Tuesday, 24 November 2015

WAKE UP THOSE SLEEPY FEET!

Our feet are so often overlooked & ignored until something goes wrong. However our feet really do deserve far more attention & I'm not referring to getting a pedicure!

Where would we be without our feet?  They carry us around throughout our day, they provide us with support as we go about our daily tasks & they are are our connection to the earth.  It's when we begin to walk as toddlers & that we begin to have a sense of ourselves as individuals. We begin to develop our own independence. In fact its the way we contact the earth through our feet that says a great deal about how we live our lives & relate to others.
I invite you to take a look at your feet.  Do your toes all cluster together? If so try separating your  toes & give them some independence. Start to stretch the skin between your toes by pushing your fingers in between them.  This also stimulates the sensory connections around the toes & it helps you to wake up your feet & to sensitise them.
Now I invite you to notice how much movement you have around your heel.  Try pulling your heel back & notice whether the heel bone itself will move in relation to the other bones at the centre of you foot.  Then press gently into the sole of your foot, massage it & rub along the length of your foot.  This will also help you to wake up your feet.  Try to pull your toes backwards, in the direction of your ankles.  If you have bunions pay particular attention to your big toe. Try to stretch it away from your other toes, turn it so that the nail of your big toe faces upwards rather than twisting towards the others.
Now notice how your feet feel.  Do they feel any more alive? Gently begin to stretch them by coming down on to all fours.  Tuck the toes of one foot under & gradually drag that foot backwards away from you, stretching out the toes, the sole of the foot & eventually create more length in the ankle & your Achilles tendon.
When you’ve done that, tuck your toes under & stretch the front of the ankle & the top of your foot. The front of the ankle often becomes quite tight & its movement as we age becomes more restricted. 

Stiff ankles are often the cause of falls

This area is related to our reflex reactions & when tight & stiff , it leads to a lack of balance & increases the potential for falls.  Its very important to keep our ankles soft & supple. Daily routines - even  stretching them out while in bed will help to maintain the flexibility of our very important shock absorber joints!
Now find a step, or use a foam block or a large heavy book & lean them against a wall.  Place your toes on the the edge & begin to gradually, sink the ball of your foot down on to the floor until your toes are bent up, & the rest of the foot is on the floor.  Put all your weight in to this leg.  If possible, now begin to gently bend your knee.  Try to create a strong stretch through your ankle, calf, Achilles & sole of your foot.  Softly bend & straighten a few times, being careful not to collapse the inner arch of your foot to the floor.
When you’ve done both sides, take a short walk around the room, just noticing any differences in your feet.  They may feel more awake, more sensitive, more grounded.

                             

For information about Elisa Williams West London yoga classes &  upcoming yoga retreats in Wales, India, Sicily & Turkey visit : www.elisawilliamsyoga.com


Sunday, 15 November 2015

YOGA AND WHY WE NEED IT EVERY DAY





Originating over 10,000 years ago and practiced by millions of people over the world, Yoga has many health benefits both mental and physical and why so many people find they need it in their lives every day.

If you need persuasion read on

YOGA HELPS US TO BREATHE BETTER.

Pranayama, yogic breathing, works on controlling our breathing whereby the breathing speed is reduced. It involves deep breathes with long pauses and slow exhalation. Breathing in this way increases the amount of oxygen in the body, which triggers our body’s relaxation response and enhances our lung capacity and endurance abilities.

YOGA IMPROVES OUR CIRCULATION AND STRENGTHENS THE HEART.

Practicing certain poses in yoga can help improve blood circulation and helps move oxygenated blood cells more efficiently through the body. Even gentle, calm yoga can strengthen the heart by lowering our resting heart rate and increasing oxygen uptake and endurance during exercise.

YOGA HELP US TO BECOME STRONGER.

Yoga poses help us  to use every muscle in the body. This helps increase muscle strength and can also improve our bodies resilience. It helps to strengthen the core and enhances endurance which mean we can carry out other strength training and sports with higher intensity.

YOGA IMPROVES OUR FLEXIBILITY.

