10 Breaths of Focus Everyday (As a Tree)

Everyone needs a bit of time to focus everyday whether it be in your yoga practice, meditation, yoga nidra or simply lighting a candle it helps to bring us back to centre. In particular, in Yoga this is what balancing does for us, I love this story about the late BKS Iyengar:

 Iyengar visited the San Diego Zoo in 1990, he was struck by the effortless aplomb of the flamingos. He pointed to a gaudy pink bird as it balanced on one foot, steady as a boulder. Oblivious to its squawking neighbors, beak tucked under its feathers, the flamingo was fast asleep. Surveying the group of yoga teachers accompanying him, Iyengar playfully challenged them: “Can you relax like that?”

I would be impressed if we could but as humans the answer to that one is no! To balance we need to focus entirely, focus our gaze on one unmoving point, focus our mind and control our breath 5 breaths on each leg.

I’m going to use the example of Tree pose I think it a massively underrated pose with many variations and is a preparation to a fab forward fold pose. People breeze past tree pose in class and pay it little amount of attention unless you really have trouble with balancing then it is your nemesis, I teach it in power yoga but I also teach it pregnancy yoga what better to teach a woman ready to labour the skill of focus and breath work? Tree becomes the most challenging in postnatal yoga, your child isn’t bothered with what you’re doing until you start balancing then you become the most interesting climbing post ever – that definitely tests you.

Tadasana-tree-pose-700x700So, How to? Root a foot down to the ground what this means is press each toe into the ground, the pads of the feet, the whole heel and the edges of the foot, now imagine there are roots growing from your foot anchoring you into the ground, voila its impossible to fall!

Find a focus point for your gaze, about eye level a few metres in front of you only look a that point

Breath! when people really concentrate on balancing they tend to hold their breath try to focus that concentration ON your breath instead

Then if you can handle all that try to crack a smile 🙂

Even if you have no time for a yoga practice try a tree pose everyday 5 breaths on each leg to calm and centre yourself, once you’ve cracked standard tree that try these variations:

  • Palms together above the head then open to shoulder width, then shoulder height and back to prayer position at your chest.
  • Hippy Tree – arms shoulder height then twist upper body to one side then the next.
  • Tree at night – Close your eyes! Totally stole this one from Waybaloo (thankyou cbeebies)

 

 

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I’m Just Here for Savasana

1620852_867062869983582_6747647173543097708_n-300x200Some people might not know this but Savasana, or relaxation, at the end of class is still part of your practice and is actually an Asana.  Savasana or Corpse pose (lovely) is just as important as the rest of the practice and maybe one of the hardest for a lot of people. Personally I love it but it took me a long time, learning to completely switch off and relax into the floor is more difficult than you think. I see students in class jigging the foot and know they aren’t enjoying it but then I hear a snore and know there is always someone else who is.

So the basics; lie on your back, eyes closed, arms out to your sides palms up. Let your fingers gently curl have your legs straight and feet relaxed. That’s the externals on the inside you need to clear the mind don’t think about what you’re going to have for tea or what plans you have tomorrow.Think about nothing – not so easy. So here are a few tips to help you along the way:

  • Do a full body scan – consciously relax each part of your body starting at the forehead and continuing down.
  • Start your savasana with a deep breath and let it out in a vocal sigh or a yawn and will that release feel yourself settle down.
  • Get as comfy as possible – lavender eye bags, blankets, or a bolster under the knees
  • Count your breath – if all else fails and your mind is still whirring try counting your breath to bring your focus in. Inhale count 1234 exhale count 123456. Making your exhale longer than the inhale helps you to relax.

So next time you are in class try to connect with your relaxation there are so many benefits it helps to relieve stress and insomnia, combats headaches and gives you time to appreciate your practice. Enjoy savasana in every class!

Power Yoga Wednesday 7:30pm Horsforth

I Love Slippers

I got some new slippers! Big whoop I hear you say? Well it is because these Mahabis slippers are cool.

