Saturday, 11 February 2012

YOGA FOR MEN

For years my husband Dominic maintained that yoga was not for him. Despite me having practiced yoga through 5 pregnancies and as a means of maintaining my health and sanity through 23 years of child rearing and chronic back pain he just had no interest in buying into it himself.


Pictured 'Yogi Dom '


Years of a stressful working life and the damands of co-parenting a young and ever expanding family along with his maturing years however gradually began to take their toll. He wasn't sleeping, he was beginning to suffer from stress related gastric reflux to the point that a scarily wide range of food was becoming off limits. On top of this his back was beginning to give him increasing discomfort and pain.  

One evening out of the blue he had an epiphany. As I headed off to teach my Sunday evening yoga class he suddenly surprised me and announced that he was going to come too. The rest, as the saying goes is history and he has not looked back since. He became completely hooked on perfecting his yoga practice and was beginning to experience a tangible reduction in all of his stress related ailments. Literally within a few short life transforming months of regular practice, which it has to be said at this point in time he had begun to cling on to like a lifeline, he was transformed a walking advert for my classes and the multi benefits of yoga. He couldn't stop talking about it and in the end I had to start a men's class for a number of his male friends and neighbours!

To get him on the right track to begin with Dom concentrated on a number of key poses which really worked to stretch out his stress induced tight spots.

Below is a mini men's yoga pose starter pack to get the man in your life back on the right track to health and wellbeing.

Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Stretches hamstrings, calves, and hips; strengthens legs and knees
Stand with feet hip-width apart, gently hinge forward at the hips and lower the torso toward the floor. Bend your knees generously to take any pressure out of the low back and hamstrings. Grasp opposite elbows with opposite hands. Breathe deeply and let gravity take the body toward the earth. Relax your head, neck, shoulders and torso. Slowly sway your torso or gently shake your head. Hold for one minute and roll back up to standing.  


Benefits:  This is a great asana to use as part of a warm-up for any exercise workout. We often have a hard time knowing when we are holding excess tension in our head, neck and shoulders, and that buildup of tension can create headaches, insomnia, poor circulation and decreased lung capacity. If you practice slow, steady breathing along with this pose, it can lower your blood pressure over time. 

Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Stretches feet, shoulders, hamstrings, and calves; strengthens arms, legs, and core
Start on your hands and knees with your feet and knees hip-width apart. Position your hands about shoulder-width apart, and spread your fingers wide. Pressing firmly through your hands, lift your knees off the floor and straighten your legs. (If you have tight hamstrings, a gentle bend in the knees is fine). Walk your hands forward a few inches, and walk your feet back a few inches to lengthen the pose. Squeeze your thighs as you press them toward the back wall. Press your heels back and down toward the floor (though they might not reach the floor). Relax your head and neck and let your shoulder blades slide down your back toward your feet. Set your gaze between your feet. Suck your stomach in and engage your core muscles. Breathe deeply. Hold for three minutes, rest, and repeat one more time. 

Benefits: Back pain is often due to chronic tightness in the hamstrings and hips. It’s also common for us to have very tight shoulders. Down Dog releases those areas, while building upper body strength. If you can do only one pose a day, start with Downward Dog.



Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
Stretches shoulders and chest; strengthens thighs, calves, spine, and ankles
Stand up tall with your big toes touching. Inhale and raise your arms straight up to the ceiling alongside your head and neck with palms facing each other. Drop your shoulders down your back as you lengthen up through the neck. As you exhale, bend your knees, sit down and back as if you were sitting in a chair (like doing a squat with your feet together). Do not let your knees extend past your toes. With each inhale lengthen the spine. With each exhale sit a little deeper in the chair. Eventually your thighs will be parallel to the floor. Drop your tailbone down toward the floor to take any stress out of your lower back.  Keep your core muscles engaged and keep your knees and thighs pressed tightly together. Hold for 30 seconds.




Benefits:  Chair pose torches abdominal fat while strengthening the thighs and legs.


