Our YOGA & MEDITATION classes this half term will have focus on releasing tension from the shoulders. We’ll be learning the safe practice of Salamba Sarvangasana (supported shoulder stand) and some variations to enable all to participate in the benefits that this wonderful posture can offer. These include –
soothing the nervous system and the mind, helping to relieve stress and mild depression
stimulating the thyroid
stretching the shoulders and neck
reducing fatigue and insomnia
This posture is best avoided if you have an injury to the neck or shoulder area. Please follow the modified versions.
To perform the full posture you will need to bring 2 woollen blankets or bath towels to make a thick pad of fabric 2″ deep. I will explain more in class but be on the look out for these props as without them it is not safe for your neck to practice this posture.
We’ll be learning about Samskaras – types of ‘memory scars’ laid down into the fibres of our being/body from emotions that we have experienced. You can read more about this in an interesting article by Freddie Wyndham here
Our pranayama practice will be developing Brahmari – the humming bee breath. This is a practice that develops a sweet voice and is said to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Some great practices that you will find beneficial for this time of year – beating the winter blues.
‘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.
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.
This term our theme of ‘FREEDOM’ will shift from the hips up to the spine. We’ll be working with a number of asana (postures) to free up the different areas of the spine and learning/feeling the difference this can make to how we feel and live our lives.
One of our main postures will be the bridge – which is often cited as the yoga answer to a back massage!
So – if you have a particularly stiff spine or have always wanted to be able to give yourself a back massage, why not sign up for a place and come along???
Classes are one hour long and held at Tinwell Village Hall on Mondays (7.15), Preston Village Hall on Tuesdays (8.00) and Ryhall Village Hall on Wednesdays (6.00).
Remove your socks and shoes if possible. Allow the feet to spread out on the floor or your mat, positioning them directly under your hip joints. Bring awareness into the soles of the feet and feel your weight sinking down evenly through the whole surface of the sole. If you feel unbalanced, bring awareness to each side of your foot in turn – leaning forwards, backwards and side to side. Come to stillness – an evenness of weight now descending through the soles of your feet. Feel the pelvis as a level bowl and the spine ascending as you take a deep inhalation bringing the awareness up to the crown of your head. As you slowly exhale feel the skin on your face soften, the shoulders relax down, the elbows bend slightly and the fingers gently curl. A soft but strong mountain.
2 Neck Exercises
After a few breaths in Tadasana, gently begin to scribe a small circle with the nose – no bigger than a tangerine. About 6 – 10 one way and they the same amount in the other direction. Come once again to stillness – feel the balance and symmetry of your posture for a few smooth, quiet breaths.
When you feel ready, on exhale take the right ear gently towards the right shoulder and press the left palm down towards the ground. Stay in this position, breathing smoothly and quietly for about 5 breaths. When ready, inhale and come back to Tadasana. Take a few breaths in the centre and then practice to the other side.
3 Shoulder Rolls
On inhale gently begin to roll the right shoulder up and then backwards, as you take it down exhale and bring it forwards to complete the circle. If there are any areas of tightness or sore spots, work smaller and gentler until it feels free and comfortable. Work about 10 repetitions. Rest in stillness for a moment or two and then work on the left side. This exercise can be repeated either working separate shoulders again or working them both together.
Now repeat your previous shoulder sequence, but this time take the shoulder in a forwards rotation.
4 Gentle Bridge
Come to lie on the back of the body, have the knees bent, feet flat on the floor and arms by the sides. Check that your spine is in a straight line. Focus your awareness at your abdomen, watch the breath, inhaling feel the abdomen move upwards and exhaling watch the abdomen move down. This is abdominal breathing – a soothing and calming practice.
When you feel ready, allow the inhale to gently lift the buttocks and lower back off the floor, pressing down through the soles. As you exhale lower back down. Work gently, smoothly and slowly with the emphasis on bending the spine evenly – feeling each vertebrae lift off the floor and then placing each vertebrae back down. Don’t push up any further than feels comfortable and keep the movement smooth and linked to the breath at all times. Work about 5 – 8 repetitions then rest.
When you are ready hug the knees to the chest for 5 breaths. Rest the feet back down and go back to abdominal breathing for a few moments.
5 Supine Twist
Remaining in the bent knee position, bring the knees and feet close together. Take the arms out to the sides to form a T shape. As you exhale allow the knees to gently come down to the right side and rest in this twisted position for about 5 breaths. You can intensify the stretch by twisting the neck to the left if that feels comfortable. Return the knees and head to centre on an inhale and then exhale and practice on the opposite side.