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These are slippers with an innovative design they look sleek and modern an are super snuggly. The back section is made of a grippy neoprene type fabric which means they never slip off or the can be folded down do create a slip on shoe.

Where these slippers differ is the sole, it is removable, flexible and comes it lots of bright colours.

I’ll be honest when I got them I thought that’s a great gimmick but I’ll never wear them out – how wrong I was! I wear them out to the garden to get logs for the fire, I wear them to the local shop and I definitely wear them to yoga class. They are particularly great for going to yoga as I go bare foot and the Mahabis slippers are lined with sheeps wool and are so warm its crazy. I can’t stop wearing them

Yoga Fashion & Function

Until recently I pretty much wore anything that was comfy and not too scruffy when I went to teach a class, then I decided to splash out on a full Sweaty Betty outfit that that was made for yoga and that was it! I didn’t spend the whole class readjusting my vest or bra, my leggings don’t split after a few wears – a revelation its worth spending the money! So here is a few of my favourite items if you need some inspirations

The Power of Greyskull – Geo Leggings – http://www.thepowerofgreyskull.com/

Sam_Geo-0396These leggings are handmade in Cardiff, I love them I always get compliments and because they were handmade I had them made to my leg measurements and with a ‘sports crotch’ insert which makes them perfect for yoga I know they will stand the test of time they come in many jazzy and quirky prints and cost a measly £32.95 what’s not to love!

Sweaty Betty – Brahma Bamboo Yoga Bra – http://www.sweatybetty.com/

sb1502a_granitegreyThis is such a comfy bra (£40), the bamboo is so soft it doesn’t dig in at all. The straps are delicate and feminine and still supportive I also like that the padding is removable, basically you can’t go wrong with anything from Sweaty Betty.

Grizzly Love – Buddha Tshirt – https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/GrizzyLove

il_570xN.382328534_gfhlThis  an American shop but the designs are funky and the fit of the tops (£16) are great, loose yet flattering. They also do mens clothing, leggings, beautiful jewellery and even kids clothing so the whole family can match if that’s your hearts desire.

Need some Mala beads to help with your meditation?

11401557_940150979341437_2113132281035206510_nHow about these beauties (£25), 108 beads made of white jade and lava stone White Jade carries the properties of turning dreams into reality and inspiring one to accomplishment. Lava Stone embodies strength and fertility, and helps to dissipate anger. Handmade with love by me.

Yoga & Chocolate – Always a good thing

12122761_1016076075082260_6026556747889618105_nLets face it most people like chocolate but what I’m talking about is the 70% or above dark chocolate, you know, the good stuff! Everyone knows that when you eat chocolate it releases endorphins in your body which make you happy, exercise also does this so chocolate after yoga? Double happy hit!

I mainly give chocolate to my pregnancy students as its a very relaxing class and having a bit of chocolate after class helps ground my students and give them the energy to get home safely but here are some more benefits as everyone needs a good excuse:

Its Nuitritious – 100gms of dark chocolate contains 11gms of fibre, 67% of the RDA for Iron, 58% of the RDA for Magnesium and plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium.

Dark chocolate is loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols, catechins, among others.

Dark chocolate may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease

Dark chocolate is anti  inflammatory – Studies have shown that your gut bacteria can break down and ferment the components of dark chocolate thereby turning them into anti-inflammatory compounds that are great for your health

The list goes on:

–  Anti-diabetic
– Anti-obesity
– Anti-carcinogenic
– Anti-thrombotic
– Improves gastrointestinal flora
– Reduces stress hormones
– Improves liver function for those with cirrhosis
– Reduces symptoms of glaucoma

So go eat that chocolate or at least take it to yoga!

