butterflyZestlifeWhy its ok to have struggles in life…..

I went to another inspiring talk with John Fleet up yesterday. The topic was detachment. I don’t know how we got onto it but he re told a story about  a beautiful butterfly and it went like this….

There was a man watching a delicate butterfly trying to emerge from its  chrysalis. It looked as if the butterfly was struggling so the man, being the kind person he was, tried to help the butterfly by cutting the chrysalis open. The butterfly did eventually emerge but with swollen wings filled with water. For the butterfly to emerge perfectly formed it needed the squeezing and the struggle as it left the tiny hole of the chrysalis to drain all the fluid from its wings. Without the squeezing the butterfly dies.

Sometimes in life when we are feeling the squeeze and the strain it’s a reminder for us that struggles and effort are needed for us to grow. It’s almost as if the struggling squeezes all the negativity out of us ready for new, brighter opportunities. So the next time you are feeling the strain, stick with it and know that beautiful more peaceful times will soon emerge.

sugarspoon-5ee1d9cf2615c976d34480051e0cba6762f7cf81-s6-c30ZestlifeThere is news everywhere on the internet about the government imposing sugar tax on sugary drinks. That’s all very well and good but will it really make the slightest of difference? I know that when I have had the worst cravings of my life in my Bulemic years it didn’t matter how much food cost I’d just buy it. The sugar was like a drug for me and we all know the lengths that addicts go to get their fix. They do anything to get those moments of bliss to escape the unhappiness of life.

For me I see that the problem runs far deeper than taxing sweet food. I believe to solve these obesity problems and get to the root cause, we have to look with in each and every individual. Why do we crave the sugar in the first place? We all know eating rubbish food makes us feel horrendous on all levels, so why do we continue to eat it.? You can be told by your partner, your trainer your nutrition expert in your magazine what to eat but they are all external. You have to shift your thought patterns from within, so much so that your body starts to want different foods from the usual rubbish. We all know that sugar foods give us comfort so how about we start looking at our lives and see what comfort is lacking and making the changes there instead.

I’m currently reading a marvellous book called “The Yoga of Eating” by Charles Eisenstein and he has a whole chapter dedicated to this matter, entitled Sugars Sweetness. He talks about how we have lost the sweetness in our lives which is why we turn to the sweetness in foods. A profound extract from the chapter.

“Where is the sweetness for our soul to be found? Babies are sweet. Intimacy is sweet. Love is sweet. Your innermost self is sweet. The experience of coming back home, connecting with the divine is one of ineffable sweetnesss. Intimacy comes easily with babies, who are open and unthreatening, and with lovers when there is genuine trust, and with close family. With all these people we can know sweetness. But we are meant for more than that. Outside the narrow realm of family, we are closed off from one another, interacting on a very superficial level. How close do you feel to people you buys things from, your neighbours, you postman? Intimacy comes from openness and long association. Today we rarely have either. Intamacy hardly has chance to grow.”

I know I crave sugar when I am tired, stressed, emotional, premenstrual to name but a few. I have been known to head straight to the supermarket for cookies after class and when shopping for food on retreats the odd box of flapjacks gets thrown in there and they don’t even make it home. But on the whole, after years of battling, I have now learnt to be more in tune with my emotions which has helped dramatically with cravings for sweetness.

Tip 1. Take the time to acknowledge your feelings. When you feel that craving sit with it, or stand with it at the fridge, why not even pull up a chair at the fridge? Listen to what your body or heart is telling you, not your mind. Is it an emptiness, a lonliness, a longing, a tiredness, a need for love? Instead of reaching for the sugar, go and find the comfort and sweetness of life elsewhere. Love yourself enough to make a healthy decision rather than an unhealthy reaction to the situation. Honour the feeling, let the craving have a voice, listen to it but then choose a healthy response to that call.

Tip 2. Fill in these blanks at a time of need –

“I am craving sugar because………………….and that’s ok, but today instead of reaching for the………………I am choosing to …………………………….instead.”

Tip 3.  Mediate and slow the mind and body down. This will give you the time you need to check in with our emotions so that you can become more familiar with them and make informed decisions rather than rash reactions like reaching for the cookie jar.

Tip 4. Sit down and write down all the things in your life that cause you unhappiness, stress or pain. Be brutally honest with yourself and then see where you can make positive changes. They might be small to begin but they might lead to huge life decisions, like changing to a more worth while job or ending a negative relationship. Start small and bit by bit let your happy sweet life unfold.

