New Years Resolutions 2018

The start of a new year always feels like a blank sheet of paper to me.  It’s clean and fresh, ready to be written upon.  Although I set goals and challenges throughout the year, new years resolutions always feel more charged and purposeful to me.  Today I wanted to take some time to review my 2017 goals as well as setting some new goals for the year ahead.

 

2017 goals in review

  1. Journal once per week

There was only one week this year that I missed journalling, and it was because I was ill with the flu and couldn’t even hold my head up.  I did a mixture of traditional day-to-day records, stream of consciousness work and journal prompts.  I really enjoyed taking that time for myself to put my thoughts down on paper.

 

2. Read all the books in my to-read pile

I didn’t even come close to achieving this goal.  Although I read a lot this year, I also got two bookstore giftcards, which inevitably led to the addition of about ten new books to the pile.  If I’m going to have any chance of working through my to-read pile, I need to concentrate on not acquiring new books just as much as reading the ones on the shelf.

Rocking my me-made cardigan to work. #outfit #workwear #cardigan #knits

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3. Knit a whole garment

I knitted not one, but three jumpers for myself this year (and made good progress on a fourth).

First time wearing my me-made jumper. #crafts #knits #TARDIS #blue #outfit

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4. Continue transitioning to a vegan-ish diet

I rocked this one and went full vegan this year.  I cooked loads of new recipes, tried foods I never expected to like and ate out at some fantastic vegan restaurants.

 

5. Declutter my flat

I got rid of approximately one quarter of all my possessions this year.  I was extremely ruthless and cleaned out every cupboard and drawer.  I was very honest about things that I was hanging onto out of guilt, or because it represented the kind of person I wished I were, rather than the person I am.  It was incredibly freeing.

 

6. Buy fewer things

I drastically reduced the number of “just because” purchases I made this year.  Although I did a fair amount of shopping still, I tried hard to be mindful of what I was spending money on and only bought things that were necessary or which brought me joy (and I went a bit nuts at Kinkfest and Sexpo….my bad!)

 

7. Write more sex positive posts

I’m really proud of the number of sex positive posts I published in 2017.  I completed my series on the ABC’s of BDsM, wrote about sex on Game of Thrones, reviewed some awesome toys including my glass tentacle wand, the Tantus Destiny and the Bootie plug and considered the performance of pleasure. I got a lot more comfortable writing about sex and talking about difficult topics.  I also attended Sexpo and Oz Kinkfest and met loads of incredible people at both events.

 

8. Build an aftercare kit

I had long wanted to build an aftercare kit for my BDsM needs.  I put together an awesome little bag filled with all the essentials I need to take care of myself after a scene.  It’s been super useful and it was truly therapeutic to consider closely the type of aftercare I need after a scene.

 

2018 resolutions

  • Close the gap on my long distance relationship

I’ve been dating my partner for almost two years now and we live three hours away from each other.  Long distance relationships are rewarding, but difficult.  By this time next year, I’d really like for my love and I to be living closer to one another.

 

  • Be able to do a forward split

My yoga practice has stalled a little this year, and I’ve noticed that my hips and hamstrings are especially tight.  I have still been practising but I’ve slacked off a bit.  So in 2018 I want to put more effort into regular yoga workouts and incorporating loads of flexibility training to allow myself to achieve a King Monkey Pose (or forward split) by the end of the year.

  • Learn colourwork knitting

It’s my dream to eventually learn how to make my own ugly Christmas sweaters.  But before I can do that, I need to learn how to do colourwork properly.  2018 will be the year of colourwork knitting for me.

  • 100 days of no spending

I’m trying hard to cut down my spending this year.  There are a lot of days when I will pop into the shops aimlessly during my lunch break or call into the supermarket on my way home without a clear idea of what I’m going to buy.  So this year I want to rack up 100 days where I don’t spend any money.  I think this goal will help me to cut down on those little “just because” purchases.

  • Publish one toy review per month

I have a stack of toys that are waiting to be reviewed.  I’d really like to get the ball rolling on more reviews and post one per month.

 

  • Catch up with one friend per month

I haven’t been terribly social this past year.  I realised towards Christmas that there are some people I adore that I didn’t see at all in 2017.  This year I want to make a huge effort to catch up with my friends more often, and arranging at least one friend-date per month will help with that.

 

So that’s my goals for 2018.  Cross your fingers and lend me your support as I work towards them.  And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog so that you don’t miss any of my adventures and reviews.

