In My Life

Hello world

This week has been a funny ol week for the Mo household. We were all struck down by the norovirus, at the same time. It wasn’t pretty, I can tell you. Man, it’s horrible being sick, and even horribler when you have to juggle a baby around it. Phew. It’s over now, thank the lord. But it really made me appreciate the wonder of feeling well. Just feeling normal. Healthy, energetic, vibrant, even better. Take a moment to assess how you’re feeling today and give yourself a pat on the back if you’re feeling in any way fit and fine. Notice it more every day and be a little bit grateful, and you’ll feel even better for it. It’s so true that saying you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, and good health is one of the big daddies in that respect.

Before I was struck down by the dreaded noro, I had been having a very lovely day with little Mo. I took him out for a stroll in the beautiful amazing spring weather that we’re having here in London right now (appreciating every single sparkly bright moment, as it aint going to stay this way). I was strolling to meet my close group of mummy friends with their babies, who I have known now for about a year, since I was heavily pregnant with the bubster. We all went to NCT classes together when our babes were bumps, and 10 months later we all thankfully have bouncing bounding little joyous (and occasionally shouty) bundles to show for it. This is a new group of friends who I have gone through a very powerful and wonderful experience with, the crazy roller coaster journey of new motherhood and all the joys, pains, joys, strains and more joys that that entails.

As I was strolling across the park with Mo asleep, I was enjoying the view of bright sunshine illuminating lots of general folk’s days with their dogs and buggies and running shoes, listening to an iPod playlist that a very dear friend of mine made me a couple of years ago. This dear friend has been a friend of mine for the best part of 20 years, and the playlist was a meandering tribute to the music that we have feasted on together with our group of friends over all those years. I was taken aback by an aching nostalgia as Iistened to some of the music, always amazed at how a piece of music can in an instant transport you to a certain particular time or place, to exactly one frozen moment or period in time.

My mind wandered to the beautiful Beatles song In My Life, which I have been mulling over a lot recently as it’s one of my chosen songs to sing to Mo to get him to sleep. What a softly powerful song it is, and so true. It seemed a fitting narrative to the very situation I found myself in, walking with my baby to meet new and wonderful friends, listening to the soundtrack of my life with an old and wonderful friend.

It made me roam through other previously darkened memory-corridors of my life, school, university, fabulous times living in Japan, other amazing experiences I’ve had in the past and friends that I’ve loved and who are still around but who I maybe don’t connect with much regularly, and one dear lovely friend who is not with us any more – tasting briefly perfect memories of great times spent, and filling my friendship cup to the brim once more just by the thought of them all.

I wondered as I walked, what particular song or snippet of music will trigger memories of this current time in my life now, transport me back to the sleepless nights and the daily adventures as Mo takes his first forays into being a human being. I was, if you like, being nostalgic about a time that I am currently in. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I always think, to quote John Lennon a second time, that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. So to avoid that happening: take a snippet every day of something that you will cherish about that day. Whether it’s a laugh from your baby, an unexpected act of friendliness on London transport, a beautiful sunset, a feeling of pure joy of spring…..notice and fully enjoy these moments as they happen. Even the moments of sorrow or confusion. They are weaving the fabric of nostalgia to come. But why not enjoy doubly, while it’s happening and knowing you’ll be able to savour it anew at some unexpected moment in the future?

Until the next time, yours in good health!

Return to life

Morning on another beautiful day here in London town. Dontcha just love the freshness of spring? It just gives you a boost like nothing else. This winter past wasn’t particularly harsh compared to previous years, but even so you feel like a butterfly emerging from a grey cocoon when the sun shines its warmth and the daffodils start to pop their perky heads out.

Quoting Joe Pilates last week made me revisit his Return To Life book, and I was amazed anew at the redolence to the present day, even though it was written in 1945. He starts “Civilisation impairs physical fitness”, and goes on to describe how “This very rapidly progressing world with its ever-increasing faster tempo of living demands that we be physically fit and alert in order that we may succeed in the unceasing race with keen competition which rewards the “go-getter” but by-passes the “no- getter.” It could be written about the 21st century. Which just shows that the things that deplete our health and wellbeing have pretty much remained constant throughout the generations, and we don’t seem very good as modern humans at counteracting them!

