Wednesday, 30 November 2011

ELISA WILLIAMS YOGA WINTER 2012 NEWS


Its the season to ignite your inner light.

That was the true Light, which lights every man that comes into the world’ John 1:9 

Are you feeling luminous right now, full of life and light, or are the darker days of winter and the onset of the festive season already beginning to take their annual toll? 

As we enter what for many has become a stressful time of year it really does help to turn to a little yoga to keep our inner light burning brightly.  When this light is radiant and we're in balance with ourselves, we can find our way through whatever comes along to challenge us. A sense of good health and spiritual wellbeing makes a joyful presence in our own lives and and is passed on to those around us. Yoga with its emphasis on internal observation, slow and dynamic movement as well as relaxed breathing and an accepting attitude, may be the near perfect activity for dark winter days and keeping the blues away. It also helps us to spend quiet time away from the hustle and bustle to reflect upon the deeper meaning of life.

Establishing a regular winter yoga practice is a way of drawing inward and aligning ourselves with the slower cycles of nature, as well as detoxifying the mind and body from the strain that the end of the year can bring. This winter try and step off the merry-go-round for a few hours a week and attend a yoga class that restores you back to your glowing self and who knows, maybe you will  get through the season without all the ailments and gloomy malaise of these long dark months.  In winter while it is great to try more dynamic styles of yoga to keep you warm and flexible this is also a time for resting and preparation for the year ahead so leave time for quiet restorative poses which promote a sense of inner stillness and introspection well suited to the advent season. 
SUGGESTED YOGA PRACTICES IN WINTER 
Start each day with several flowing rounds of Sun Salutations. This helps to keep us warm flexible, increases our energy as well as keeping our body stretched and oiling all those creaky joints.
Gentle backbends like locust pose, cobra and upward dog. All poses that allow us to move stagnated energy from our belly up into our hearts. Backbends like these also help to uplift our moods and energy levels.  
Do less. Try to arrange your schedule to reflect the more internal nature of winter. 
Read more books, invite friends over for lazy weekend lunches instead of late night boozy dinners, or just take a few days off from your daily schedule to reflect and rest.
Go to bed earlier. The natural world is turning in earlier. Perhaps us humans should to. 
Eat more warming, wet foods. Replace cold cereals with hot porridge fruit and honey.
Try out the ayurvedic practice of self-massage. Choose a warming winter oil such as sesame. Massage yourself from head to toe in the morning, wait 20-30 minutes and then shower. 
Take baths with warming oils such as clove, amber or frankencense.
Practice some form of relaxation, meditation or pranayama. 
ONE DAY RETREATS AND YOGA HOLIDAY IN TURKEY 2012


Looking ahead to 2012 I have two one day retreats now scheduled to take place. The first is on February 18th in Palace Garden, Notting Hill and my Springtime retreat is on May 19th in the countryside .  Visit my ONE DAY YOGA RETREATS page on my website for further details: http://www.elisawilliamsyoga.com/page7.htm I am also planning to return to glorious Euro free TURKEY from October 1st to 8th 2012. Unsurprisingly this holiday, which we have done our best to make as affordable to as many people as possible is booking up very very quickly so visit http://www.elisawilliamsyoga.com/page13.htm for more details and book soon!
                               MY 2012 CLASS SCHEDULE
My class schedule for this winter and for the start of 2012 remains very much the same with bookings now open to join any of my termly small group classes in January. These courses usually become fully booked so please contact me as soon as possible if you would like to attend any of the classes at St Peters Hall Portobello Road, The Apothecary in Fulham or The Music House in Shepherds Bush.  Priority for places is given to students already enrolled on the current terms’ classes providing they rebook and make payment before the end of the current term. (For details of all my Yoga courses and other open community run classes visit 

