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.
In keeping with our theme of the heart we will work opening the heart space with the Bow pose (Dhanurasana). This is an excellent posture for improving the digestion and so we’ll also be thinking about food – our love of food. There will be some time spent considering our relationship with food, how we eat our food and we will start with the benefits of detoxifying and purifying our bodies – which one of the first steps on the path of yoga.
On Saturday 24th February I’ll be running a Workshop from 10 – 1 to help people look after their backs. The spine is one of the main focuses of yoga – it is said that you are as old as your spine is flexible…
With this in mind I’ll be concentrating on gentle exercises that students can learn at the workshop to do at home on a daily or as-and-when basic to ease low back pain, strengthen the back muscles and increase flexibility. Yoga is now proven to help people with back ache more than the traditional remedies (painkillers, hot/cold packs).
In a recent trail led by the University of York and funded by Arthritis Research UK of over 300 people, those offered a 12 week yoga course experienced a 30% greater improvement in back function than those offered GP care alone.
Back pain affects 80% of adults in their lifetime. It’s the top reason for a visit to the GP and costs the UK over £5 billion a year as 4.9 million working days each year are lost due to back pain.
Half of the test group were given the yoga option received a book and CD as well as 12 weekly yoga classes. The participants were encouraged to practice at home in between classes and continue regularly once the classes had finished. The other half were treated in the typical GP way with a combination of painkillers, manipulation, hot/cold packs and exercise.
If you, or someone you know, suffers with backache, why not come along and see if yoga can help you. The Workshop will be supported by handouts of a variety of exercises for students to work on at home. Please contact me to book your place.
Yoga for All – St Gilbert’s Primary School, Stamford. PE9 2PP
Yoga for All – Barn Hill Methodist Church, Stamford. PE9 2PP
I have been teaching Yoga since 1997 and qualified as a British Wheel of Yoga teacher in 2001. I have been lucky to study with a number of different teachers over the years and have had experience of a variety of Yoga Schools. My style of teaching is mainly influenced by the Viniyoga and Mantra Yoga traditions. I aim to deliver interesting and structured lessons that allow students to develop, grow and improve. Classes include: asanas (postures), pranayama (breath work), concentration, relaxation, and philosophy.
Did your know that your posture effects the alignment of the spine and this can have a knock-on effect on the nervous system?
As the nerves travel through the spine – down the central cavity and in between the vertebrae – it stands to reason that any misalignment due to injury or bad posture will have and effect on your body and mind.
When the body is in correct alignment there will be less tension and the nervous system will run smoothly, unimpeded as nature intended.
Below is a which indicates problems and their possible sources if nerves become pressured by the spine…
This is only meant to hi-light how important posture and alignment are in our lives – not for self diagnoses or to worry you.
Stretching out the spine in the 6 main directions, as we do in yoga, and awareness of good posture should enable all of us to move with grace and live without pain.
If you would like to work on your posture and gain a greater understanding of the spine and how to strengthen the muscles around it, why not come along to my workshop in Ryhall on Saturday 24th February? We will be looking at exercises to do just that – you can see more information here or contact me to see if there is a place.
In the Stretch and Relax classes we are having a go at the Shakti Bandha Asana (energy block postures). These are exercises that help to improve the flow of energy within the body. They are useful for breaking down neuro-muscular knots especially in the pelvic region where energy tends to stagnate. The postures are very helpful for people with reduced vitality and/or a stiff back. They are useful to develop pelvic and core strength for all levels of fitness. They also improve the condition of the lungs, heart and endocrine system. It is not necessary to ‘force’ these movements, they can be done very gently to good effect – even sitting on a chair. So what every your age or level of fitness you can give your energy a boost by getting rid of any blocks with this sequence.
Without a doubt the easiest part of keeping fit is the decision to do it. Beyond that some begin enthusiastically, some mean to but never get round to it and others find a friend to help motivate them.
Teamwork strengthens resolve and builds momentum by pooling struggles and raising spirits when it feels as if you’re not getting to where you want to be. There are plenty of life coaches and wellness experts to testify a simple fact: there’s no better route to well-being than friendship. That’s beside the practical benefits of lift sharing, reminding each other and having a good old laugh!
Be kind to yourself and your friend – well-ness is the most liberating gift you can give to yourself and your mate but it’s easy to be critical. In the first stages of unpicking the bad habits and knitting together the good, it’s likely that there will be a few wobbles. That’s the time when, as a friend, you can be vital in aiding them gently back to the path and support her towards their goals.
Stuck for something to give a friend this Christmas? Why not give the most wonderful thing you can – HEALTH – ask them to join you coming to your yoga class!
This book by Louise Wiggins is a very accessible book for anyone to pick up and use – in fact it would make a great gift for someone who was thinking about yoga but wasn’t convinced that the practice was for them.
It is such a wise book that I can’t help returning to it for inspiriation again and again…
“Yoga Teaches… We are as young as the spine is flexible. Old age begins when we allow the spine to stiffen.”
