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.
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 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.
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 –
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 –
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!
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.
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…
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
I’ll be running a new 6-week course in Meditation after Easter this year. It will take place at Tinwell on Monday evenings. This will be a gentle course suitable for absolute beginners. I’ll guide you through practical exercises to combat stress and harness the power of positive thought. Each week we will develop a technique of meditation plus simple yoga exercises to encourage the body to be still.
My 1-hour classes will include a reclined relaxation period, a wide variety of short meditations interspersed with movements to ease out the back and hips.
No Experience Necessary
This 6-week course is open to all adults over 18. It’s no exaggeration to say that meditation has changed the lives of many people in profoundly positive ways. Literally anyone can do – even the most fidgety! Often wrongly associated with a religion, meditation can bring a peace and calmness into all our lives no matter where you sit on the on the spiritual spectrum. In this short course you will try out different types of meditation – you may enjoy all of them or find a particular one suits you the best.
“The gift of learning to meditate is the greatest gift you can give yourself in this life.” Sogyal Rinponche
It’s generally accepted these days that the mind influences the mechanical body functions and the chemical balances within the body. If the mind is disturbed, then it follows that the body becomes disturbed. Worry, anxiety and resentment restrict the free flow of vital energy around the body. This will eventually show up as physical symptoms unless the balance can be restored. This is where meditation comes in – it has been proven to be highly effective in treating the source of these mental disturbances which are impenetrable to conventional drug treatment.
If you want to find out more about how meditation affects the brain there’s an interesting article on theNHS website here
What do I need to bring?
It’s traditional to sit on the floor, but you are welcome to sit in a chair if that’s better for you. At first just bring cushions, a bath towel and a blanket. Wear loose clothing – anything stretchy is good and have plenty of layers as the body cools down when you are still. In time you may wish to get a meditation stool or a cushion, but it’s best to have a go first and see what works and try out a few meditations.
The course will run 20th April to 25th May – including both Bank Holiday Mondays – from 8.10 – 9.10. The 6-week meditation course costs £36. You are welcome to book and pay in class with cash/cheque. Alternatively you can pay below using PayPal on this page.
Test your balance and train your core with this challenging standing yoga posture. This is a step by step guide to Shiva’s Twist – you may like to practice near a wall when you first try so that you can use it for support. It’s best to practice in bare feet on a sticky yoga mat to reduce the risk of slipping.
Before you begin..
Shiva’s Twist is a challenging posture. Loosen off your shoulders with a few shoulder rolls before you begin. Then stand for a few breaths in a well-balanced Mountain pose, taking your awareness from the ground up – feeling the feet relaxed and evenly balanced on the floor, knees a little soft. Then carry on feeling the buttocks soft, shoulders relaxed and arms hanging heavy. Each time you inhale feel the spine lengthen and stand up a little taller. Find a spot on the wall opposite to fix your gaze on.
Build the pose…
Let the weight sink down on the right side, take the weight down through the right foot lifting the left knee up to hip height. On your next breath raise the arms up out to the sides to shoulder height. Stretch the fingers away and bend the elbows so that the fingers point upwards. Keep the breath relaxed and smooth as you hold the balance. Keep your gaze on your focus point and gently press the elbows backwards to feel the shoulder blades squeezing together.
Try this static pose on both sides.
Add the twist… complete the pose ‘Shiva’s Twist’
Once you feel stable in the basic posture, take a deep breath in and holding the arms and chest in their positions, twist towards the lifted leg. Find a new spot to fix your gaze upon and hold the twisted version for 3 or 4 breaths. Then untwist and come out of the pose carefully.
Repeat on the other side.
Stand in Mountain pose (Tadasana) to relieve the tension in the standing leg and upper back. After a few breaths, on exhale fold forward into standing forward bend, knees soft and head heavy to allow the spine to lengthen. After a few breaths, on inhale uncurl back to Mountain.
If you find this posture too difficult you could try the tree balance and when you are comfortable with standing on one leg, come back and try Shiva’s Twist again.
You can find out more about the benefits of Shiva’s Twist here.