http://www.elisawilliamsyoga.com/page6.htm. on my website  where you will also find details about 1-2-1 private classes, yoga in schools and workplace yoga.
I will be teaching all of my open community classes at Kensington Leisure Centre in Walmer Road North Kensington and also a number of classes at The Life Centre in Edge Street, Notting Hill right up to my 9am Kensington Leisure Centre class on December 24th Christmas Eve this year. Contact me for all the exact dates and times.  If you have any sense at all you will join me at one of them and come and practice what I have been preaching in this e-letter! I will be taking a break from teaching between Christmas and New Year's Day and will be back teaching again from Wednesday January 3rd at The Life Centre at  8.30am and again at 1pm and at 6.30pm at Kensington Leisure Centre. Small group sessions start from January 6th.
 Thank you to everyone who has attended my classes, holidays and retreats this year and I look really forward to seeing you on a yoga mat somewhere soon.
“Seek peace and pursue it’ – Proverbs 34:14
Lots of love 
Elisa 
www.elisawilliamsyoga.com



Saturday, 26 November 2011

"Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured. " ~ B.K.S. Iyengar

Yoga is a way of living, which allows us to calm our minds, reduce the stress of our daily life and get more in touch with our real selves.  Yoga in some form or another has been around since at least 500 BCE. However, today in the West most yoga classes focus on the practice of yoga postures (asanas) rather than on the ultimate journey towards meditation and enlightenment. These physical poses allow us to stretch, tone and open our bodies, to build strength, stamina and flexibility. As yoga is so ancient there are many different ways of practicing that have developed over the years. While some classes will focus on detailed bodily alignment, others are more dynamic movements, and others are quiet and reflective. I like to try and bring a mixture of these yogic styles to my classes and ring the changes, so if the first one you try doesn't do it for you, try a few more. I feel that yoga practice should be a little like life, with light and shade and a few surprises, it should certainly never feel formulaic. It is only through change and experimentation that we learn and grow and keep our experience of yoga fresh. 
  
The practice of asana enables us to become more comfortable  in our bodies and more efficiently to work with our subtle energy flows, which in turn allows our mind to calm and settle more easily. Once that happens, then maybe we can sit quietly and comfortably in meditation or prayer. However yoga is not attached to any religion and can therefore be used by people of any religion or none without compromising their own faith or beliefs.
Contrary to some more extreme views, there is nothing in yoga which is incompatible with Christianity or Islam. 
Yoga can help you to find physical and mental stillness and provide the time and space away from our over-scheduled lives to reflect quietly upon whatever is on our hearts.  However while yoga continues to teach stillness and inner peace, yoga classes can also be as physically demanding as a session in the gym - and can generate just as much heat. Practiced mindfully with understanding and awareness of our bodies and breath, yoga also works the body far more safely and efficiently than so many popular physical activities.
  
 Most classes, particularly those described as dynamic or flow yoga, or ashtanga yoga, will work on moving the body in conjunction with the breath in sequences of postures really designed to get the energy flowing. To practice yoga you certainly don't have to be flexible enough to do a perfect lotus pose, touch your toes or be able to tie your self up into knots.
The benefits of yoga are open to everyone, irrespective of flexibility, strength or age. Your body is unique to you. You simply start where you are, and don't worry about what anyone else can do. Students will get much more benefit from practicing simple postures mindfully and with proper bodily alignment, than you will from trying to force your body to do something it is not ready for.
There is no better way than to try a few classes and see how you get on. If the first one you try doesn't suit you, try a few more and if you don't like my teaching style then please PLEASE try someone else!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

I DO NOT LIVE HERE ALONE


Each breath I take affects the air all around me
Each word I utter falls on someone else’s ears
That which I touch is felt by another
That which I do will certainly affect another
That which I do not, will also affect another
We never know how far reaching something we say or do
really is, until it returns to us.
And it always does.
All things in life form a circle
Whether or or not we see the circle.
I do not live here alone.
Author Unknown

