Nurture yourself to Keep Healthy…

In these trying times it’s very easy to be short tempered with our housemates. It’s very easy to sit for hours on end binging on a Netflix serial. It’s also very easy to keep on pouring the wine/gin/beer.

Try your very best to resist. Taking half an hour out for deep relaxation will make all the difference. You can find sound tracks to suit your mood on Spotify or YouTube. Classical music, guided relaxations or sounds of nature all work really well.

I’m sure you will be surprised at how effective this deep relaxation is. Not only for you own state of mind but how you treat your loved ones around you.

I know that it’s hard to stay awake during these deep relaxations! But you should try to… when we truly relax the body and mind for 15 minutes or so we have a chance to really nurture ourselves. The ancient yogis said that this type of ‘stilling’ the body and mind is equivalent to 4 hour sleep. I’m not so sure about that, but I do feel that during the relaxation exercises we are teaching our body to be still (when it is otherwise still?) and our minds to stay focused on just one thing and allowing all thoughts to drop away into the background. If we just give in and go to sleep – well it’s good to get a little nap – but that is all it is. It can also be a bit disorientating to wake up in the middle of the day and can make you feel woozy.

When we have trained ourselves to remain alert during relaxation we can move on to the practice of Yoga Nidra – in this state – where the mind is between being awake and asleep – we are very receptive to ideas and this is where a ‘Sankalpa’ is used. A Sankalpa is a resolution for change – after we find our resolve, we repeat it during the practice and rather like sowing a seed into the soil, this resolve is placed deep within us. Unfortunately I had to postpone last weeks Yoga Retreat on this theme, but I will reschedule it as soon as we are the right way round again.

I have recorded a couple of relaxations that we have used in our classes. You may feel more comfortable working with the sound of my voice. Please feel free to try them out and other types as mentioned above.

 

Daffodil Relaxation for Springtime Nurturing
So Hum Relaxation

A chance to relax in this crazy time…

I was really pleased when Deb said she would be running the yoga sessions on line, as life is so odd at the moment it was good to have one regular commitment. As the time drew nearer I did wonder though if I would actually lie on the floor in my lounge covered in a blanket for 20 minutes – but I did! I asked my son to help me set up the telly first, we have Apple tv it was very easy, I am sure there are other ways or you could watch/listen on your phone or computer. I put out my blocks, mat and blanket as usual, moved the furniture, changed into my yoga gear on and tuned in.  The lesson was great, comfortingly it followed exactly the same format as usual, with some additional health and safety advice about low ceilings. I found it very easy to follow, and gradually started to relax and stop thinking about other things as the time went on. A very stiff neck and shoulder caused by a combination of stress and fence painting slowly eased off. It is great that the lesson is now available to watch again, I will definitely do parts of it through the week, and look forward to next Wednesday. I do have a confession though Deb – I fell asleep in the relaxation –  luckily no one could hear me snoring! Thanks again.- 

Yoga Student in Ryhall

Online Do-Yoga Adventure

Are my technical skills up to it?

The prospect of signing up to Facebook and negotiating my way around live streaming filled me with dread. I’m terrible with technology and don’t have a presence on social media.   With a little encouragement from Deb I decided to be brave as I really didn’t want to miss the class.  All I can say is that if you are in any doubt about signing up, I managed it so you definitely can!   Signing up was straightforward and I didn’t use a photograph.  At the given time I logged in to the Do-Yoga group and hey presto Deb appeared in her ‘office’ at home.  You can see and hear Deb but she can’t see you and neither can anyone else, although the names of those logged in appeared on the side of the screen.  I really enjoyed it.  It can be difficult to find a suitable space.  I used a room with a desktop but a laptop or iPad would be ideal.   A crack in the ceiling caught my attention and set me off on a train of thought about painting during lockdown but apart from that I didn’t have any trouble relaxing.

Do-Yoga Preston Student

Live Stream Yoga Classes get the thumbs up!

Last week I did all of my classes via Live Stream on Facebook. This transported me into the homes of over 50 students. It was pure magic.

First you need to know that before this I did not ‘do’ Facebook. This website has a link to the Facebook site which posts all of my posts on a ‘Do Yoga’ page. This was all set up about 10 years ago and I have long since lost the password to the Facebook page and so have avoided it out of embarrassment of what I might find there.

Crisis make you face your fears. Well that and a helping hand from a ‘Digital Native’ in the form of my daughter. Fortunately for me she is at home. Unfortunately for her – rounding off 3 years of sweat, blood and tears of a textile degree with nothing but my old sewing machine and an embroidery needle. Not quite what she had hoped for her final major project.

Here we are – in happier times…

My second piece of good fortune is that I did decide last year to up my game on your home practice and do some video work on YouTube. This meant that I have some equipment – lighting to be precise – as without this online stuff can look extrememly dark.

