You can’t beat a good OM

I like to chant OM 3 times at the beginning and end of all my classes.  I’m sure over the course of my teaching this might have put some people off coming to yoga – it is a bit weird to the Western ear. But I still like to do it even for people at their very first class. It makes me feel very calm and ready to teach the class. Everyone has the choice to chant or just listen.

It also helps students become ready for their class too. There are may theorised benefits about chanting or listening to OM  –

  • helps to elongate the breath – this has many benefits including fully oxygenating the tissues of the body and gentle massaging of the heart by the diaphragm.
  • The sound vibrations help to calm the nervous system.
  • The single focus helps to clear the mind of daily clutter.

How to chant a good OM

Sit comfortably with your back straight.  Lift the ribcage and elongate the spine.

Breath quietly and calmly for a few breaths.

Take a lovely, long deep inhale – expand you ribcage out to the sides of the room.

On the exhalation begin chanting OM – there are 4 distinct parts –

ah

oh

mmm

silence

Pause.

Inhale.

Chant twice more.  (3 oms a day help you work, rest and play!)

There was an article recently published in the FT about how OM chanting affected the brain waves and is very good for your mental health – you can read it here – but again, more theory!! I think as with most things in life you have to suck it and see for yourself.

Try it, you might like it!

Kumbhaka

yoga stillness

In the yoga classes last term we explored the feelings of movement and stillness. There were complicated movements that really got our minds concentrating, simple flowing movements and then bringing the body to stillness – standing, seated and lying on the front and back of the body.  And we asked ourselves… can we ever be really still?

In the yogic teachings we are guided to bring the body to stillness to help bring the mind to stillness. Within the Pranayama (control of the breath) practice we observe the points at the ends of the inhale and exhale – where the tide of air changes direction. It is here that our body can be stiller, in this pause, which is called the Kumbhaka.

Try this simple practice – sitting in a comfortable position, breathe in and out through the nose, smooth 3 part breathing if you are familiar with it. Count 5 for the inhale and 5 for the exhale. Watch for the pauses at the end of the inhale and exhale (don’t feel as though you are holding the breath, just let the pauses feel like natural pauses). Practice for about 5 minutes. Watch for the spaces to arise, feeling the stillness in your body and your mind. If you feel dizzy at any time stop the practice. It should feel comfortable and relaxing.

If you have blood pressure issues it’s best to work under the guidance of a teacher rather than on your own with this kind of work.

 

Don’t Over Do It

Trying too hard

Are you trying too hard? Don’t fall into this trap in any area of your life… and especially in your yoga practice.  If you are applying too much effort (we call this rajasic in yoga) this will only exhaust you and detract from your enjoyment of whatever it is that you are doing.  If you let go of your expectation and simply focus on exploring and enjoying the feelings of the practice then your practice is worth the time spent on it. For example, if you want a toned tummy, find a variety of exercises that make you feel good at the time (abdominal breathing, Kapalbhati, plank post, Utkatasana) rather than just going with one an over doing it. Your tummy will come under control eventually and the journey that you make will be an enjoyable one with many other benefits.

This philosophy applies to life… enjoy what ever it is your doing without forcing things. If you have to force things there is a sense that it was not meant to be. In our yoga we want a practice that is comfortable – yes explore the edges, boundaries and challenge ourselves – but if it causes pain or our mind to be distracted then it’s not right for us at this time.

Any ‘posture’ is simply a guide. The benefits of a posture can be felt by a subtle, gentle variant as well as a strong variant. It could be argued the subtle movements are felt more greatly by the more experience yoga student and that the stronger moves are better for the beginner who has to feel with the whole body rather than the subtle energy. So the next time you are having a go at yoga – in class or at home – ask yourself “Am I trying too hard?”

 

How fit are we???

In our classes over the winter we’ve spent a few minutes each week practising Utkatasana – the Chair pose. This is a high squat with parallel feet with and arms either at shoulder height or overhead.

