Dear Yogi/ni friends,
A new year is upon us, a new term too and I suggest that we turn our focus to our foundations to help ground us for the year ahead. This January I ask you to consider one of the most physical foundations of our practice; Our feet.
Our feet are often highly underestimated. The feet in yoga are literally our stabilisers. They help us by being supple but strong, in balance yet also flexible.
Of course one of the most important exercises for the feet and the easiest, is walking around barefoot. If you watch a toddler learning to walk you will see their toes flexing in what seems like a random pattern; this is the body learning to balance. We get out of touch with foot to brain connections when we walk around in hard shoes, so when possible, walk barefoot.
In Hatha, Ashtanga and Iyengar yoga, If we align our feet accurately, our legs are then energised into alignment and from this into proper pelvic alignment ( mula Bandha ) and so on throughout our bodies. This can feel wonderful. When our feet are in alignment it can feel almost as if we are floating, particularly in mountain pose when we lift our toes and make sure that all four corners of each of our feet presses evenly into the earth. Like this, our bodies, even with our eyes shut, can feel still and tall with little effort at all.
Warming up the feet is always a good idea. One effective exercise for warming up the feet is to place a tennis ball under your foot pad and slowly roll the ball the length of the foot along each tendon while applying pressure.
It can also feel good to spread your toes completely apart, and then try to bend each toe independently of the others; simply trying to do this, whether or not we achieve it, is helpful. When in a standing posture it can also be useful to pick up your toes, spreading them completely apart, and then to place them back down which can create a lovely energy in the feet and legs.
As we progress in our practice we will notice that a well toned foot is one of the best tools for balancing and for promoting good body alignment.
Here’s to happy feet and happy practicing!
Classes start on Monday 07 January and continue to our half term break on 15th to 22nd February.
I would like to thank you all for your commitment to me and to your practice in 2018. Wishing you and your families a safe and joyous Christmas and a fabulous year ahead for 2019.
In gratitude 🙏🏻
Sent from my iPhone
Of course it’s the holiday season coming up and life often becomes that much more busy, doesn’t it? Even though yoga asks us to slow down, our work or study schedule, household chores, and family responsibilities don’t stop and seem to increase come December. This can also be a very lonely and isolating time of the year, which of course is stressful as well! Fitting in yoga often means a pay off that we might be reluctant to do.
It might mean giving up some of the morning TV, swapping half an hour’s sleep for some stretches and meditation, or spending a Sunday afternoon preparing meals so you can fit in a weeknight class and still get fed, or perhaps more likely, ordering a take-away instead.
Unless you’re on a wonderful yoga retreat or living in a remote monastery, yoga is always going to be a physical practice that you will try to fit in around responsibilities as well as a mental attitude to try and keep, so that stress doesn’t invade your inner-world.
I’ve tried to come up with some of the easiest ways you can fit yoga into a busy schedule as well as gain more mindfulness and peace so that you can enjoy the festive period when you’re away from the mat.
1. Live with a yogic attitude. Don’t think of squeezing in yoga, think of living yoga. It doesn’t always have to be on the mat, just in the present moment ( and then the next one which you notice and the next, and so on ).
2. Breathe it. You don’t stop breathing, so there’s no reason to call a halt to your yoga. Being conscious of your breathing at any time and in any situation will remind you of some of the sensations you’ve experienced when you were deep into a yoga pose or wallowing in blissful meditation. We take so many breaths, yet notice so few of them! All that we need to choose to notice, and to enjoy a conscious breath.
3. Be a mountain. Your posture will thank you for standing tall and siting straight with your shoulders back and down! Engage your Mula Bandha and feel the energy rise along the spinal column. Tadasana is standing strong like a yogi; you can do it anywhere so you might like to remember to practice it at the checkout.
4. Eagle-Wrap when you can. We can all wrap our legs when sitting on the sofa and it also works if you slide slightly forward sitting at the table at any festive dinner. Don’t forget to relax while you wrap!