Tip 5. Go to remedies for cravings…..big pint of water, healthy smoothie, camomile tea with a little honey stirred in, dates, dried fruit, grapefruit and orange cut up, long soak in a hot bath, ringing a loved one, writing to an old friend, taking a nap if I can, walking in nature, swimming in the sea……

We must rediscover the sweetness in our own lives, and only you can be held responsible for your life. There is no need to look to your weight watchers plan to tell you what to eat. Your body is such an intelligent being it knows what it needs to feel good. Simply sit with yourself, figure out where you are lacking sweetness in your life and make the necessary changes.  Life can be so sweet and it’s often the simplest of pleasures that are the sweetest. When you feel happy and content in yourself you will make relaxed decisions about your eating and those craving should be few and far between. Be bold, be strong, be powerful and live a live worth living.

zoeypicZestlifeYoganosis. Why bring yoga and hypnotherapy together?

Well, firstly they are the greatest tools that I have in my kit bag for life. They have seen me through the many trials and tribulations that life has thrown at me. They have been with me for over ten years now and I can safely say that I don’t think I would be here today with out them. I had my first hypnotherapy aged 21 at my peak of “shitness”. Post aneroxia and in the depths of bulimia and depression. Unable to get out of bed, let alone be social, hold down a job, or do any of the crazy things 21 year olds are supposed to do.

Putting yoga and hypnotherpay together,  I know what physical yoga postures we need to do to get to an openhearted, free place, but it got me thinking as to what it truly means to feel open hearted on an emotional level.

The first words that came to mind were…open, confident, fearless and trusting. From those places we get to experience the love, joy and peace of an open heart. The image that came to mind was of my four year old nephew. He is open hearted, right there in his blondle bubbly being. He is so bright and trusting, into everything, exploring, the world, so inquisitve, completely fearless. I see children like him on the ski slopes shooting past me, completely fearless, whilst I faff about at the top of the slope looking for an easier way down, one that’s less steep and less scary. I love watching children when they are learning to walk, they are coming from and open hearted place. Arms spalyed wide, heart leading them as they stumble forward, but the green light is on and they are off. They stumble and fall but they pick themselves up again, the try things then fail, but then they try again and they succeed. Its in that process that the growth happens. Ages is 3-7 is when you grow the most on a developmental level in your entire life. I want to be like that four year old, constantly pushing my boundaries and growing and evolving as a human being here on this planet.

So what is it that we have as children that enables us to be so fearless and free that we then lose as we get older, grumpier and more closed? In my eyes its life situations that close us down. But thats where we have a choice as to whether we let them shut us down or whether we use them to open us up even further. Remembering that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and that nothing is sent that we are not formed by nature to bare.

To grasp this concept of being open and closed on both physical and emotional level, try something for me. Take a moment now to imagine how you might hold your body if you were about to be physically beaten up. Not such a great image I know but bare with me. You’d probably be hunched over, closed in the front of your body, protecting your vital organs and having the strongest part of your body , your back, exposed to the the threat. This is a natural instint to close up. Its easy to see on a physical level and just as we close up on in our bodies when we are threatened we do the exact same thing on an emotional level.

Your heart over the years gets beaten.  Life can be tough. Whether its loss of  a loved one, a betrayal, a death, a boss that constrantly tells you how you are not good enough, or you telling yourself that you are not good enough, the list is endless of the negative ways that our hearts can be treated. Either way its like taking a big baseball bat and repeatedly bashing your heart. Of course its going to close up. No growth comes from that place, why would we, we are fearful and untrusting and its safer to stay closed. But that place is like being stuck in a rut and a rut is a grave with the end knocked out.

On that emotional level then, what has helped me is changing the self talk I give myself and surrounding my self with positive people. My self talk has been and can be brutal, but everyday I try to keep it chirpy positive and happy. Repeating postive affirmations…I am happy and healthy, I am loved, I am powerful. Nothing fancy but I tell you the stuff works. It’s a little bit like wanting a withered, dried out plant to grow and blossom. What do we do? We nourish it with a little bit of sunlight and a sprinkling of water. You can think of the positivity being the sunlight and a good dose of healing hypnotherapy the water. Perfect combination for heart healing.

Then on the physical level, I think that’s where yoga really comes into its own. I have this idea that yoga fluffs us up. Those times when we are feeling dank, heavy, lethargic and uninspired yoga comes along and ruffles our feathers, it helps us to feel free, open and confident in our bodies and minds. It puts a spring in our step and that is a truly sweet place to living from.

