Yoga Fit November 15 Term

‘Fit Feet’ will be the theme of the Yoga Fit classes this half term. Using postures that involve working and balancing on the balls of the feet. The flow will be a simplification of the ‘Dance of Isis’ which is a series of postures that help to strengthen the legs, help the feet to be more flexible and develop our sense of balance. Also this range of postures improves the circulation in the legs and feet – so no cold feet for us over the winter! Don’t worry if you’re a bit wibbly wobbly – modifications will be available to help all students achieve their best version of the postures and fully benefit from the class.

utkatasana on toes

Variations of the Utkatasana on tip toes will be featuring in our range of postures!

If you would like to come along, these classes are one hour long and held at Tinwell Village Hall on Mondays at 6.00. Booking is essential – use the contact us or book on line page. The term begins on 9th November and runs for 6 weeks.

Stretch & Relax Yoga – November 15 Term

This term our theme of ‘FREEDOM’ will shift from the hips up to the spine. We’ll be working with a number of asana (postures) to free up the different areas of the spine and learning/feeling the difference this can make to how we feel and live our lives.

One of our main postures will be the bridge – which is often cited as the yoga answer to a back massage!

bridge

So – if you have a particularly stiff spine or have always wanted to be able to give yourself a back massage, why not sign up for a place and come along???

Classes are one hour long and held at Tinwell Village Hall on Mondays (7.15), Preston Village Hall on Tuesdays (8.00) and Ryhall Village Hall on Wednesdays (6.00).

FREE YOGA TALK AND TRIAL CLASS

 

 

 

Portrait of pretty young woman doing yoga exercise on mat

Ever wanted to find out more about YOGA and have a little go???

Well now is your chance – and what’s more it’s totally free! Next weekend I’ll be putting on a FREE HALF HOUR TALK with some simple demos for you to have a go at plus a FREE TRIAL CLASS especially for people who just want to have a little go to see if it works for them. The talk begins at 10.00 followed by the 1 hour class beginning at 10.30. This will take place at Ryhall Village Hall on Saturday 5th September and at Tinwell Village Hall on Sunday 6th September. Please email deb@do-yoga.co.uk to book in either for the Talk or the Trial Class – or why not come for both? (NB you will need your own mat and blanket to take part in the trial class).

Benefits of Ardha Ustrasana

ardha ustrasana

In the 90 minute classes this term we have been exploring Ustrasana working with Ardha Ustrasana the half camel pose.

This is a back bending posture which strengthens the thighs, lower back and neck areas – all of which are considered in yoga to be ‘vulnerable’ areas of the body which we need to take extra care of.  Other benefits of this asana include –

– stretches pectoralis and abdominals

– strengthens glutials and adductors in legs

– opens the hips and chest spaces

Please don’t attempt this posture if you are a beginner to yoga or if you have specific problems with the ‘vulnerable’ areas (knees, low back or neck) – it’s best to work with a qualified (British Wheel of Yoga if possible) teacher in small classes so that they can get to know you and your body and they can help you to practice yoga in the safest way possible.

6 Exercises to relieve tension

1 Tadasana

Tadasana

Remove your socks and shoes if possible. Allow the feet to spread out on the floor or your mat, positioning them directly under your hip joints. Bring awareness into the soles of the feet and feel your weight sinking down evenly through the whole surface of the sole. If you feel unbalanced, bring awareness to each side of your foot in turn – leaning forwards, backwards and side to side. Come to stillness – an evenness of weight now descending through the soles of your feet. Feel the pelvis as a level bowl and the spine ascending as you take a deep inhalation bringing the awareness up to the crown of your head. As you slowly exhale feel the skin on your face soften, the shoulders relax down, the elbows bend slightly and the fingers gently curl. A soft but strong mountain.

2 Neck Exercises

After a few breaths in Tadasana, gently begin to scribe a small circle with the nose  – no bigger than a tangerine. About 6 – 10 one way and they the same amount in the other direction. Come once again to stillness – feel the balance and symmetry of your posture for a few smooth, quiet breaths.

When you feel ready, on exhale take the right ear gently towards the right shoulder and press the left palm down towards the ground.  Stay in this position, breathing smoothly and quietly for about 5 breaths.  When ready, inhale and come back to Tadasana. Take a few breaths in the centre and then practice to the other side.

3 Shoulder Rolls

On inhale gently begin to roll the right shoulder up and then backwards, as you take it down exhale and bring it forwards to complete the circle. If there are any areas of tightness or sore spots, work smaller and gentler until it feels free and comfortable.  Work about 10 repetitions.  Rest in stillness for a moment or two and then work on the left side. This exercise can be repeated either working separate shoulders again or working them both together.

Now repeat your previous shoulder sequence, but this time take the shoulder in a forwards rotation.