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

KEEP WARM AND FLEXIBLE WITH YOGA THIS WINTER



With mass hysteria  having hit my local shopping centre in the form of a prepubescent Canadian teenager turning on seasonal lights last week,  The so called 'Bieber fever'  that swept through West London served as a timely reminder of how most of us end up feeling more frazzled than peaceful during  the build up to what was once a time of contemplative anticipation. 
Despite the undoubtable cheer of Christmas lights in our high streets and sitting rooms  it is the time of year when most of begin to neglect our health and  sanity as we succumb to the mad round of socialising and shopping that has come to define these dark winter months.  According to yogic philosophy, and its sister science of Ayurveda everything else in nature is resting and regrouping, conserving energy for the winter months ahead, while we humans ignore our primal instincts and begin our seasonal downward spiral into ill health and choose instead to crank up our already hectic lives.
Winter, should be the time for us to immerse ourselves in the glow an open-fire, with a glass of mulled wine and a thick blanket. During this time, it surely makes far more sense to pursue activities that encourage us to delve inwards rather than keep rushing madly about to the point of burn out or at least to try and seek out a balance where we can help our bodies and minds to cope better.
Yoga, with its emphasis on internal observation, slow and dynamic movement, as well as relaxed breathing and an accepting attitude, may be the near-perfect activity for dark winter days and keeping the blues away.. Establishing a winter yoga practice is a way of going inward, aligning yourself with the slower cycles of nature, as well as detoxifying the mind and body from the stresses that the end of the year can so often bring. This winter, try to dedicate a few hours a week to a yoga class that restores you back to your glowing self, and you will maybe find that you can get through the party season and into the New Year without all the ailments and gloomy malaise of these dark winter months.. In winter try a more dynamic style of yoga however winter is also a time for resting and preparing for the year ahead so leave time for quiet restorative poses which promote a sense of inner stillness.

Yogic practices for winter include:
Start each day with several flowing rounds of Sun Salutations. This helps to keep us warm flexible and increases our energy as well as keep our body stretched and oil all those creaky joints.
Gentle backbends like salabasana, cobra and upward dog. This type of yoga allows us to move stagnated energy from our belly up into our hearts. It also helps to uplift our moods and energy levels.
Do less. Try to arrange your schedule to reflect the more internal nature of winter.
Read more books, invite friends over for lazy weekend lunches instead of late night boozy dinners, or just take a few days your daily schedule off to reflect and rest.
Go to bed earlier. The natural world is turning in earlier. Perhaps us humans should to.
Eat more warming, wet foods. Replace cold cereals for hot porridge fruit and honey.
Try out an Ayurvedic oleation. This is a practice of self-massage. Choose a  warming winter oil such as sesame. Massage yourself from head to toe in the morning, wait 20-30 minutes and then shower.
Take baths with warming oils such as clove, amber or frankencense.
Practice some form of relaxation, meditation or pranayama.
Quite simply, winter is a time for rest. With that in mind, allow yourself to curl up with a good book and  a blanket make some hot soup or a spicy cup of tea and let nature take over. Give yourself permission for a little hibernation, and by the spring you too will have begun to blossom with a real sense of mental and physical well-being.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

TRY SOMETHING NEW TODAY



Over the years I have had the opportunity to take classes with some wonderful teachers - all have guided me to try things I'd never tried before.
Trying new poses or new transitions between poses, is a fun physical adventure. It also helps open our minds and hearts to new possibilities. It reminds us that change is possible, and that growth is possible. New experiences are a direct demonstration that we are not static, but that we are ever evolving within our bodies.

It is always interesting to try something new even when it still seems to be inaccessible to us. It provides us with a sense of motivation, something to practice towards. If we don't quite make it, the experience is a reminder of humility and effort. And, if we do make it, the experience gives us a real boost of courage. So, either way, we can't really lose.
It's hard sometimes to embrace experiences that are unfamiliar and challenging, they make us a bit uncomfortable and we might be afraid of failure. However, if we just embrace new challenges in the playful spirit of possibility and just go for it we can quite often really surprise ourselves!