From my own personal experience, which is the only place I can speak from, the times when I have been completely closed on all levels unable to engage with anything or anyone, yoga has been my saviour. What does it do for me? First and foremost it gives me strength. It gives me a physically ft and strong body. It’s almost as if my heart is supported by this strong body that surrounds it. The heart then knows it can relax as its being held by my body beneath it. So even when my heart gets challenge and wobbles off centre it knows its got support beneath it which helps bring it back on course. Secondly, the practise then gives my confidence. Like the young child trying new things, failing at first but then succeeded, you try new postures which at first seem challenging and then after practise, sweat and persistence, things come. With those achievements come confidence. You then ask yourself “ I couldn’t do that before and now I can, what else is possible”. The comfort zone begins to expand and that’s where the magic happens. When was the last time you did something for the first time and pushed yourself out of your comfort zone?

The confidence on the mat can then be taken off the mat into the wider world. With that we start to develop this sense of trust. Because we know that whatever life and universe throws at us we’ll be able to handle it. I find myself saying “Bring it on!”.

Join me and be like that child running around, green light on, heart free, exploring, trying, failing and achieving, living, and really knowing what it is to be human… open, confident, fearless and trusting.


297120_10150329050416436_680431435_8547242_1902159628_nZestlifeAbout the Author : Laura Bell is a yoga teacher in North Wales, UK and has been practising yoga for ten years. She is the founder of a company called The Zest Life, where the philosophy is about discovering ways to help you find and feel your zest for life.  Throughout the year she runs yoga classes, themed workshops and lifestyle retreats at beautiful locations in Wales. Find her on Facebook and Twitter and stay connected to living the zest life.


Laura’s Learnings

Things I have learnt this year navigating my way through the fields of life.

1479214_10151766794946436_238476893_nZestlife1.  Too much of a good thing is wonderful.  So much of the time we are thinking. We think too much, we judge, analyze, dither and ponder. Yoga teaches us to get out of our thinking heads and encourages us to get into our feeling hearts.  Often we don’t pursue life experiences and relationships, even though they are great, for fear of what might happen, pain and failure. It’s the negative chitta chatta that prevents us from really grabbing life and living fully. But my experience is, if we simply get out of our crazy thinking heads and get into our bodies, we stand a much better chance of flowing with the greatness of life. When things feel good, we are then able to run with them. Stop dithering and analyzing and simply go with all the good things that come your way.


2. Turn up and get wet. I read a wonderful book called Darling Greatly by Brene Brown. One particular part she talks about her daughter not wanting to take part in a swimming event because she fears that she will be rubbish and come last. The advice she gives to her daughter is “Just turn up and get wet”.  How often do you not turn up for life and stay sat on the side lines of the pool?  Sitting there where it is safe and also where you never get to experience the many joys of life. Well my advice to you is when ever you feel those feelings of apprehension, doubt and fear, turn up, stand tall, get your goggles on, (and arm bands if necessary) then please dive on in and get wet. Trust that all will be well. I’ve been trying to act in this way this year and so far so good. Often situations are presented to us that make us want to run a mile, but those are the situations that we should perhaps turn to face and get involved with even more.

zoeypicZestlife3. Magic happens out side of our comfort zone. The comfort zone, that’s the place where everything feels safe, where we are not tested or stretched in any way. It maybe comfortable but it is also a very stale place.  Growth does not happen in the comfort zone and I believe that we are here on this planet to grow and evolve as much as possible. I had an experience where I had to teach in London at the yoga show to a whole group of people I had never met before, this was way out of my comfort zone of the safety of friendly faces of North Wales. All the fears crept in, “How will they take to my teaching?”, “ What if they get up and walk out?”. But I did it, I got on with it and yes I felt scared, apprehensive, nervous and anxious and would you believe it, I survived. You come out of experiences like this, where you have been challenged and pushed, so much stronger and more positive. I am always left thinking “What’s next? Bring it on!”

4.    Dancing is awesome. Whilst on a trip to Bali I had the luxury of staying in a cliff top villa that over looked the Pacific ocean and its relentless rolling surf. I spent many an hour on the cliff top, plugging into the nature and the rythyms of the waves. I’d have my very own little silent disco up there too, listening to my ipod and the craziest of tunes, moving my body, dancing without a care in the world. It felt so very liberating, to be simply moving, feeling and being. Before too long friends joined in the celebration on the cliff top, us all dancing up there in the sunshine made for a very smiley time. So take the time out to be creative, move your body, let go and start to feel free. And remember the dancing doesn’t have to be on a cliff top, it works just as well in your front room!

