Oh the stories we tell ourselves! The judgements and self-criticism. We live in a competitive culture and frequently compare ourselves to others and/or an ideal standard pressed upon us by big businesses and advertising. Yoga gives us the opportunity for a little breathing space (literally!) from all of that - a chance to shift our attention away from those swirling thoughts and move more into feeling rather than thinking. As we flow in and out of the poses we feel the movement of the body and the rhythm of the breath. As we hold the postures we let go of inner tensions and allow ourselves to soften and relax a little more. And in Savasana we are invited to let it all go, including any discussion about the practice we've just done, and then start afresh.
But sometimes, even when we're on our yoga mat, the inner critic can still stop by and tell us stories about ourselves. Out of nowhere it can stick its oar into the peaceful moment and try to convince us that we'll never be able to do that pose or that so-and-so over there is better than us. So how do we stop that happening? Mindfulness and self-compassion. Studies have shown that people who have more self-compassion are more willing to accept that we're all human and that making mistakes is all part of life. Instead of self-criticising, they are more willing learn about themselves and make adjustments. Mindfulness helps us to notice when the inner critic is speaking, recognise it for what it is and choose not to take what it says on board.
Yoga practice is so valuable to us in so many ways - it shows us how we can have a strong and flexible body, an open and quiet mind and a compassionate and loving spirit. Thank goodness for yoga!
Here is a short video from Dr Kristen Neff defining self-compassion and here's a link to some exercises she offers to help us strengthen our self-compassion http://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/#exercises
This Week's Recipe... Sweet Potato and Spinach Curry
This recipe comes from Riverford Organic Farmers, the vegetable box delivery company. It has quite a long list of ingredients but it's still very easy to make and, for a main dish, didn't take too long at all. And there wasn't too much washing up either! It's full of nutrients, and is vegan and dairy-free. I served it with rice but in the recipe it is served with quinoa which apparently has more fibre.
Here's what you'll need to serve 2 people:
And here's how to make it:
Peel and chop the onion and fry gently in some of the oil in a large saucepan on a low heat until soft.
While the onion is cooking:
- peel and crush the garlic.
- halve the chilli, de-seed and finely chop (test it for it's strength before you decide whether to use part of it or all of it!).
- peel and chop the sweet potato into small chunks.
- wash and drain the spinach.
- lightly press the cardamon pods with the flat of your chopping knife to get them to open up a little.
- Put the rice or quinoa on to cook.
When the onion is ready add the sweet potato, garlic, chilli, curry powder, garam masala and cardamom pods and stir for 2 minutes.
Add the coconut milk and ground almonds, add a pinch of salt and bring it all up to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir regularly and add a little more water if the consistency seems too thick.
Stir in the spinach and cook for another 5 minutes or so until it has wilted and the sweet potato is tender.
Put some flaked almonds into a dry frying pan and heat gently until golden, stirring often.
Taste the curry to test whether it needs more spices or salt, and add a squeeze of lime juice if desired. Remove as many of the cardamom pods as you can now (you don't want to eat them!).
Serve the curry on a bed of rice, with a spoonful of yoghurt if desired and a sprinkling of toasted almonds.