Yoga offers us a chance to take practices that will help make our body and mind stronger, more stable and less rigid and allow them to come back to a more harmonious and well-balanced state of being.
If your a beginner to yoga, you may have an advantage to those experienced in yoga practice. You come to class being open and curious to what is about to happen. The uncertainty of not knowing what you are going to be doing in your class, the unfamiliar postures and ways of breathing all demand an attention and a focus to pulling it off. There is an openness and natural effort, and less expectation. These are qualities that are essential ingredients in cultivating a healthy body and mind and enabling all that yoga has to offer to unfold for us.
Without the right attitude of attention and alertness in our yoga practice, our mind and body will stay in its usual patterns. Most of us are creatures of habit -- we're slouching, breathing poorly, thinking about the same old stuff (e.g. what is for dinner or mentally shopping for whatever has captured our attention...) -- all habits that we aim to change through yoga practice.
Once we become experienced at yoga breathing, posture, technique and focus we can lose that fresh edge and that natural effort. We can become comfortable, perhaps complacent, or develop more unhelpful habits rather than less.
The freshness of the beginner is a gift and something experienced practitioners may need to strive to retain in each yoga practice. Those with experience can become mechanical and repetitive as they practice during class, missing the potential of each posture and each breath. The full physical and mental harmony available by taking simple practices, can be missing for the experienced practitioner.
As beginners to yoga we often feel like we don't know what we are doing. We should see this as a gift. Familiarity in yoga postures, breathing and the mechanics of meditation can be a double edged sword. Trying to maintain a 'beginners perspective' will help to benefit more fully from each practice.
Is picture above simply another beautiful sunset, simliar to ones you have seen before, or the start of an unexplored and unique day ahead...
Beginners and those with experience, bring along your beginners mind to our new Beginners classes starting with our new 7-week term which gets started June 5th.
Most of our day is spent doing things we are comfortable and familiar with, the routine of daily life, perhaps along with a few challenges and changes throughout the day. But what if we routinely asked ourselves to do things that we didn’t think were possible? Things that perhaps took us outside of our comfort zone.
Your response might be ‘why on earth would I do that’? But why wouldn’t you try new things, and extend yourself into new experiences? These are the things that will show you what you are truly capable of, and it is probably more than you realise.
'Thinking' is the key word here. Our minds maintain comfortable boundaries for us, often for good reasons. But do we get complacent? Remind yourself, the way kids do so naturally, that exploration, challenge and being comfortable with feeling uncomfortable are an essential means to extending yourself and leading on to a more fulfilling life. Even when your thinking mind tells you that it is impossible.
A good way to rediscover your potential is to start with small daily practices to remind you and demonstrate to yourself that you can do more than you think you can. Yoga practice is one of the ways we can do this.
What is you started to explore a posture that at first seems impossible. But with daily practice, and approaching it with sensible steps, you might just amaze yourself and remind yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to.
Warning…Your mind will say:
“You can’t, what you are thinking? You’ll never be able to do it, it’s a waste of time.”
(notice your mind doesn’t say watching 3-hours of tv is a waste of time …)
Then your mind might say:
But your response could start to be
“I may not be able to do it, but I can start to work towards it.”
Then get on your yoga mat or to your yoga class and get started. A weekly class is a good start. Then maybe talk to your teacher about a small home practice - which is even better as it brings positive daily habits into your life and the outcomes can be greater than you ever imagined…
Have a clear out
Have a physical clear out. Sort out a room, a cupboard, perhaps even just a drawer. Empty it out and only put back the things that you use and need. Creating physical space is a wonderful way of feeling more spacious internally too.
Let go of something old
We need to let go of something old first. Perhaps move on from a commitment, a habit, a club, a stagnant relationship, anything that feels like it isn't positive any longer and not worth reinvesting in. Re-assess your commitments and see what would be worth replacing with something more positive and vibrant.
