring you into a state of balance – opposite muscle actions are continually working with each other and this is why the poses feel so strong.
The sequencing for me has been the most interesting part of the course and we are very lucky to have an absolutely amazing teacher for this – Noelle Connolly. It’s a very creative process working out how to theme a class, how to sequence around a particular peak pose, how to organise your flows, how to counter pose and balance various sequences….
There are 3 main stages of sequencing:
Meditation and Pranayama
Meditation and pranayama has been really interesting but completely new ground for me. The only experience I have had is through my own mindfulness practices and through the headspace app! I thought that meditation was switching off the mind… But apparently this is a common myth. The nature of the mind is to be busy, to consume itself with thoughts no matter how big or small. The idea of meditation is not to suppress these thoughts but to find the space between the thoughts. It is a process of developing awareness to see things as they actually are rather than what we want them to be, and with awareness comes mindfulness.
For a lot of people their nervous system is in sympathetic mode most of the time – the system that keeps us in our fight or flight mode, on levels of high alert and high stress. (As opposed to the parasympathetic mode which is our rest, repair and restore system.) It is therefore hard for us to leap straight into meditation, we need time to focus and prepare. For us fight or flight lot, guided meditation can be more appealing and helpful – if any of you haven’t tried Yoga Nidra I couldn’t recommend it more.
Image courtesy of BodyMindLife Yoga & Pilates
A few final things I will take away from the course:
- How extremely uncomfortable it is to sit upright on the floor for an hour of meditation.
- How nothing is permanent – how quick the body and mind has the potential to change.
- How yoga can unite an extremely different bunch of people from all over the world.
- How a raisin will never taste the same ever again.
More on the raisin in the next week….
This has kept me going every morning during my yoga teacher training!
1 cup of almond milk (unsweetened)
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
2/3 cup of porridge oats
2 tablespoons of chia seeds
1 teaspoon of ground flax seeds
Small handful of seeds – sunflower, pumpkin seeds
In a blender, whizz the banana, cinnamon and almond milk together. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and leave to soak overnight or if you don’t have time, 1 hour. Top with blueberries and strawberries or any other choice of fruit.
Note: I discovered I had fructose malabsorbtion about 6 months ago which means I have to be careful of which fruits (and vegetables) I eat. A handful of berries and 1/2 banana a day would be low in fructose but I wouldn’t add apple or any dried fruits as they are very high in fructose and I would end up seriously bloated!