 

What are your resolutions for 2018?

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Practicing yoga on a budget.

I’ve harped on about my love of yoga often in this space.  It’s my favourite way to move my body and I love encouraging other people to give it a try.  I’ve already written about how yoga has helped me with my depression and how it can be used to encourage body confidence.  Another reason that I adore yoga is that it needn’t be an expensive practice.  You don’t need to shell out loads of cash for equipment or gym memberships to revel in the benefits of a yoga practice.

To begin or grow your yoga practice, there are very few things that you need.  And most of them can be found very cheaply or for free if you know where to look.

 

Yoga mat

Yoga mats have become really popular,  but the truth is that you don’t strictly need one.  I practiced for months before I bought a mat.  The reason I got the mat in the first place is that I wanted to practice outdoors and a mat gave me a clean, stable surface to work on.  If you’re practicing indoors you probably don’t even need a mat.  However, if you find that the floor is too rough, hard or slippery you can use a towel or even a folded blanket to stretch out on.

 

Clothes for yoga

Although a yoga offers a great excuse to stock up on stretchy pants and racer-back tanks, these fancy duds won’t improve your practice.  All you really need are some comfortable clothes that you can move easily in.  I’m sure you’ve got a pair of leggings or shorts and a tee shirt kicking about in your wardrobe that will do the trick.

 

Blocks

A lot of classes use blocks to help students to ease into different poses.  The blocks are a great way to give you a bit more space and support when learning new poses.  If you can’t quite reach the floor, you just pop a block under your hand to bring the ground up to you.  Blocks can also be used to support knees in lunge poses, to sit on to give your hips more space to open and many other uses.  If you don’t have a block, a couple of thick books will do just as well.  Dictionaries are ideal.

 

Bolsters

Bolsters are used for restorative yoga to offer support and comfort in resting poses.  I made my own bolsters for about $5 using and old pair of pajama pants.  I just cut the legs off the pants, sewed both ends together and stuffed them.  If you aren’t handy with a needle and thread, a folded-up blanket or towel can be used in place of a bolster.

 

Straps

If you’re working on improving your flexibility, a strap can be really helpful.  Just loop it over your feet and hold onto the ends and work your hands slowly down the strap, trying to reach a bit further each day.  Your wardrobe is probably stocked with items that can be used instead of a strap: ties, belts and scarves all work well.  Choose something that doesn’t have a lot of stretch to it and which won’t tear under pressure.

 

Instruction

Joining a gym or attending regular yoga classes can be very pricey.  But you can cultivate a home practice using the awesomeness that is Youtube.  There are literally thousands of free yoga classes on Youtube which you can access in your very own home.  My favourite channels are Yoga with Adriene, Psychetruth and Leigha Butler.  Both Yoga with Adriene and Psychtruth have a range of videos targeted at different levels, whereas Leigha Butler’s channel is a bit more advanced.  But have a browse and experiment with different videos until you’ve found some that you like.

 

So you see, you don’t have to be flush with cash to get into some asanas and pranayama.  Just use what you have and develop a practice that suits your lifestyle.

 

Pssst!  You might also like to read my tips for improving your yoga practice.

 

Yoga for body confidence.

A few weeks ago I read a really interesting blog post about yoga and body image.  The post really tugged on my emotions and got me thinking about how people of different shapes and sizes experience yoga and I feel compelled to respond to it.

I should start by saying that I’ve never been fat.  I’ve only ever had a thin body with varying degrees of fitness.  However I’ve struggled quite profoundly with my own body image and perception of my body.  I’ve gone through long periods of hating my body and periods of tentative tolerance.  Only recently have I begun to make peace with my body’s appearance and ability, and I truly believe that yoga has played a huge part in that.

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I have spoken with many friends who are bigger than me, and they have told of similar experiences to those described in the article mentioned above.  Hearing those stories was heartbreaking for me.  Not only because I don’t like to hear about people being shamed or discriminated against because of their size, but because I find it upsetting that these people are being excluded from a practice that could truly help them to accept and love their bodies.

I find yoga to be an exceptionally healing and energizing practice.  The reason I’ve stuck with it for so long is that it not only exercises my body, but it calms my mind as well.  I’ve found so much peace and acceptance during sessions on my mat.  It sounds a bit silly, but it’s the truth.  Here are some of the ways that yoga has helped me to create a better relationship with my body:

–  I’ve learned to focus on what my body can do rather than what it can’t do.  I’ve learned to appreciate all the amazing things that my body is capable of and rejoice when I manage to reach a little further or balance with a bit more stability.