Take a moment to count your blessings. Feeling grateful each day is a wonderful practice to cultivate. It enables you to appreciate what you have, to re-envigorate your enthusiasm for them, and importantly, to break the cycle of always wanting something that you don't have. Gratitude can help you feel more spacious and avoiding taking on more things that you may not actually need. Hey, I have opposable thumbs, thank you!
Move and breath
Yoga and other embodied meditative practices are wonderful at creating a feeling of physical and mental space. They support you to physically become stronger and de-compress yourself, enabling your body to be more more stable and move more easily and naturally - ie. feeling more spacious. Easing out tensions, stresses and blocks enables us to feel more comfortable with ourselves. And using the mental discplines of breath focus, moving and still meditations to allow us to let go of unhelpful thought patterns and feel mentally spacious and open are all essential to our wellbeing.
Notice the present moment
Practice being in the present moment more often. We often spend our days carrying around old memories and worries, or bring along anticipations and fears of the future, and perhaps feel burdened and weighed down. Try letting go of these and practice appreciating and fully experiencing each day and moment as it unfolds.
I always love reflecting on the Dalai Lamas 18 rules for living this time of year too.
Happy new year!
Yoga classes have begun to polarise. From the fast and sweaty vinyasa flow and Ashtanga yoga, to the restorative and Yin yoga classes that have emerged. They seem to be on two ends of a wide spectrum of modern postural yoga classes.
People turn to yoga for a range of different reasons. Perhaps you've come to it to feel stronger or more flexible, or you enjoy the heat and sweat that it can build. Perhaps you enjoy the stillness and calm that it offers, or the good nights sleep it gains you. You may have an injury or pain that you are looking to sort out, or perhaps you just want that elusive feeling of wellbeing. They are all good reasons to practice yoga, and finding the right approach for your practice is more than just the immediate feeling it leaves you with. Your practice should leave you feeling better than when you started, and progressively better in the long term.
You may be surprised that I even need to state this. But I regularly speak to practitioners and even yoga teachers who switch between two extreme styles of yoga practice in an effort to keep themselves balanced.
Taking a strong vinyasa class supplemented with a Yin or restorative class seems a simple contradiction in approach. It's nice to change pace and explore from time-to-time. But to pursue the challenge and energy which then leaves you needing restoration to enable you to continue this cycle seems worth reflecting on. It is a cycle we often undertake in life which we then replicate on our yoga mats.
Yoga practice is for the long term. It should support your primary aims as well as deepening your sense of internal balance with consistent practice.
The balance of yoga doesn't begin on the mat, it beings before you get there, with your intention and choice of how to practice.
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It wouldn't have been nearly as much fun without you so thanks for coming along and sharing our day of free yoga classes. Whether you tried Virginie's challenging flow class, or the beginners classes, we hope you enjoyed the day and took the time to chat with the teachers.
Our September term is now underway so please do come back and join us. We hope to see you again soon.
Come along and join in our free day of yoga classes at YogaSpace on Saturday September 12th.
Classes are free and mats are provided, so simply turn up and enjoy. Classes will be multi-level and there will be time to chat and meet the teachers before and after too if you want to.
We have 4 classes to choose from
10:00 - 11:00am Hatha Flow yoga with Virginie
11:30 - 12:30am Beginners yoga with Mischa
13:00 - 14:00pm Viniyoga with Clara
14:30 - 15:30pm Beginners yoga
Classes are open to all and we recommend you arrive 10 minutes early to get a mat and chat to the teacher. Free refreshments will be provided too and we would love for you to come and share this day with us.
Simply wear loose or stretchy clothing that allows free movement. Mats aren't needed but if you prefer to, you can bring yours along.
If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch, but otherwise, come along on the 12th and we look forward to seeing you then!
Tell you friends and save the date :-)
Sunday is World Yoga Day as designated by the United Nations. The UN "recognises the holistic benefits of this timeless practice and its inherent compatibility with the principles and values of the United Nations."
The system of yoga was developed thousands of years ago and has been one of India's greatest gifts to the world.
The human body and mind work far better with with regular use, and yoga offers a system of exercises, practices and teachings to enable the body and mind to achieve the greatest health possible.