Yoga Mama – Babywearing & Yoga

10469321_780116175344919_2853778744238495148_nI’ve been running a Postnatal yoga class now for about 2 years its focus is on mum rather than baby with Asana chosen to help with pelvic floor and core strength and to heal common problems such as split abdominal muscles. My fellow Yoga Mama Lindsay and I originally started the class so we could take our boys to work and noticed there were no classes that focussed on mum! So Yoga Mama was born! The original idea was to be a babywearing class so the sequence was based around the ability to wear baby in a sling so where to start?

Finding the Right Sling

The carrier that works best for you and your baby may change as your baby grows. Seth was in a stretchy wrap for about the first 6 months it was the most comfy and easy for me but some people can’t get on with it. I bought an Ergo which as great but once Seth moved onto my back wasn’t happy with it so moved on to a Podeigi and woven wraps, in my opinion wovens are the best if you can deal with the art of wrapping there is a world of beauty out there for every price range.

For help with all kinds of Slings you can contact Nicola at the west Yorkshire sling library she is amazing and does great workshops http://wyslinglibrary.com/

Where does this fit in with Yoga?

Either new or experienced Yoginis can see its going to be harder trying to do yoga with the extra weight strapped to you also the possible bulk of the sling used. Asana are easier with baby on your back but the fact is mums who come to postnatal yoga usually have new babies so its front wearing only, this means you need to:

  • Leave space for baby  – just like you would have when you were pregnant always taking it more easy in poses than you may want to.
  • Leave space in your shoulders – you will have straps over your shoulders so in poses you would have palms together above your head always leave shoulder width apart.
  • Be Prepared to bounce – lets face it babies get bored so you may need to move in your asana; bouncing, swaying or jigging baby. Hey, its an extra workout!

Babywearing allows you to stay close to baby and enjoy everyday life knowing they are close and safe, baby gets to interact with the world at the same level as you and see the world either through your face or as you see it from over your shoulder, what could be better?

Coming next….. Yoga poses for Babywearing

Ashtangi Prengado’s and Pregnadon’ts

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So you’ve just found out you’re pregnant? Congratulations! But you want to continue your ashtanga practice what do you do? Here is a guide to help you adjust your practice with baby in mind:

SOFTEN YOUR BREATH

Ujjayi breath is still great and can be a great tool for relaxing yourself and your baby if done more softly instead of to create heat.

YOGA NIDRA

Yoga relaxation is awesome in pregnancy, during labour and postnatal for you and baby. Check out this great resource to learn breathing techniques or just to help you relax and our fabulous workshops.

http://www.yoganidranetwork.org/downloads

http://www.yogakulaleeds.co.uk/workshops/yoga-nidra-workshop/

ARE YOU SITTING COMFORTABLY?

Use as many props as you can in any asana to make sure you are fully comfortable especially in savasana (you are fine to lie on your back up to 30 weeks)

TAKE IT EASY

This is the most important and probably the hardest, whether you are a beginner or nearing the second series the advice is the same do at least 30% less than you would usually do. Try to put your ego aside and picture making space for baby in each asana. Try to keep feet hip distance apart.

MAKE SPACE FOR BABY

Avoid deep twists as a general rule it’s good to go the opposite way to everyone else so you are in a nice open twist with plenty of room in the abdomen area. Avoid any asana that involves a heel in the belly (eg half lotus). When forward bending don’t push yourself as far forward as you can, focus instead on lifting and lengthening the spine.

NO JUMPING

If you are used to jumping in vinyasas you need to step instead, jumping puts too much pressure on the pelvic floor muscles and too much stress on the cervix.

WATCH OUT FOR THE RELAXIN

During pregnancy your body releases a hormone called Relaxin, this makes your body much more flexible but also means it is easy to over stretch this means that your ligaments and tendons will not rebound and can cause uneven wearing of the cartilage in later life.

ENJOY YOURSELF

Enjoy your practice, try to be mindful of yourself and the baby you nurture, use chest opening asana to promote easy breath and take time to let yoga help you focus on yourself and your baby.

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