– Yoga is very introspective.  It’s not a competition to see who can bend further or get into the most mind-bending poses.  It’s about scanning your own body and working with yourself to create space and ease in each pose.  It’s about noticing pockets of tension and gently working them out. It’s about easing into a pose over time, rather than cranking yourself into a certain shape.

– Over time, yoga has helped to tone my body.  I’m much stronger, my posture is better and I feel more balanced than I did before I began practicing regularly.

It is my belief that yoga should be for everybody.  There are so many different styles and types that there should be a variety of yoga that is suited for your particular body and abilities.  It shouldn’t matter what shape or size you are, or how old you are, or if you have limited mobility.  Yoga is a wonderful practice that should be accessible to anyone who wants to give it a go. And I find it upsetting that so many teachers and classes have turned it into a competition, or are peppering their classes with discrimination and shame.  If you’re interested in trying yoga, but are worried about feeling left out, self-conscious or being discriminated against there are a few things that I can suggest.

– First of all, research different yoga classes in your area.  Some gyms and yoga centres offer a variety of classes which target different groups.  You might find that there is an awesome Fat Yoga class in your area, or a group that specially caters for people who are recovering from injuries.  Do your homework and see what’s available.

– If you can’t find a specially targeted class, consider arranging a meeting with the teacher of a beginners class in your area.  Chat with them about your concerns and highlight any areas that you are likely to struggle with.  Then ask whether they can keep these in mind when planning the class.  If they are rude to you or if you feel like you might be treated poorly during the class, don’t go.

– If there are certain poses that you find difficult or impossible, try researching some variations to common poses.  Many of the most basic yoga poses can be targeted to different levels of fitness, strength or flexibility.  Use these variations during class when you come to a pose that is difficult for you.

– Try practicing at home.  I find it much easier to practice when I’m by myself.  I’m less likely to compare myself to others and I find that I’m more focused on my practice when I’m by myself.

– Look for at-home yoga videos that are size positive.  One of my favourite channels which I recommend to everyone is Yoga with Adrienne.  I love her videos because she gives loads of variations of poses for different levels and her videos focus on achieving the sensation of each pose, rather than attaining the perfect form.  She uses body-positive language and is really laid-back in her approach.

– Add a short meditation to the end of each practice, where you thank your body for all that it’s done and congratulate yourself on any progress.  I find it’s also helpful to give myself a little pep talk on days when I feel as though I’ve gone backwards with my yoga.  Taking the time to nurture yourself and doing that positive self-talk is very helpful.

Yoga is something that has helped me so much with my self esteem and body confidence.  It truly angers me that certain groups are being left out of this practice because of their size and abilities.  Yoga is for everyone, and nobody should be made to feel less-than when giving it a go.

Things I Love Thursday 17/7/2014

This week did not start out well.  I’m in the process of coming off my brain meds and so far I’ve done pretty well.  However, this week my anxiety and depression started creeping back in and I just felt overwhelmed and deeply blue.  I’ve been really busy at work and the stress of it caught up with me and I just broke a little bit.

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But now I’m feeling so much better.  I stepped back and took stock of what I could do to introduce a bit more stability in my life to safe-guard me against stress and anxiety.  And I started working some of those strategies into my life. And so far, so good.

This week, I love:

– Asking myself: “Is this thing that’s bothering me really worth this much energy?  Am I allowing myself to be consumed with worries that aren’t based in fact? ” and really dismantling those thoughts that are preoccupying me.

– Yoga.  When I’m down, just 20 minutes on my mat works wonders.

– This video.  I can relate.

 

– Celebrating the birth of my friend Corrine’s baby girl, Charlotte.  I’m so excited for them both.

 

– Speaking up against sexual harassment and remaining calm while doing so.

 

– Watching Ringo get all blissed out over snuggles with my gentleman friend.  The two of them are best buddies.

 

– Getting a visit from my friend Christina and her husband Charles.  They are such a sweet couple and it was brilliant to have a quick catch-up with them.

 

– Finally finishing Breaking Bad.

 

– Attempting a difficult recipe and being really pleased with the results.

 

– Having one of my new work clients bring me a gorgeous tiger lily from her garden to keep on my desk.

