When the going gets tough, the tough team up…

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!

Yes, You Can Start Yoga In Your 70’s!

I first took up yoga when I was 73!!

I found the stretch and relax class at Preston Village Hall (Tuesdays 7 – 8) perfect for me – not too much strenuous exercise.

The breathing and gentle exercises helped with my sleeping and relaxation at the same time as strengthening my muscles and bones.

My aching fingers and wrists have vanished!!! I can’t believe it!!!

Margaret, Uppingham

Stepping Off the Christmas Merry-Go-Round

 

With the count-down to Christmas now in full swing – juggling who’s going where, what to buy for so-and-so and fitting everyone in over the festive period – things get frantic for the body, mind and soul.

At these times our heads are jam packed with to-do lists and our bodies are tense holding onto every breath.  The build up of anxiety is everywhere – ahhhhhh Black Friday panic…..   Just when we need to relax and enjoy the season of goodwill to all men – we are more tired and worried than ever. Now is the perfect time for yoga…

YOGA? HOW CAN I FIND THE TIME FOR THAT?

But this is when we need it most – simply take a moment out, step off the Merry-Go-Round for one minute and read this mini-meditation-

Sit in any comfortable position…….

Breathe in and open up in the heart space, sit tall and beautiful.

Expand from the inside out, become more spacious  – open up to the breath.

Gently soften the eyes and feel your skin; feel the clothes touching your skin, feel the hair on your head, feel a smile on your face.

Feel beyond the skin to the Vijnanamaya Kosha – the astral or wisdom body – our aura that surrounds us.

Lean back a little and feel the support of the cosmos that surrounds you.

Breathe in and draw from the abundant well of air that we live in and lives in us.

Take heart that you are not some isolated thing battling single handedly against the world.

You are the world – and what will be will be.

Invite your breath to become smooth as silk and quiet as a whisper.

While here in this place now, feel gratitude to the earth for the sunshine and air we breathe.

Drink in each breath and be grateful for all that you have.

Be grateful for your challenges for they allow you to interact with the world and demonstrate your passions.

With this gratitude in your heart take your current experience and think of how they might be in the future.

Plant a seed for your future.

Invite the pace of your life to flow smoothly and easily, see yourself as you would like to be.

Breathe in peace, breath out love.

Let’s Explore… VAJRASANA

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 😉

Growing Younger with Yoga

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.

Let’s Explore…. PARTNER YOGA

There’s no doubt about it partner yoga has a definite Marmite effect in class – people either really love it or loathe it. No matter, there are very positive gains to working with someone when studying a posture. I like to do it in several ways in class –

  • Observation
  • Encouragement
  • Adjustment/Awareness
  • Working Together for Support

Observation and Encouragement are ways to see what a posture looks like from the outside rather than the inside. When working with a fellow student you are able to see just how the posture goes together and to see the challenges that they are facing. By verbal encouragement we really are giving important feedback which they simply cannot get any other way.

Adjustment/Awareness is brought about by getting involved a little more closely – using your hands or feet to bring awareness and develop the posture to a deeper level.

Finally, working together for support is really where we are taking the role of a prop – an intelligent one mind you!

If you are someone who likes partner work I have suggested 4 exercises below to work with AT HOME – maybe with your partner/husband/wife or a friend. Be very careful if they do not practice yoga already! Yoga can be helpful in bringing people together it certainly helps us to appreciate the challenge of postures and that we are not alone in our endeavours!

Back to Back Breathing

Sit back to back with your partner, legs straight out in front (or bent at the knee if that’s more do-able). Close the eyes and begin to breathe more deeply, the base of the spine and shoulders should be touching. Be here for some time (5 minutes +), both observing how your breath is and how your partners is. Feel the warmth and support of this seated position – two hearts beating together. After a while you may notice that your breathing synchronises.

Partner Assisted Back/Forward Bend

When you feel sufficiently warm, you can try this out – don’t expect to get too far. The back bender will bend their knees on inhalation and then, as you both exhale gently lean back into the support of the forward bender. Relax and enjoy the sensations. Stay for 5 – 10 breaths. Agree when to come up, and in unison, breath in and return to the upright position. Swap roles so that you both get a chance to do a forward and backward bend. You may like to do it again 🙂

Partner Assisted Seated Twist

If it’s going well, why not have a go at another posture? One of my favourites actually. Change position so that you are sitting facing each other and cross your legs so that the knees touch. (If this is out of the question, you could try to work in a wide legged seated posture – or maybe standing up.) Both stretch out the right hand to the partners right side waste.  Using the left hands both reach around the back to hold the partners right hand. This will entail some twisting motion but you can deepen the twist by leaning outward as you exhale. Go gently!!! Take 5 – 10 breaths and then untwist back to the upright forward facing position. Repeat stretching out the left hand to the partners left side waste etc.

Double Boat

Well you have got this far, so why not try the double boat?  Looks rather fancy doesn’t it? You will need to back off a little from each other – hold hands and scootch back a bit until your arms are straight. Now, bend the knees and place the soles of the feet together (it does help if hubby takes his shoes off – but if he won’t it still works). Breath in and then as you exhale begin to straighten your legs. Smile and breathe (or giggle and collapse). Great work – how do you feel now???

The healing power of rose quartz

Rose quartz is a rosy pink variety of quartz and is one of the most popular crystals used in healing. Wearing an item of jewellery made from rose quartz is said to bestow the properties on the wearer – that is UNIVERSAL LOVE!

Rose quartz is said to restore trust and harmony in relationships – encouraging unconditional love. It is helpful to purify and open the heart on all levels and  promotes love, self-love, friendship, deep inner healing and feelings of calm and peace. I wear a 108 bead rose quartz mala next to my skin during any times of discourse – for use in mantra chanting and because it comes in contact with my heart 🙂

With Christmas coming up… there may be someone in your life who could do with a helping hand in the love and peace department. I think a piece of jewellery or mala beads are the perfect way to make use of crystal healing.

You can buy rose quartz malas and pendants from me in class – visit the online shop window here

Nada Yoga – The Yoga of Sound

Last Saturday I was at an ‘In Service Training’ day with the British Wheel of Yoga. The topic was Nada Yoga – which translates loosely to the yoga of sound. It was taught by Rajesh David, yogi and musician – you will have heard his melodies if you have been to one of our classes.

Nada yoga is concerned with the essence of sound – the vibrations – and is studied and developed by singing and chanting. The idea very, very basically put is that you ‘tune in’ to yourself and the world around you. Yoga means to ‘yoke’or join together and all things have a vibrational quality when you get down to the atom/molecule level. Simply put, when everything vibrates at the same rate this creates harmony and balance. The principle is akin to lullabying a baby – we try to sooth ourselves and attune to the rhythm of vibrations around us.

You can have a listen to Rajesh and some of the work we did at his website here

Om is very important in this field – our chanting at the beginning and end of each session is a way for us all to be in harmony. How does chanting Om affect you? Consider how you feel next time in class – is there a sense of being soothed – all the cells of your body vibrating at the same rate?

If you are interested in working a little more on this do let me know. I am considering it as a topic for a workshop next year 😉

Opening Your Heart

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)!

Lets Explore… SEATED TWISTS

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