THE MEANING OF NAMASTE


Namaste represents the traditional yogi's belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart chakra. The gesture was traditionally made as an acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another.  It is a Sanskrit term "Nama" means bow, "as" means I, and "te" means you. Therefore, Namaste literally means "bow me you" or "I bow to you."
Today in acknowledgement of this ancient tradition Yoga teachers often open and/or close their classes with this gesture. It does not mean that we are imposing a particular religious belief system on our students nor should it be seen as such.  In reality most faiths share the idea that each of us have the potential for divinity to dwell within us whatever form we believe the 'holy spirit' to take.
To perform Namaste, we place the hands together at the heart charka, close the eyes, and bow the head. It can also be done by placing the hands together in front of the third eye, bowing the head, and then bringing the hands down to the heart.

The gesture is an extremely deep form of respect and while in the West the word "Namaste" is usually spoken in conjunction with the gesture, in India, it is understood that the gesture itself signifies Namaste. Hence it is unnecessary to say the word while bowing.

The traditional yogis believe that by bringing the hands together in prayer mudra at the heart chakra it increases the flow of Divine love. Bowing the head and closing the eyes helps the mind surrender to the Divine in the heart. The yoga practitioner, can do Namaste to themselves as a meditation technique to go deeper inside their heart chakra. When Namaste is done with someone else, it is also a very peaceful and meditative gesture. If it is done with deep feeling in the heart and with the mind surrendered it can be very moving and binds students and teachers to yoga's ancient history.

While traditionally Namaste is done at the beginning and at the end of a class it is more usually performed at the end. This is because the mind of the students is less active and the energy in the room is more peaceful. The teacher can then use Namaste as a symbol of thanks and respect towards the students and their own teachers. The students can also treat this ancient universal gesture as an opportunity to connect with or acknowledge the existence in their hearts of their own individual faith or belief system or make the gesture and in their own minds and hearts acknowledge their own words for the peaceful sentiment they want to.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

SPRING INTO YOGA

The Yogi Hiker's Spring 2011
The wonderful warm weather that we have been enjoying so far this spring has meant that spring has well and truly sprung at long last! Trees are in blossom, the bluebells are blooming and bright green shoots are everywhere. In fact  in April a group of us enjoyed a lovely spring day of yoga, lunch, and a country hike followed by another session of gentle asana and relaxation in the beautiful Chiltern Hills which really got us all off to a kick start. It was such a pleasure to practice yoga and prepare a lovely seasonal lunch for this great group of people and I hope that as many of us as possible can repeat the experience again soon. See the end of this blog for my next One Day Country Retreat.

Spring is definitely my favourite time of the year full of new life and new beginnings. Nature makes the transition between seasons look so easy but we humans seem to have lost that ability to move gracefully from one season to the next. More often than not at this time of the year we find ourselves feeling heavy and sluggish, particularly after a long winter such as this one and it takes us time to come out of hibernation!


It really makes a lot of sense to focus on cleansing and purging this time of year. Spring is really a time to thrive and it's difficult to do so if we feel weighed down by both our inner or outer environment. To help us to feel at our best, a little spring cleaning helps to rid us of extra winter weight, household clutter, and material possessions that keep us in the past or limits our freedom to live in the moment.
Here are a few dietary tips that help prepare the body and mind for spring:
Decrease heavy, oily, cold, fatty foods.
Increase spicy, bitter, and astringent foods ( fresh ginger, strawberries, blueberries )
Increase your vitamin, nutrient and chlorophyll intake with early dark green vegetables and sprouts.
Reduce wheat in favour of pulses and grains like quinoa, barley and millet
As in winter don't over do raw cold food. Instead lightly cooked warm meals are still best at this time
In general, eat lighter locally sourced food.