 

– The new Indian restaurant that’s just opened up around the corner from my house.

 

– Looking forward to a Fawlty Towers dinner show.

 

– Re-watching Waynes World and quoting huge chunks of dialogue.

 

– Geeking out over grammar.

 

– Sunday-morning snuggles in bed.

 

What do you love this week?  If it’s been a hard week for you, what’s been keeping you going?

Things I Love Thursday 22/5/2014

I can’t believe it’s already Thursday again.  That means that I’ve gone an entire week without any blog posts.  I’ve had a couple of cute emails from readers checking in on me.  There are a couple of reasons why I haven’t been posting as regularly this past week.

Firstly, as I mentioned last week, I got a new job.  Although I haven’t actually begun working yet, I have a tonne of things to do before I start.  As I’m wrapping up my old job and jumping headlong into the new one, I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed and unfortunately, my poor little blog has been neglected.

Also, I’ve been feeling a bit burnt out on blogging lately.  Don’t get me wrong, I adore blogging, but I’ve just needed to take some time out from it to recharge my batteries.  I need to re-evaluate my posting schedule now that I”m going to be working full-time too, because there is no way that I’m going to have time to post as frequently as I do now.  So I’m thinking that my posts might slip back to just three a week, but we will see how things go.

Phew!  Now that we’re all caught up, it’s time for my Things I love Thursday list.

This week I love:

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-Leisurely slurping away at a big pot of tea.

– Re-watching Back to the Future for the bajillionth time.

– Zooming around town on the back of a motorbike.

– Praying mantises.

– Seeing a magpie taking a bath in a gutter.  It was so flippin’ cute!

– This gallery of pictures of soaking wet dogs.  If you’re having a bad day, I guarantee that this will make it just a teensy bit better.

– Lamb shanks, the perfect cold-weather dinner.

– Having dinner cooked for me.

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-Hat weather!

– Waking to find both cats snuggled up under my doona.

– Making progress with a couple of more difficult yoga poses.  I’m slowly getting more extension in my Bird of Paradise pose, and I’ve managed to get into Mermaid pose on both sides (my right hamstrings and hips are much tighter than my left, so I always struggle with right-side-body poses).  Next up, I”m going to start working on Compass pose.

– Spooning.

– Treating myself to a massage and manicure to celebrate my new job.

– Celebrating my Dad’s birthday.

What do you love this week?

Tricks for improving your yoga practice.

Do you want to get even more awesomeness out of each yoga session? Here’s a quick list of tips that I like to employ to make my yoga practice even more effective.

– Utilize scent during your yoga practice.  Choose an incense, oil or candle in a scent that you find relaxing.  Use the scent each time you practice.  After a while, begin to introduce the scent into your environment on days when you’re feeling stressed.  You will begin to associate the scent with calm and it will soothe you even when you’re away from your mat.

DSCF9324– Push your boundaries.  Try a pose that you have never done before.  Work into it slowly, over a period of weeks.  Watch as you get closer and closer with each attempt.

– Don’t do the same workout each time.  Mix up your routine, trying a combination of classes (whether online or in person) and freestyle sessions.  This keeps your mind active and engaged in the practice, as well as providing a greater challenge for your body.

– Be mindful of your breath during your practice.  Try to focus on inhaling and exhaling slowly and completely.  Notice the changes in your body as you inhale and exhale.

– Try to make your poses active rather than passive.  By that, I mean that with each breath you take in that pose you focus on stretching a little further, lengthening your limbs or deepening the poses.  See each breath as a chance to grow into the pose, rather than just remaining still.

-Follow up each practice with a good drink.  A big glass of water or a cup of herbal tea are both good choices.  My favourite post-yoga drink is coconut water.  It’s really hydrating, low in sugar and replaces electrolytes lost while exercising.  It’s like nature’s Gatorade!

– Keep a yoga journal.  After each practice make a note of any progress you made as well as any difficulties you faced.  Make a list of poses that you want to try and mark off when you complete them.

– Listen to your body while you’re practicing.  Learn the difference between feeling a stretch and straining.  If you’re straining, you’re pushing too hard.  But in order to progress, you need to feel a stretch.  If you pay attention to your body and regularly check in with yourself during your practice, you’ll soon learn how to identify your limits.

– Don’t compare yourself to other people.  Every body is different, and we all have different levels of strength, balance and flexibility.  Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t stretch as far or for as long as someone else.  Respect your body’s limits and be grateful for what you can do.