Many yoga postures stretch  body parts in ways that increase our muscles flexibility and tone. These poses  also strengthen our joints and increase the body's range of movement. These poses also help to improve our body alignment because they strengthen muscles and stretch ligaments in a way that helps relieve back, neck, joint, and muscular problems. Daily stretching increases muscle flexibility, mobility, and control.

YOGA HELPS TO MANAGE PAIN.

Studies have shown that yoga poses combined with meditation can reduce pain for people who suffer from cancer, multiple sclerosis, auto-immune diseases, hypertension, arthritis, back and neck pain, and emotional pain too.  This happens by stretching out and strengthening the muscles, lubricating joints and improving alignment.

YOGA PROMOTES INNER PEACE.

Yoga's meditative quality can help us to reach a deep spiritual level. Many people who practice yoga regularly say that the feeling of inner peace is the reason that yoga has become a vital part of their daily lives. Yoga provides relief from stress as well as pain, which are things that cloud our judgment and moods every day. The poses strengthen the nervous system, which leads to more self-awareness and connection between the mind and the body. This relief from stress, pain, improved breathing, and connectivity with the body can also decrease anxiety, depression, fear, and other emotional mood disorders.

YOGA HELPS US TO BE IN THE PRESENT.

Yoga helps us become more aware of ourselves and help connect between the mind and the body. Focusing on our breath and muscles helps us focus on the present. This helps improve our concentration, coordination, reaction time and even our memory.

YOGA CAN RELIEVE STRESS.

Yoga encourages relaxation and helps lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Stress reduction is related to the lowering  of blood pressure and our heart rate, improvement in digestion and boosting of our immune system. It is also a vital ingredient in easing symptoms of anxiety, fatigue, asthma and insomnia. The tools we learn to use in yoga help quieten the mind and reduce the stress we feel.

YOGA GIVES US A HEALTHIER BODY.

Yoga helps lubricate our joints, tendons and ligaments. It cleanses the body through some poses and breathing techniques, leaving the body feeling healthy and refreshed. Due to stress reduction, improved breathing and lowered blood pressure, yoga also has an anti-aging effect. It promotes elasticity in the spine, helps strengthen muscles and is thought to remove toxins helping us feel and look younger.

YOGA HELPS US TO MANAGE OUR WEIGHT.

With practicing yoga comes natural weight loss. Yoga helps us to lose excess fat from the body. Practicing yoga increases metabolism and helps us to lose weight by reducing stress and burning more calories even while we sleep. Yoga also encourages healthier eating habits and mental health. This reduction of stress and greater self awareness decreases a tendency towards emotional and stress related eating. It raises awareness of our body’s needs and makes us more likely to only eat as much as our body requires and reduces the times we may eat from boredom or emotional pain.

Monday, 9 November 2015

FALL IN LOVE WITH CHILD'S POSE


Use child's pose to connect with yourself and your breath. 

Child’s Pose is the ultimate self-check-in. For most of us, the majority of our day is spent in a state of external awareness. Much of our time is devoted to interacting with others and taking in immense amounts of stimuli. Child’s pose (balasana) allows us a chance to reconnect with our own inner guide. It’s an opportunity to shift to an internal state of awareness where we allow ourselves to tune in with our breath, body, emotions, and mind. It's like a bear cave of our own making - curled up in a ball with forehead on the floor, chest to knees folded on to the thighs.

It is also a powerful pose where we can to connect with our back body. As we are frontally oriented beings, we rarely have the opportunity to focus our awareness in the back body. In child’s pose, the back body is the only exposed part of our anatomy and therefore receives the spotlight. Next time you are in balasana, experiment with the following exercise to expand your awareness of your back body: 

Become aware of your breath. Feel your back body rise with your inhale and draw in with the exhale. After several breaths, focus your awareness on the inhale traveling down the spine and the exhale traveling back up. Finally, expand your awareness laterally like you have gills by feeling the ribs open and expand with your inhale and contract with the exhale.