Yoga asana for spring


Now that winter has passed (hopefully), it is time to start sending some TLC to our liver and gallbladder. Which if you didn't pay too much attention to my winter advice may have been working overtime during the winter with diets heavy in fat, protein, caffeine, alcohol or sugar. Springtime is the time for cleansing the liver and gallbladder, which do many helpful things for our health including: filtering toxins from the external environment and food, aiding in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fat, and protein, helping to break down fats in the body, and processing our anger! These organs tend to get overloaded in the winter with the extra socialising, larger meals, reduction in exercise, and not enough rest.
We need to practice yoga poses that focus on the inner legs and outer leg lines which correlate to the meridian lines that feed into the liver (inner legs) and gallbladder (outer legs). Spring is a great time to deepen our relationship with poses such as pigeon (eka pada rajakapotasana), eagle (garudasana), wide legged forward bends (prasaritta padottanasana), and cow faced pose (gomukasana) as these poses help us to connect to and activate the liver and gallbladder meridians.
Following are two asana sequences specifically geared for spring.
Yin/restorative class sequence for spring:


Lying on your back:


Supine butterfly (supta baddha konasana) , happy baby, wide leg splits (while supported by the floor) easy supine twists with bent legs, and "thread the needle"
On the knees or seated:
Wide leg child's pose, sphinx, pigeon, seated twists (ardha matysendrasana), cow faced pose (gomukasana), Wide legged foward bend (upavista konasana) lotus pose (padmasana) or easy pose (sukanasana)
Standing poses and breathing techniques


Practice sun salutations and poses like chair pose (utkatasana) ,garland pose (malasana), and lion pose (simhasana) to create heat, improve your joint mobility, aid digestion and elimination, and increase circulation. Also practice seated twists and deep, rhythmic victorious breath (ujjayi breath) , which can also be done in poses such as warrior I, sun salutations and cobra.





Similarly, inverted forward bends such as downward-facing dog pose (adho mukha svanasana), standing forward bends (uttanasana) and plough pose (halasana) all strengthen the diaphragm and encourage excess mucus to be excreted through the mouth and nose. Fire breath (kapalabhati) is an excellent pranayama practice for strengthening your lungs and clear your head and sensory organs as is lion's breaths.


If you would like to join me on my next one day country yoga hike then I am taking bookings now for June 19th. This retreat will take place in the village of Aldbury in East Hertfordshire close to the picuresque Ashridge Estate and Bridgewater monument. See my website for more details. http://www.elisawilliamsyoga.com/page6.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

YOGA TO ALLEVIATE SCIATICA

 
Following a few recent enquiries from some of my students after class I have posted this blog which I hope will be of some help to anyone who is suffering from sciatica. 

Yoga poses that will help with sciatica include poses that stretch the periformis muscle, which attaches the sacrum and hip. For many of us this muscle can get really tight which can mean that it compresses the sciatic nerve.

To stretch this muscle do seated twists. Bend the left knee and placing in front of the groin and then placing the right foot to the right of the left thigh, place the right hand behind your back and the left elbow on the right of your right thigh or knee. Make sure both of your sit bones are grounded. Spend some time breathing deeply into the pose creating length through the spine as you inhale and moving into the spinal twist as you exhale. Visualise yourself working your way up the spine breath by breath.

Then take hold of your right ankle and pull the foot closer to your left hip to come into cow faced pose sit in this pose breathing into your hips and then without collapsing the spine hinge from the hips forwards over the top thigh taking your forehead as far as you can over the top knee. Keep your core engaged and your back flat. (Do these two poses on both sides.)

Follow your seated twists and cow faced forward bends with a classic seated forward bend with legs outstretched and hinging once again from your hips to ensure that you keep your back from rounding. Take long deep diaphragmatic breaths in this pose and focus your breath into the back body

Then lie on your back and with a strap hooked around you right foot stretch your right foot up on to the ceiling above your hip. Hold the strap in both hands and gently move foot to the floor beyond your head. Then take strap into right hand and guide leg out to the right without allowing your left buttock to lift from the floor. Change the strap into the left hand and take foot towards you left shoulder meanwhile place the webbing of your thumb joint against the top of your right thigh where it meets the hip and press the thigh bone forwards. Change the strap to other leg and do same stretches on the other side.