Crescent Moon (Kneeling Lunge) 
Loosens tight hips by stretching the groin; strengthens arms and legs
Start on your hands and knees. Step your right foot between your hands into a lunge, keeping your right knee directly above your heel. Inhale and slowly lift your back knee off the floor. Press your back heel toward the wall behind you as you begin to straighten the back leg. Keep your spine long as you hold and breathe. Let your hips fall forward as you continue to press the back heel behind you. Hold for one minute and then repeat on the second side. Do each side twice. 


Benefits: Tight hips can cause lower back pain, knee strain, and injury, which can keep you out of playing sport, out of the gym, and in pain while sitting at your desk.


Warrior I (Virabhadrasana 1)
Stretches shoulders and hips; strengthens upper and lower body
Come into crescent moon  with your right foot forward in the lunge. Spin your left toes to face the left side of the room and press your heel down. Your back foot should be parallel with the front of the room. Inhale and reach your arms up alongside your head with your palms facing each other. Drop your shoulders down your back. Bring your torso up and off the front thigh. Don’t let your front knee extend past the toes.  Both hips should face forward. Hold for one minute. Repeat on the opposite side. 


Benefits Warrior 1 increases space and mobility in areas where men need it most, the shoulders, hips, and knees. It’s another pose that generates great stability in and around the knee, so increases stability for high-impact workouts. 


Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) 
Stretches chest, neck, spine, and hips  
Lie on your back, bend your knees, and place your feet flat on the floor hip-width apart. You should be able to tickle the backs of your heels with your hands. Place your arms on the floor alongside your body, palms down, and as you inhale, lift your hips off the floor and press them to the ceiling. Keep your knees directly over your heels. For an added shoulder stretch slide your arms under your body, interlace your fingers, and press the backs of your arms into the floor as you continue to lift your hips. Hold for 45 seconds and with each breath, let your hips float a little higher. Exhale when you lower your hips. Repeat 3 times.




Benefits Many men are tight in the intercostal muscles and connective tissue surrounding the rib cage, which can limit lung capacity. Bridge pose opens the chest and releases those tight muscles, allowing for fuller, easier breaths. Over time, practicing this pose can improve performance in all physical activities and is helpful for relieving upper respiratory issues.


Bow Pose (Dhanurasana) 
Stretches hips, shoulders, and thighs; strengthens back
Lie on your stomach and reach your arms back toward your feet with the palms facing up. Bend your knees so that your heels come in toward your buttocks. Inhale and grab the outside of your ankles (right ankle in right hand, left ankle in left hand). Press your ankles into your hands and your hands into your ankles as you lift your thighs off the floor. Breathe deeply and fully as you continue pressing your legs up and back. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat two or three times. If you are very tight in the hips or quadriceps, you may want to try one leg at a time.




Benefits: One of the best stress-releasing poses, Bow opens the chest to allow you to take in more oxygen. Strong abdominals are great, but can lead to injury if you don’t strengthen the back, too. Bow pose takes care of this, reducing your risk of injury due to muscular imbalance.


Boat Pose (Navasana)
Strengthens abs, spine, arms and hip flexors
Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet on the floor in front of you. Place your hands behind your glutes and lean into the arms for support. Engage your core muscles and keep a perfectly straight spine as you lift your right leg and then the left, bringing them to a 45-degree angle with the floor. Bring your legs together and imagine squeezing a book between your thighs to keep them active. Lift through the sternum and slowly straighten your legs while keeping your torso straight (if it starts to collapse, keep a slight bend in the knees). Press through the balls of the feet and spread your toes wide. Reach your arms toward the front of the room, on either side of your legs, keeping them in line with your shoulders, palms facing down. Hold for 30 seconds, working up to a minute or longer.




Benefits: In addition to strengthening the core and back muscles, Boat promotes healthy thyroid and prostate gland function.
 
Hero Pose (Virasana)

Stretches knees, ankles and thighs
Begin in a kneeling position with knees touching. Bring your heels out alongside your buttocks, keeping your shins and ankles pressing down into the floor. If you can, sit your buttocks on the floor between your legs. If this is uncomfortable, place a phone book or block beneath you to lessen the tension in the knees and ankles. You will feel a strong stretching sensation, but you should not feel pain. This is a progressive pose and your body will adapt to it over time. Hold for one minute and keep your breath slow and deep. Rest, and repeat a second time.


