Tribal women or the benefits of sisterhood

Dedicated to Diane Evans, a good friend, cancer warrior and an amazing sister.

I recently read this interesting article on the benefits of sisterhood to women’s mental, emotional and physical health:

The premise is that women when stressed or anxious seem to ‘tend and befriend’, and don’t fit so neatly into the fight, flight or freeze response to threat like men seem to. The justification for this, is that much of the research into our fight or flight reflex has been historically carried out on male subjects, as women’s moods were seen to be too changeable, due to our ‘hormones’.

However this is the very difference we need to understand. When adrenaline levels rise due to stress in males, so does their testosterone, but in women their oestrogen and oxytocin levels rise. These differences can cause remarkably different responses, and not all of them useful.

For instance if a woman’s response of tending and befriending is provoked by domestic abuse, it can mean she stays attached to the person perpetrating the abuse long after it would be safer to leave. Yet this hormonal response makes much sense out of the reasons and beliefs that reinforce a woman’s inability to leave.

In times of illness, women will come together not only with practical support but also with emotional, and mental support. Talking things through, expressing feelings and sharing experiences is a large part of any sisterhood. Finding a solution is not necessarily goal orientated; the catharsis, understanding and belonging bring feelings of welbeing and an ability to cope.

This support and emotional care received through women gathering together, is often overlooked, especially in an age where we rarely have enough time for our homes, careers, children and partners.

Women coming together to support one another
Women coming together

Making time to gather together with a trusted group can make a real difference to your health and wellbeing. Many red tent groups, moon lodges and women’s groups are springing up in response to this need. Indeed here at The Meditative Counsellor I host a Facebook group called daughters of difficult mothers.

I also hold a yearly weekend retreat for our members where I deliver workshops, talks, women’s yoga and inner journeying. Where women get the chance for some time out, to relax and renew themselves.

If you would like to find out more, please contact me at: or click on the button below to find out more about the support I offer and to join our Facebook group.

Domestic abuse is an issue which affects both men and women and if you are affected, please seek help from your local support services. If you need help, Charlotte can advise you on finding and accessing your local services, just get in touch.

The Fear Of Chanting

As you know I run a meditation class and inevitably once every 3-6 months I will schedule a class that involves chanting. Invariably this will mean I will have less people turn up on the night with excuses that vary from ‘I have a family thing planned’ to no response at all, so what’s going on?

It’s not coincidence that a lot of people suddenly have something to do, at first I thought it was me, something I wasn’t getting right, then the penny dropped. It was FEAR.

The fear seems to be less around internal chanting, and more around actually using one’s voice.

Chants can come in many forms, some religious, some as sounds and some as affirmations; all are useful in different ways. Much like music can change and influence our mood, thoughts and wellbeing, so can chant. The difference is, the sound in chanting comes from the inside outwards, rather than the outside in. This projection of your own sound, your own voice is really difficult for some people.

The people who struggle and avoid chanting are often the ones who need it the most, to have their voices heard, to be able to find themselves and their voice, to actually listen to themselves.  It requires courage to project your voice and be heard. I often find that the people who fear chanting are the ones who find it hard to say ‘no’, they are the givers, carers and worriers of the world.

Yet when they do find their courage, the strength to listen and to make themselves heard, the transformation in them is astounding. Their faces lighten and they sing from their heart and soul. They take back their power, and express themselves beautifully.

So the next time you have the opportunity to chant, take a deep breath and face your fear, sing loud and proud, of who you are and who you want to be.

Why not find out when our next meditation group is so that you can join us? Details of this group are circulated in our regular bulletin: Strategies For Living In An Anxious World, keep up-to-date by signing up below.

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Yoga, Breath And Mental Health

I am sitting here working on the asana and pranayama sequence for our yoga class, my theme is connecting with the breath.

Breath is a central part of the Viniyoga tradition which I teach, we know that changing our breath can change how we feel and bring us back to the moment. Not the ruminations of the past, or the worry for the future; but right here, right now.

But how do we do that? How do we get from our everyday breathing to yogic breathing? How can we bring it into our practice?

There are many types of pranayama (breathing techniques), the one most commonly used during asana practice is Ujjayi or victory breath. It involves a slight muscle constriction in the lower throat, which can make you sound a little like Darth Vader. Sounds complicated right?