UnknownZestlife5. Trust. I have a great inspiring friend who often talks about the need to trust in life. She says that in life you have to switch the need for control, to a feeling of trust. There is a lot of comfort that comes from control, having that tight iron fist grip on all of life. It’s safe right? It may feel safe but it can be so restrictive, there is no freedom there. Trust on the other hand is like this deep knowing that all will be well, whatever life throws at you you know that you will handle it. So this year I have been learning to trust rather than control. I trust that I am meant to lead an amazing life, I don’t have to force it and shape it and that if I can let go of all the preconceived ideas of what I think my life should look like, all the goodness starts to flood in.  A couple of years ago I started running Saturday morning yoga workshops. People hardly ever booked onto them, I would panic that no body would show up and that I’d be there all on my own with one or two people feeling very embarrassed. I would frantically be emailing trying to get the word out in the hope that I could entice people in, getting myself worked up into a frenzy. But each time a workshop came about people would just turn up. More often than not the workshops would be packed out. I learnt to trust that they would be a success. So now each time I try a new event or workshop that I fear might be a washout I trust that people will show up. For us long as I am following my passion and doing what sits right with me, then I believe it can’t help but to be a success.  Control less, trust more.

IMG_7109Zestlife6. Learn to listen to your heart. Your body has an amazing way of communicating with you to let you know when things feel good or when things feel bad. The trouble is we often choose to ignore the signs that are there to keep us on the right path. When you injure yourself physically  the pain is there as a warning sign for you to get help and get fixed. Emotionally it is no different. When we experience feelings of anxiety, depression or stress its our bodies way of communicating with us that things are not quite right here and its time to do something about it. More often than not though we choose not to listen and instead we numb out those feelings, with alcohol, shopping , food, smoking, sex, whatever, in the hope that we can drown out the pain. The trouble is though it doesn’t disappear, if anything the signs get louder and we have to do more of the unhealthy habits to block out the noise. Try to simply stop and listen. It may be painful but please listen and see what changes you can make in your life for the better, so that you can lead a freer, happier life. . It might mean ending a relationship that doesn’t serve you anymore, or resigning from a job that is making you ill. I spent the best part of this year in a relationship that I knew wasn’t serving me. I continued to drown out all the signs that signalled me to walk away. I was very much ignoring my instinct, but hopefully now I have learnt that my instincts are working with me and not against me, all I need to do is, stop, breathe and listen. It’s from this calm place that I know the truest decisions will be made . The word heart starts with hear, so take the time to listen.

7.  It might take a year, it might take a day, but what is meant to be will always find a way.  Sometimes we want things so desperatly to be different form how they are right now. We have an idea in our heads about where we want to be and what we want to achieve by a certain point in life. Often the more you force something, the more it is forced away. So believe that there is a greater force guiding and leading you and that everything comes to you at the perfect time.  It might not be on your time but trust that it’s the time that is right for you.  Last year I had a business venture that I hoped would be up and running ready for the rush of January 2013, but for one reason or another it didn’t happen. I was gutted and frustrated that everything was taking so long. But now it is happening, a year later than planned, but still its happening and everything is all falling into place quite naturally. So patience really is a virtue.

8. “Fuck it, it doesn’t matter so much”. After reading this great book the Fuck it Therapy by John. C Parkin. I have learnt to say this, “Fuck it, it doesn’t matter so much”. I can’t tell you how refreshing it makes life to say these words. It lightens everything. Try it. When the car brakes down, when you don’t get the job you wanted, when you are late for an appointment, when you get dumped, please repeat “Fuck it, it doesn’t matter so much” and watch the sun come out from behind the clouds.


1441517_10151730615682820_1534883674_nZestlife9.   Have fun everyday. Laughter is the music of your soul. This year has been filled with lots of laughter for me, thanks to new friends that I have made that have helped me to see a fun way to be. I seem to have gotten rid of people in my life that don’t encourage a happy way to be which in itself  has created space for new care free people to come in. In the past I have taken life far too seriously. Yes of course there have been times of fun but on the whole it would be contained fun ending at 10pm, so that I’d get a good sleep ready for yoga practise first thing in the morning. But boy does that start to get dull. Life needs to be light.  At a wedding I went to recently they had one of those photo booths where you got dressed up in silly headwear and glasses before having your photo taken. I couldn’t believe how much fun we had and how much we laughed and I wasn’t even drunk. It reminded me how of as children you found enjoyment in the most simplest of pleasures. It made me wander at what point in life do we start to lose that enjoyment of simple pleasures?  So I have since bought a pair of the large, oversized novelty glasses and whenever I put them on, I can’t help but smile, its wonderfully liberating to be silly and take life lightly. I have yet to wear them around the supermarket but sure as hell it would make for a fun day. Don’t be scared to say “no” to the people that don’t serve you any more in your life and don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself either so that you may live a very smiley life. “When you stop doing things for fun you may as well be dead” Hemingway

