Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Happiness & Yoga Holidays



Like a lot of people I love planning holidays & discovering new places However I never thought that I'd actually be able to make a living from doing so. 
I have just realised that this is now the 10th year that I have been running my own yoga retreats. I have come to realise what a special part of my year these weeks of yoga and relaxation have become. Of course it is always a joy practicing yoga as a group in any location, everyone working at their own level and pace while developing stamina, flexibility, strength and a deeper understanding of themselves.
However one of the most best parts about planning my retreats is finding the perfect spot. One such find is the little slice of heaven on earth I stumbled upon a number of years ago, the remote village of Kabak in the Faralya district of Southern Turkey.



No-one ever fails to be moved by the incredible landscape of the Turquoise Coast viewed from the 


vantage point of the yoga deck that the owner built for us set high on the Lycian way. The drama of the mountains tumbling into the sea, their colour changing throughout the day and gradually building to a crescendo when the sunlight burnishes them pink and orange hues at dusk. Their vertiginous slopes abundant with lush vegetation and green forests. Beyond, we look out towards the hazy horizon where the sea and the sky seem to blend seamlessly into one another. The sea punctuated by occasional sails and fishing boats while the sky serves as a back-drop for soaring birds of prey, dramatically silhouetted cloud formations and luminous jet trails cross-crossing the canopy above.
Of course there is also the food. This is a region where the locals and visitors alike eat like sultans. After each yoga session we dine morning and night on delicious locally sourced Turkish fare shaded under grapevines and umbrellas or at night bathed in moonlight under a 
kaleidoscope of stars
Lazy afternoons are spent enjoying wonderfully healing 
massage sessions, visits to the local harman and spa or simply lounging with the lizards soaking up the sun and enjoying the panoramic views from the deck around the swimming pool. Meanwhile some in our number, channel their inner mountain goat and trek down to the nearby coves to sunbathe or swim in the clear warm Mediterranean waters. The more adventurous hike to the waterfall or local mountain villages. Other days guests hop on to local buses or drive in open jeeps to the bustling port of Fethiye. A colourful place to trawl for goodies to take home from the friendly traditional souk, or buy fresh organic produce at the weekly farmer’s market followed by a delicious lunch at Reis’s, our favourite restaurant in the bustling fish market.

Another highlight of our yoga week is when we charter a local boat. Our lovely crew headed by their improbably 
named skipper ‘Maradona’, pick the group up from our local beach to take us to secluded coves and bays, 
where we can swim and snorkel and enjoy a barbecue lunch onboard washed down with local chilled rose or Efes beer. Then yet another lazy afternoon is then spent chatting and laughing, reading or snoozing on the upper sun-deck, as we potter along the coast.
New experiences, peace and relaxation and the camaraderie of sharing stories and learning about each other’s often very different lives are an essential ingredient of this kind of group holiday. For me organising them, it is one of the most rewarding feelings of my role to sit and observe the smiles and laughter of our newly formed yogi family as after yoga they sit over breakfast and make their plans between them for the day ahead – where perhaps the hardest choice is whether they should do a little or less.


I also love the evenings on our magical restaurant terrace. Over 20 of us sat together at long tables beneath the vines, lit by candles twinkling in coloured glass lanterns. The sweet natured, hardworking hotel waiters always ready with a smile and countless plates of lovingly cooked food from the kitchen and hot bread from the cavernous wood burning oven. Homemade soups, mezes of grilled aubergine, feta, crostini heaped with plump juicy sweet tomatoes. Fresh fish, steaming vegetable tagine and richly flavoured unctuous pulses and grains. Fragrant rice and bowls of fresh herb salads bejewelled with pomegranates and olives, accompanied by carafes of the owner’s country wine and freshly juiced seasonal fruits.

It is wonderful to listen in on the animated conversations of my yogi guests, now bonded and laughing together like old friends. These mixed groups, all strangers at the beginning of the week now destined to return home with hearts heavy with happiness and memories to sustain them through the winter months until the next time. While each group is quite uniquely different from the holiday group before, it never ceases to amaze me how the dynamics always seem to work so well. Perhaps this is a testimony to the unifying glue that is yoga and a sprinkling of Faralya fairy-dust thrown into the holiday mix!

Many times I have found myself sitting under the inky Turkish sky late at night, all our yogi guests tucked up in their cosy little cabins and found myself thinking… so why do I organise these yoga holidays? They’re a lot of work and can be stressful to get off the ground sometimes – especially for someone who took up teaching yoga to avoid office admin! The answer is simple. They make me a happier person and I guess that’s the best feeling in the world.

