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

 

A Beautiful Verse From The Radiance Sutras

Bathe deeply in that ocean of sound

Vibrating with in you, now as always,

Resonating softly,

Permeating the space of your heart.

 

The ear that is tuned by rapt listening

Learns to hear the song of creation.

 

First like a hand bell,

Then subtler, like a flute,

Subtler still as a stringed instrument,

Eventually as the buzz of a bee.

 

Entering this current of sound,

The Listening One

Forgets the external world, bcomes

Absorbed into internal sound,

Then absorbed in vastness,

Like the song of the stars as they shine.

Yukti Verse 15 – The Radiance Sutras (Lorin Roche)

This is one of the verses I have used at the beginning of the yoga class this term. The Radance Sutras are a volume of verses set out in a conversation – a seeker asking a knower the way to find peace. It is a compendium filled with practices to integrate into everyday life – just thoughts really to help weave stillness and meditative qualities into the fabric of your life.

If you have enjoyed the readings why not get your own copy? Creating your own personal yoga practice is often considered only to be rolling the mat out and physically exercising… it can be laying in Shavasana and doing a breathing practice, reading a verse from a book – or, in the case of these sutras, you could take just one verse and recite it or do the suggested practice for a week or two.  Variety is the spice of life and you can make your personal practice of yoga whatever you want!

Nearly Saag Paneer

I was inspired on a recent meal out to 8848 in Stamford – I had a Saag Paneer – a curry made from spinach with bits of cheese in it. I have had the dish before but the cheese in this version reminded me of haloumi as it had been grilled before being added to the curry. So I was off into my veggie patch to pick some of the chard that had been bashed about by the wind and a wigwam of runner beans that had fallen over and the result was very nice – why not have a go yourself? I served it with rice but you could have it with flatbread or naan bread.

Ingredients (serves 2)

2 tablespoons of oil

1/2 teaspoon each of cumin seed and coriander seed

1 onion chopped

4 medium chopped tomatoes

1 or 2 chillies – chopped

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon Garam Masala

2 cups or handfulls of chard or spinach chopped (tightly packed)

225g halumi or paneer cut into pieces and grilled

Method

Fry the seeds in the oil until they begin to sizzle. Add onion and saute. Add tomatoes and cook till softened. Add chillies,  turmeric and Garam Masala and stir well. Add the chard and put a lid on so that it all steams together nicely.  (I like it a bit juicy because I serve it with rice – but you can take the lid off and let it evaporate to your own consistency). Serve with the grilled cheese pieces on top.

 

I’m not sure just how authentic this recipe is – but it tastes just like the one at the restaurant!!

Yoga Classes – September 2017

Our focus for this year will be Anahata – the heart chakra. Anahata colours our life with love, compassion and beauty. Through our yoga pracite we’ll fill our hearts with love and generosity – give ourselves the time and space we deserve to feel loved and give love with joy and radiance.

In our asana this term we’ll be opening the chest area with back bends and twists, creating space to breath and for the heart to beat. Following a warm up we’ll steadily increase the complexity, strength and duration of postures to ensure that a gradual opening of the body is achieved.

We’ll be working with Mudra and Bandha for relaxation and the relief of stress and anxiety.  Our aim will be to develop compassion for ourselves, those around us and the wider world. Many of the readings and practices will come from the Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche – you may like to get your own copy for inspiration of your home practice, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

 

Stretch & Relax – September 2017

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!

Are you suffering with symptoms of the menopause?

Yoga is a great practice to get into to alleviate symptoms of the Menopause. There are specific practices to help with hot flushes and stomach aches but also more general, all round practices that will help to overcome the feelings of depression and sadness that can accompany this phase of life.

To get a great insight into how yoga can help why not book into this one day workshop held at the Satyananda Yoga Centre London in October? Here you will benefit from expert advice and guidance to enable you to sail through the menopause years minimising the symptoms and living a full unhindered life.

Chickpea and Mushroom Burger Recipe

For a healthy alternative to the beef burger, why not try these? This is my own version of a BBC Good Food recipe – a bit more tangy with the Ras El Hanout and spices and more ‘meaty’ texture with the addition of the aubergine.

Ingredients (makes about 6 burgers)

2 tblsp olive oil

1 onion – chopped

2 garlic cloves – finely diced

200g closed cup mushrooms – chopped

1/2 aubergine – chopped

2 tsp Ras el hanout

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp turmeric

1//2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)

salt and pepper

400g chickpeas, rinsed, drained, mashed

2 tbsp bread crumbs

Whisked egg

Method

Heat oil and add all the ingredients except the chickpeas.  Cook on a low heat, stirring to prevent sticking, for about 20 minutes. Mix in the mashed chickpeas, bread crumbs and egg and hope that everything sticks together!!  Use your hands to form into patties and leave in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.

To cook – if you are going to put them on the BBQ then use a sheet of oiled foil underneath.  For best results I cook them in the oven for about half an hour. You could fry them in less time if that’s your preference.

To serve – let your imagination run wild! I do a ring of leaves with a burger in the middle (on or off a half bun). Adding natural yoghurt and sliced cucumber on top of the burger as a final flourish!

Keep Your Cool

When the weather stays hot it can give rise to hot tempers and irrational behavior. (Are you finding this in your family too???) One of the reasons is lack of sleep, when it’s hot we can find that our bedding is not really suitable for the temperature. How many of us think ‘I must get the summer duvet out tomorrow’ but never do it? Yoga teaches us that rest and sleep are vital to our lives – so make an effort… get that summer duvet out and take your time to ensure you and your loved ones get the full 8 hours – it will make tempers less hot and frayed.

Here is a quick checklist to help you get a good nights’ sleep in the heat –

– reduce the ‘togs’ on everyone’s bed (not just your own)

– take a glass of water to bed

– practice a soothing posture before bedtime (forward bend such as this would be good)

– practice the cooling breath for about 10 rounds before bedtime

– if you wake up in the night hot and bothered then you can use the equalising breath to sooth the mind and body – breathing in for a count of 5 and out for a count of 5

Happy slumbers x

New Timetable for Autumn 2017

My new timetable will begin on September 4th – get yourself sorted and book your place now!

From September I will be making a few alterations to the timetable…. The number of classes I teach will be reduced from 7 to 6 as I would like to offer more workshops for students and explore alternative styles of yoga, meditation and nutritional therapy for myself.

There will be more of the 90 minute classes on offer as this is the norm for traditional yoga. Historically yoga has been taught in 90 minute sessions to allow sufficient time for posture work, (strengthen the body), breathwork (calms and purifies the body and mind) and relaxation or meditation (for optimum relaxation and healing). 90 minutes works with the body’s natural time cycles often called the Ultradian rhythm. Ultradian rhythms are actually quite fascinating – by learning more about your own rhythm you can optimise your efficiency and enjoyment of your days, see this website for more information.

Please have a look at the new timetable and class descriptions here and book in asap for September. Current class members will have priority until Friday 21st July, after which I will be taking bookings from new students. Please do let me know, even if you are carrying on with your old class, as space is limited and I wouldn’t want to disappoint anyone.