-Begin and end each practice with the same pose.  I like to start and finish my practices by sitting in half-lotus and slowly stretching forwards.  This gives me a sense of how relaxed and pliant my body has become with my practice, and gives a great ‘before and after’ feeling.  You can do this with any basic pose, and it’s a great way to bookend your practice.

How do you maximize your yoga practice?

How yoga has helped with my depression.

I’ve mentioned before that yoga has played a huge part in helping me to manage my depression.  Since I began doing yoga on a regular basis, I’ve noticed that my moods have been much better in general.  I’m better at coping with stressful events and when I do hit the skids and have a depressive episode, it tends not to last for as long.

So how does a bit of stretching and deep breathing help me to manage a mental illness?  In lots of ways, actually.

DSCF7804It gives me a shot of endorphins

Exercise in general is great for depression.  Exercise produces endorphins, which are naturally-occurring happy chemicals in the body.  They act like anti-depressants, balancing the chemicals that are lacking in depressed individuals and improving mood, appetite and motivation.  My daily yoga practice gives me an endorphin boost which helps to keep my depression at bay.

 

It gives me a sense of accomplishment

When I’m feeling really depressed, I have this little voice in my head that feeds me all sorts of negative messages.  It tells me that I’m a failure, that I can’t do anything right and that I’m pretty much worthless.  Overcoming that loop of horrible self-talk can be really difficult.

 

When I practice yoga, I find myself improving little by little.  Some days I’ll be able to stretch  a little further than I did the day before.  Perhaps I’ll find that I’m able to hold a balance pose without wobbling.  Or maybe I’ll manage to pull off a pose that I’ve never done before.  It’s these little improvements that give me a sense of accomplishment.  It gives me the evidence to shake my head and prove that I CAN do plenty.   Those small victories are a huge deal when you’re battling depression, so doing an activity that gives you the opportunity to improve and grow is a great idea.

 

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I have a greater respect and appreciation for my body

A big part of my depression stems from a pretty dreadful relationship with my body.  For years I hated the way I looked and tortured myself to get to a point where I could be happy with my body.  The problem was, that point never came.  No matter how much weight I lost, I still hated my body and could always find some fault with it.

 

I’ve spent the last few years working to improve my relationship with my body.  And that means taking steps to take care of myself and finding ways to make peace with my body.  Yoga has been a huge help in this area.

 

Yoga is very introspective.  It isn’t a competitive sport and you don’t need to worry about doing every pose perfectly.  It’s largely about doing what you can do, appreciating your body’s abilities and respecting your limitations.

 

Through my yoga practice, I feel as though my view of my body has changed.  I’m more able to appreciate what my body can do, rather than focusing on how it looks.  I’ve begun to realise that if I treat my body well, it serves me so much better than if I starve and punish it.  I feel that yoga has given me a greater sense of respect for my body, and I feel more at peace than ever with my physical self.

 

It’s great for stress relief

I am a terribly anxious person, and I tend to stress out about the littlest things.   That constant anxiety can be debilitating.

 

Yoga forces you to slow down and take a few deep breaths.  It’s really about focusing on what’s happening in the here and now.  After a yoga session, I feel about a million times more relaxed than when I started. When I’ve had a rough day, I try to come home and spend 20 minutes on my mat rather than curling up into a ball and panicking.  Before, I used to get anxious about my stress, which would just stress me out more!  I’d work myself into a terrible state just trying to figure out a way to settle down.  It was very counter-productive.  Now, I have an activity that I know works to help me de-stress, which takes a lot of the tension out of my day.

 

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It gives me something to look forward to each day.

I used to get really worked up when I was having a bad day.  I remember standing at work, feeling the tension bubbling up after dealing with a difficult customer.  I’d be so upset because I was feeling so horrible but I had no idea what to do to pull myself out of that slump.  I felt so frustrated and worthless, and I would become convinced that my feelings of sadness and despair would go on forever.

 

Now, I can reassure myself that I’ve got my yoga practice to look forward to.  While it doesn’t work every time, most days that twenty minute practice is enough to lift my spirits and calm me down.  Knowing that I’ve got a plan that is usually effective is a huge relief and gives me something to look forward to at the end of a hard day.

 

Do you use yoga to manage a mental illness?  Do you have another method of managing a mental illness or stress that works for you?  I’d love to hear about it.