About the Author:
Elisa Williams is a West London based yoga teacher with over 30 years of yoga experience. Over the years, she has studied as part of her on-going yoga training with many leading international and UK based Yoga teachers from Iyengar Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Dynamic Yoga, Structural Yoga Therapy and Restorative Yoga backgrounds.
She runs yoga holidays and yoga retreats in Kerala, Southern India, Sicily, Greece, Wales and in the remote coastal area of Faralya in Southern Turkey.
These holidays are a fantastic, extended opportunity to explore yoga with others – both on and off the mat. If you want to be part of such a magical experience email

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Yoga For A Good Night’s Sleep

Are you one of those people who find it very difficult to get to sleep? Well you’re not alone Even after hours of tossing around I’d often wake up in the middle of the night & the whole cycle would resume all over again. It was a very rare morning when I woke up feeling properly rested.

Rather than taking sleeping tablets, I started to practice yoga just before I went to bed. By practicing particularly quietening yoga poses  combined with deep breathing techniques,  I found myself feeling much calmer & more relaxed.

Yoga, by definition encourages us to focus inward & create a connection with our body & our breath. As a result, the chitter chatter of constant thoughts & the overload of nervous energy will gradually begin to subside.  

In time as the mind & the body become more peaceful & relaxed then sleep comes more readily.
There are hundreds of yoga asana that can help us to quieten down our nervous systems & our minds. However here are few that are particularly effective at combating insomnia. 




Head-to-Knee Forward Bend
Stretch one leg out in front & bend the knee of the other leg & place the sole of your foot against your inner thigh. Take a deep breath in & reach up to the ceiling with both arm framing your face. Lengthen your whole side body then slowly exhale & hinge forwards at the crease of the hips with your belly strongly drawn towards your spine. Try to avoid rounding your back to bring your head to your shins rather look ahead beyond your toes. Avoid or congesting the front of your body as you place your hands on your shins, ankles or toes. Take some long 
deep breaths  breaths & hold the asana for 30 breaths. Each time your inhale feel as though you’re surfing  waves rising up & travelling forward & each time you exhale feel yourself cresting the wave & move a little deeper into the pose. Then repeat
on the other leg.



Seated Forward Bend 
Sit with legs together & your back straight.  Inhale & raise your arms directly above your head & lengthen through the body from the crown of your head to the tip of your tailbone. As your deeply exhale & your abdominal muscles begin to engage bend from the hip crease. Let your hands rest on your thighs, shins, ankles or feet. Wherever is most comfortable without congesting the body or overly rounding your back. Imagine your tailbone like a long tree monkey tail slipping out behind you & your heart, on each in breath, travelling towards your toes. Hold the forward bend for at least 30 full rounds of your mindful deepest breaths. The aim is to create space both mentally & physically.Then return to sitting up right by slowly curling up through the spine like a kitten being lifted by the scruff of your neck.



Modified Child’s Pose
Kneel down on the bed & lay your belly on your thighs, either cradle your head with your hands or rest your brow on the mattress to place a little pressure on the ‘third eye’. Behind this point is the pineal gland The pineal gland produces melatonin, a serotonin-derived hormonewhich modulates sleep patterns 



Sunday, 16 June 2019

HOW TO CHANGE & GROW THROUGH SELF LOVE


We can rise above our fears by facing them, not by ignoring them. We can do that because we are not the fear or the thought or the pain, but the one looking at it. 

By paying kind attention to what hurts or isn’t helping, we can begin understand those things better. As we understand ourselves better, so we learn to trust ourselves more.

Introspection is the opposite of self-rejection. The loving gaze we grant ourselves will free us and lift everyone else around us. 




This stunning photograph was taken at the boutique hotel where we shall be hosting our October yoga retreat in Turkey. For more information visit www.elisawilliamsyoga.com/yoga-in-turkey ,

The following is a step by step guide to a meditation that can help to grow change and self-love for ourselves.

Sit or Lie Quietly
Once you’ve found a comfortable place to relax, to begin simply bring your attention to the world around you. Listen to the sounds outside the room. Listen to the sounds inside the room. Allow yourself a moment to become aware of all sensations around you: sounds, smells, temperature. Visualise your own body resting on the floor, and become aware of your own physical presence.

Find a Safe Haven
Move inward for a moment and see if you can discover a place of safe haven within. A place where you feel secure, loved, calm. Perhaps there is a person, or a certain place that helps accentuate this feeling of safety and well-being. Spend a moment visualising this place and know that you may return to it at any time during this practice, or indeed at any time during your life, when you need it.