Benefits : Hero pose stabilises and strengthens the vulnerable knee joints while lubricating the connective tissues in and around the knee with blood, oxygen, and fluid, making it an essential pose for runners.


Reclining Big Toe Pose (Supta Padangustasana) 
Stretches hips, thighs, hamstrings, groins, and calves; strengthens the knees
Lie on your back and extend your left leg toward the ceiling at a 90-degree angle with your right leg extended along the floor. Flex both feet. Bend your left knee and bring the knee in toward your chest using your hands. Hug it tightly against your body to relax your hip. Next, loop a strap around your left foot and slowly straighten the left leg back to 90 degrees. Press your right thigh firmly down against the floor. Hold for 5 breaths and repeat on the opposite side. Repeat twice on each side. 


Benefits: This pose stimulates the prostate gland and improves digestion. Runners may find it useful for relieving sciatica caused by a tight piriformis.




Finish in Corpse Pose (Savasana) , lying flat on your back with your arms alongside your body.  Close your eyes and breathe naturally. Stay here for at least two to three minutes and allow every muscle to melt into the floor beneath you.





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Friday, 10 February 2012

5 BEDROOM FAMILY HOME HOLIDAY EXCHANGE



Since becoming a yoga teacher I have enjoyed some amazing travel opportunities teaching yoga overseas. However as a family we also began to do a lot more travel together and one of the ways that we have discovered to inexpensively do this and enjoy the experience of getting to know an area like a local is by home exchanging our London home with the homes of others. This is the home we have to offer.
   
            
OUR NEIGHBOURHOOD
Located in Shepherds Bush, our home is close to all the famous and lesser know attractions that Central London has to offer. Shepherds Bush itself is home to the BBC Television Centre, The Bush Theatre and the O2 Empire Music venue, Bush Hall jazz and live music and comedy club, Queen's Park Rangers Football Club, Shepherds Bush Market and Europe's largest inner city shopping mall, Westfield with its hundreds of shops, cinema, restaurants, bars and gym. All these local attractions are within 5 to 10 minutes walk away from the house. On top of all this Shepherds Bush is a vibrant multi cultural area with a distinct sense of community. Shepherds Bush's nearest neighbours are Notting Hill, famous for its vintage WEEKEND street market, upmarket Kensington and leafy Holland Park. Shepherds Bush has three separate tube stations and one overground train station making it one of London's best connected hubs for transportation by bus. It is also easily accessible to London Heathrow and Gatwick Airports and just over an hour away by train from the sea at Brighton, one of England's most popular coastal resorts.
    
Locally there are parks, public tennis courts and swimming pools and the pretty pubs and riverside walks along the banks of The Thames are a short bus or tube ride away in nearby Hammersmith and Chiswick. Shepherds Bush is also convenient for road links to the west of London making visits to Windsor Castle, The Botanical Garden at Kew, Richmond Deer Park, Hampton Court very easy. A regular hourly express coach service connects Shepherds Bush to the famous university city of Oxford. 
OUR HOME
Our London family house is quiet and homely. It is surprisingly spacious with a large welcoming kitchen diner which overlooks a small secluded garden with a seated dining area and barbecue. We have an Aga which makes this room cosy in winter and fuels all our central heating and cooking. It really makes the kitchen the heart of our home and is particularly fantastic for roasts, slow hot pot dishes and home baking but equally suitable for rustling something up on the hob after a day of sightseeing. If home cooking is not your thing when on holiday then you couldn't be closer to the vast amount of takeaways, cafes and restaurants that Shepherds Bush  and the nearby Westfield Shopping and Leisure Mal have to offer. 
    