Downward facing dog can also be good to help alleviate sciatica - although not if bulging discs in the spine causes your symptoms. If bulging discs are the cause then you could try lying on your belly for some gentle back bends like cobra and sphinx holding the poses for up to a minute providing that you can do so without discomfort. You could also try a supported shoulder stand with your legs up the wall.

 Also try a standing side stretch (see right). Bend your right knee above the heel but don’t sink too low into the joints to ensure the pose remains muscular and core remains engaged. Stretch out the left leg and firmly ground the back foot at an angle of approximately 30 degrees. Lightly place your right elbow on to right thigh and stretch left arm forwards palm facing down beyond the right foot.  Look up under the left armpit and try spiralling the navel and heart to look up to the sky as well. Keep the weight in your back leg and keep the core engaged and the breath steady.
 Do this side stretch on both sides.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

TRANSFORMATION THROUGH CHANGE


Partly through demand and partly through personal preference, in recent years my yoga style has tended to predominate towards teaching and practicing vinyasa flow yoga. I was recently at a training workshop where the whole premise of flow yoga was put under scrutiny as to its benefits and in the mind of the yoga teacher and practitioner leading the workshop, the implications of the possible complications in the body that can arise after a strong long term flow practice. 
However while I am not prepared to abandon what I consider to be my mindful and moderated blend of vinyasa flow in favour of constructing asana from a static starting point, I can see it does have many benefits. It is also well worth taking the opportunity to deconstruct our yoga asana from time to time to ensure that we are not compromising ourselves physically as a result of misalignement in our practice which can so often happen when we find ourselves been overtaken by the flow!
I am often asked by students if we only have a few moments a day to squeeze in a quick practice what should we choose to do when there is so much on the menu. When this is the case and time is in short supply I feel it can often be a really good idea to do fewer poses and hold them for a longer length of time. While some sun salutations are great to warm us up, oil the joints and get the heart pumping afterwards try and put your foot on the breaks and slow things down. It is this that for many of us can become much more challenging. 
Here are some words of encouragement and advice to help.
When we hold a pose for long enough for it to feel a bit uncomfortable, we not only begin to build strength in our muscles but we are also building strength in our minds. We begin to demonstrate to ourselves that we are stronger than we think and this self-realisation can be an invaluable gift.
SO next time you find yourself in hurry or even in a yoga class where the teacher asks you to sustain a pose for longer than you normally would try and resist the urge to adjust your vest, brush your hair out of your eyes or itching your nose remember that by fidgeting or becoming distracted you are taking your mind and your body out of the pose and therefore you are no longer practicing yoga.
You also need to really relax. Spend time scanning your body with your mind’s eye and notice whether you’re holding tension anywhere in your body unnecessarily. Notice whether you’re clenching your teeth, if the muscles surrounding your eyes are tense, if your tongue and your shoulders are relaxed. Try to relax anything that doesn't have to be tense in order to support you in the pose. The amount of people I see in class in Boat Pose (Navasana) with fixed grimaces on their faces and yet not one of their facial muscles are helping them to hold the posture!
Try and encourage yourself to breathe into every area of sensation.  Your breath plays an enormous role in every yoga pose. Try with every inhale imagine that you are creating space within your body and with every exhale go just a little deeper.
You also need to pay attention. When you let your mind wander off into your thoughts during a yoga pose, you are not just putting yourself at risk for injury as you have stopped listening to your body but you also begin to lose the quality of the pose and are forfeiting its ability to work deeply in your body.
Finally try and add a little bit of variety to spice your practice up a little. If you practice in the exact  same way that you have always practiced yoga, you will ultimately find that you get pretty much the same results each time.  I like to think yoga needs to be a little bit like life, or to quote Forrest Gump - “a box of chocolates - you never quite know what you are going to get”.