4 Gentle Bridge

bridge

Come to lie on the back of the body, have the knees bent, feet flat on the floor and arms by the sides. Check that your spine is in a straight line. Focus your awareness at your abdomen, watch the breath, inhaling feel the abdomen move upwards and exhaling watch the abdomen move down.  This is abdominal breathing – a soothing and calming practice.

When you feel ready, allow the inhale to gently lift the buttocks and lower back off the floor, pressing down through the soles.  As you exhale lower back down.  Work gently, smoothly and slowly with the emphasis on bending the spine evenly – feeling each vertebrae lift off the floor and then placing each vertebrae back down.  Don’t push up any further than feels comfortable and keep the movement smooth and linked to the breath at all times.  Work about 5 – 8 repetitions then rest.

When you are ready hug the knees to the chest for 5 breaths.  Rest the feet back down and go back to abdominal breathing for a few moments.

5 Supine Twist

semi supine twist

Remaining in the bent knee position, bring the knees and feet close together.  Take the arms out to the sides to form a T shape.  As you exhale allow the knees to gently come down to the right side and rest in this twisted position for about 5 breaths.  You can intensify the stretch by twisting the neck to the left if that feels comfortable.  Return the knees and head to centre on an inhale and then exhale and practice on the opposite side.

You can repeat this set if it eased your tension.  Twists are both relaxing and rejuvenating to the spine.

Rest and go back to abdominal breathing when you are finished twisting.  5 minutes of abdominal breathing would be good if you have the time.  When you need to get up, roll onto your left side and pause for a few breaths before pushing up with the right hand to a seated position.  Hopefully rested, tension free and ready to get on with your day!

Namaste!

Little Changes For 2015

We all like to turn over a new leaf at the beginning of a new year – making vows not to eat/drink so much and committing to take a daily trip to the gym/jog/cycle ride. The yogic approach is to take small daily steps on a much worn path: using exercises that are both physical and mental to release tension in the body and mind – its an holistic approach that appreciates making changes to yourself is rather difficult and anticipates that there will be obstacles for you to overcome.

In a recent tea break, I was reading an article by Nuffield Personal Trainer and Health Mentor, Steven Thompson, who seemed to be advising against the whole ‘go for the burn’ daily gym thing (which usually fizzles out before the end of January anyway). In a nut shell it was to take the yogic approach(!) to your New Year’s training resolutions… I’ve copied it below to share it with you…

LOVE EXERCISE

Forget forcing yourself to go to the gym every day if you hate it. A small but powerful change can be choosing a form of exercise you love. ‘When you don’t enjoy your workout, your body releases stress hormones such as cortisol, which encourage your body to store fat,’ says Steven. So if your’re not seeing the results you’d expect, this could be part of the reason. No matter if you have 20 minutes or an hour to work out, spend it doing an activity you enjoy for the best, most long-lasting results.

MOVE SMARTER

You don’t need to spend hours exercising to see a difference. ‘Interval training involves shorter, more intense bursts of exercise, which can be tailored to suit your own fitness levels,’ explains Steven. ‘Do as much as you can within a small time-frame, before resting and starting again.’

‘Find exercises that include functional training – this mimics everyday movements, such as reaching high, bending down or twisting, to help strengthen the muscles and joints you use the most.’

AND RELAX

Ever thought something as easy as unwinding could help you to get fit? ‘Relaxation is an often-overlooked area of fitness,’ says Steven. ‘But it’s vital for encouraging a better night’s sleep, as only then can your body recover and rebuild itself from all your hard work during waking hours. Participating in a relaxing activity also allows your body to moderate the stress hormones in your system.’ Try exploring different options such as yoga and meditation to help you unwind.

Thank you Steven – I couldn’t agree more!! Why not come along to a yoga class or workshop to find out about how this ancient system of exercise can help you with your ‘Little Changes For 2015’?

 

Perfect Your Posture… Bhujangasana (cobra pose)

bhujangasana

Step by Step Instructions for Bhujangasana (cobra pose)

Lie on the front of the body, legs straight and soles of feet upwards and forehead or nose on the mat.

Place the palms of the hands (fingers together) on the mat, keeping the upper arms in contact with the sides of the body and the elbows pointing backwards.

Relax the whole body, particularly focus on relaxing the spine and the buttocks.

On inhalation, slowly raise the shoulders, neck and head, using the back muscles to lift. Gently continue to lift pressing the hands down and using the arm muscles.

Be aware that you are using the back muscles more than the arms.

On exhalation, gently lower – again using first the arms and pressure through the hands and then use the back muscles to come down to the ground, to the start position.

Develop the posture with the breath to begin with.  When the back is comfortable with the bend try to hold – developing the length of time in the position.

In the final position, the hips and pubic bone remain in contact with the mat and the navel is lifted to a maximum of 3cm. The arms remain soft so that there is no danger of locking the elbows and sinking down in between the shoulder blades.

Regarding the head, opinion is split. I favour feeling length in the back of the neck, but you can and it feels good to you, tilt the chin upwards to curve the cervical spine.