One of the things that I am going to take from this book today is his talk of pleasurable living: to ease “mental strain and relieve physical fatigue”, in Pilates’ words, we need to play more. “How many of us simply spend the night routinely reading the evening newspaper? How many of us are entirely too exhausted to read, even occasionally, an interesting book, visit our friends, or see one of the latest motion pictures?”, he says. Slumping in front of mindless TV for a few hours at the end of the day isn’t quite what he’s after, I don’t think. But the mindful enjoyment of something, which actually lengthens time and means life is being enhanced and lived. A long conversation with a good friend… a good meal, prepared and enjoyed in a relaxed fashion.

Play time, something that we used to have scheduled into our time as school children, but now…we need to make our own time for play. Or adjust our mindset to work it into our lives. Looking at Maurice it makes me realise that there is an inherent simplicity to his emotions right now, he is either happy and joyous, wholeheartedly content and engrossed, or very unhappy (and boy does he let me know when he’s unhappy!). He feels all of these very profoundly, in their rawest sense with nothing to complicate them and no shades of grey. And he smiles a lot, pure squeals of delight accompany his daily discoveries and adventures. He’s recently discovered the existence of cats and dogs, and other living things in his environment. When he encounters one, he becomes transfixed and starts to squeal, shout and kick his legs, with a huge grin on his face. The other day he spent a full 15 minutes shouting at a crow who was marching as if on sentry duty around our picnic spot in a sunny park. Sadly the crow didn’t give him anything back but a blank stare and continue on its way, and from cats he is usually offered a silently disapproving wide berth, but this doesn’t dissuade Mo from his enjoyment.

Everything is new and potentially joyful for Mo, and this is the state that Joe Pilates suggests we need to rediscover. Instead of allowing the days to fly by in the daily slog of routine, without noticing anything new, start to open your eyes, look up, look down, look to the side in your blind spots for things you may not have seen. Finding a bit of frivolity in your life to alleviate your stresses, which will help to ensure that the nutrition you put in your body and the exercise you do lifts you up to full healthy wellbeing.

got to go, my little man is awake and now trying to steal my computer!

My Pilates Guru

Hello world! Exciting news this week is that my app is now live on the app store, search for My Pilates Guru and it comes up, yay! It’s free, and it looks pretty good if I do say so myself. All the exercises from the book are included, although the instructions are reserved for the book so you only get visuals and tips. You also get all the exercise sessions from the book, plus the chance to create your own and chart your progress. I think it seems like a really user friendly app, but would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

Maurice is moving and kicking and crawling his way towards walking, which is fairly terrifying. How did he suddenly get so fast?? I love watching him move and discovering how his body was built for movement. He loves to do little yoga downward dogs while he’s preparing for the off, and it’s great to know how much he is strengthening his back and core muscles so naturally, watching the flow of normal movement in a body before the challenges of modern life start to impede it.

My challenge for this week is use Mo as my Pilates guru… to begin to see my own movement as if it were the first time I was learning to move… thoughtfully and carefully taking my body into motion, mindful of my stabilising muscles, consciously engaging the pelvic floor and using the deep abdominals more to protect my back in every movement, not just lifting and carrying the baby, lengthening my spine, enjoying freedom of movement like a baby in his first forays!

