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)!

Yoga Fit – June 17

For this whole year we have been concentrating on our ‘core’ – the muscles of the centre of our body which act like a corset at the front, sides and back. This is a large collection of muscles on the surface and deep inside the body. They help us to keep mobile and have a well aligned posture. Our aim is not to have “6 pack abs” but to gently strengthen this part of our body, get to know it and to love it. This type of appreciation is at the centre of yoga – to make the most of ourselves and get our body to work as nature intended.

Over this next 6 weeks we’ll be revisiting the Plank posture, refining and improving using the balancing cat as we go.

For those who wish, we’ll be integrating the Plank into our Sun Salutation which we have been learning – an excellent routine to keep the core healthy, ideally practiced on a daily basis.

We’ll also be working with some sideways postures – the Gate and Half Moon (shown above) to develop strength in the obliques (sides of the waist) and our adductors (inner thighs). These postures help to pull in the waist and keep the thighs trim – just the job for the summer.

Why not join us? Whilst the year is developing an overall theme, beginners are most welcome and brought up to speed with individual help and guidance throughout the class. To book in simply email me here

New Hobbies Improve Your Memory

lady with camera

An interesting piece of research undertaken by Dr Denise Park, neuroscientist in Texas University shows that learning something fairly challenging as a hobby – digital photography for instance – caused overall improvement of memory with long lasting effects.

It is said to work by strengthening the connections between the parts of our brains – keeping all the areas in communication with each other and in good working order. The more complex things we learn the more different aspects of our brains have to work together.

The other aspect found to help our brains is exercise – in fact gentle exercise 45 minutes, 3 times per week is said to increase the volume of the brain assist its function.

All in all the research demonstrated that by keeping learning NEW things and exercising our bodies regularly we can remain healthy and help to ward of mental and degenerative diseases.

Well I was very pleased to hear this as I’m always seeking out new things to learn and teach!

Perhaps this is one of the reasons yogis tend to live long lives. Yoga has a very large scope of practices and philosophy to maintain the interest… from physical exercises to help keep arthritis at bay to learning a new language (Sanskrit) and all the history, anatomy and physiology to boot.

Other suggestions from the study included knitting, quilting and bridge. I would add playing a musical instrument, joining a choir, painting and drawing (esp good for the eye sight) and joining a book club.

Read more about Dr Parks study here

Yoga – what do you see in your reflection?

cat reflection

You may come to yoga classes to build fitness, strength and flexibility; which of course you will over time; however, through these practices, right from the off, we are engaging in the act of Swadhyaya.  We flow through postures using breath and movement, building concentration… we scan the body, we bring our awareness to our breath, we still the mind…all these are practices of self-reflection.  And by doing this, we get to know ourselves more honestly and see ourselves for what we are, not who we think we are.

Swadhyaya is the 3rd nyama (code for living) and the generally accepted interpretation of this is ‘the practice of self-study and self-analysis’.  Sva is interpreted as ‘self’ and adhyaya means ‘investigation or inquiry’.   Our path along life as a yogi is to self-inquire through our daily and weekly practices such asana, pranayama and meditation.

(Often with Sanskrit, there are more than a single interpretation, some Sanskrit scholars interpret swadhyaya as the study of sacred texts.  According to Patanjali, in order to attain a greater understanding of one’s true being, the study of scriptures is important.  The scriptures are used to assist one in engaging in life through self-reflection.)

I feel that, although Patanjali’s Sutras were written thousands of years ago (and were passed on orally for thousands of years before that) they are just as important – if not more so – to us today. We can often go through life without stopping for a moment to look within ourselves, study our values, observe our actions and truly see the impact we have on others by our thoughts, words and deeds.  The yogi is encouraged to engage in self-reflection by analysing all of these things.

So how well do you practice Swadhyaya in your life?

Take a moment now… reflect on your breath. Is it fast or slow? Is it deep or shallow? Are you allowing your diaphragm to move fully? What was the breath or pranayama practice that you did in your last class – can you remember? Practice this now and then remain seated for a while to see the effect it has upon your breath.

