Today I’d like to introduce you to Niamh a reiki practitioner, meditation teacher, health coach, blogger and a sister chocolate lover from Ireland. We share many interests that are also our ‘work’, as well as a passion for learning about health and wellbeing, what makes us unwell and what can start the healing process. I love reading Niamh’s blog and I suggest you head over there to soak up her gentle wisdom and reflections on living a mindful life. I hope you love getting to know Niamh as much as I did. Dive in.
Tell us a little about yourself
I’m a reiki therapist, meditation teacher, health coach and blogger, living in Dublin, Ireland with my husband and 4-year-old daughter. I’ve recently made a big career transition from working for many years in charity marketing and fundraising to setting up on my own in holistic health.
Having experienced a whole host of health issues over the years, I became fascinated by the mystery of why we get sick, how we heal and how we can live a good life. And so I decided to make a leap into sharing all I’ve learned about healing and creating happiness!
It’s been both exhilarating and scary being my own boss…but it’s going well so far! :)
Oh, and my name is Irish so, obviously, the only people in the world who can pronounce it easily are Irish people! To everyone else, it’s spelled ‘Niamh’ but sounds like “NEE-iv”.
Everyone who has stood on a yoga mat raising their arms in their first sun salutation has a story of to tell. What’s yours?
I grew up loving dance and as a child I spent most of my time either in dance classes or on the stage. So when yoga started to get popular, I thought I would love it, as it seemed so graceful and beautiful.
But, I just didn’t ‘get’ it. I tried to love it, but I just wasn’t in the right headspace at all. I thought it was boring and had no sense of what it could do for me.
Fast forward to pregnancy and motherhood in my mid-30’s and I tried it again. And ‘click’ – I got it! The need to slow down and nurture myself became so great during these years that yoga became my therapy and my refuge all in one! I found a gorgeous studio with some really kind and knowledgeable teachers and began to see the classes as my ‘me time’ – my space to just be me, connect back to my body and nurture my own needs for a change.
When I get to my mat now I feel joy bubble up inside me and gratitude for this time and this space to spend time with myself.
What keeps you returning to your yoga mat?
I’ve had many struggles with my health and yoga has been so important in healing and helping me cope. I’ve had problems with my right kidney since I was a child and when the pain is at its greatest, it seems natural to want to just take to my bed and rest. Instead, what has been so interesting to me is how the opposite is actually more effective – when I feel at my worst, I get myself to a yoga class and guaranteed, I will be pain free by the end of class – or by the next morning. Moving my body seems to release the stuck energy causing the pain. This is, of course, inexplicable to doctors! :)
How has your yoga practice filtered through to your everyday life?
My favourite nugget of wisdom I have learned (and it has taken me a long time to learn this!) is to soften while in a difficult pose. When something feels hard or challenging in life, it can be tempting to push yourself, chastise yourself for not measuring up…or just to resist. Instead, what works better every time is just to relax into it. Allow yourself to feel the challenge, but to neither resist nor push….just soften and allow. No judgement…but lots of kindness and surrender.
This is how to do yoga…and how to do life. What a revelation!
As a reformed pusher and controller of everything, this is pretty revolutionary wisdom that has allowed me to be compassionate to myself through so many challenges, where once I would have been self-critical and self-loathing.
What is your favourite yoga pose, breathing practice or mantra?
I love anything that grounds me and calms me. So extended child’s pose is very comforting and the world always seems better in a forward bend, I find!
What advice do you have for those just starting out on their yoga journey?
There are many different classes and teachers out there so if at first you don’t love your yoga classes, it’s worth trying a few till you feel at home. Find a class that’s down to earth and don’t give up on yourself too soon. I found getting to a special beginner’s class was great at the start – as we were all at the same level and there was nothing so tricky as to scare me away before I built up my strength!
Congratulate yourself on every little bit of progress made.
I would also advise people to ignore the social media version of yoga – full of thin, young girls in impossible poses pretending to have the secret to life!
How has your yoga practice evolved over time?
My yoga practice has slowed down a lot over the past year. I used to go for a hard-working Vinyasa Flow class, but health issues have called for me to slow down and get to easier hatha, restorative yoga and yin yoga classes for now.
What are you loving right now?
I’ve fallen in love with yin yoga. When going through difficult times, you need to be kind and gentle with yourself and I have found the slower, more nurturing flow of yin yoga to be perfect for me as a way to soothe my mind and body. Sometimes, when your life is particularly challenging, the last thing you need is a fast-paced yoga class. Yin Yoga (or restorative yoga) is like a long, compassionate hug at the end of a busy day!
And, of course, I have an ongoing love affair with dark chocolate!
How do you nurture yourself?
This is a work in progress! I used to be very good at looking after my own needs, but motherhood sent me back to square one :) I’ve had to relearn the fine art of prioritising my own welfare and not always being available to serve everyone else’s needs around me.
I was totally unprepared for how demanding and all-encompassing motherhood can be. I’m really sensitive and can feel others’ emotions quite deeply myself. So the connection with this new child was so tricky to adjust to. It took me quite a long time to figure out where I ended and she began.
The one thing I really learned about myself is my need for time out. I make this a priority each day. This usually ends up being half an hour to an hour each day after my daughter goes to bed to read/write/meditate/daydream…whatever I feel like on a given day. I tend to get pretty frazzled and irritable unless I get this time to recharge!
What wisdom has your yoga practice revealed to you that you’d like to share with us?
“Instead of a self-improvement project, rather learn to become a compassionate mess” – Dr. Paul D’Alton
I came across this quote recently and it stopped me in my tracks. Isn’t it lovely and wise?! Sometimes in the world of yoga/meditation/self-development we can get the idea that we need to be constantly working on and improving ourselves – it can get exhausting. Yoga and meditation are tools for just connecting to how you feel and what is going on for you right now in the present moment. There’s no need to force anything, there’s no need to judge yourself.
We’re all in a mess…and we’re all absolutely perfect at the same time. Why not just let it be? Let yourself be.
Thank you Niamh for sharing your insights and reflections. I love how we can dismiss yoga as ‘not for me’ and then it finds us again at a later stage in life.