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5 Reasons Yoga Makes You Happier

June 21, 2012

  1. Yoga relaxes the body and the mind.  It helps you focus on the experience, preventing the mind jumping around and becoming anxious about the future or the past.  It encourages you to focus on the present moment, the most important moment and enjoy it.
  2. It surrounds you with like-minded people, people who are positive and happy, making you feel happier. You have no doubt felt how draining it can be to be in the company of negative people.
  3. The less intense forms of yoga like Hatha yoga give your body the opportunity to restore itself from the stresses and strains of daily life.  Attending just one class a week can help balance your life and make you feel more grounded.
  4. It teaches you how to bring more energy into your day by concentrating on your breathing for a few moments.
  5. Yoga encourages you to be kind to yourself and dedicate a little time towards caring for yourself.  This sense of inner joy can be addictive. Yoga teaches you to  accept you, love yourself and  respect your mind and body.

5 Simple Ways to Relax & Unwind

May 4, 2012

1.  Just Breathe.  Begin by observing your natural breath. Don’t change it in anyway. Just observe the rhythm of the breath as it flows in and out of the body. Notice the length of the breath, the temperature of the air as it touches your nostrils, the cold air entering the nostrils and the warm air leaving.  Notice the pauses between the breaths. If thoughts arise just allow them to pass by like clouds in the sky, gently bringing your attention back to your breath.

2.   Breath Counting.  If you are finding it difficult to concentrate you may find silent counting helpful. Begin by observing your natural breath and then count 1 as you inhale, 1 as your exhale, 2 as you inhale, 2 as you exhale and continue up to 10.  When you reach 10 you can repeat the cycle. After a while you may be able to stop counting and just focus on your breath.

3. Chant Mantra. This Sanskrit manta is a powerful way to quieten your internal dialogue but you may choose any words that have meaning to you.  As you inhale you say ‘om’ and as you exhale to say ‘shanti’ which means peace. If thoughts arise concentrate on the sound and the vibration of the sound in your body.

4. Mudra.  These are also known as finger powerpoints.  This simple exercise involves chanting and mudras to promote focus and clarity. Do do this exercises it is suggested you sit upright on the floor or in an upright chair.  Rest your hands on your knees with your palms facing upwards and close your eyes.

  1. Touch your index finger tip to the tip of your thumb as you chant Sa.
  2. Touch your middle finger tip to the tip of your thumb as you chant Ta.
  3. Touch your ring finger tip to the tip of your thumb as you chant Na.
  4. Touch your little finger tip to the tip of your thumb as you chant Ma
5.  Practice relaxation techniques whilst doing other things.  Mindfully follow your breath whilst commuting to work on a bus or train, or when queuing in the supermarket.  Chant a mantra whilst doing housework or mowing the lawn.  Try counting your breaths as you walk your dog or walk to the car.
Once you have learned these techniques you can practice them in the office or in the park at lunch time.

5 Ways Yoga Can Assist With Weight Loss

February 18, 2012

1.  Willpower.  Practice strong balances to improve your concentration and strengthen your willpower.  This will help provide you with the willpower to make healthy eating choices and resist cravings.

2.  Mindfulness.  Practice mindfulness by focusing on your inhalations and exhalations for 5-10 minutes daily.  This will improve your concentration helping you focus on what you are eating at meal times. You will feel fuller after meals and your digestion will improve if you don’t multitask when eating.

3.  Breathe.  When you feel the urge to snack, first breath out for a count of 6 and breath in for a count of 3 a few times to calm the body and mind.  With a clear mind then consider what you are really hungry for. Are you stressed, bored or may be just dehydrated.  Dehydration can often be confused with hunger.  If you are still unsure, drink a glass of water and then reassess how you feel.

4.  Energise the body.  Move away from weight loss goals and move towards what makes your body feel energised.  Eat wholesome unprocessed foods, keep moving, get plenty of fresh air and natural daylight.  The best way to lose weight is a combination of reducing your calorie intake and increasing activity, however, moderation is the key.  Foods with a high glycaemic index keep you satisfied for longer and stabilise blood sugar levels.

5.  Balance your metabolism.  They thyroid produces hormones that balance your metabolism.  If the thyroid is unbalanced your energy levels will be low and you will find it almost impossible to lose weight.  Extreme low calorie diets cause these situations.  Several yoga postures relax, cleanse and energise this area.  Whilst performing the bridge, shoulder stand or plough focus on the breath to cleanse and energise the thyroid at the back of the neck.

5 Yoga Mistakes

February 5, 2012

I have practised yoga for over 30 years and as you can imagine I have made numerous mistakes along the way to become the person I am today,  imperfect but with far more understanding than I had previously.  Here are 5 of my yoga mistakes.