5. Do yoga in the shower. Try to stand and relax in Tadasana with your back to the shower head. You can try to squeeze your shoulder blades back and down, which will open your chest, and you will be able to feel the water running down from the back of the heart like a waterfall. You might then like to fold forward into Uttanasana and let the water run over your spine or face the water, lean back a little and let the water massage your heart space. Take your time.
6. Practice mindfulness. We must remember that we can be mindful at any time and regardless of how long we stop for. Even if you can’t stop your busy-ness, all you have to do is choose to be mindful while you do what you’re doing.
7. Choose yourself. As busy people we make so many choices each layabout how we spend our time and energy but we seldom choose ourselves. Choosing to prioritise ourselves at this time might be what makes us better friends, family and people.
8.Practice gratitude. Practice your gratitude to yourself and to others each and every day.
Wishing you a peaceful start to Christmas.
Term ends on Thursday 20 December. New term starts on Thursday 03 January.
Dear yogi friends,
The days are getting colder and many of us fall prey to the winter blues. It is so much easier to be active during the warmer seasons when the weather encourages us to be outdoors. But keeping up with our yoga practice gets harder when we move into autumn and winter and yet it is so important that we do not let it become an excuse to stop caring for our bodies.
There are many reasons why yoga during the colder months is helpful to us.
First of all, yoga helps to protect our respiratory system with consistent breaths, it heats the air through the nasal passage before it enters the lungs. This limits cold air from entering the body and reduces the chance of our lungs feeling constricted.
Secondly, deep breathing, using a rhythmic breath can help reduce any nasal congestion and clear out any mucus in our sinuses.
Yoga also helps us increase our body temperature; the internal warmth and the feeling that we get after a yoga practice can radiate for the rest of the day.
More intensive poses and practices can also help you sweat out toxins to avoid winter illnesses. Yoga activates the sweat glands, it cleans the kidneys and assists our liver function which will all help us prevent catching a cold.
Additionally, we spend the cold months swaddled in layers of clothing, which can restrict movement. Our yoga practice gives us the chance to open up our bodies, particularly with heart or chest opening poses, this can give you an important sense of space inside your body.
For the more mature amongst us, or those with medical conditions such as joint problems, winter can increase chronic joint pain. Flow-based forms of yoga such as Vinyasa can help improve circulation, which will then loosen up stiff joints and increase the mobility of our limbs. Many of us have problems with the circulation in our extremities and yoga is very good at getting the blood pumping to our cold fingers and toes.
Also remember that Bikram or hot yoga is a great option during the colder times. Even for those of us without access to a Bikram training facility, it can be as easy as turning the heat up in your living room and carrying out a home-based hot practice.
One thing to remember is to avoid leaving the studio or home immediately after your yoga practice. Winding down for 5-10 minutes with shavasana before heading outdoors will let the body cool down naturally and help you avoid circulation restriction, tight muscles and importantly muscle injuries.
And lastly, don’t forget to bundle up comfortably before you head outside! I look forward to greeting you with warmth and positive energy this winter term.
Our sessions start up again tomorrow 29 October.
I’ll look forward to seeing you back on mat.
Dear yogi friends,
Eastern philosophy holds that there are five different elements within nature and which are reflected in the cycles of our bodies. All of us have 5 elements and they are each arranged slightly differently within us. The elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Each element is related to its own season, emotion, and organ system.
Autumn correlates with metal, the Lungs and the Large Intestine. Its strength is balance and its virtue is fairness or justice.
As we know, metal is heavy and condensed. It also draws downwards, like a plumb line and represents a stillness and slow pace which is not found anywhere else in nature. Like in the Autumn where the trees begin to draw their forces back into their centre, and the leaves give off a final dance of colour before their wintry goodbye, metal is associated with the coming and going of life, the end of cycles, the rhythm of our breath and also of getting rid of waste via excretionary actions.
It is important to refocus our awareness of our relationship between the seasonal changes, our feelings and emotions, our health and the way we live our lives. Working against the natural to and fro, up and down of life can create unease and imbalance.