Utkatasana_Chair_Pose_Yoga_Asana

It’s very good for us as it uses the large muscles of the legs and bottom to get the circulation moving around. Adding in the arms uses the shoulders and if you lift them overhead this uses the core muscles of the abdomen and back. So a really good all rounder exercise.

But did you know that you can measure your fitness using the same kind sitting and standing up exercise? Watch the video below to find out how to test your fitness. As you will see experts agree that the Utkatasana-style movement is a great way to improve your fitness, especially strengthening your legs and lower back.

So maybe have a count up? Let me know in class if you want to!

Exton class off to a great start!

exton class

We had a lovely time on Monday at the first ever class at Exton Village Hall. It was warm and bright and everyone was very smiley.

What a super welcome to yoga at Exton – I’m really looking forward to working there – thank you to everyone xxx

IKIGAI – The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

ikigai

 

This is a beautiful little book that I got for Christmas. The authors spent time interviewing people (mostly over 100 years old and still leading active lives) to find out what keeps them going. It seems that having a purpose in life is one of the most common themes in these long livers. Finding what makes you happy and throwing yourself at it wholeheartedly! Doesn’t sound like a bad idea does it?

I’m quoting an excerpt here to give you an idea – but totally recommend reading the whole book – it doesn’t take long 🙂

“The ten rules of Ikigai

1 Stay Active; don’t retire. Those who gave up the things they love doing and do well lose their purpose in life. That’s why it’s so important to keep doing things of value, making progress, bringing beauty or utility to others, helping out, and shaping the world around you, even after your “official” professional activity has ended.

2 Take it slow. Being in a hurry is inversely proportional to quality of life. As the old saying goes, “Walk slowly and you’ll go far.” When we leave urgency behind, life and time take on new meaning.

3 Don’t fill your stomach. Less is more when it comes to eating for long life, too. According to the 80per cent rule, in order to stay healthier longer, we should eat a little less than our hunger demands instead of stuffing ourselves.

4 Surround yourself with good friends. Friends are the best medicine, there for confiding worries over a good chat, sharing stories that brighten your day, getting advice, having fun, dreaming… in other words, living.

5 Get in shape for your next birthday. Water moves; it is at its best when it flows fresh and doesn’t stagnate. The body you move through life in needs a bit of daily maintenance to keep it running for a long time. Plus, exercise releases hormones that make us feel happy.”

For the remaining 5 rules you’ll have to get the book and read them yourself!!

January Gin

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Well at last dry January is almost over… and so far I can’t say that I’ve felt any benefit whatsoever. My husband has managed to stay awake at night time and so he doesn’t miss the last 10 minutes of every tv programme ; ) but that’s about the only benefit we’ve found.

I felt convinced that my liver would feel clean and my skin glow, but it just hasn’t been the case. My body hasn’t craved alcohol but I have felt denied. It has been a good time to explore non- alcoholic drinks but I find that many contain too much sugar for my taste. Give me a nice glass of red wine any day!

In the yogic tradition good food and drink is thought to be that which still has ‘life force’ or prana in it. Ie a tomato picked straight from the garden. Also given as an example is beer and wine as it has the yeast which is a live organism in it.

Anyway, as part of my clean living January, I thought I’d try to make my own gin syrup, a healthy alternative for January. So I tried a rose hip syrup and juniper berry infusion. It’s not gin, but it’s not that bad and on the positive side it contains ingredients that might do you some good! The vitamin C (high in rose hips) may help to fend off colds. Juniper berries can be good for you in small quantities helping the digestive tract and acting as an antioxidant. They are not advised for pregnant ladies or people taking prescription medication though – so if you do decide to give this a try please look up the health benefits and precautions of taking juniper here https://www.indigo-herbs.co.uk/natural-health-guide/benefits/juniper-berry

January Gin
Ingredients
200 ml Rose Hip Syrup
2 desert spoons of Juniper berries
1 Chai tea bag

Pour the syrup into a small saucepan and then fill up the bottle twice and add the water to the pan (400 ml)
Grind up the junipers in a mortar and pestle for a bit (until your arm aches) so that the berries are quite squashed and release their fragrance. Add them to the pan.
Drop in the tea bag and heat stirring all the time. Do not let the mixture boil, but wait until you can see a bit of vapour coming off. Turn off the heat or move to a warm spot and leave the mixture to infuse for a couple of hours. Strain off and bottle. Keep in the fridge and use within a month.