 

 “Study, when it is developed to the highest degree, brings one close to higher forces that promote understanding of the most complex.”  -The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 11.44

Yoga Fit November 15 Term

‘Fit Feet’ will be the theme of the Yoga Fit classes this half term. Using postures that involve working and balancing on the balls of the feet. The flow will be a simplification of the ‘Dance of Isis’ which is a series of postures that help to strengthen the legs, help the feet to be more flexible and develop our sense of balance. Also this range of postures improves the circulation in the legs and feet – so no cold feet for us over the winter! Don’t worry if you’re a bit wibbly wobbly – modifications will be available to help all students achieve their best version of the postures and fully benefit from the class.

utkatasana on toes

Variations of the Utkatasana on tip toes will be featuring in our range of postures!

If you would like to come along, these classes are one hour long and held at Tinwell Village Hall on Mondays at 6.00. Booking is essential – use the contact us or book on line page. The term begins on 9th November and runs for 6 weeks.

Running to Make a Difference…

John's run

Growth, doubt and a journey, is how this all started back in January 2015 when I thought I might like to run a half marathon, so I entered the Perkins Great Eastern, in for a penny in for a pound, let’s do the Rutland one, why not? Then doubt called, what have you done?

Professional sport looks great when we watch it; actually sport, is about us, participation, inclusivity, it is in our communities, as we try to manage our crowded lives.

But how do you fit it all in? With the help of others. Debs introduced me through her yoga charity day to “For Rutland In Rutland”. A cancer charity providing support for those that need help, they could be our neighbor or someone we know. I have a personal connection with cancer, I watched a close friend, lose their life to it, and we all have such stories.

So I decided that I would run for them, they said yes, on the day of the race eight more runners joined me, I didn’t know them, I did by the finish, I came in second from last. We did it, and we made a difference. If you want to make a difference – you can donate here or perhaps you fancy a challenge???

Next year I intend to undertake more events For Rutland In Rutland so why not join me? Let’s make a team of it. You can contact me through Debs or For Rutland In Rutland. When we cross the finish line together, you will feel wonderful, and you have helped someone you may not know but who needs it, and that’s what it’s all about.

Om Shanti, John Hawkins (runner, yogi and fundraiser)

YOGA FOR YOUR HANDS AND STOMACH

blackberry and apple crumble

In today’s world of convenience and speed we can lose out on using our hands, fingers, arms and shoulders. By adding simple tasks into our daily routine we are not only preserving the mobility of many joints and muscles but are also slowing down the pace of information into our brains to ‘take a moment to smell the roses’. One such activity is the age old ‘rubbing in method’ used in pastry, crumbles and many other bakes. Taking time to make food is a way of nurturing yourself and your family – when I was growing up if a recipe turned out well, my mum always said that it was because ‘it was made with love’. In the yoga tradition food is considered as ‘prana’ or energy which the body takes on board for sustenance  and healing, pre-prepared food is considered to be ‘dead’ and containing little ‘prana’. Why not get in touch with the season and prepare a fresh and wholesome Apple and Blackberry Crumble? If you don’t have a family recipe you could try this one by Delia which contains almonds in the topping – yum yum!

Other ways in which you can utilise your hands …

play the piano

make bread

pick apples/blackberries

arrange some flowers

HAPPY HANDYCRAFTING AND HEALTHY HANDS!

New Yoga Classes From September 2015

From September 7th I will be adding in 3 new classes to the schedule – 2 on Monday evenings at Tinwell Village Hall.  From 6 – 7 I’ll be introducing a brand new style of class “YOGA FIT” which will consist of learning a range of postures and then linking them into a vinyasa flow (flowing from one to the next with the breath). This class will end with a short relaxation in Shavasana.  From 7.15 – 8.15 I’ll be teaching my “STRETCH&RELAX” yoga class consisting of 45 minutes of postures focused on stretching the back followed by a guided deep relaxation.
The 3rd new class will be an additional “STRETCH&RELAX” at Ryhall on Wednesdays 11.45 – 12.45 with an emphasis on gentle stretching for the over 60’s or for those with limitations.

Check out the new timetable and see detailed class descriptions here
If you, or anyone you know, may be interested in the above classes – all cost £6 per class payable termly – please do get in touch by email to book your space.  Places will be limited to 15 per class to allow for plenty of room to move and allow my personal attention. If you want any more information or have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.