The Lungs are associated with the emotion of grief, they are connected to the skin and body hair which are part of our immune system, working very closely with other organs to maintain a sense of balance in the body. It is during this time of the year people more likely experience asthma, allergies, colds and flus, develop stress related skin issues, bowel disturbances, depression and anxiety.
At this time of year, rest and relaxation are needed for our immunity, for essential renewal and also for emotional balance. To support the metal element inside our bodies going to bed early and getting up at dawn will help conserve the body’s chi. By conserving our spirit, by doing regular yoga practices and eating nutritious foods we can adapt and cope with the changes in our environment.
Slow inhalation and vigorous exhalation, activating the lungs by dispelling stagnant chi as well as using Bhastrika (bellows breath) will both generate prana to activate the entire body while building immunity.
Our asana practice can include revolved poses which help circulate and increase prana in the lungs as well as inversions and inclining asanas. Inversions help the body get rid of impurities and fill the body with radiance. They also bring strength, firmness, and clarity of mind. Life is always changing and we should be willing to work with its natural flow. Metal is a malleable substance because it can be formed and transformed many times without losing its identity. We too can, as we discover our own sense of self as well as the value in others. To appreciate the preciousness of each breath and to begin drawing our energies inward to prepare for the longer and colder months ahead.
During the month of October as we set our intentions for our yoga practice, we might want to, as we take a deep full breath in, let go of the things in our lives that no longer help or assist us. We may want to contemplate what is important to us at this moment, recognize the value in those that we meet and to notice the diamonds in the wayside.
We can begin to feel the solid structures of our bodies. The bones within us can be noticed, and as we provide gentle stresses to them we can stimulate their growth, and increase the spaces between the bones where our breath moves. This is a practice of embodying our yogic experience and connecting to what is deep inside. Just like the leaves on the trees we can learn to be okay with letting go.
I look forward to seeing you in class this season and working together to let go of what we do not need.
Dear yogi friends,
Asana translates as “posture.” The word is derived from the sanskrit root “as” which means “to be”, “to stay”, “to sit”, or “to be established in a particular position. When we think about yoga asana quite often we picture a set of shapes that can be made if we follow certain alignment principles. There’s no doubt that this can be really beneficial for many practitioners. However so often it can have the result of alienating and frustrating the student when they feel that they are not able to arrive at the perfect place.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra describes an asana as having two important qualities: sthira and sukha. Sthira is steadiness and alertness, Sukha refers to the ability to remain comfortable in a posture. Both qualities should be present to the same degree when practicing any asana. This is achieved when we think beyond asana, beyond the shape as a definitive and think of our practice as an opportunity to explore inner landscapes with a quality of self-reflection.
Normal class schedule resumes on Thursday 30 August:
Hatha yoga flow – St mary’s Church 9:30 – 10:45 am.
Vinyasa flow – Market Square 7:30 – 8:45 pm.
Gentle Hatha – Market square 6:30 – 7:45 pm.
I hope you have all had a great summer and i’ll look forward to getting back in the yoga groove with you.