I’m also starting with dry body brushing every morning from now on. Joe Pilates wrote about the benefits of dry body brushing in his book Return To Life through Contrology, written in 1945. Read it if you get a chance, it’s incredibly before its time when it comes to the idea of health and wellbeing and the ravages the modern age (such as fast living and “automobiles”) can have on both, and has some great tips and very amusing turns of phrase. Dry body brushing is a fantastic way to perk up the circulation and wake up the body, as well as exfoliating the skin so it’s buffed and soft as a baby’s bottom, and with the added bonus of shifting toxins under the skin to help get rid of the dreaded cellulite. It’s a good habit to get into. So I am attempting this week to make it a regular part of my hurried morning routine. It only takes a minute, it’s just committing to that minute every day to reap the rewards of soft glowing skin and a happy awake mind and body each morning. Best go, the sun is shining again and I am going to go out and make hay… until the next time! Stay well and happy

5 things to make you feel great

Gratuitous happy dog picture

Today we’re all about the feel good factor. The sun is shining, weather is sweet yeah, as Bob Marley once sang. Makes you wanna move your dancing feet, he went on to say, quite rightly. It’s an apt tone to set for this blog post. It’s nearly impossible to feel in low spirits on a day like today was, the brightness of the new spring shining its light into every shadowed nook and cranny that melancholy might be allowed to linger.

So, to build on this lovely sunny momentum, I’ve been musing over 5 failsafe things that are guaranteed to make you feel great. They work for me, so it might be effective for you as well.

1. Smile. You’re never fully dressed without a smile. The great thing about smiling is that the very act of doing so fools your brain into believing that things are pretty good, and so endorphins, happy molecules, are produced and travel around your body which therefore make you feel a bit better, and the cycle goes on. Smile and the world smiles with you, so the saying goes. With perhaps the exception of the London transport network, where you may be met with pitiful glares or glassy indifference if you smile at people, in general us humans are jolly creatures who like nothing better than to sit and feast together at the banquet of happiness. I think laughter lines are the most attractive type of age line, a face that has seen a lot of laughter and joy shows the twinkle behind the eyes that speaks of a life well lived. Give me a laughter line over a frown line any day. Smile, and you’ll feel better and you’ll spread that general better-ness around you and the world seems like a much happier place because it is. Smile and get a winning smile back from a baby, particularly your own baby, and you feel like a hundred gajillion dollars.

2. Get moving. It’s true. If you feel a bit rubbish, getting your body moving is the way forward, perhaps literally. Get up and stretch, walk around, if you can walk around outside in the natural light, and add a smile then all the better, and your body will emerge from its lethargy and energy will rise, as will spirits. I always say, for every hour that you find yourself hunched up at a desk/in a car make sure you move your limbs and take your spine into motion for at least a few minutes. Doing a bit of Pilates would of course be the optimum (ahem), but a walk to the loo/kitchen and back will be better than nothing. Add a few proper deep breaths into the mix and you’ll feel like a new person….which brings me to…

3. Breathe. We forget to breathe mindfully, it’s something that we do on autopilot, forgetting how essential it is, it is the very essence of life itself. Breath. Mr Pilates had it down right when he said

Breathing is the first act of the life, and the last… above all, learn how to breathe correctly.

He went on:

˝To breathe correctly you must completely inhale and exhale, always trying very hard to ˝squeeze˝ every atom of impure air from your lungs in much the same manner that you would wring every drop of water from a wet cloth.˝

This is one of the things I find my Pilates clients struggle most with. Teaching you how to breathe, surely this is unnecessary? But notice how you’re breathing as you read this (and check your posture while you’re at it…). Are you barely breathing, shallowly into your chest? Breathe in through the nose and channel the breath wide, wide, wide into the back of your lungs, really inflate them fully like bellows. Feel your ribcage expand as it was built to do. Now breathe out, slowly and deliberately, through the mouth. Sigh the breath out through the lips as if you’re attempting to blow a candle softly out. Do this once, twice…and then try and remember to do a version of it forever. You’ll re-energise and invigorate your mind, body, blood, muscles, complexion. It will make you feel great.