While routine is not always a bad thing it won’t necessarily bring real transformation and change either. By making little adjustments to the way that you practice yoga day to day you may well begin to see a huge difference. Subtle changes like lengthening your tailbone towards the floor, lifting your chest toward the heavens, or engaging your leg muscles and lifting your kneecaps can activate a whole new series of muscles and help you get closer to a more challenging variation. Or just as I said at the beginning of this blog spending longer in poses and not flowing straight on to the next one , allowing enough time to experience how it feels in your body and by waiting in the present moment can bring with transformation to your  state of mind as well as your physical body.

Monday, 14 February 2011

YOGA FOR VALENTINES




If you have time for a yoga practice today try making your focus anahata chakra, with some heart-opening back bends to enable you to be fully open in your heart to give and receive love.

'The health of our heart centre registers the quality and power of love in our life. In Sanskrit, the heart chakra Anahata, means “unstruck” or “unhurt.” Its name implies that deep beneath our personal stories of brokenness and the pain in our heart, wholeness, boundless love, and a wellspring of compassion reside".

Sun breaths

Stand in Mountain Pose. Become aware of your breath, of your heart beating, of your whole system working in unison. When you are ready, inhale to raise your arms out to the sides and up, rising on to tips of your toes, bring your palms to meet overhead and look up. Exhale to bring hands to your sides like angel wings and  lower your heels to the mat.
(Repeat these sun breaths 6 times.)

Vinyasa incorporating Warrior 1 and 2.

Step your left foot forward, your right foot back, aligning the feet through the midline of the body if possible. Inhale to come into Warrior 1 exhale to straighten the front leg and draw your hands to your heart in namaste.  (prayer mudra) Then inhale to come into Warrior 2, exhale to straighten your front leg and draw your hands to your heart in namaste.
(Flow on your breath through this vinyasa 6 times on each side).

Sun Salutations

Practice as many as you wish but to open your heart spend extra time in your lunges and upward facing dogs


Reclining Goddess Pose

Then lie down in the comfortable supported backbend Supta Baddha Konasana also known as Reclining Goddess Pose. Sit in front of a bolster or two cushions and lie back with them under your back and head. In this position, let your breath become smooth and even, matching inhale to exhale. When you feel relaxed, and your breath feels steady and comfortable, imagine that you are sending love to those who need it with every exhalation, and receiving love with every inhalation. Notice who comes to mind when you think of giving love, and who comes to mind when you think of receiving love. Spend as long as you want with this imagery in your mind’s eye.

When you have finished your practice, think about phoning the people who visited you during your visualisation and get in touch with them today to let them know that you care about them.

The most powerful way to open, energize, and find balance not just the heart chakra but all of our chakras is to love ourselves and others. Love is the greatest healer. In our yoga practice, remembering what we love and appreciate as we practice asanas enhances the power of the poses and our general sense of well-being.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

TAKING IT SLOW

When most of us arrive on our yoga mats it is usually with the intention to do our best..  We want to learn something new, get closer to our goals, burn some calories, and feel like we're making improvements. 


We exist in a work hard, play hard, go getting society and when we do fail, we often fail pretty spectacularly.One of the key things that I have learnt over the years that I have been practicing yoga is that trying hard doesn't always lead me to succeed. Sometime it is possible to try that little bit too hard. 


 When we try to force our body into a pose that we aren't ready for we might get away with it for a while but after time the outcome could be something we live to regret. Learning to make our practice slow and steady is almost always much more effective in the long run. While there does need to be a little bit of challenge and effort,  it is important  that we learn to recognise the tell tale signs that we are pushing too hard.One of the first clues is when we stop breathing. When we try to force ourselves into a variation of a pose that's too advanced, we may notice that our breathing momentarily seem to stops.


 Sometimes just by backing taking our foot off the accelerator a little bit and taking a conscious deep breath will help us to go deeper and put less strain on our body.When we injure ourselves while practicing yoga is another big clue we're pushing too hard. Its our body's way of telling us to ease off. For some people it is only by actually being injured and in pain that they learn not to push so hard.


