Little Changes For 2015

We all like to turn over a new leaf at the beginning of a new year – making vows not to eat/drink so much and committing to take a daily trip to the gym/jog/cycle ride. The yogic approach is to take small daily steps on a much worn path: using exercises that are both physical and mental to release tension in the body and mind – its an holistic approach that appreciates making changes to yourself is rather difficult and anticipates that there will be obstacles for you to overcome.

In a recent tea break, I was reading an article by Nuffield Personal Trainer and Health Mentor, Steven Thompson, who seemed to be advising against the whole ‘go for the burn’ daily gym thing (which usually fizzles out before the end of January anyway). In a nut shell it was to take the yogic approach(!) to your New Year’s training resolutions… I’ve copied it below to share it with you…

LOVE EXERCISE

Forget forcing yourself to go to the gym every day if you hate it. A small but powerful change can be choosing a form of exercise you love. ‘When you don’t enjoy your workout, your body releases stress hormones such as cortisol, which encourage your body to store fat,’ says Steven. So if your’re not seeing the results you’d expect, this could be part of the reason. No matter if you have 20 minutes or an hour to work out, spend it doing an activity you enjoy for the best, most long-lasting results.

MOVE SMARTER

You don’t need to spend hours exercising to see a difference. ‘Interval training involves shorter, more intense bursts of exercise, which can be tailored to suit your own fitness levels,’ explains Steven. ‘Do as much as you can within a small time-frame, before resting and starting again.’

‘Find exercises that include functional training – this mimics everyday movements, such as reaching high, bending down or twisting, to help strengthen the muscles and joints you use the most.’

AND RELAX

Ever thought something as easy as unwinding could help you to get fit? ‘Relaxation is an often-overlooked area of fitness,’ says Steven. ‘But it’s vital for encouraging a better night’s sleep, as only then can your body recover and rebuild itself from all your hard work during waking hours. Participating in a relaxing activity also allows your body to moderate the stress hormones in your system.’ Try exploring different options such as yoga and meditation to help you unwind.

Thank you Steven – I couldn’t agree more!! Why not come along to a yoga class or workshop to find out about how this ancient system of exercise can help you with your ‘Little Changes For 2015’?

 

Do Yoga! Top 10 Asana

Thanks to everyone who voted in my “Favourite Asana” poll at the end of last term.

It made interesting counting and I’ll try to include all mentioned postures in the classes we do over the coming year.

So for the Top 10 Results.  In reverse order…

Number 10 – Shashankasana

childs pose

Number 9 – Universal Twist

Universal twist

Number 8 – Malasana

malasana

Number 7 – Cactus

cactus

Number 6 – Uttanasana

Uttanasana - Standing forward bend

Number 5 – Shavasana

Shavasana

Number 4 – Vrksasana

tree

Number 3 – Virabhadrasana (1 & 2)

Warrior with hair

Number 2 – Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Baby Pigeon)

eka pada rajaka

Number 1 – Elephant Salutation (Surya Namaskara variation)

elephant f bend

 

 

A small tribute to a great man

bks iyengar

BKS Iyengar sadly passed away last month on the 20th August – he was a real yoga champion!  As one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world, he introduced many in the West to the practice of yoga and helped to make yoga acceptable and popular.  He was the teacher of Yehudi Menuhin, Aldous Huxley and Donna Karan and set up his own teacher training method.

His principles are not favoured by all yoga traditions as the main focus is on asana (posture work) – some feel to the expense of the breath work and more esoteric aspects of yoga.  Personally, I like his approach; in the beginning the body really is the key – the access to our whole being.  Yoga is a subtle practice but to get to this subtlety we have to learn through the use of the body.  As we learn to move, we learn to feel.

Iyengar is said to have been a drill-sergent in his classes – I think this was to get people going on a physical level.  This style of yoga appealed to beginners in the West and is what made Iyengar so successful – to work from the outside in, from the gross to the subtle – and he helped people to ‘get it’.  In my classes beginner students sometimes remark that “I’m not really feeling anything”, this is perhaps because I take a softer approach,  I like to go gently with people – not so much  ‘feel the burn’ as ‘wait for the simmer’!

However, I do return to Iyengar’s book ‘Light on Yoga’ time and time again;  the accuracy of the asana and stories about the history of the postures truly bring the practice to life for me.  It has helped me to teach in a way that people can relate to and understand.  Thank you very much for your help, Mr Iyengar – Om Shanti.

Introduction to Yoga – Course Begins 10th September

yoga class image

 

Ever wanted to try Yoga but thought you weren’t flexible enough?

Tried a Yoga class but couldn’t tell your Dandasana from your Tadasana?

Been going to Yoga for years but want to know more about Patanjali?

My ‘Introduction To Yoga’ course begins on September 10th and runs each Wednesday 6 -7 at Ryhall Village Hall.  Each week we will do physical and relaxing exercises to experience the benefits of yoga and see why it has been practiced by so many people over so long a period. We will cover the basic postures with plenty of personal guidance and attention to modify postures for your specific needs.