10. Keep challenging yourself. I had the pleasure this year of spending quality time with some very experienced yogis who could make there bodies do amazing things.  Floating up into a handstand being one of them, the strength and grace with which they moved was awe inspiring. Since then I have been trying to master this posture. It is still very much a work in progress, it may well be years before I get there. But everyday and every practise I am challenging myself, in an attempt to master this pose. Not so that I can put crazy pictures up on facebook ( i still might do that  though) but to work on the idea of being able to attain the unobtainable. Challenges are good they make us stronger. You try something for the first time and you suck at it, two years down the line you are getting there, ten years down the line you’ve cracked it. When you experience this in your practise on the yoga mat it then makes it easier to transfer into life off the mat, asking yourself “What can I achieve if I really put my mind to it?”, the answer I believe is anything.

11. Have gratitude. When life becomes challenging,  it is a reminder to get back to basics, the basics of love and gratitude. Remind yourself each day of what you are grateful for. For as long as you are grateful you can’t help but feel happiness. There is always something to be grateful for.  When I remind myself of how amazing it is to simply be able to look up a the blue sky above, I can’t help but smile and feel gratitude. Gratitude allows you the space to breath and see the light in everything. Oprah Winfrey puts it beautifully “Be thankful for what you have and you’ll end up having more; if you concentrate on what you don’t have you’ll never, ever have enough.”

1506964_10152132371865429_1242263561_nZestlife12. You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf. I was once told that life was like surfing. Sometimes it can be very challenging paddling out, battling against the oncoming waves, struggling to get where you want to be. Then once you are out there much of the time it is spent simply hanging out at the back of the surf, chilling, enjoying, chatting with your friends, simply being, developing patience as you wait for that wave to come. Then the waves come and you are lucky enough to catch one, riding and soaring with exhilaration as you’re powered by the greater force that is nature. Then like all good things, it comes to and end and you’re being tumbled and bashed around by the same wave that once gave you so much pleasure. It doesn’t end there, because we get back on the board and do the same thing over and over again. Why? because it feels good and life is no different. There will be times of great elation and then great sadness followed by very mundane periods, but its never all bad or never all good, it just is. The hardest part is trusting that its all moving just as nature intended. So when you’re being tumbled around or you find yourself simply bobbing and waiting, get ready because sure as the sun sets, that awesome wave will be coming. Get ready to surf the beautiful experience we call life.

13. “Security in life doesn’t come with things, it comes with how we handle things”. I love this. It is taken from Susan Jeffers, Feel the fear and do it anyway.  This sentence really struck a cord with me. I have been feeling the pressure this year to be someone and to achieve something amazing.  In our society we often take how much we accumulate as sign of our success in life and it is very hard not to get caught up with that way of thinking. We seem to think that the more we have in a material sense the richer our lives will be, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Life will always be throwing challenges for us on physical, emotional, and mental levels. I believe how we handle these challenges is a greater indicator of how successful we are in life and how well we are living. Having a big house and fancy cars is all well and good but not much use if you are unable to cope when you have to stand in the face of adversity. Learn to let go of the idea of the need to have so many things to make you feel secure and focus more on developing a strength of self, a resilience that allows you to bounce back when faced with life’s hurdles.

14. For everything you have missed, you gain something else. Doors close on us all the time. It is very difficult not to keep looking back at that closed door wishing it would open. It’s a painful place to be, it’s a waste of energy, time and emotion looking back to the past. I have been learning to simply turn and look the other way. I had a massive door close on me this year, one I thought would stay open always but it really was a blessing, as an even bigger door opened, one that I didn’t even know existed. New opportunities and exciting experiences will be presented to us for as long as we can remain open and look forward to see them. Don’t regret that a door has closed, just stop, breathe and rejoice in the potential of a new door opening.

Hope is wishing, trust is believing, faith is knowing. Now go, make 2014 awesome.


297120_10150329050416436_680431435_8547242_1902159628_nZestlifeAbout the Author : Laura Bell is a yoga teacher in North Wales, UK and has been practising yoga for ten years. She is the founder of a company called The Zest Life, where the philosophy is about discovering ways to help you find and feel your zest for life.  Throughout the year she runs yoga classes, themed workshops and lifestyle retreats at beautiful locations in Wales. Find her on Facebook and Twitter and stay connected to living the zest life.