> As the seasons change, our bodies move through a natural ebb and flow that creates balance within us. Such changes are normally influenced by the features of the seasons: the hours of daylight and sunshine that we get, different foods which are more available at these times of the year, weather movements, and the various activities inspired by each season. > > Although our bodies adjust to these changes by themselves, it doesn’t hurt to integrate some small modifications into our routine to assist the transition and align ourselves more closely with the season that’s upon us. > > SUMMER > The summer months are full of light and warmth, this year in particular, and the energy of a great summer radiates at a high vibration. To balance this, we must try to cultivate cool and calm inside the body. > According to Ayurveda, which is the Indian approach to science of health, summer brings about the pitta dosha. Pitta is driven primarily by the solar energy, so in summer, it is important to calm the natural pitta inside our bodies so that we aren’t going out into the hot outdoor climate with the same internal energy. In doing so, we can enjoy the full excitement and joy that summer brings, without being overwhelmed by too much of one energy force. > > One of the best ways to encourage equilibrium in your body is through your yoga practice. Moon Salutations may help to achieve this balance. Supported Backbends such as Bridge Pose with a yoga block beneath the low back can also be good or a Supported Shoulder Stand with a blanket or towel under the shoulders to let your neck dip off the edge. Equally, Floor Twists seated or lying on your back can bring about a cool calm. > > All of these poses send a wave of calm through the nervous system and assist the body’s attempts to restore balance. > Of course breath work is also an important part of our toolkit. Although we have not done this in class, Single-Nostril Breathing is an easy to learn breathing technique. This technique isolates one nostril and during summer months we target the left nostril, called the Ida Nadi which is known as the body’s cooling channel and is found on the lunar side of the body. Close the right nostril gently with one finger and breathe in and out through the left nostril for 5-20 breaths. > > Food is another important component to balance the body; it metabolizes our efforts from the inside out. Whilst Ayurvedic cooking might not be for all of us, some of the suggestions used for summer eating are likely to make sense to even the most hardened British culinary aficionado. It can help to eat vegetables and fruits which have a high water content: melons, cucumbers, and leafy greens. We can also keep food light and cool, avoiding those that are dense and heavy, and ones that you need to cook for a long time (or at all). Of course, drinking enough water is always important but also we can try to incorporate herbs and spices that reduce the pitta dosha, including mint, fennel, cumin and coriander. > > Although our bodies often instinctively crave balance as the seasons change, it always helps to offer them a bit of gentle assistance.
Summer term ends on Wednesday 01 August.
Just a gentle reminder that the only running class this school half term week is the Tuesday evening Hatha Yoga class 29 may – 6:30 – 7:45 pm Market Sq.
Monday Vinyasa class tomorrow evening 28 May ( bank holiday ) & Thursday morning Hatha Yoga class 31 May at St Mary’s will not be running this week.
Normal schedule will resume on Monday 04 June.
Have a great bank holiday Monday and if you have a few minutes to spare, watch my very dear teacher Simon Borg-Olivier in an interview about movement as medicine for modern life…! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NX0JVtoPU_o
Without movement life is unthinkable – Unknown
Nothing happens until something moves – Einstein
Namaste beautiful Yogis,
Just a short reminder about the class cancellation tomorrow:( Most of you know that one of the areas most neglected in my life during the past year has been my own practice! One of my teachers once told me that in order to be a good teacher, one needs to first be a good student and master the art of negation. So i have decided to take a few days off and catch up with my own practice.
In the science of yoga this self practice is referred to as “Niyama” which deals with our attitude toward ourselves and lifestyle, how we interact with the people and the environment, and how we deal with our problems. These all form a part of yoga, but they cannot be practiced. What we can practice are asanas and pranayama, which make us aware of where we are , where we stand, and how we look at things.
I’m sorry about the interruption in your weekly practice and look forward to seeing you all next Thursday.
I hope this finds you well. Just a quick reminder that the new term starts tomorrow…..
Monday 09 April 7:30 – 8:45 pm – Market hall – Dynamic flow to awaken the energetic body and spirit through a potent combination of creative asana and pranyama.
Tuesday 10 April 6:30 – 7:45 pm – Market hall – Teach your body alignment and your mind stillness .
Thursday 9:30 -10:45 am – St Mary’s hall – Release habitual tension from you body & mind. This class will welcome you back to your body and encourage a greater focus.
Please note: Tuesday 8:00 pm vinyasa class will not be running this term….! As most of you know this class was originally formed to take the overflow of the Monday vinyasa class, but as the numbers in the Monday class have reduced to a comfortable degree, I have decided not to run this class. My sincere apologies to the few regular practitioners in this class.
I hope you all had a good Easter and look forward to seeing you back on your mats – Here is a thought for you…….
“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then i can change.” – Carl Rogers – and – “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom.” – Anais Nin