Body Awareness
And now bring your awareness back to your body on the floor. Keep as still as possible without building up any stress and notice each part of your body as it is mentioned. Notice if you find this practice easy or difficult. Notice if any specific parts of your body are more difficult to sense. Sense the entirety of your 

body all at the same time. Feel your entire physical presence.

Breath Awareness
Bring you awareness now to your breath. Feel the breath entering into the body through your nostrils, Follow the breath as it moves into chest and abdomen. So, follow the breath as it moves from abdomen, to chest and back through the nostrils. Feel enlivened by the inhale and relaxed by the exhale. Then, Feel each breath as energy, and count your breaths up to 12, and then back down again. 

Welcome Your Feelings
Without judging or trying to change anything, 
acknowledge any feelings and emotions that are 
currently present within you. If you notice something 
specific, like tension for example, acknowledge how that feels. Now try to imagine the opposite feeling or emotion.

Witness Your Thoughts
Come back to your breath for a moment. Now notice any thoughts, memories or images that might arise, being totally nonjudgmental about whatever comes up for you. Perhaps you notice a belief or a judgment about this practice,notice that, and then try to notice the opposite of this thought. Also somewhere within your consciousness and now visual this series of images in your mind, one image after the other (paired opposites).

Find Joy or Bliss 

Bring to mind a memory that holds great joy and 
peace for you. Then, linger here, imagining and remembering all the details of this memory.

Reflect on Your Practice
Reflect on how this practice has made you feel. Remember and repeat your original affirmation or Intention. Then, begin to move outward again, becoming aware of body and breath. Also, become aware of the room around you. So, in your own time, begin to move away from your practice, moving body, changing positions, stretching etc.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

HOW TO MEDITATE FOR MENTAL HEALTH



First and foremost you don’t have to be a yoga practitioner to meditate. Yes practicing yoga asana and breathing techniques can help to prepare us for longer time spent in meditation,  but that is not the whole story.

You don’t have to sit on the floor completely motionless. You can sift around from time to time to stay comfortable. You can sit on a chair or on the sofa - it shouldn’t make any difference to the end result

Set an alarm on your watch or devise to quietly ring in 10 to 15 minutes. Shut your eyes and simply listen to your breathing.

If your mind is churning with constant chatter, don’t try and bat the banter away. Just notice it. You will of course from time to time be led astray by the milieu of random thoughts that pop into your mind.  Particularly when negative thoughts occur. Whatever happens just remind yourself that you are meditating and continue to pay attention to your breath. 

If that doesn’t appear to work and those negative thoughts keep clouding your mind try and find some happy thoughts instead. In essence the goal is to become indifferent to anything that crosses your mind. 
Continue to meditate in this way until the alarm that you set goes off. Before opening your eyes silently in your mind count all the way down from ten.

Try and practice as often as you can. Aim for quantity rather than the quality of your mediation. The more often you try the better at it you will become. 

If you would like more information about my private & public yoga classes in West   London or the Day Retreats & Residential Yoga Breaks that my husband Dominic & I have planned over the next 12 months please take a look at my website. 


I really hope we see you on a mat somewhere soon.

Namaste 

Elisa


Wednesday, 15 May 2019

I BEND SO I DON’T BREAK - Yoga for Mental Health

It may already be on your radar that this week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Most of us can admit to going through difficult times, feeling lonely, anxious, low self-esteem and self-doubt. However we don't often admit that these periods in our lives may be a glitch in our mental health.



When I decided to train as a yoga teacher, I wasn't really sure what direction my life was going in. My  children were all approaching, or already in their early teens. I had been managing a long term chronically bad back for years and I had no desire to resume my former career.  

When one of my yoga teachers floated the idea of me training to teach yoga myself, I was initially horrified. I felt completely inadequate, there was simply no way that I was in any position to teach yoga to others.

However she convinced me that if taking yoga classes was making a difference to me managing my daily life, then perhaps now was the time to delve a little deeper. Eventually I came round to the idea and although I didn't think I would ever have the confidence to actually teach, there was no harm in doing the training. 

The teacher's training course I eventually chose was set in modules over 18 months. Located near where I live in #London and run as a separate educational arm of my local yoga studio. It meant I could easily fit it around trying to be a good mother to my five children and also absorb and assimilate the information in bite size chunks. Even so, there 
were times when I really did feel that fitting in the actual training days, undertaking personal study, essay writing, attending extra yoga classes, extended reading and working on my self practice was a struggle. However with the help of my supportive husband and family, fellow students and tutors, my  knowledge and love of yoga began to grow. I also realised that I was beginning to feel a little better about myself in the process.

