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Find Your Flow State: In Conversation with Annie Clarke of Mind Body Bowl

Find Your Flow State: In Conversation with Annie Clarke of Mind Body Bowl
Annie Clarke is the founder of Mind Body Bowl health and wellness blog, which she started following a period of illness and depleted energy. She’s also a brilliant yoga teacher – and you can practise with her wherever you are right now - by flowing along to one of her free videos. Today we catch up with Annie, a long time Lumie user, to find out how does she mange her busy life and what are her top tips for staying healthy and balanced this time of year.  

Hello Annie, thank you for finding the time to speak to us. To begin with, we’d like you to name three words which describe you the best…

Compassionate, considerate, ambitious.

We love that! Now, let's dive right in: could you tell us what is your morning routine like?

I have always been a morning person, although the way I choose to start my day has shifted a lot over the last couple of years. I used to bundle that morning energy and channel it all into my work or my workout and begin my day on an energy high. Now I have learned that what is right for me at the moment is to go slow and more mindfully into my morning. Even when I have an early start (I still teach one early morning class a week) I try to get up with enough time to move slowly into my day. A big part of this was discovering Lumie and getting one of the sunrise alarms around 18 months ago. Waking up with light felt so much calmer than the cortisol-triggering noise of an alarm. So now I use my Lumie Bodyclock (one I recently upgraded to) to wake up, and my mornings are much more gentle than they used to be. I then take time to make a coffee, a ritual that I enjoy so much f as I hand-froth almond milk while the stove top coffee maker brews. I might then journal, or sit down while I enjoy it, before launching into my day. Work begins as soon as I pick up my phone so I try to leave that as long as I can. Sometimes, if there is something niggling on my to-do list that might make me feel anxious, I’ll get that out of the way first before doing anything else, even if that is a bit of work! Sometimes I’ll go to yoga or reformer pilates, but most likely I’ll take a short work or just set up my laptop to clear my inbox before teaching or lesson planning or whatever else is going on.

Sounds like at times there indeed can be quite a lot on your plate – glad to hear that starting the day slowly with Lumie helps you tackle whatever lies ahead. Can you tell us more about the projects you’re involved in now? 

Yes, there’s always a lot going on, and I think I am starting to realise that this busy period probably won't get any less busy for a long time - and that that should be celebrated. I try to be very good with my boundaries, something I have had to learn over time. Especially as my partner, Will, and I have a project together that so easily creeps into all of our time together if we let it. We launched Can We Just Ask as a platform to start conversations that matter. As well as events, we now host this as a podcast and that’s been a big levelling-up in terms of commitment.  

Aside from that, I have my classes, workshops and retreats and in progress is an online studio and some courses that I am writing to help people dive deeper into the practice of yoga from wherever they are in the world. I love to travel, and I get a lot of inspiration from that. When I travel alone, I also have more time to throw myself into being creative, which often gets lost to ‘life admin’ at home. So, as time goes by I’m learning to craft that time for myself and to prioritise that too.

I think for me it is about finding a flow state where you can lean into one thing and then another. It allows us to adapt to our surroundings and opportunities and to stay present. It’s hard to be the best at everything all the time and running a business can sometimes mean less time with friends, so I just try to make choices based on my intuition and trust that I am doing the right thing.

That’s a very sensible and inspiring approach – thank you for sharing. Now that the seasons are changing, it can be harder to maintain one’s ‘state of flow’. What’s your favourite season/time of the year and why?

I love to be in the sunshine. I’m not very good with the cold and it gets to my bones pretty quickly, so somewhere or sometime warm and sunny is much more energising for me. I do love this time of year though, when the air is crisp and the skies are clear and its cold enough to be bundled up in coats and hats…as long as I don’t stay out too long!

We hear you! Do you notice your personal levels of energy change throughout seasons much? If so, how do you manage that?

I definitely notice a difference in how my body responds to the changing seasons. I have a lot more energy in the summer, and in the winter I just want to hibernate. My mum used to say she could tell when it was getting cold because as a child I would suddenly want comfort food and to be inside much more before she’d even noticed the change in the weather. I try to listen to that intuition and take the cue from the shorter days to be more introspective. But of course, it’s not always possible to slow down completely. I have the flexibility of working from home which has its pros and cons - sometimes I notice my mood dropping in the darker days, so I’m introducing the Lumie Vitamin L SAD lamp to reduce that impact in the autumn and winter months.  

Great plan! As mentioned, Autumn and Winter can be challenging for maintaining optimal mood, energy and productivity. What are your top 3 tips for cultivating good mental health throughout these seasons?

Sleep well and wake up gently with Lumie sunrise. Keep your body moving. Be gentle with yourself.  

Speaking of being gentle with yourself; could you share with us what are your top three lessons you’ve learned through practicing and teaching yoga that you think apply to life off the mat?

Gratitude. Acceptance. …And that it really doesn’t matter whether or not you can do a handstand!

So true! What’s your greatest source of inspiration?

Lots of things inspire me – friends, family, travel etc, but I think seeing people around me grow through their challenges and fears inspires me the most. My boyfriend is the perfect example of that - seeing how he has moved from a really hard time into the incredible person he is today is pretty cool!

Amazing, wow! And what about you, Annie? What would you say is the single best thing you’ve done to get you to where you are now?

There’re a few things, but I think that trusting that everything happens for a reason has really helped. We don’t always go where we plan to go but giving myself permission to just go with it helps me to stay present and step into whatever is in front of me fully.

Lastly: digital detox or scrolling in bed? How do you switch off and wind down in the evening? 

I try really hard to avoid my laptop and phone at night because I find it definitely harder to wind down if I’ve been staring at a screen. I like to read in bed and use the sunset feature on my Lumie Bodyclock to help me relax. If I don’t fancy reading, I like to do some breathing, meditation or journaling with a soundscape in the background. We have so much time on our screens that we are trying very hard to be screen-free in bed. We don’t always get it right, but it’s a work in progress and makes such a difference when we do!