4. Be touchy. Not in a negative prickly way responding over-sensitively to other people, that would defeat the purpose of this feature, unless I am trying out some reverse psychology… No, I mean, massage, the power of touch. If you can persuade a happy companion to give you a massage then that would be fab (use the smiling technique honed in point 1), but otherwise, massaging your own face daily is a fantastic way of creating skin that looks like you regularly treat yourself to expensive facials. I know this because pre-baby I used to fairly regularly treat myself to expensive facials, and soon learned that actually if you’re dedicated and remember to do it every day, your skin does benefit hugely from it. It doesn’t even require expensive potions (although they may help with a feelgood indulgence factor), you could massage regular kitchen olive oil onto your skin and it would have a beneficial effect. I used to give myself a facial massage every morning and every evening when cleansing my face, without fail. But the little guy Mo seems to have diverted me from this path, and wow, does my skin show it. Little bit crepey, very tired looking, grey and lacklustre. Ok so the lack of sleep/regular hearty exercise may not have particularly helped… So I am planning on coaxing the lustre back into my skin by taking just 2 minutes every morning and evening to stimulate the glow once more by massaging a facial oil (I’m a particular fan of Neals Yard frankincense facial oil, but any moisturiser will do) onto my skin in circular movements, really getting deep into the skin to get the blood flowing, encourage life into it and to banish the cragginess. Have a look here for some tips on how you can massage yourself into radiance, for free!

5. Make sure that at least one of your meals every day packs a huge nutritional punch. Get more bang for your buck, as they say in the States (“get more for your money” doesn’t have quite so much oomph). It’s easy to eat the same things, day in, day out, without really noticing whether they are of any real value. But it really is true that you are what you eat… which means right now I am a hastily devoured lone weetabix at breakfast, a rushed cobbled-together easy lunch eaten with one hand while trying to keep tabs on Mo somehow with the other, and luckily a lovely hearty dinner usually cooked by my husband who is much more organised and housewifey than i can be at the moment. With too many carrot cake breaks thrown in at various points throughout the week with a coffee with mum friends. I also drink hardly any water at the moment, I simply forget to, and this is no good. My greatest goal is to start eating the way that I used to, mindfully, eagerly, giving my body fuel but considered in terms of its mega nutritional power and fabulous taste. I’m talking, salmon, sweet potato, broccoli, loads of great spices and superfoods full of skin-saving wonder such as avocado, garlic, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate. My great grandmother used to say that a colourful plate was a good plate. And I totally agree. The more you can touch on the spectrum from dark green to dark orange, and everything in between, the better. But now due to Mo mayhem I tend to think haste rather than taste when it comes to lunch. So I am going to try and turn this around, and with the hope that this contemplation will also have the happy side effect of allowing me to become slightly more streamlined once more. Hmm, time shall tell with that one, and it’s not a top priority, but I do want to feel like I’m powering my body and skin up with the good stuff rather than the whatever’s there stuff. So, not a diet, per se, I’m not a fan of those, but a nutritional challenge to be more considered again about what I am consuming during the day.

Join me trying out these 5 things every day if you can, and see how it makes you feel.

Until the next time!

Baby steps

Hello again!

What a beautiful day it is today in London town, a boost to the spirits.

So, I’ve just managed to have a shower while Mo has his second nap of the day. I hurriedly shampooed and skipped the conditioner, speedily towelled, forget moisturising, and threw some clothes on which were probably found lying on the floor somewhere. In doing so I couldn’t help but remember how much I used to love looking after myself and my appearance pre-baby. Oh, the hours I used to squander slathering on lovely potions and moisturisers, my skin was, if I do say so myself, a testament to how much love and luxury I massaged daily onto it, with organic soothing wonderful lotions and creams and what nots.

I also used to cycle about 25 miles a day, and do up to 5 hours of Pilates a week. So I think I was probably in quite good shape, outside and in. Not, of course, that I noticed or acknowledged this fact at the time. But I am certainly bemoaning its loss now!

