As Sasha Elizabeth Parker continues to attempt to wend her way from Poland to Valencia, she decides to try yoga. Remotely. In a snow-scape. Bravo, chica…
they asked her,
“what does it mean to love yourself?”
“it means to uncover and release whatever keeps you for true happiness; to love, honour, and accept every single part of you, especially those that are kept in the dark. it means to observe yourself continually with the utmost honesty and without judgement. loving yourself means striving to reach new heights of self-understanding so as to cultivate the wisdom that inner peace requires.”
—Yung Pueblo, Inward
And that’s when I knew I was onto something special with my new found yogi, Jennison. There I sat upon my mat listening to Jennison quote these words of wisdom from Yung Pueblo’s Inward – words so true – my inner monologue stopped midway through her sentence to listen. So how did I find myself on my mat, in front of Jennison in sukhasana (yoga’s easy pose – the one where you sit cross-legged)? Let me start from the beginning. I had woken up in a bit of a funk that Sunday morning and I wasn’t completely convinced that I would make it on to the mat. It was 9 am and I was in the middle of doing shavasana (the corpse pose – pretty self-explanatory) on the couch with my dog who was mirroring the same pose on top of me. My yoga session with Jennison was due to start at 11 am. It took some doing but after a lengthy inner dialogue, I found myself on top of my mat and no longer on the couch.
This session was dedicated to self-love. A term, I think everyone has heard of but a term, I’m not so sure everyone has fully grasped (at least, not yet). Jennison admits she has always “loved love” but her relationship with love has evolved over the years and now she embraces love in a different way, a way in which has nothing to do with romance. This kind of love enables her to not only love herself but also to love those around her. Her journey has led her to the discovery “when we love ourselves, it trickles into others.”
I was expecting to dive headfirst into downward dog or adho mukha svanasana (the stretching dog). I was wrong. We dived headfirst into journaling. Journaling—another term which you’ve probably heard of but do you know what it means? I’m ashamed to say that even as a writer, I couldn’t answer that question myself. So I asked. I learnt that journaling is the act of writing down your thoughts and feelings to understand them more clearly. It can help you gain control of your emotions and mental health.
Luckily, my red moleskin and ladybird pencil were at hand. I flung open my journal and waiting for the next instruction. Jennison so poetically began “imagine just like words which have been carved into a wooden desk using a pencil—this is what we do to our brain. Negative affirmations dig deep lines into our brain. Use positive affirmations to layer the dust back in and rewire those neurological pathways. And don’t worry—you don’t have to believe these positive affirmations right away. The universe picks up on your energy. You just have to say positive affirmations with the energy of believing it.”
Jennison continued “Positive words only and no writing—no. Take it however it feels good and we’ll end up with a poem.” I liked the idea of walking away with a poem—it must be the writer in me but who wouldn’t like walking away from something with a poem in hand?
With the guidance of Jennison, here’s what I wrote:
I am strong
I honour love
I open my heart
I am brave
I accept all that I have been through
I love ‘love’
I am Sasha, this is me.
I read what I had written. Now you may see 7 simple sentences but those 7 simple sentences mean much more to me. I recently discovered that opening my heart and accepting what I’ve been through are the two most challenging things someone could ask of me. There is something to this journaling. After that revelation, we flowed nicely into our vinyasa practice (vinyasa yoga is described as the one where you walk away feeling like you’ve worked out, it’s dynamic and focuses on a steady flow from one position or asana to the next).
they asked her,
“what is the key to saving the world?”
“you. you are the key. heal yourself, know yourself, make yourself whole and free. release all limits so that your love can flow unconditionally for yourself and the world. this will open the heaven of your heart and it will guide you without fail.”
—Yung Pueblo, Inward
I was lucky enough to grab a coffee with Jennison after class to find out more about her, her practice and what tips she can give us on taking care of ourselves and everyone else.
I noticed your Journaling and Meditation for Anxiety program—can you tell me what it’s all about?