Like most things in life it’s easier when learning some thing to work up to it.

Features of Ujjayi include:

  • The breath is slowed down
  • It is deeper and more lengthened than normal
  • It is consciously controlled
  • There is a slight constriction in the lower throat.

In asana work we match our movement to our breath inspiring a meditative quality in our practice; so when you are starting out, worry less about the slight constriction in the throat and begin by matching your movements with the inhale and exhale. See what it is to breathe in different postures. See how the breath changes as you move or stay in an asana.

As you progress you can lengthen and deepen the breath, allowing it to support and enhance your practice. Eventually get your teacher to show you how to make the constriction in the throat.

In short begin by noticing, and remember you don’t need to be able to do everything at once, after all ‘Atha Yoganushasanam’ Yoga sutra 1.1, the time for yoga is now, not when at some point in the future you can already do it.

Once we are proficient, yogic breathing like this can be used outside the classroom to soothe anxiety, stress and improve our mental health, by deactivating the adrenaline fuelled fight, fight or freeze, of the sympathetic nervous system, and activating the para-sympathetic nervous system, to bring us to a calm and restive state, whenever we need to relax.

If you’d like to find out more about the yoga I teach and the benefits of learning pranayama breathing techniques please click the button below.

From failure to success


There are times when we all feel we have failed either because we have let someone down, not passed a test or reached a goal. When this happens it is easy to get to the point where we criticise and belittle ourselves.

‘I am so stupid’, ‘How could I have missed that? and ‘Grr’ are all common responses to the shame and frustration that failure can induce in us. For some of us this self-talk is a constant and very present part of our lives. That internal voice that uses our failure to reinforce the self-belief that we are not good enough.

For a few, this will even lead to us not trying, or self-sabotaging,

maintaining the status quo that we are not enough, nor will we ever succeed.

I have worked with many people who don’t even realise that this internal dialogue is there, they accept it as who they are, not ever questioning that self-belief. But here is some things we know about failure:

  • Adults learn best from making mistakes.
  • When you are learning something new or you want to improve, you need to give yourself space to fail and try again.
  • The biggest factor in success in any endeavour is persistence.

Learning to be compassionate with ourselves when we fail is an important skill, it challenges some of the thoughts, ideas and beliefs we have about ourselves. Ultimately compassion will help you to talk to yourself in a new way, to foster a better, more supportive relationship with yourself.

It’s not what happens to us that matters, it is how we work through it and how it affects our relationship with our sense of Self that matters. If you would like to explore this further please get in touch.


Mantras, or what’s in a word?

A mantra is a word, phrase or sound that you repeat over and over whilst you meditate. The sounds may be chanted out loud, or may be heard internally. Mantras serve several purposes:

  • They are a point of focus.
  • They can be used instead of focusing on your breath (particularly useful if you find breath-work upsets your asthma or you have a cold).
  • They can be used as an affirmation to bring that quality or energy into your life.
  • They make your thoughts and feelings manifest, speaking them to your Self.

Some common mantras include:

  • Om.
  • Om, Shanthi, Shanthi, Shanthi.
  • Peace.
  • I breath in peace, I breath out negativity.
  • I am enough.
  • Love.

A mantra is usually said or thought in the time it takes to take a breath or marked by passing a bead through your fingers on a mala. For instance ‘I breath in peace, I breath out negativity.’ can be timed so the first half of the sentence is thought or spoken during the in-breath and the latter part during the out-breath.

Meditating this way for 20-30 mins a day is likely to bring the most benefits, but if you can only manage 5-10 minutes during a lunch break that is good too. It could also be used during or after a yoga practice, particularly whist relaxing or meditating at the end.

A good mantra for you would be something that speaks to your soul, that works with where you are now to help you get to where you want to be. A mantra that is right for you now, is not going to be the same as the one you need next week or next month. I would always advise you to play about with your mantra and find the right words for you.

Mantras can profoundly change our thoughts, feelings and perspective on ourselves, our lives and others. It is a powerful tool in your meditation tool-kit.


In this time of Spring with its new growth and seed sowing, think about what qualities or energies you want to bring into your life and work with that as a starting point for your mantra meditation.

Love and light