Cut to nearly 8 months post caesarean, and on a budget both of time and money, my body and skin are a very different exhibit. I’ve been feeling somewhat stuck in the mud as to what to do, as I have no time with a baby like mine, how I love him so, but he doesn’t allow any time for frivolities such as intense hair conditioning treatments or taking time over moisturising the face lovingly, and skin in your 30s starts to really show when you don’t get the beauty sleep you need. Which I haven’t done now for a lo-ho-ho-ng time. In fact I can’t remember the last time I had more than 3 hours in one go. And my skin is a little bit of a horror show as a result. It’s also hard to motivate yourself to exercise in any time I do have when Maurice is sleeping, with low energy on such little sleep. Add to that the new-mums lifeline, the coffee morning with mummy friends with more cake than you used to eat in your previous life, and you have a heady concoction towards body blues.

But enough is enough, it takes its toll on your wellbeing when you feel your outside isn’t very sheeny. I have a wedding to go to in 8 weeks’ time, and I’ve decided that I will try, with baby steps, to do something every day to regain the me that I have left behind when Mo arrived. Just tiny little things every day to find some momentum in wellness and calm in the whirlwind of motherdom.

Today, I am going to take a long walk in the sunshine and make sure that i stand tall while I walk, lengthen the spine and ask my tummy muscles to regain the resting tone they used to have, remind my body what it was before. I may also try and put some make up on as i am GOING OUT TONIGHT!!! First proper night out sans bebe, with my sisters in law to an actual proper live music gig, a world I used to inhabit but seems like a faraway land now. So, make up, and a long walk in the lovely sunshine. That’s my tonic today.

Join me in this daily baby steps challenge, every little helps, as that supermarket says, and over ten weeks I’m going to layer on joyful purely selfish healthful acts to make my body and being feel great again.

Right, have to have some lunch while the munchkin stays sleeping…. oops I haven’t yet combed my hair. Damn…

Sunshine or coffee?

Hello folks

So, you find me today slightly weary and nearly broken after 5 nights of unhappy sleepless baby, the dreaded lurgy got him and so night times in our little household have been somewhat nightmarish since the weekend. This morning I feel my body creaking and lurching as an aged vehicle bound for the scrapheap might, and I’m wondering how to perk it up. Do I put on a pot of very very strong coffee and sit here sipping and waiting for effects of caffeine to do their thing, or take the little one out for a stroll in the sunshine to refresh and activate myself?

While I ponder this dilemma, I can update you on all things Mo and Joe Pilates-related in my life.

Mo and I have become regulars at the local Rhyme Time in the library. It’s quite a surreal place to be, as an impartial adult observer, as babies, toddlers and everything in between are moshing around the room in slightly chaotic drunk fashion, while their respective keepers sing songs and clap hands with gusto and enjoy being in the company of other adults who understand the bags under the eyes and the occasional glob of banana mush stuck in the hair. There is a knowing look exchanged between women with small babies, a wordless understanding of how life has changed. Lie ins and glossy hair exchanged for broken nights and poo talk. But it’s a great place to be, and all the better for having a space where your baby can discover the joys of Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes while you connect with other mums (and the occasional dad) grappling with this new direction their life has taken. Mo is a particular fan of the Hokey Cokey. That IS what it’s all about, as far as he’s concerned.

Joe Pilates: we are on the third week of the new term of classes at Body Balance Pilates, and it’s a wonderful learning curve for me too. As I’ve said before, now more than ever my body is in need of the maintenance that Pilates offers, the rebalancing of muscles and mind, and inner strength that it bestows. And with my two postnatal groups we’re travelling together along the road towards strength and balance post baby. Counteracting all the baby work, hunching over buggies, changing tables, feeding…and just bringing an awareness back into the body to regain a sense of self that is sometimes lost inevitably once a little baby is thrown into the mix. I’m hoping my mums are finding it a fun and challenging, and rewarding, journey, as I am. Pilates principles are wonderful not just for within the session in the moment, but for every day, embodying the principles of fluid movement, breath, alignment, strength into the day to day reaps rewards for not only how you feel physically (stretched, strengthened and refreshed) but also mentally (alive and relaxed).

I’m excited that my book is coming out next month, if it encourages just 10 people to pick up Pilates and take the principles into their daily life, then it was definitely worth the hard work!

Must go, the snotty little man has woken from his morning repose.

Until next time!