True I didn't feel as if I was ever going to cut the grade and be the most physically accomplished or knowledgable yoga teacher ever to grace the yoga studios of West London. I certainly had no pretensions of becoming anyone's guru and 16 years on I still don’t! However to my surprise I began to notice that when I taught, people seemed to feel better and this in turn I began to realise, led  to me feeling better too.

So what am I taking such a long time to say here? I guess it's this. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, isolated or low. If so called friends have knocked you back and life’s pressures are getting you down, just take a minute and ask yourself what it is that you can do that's just for you? What makes you feel better? What feeds you? In my case I had already discovered that yoga had become one of my anchors, a solid foundation upon which I could build something that was just for me.  This despite the fact that I have been blessed with a loving husband and family and for many years have enjoyed being a member of my church and my community. My yoga practice and over 16 years of teaching my interpretation of yoga to others have really helped me with my mental health and well-being

Practicing yoga is like creating your own sanctuary, it’s setting aside time for self care. Yoga helps us to feel stronger physically,  mentally, emotionally and be more receptive to our spiritual potential,  whatever our belief’s, or lack of them might be. If any of this resonates with you, or you think that practicing yoga might help someone you know, encourage yourself, or them, to give it a go. 

There are so many yoga classes around these days, in every town, neighbourhood, village hall or leisure centre. Find one, turn up (yes that’s the hard bit) and just allow yourself to enjoy it with an open mind. No matter what age you are, whether you’re bendy or stiff, strong or weak, you will find that you slowly restore your faith in you.


If you would like more information about my private & public yoga classes in West London or the Day Retreats & Residential Yoga Breaks that my husband Dominic & I have planned over the next 12 months please take a look at my website. 


I really hope we see you on a mat somewhere soon.

Namaste 

Elisa

Saturday, 19 January 2019

OUR DAILY BREATH




Take Time To Breathe


I recently spent a chilly January afternoon filming some self practices & I’ve just posted my first offerings for you to try for yourself on You Tube

Even if you don’t have time to follow the whole meditation, just a few minutes spent sitting with your breath will give you a little boost this winter.

Namaste
Elisa




Wednesday, 5 December 2018

INHALE LOVE EXHALE BREXIT

My limited edition

'Inhale Love Exhale Brexit' long sleeved T shirts are now in stock. 

Any profits from sales of these T shirt will be donated to the homeless charity

Shelter



Printed on the back of 100% cotton, Fruit of The Loom, women's scoop neck T shirts are available for immediate despatch in sizes 'small' & 'medium'. 
For orders of 'large' or 'extra large' or men's style T's please allow 20 days for delivery. Cost £25 (plus £3.45 p&p).
To place you order please send an email to elisawilliamsyoga@gmail.com stating your size & address or visit the following link for payment details:




Tuesday, 4 December 2018

LOVE YOUR FEET FIND YOUR ROOTS





In yoga our feet, as in life are very important. They are the base for many of our yoga poses, specifically the standing poses connecting us to the earth. Our feet have 26 bones, 33 joints & more than 100 muscles, tendons & ligaments. Correct distribution of weight in our feet not only gives us optimal postural alignment, but also a great foundation in both standing poses & also other poses where our feet are engaged. 


When the arches of our feet collapse & our ankles roll in, they do not properly support our body. Like a house on poorly laid foundations, the whole body is affected. Knees rotate inwards, the back sways, making the belly stomach & buttocks stick out.  Our shoulders roll forward and the head is forward of the shoulders. Essentially we are off balance, the perfect definition of bad posture. Over time we are causing physical damage to our muscles, ligaments & our joints.  So what can we do to stop putting this level of everyday stress on our body?

To begin take time to notice how you stand, A physio, chiropractor or yoga teacher with an extensive background in anatomy & physiology can help. So if you do need to make adjustments perhaps you need to change how you walk. If you notice you walk more towards your instep, the arch of your foot on then work on trying to find the correct distribution of weight & movement in your feet.

The next important step (no pun intended) is to build muscular strength & practice regular relaxation. If the arches of your feet have have fallen, those muscles might be weak, so it is important to work on them with poses that specifically target the muscles in the lower legs. Its also possible that some muscles may be too strong, pulling your leg & or pelvis out of alignment. Work on relaxing those muscles while at the same time building strength in the weaker  parts of your legs.

Traction, when done manually by using a strap or belt, is an effective way to gently work on problem areas & bring them back to their optimum shape, strength or position. Another important thing to do more of is walking with bare feet. Putting our feet into shoes with heels or gym shoes brings the foot into an unnatural shape. Despite all the advertising to the contrary, our feet were made to walk just as they are - bare. 