My office is not an ideal place to do yoga as it is far from the calm, serenity that I create in our village halls. But it does have a soft carpet and my knees have appreciated that.

Behind the scenes…

Here is a ‘behind the scenes’ picture for you to see what I mean. Hopefully that didn’t show too much in my voice or face. I did smirk occasionally when I thought about what I was trying to put over from such a messy room…

It’s Yoga Jim, but not as we know it!

If you would like to join in a Live Stream class please get in touch.You can take a look at this post which gives ideas about how to set up a yoga space in your own home. If you are not on Facebook, it is really easy to set up. You could start practicing by having a look at my YouTube videos.

Setting up for Yoga at Home

Bedrooms are good as they are already designated as private space

It takes a lot of discipline to practice yoga at home – so many other things to do… masses of distractions… plus finding a space that works practically can be tough. It’s really important though to have some ‘me’ time – preferably on a regular basis to release the stresses and strains of our lives. Ideally you would come to a class where I prepare a calm, quiet environment with sweet fragrance and soothing sounds. But sometimes that’s just not going to happen. So setting up for Yoga at home is an important preparation.

Here are a few ideas to get you thinking…

  • Find a space that you can be in alone. If you live with others, you could suggest that they do something for themselves too. I wouldn’t encourage them to watch you or join in, it will make it difficult for you to concentrate.
  • If you are joining one of my online groups you will need good wifi and somewhere to prop up your device – cookery book stand, book ends may help here.
  • Ensure that there is enough space. 2.5m x 2.5m x 2.5m of clear space is idea. Take a good look around for things that you may catch your fingers on (that can hurt!). Also scan the floor for any objects you may stand on or trip on. It sounds daft but I have done this lots of time.
  • Make sure it’s warm enough.
  • Try to stick to the same time each day or each week and ensure everyone that you live with knows not to disturb you.
  • Leave your phone in another room. Turn the sound off.
  • If you can make a permanent yoga space – say a bedroom that won’t be used for a while. Leave your mat out and create a sanctuary with your favourite objects/yoga pictures.
  • Use a diffuser to scent the air with your favourite essential oil. I use lavender in the classes, but you could use any that are relaxing like rose, ylang ylang or jasmine.
Lounges have space but not the privacy
Another idea for setting up in your lounge
Use your imagination – go wild!

Now that you are ready, you might like to just sit and listen to a lovely version of the Gayatri Mantra to give the area a lovely yoga vibe. You can use your hand outs from class or choose from various home practice posts I’ve put on the website –

It takes dedication to keep up Yoga at home but the results are worthwhile. You can find more tips on this post here.

My Ashram Visit 2020

Yogapoint Ashram

Last month I was very lucky to be able to visit and take a course at Yogapoint ashram near Mumbai in India. Staying at an ashram is a chance to submerge yourself in the yogic lifestyle. Students are able to deepen their yoga practice and gain a better understanding of themselves and life. People can stay in an ashram as volunteers helping with whatever is needed or you can do a course which may include learning more about yoga and yogic practices, teacher training or becoming a yoga therapist. The course I did was all about yoga psychology.

The Ashram Day

Everyone staying at the ashram follows the same routine. At 5.00 the alarm is sounded, in our case at Yogapoint this was in the form of a melodic chant – you can listen here –

Gati Stwam – Yogapoint

A cup of herbal tea is available at 5.30. At 6.00 there is mantra chanting for half an hour to bring health and peace. From 6.30 – 8.00 there is a yoga asana practice, this includes several rounds of Sun Salutations as we watch the sunrise.

Between 8 and 9 everyone is given a job to do. This is Karma yoga – selfless service – where you do work (sweeping, chopping vegetables, cleaning etc) without attachment. It’s a time to reflect on how you feel and your attitude to work. Part of yoga is the acceptance that we all have a part to play in life and it’s not just about doing things for ourselves but helping others.

It feels like lunch time, but at 9.15 we have some breakfast! At Yogapoint there was fresh fruit and breakfast grains cooked in some delicious ways.

Lectures were from 10.30 – 12.30 and then lunch was served.

There was some free time until 2 when there was Yoga Nidra. Further lectures were from 2.30 – 4.30.

Yoga asana class was from 5 – 6.30 where we watched the sun set. Dinner was at 7.00. All of the food at the Ashram was delicious – vegetarian and wholesome. You can see some of the recipes on their website here

Finally, we had storytime, Q&A or singing from 8 – 9.

Lights out and silence at 10.00

The routine is simple and stringent. When the sun rises we rise and do some work, when the sun sets we go to be and have a good night’s sleep because we are tired – physically and mentally. There are no worries about what to cook, what to eat and what to watch on the TV. After a day or 2 you fall into a rhythm – and the worries of home life fall away so that you are only left to contemplate your own nature and what you want to give and get from each day. This rhythm gives rise to a peaceful soul and loving nature. All the students at the ashram were on their own journey but all were pleasant to talk to (when they are not in silence!).

