Recently, I watched a TV series entitled “Back in Time For The Weekend” where a family of 4 was ‘sent back in time’ to live through the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and finally the 90s. This was achieved by their house being completely changed inside to have the décor, equipment, furniture and food of the era. The early decades showed how labour-intensive our lives were and that most of our ‘leisure’ time was spent doing physical household jobs and chores. However, as the decades progressed, labour-saving equipment began to arrive in our homes and we began to have more and more leisure time. By the latter decades, the sheer quantity of electronic gadgetry which was brought into the house reached the point that the family rarely spent much time together socially and instead, would sit on their own watching TV, playing games on-line or interacting with friends digitally rather than in person. As a result, the world of gyms with their racks of equipment sprung up over time to combat the fact that we were now leading increasingly sedentary lives. This in turn began to parody our lives at home: if you go to a gym now you will see people doing their own work-out on their own, with their headphones on, just as cut off from everyone else in the gym as the family was at home on their smart phones, tablets and gaming consoles! By the end of the series, the family had come to the conclusion that they had to digitally-detox their lives so that they could start to spend quality time with each other again! This made me realise that yoga has become MY digital detox from the stresses and strains of being a full time solicitor as well as Chair of Manchester Pride. It has become a space in my day where I can spend time away from the sheer intrusiveness of everyday life. In the same way, it has become my detox from my previous gym life cluttered with noise, equipment, fads and malodorous moody muscle-Marys (check out the alliteration!) In a yoga class there is no need for digital anything!! All you need is a mat!  It also brings back the social interaction of group exercise and feels like a collective effort in a 'we are all in this together ' type of way! In so many ways therefore, yoga has helped bring a new focus to my day and has brought simplicity to my exercise routine…. So much so, that I have cancelled my gym membership! And talking of Manchester Pride…! Here’s me (shameless plug, complete with typo!) This is what we do: Manchester Pride campaigns for equality and challenges discrimination creates opportunity for engagement and participation, celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender life and fundraises to enrich and empower LGBT organisations, charities and communities in Greater Manchester.The Big Weekend is Manchester Pride's flagship event taking place in Manchester's world-famous Gay Village, each year, over August Bank Holiday Weekend   …and here’s where you can find out more about this year’s Big Weekend    
After recently posting an Elephant Journal article on yoga and food, I was struck by how many people clicked the link in a space of a few hours. Rather than the usual 'Detoxify yourself in a day' drab we're becoming accustomed to on yoga sites, this piece called into question the need to detox at all when you have a regular yoga practice. And it's true. In Ashtanga Yoga, the Primary Series is call Yoga Chikitsa with the latter word translated as 'cleansing'. During a practice, the digestive system is stimulated through the massaging action of forward bends, wringing-out through the twists, and moving into back bends that stimulate the nervous system, which plays a crucial part in digestion. It's also no wonder flatulence and physical yoga go hand in hand. After a couple of months or so of regular practice, the digestive system becomes like a well-oiled machine taking what it needs and sends the rest to the waste bin. Crucially though, we start to change psychologically: the boring apple now looks so refreshing and the croissant just seems artificial. Don't get me wrong, the desire for treats still remains but we just want them less as we know we'll physically feel rubbish if we were to indulge all of the time. So this brings me back to the article that inspired this piece. Exasperated by the constant talk of fasting and detoxification, I, and I'm guessing the hundreds that read the piece, welcomed it with open arms as a counter to the accepted belief that yoga practitioners should continually 'purify' themselves at any cost. What's failing to be picked up is the fact that simply practising yoga leads one towards a balanced diet, avoidance of processed foods, and cultivates an awareness of what is right for the individual in a progressive, organic way. image While there is a place for occasional cleansing if one is recovering from an illness or has been living the life of a Rolling Stone, my gripe is with the sub-conscious message running through most of the pieces that we are somehow toxic - the exact same message the beauty industry also sells to us. Yes we want to know a good nutritious dhal recipe, or a refreshing smoothie, but what is not healthy is the innumerable articles posted everyday about detoxification. The sheer quantity and clever advertising has made 'detox' part of our vocabulary and is used to self-judge oneself as if we're walking hazardous waste, which is communicated in both the mainstream and yoga community. It's no secret that parts of the yoga industry has become a willing participant in our consumerist society and with that has co-opted the messaging that one is not good enough unless, in this case, you detoxify yourself to become a healthier, happier, brighter you. Reading this, most of us know it is tripe but we still can't help but click on those 'Fast for Vitality' articles. So what are we to do? The real detox: from my own experience avoiding such articles by unfollowing certain people and groups who spout this nonsense helps to cleanse my mind and get back to my intuitive self. The self that loves a simple diet without commentary and would always choose chippy chips and a vegetarian sausage as a dying meal. image                             Charlene teaches regular classes with Yoga Manchester and Yoga Express. Visit her teacher profile for more information. Charlene McAuley