You can repeat this set if it eased your tension. Twists are both relaxing and rejuvenating to the spine.
Rest and go back to abdominal breathing when you are finished twisting. 5 minutes of abdominal breathing would be good if you have the time. When you need to get up, roll onto your left side and pause for a few breaths before pushing up with the right hand to a seated position. Hopefully rested, tension free and ready to get on with your day!
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…
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.
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.’
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’?
Why not have a go at making this eye pillow and including it in your yoga bag? The halls I teach in (Preston Village Hall in Rutland and Ryhall Village just outside Stamford, Lincolnshire) offer variable lighting so I always adjust it when we come to relax. However, an eye pillow – particularly with a fragrance – can add another dimension and aid your relaxation even further.
You can recycle an old t-shirt into a this useful item or use some soft fabric you have available – remember to use double thickness. This is ideal for your yoga practice or keep it under your pillow and use as general sleeping aid.
This eye pillow is very simple to make and uses stuff that you are most likely to have around the home.
Using an eye pillow has a very calming effect on the nervous system – just the weight over the eye lids and forehead can work wonders. If you add a soothing aroma such as lavender or chamomile you will also be tapping into the benefits of aromatherapy. Be sure not to use essential oils or other perfume as this may affect your skin and eyes – I used dried lavender flowers from my garden but you can use the leaves from a chamomile tea bag if you don’t have any.
Perhaps you can dry some of your favourite flowers this summer and save them for making a pillow??? You do need to make new eye pillows regularly as they can harbour dirt and grime and the eye area is delicate so never share or use dirty eye pillows.
First find a t-shirt that you no longer want. If it has been washed lots of times, that’s great, it will be nice and soft.
Cut the t-shirt horizontally across just under the sleeves.
Fold the double layers over and measure 9cm up from the fold. Pin a line 20cm parallel to the fold. Sew your oblong shape now, either by hand with small, tight, stitches or by machine. Up one side (9cm) – turn, along the long edge (20cm) – turn and then half way down the other side (about 5cm).
Cut around the oblong stitching leaving a seam of 0.5cm
Turn the oblong inside out through the gap you left down one side.
Prepare your filling – I used some lavender that I dried last year – you just need the flower heads not the stalks. You can buy dried flowers – chamomile might be nice – or you can use the contents of a tea bag. I mixed the lavender with pearl barley otherwise it would have been too strong. You only need to fill it up a bit – it’s not like a stuffed toy – just so that there is some weight over your eyes and forehead which helps to calm the mind.
Now take a rolled up piece of paper to make funnel and insert it into your sewn oblong shape.
When full to your own liking, turn in the seam allowance and sew up by hand with tiny, tight stitches.
Hey presto – a useful item out of stuff you would probably throw away.
The life of an eye pillow is fairly short. I would suggest making a new one every 6 months or so. Your eyes are delicate and the pillow, like it or not, will collect germs and bacteria. It can’t be washed so – do yourself a favour and put it on the compost bin after 6 months and make yourself a fresh one.
Step by Step Instructions for Bhujangasana (cobra pose)
Lie on the front of the body, legs straight and soles of feet upwards and forehead or nose on the mat.
Place the palms of the hands (fingers together) on the mat, keeping the upper arms in contact with the sides of the body and the elbows pointing backwards.
Relax the whole body, particularly focus on relaxing the spine and the buttocks.
On inhalation, slowly raise the shoulders, neck and head, using the back muscles to lift. Gently continue to lift pressing the hands down and using the arm muscles.
Be aware that you are using the back muscles more than the arms.
On exhalation, gently lower – again using first the arms and pressure through the hands and then use the back muscles to come down to the ground, to the start position.
Develop the posture with the breath to begin with. When the back is comfortable with the bend try to hold – developing the length of time in the position.
In the final position, the hips and pubic bone remain in contact with the mat and the navel is lifted to a maximum of 3cm. The arms remain soft so that there is no danger of locking the elbows and sinking down in between the shoulder blades.
Regarding the head, opinion is split. I favour feeling length in the back of the neck, but you can and it feels good to you, tilt the chin upwards to curve the cervical spine.
The arch of the spine should feel balanced and smooth, certainly with no ‘tweeks’ or feelings of compression. If this is happening to you, then you need to reduce the arch somewhat and you may need to consider building up strength in your back muscles and flexibility in the vertebral joints with other asana before tackling this posture. If you speak to me in class I can advise what is best for you.