Childs Pose is an instant personal sanctuary.
If you're overwhelmed, frazzled, or need of some alone time? Treat yourself to a little self-love by escapng into child’s pose. Think of your mat as your own oasis or island and afford yourself a brief interlude in child’s pose. 
This simple act of  blissful surrender can become a sanctuary from stress and turmoil and als have a positive influence on your emotional state of being. The next time you find yourself in need of a little support or a quick reset take a few deep breaths in child’s pose. This simple pose can shift your perspective in a moment or two.
Invent your own child’s pose 
While child's pose may seem pretty easy as far as asanas go, we can add our own interpretation to the pose to suit our personal needs.
When hips feel a little tight, separate your knees wide and bring the big toes together. This variation is also great if your pregnant and feel squished and confined in traditional child’s pose whee the legs are side by side. It encourages the chest to melt toward the earth and the hips to open more deeply.
When hips remain uncomfortably tight or knee pain is troubling you simply place a a rolled or folded blanket between your calves and hamstrings. 

If you feel the need to become more grounded then bring your arms out in front of you, palms down, press your hands into the mat focus your awareness into your hands, you forehead and feet pressing into the earth.
To feel more spiritually awakened and devotional try placing your arms out in front of you, turning your palms toward one another and pressing them together in prayer. Stay here or bend your elbows and bring your hands behind your head, maybe resting on your upper back if you have the flexibility in your shoulders. This also goes a lovely opening into the triceps.
For a deep lateal stretch walk hands over to the right and press your left palm into the mat while anchoring your left sitting bone down. Repeat on the left side with your right palm pressing down and right sitting bone grounded heavily .
Next  time a yoga teacher instructs you to shift to child’s pose even if your were not a big fan of child’s pose before maybe reading this will have given you a desire to explore it further and be thankful for for the benefits it reaps.


Elis teaches regulate weekly classes in Wst London and overseas yoga retreats in Turkey and India. for more information about her classes and holidays visit www.elisawilliamsyoga.comwww.elisawilliamsyoga.com

Saturday, 7 November 2015

YOGA HOLIDAYS IN KABAK NOW BOOKING 2016



We are happy to announce that the dates for our 2016 yoga holidays in dreamy Kabak, in remote Southern Turkey are now confirmed 

6-13 June, 
26 Sep-3 Oct
3-10 Oct

We are now taking reservations 

For more details about all of the yoga holidays visit 




Monday, 2 November 2015

AUTUMN PUMPKIN PASANDA

For my next one day retreat on November 21st in Notting Hill I am looking forward to cooking this Autumn favourite. Take a look at my website www.elisawilliamsyoga.com/#!/one-day-retreats for more details of this and other yoga holidays and classes  in London, Kerala and Turkey.




Ingredients

  • large pumpkin (diced and oven roasted with garlic, salt and pepper)
  • 500g okra
  • fresh ginger (chopped)
  • garlic cloves (chopped)
  • red chilies (fresh, deseeded chopped)
  • 500g plain yogurt
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • large knob of butter
  • 2 large red onions (chopped)
  • large garlic (crushed)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsps ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt/pepper to taste
  • 4tbsps ground almonds
  • 4 tbsps sliced almonds

  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 bunch chopped fresh coriander
  • 300ml single cream
  • METHOD
  • Peel, de-seed and chop pumpkin in to bit size chunks
  • Roast in a hot oven until sizzling and beginning to brown but not cooked through
  • In a blender blitz chillies, garlic, ginger and yogurt until a smooth paste 
  • Heat butter in a heavy based pan and fry red onions and okra until they begin to brown on the edges. 
  • Add tumeric, cumin, grated nutmeg and chilli powder and fry for 2 minutes.
  • Add to roasted pumpkin
  • Then add the yogurt mixture stirring continuously add salt and black pepper to taste and can of coconut milk . Cover and simmer slowly for 40 - 60 minutes.
  • Finally add cream, stir in ground almonds garam masala and cook slowly for 4 more minutes
  • To serve sprinkle with sliced almonds paprika and stir in chopped fresh coriander

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

AUTUMN WARMERS AUBERGINE STEW

To get our taste buds wetted for our impending yoga retreat in Southern Turkey and because of this prematurely early autumnal weather I have resurrected this warming Mediterranean dish for my blog and supper table.