To serve – place lots of ice into a glass, add your gin syrup, tonic water and slices of lemon and orange. Toast – GOOD HEALTH!

Roasted Sprouts

roasted sprouts

Love ’em or hate ’em there is no escaping the Brussels Sprout at this time of the year.

In actual fact, I always find they are not as bad as I remember and think we should have them more often. When you look at the nutritional facts there is a lot to be said for the humble sprout… high in vitamins, minerals and fibre and amazingly low in calories. They also contain small amounts of vitamin B6, potassium, iron, thiamine, magnesium and phosphorus.

So as with most vegetables in the past month or so I’ve given the sprouts the roasting treatment… just chuck ’em in the oven with a good glug of olive oil and perhaps a bit of garlic. 25 – 30 minutes later a wonderful dish awaits. A couple of tips.. I prefer to half them but I’m sure whole would work with a little more cooking time… a few shavings of parmesan also enhances the flavour. Enjoy!

Brand New Yoga Class in Exton

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I’ll be starting a brand new class on Monday mornings (10.30 – 12.00) in Exton Village Hall from January 2019. The hall has been completely refurbished, has a sprung wooden floor and central heating. There is plenty of parking around the village green and I’ve timed it – it’s only 5 minutes from Oakham.

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The classes will begin on the 21st January with a 4 week ‘Introduction To Yoga’ – this is a great guide to what yoga is and how the postures, breathing and relaxation exercises work holistically for optimum physical and mental health. This is a rare and fantastic opportunity for anyone who would like to learn yoga from the beginning with a group of people all at the same stage.

The cost will be £32 and include a free A5 file to keep your hand outs in. Afterwards the classes will follow the same terms as the other classes and go at the pace determined by the members of the group.

Please help to spread the word – if you know anyone who you feel might benefit – please encourage them to get in touch. It’s nice to learn from the very beginning and to belong to a group at the same stage of learning.

 

The Benefits of a Pair of Yoga Toe Socks

yoga toes socks

Besides the obvious – THEY KEEP YOUR FEET WARM – yoga socks and specifically the ones with the awkward little individual toes, are very good for your feet. They give the toes their space and help to correct all of those years of crushing the little toes into tight shoes and high heels. I know that it takes a while to put them on and feels a bit uncomfortable at first, but they can help to alleviate a variety of foot problems –

  • bunions
  • joint pain
  • foot cramps
  • athletes foot
  • tired feet after long walks or shopping in the sales

For obvious reasons we need to have a good grip on the sole of the yoga sock – to stop us from slipping on our yoga mats! However, there’s an added bonus to using the socks in yoga postures because the toes are forced to spread and this gives us more surface area to balance on.

So have a thought…TOE SOCKS… great idea and not just for yoga.

You can buy Yoga Toe Socks from me in class – they are £5 a pair and come in a range of colours. Have a look at my shop window here to see the socks and other items I can get for my students…

 

The Durga Gallery

Over the last half term our Yoga class students have been working with the Warrior and Goddess postures to strengthen our legs and improve our lungs. We have also looked at images of the Goddess Durga with her 8 arms and thought about how fantastic that might be at this time of year to help with all of our jobs at Christmas.  Mental images of empowerment like this can be used as a coping strategy and help us to combat stress in our lives. Stress happens when we feel overwhelmed or unable to cope – Christmas is a prime cause of stress, especially as one year closes (where has the year gone?/another year older!) and a new one begins (fear of change and uncertainty). So just imagine if you had 8 arms to help you out with all of your jobs and deal with whatever is to come next year!!!

Just for a bit of fun and to immerse ourselves fully in our yoga practice – we have made a ‘Durga Gallery’ – I hope that this inspires students to feel empowered (maybe enlist an extra pair of hands? or maybe reduce the amount of tasks you set yourself? you do only have 1 pair of hands really!)

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