Comparing myself to others.  I used to often spend time comparing  the strength, suppleness and balance of other students to myself.  However, I found the more time I spent doing so the less progress I made in my on practice.  When I stopped watching others and focused my mind and energy internally on my own practice I achieved more.

Trying too hard.  I was one of those students who in Baddha Konasana (Cobbler)  pressed the knees to the floor with all my might to achieve the pose. However, I only got there when I learned to relax and soften the stretch.

Giving up too soon.  My first tutor love Bakasana (Crane) an arm balance. I had weak wrists at the time and used to make just a feeble attempt. I preferred deep stretches as I was supple.  My tutor encouraged me to keep trying and I will never forget the sense of achievement when my feet lifted and I achieved my first Bakasana.

Wishing for things to be different.  I still do this from time to time, wishing I had more time for my own practice or meditation.  Yoga is not about creating the perfect life it is about enjoying life’s journey and your life just as it is right now.

Being over critical.  Generally we are more critical with ourselves than we would ever be with our best friend.  In yoga I found my body respond more effectively when I focused on what I was doing well rather than being critical about my imperfections.

5 Ways To Deepen Your Yoga Poses

January 27, 2012

  1.  Practice.  This may sound too obvious but when you are looking to deepen any yoga pose you do need to practice it regularly.
  2. Hold.  Hold the pose, just slightly longer than you would normally.  This enables you to feel the subtle changes within the muscles as you move towards the edge of your comfort zone. However, you never go over that threshold into the pain zone.  The aim is to gradually extend the comfort zone.
  3. Relax.   Maintain the strength in the large muscles that are being used in the pose whilst relaxing the small muscles that are not being used.
  4. Breathe.  Breathe in deeply making space within your pose and as you breath out deepen your pose, e.g. twist a little further, bend forward a little more.
  5. Let go.  Sometimes it is necessary to stop trying too hard. Letting go of any expectations. The deeper poses will come in their own time.

5 Tips for Improving your Yoga Poses

January 22, 2012

Here are five tips that you might  find helpful in improving your yoga poses.

1.    Find your roots.  This means pressing the four courners of the feet into the floor in standing poses.  In Downward Dog it is the feet and the hands that are your roots.  In seated poses, your sitting bones will ground you.  A strong foundation enables you to feel strong, stable and safe.

2.    Lengthen your spine.  Your poses will feel light and be much safer if you keep your spine elongated.

3.    Lengthen your tailbone.  This will prevent you sticking your bottom out and allowing your ribcage to fall forward.  Check that your tailbone is lengthening, your bottom is not sticking out and that your ribcage is in line.

4.    Firm your thigh muscles.  Firming the thigh muscles prevents you hyper-extending the knees and injuring them.

5.    Relax.  Find your edge and then relax off a little.  In this way you prevent injury and can hold the poses for longer.

5 Ways to Protect Your Knees

January 13, 2012

During lessons this week in Wilmslow and Alderley Edge we took a look at the alignment of the knees and I thought the following tips from Yoga Journal may help provide a reminder of how to protect your knees when practising yoga

1 Avoid hyperextending. When joints are overly mobile and flex too far back, they’re hyperextended. In the knees, hyperextension often occurs in poses in which the legs are straightened, such as Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) and Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), putting an unhealthy tension on the ligaments. If you’re prone to hyperextension, keep a slight bend in the knees during standing poses and keep your weight evenly distributed among the four corners of your feet. In seated forward bends, place a rolled-up sticky mat or towel under the knee of the extended leg or legs.

2 Start with your feet. Proper alignment through the feet is the key to building strength evenly in the ligaments on both sides of the knee; when all the ligaments are equally strong, the kneecap glides effortlessly up and down and the cartilage doesn’t get worn down. Separate your toes and press actively through the four corners of your feet in every pose, even inversions. If your feet are out of alignment, your knees are going to suffer.

3 Keep your knees in line. When moving into deep knee bends, such as Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II) and Parsvakonasana (Side Angle Pose), first align your bent knee over your ankle, then draw your kneecap in line with your second toe. Maintain awareness in your back foot, pressing down evenly, while lifting up from the arch of your front foot. If you let the arch drop, the knee falls inside the big toe, and you’re set up to suffer a number of different kinds of overuse and acute knee injuries.

4 Build strength by balancing. Balancing poses, especially those that require moving through a bent standing leg, such as Garudasana (Eagle Pose), are especially beneficial. Very dynamic balancing protects the knee against future injury by training the functional alignment, not just working the muscle.

5 Be prop-friendly. When it comes to seated asanas, nothing makes a tight knee happier than a bounty of props. In Virasana (Hero Pose), try raising your seat with blankets or a block. Anytime the knees are deeply bent, such as in Balasana (Child’s Pose) or Ardha Matsyendrasana, pressure can be relieved by placing a rolled-up washcloth as far into the knee pit as possible before bending the joint.