Some of the practices are rather esoteric and may not suit our western culture as well, but many of the teachings and practices are applicable to everyone and a great way of improving our health, strength, energy, awareness and becoming able to live a full life. Tune the instrument of your body and mind and see what becomes possible.
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1) Listen to your body and be comfortable
Make sure you feel comfortable in all the poses and during breathing or meditation. Adjust to use more blocks and talk to the teacher about how to make it comfortable if it isn't. Perhaps lie on your side rather than on your back as your bump gets bigger (should be fine up to about 30 weeks but see how it makes you feel) and encourage yourself to take easier alternatives that are offered, especially during your third trimester.
2) Take it easy
If you are a beginner, then this will be easier for you, but if you are an experienced practitioner, you'll need to really focus on doing less than you are used to and practicing slightly differently. You want to stay strong and supple during your pregnancy to avoid common aches and pains, but be careful to avoid over stretching (see below) or straining.
3) Make space for your baby
Stand with the feet wider than your hips and be careful not to squash your bump or feel any pulling in the abdominal area. Forward bends are still wonderful to practice as long as you keep the legs wide, bend the knees and go as far as feels right for you. Avoid deep twists in the abdomen, keep any twisting lighter and 'above the bra strap' so your shoulders are twisting comfortably, but not your belly. Consider twisting in the opposite direction so the twist is more open in the belly area. Don't push yourself into anything.
4) Start any time after 13 weeks
The sooner you start, the more benefit you will gain and any time from 14 weeks is a safe time to join in. And you can continue all the way through as long as you feel good and keep enjoying the practice.
5) Keep your spine lengthened
Keeping your back in great shape will help support you all the way through your pregnancy. Focus on keeping your spine lengthened in asana and use your 'chin lock' (jalandara bandha) to help keep your spine and back of the neck long.
6) Be careful of over stretching
Your body is producing a hormone called Relaxin during your pregnancy which makes you more flexible. You might find you can stretch further than usual, but don't be tempted to take advantage of this extra stretch. Your tendons and ligaments won't thank you later if you stretch too far. Don't stretch 100% in anything, hold back a little and be cautious.
7) Engage your pelvic floor
Great to tone this area in advance of your labour. On the exhale, think about lifting and engaging your pelvic floor.
8) Avoid straining the abdomen
If doing leg lifting, only lift one leg at a time, not both, and be aware of the extra strain the abdominals are under and that they need to be more protected during this time. Talk to your teacher if your not sure.
9) Choose your class carefully
Your yoga teacher should have specialist pregnancy training, but you don't need a specialist pregnancy class unless you want one. (The British Wheel of Yoga offer a good standard of accreditation for pregnancy yoga training).
A good class should be small enough so that the teacher can adjust the poses to ensure they are suitable as your body will change through each week of your pregnancy.
The class can either be a general class that will adjust the poses for you, or a specialist pregnancy class, whichever you prefer.
If your tired, consider a daytime yoga practice when you have more energy.
10) Enjoy the class
Yoga practice should feel enjoyable and leave you feeling energised, relaxed and calm. You can keep it up as long as it feels good and doesn't leave you feeling over tired. Enjoy...
See more on yoga classes during pregnancy here.
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They aren't entirely sure why, as you don't get puffed in the same way that you do doing more traditional cardiovascular exercise. But research suggests it is true and believe it is due to the combination of exercise and stress reduction.
According to the research, yoga leads to weight loss, lowers cholesterol and cuts blood pressure. And it even helps you quit smoking.
The research involved 2,700 people and also found that regular yoga practice reduced blood pressure 3x more effectively then taking pills.
"Yoga may provide the same benefits in risk factor reduction as traditional physical activity such as cycling or brisk walking". Says researcher Myriam Hunink of Erasmus University and Harvard University.
Maureen Talbot of the British Heart Foundation said "any physical activity that can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease should be encouraged, and the benefits of yoga on emotional health are well established".
Brilliant, get yourself to a class or start your home practice today!
See our class schedule here and get in touch to find out more.
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