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’?

 

Recycled Soothing Eye Pillow

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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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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).

 

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Cut around the oblong stitching leaving a seam of 0.5cm

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Turn the oblong inside out through the gap you left down one side.

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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.

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Now take a rolled up piece of paper to make funnel and insert it into your sewn oblong shape.

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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.

Perfect Your Posture… Bhujangasana (cobra pose)

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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.