Many podiatrists will have customised insoles made for their patients shoes. While they do help to support the feet & make them feel more comfortable when wearing your shoes, they don't usually cure the root problem.

Treat your feet with respect & kindness. They take you everywhere you need to go in life & in asana practice. Take time to massage your feet to release tension by using a hard rubber ball under the sole & moving the foot backwards & forwards.  

Take a look at the illustration featured here & next time you have a little time see if you can use these pointers as a guide with you are standing. 



Thursday, 29 November 2018

HOW TO BEAT THE WINTER BLUES

Now that the winter chill has really set in, have you noticed that your mood has dipped along with the temperature?  SAD, seasonal affective disorder, is a form of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. It is often referred to as 'the winter blues' because the symptoms tend to be more pronounced during the cold, dark, winter months.
Sufferers of SAD can lose motivation and energy, find it a struggle to get up in the morning and will often feel lethargic throughout the day. It can be a constant battle to remain focused and to stem the frequent cravings for carbohydrates, which in turn leads to us gaining weight and feeling even more sluggish.

Unless you are lucky enough to be able to spend 6 months of the year in the southern hemisphere (we're hosting a yoga retreat in Kerala, Southern India in February that we're seriously looking forward to) then it's very hard to completely escape the winter blues.
However help is at hand. As someone who has battled with SAD since my teens, I have picked up a few tricks that I hope may help you through this challenging time of year.


      GET OUT MORE

Take any opportunity you can to get outside into natural light. Being outside in the open air during the winter months is not going to fix every aspect of SAD but its definitely going to help you. If you have a 9 to 5 job then get out for a walk during your lunch break. Don't be put off by the weather, dress for the elements, who says we can't eat lunch outside in winter? While some pavement cafe's and pubs nowadays have patio heaters, a park bench or a town square for a quick bite isn't as mad an idea as it sounds. If its sunny avoid wearing sunglasses when you go out too. Get as much exposure to natural light as you can.

KEEP MOVING

It's very important to keep moving, even when that sluggish winter lethargy may mean we don't feel like it. Going for a weekend walk, cycle ride or a run is a great way of getting some natural light and exercise. During the working week, take time out to attend a yoga class with a teacher who can guide you in an upbeat way and help you to find your own inner sunshine. Yoga and mindful movement classes like Pilates, tai chi and qu gong classes, can all help to relieve physical and emotional stress and tension. They help us to to clear our minds and be more positive about life.

MAKE YOUR OWN LIGHT

The bright fluorescent tubes used in a SAD light box can help us to artificially increase our exposure to light during the winter months. Many people who use a light box with a strength of 10,000 lux on a daily basis report really feeling the benefit. It is also a good idea to find yoga studios or gym classes that have plenty of natural light, or use SAD lights to brighten up the space if they don't. It all helps to create that uplifting feeling of a sunny day when on the mat. Even lighting candles or or hanging out the Christmas lights can help to cheer us up.

EAT WELL


One Day Winter Yoga Retreats in London & Oxfordshire with Elisa & Dominic Williams 


Winter is the time when its very tempting to reach for those comfort foods. However the quick mood fix provided by a sugar rush or stodgy carbs won't last for long.  A little indulgence is ok once in a while, but balance those indulgent moments out by eating plenty of fresh fruits, veg and non-fatty proteins. Its sometimes helpful to also add extra vitamin B12 or vitamin D supplements to your winter diet.  
On all our yoga retreats we like provide home cooked tasty nutritious seasonal food for our yoga guests to enjoy. Perhaps they enjoy our food more than the yoga!

DO WHAT YOU LOVE WITH THOSE WHO YOU LOVE


Elisa and Dominic Williams
\

Having a strong support network around us can be vital when our mood plummets. Take time to do the things you enjoy, with those that you love. It's far too easy to feel lonely and desolate in the dark winter months. Christmas, the so called 'festival of light,  can be a notoriously bleak, stressful and isolating time of year for many people. Surround yourself with those you're close to, take time to do activities that make you feel happy, and give serious consideration to getting involved with one of the many outreach organisations in your local area. There are numerous charities who do their best to help the elderly, the homeless and the lonely and they all need volunteers. There are many initiatives particularly at this time of the year, so find one near you and get stuck in.  It's much easier to kick those feelings of loneliness, anxiety and sadness out into the long grass when you're keeping yourself busy helping others. It also gives us all some perspective on our own problems.



Elisa Williams and her  husband Dominic, run yoga retreats at home and overseas. For details of  London yoga classes, upcoming one day winter yoga retreats and their winter sun beachside yoga retreat in Southern India in February.