Its always a hit on our autumn and winter day retreats too - the next of which takes place on November 21st in Kensington see One Day Urban Yoga Retreat for details of how to book.



INGREDIENTS

60ml/4tbsp olive oil
2 potatoes cut into bite size chunks
10ml/2tsp crushed coriander seeds 
2-3 garlic chopped cloves 
400g can chopped tomatoes
10ml/2tbs tomatoes puree
15ml/1tbsp sugar
2 large aubergines cut into bite size chunks
2 green peppers seeded & cut into bite size chunks
small bunch coriander
small bunch dill
salt & ground black pepper

METHOD

Heat oil in heavy pan or casserole stir in potatoes - soften & brown for 5-6 minutes
Stir in crushed coriander seeds and garlic
Add tomatoes, puree, sugar followed by aubergines & green peppers.
Cover with enough water to surround vegetables & bring to boil
Cover and cook gently for 15-20 minutes.
Remove lid and put into oven for a further 10-20 minutes to brown and thicken
Season with salt & pepper and stir in half chopped coriander and dill 
Transfers into hot serving dish and top with the remaining herbs
Serve hot with an optional dollop of creamy Turkish or Greek yoghurt, flat bread or rice

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

SUMMER LETTUCE SOUP


With a glut of lettuce on our allotment now threatening to bolt and turn to seed  at the moment it's time to blitz up a summer soup. Lettuce can be counted among the superfoods and  Cos lettuce (romaine) and its mini version, the gem lettuce, are up there at the top of the superfood list when it comes to vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fibre. 
They are a great source of vitamin A from beta carotene, vitamin K and a good source of dietary fibre, potassium and iron. If you can't find cos or gem lettuce then throw in your favourite lettuce plus some watercress to boost the nutrition.  To make it more substantial, add some avocado or broccoli and pumpkin seeds.

Serves 4 as a light starter or summer snack
Large lettuce - cos (romaine) gem, mixture of both
1 teaspoon of coconut oil
1 small clove of garlic
1 shallot, 1 small onion or 5 spring onions
600ml vegetable  stock
2-3 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
With fresh basil - add a small handful, approximately 10 large leaves
With fresh parsley - add a small handful, approximately 15g

Instructions

  1. Fry the onion and garlic in coconut oil for 5 minutes until softened but not brown.
  2. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer on a medium heat for a few minutes.
  3. Take off the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the roughly-chopped lettuce, lemon juice, herbs and a pinch of sea salt and pepper and transfer to a blender.
  5. Blitz until smooth and taste for seasoning (if you don't have a strong blender try blending the lettuce with half the stock initially before blending in the rest).
  6. To serve straight away blend with some ice cubes, otherwise leave to chill in the fridge.
  7. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and add a grind of black pepper to serve.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

HEALING FOR BACK PAIN


One of the reasons so many of us suffer from back pain is poor posture. 
Sitting with a hunched back and drooping shoulders can make the muscles in the lower back weak. Also the way we stand, walk and even sleep can cause back pain. Hence we need to make a conscious effort to improve our posture by avoiding sitting slumped in chairs and reminding ourselves to walk with a straight back.
If you have an office or sedentary job make sure you sit on a chair that supports your back and lets you sit with your feet touching the ground. Get up once every hour or two and take a walk. This will help release tension in the back, stretch the muscles in the legs and relax your eyes. Practice some chair yoga during your working day to help alleviate back pain and let you work comfortably. Take time out for brief meditation and focusing on deep breathing  to calm your mind, stay focused and enhance your productivity.
Aside from being more aware of our posture, yoga and stretching, swimming and regular walking also help in relieving the back pain. Swimming strengthens the entire back, especially when practicing backstroke and front crawl.
Walking is also one  of the best exercises to strengthen our lower backs but remember to focus on walking with a straight posture.
Another major contribution to the increasing problems our society is having with back pain is obesity. Being over weight increases the pressure on the lower back and leads to a higher risk of lower back injury. 
Eating a healthy diet eating In addition, adopting a less sedentary lifestyle along with regular practice of yoga can help alleviate  lower back pain.
While these yoga postures are highly beneficial, people 
suffering from any back injury or slip disc, are advised to consult their physician before practicing any of these yoga poses or other physical exercises.
Elisa's timetable for her West London yoga classes can be found here  public-yoga-classes

Note: While these yoga postures are highly beneficial, people suffering from any back injury or slip disc, are advised to consult their doctor before practicing any of these yoga poses or other physical exercises.