Our face is another good indicator of whether we're over exerting ourselves in our practice. When our facial muscles start getting involved, the brow wrinkles, the teeth clench together and our eyes pop out on stalks then these are all sure signs of overworking!
These characteristics displayed in the face can crop up in other places off the mat as well of course. Sitting behind a desk at work, on the telephone of even in an intense conversation when we're maybe trying that little bit too hard to press our point home.




A common sign is when we notice ourselves furtively comparing ourselves to someone else. We need to learn not to make comparisons in yoga. Our practice isn't supposed to look like anyone else's. Yoga teaches us to become happy and content in our own body. It is only then that we make progress on our yoga path.


Many people really struggle to relax during savasana and other restorative postures. The go-getters amongst us often dismissing these vital asana as a waste of their valuable time when they should be building up a sweat by limbering, flexing, toning muscles not simply lying around 'doing nothing'. This indicator is common and not just on the yoga mat as a sign we're working too hard. It is impossible to unwind and be still when we are trying too hard in our lives as well. Meditation will remain out of reach if we are stressed out, our bodies tense and our minds wired.


For many of us trying too hard might always be a temptation but the mere fact that we show up on our yoga mats means that at least that is something we can learn about ourselves and through consistent practice we can learn to take our foot off the accelerator both on and off the mat.  
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Tuesday, 8 February 2011

YOGA AND CHRONIC PAIN



If you're suffering from chronic pain - whether it's back pain, knee pain or some other type of persistent pain, you might have heard about the benefits of yoga to relieve those aches. When I started to practice yoga over 20 years ago I had been suffering from low back pain for years but what I didn’t know until I learnt to understand my body better was that practicing yoga could actually make my pain worse.

However this doesn't mean that you shouldn't turn to yoga in an attempt to ease your pain. Yoga is a great way to relieve chronic pain without using painkillers.  It’s just that you can't assume that every yoga class will automatically make it better. The most important thing is to choose the right style of yoga and the right instructor to meet your needs and help you to alleviate your pain.

If you are someone with a herniated disc for example, many yoga poses in classes such as the Bikram sequence of 26 poses, involve bending forward, grabbing on to your feet and pulling hard. If you have a herniated disc that is one of the worst things you can do.
  

There are many poses to choose from in yoga and many will be helpful to your specific condition, But it is the pace at which you go through each pose that can be drastically different.  Many classes these days can be faster-paced flow-style classes. If you are a beginner or have come to yoga as a way of managing specific chronic pain issues then it is advisable to find a class that is more detailed. Where the yoga teacher encourages students to slow things right down. It is also really helpful to spend some time examining the poses to ensure you're doing each one correctly and sometimes a one to one session with the teacher is a very good way to do this. 

Gradually as you become more practiced then you can enter a general flow class but always be prepared to set your own pace and not allow yourself to be whisked along in the crowd. Your body is your best teacher  and your only home so listen to your body before anyone else and be prepared to take your foot off the gas and back off! Time spent building the foundations of your practice and getting to know your body intimately through mindful practice will reap untold rewards in managing and alleviating chronic.

It is always vital to talk to your yoga teacher. Even an experienced yoga instructor can't help you if they don't know that you have any chronic pain issues. It is important that you speak to any teacher before the class and let them know of anything you may being working with.  All good teachers will ask their students for any concerns at the beginning of the class and will offer modifications and cautions throughout the class. That way, they can ensure that you don't do any poses that could aggravate the source of your pain.

Yoga is great for helping relieve tension and improving alignment, all of which can help to ease pain. But it's always helpful to know what it is that is causing your pain. For example, you may have a sore, tight neck and want to stretch that out in yoga to ease the pain. However, it could actually be the alignment of your chin or shoulders that is causing pain in your neck, and you need poses that will help strengthen you in those areas.

Also don't zone out during your yoga practice. Many people make the mistake of thinking that the yoga mat is the place where your mind can wander off on its holidays: You can't expect yoga to help you if you tune out and don't connect properly with your body while you're practicing. Become aware of your body and educate yourself as to how your mind, body and breath are all connected. Yoga is a practice of listening.