Besides many pages of postures and routines for arthritis, relaxation and bouncing back from illness, Louise includes plenty of testimonials from people 70- 80+ about how yoga really has given them a new lease of life. There are very compelling reasons for practicing a daily routine of yoga plus recipes and tips on healthy diet too.
“Biologists agree that our biological age potential is about 130! That means when we reach the age of 65, we are really only middle aged!
If we expect to remain active and strong as we age, we will. If we succumb to the belief that we grow frail and weak as we age, we will. Our thoughts and beliefs hold great power over our biology and our growth.”
I thoroughly recommend it for you and for you to give as a gift to someone you love.
Our work in the yoga classes this year will be based upon looking after our hearts. The work this term involves physical postures to open the chest and strengthen the back – by doing this we are creating more space for the heart to do its’ job. Often, as a result of sitting for prolonged periods, the back weakens and shoulders become rounded forward, this has the knock on effect of closing in and ‘crushing’ the space of the heart. A strong upright posture also has psychological effect on our being – a feeling of being uplifted, confident and joyful. When the heart is able to perform as nature intended the blood vessels run freely and blood is distributed to all the parts of our body. This gives us the essential energy that we need both to sustain and heal ourselves and to help others. It stands to reason that if the blood supply is restricted or even slightly subdued, gradually over time our energy feels zapped and we give off negative vibes, grumbling and complaining about our aches and pains…
Establishing Non Violence
“Around one who is solidly established in nonviolence, hostility disappears.”
‘Ahimsa’ is the Sanskrit word for non-violence and above is the translation of verse 35, chapter 2 of Patanjali’s Sutras. When hostility disappears it leaves space for kindness and compassion. Although we see these often as emotional, touchy feely things, when the body is deprived of energy none of us feel that we have enough energy to be kind and considerate. But… when we have a ‘spring in our step’ or some ‘joi de vivre’ and feel ALIVE then we are smiley and kind hearted to all around us. So let’s hear it for the chest openers and back bends and practice as often as we can (don’t overdo it mind you)!
Twists are great ways to reduce tension in the back muscles and they also help to undo knots in our minds as well… (It’s the yoga magic!) Additional benefits include a wringing action in the soft tissues which squeeze out fluids and then upon release of the twist refill with fresh juices – FEELS GOOD!
Here in pictorial format, I thought I would show you the development of the seated twist from basic to advanced. YOU know where you are on this scale – look out for the key alignment of the spine in all these postures and then work on it yourself. I know I don’t have to tell you – but it is best to feel accomplished in the first posture before attempting the next stage.
If you are able to sit cross legged, this is the best start for a twist. Use your blocks to get comfortable in Sukasana (cross legged) and then place the hand on the opposite knee, breathe in and as you exhale twist the shoulders around and place the finger tips on the floor behind you. Stay for 3 – 5 breaths and then untwist on the inhale. Work both sides. Keep the spine aligned throughout. Cross the legs in the opposite direction now and repeat.
If cross legged is not comfortable then begin in Dandasana with the legs outstretched. (This is also stage 2 if you did work in the cross legged pose.) Cross one leg over the other and hug the knee into the torso with the opposite arm; breathe in, and as you exhale twist the shoulders around and place the fingers on the floor behind you. NB Keep the spine aligned CROWN OVER TAIL BONE it is so easy to lean back but this doesn’t help the twist. Also, if you find this causes lower back discomfort, you can sit on one block.
Keep working on stage 2 until the shoulders comfortably twist into alignment with the outstretched leg. There are a number of different variations with different arms. This is where most people spend time working ( 3-5 breaths for each side is enough in each practice). Gently encourage your spine to twist as you exhale. Keep the spine aligned throughout.
As the twist movement comes with ease, you can begin to bend the outstretched leg. Do the previous version first and then try the new leg position in a 2nd round. Take your time with these advancements – don’t force anything. Breathe and relax the body will stretch over time – and by time I mean months and years.
In the final stage (Ardha Matseyendrasana), the shoulders twist easily around enabling the arms to ‘bind’ underneath the upright knee. The example here shows the spine beautifully aligned and the head twisted around (not as relaxed as the rest of the posture seems though). It is the ease of the legs and arms which your are seeking – this yogi feels relaxed in the posture. A feeling of being in the posture rather than pushing to achieve it – which is what you want to aim for in your practice.
No matter what stage you are at – this is the right stage for you now. Don’t force anything. If you are unsure about what you’re doing – pay attention next time you are in class! Get in early and sit at the front, I regularly demonstrate postures at the beginning of when we practice and then get up and move around the room. If it suits you better, come along for a 1-2-1 in my yoga room, great gains can be made with a few moments spent in preparatory movements to open up a particularly tight area of your body – this can’t always happen in a class environment.
Happy Twisting – and remember spine upright and practice safely x