 

Yoga has many benefits and is suitable for all levels of fitness.  In this class, gentle posture work will increase gradually over the weeks developing students flexibility and joint mobility.  Over time muscles strengthen, lengthen and tone. The circulation improves and physical balance is brought about – all with gentle, moderate and regular practice. Each session ends with a guided relaxation practice and students generally find that by helping the body to relax it improves and enhances their sleep pattern, relieves stress and dissolves muscle tension that may have been built up over many years.

Breathing exercises form an essential part of yoga and we begin these from the first class. As part of each class we will learn about the history and philosophy of yoga this helps us to develop our minds as well as our physical body.  Each student will receive a handy file to keep the yoga notes given out each week that will build up to a useful reference.

Please book early as places are limited.

Marjari-asana

Why not practice a little yoga at home?  This asana makes a great morning wake up exercise.

Come onto the floor on all 4s. Ensure you support your hips by having the knees slightly apart and the thighs vertical.  Support the shoulders in a similar way by placing the hands underneath or very slightly in front of the shoulders.

majari - in  Breathe in to first position – allowing the tummy to come down.

majari - out  As you breathe out contract the tummy, pushing navel up to the spine.

Follow the rhythm of your breath – breathing in allow the abdomen to lower and exhaling squeeze the navel to the spine. Allow the inhale to finish completely before beginning the exhale. Do 5 slow rounds.

BENEFITS
Improves flexibility of the whole spine
Strengthens wrists, arms and shoulders
Develops breath awareness and capacity
CAUTIONS
Avoid straining the wrist – use fists + do little & often
Place padding under knees if they are uncomfortable
Don’t take the head back until you are confident in your neck
ADVANCE
Work with ujjayi breath
Add mulabandha at the end of the exhale

Enjoy the asana – do not strain – relax into Shashankasana when you feel ready!

Chakra Workshop

chakra_man1

On Saturday 26th April I’ll be doing a 2 hour workshop in Ryhall Village Hall –  using yoga asana and pranayama to stabilise the energy centres of the body known as the Chakras.  The workshop will take the format of our usual classes; beginning with a meditation to focus the mind and followed with a physical range of posture work to experience where the Chakras are and what it feels like to get the energy moving.  Our breath work and relaxation will be slightly extended  – leaving all students feeling a deep sense of calmness and harmony.

The workshop costs £10 and everyone is welcome to come along – beginners to experience, flexible to stiff as a board.  The elements at work ‘layer’ onto our practice in class – why not come along and give it a go?  Places are limited – book now by emailing me so that you don’t miss out.

Yoga Adventure on the High Seas

Navasana

Over half term why not practice our boat pose?  In class over this term we have been creating variations and adventures to go with them…

If you are not sure how to develop the pose – there is a great article taking you step-by-step into it here

If you are more confident and can remember the posture from class – why not have a go?  Remember to keep the back straight with the gaze lifted to keep the neck long… and then use your imagination!

Here are some ideas to get you going –

nav1

nav2

nav4

If you have a willing partner, you could always give this a go!

nav3

 

Candle Gazing

candle gazing

The dark nights are a great time to practice Candle Gazing or Tratak.  Said to have evolved from our ancestors staring into the burning fire, this is a fantastic practice to develop concentration and meditation.

How to do Tratak

  • Light a candle and place it at eye level on a small table around 3 in front of you.
  • Sit in a comfortable posture with the spine upright and the arms and shoulders relaxed. You can take any meditative posture which you can maintain without any movement for the duration of the Trataka practice.
  • It is important that the flame remains steady during the concentration routine. So, make sure that there no draughts.
  • Firstly get comfortable, and begin to focus on the breath. This will allow you to settle bring you into the present moment.
  • Now, gaze softly at the flame and keep your gaze on it without getting distracted towards outer  thoughts.   If you do get distracted, gently bring your mind back to the flame.
  • Keep your vision focused and steady on the flame without blinking, for as long as it is comfortable to you. Try to avoid any kind of body movement during the entire practice.
  • Continue to gaze at the flame until you cannot keep your eyes open and tears start flowing. Once this happens, close your eyes.
  • When you close the eyes, you may be able to visualize an after-image of the flame with closed eyes. Try to bring this image at the point between the eyebrows at the centre of the forehead (the third eye location).
  • When the image begins to fade out completely, bring your awareness back to your breathing and begin to watch the flow of breath at the tip of the nose for about 7 to 8 breaths.
  • You can open your eyes at this point and repeat the full gazing routine as given above once more.

Why do this practice?

There are many benefits of candle gazing, in the early yogic texts it is credited with curing diseases of the eyes however there is no evidence to show this.  Some of the generally accepted benefits include:

  • Improves concentration.
  • Excellent method as preparation for mantra meditation.
  • Enhances self-confidence, patience and willpower.
  • Calms the mind and provides inner peace and silence.
  • Provides stress relief and deep relaxation.
  • May deepen sleep and help sleep related disorders such as headache, insomnia, nightmares, etc.

Introduction to Yoga

yoga class image

My beginners class in Ryhall will start from the very beginning this September. Each week we will develop physical and relaxing exercises to shed light on the benefits of yoga and why it has been practiced by so many people over so long a period. Covering the basic postures with plenty of personal guidance and attention to modify postures for specific ailments.  Each student will receive a handy file to keep the yoga notes given out each week that will build up to a useful reference.  Book early as places are limited.