If you are interested in visiting as Ashram you can look at the different courses at Yogapoint in India here or maybe consider something closer to home and look at the Mandala Ashram in Wales here. My Yoga Retreat days in Tinwell will embrace ashram culture with us all contributing to the ‘domestics’ throughout the day – but we won’t be starting at 5.00!

The Wonders of Turmeric

I have been a student of Deb’s for the last 5 years and she has asked me to share my recent experience.  I have had a historic problem with my knee and in August had an arthroscopy which resulted in additional pain.  At the end of December a friend who has similar arthritic pain suggested trying Turmeric with black pepper; it has had a remarkable effect in reducing the level of pain and allowing me to move more freely. It may not work for everyone, but for me it has made an enormous difference to my day to day life and for yoga.

Nigel, Preston Class, March 2020

Coronovirus

I know the latest Coronovirus news of Italy on ‘lockdown’ is very concerning, but we must keep calm and not panic. Let’s take a breath and be sensible. The advice from the British Wheel of Yoga is to keep an eye daily on the government websites and follow their directives. I’m sure we all agree that there is much less chance of being infected at a yoga class with a dozen people who already taking their health seriously than say at your workplace or at a supermarket. That said it’s very important to follow the first Yama – AHIMSA – ‘do no harm’ therefore…

IF YOU THINK YOU MAY BE INFECTED WITH CORONOVIRUS, HAVE A COUGH OR FLU LIKE SYMPTOMS PLEASE STAY AWAY FROM CLASSES.

You will be very welcome to make up ALL of your missed sessions at a later date.

As yogis we are already trying our best to be healthy – but here are some reminders…

Staying healthy

  • Eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of water.
  • Keep up with your personal yoga practice – physical and breathing practices keep us healthy and you can do even more to keep your immune system tip top – see these exercises here.
  • Be vigilant about washing your hands. Keep your phone clean. Clean your car steering wheel. Keep your keyboard/ipad. Avoid touching your face and eyes.
  • Use essential oils to clear the air in your home and workplace. Eucalyptus, tea tree or lavender in a vaporiser work best. Carry an inhaler with some lavender or eucalyptus to inhale if you feel ‘surrounded’ by people coughing.
  • Keep a healthy mindset. Try to relax to your favourite music or meditate. Meet with friends and have a laugh. Try to spend time with the people you love.
  • Use a light therapy lamp. This time of year is the worst time for SAD. Having a boost of daylight can improve mood which in turn helps your immune system.

Nutritious Juice Boost

Brimming over with vitamins!

Now and again I like to make a nutritious ‘whizz’ of fruit in the afternoon – especially on those days when I fancy something sweet like a cake. In preparation for these occasions, I never waste any ‘almost-over-ripe’ fruit, I cut them up removing skins, stalks, peel, core etc and put them in the freezer. When the mood takes me I gather up my fruits – frozen and fresh and blitz it all up for a delicious smoothie.

This one includes

4 little frozen satsumas

1 frozen banana

About a cup of frozen cherries

2 fresh chopped apples

About half a cup of fresh blueberries

Enough orange juice to make it drinkable

For added zing use lemon zest and juice. For added goodness you can add a tablespoon of flax seeds.

After drinking and probably sharing it with your nearest and dearest, you can sit back and feel very good with yourself. No cake and saving what may have been wasted fruit.

A JOB WELL DONE!

3 Steps to Plank Pose

Plank pose is a great posture for strengthening the abdominals, arms, shoulders and back muscles. We have been practicing this in class and will continue next half term, extending the duration and possibly having a go at some variations such as leg raises and side plank. EXCITING!

Here is a handy guide to help you to learn the safe way to do the plank pose…

Step 1

Begin on all 4s…

Begin on all 4s ensuring you are near the top of your mat and that the shoulders are over the wrists. Your gaze is down. Breathe in relaxing the tummy muscles then breathe out and squeeze them back towards the spine – keep your spine in neutral.

Step 2

Engage the abdominals…

Holding the tummy muscles inwards extend one leg so that your leg is straight. Press the toes into the mat. Consciously breathe in and out of the chest.

Step 3

Breathe into the chest…

If you feel comfortable in the wrists and in your lower back, extend the other leg in the same way. Try to hold for 5 smooth breaths resting after in Childs pose.

In Plank pose, be aware of where your hips are – sometimes they droop downwards and sometimes they stick up in the air. Both positions indicate a weakness. If you can’t hold the hips in a straight line between the shoulders and the heel it’s best to come down. Work with some of our other postures to build up strength in the wrists/tummy/back/shoulders before trying again. Examples are Marjari-asana and the Shakti Bandha asana. You can extend 1 leg in a half-plank and hold this for 5 breaths to get the ‘feel’ of the posture.

You can read more about the benefits of Plank pose on this webpage.