The arch of the spine should feel balanced and smooth, certainly with no ‘tweeks’ or feelings of compression. If this is happening to you, then you need to reduce the arch somewhat and you may need to consider building up strength in your back muscles and flexibility in the vertebral joints with other asana before tackling this posture. If you speak to me in class I can advise what is best for you.

 

Core! What a Work Out!

do-yoga yoga workshop for the core

Last weekend I ran 2 workshops with a focus on the “core”.  These workshops are designed to take a more in depth investigation into a particular element of yoga.  They are suitable for beginners and those new to yoga, but also offer the experienced student a chance to develop a level of understanding that is not possible in the time we have in the usual weekly class. All students gained a great insight with some commenting that it was a “really amazing class again” and “it was a good balance of exercises, I really enjoyed it”.

Pictured above we see a student from the Wednesday morning class in Ryhall using her core to balance in the plank posture.  By using photographs and hands on adjustment she has familiarised herself with the correct alignment of the posture. This kind of attention to detail assists the development of proprioception – understanding where the body is and how it feels.  The student can then use this information to help their personal practice and their practice within the class environment.

During this workshop we looked at how the core muscles help the body to work – asking questions like ‘where is the core?’ and ‘what does it do?’. We had discussions about how the core muscles help us in our day to day lives and took particular notice of which asanas effected the core the most.

In the next workshop we’ll be investigating asana to develop healthy backs. This work will be of a gentle nature with plenty of relaxation exercises, as I think many back problems arise from tension. Easing the back muscles and joints has to be ‘easy’ and the development of deeper breathing can help with releasing tight muscle tissue in the back.

All workshops include a handy home practice guide for students to take away.  The idea being that, having learnt postures within the workshop, asana, pranayama and relaxation practices can then be continued at home.

If you are interested in coming along to one of the ‘Healthy Backs’ workshops, these will be held on March 7th in Ryhall (Saturday morning) and on March 8th in Preston (Sunday afternoon).  Please email me to book a place.

Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga – Sutras II:28 & II:29

Eight Limbs of Yoga - flower

Patanjali is known affectionately as the father of yoga. He wrote the first comprehensive manual about how to practice yoga in around 300 BC. The teachings included in his ‘Yoga Sutras’ had been passed on by word of mouth via chanting for many years before.  Artefacts and scriptures from the Indus Valley have been carbon dated and suggest that they could be up to 3000 years old.

In his book of ‘sutras’ or threads, Patanjali provides short but profound sentences about how to develop a yoga practice and what the benefits of that can be.  A simple overview of yoga can be seen in the ‘8 fold path’ or 8 limbs as is the direct translation.

The sutras were written in Sanskrit and the word  for 8 limbs is ‘ashtanga’ – ‘ashta’ means 8 and ‘anga’ means limb.  These 8 limbs or steps act as guidelines showing how to live a meaningful of live full of purpose and joy.

This process is best adopted gradually as and when one feels ready to commit. My view is to develop awareness of the controls of one’s mind and body through the practice of asana, pranayama, meditation and relaxation – just like we do in class. I think this is what Patanjali intended.

‘Eliminating impurity through continued practice of the eight limbs of yoga brings discernment and clear perception.’ Chaper 2, verse 28

‘The 8 limbs of yoga are:

Yama – respect toward others

Niyama – self restraint

Asana – posture practice

Pranayama – breath control

Pratyahara – detaching at will from the senses

Dharana – concentration

Dhyana – meditation

Samadhi – contemplation and absorption Chapter 2, verse 29

If you would like more information about this, or would like me to recommend further reading, please feel free to email me.

Ujjayi Breath

yoga + sea

Ujjayi Breath is a great practice for relaxation – calming for the mind and soothing for the body.  It is also great treatment for anxiety and insomnia. Please be patient with yourself when learning this practice as it’s not the easiest practice to do.

Sit in a comfortable position, the spine erect and the eyes softly closed.  Allow the breath to become steady, calm and relaxed; breathing through the nostrils and encouraging the breath to be full.  Don’t force breath in or out, let it come naturally and feel the ‘ends’ of each inhale and exhale.

Bring the awareness to the throat and gently contract the glottis and continue to inhale and exhale with awareness at the throat.  (If you are new to this practice, try exhaling through the mouth making a ‘haaaa’ sound.  This will enable you to discover the contraction of the glottis. Tilting the chin down slightly can also help.)

Allow the breath to smooth, deep and slow – it will sound like baby snoring or waves breaking on the sand.  Explore the gentleness of this breath – don’t feel as though you are gripping at the throat.

When established with the practice, with each inhale and exhale take your awareness to the abdomen, chest and throat in turn as they expand and contract to encourage full yogic breathing.

Ujjayi is a wonderfully calming breath and can help to relieve insomnia.  Simply practice in bed in shavasana when sleep is being illusive.

Practice for 5 – 10 minutes each day – great for calming the body and mind before asana practice, meditation or relaxation.