 Our living room comprises two rooms opened as one and is light and simply furnished featuring two openVictorian marble and wrought iron fireplaces and ornate traditional period plasterwork on the high ceilings. All five bedrooms have comfortable double beds and the loft room also has an additional single bed suitable for either an adult or a child. Both bathrooms have baths with showers (one also has a separate shower cubicle). Our home is unfussy, low maintenance, low tech and family friendly with polished wood floors throughout, its tidy (usually!) and we hope will provide a homely base from which to explore London and South East England.
Our home has five bedrooms and we regularly host guests - either mature students or couples visiting London in our spare room which we run as a casual home from home B&B.. Hence when it is free we are always happy to host. You will have your own private bathroom and a double bedroom with TV, Hi-Fi, tea and coffee making facilities and internet. 
ABOUT US  
We are Elisa and Dominic Williams and we have five children now all in their teens and early twenties.  As you will already know from having found my website I am a London based yoga teacher! My husband Dom has recently reinvented himself, having left the stresses of the print industry behind to renovate properties and pursue his passion for sailing  - he is a qualified professional sailor. We all enjoy living in this colourful part of London surrounded by a real mixture of people from different walks of life and its many contrasting features. However we love the outdoors and enjoy regular family holidays in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. We are all keen sailors and keep a small yacht in the West Country and have undertaken sailing holidays off the British coasts and in France and Croatia. We think you will find our home calm and relaxing, maybe a bit quirky in that English kind of way but definitely a good base from which to enjoy all that Central London has to offer.
We are however used to camping and as a large family making with makeshift bedding arrangements so don't feel that we would need to have enough comfortable beds for 7 of us if we were all to come and stay in your home! A tent in the garden or camp bed on the floor of the bedrooms is quite normal for us.  
CONTACT US
We are registered with two great websites: www.homeforexchange.com andwww.guardianhomeexchange.co.uk through whom over several years we have undertaken numerous successful home exchanges.  In doing so we have met a wide range of people who like us love the idea of letting others enjoy their home and local area. Its been a brilliant way of seeing the world, living like locals and saving money all at the same time . If you are interested in proposing an exchange with us we are usually interested in holidays during the UK school holidays but we're all always open to offers and suggestions and if you don't wish to contact us via the two exchange website we belong to then you can contact us direct by emailing: elisa@elisawilliamsyoga.com.







ITS THE WEEKEND PUT YOUR FEET UP!



After a long day - long week,  nothing hits the spot quite like a restorative inversion. 
They provide support for all of the body’s systems, especially the immune and endocrine systems, and help address various hormonal issues for example adrenal fatigue. Inversions give our heart a rest from its effort to pump blood to our brain and let gravity help refresh our legs and lower body from heaviness and vascular stagnation. 
So don't hit the red wine quite yet! To practice Viparita Karani (legs up the wall pose) simply place a bolster with two folded blankets on top of it near a wall, with a couple of tall blocks between the bolster and the wall to keep the bolster from rolling into the wall. Sit with your right outer hip on the bolster so your sit bones are touching the wall. Use your hands behind you on the floor to support you as you roll your sacrum onto the bolster and your legs up the wall. Push your hands into the floor to push your hips closer to the wall. Gently lower your head and shoulders to the floor, and be careful to keep your hips close to the wall.
Roll the outer shoulders down into the floor and lift the sides of your chest. Relax your throat and allow your neck to lengthen away from the bolster. Relax your belly and allow it to drop back toward the bolster. Close your eyes and rest for 15 minutes. If your legs get tired, cross them in svastikasana, feet resting on the wall for a few breaths, and change the cross of your legs halfway through. To come out of the pose, bend your knees and bring your knees and feet together. Press the feet into the wall and slide off the bolster until your whole back is on the floor. Cross your legs in svastikasana and rest them on top of the bolster; switch the cross of your legs halfway through. Then roll over to rest on your right side before sitting up. 


Then maybe a wee glass of Merlot!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

A BEAUTY FELT WITHIN

These lovely words were shared between friends today and there here now to share with you


Why do we close our eyes when we pray? 
When we cry?
When we dream?
Or when we kiss?
Because we know that the most beautiful things in life are not seen, but felt in the heart.
Anon.