New Year – Time to Start Something…

Yoga_Class_02

Have you always wanted to try yoga but have been putting it off due to time pressures or other commitments in your life? Well there has never been a better time to put those obstacles to one side and get going with yoga… The New Year is a great time for turning over a new leaf and starting something that you can really enjoy.

I recommend talking to friends and relatives – to see if you can find a local class that will fit into your life. If that doesn’t give some results, then use the internet to find classes (yoganearby.com is a good place to start). I strongly suggest trialling a few classes and teachers before you commit to a regular class as there are so many different styles of yoga and ways of teaching.  It’s best to see what variety there is on offer in your area before you spend lots of money.

I thought this article on the NHS website was very informative and gives answers to many questions you may have – if you would like any more help or to find out about what class spaces I have then please email me here

5 Anti-Aging Postures

ROLL OUT YOUR MAT ANY TIME FOR A SHORT DAILY PRACTICE TO ENHANCE YOUR VITALITY AND KEEP YOUR SPINE YOUNG! (Remember – always practice within your capability – people with lower back problems or high blood pressure should take extra care and I advise working with an experienced yoga teacher so they don’t worsen the condition.)

1 Gently Swaying Palm Tree

cropped tyriaka tad

Standing with feet parallel and slightly wider than hip width apart, this gentle side bend begins by inhaling and taking the linked fingers overhead. This deep inhalation helps to lengthen the spine. As you exhale gently bend to one side keeping the feet, knees and hips still – a small bend coming from the waist and keeping the shoulders square to the front of your mat. On inhalation return to standing – thinking all the time about lengthening the spine upwards. Then repeat the motion with the breath to the other side. Practice 3 to 5 times each side.

BENEFITS –  lengthens the spine, tones the abdominals and sides of the waist.

2  Cat

IMG_7558-2      IMG_7563-2

Now come down onto all 4s – make a strong box shape. Have the knees aligned under your hips and your hands – fingers stretched out – shoulder width apart but a little in front of the shoulder line.   Look down toward your mat and take the awareness to your breath; notice how it feels. Become aware of the breath in and the breath out. Lengthen and deepen the breath, and as you do so, allow the spine to relax. On inhale feel the abdomen and chest filling up as the spine sinks down toward the floor.  On exhale draw the abdominals in toward the spine and allow the spine to round upwards towards the ceiling. Keep following the breath with the movement for 6 – 10 rounds.

BENEFITS- increases the lung capacity and flexibility of the spine, strengthens the shoulders, arms and wrists.

3 Downward Facing Dog

IMG_7612

From the all 4s, ‘box’, position, come to a neutral spine (neither up nor down).  Take an inhale and tuck your toes under and then, on the exhale, lift your buttocks up and back.  Keeping the elbow and knee joints soft, prevents hyper extension of the joints. Breath in the posture for 1 or 2 breaths and then on exhale bend knees and return to the box position.  Repeat 1 more time. Build up to holding the position for 10 breaths.

BENEFITS- the inversion of the head below the heart will bring fresh blood to the head and face (if you suffer from High Blood Pressure don’t take the head down, you can do this posture against the wall – see this page for more instructions), stretches out the spine and the backs of the legs, builds strength in the shoulders, arms, elbows and wrists.

4 Staff

IMG_7578-2

Sit on the mat with the legs stretched out in front. Feel the sitting bones in contact with your mat. Place the hands on the mat at your sides, as you inhale feel the back long and strong and push gently with the heels away from you. On exhalation relax a little but don’t let the posture collapse. Work up to 10 smooth, long breaths.

BENEFITS- strengthens core muscles, improves posture.

5 Seated Twist

IMG_7584-2

Remain in Staff pose.  Bring the right foot over the left leg and draw the thigh into the body using the crook of the left arm. Inhale and feel the crown of the head lift up toward the sky, as you exhale turn toward your bent knee and take the right hand to the mat behind you. Feel the twist in the torso, if your neck is comfortable turn the chin around to the right shoulder. Remain in the twist for 3 – 5 breaths and then undo on the inhalation. Repeat to other side.

BENEFITS- detoxifies the body and aids elimination.