In the Summer term our beginners yoga classes will focus on our arms and shoulders. We have been moving through the body – starting from the ground up – working to strengthen, stretch and inform ourselves about all the different parts of our physical body.
In this final term we will loosen, strengthen and stretch out the arms and shoulders. Experiencing how movement (or lack of it) in the shoulders affects our hearts. We will play with Downward Doggy, Crow pose and the Universal Twist. And of course, give ourselves plenty of encouraging pats on the backs and hugs (very good move for the shoulders).
I’m not forgetting that we have 1 more body part to think about…. our heads. I’ll be teaching Ujjayi Breathing to calm the mind and ease the furrowed brows… an essential part of our practice 😉
If you feel rather sluggish now that the Easter Holidays (and chocolate) have left the building and landed on your waist – why not try a few yoga moves to give you some energy and elongate your muscles? Stand with feet in the correct alignment – knees under hips and ankles under knees. Interlock the fingers and take the arms up overhead turning the palms to face the ceiling. At the same time lift your heels and raise up onto your tip toes. All this happens in tandem with a nice long in breath and on the out breath return the arms and heals back to the starting point. Watch out if you have any shoulder problems – try it without the fingers locked. And if you find the raises give you too much wobbling issue just do the arms bit and try raising the heels when you have a stronger core. This move is called ‘Tadasana’ or sometimes ‘Tadasana with breath’.
The benefits include –
develops your balance
stretches the whole length of the spine
loosens shoulder joints
stretches the stomach area and the abdominal muscles
improves the ankle joint and calf muscle
improves lung capacity
Do 5 – 10 repetitions daily and you’ll soon feel the benefits!
The Introduction to Yoga course in Exton will continue from March 4th with a further 6 sessions. After this the class will continue with the same themes as the Yoga class. The benefit of this is that if you have to miss your usual class one week you are welcome to make it up at one of the other venues – all I ask is that you let me know beforehand so that I know to expect you.
Our sessions will move a little faster this time, I will be introducing you to the Warrior postures which are very good for strengthening the legs. I’ll also be telling you the story behind these postures – an historic legend – so that you can see how the practice tries to bring together and into balance our minds and our physical body.
As before I will give out sheets to add into your folders – hopefully creating a good reference for you to begin a little bit of home practice.
This term we’ll continue our tour of body parts… having explored our FEET, LEGS and HIPS we now move onto the BACK.
We’ll be revisiting the structure of the spine and have a really great sequence of postures that will strengthen and stretch out the back – from the bottom to the top.
At the end of term I will give out the sequence in diagram form so that you can continue to practice at home – I think this sequence is one of the best things you can do to avoid a bad back! Great news for all that gardening that awaits us during this Spring Season.
In this year’s Stretch & Relax classes we’ll be taking a tour around the body seeing how each part feels for us on a personal level and also how improvements with one area can often alleviate issues in others… We will begin with our FEET which form the foundation o f our standing postures and which we rely on for our mobility and independence as we get older.
Feet are actually quite fascinating once you get over the look of them. They consist of lots of tiny bones, with lots of tiny joints in between. When the joints in the feet aren’t as flexible as they could be the result is that the feet can’t operate as the ‘suspension’ mechanism of the body – so even walking (let alone running and jumping) can become problematic to joints further up the body (knees, hips and spine) as the foot is not taking the impact of the weight of the body as it steps/plods around. We will use a variety of means – movement, massage with a small ball and massage with our hands to help to get our feet more flexible. And do you know… that because of all the nerve endings in the souls of the feet working with the feet can be extremely relaxing and calming. A traditional yogic remedy for insomnia is self foot massage. We’ll spend some time working on proper alignment of the feet as this can help prevent and heal foot problems such as plantar fasciitis, bunions, and shin splints not to mention a variety of mis-alignments further up the body. Keeping the feet flexible and relaxed also helps circulation of fluids to this area which over time helps to keep the skin on the feet healthy. Poor skin health is what leads to the build up of bacteria, smells, verrucas, athletes’ foot etc
So before we pack our tootsies into the boots for winter let’s give them some TLC and – who knows you may notice that the pain in your neck goes as well 🙂
The work for this half term will focus on some standing postures – the Warriors. These are great for stretching and strengthening the legs whilst also developing the core and back muscles. We’ll continue to improve our breathing with the stepped breath – great for relaxation too.
Sit in a kneeling position with the heals rolling outwards and your bottom in the hollow of your feet.
Place the hands on the knees, soften the gaze and breath gently through the nose.
Vajrasana is useful to stretch out the tops of the feet. There are many benefits gained in the pelvis and pelvic floor region to spending 5 minutes or so in this posture. It also engages the muscles of the core and back so that they become used to supporting an upright posture. In time this becomes an effortless position to sit in.
This is a great posture for meditation because the spine is naturally straight. It is also increases the efficiency of digestion as the contents of the abdomen sit in an upright position allowing gravity to help.
Smile and repeat to yourself
“I am fully present in my body, in the light of consciousness”.
Often people find that the feet become cramped and the legs are tight when they first try Vajrasna. Sit for a few minutes to start with – don’t over do it – use a block or folded towel under your bottom. Practice, practice, practice. Be patient with yourself and over time you will become used to the posture. There are many benefits to achieving a comfortable Vajrasana and several other postures begin in Vajrasana so it’s a very good thing to get used to it 😉
In our Stretch & Relax classes this year we’ll be going back to basics to remind ourselves of how yoga can help us to live a happier life free from suffering – often this means tackling minor ailments that we simply put up with. Things like tension headaches, back pain, joint pain and constipation. All of these reduce our quality and enjoyment of life – so why put up with it? Let’s get our mojo back, find our Joie de Vivre (painting above is of that title by Pablo Picasso)
We will begin with the Anti Rheumatic/Arthritic group of exercises. Arthritis is a term covering a wide range of conditions and diseases of the joints. Joints become painful, swell and the enforced lack of use means that the muscles around the joint then weaken. Osteoarthritis is the most common and affects many people as they get older. There are around 100 other forms which can be caused by injury, obesity, stress or be hereditary. The yogic anti arthritic range is extremely beneficial both to prevent and reverse the condition. When joints become stiff and painful this results in the poor flow of fluids and energy around the body. The result is often not just localised problems but the whole body can feel below par. This group of exercises therefore works on the whole being and can have a very meditative, calming and uplifting effect.
You can follow the exercises in the yoga handbook Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha – it is called Pawanmuktasana Part 1. PMA1 for short!