Throughout the year, I teach “regular yoga classes”—vinyasa and yin classes online and in Valencia in the park. 3 years ago I started shifting to yoga experiences. We do lots of events in Valencia, around building community. This year especially, I’ve seen a lot of people needing support through anxiety and stress because there’s so much unknown. All of this unknown has taken its toll on our nervous system and our ability to cope. This program is really special because it is only open to 10 women—working as a support group for one another and will integrate daily journaling. It’s a two-week program and every day you’ll have journaling prompts to guide you through the process of understanding our triggers. We’ll have lots of positive practices focused around gratitude and ways to cope with anxiety as well as understand it. It includes recorded meditations centred around breathwork and nervous system support—a hands-on tool for managing anxiety and understand how our body responds to it. Yin yoga, similar to acupuncture can be used for emotional imbalance so we’ll look at how we can balance our emotions through the practise of yin. It is mainly journaling with a little sprinkle of yin, a little sprinkle of friendship and support to help everybody through this—all things which have helped me.
When I was looking at your Instagram I kept seeing reference to community and bringing people together something which I felt in our session. How has this transformed since the pandemic? How do you still bring people together?
Thank you for saying that because that’s my whole mission so it makes me happy to hear that you saw it and felt it. Everything that I do in Valencia is centred around community building and connection. The way that I design my offerings is especially for the ex-pat community in Valencia and the idea behind it is that most of us come here alone, either we’re really brave and we’ve taken a chance and moved to a new country or started a business—you arrive alone. I was lucky enough to not arrive alone, my husband is from Valencia so I came here for him but I still felt lonely and I was missing that connection, those girlfriends, soul-friends and people to speak in English with—so that’s how I started my business as a way to share yoga, connect with like-minded individuals and make friendships. It isn’t the type of yoga class where you show up and you need to be silent on your mat. You are encouraged to show up and chat with one another—to make a new friend. We do lots of events like yoga and brunch, yoga and wine tasting. I run retreats that have a big community impact. When the pandemic hit I was like “what am I going to do now to keep this community going?” That’s what we were all craving—a way to keep connected during this time because we were now very much alone. The classes easily morphed because our community was already established however it expanded and became a very international community! Every Wednesday we have yoga and coffee chats which we used to do out in the sunshine so now we just continued online. It’s been about creating space and opportunity for that which can be as simple as setting aside 10 minutes after class to talk with one another and it’s my job to invite that.
How do you make time for yourself but also those around you? Do you have any tips on how to find balance?
The first thing is a daily routine or practice. Last month I put out a free 7-days of meditation and movement—which relates to how to cope with anxiety and the importance of having a routine. For me, at this moment in my life it’s about half an hour in the morning—what I would encourage is just 10-minutes or even 5 minutes! Before I even turn on a light or open a door I have 10-minutes of meditation, I always do it guided and listen to something—it takes the pressure off. Then 5-10 minutes of movement, stretching—for me it’s light yoga, for others it could be a 5-minute journaling practice to journal gratitude. It has to be something that is repeated every morning. After that, I get my coffee! It’s my treat. Having some sort of mindfulness routine which works for you and feels inspiring (not like a job to do in the morning). I am a huge fan of rest and I honestly try to rest the same amount of hours as I work. Rest can look differently, it can be a series on Netflix, going for a walk, doing an exercise class, cooking, reading, whatever but time-on and time-off should have an equal balance. We have rest time at home. My son doesn’t take a nap but he has alone time for himself which means alone time for me. It’s my-time, it’s his-time. Most Saturdays all 3 of us are in a separate room having our own time for ourselves. Our society builds up this idea of us needing to work all the time—for me that doesn’t work. Finding some sort of a routine in each day, even if it’s 10 minutes and building in rest and time-off… and practising yoga of course!
If you need a helping hand to take care of yourself so that you can take care of those around you, take a peek at what Jennison has to offer: https://www.yogawithjennison.com/yoga-in-valencia/
Sasha Elizabeth Parker is from York, England and is slowly working her way to Valencia, Spain — via a five-year sojourn in prickly picturesque Poland. No, not a Ryanair cock-up — as John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens… when you’re busy making other plans”. On the plus side, along the way she’s won the hearts of Poles and developed a penchant for pierogi.