Friday, 3 July 2015

THE THING ABOUT HANDSTANDS

Kick legs in the air like you just don't care!
Doing a handstand as an adult is not, in fact, impossible or just for yogis on Instagram.



Being willing to fall down is an important part of yoga. It means you really went for something, You decided to be daring, courageous and step outside of your comfort zone. Yoga is as much mental as it is physical, and there's a constant element of play.


I was always petrified to kick up into handstand as a child , a teenager and well into my adult life. I would consider all of the potential bad things that could happen ranging from breaking my neck, my wrist, hurting myself in any number of ways. In yoga classes I felt self conscious of making a fool of myself if I constantly tried and failed. I never considered the possibility that I could press up into the pose and actually stay there. 


However eventually something happens that helped me to shift my perspective and give myself permission to fall, 

tremble and shake. I was in my forties when I managed my first ever handstand and from then on my entire practice seemed to shift with it. 

Falling out of a pose in yoga, is not failing. It's learning. Once I had embodied this I have been happy to turn my world on its head in all sorts of other ways without being gripped by fear.

Go on be courageous kick your legs into the air!


Elisa Williams teaches yoga in West London and occasionally on holidays overseas. See www.elisawilliamsyoga.comwww.elisawilliamsyoga.com




Tuesday, 30 June 2015

BEAT THE HEAT - COOLING BREATH

We're having a heatwave! 

This cooling pranayama practice was devised deep in the Himalayas, whenancient sages observed and imitated the world around them in their attempts to master body, breath, and mind. 

They noticed the curve of a bird’s lower beak, a new green leaf uncurling, and the hiss of a cobra—and emulated those shapes and sounds in a practice called Sitali (the cooling breath).

 In this pranayama, the inhalation is moistened as it passes through the curl of the tongue (described as a bird’s beak and an uncurling leaf), so that you are “drinking” water-saturated air.

Besides building breath awareness, this practice is said to calm hunger and thirst and cultivate a love for solitude. Sitali also cools the body, adds moisture to the system, and according to the system of ayurveda, soothes a pitta imbalance, common in the summer months. In addition, this practice reduces tiredness, bad breath, fever and high blood pressure.




How To Practice Sitali

Close your eyes, breathe diaphragmatically for several minutes, then open the mouth and form the lips into an “O.”

Curl the tongue lengthwise and project it out of the mouth (about 3/4 of an inch).

Inhale deeply across the tongue and into the mouth as if drinking through a straw.

Focus your attention on the cooling sensation of the breath as the abdomen and lower ribs expand.

Withdraw the tongue and close the mouth, exhaling completely through the nostrils.

Continue doing sitali for 2 to 3 minutes, return to diaphragmatic breathing for several more, and repeat the cooling breath for 2 to 3 minutes longer. Gradually you can work your way up to a 10-minute practice.

Can’t Curl Your Tongue? Try Sitkari

Sit comfortably with your eyes closed.

Gently press your lower and upper teeth together and separate your lips as much as you comfortably can, so your teeth are exposed to the air.

Inhale slowly through the gaps in the teeth and focus on the hissing sound of the breath.

Close the mouth and slowly exhale through the nose.

Repeat up to 20 times. This practice is called sitkari. 


Cautions for Sitali and Sitkari


Because sitali and sitkari reduce body temperature, they are best practiced during hot weather or after a vigorous asana or heating pranayama practice (like bhastrika).
If you have a vata or kapha constitution, sitali and sitkari may not be appropriate during wintertime. But no matter when you practice, be sure to take in air that is close to body temperature, since the breath won’t be warmed by the nostrils, ifthe air is cold, it may aggravate the lungs.