Do you know anyone who isn't busy? Really busy? Chances are you have a long list of things to do (once you've done all the things you need to do). And once you've done that, you'll find something else to keep you busy.
Radio 4 recently had a short article on how we are 'addicted' to being busy and I have to say it rang very true. As a society, it is almost a badge of achievement to say your really busy. We value you, the idea of doing, achieving, getting more things done. Really it is easier to be busy than to not be busy. But are 'busy' things distracting us from bigger objectives?
We're so used to our time being filled that I'm not sure we'd be entirely comfortable with having nothing to do. When we might actually get a chance to turn our attention beyond the daily distractions. Unfortunately stress, health dilemmas, being 'burnt out' are all modern day results. And what have we really achieved?
The idea that we are too busy to take care of ourselves, to maintain a balance in our lives between doing, achieving, and being and experiencing is a conversation we should probably all have with ourselves along our journey - regularly. Yoga practice, and other meditative practices try to encourage moving away from 'doing' and entering a state of 'being' as a regular habit. To become familiar with other aspects of our lives and see what arises as we do this. At least weekly, preferably daily, try simply 'being' for 5 or 10 minutes. Try sitting, gazing, breathing, meditating, a moving meditation such as yoga, whatever you like. Try it and see what happens...
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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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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Yoga helps us achieve improved health and wellbeing. Here are 10 things to watch out for during yoga classes to help you get the most from your yoga practice. Avoid these and your practice will be far more effective. If you find yourself doing these things, don't be disheartened - but do explore why you do them, see what happens if you mindfully avoid them, and in time you'll find the quality of your practice improves along with the benefits.
1) Avoid being late to class
If you arrive late, you are likely to be flustered and rushed. Arrive early or on time and you can settle yourself and get more from your practice. (But being late is better than not coming at all.)
2) Don't have your phone on
This is time for you, time to step outside your everyday life and ground yourself. Watching the phone won't help, and you won't fully switch off from your 'doing' mode. Plus ringing or vibrating phones can be off-putting for others in the class too.
3) Don't chat
Once the practice starts turn the focus inwards rather than chatting with your friends.
4) Don't eat a full meal before practice
It will be uncomfortable and those twists and abdominal holds will be limited by a full belly. A small snack is fine if you need to keep up your energy, but a full meal will restrict your practice and lose some of the energetic effects.
5) Don't look around during practice
The gaze is an important part of yoga practice. There is a saying, "where the gaze goes, the mind follows" - looking around encourages the mind to jump around too, and we want to try and settle the mind as much as possible. Settling the gaze, or closing the eyes for some of the postures, helps you keep your focus on your practice. Admiring the water bottle of the person in front won't help you get the benefits of yoga.
6) Avoid fidgeting
In the quest to develop our focus and attention in our yoga practice, fidgeting isn't helpful. Instead, try to notice that you want to adjust your t-shirt every time you finish a pose, notice that you want to do it, but don't react to it, don't do it, simply enter into stillness and see how it makes you feel.
7) Don't push too hard
Yoga practice should be engaging, even challenging, but if you find yourself constantly pushing yourself, then easing off slightly may improve the quality of your practice. We push ourselves all day, trying to get to work on-time, rushing around from task to task. During yoga, there should be an equal level of effort and grit but also of comfort and space in each pose (sthira and sukha). Notice your breath during the challenging parts of practice, if it isn't smooth and under your control, then it's time to ease off.
8) Don't drink in between postures
Ideally, you should come to the class fully hydrated so that you don't need to take a drink in between each pose. Yoga practice can make you warm, even hot,and this is part of the practice which we don't want to dampen down. Usually we are drinking through habit, rather than actually needing to hydrate the body, which means we have lost our focus. Keep focused, have a drink at the end, and you'll reap more benefits.
9) Don't wear jeans
They don't usually let you move freely and can be uncomfortable. Wear clothes that allow free movement. (Unless your jeans are of the full lycra variety.)
10) Don't beat yourself up
If you find yourself unable to focus, fidgeting, looking around, sipping your water, running late to class, and glancing at your phone - don't beat yourself up about it. Yes your yoga practice has plenty of room for refinement, but it is still worth doing, regular practice will help things improve, and you'll feel better for having done it!
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We are delighted to open our doors on Sat 13th September and invite everyone to join in our free yoga classes, meet the teachers and enjoy refreshments.
We are inviting you and your friends to join us, whether you are a beginner or just want to try another style of yoga or a new teacher. Everyone is welcome!
Free class schedule
11:45 - 12:45 Flow yoga with Virginie and Sheila
13:00 - 14:00 Beginners yoga with John
14:25 - 15:15 Viniyoga with Clara
15:30 - 16:30 Beginners yoga with Clara
All levels of fitness and experience are welcome to all the classes.
YogaSpace along with most of the other yoga studios across Bristol are all opening our doors for the 2nd Bristol Yoga Trail. Last year's was great fun so hoping to make this year's even better. Hope to see you there!
See the Bristol Yoga Trail website here >
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About 3 or 4 months ago a woman in her late forties joined my class who had been diagnosed with high blood pressure. She wanted to know if yoga would help and was willing to give yoga a try. She came every week, almost without fail, and enjoyed the classes. We took it gently at first, modifying postures where needed, ensuring that the practice was safe and giving her body time to get used to moving in new ways. After some practice, she took well to the ujjayi breathing, and even came to a weekend workshop to explore taking yoga further.
I had a wonderful email from her this week saying she has had her high blood pressure re-tested and it is back to normal and she credits the yoga practice for this.
However I give the credit right back to her. She was motivated to do something positive to help herself with her health situation. She was ready to make changes to her lifestyle that were contributing factors to her high blood pressure (high stress and lack of exercise). She stuck with it, even though at first she saw no tangible improvement in her blood-pressure and asked how long it would take for the yoga to 'work'. She helped her health situation for herself and she now has her own reward.
All of us have this ability within us to help ourselves and I'm inspired by students who come and practice the yoga teachings in their own way for their own aims. It does take perseverance; it isn't overnight. Often when we arrive at a class we are looking to improve imbalances or issues that have crept up over years or decades, and these won't be changed in a few sessions. But hopefully by finding a yoga practice that you enjoy you will enable the improvements to come.
Another woman in her early thirties came to my class in December. She was a British Athlete, a snowboarder, who had suffered a serious concussion and was unable to continue her rigorous slope and gym training. With frequent, regular yoga practice, she was able to continue her physical training in a way that adapted itself to her injury. She found a sense of peace of mind and confidence. Then in February she went on to win Britain's first Olympic medal on snow.
Well done Jenny Jones!
Yoga is adaptable to any injury, illness or health situation. When skillfully applied, it can be a great support and help you pave your way to improvements. The tools are varied and some may be more appropriate than others - bodywork, breathwork, meditation. No matter what your situation there will be something you can do to get started. Please get in touch to find out more or read more about yoga therapy here.
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Mindfulness - to be mindful. To be aware of each moment and to act with intention.
Christmas - beyond the religious festival it is to fill stockings, make plans, see friends and family, plan menus, arrange travel, eat wonderful rich foods etc. It's busy, fun, tiring, stressful, overindulgent, exciting, a whirlwind ... a mix of many things.
For many people, trying to maintain a sense of mindfulness when life gets hectic is a challenge most of us struggle with. Those who go to a yoga class will already have a headstart in maintaining a mindful attitude. To practice yoga is to develop a mindful body and movement with mindful breath.
Maintaining a mindful approach helps you to enjoy the whirlwind. To experience joy and gratitude for the festivities all around us. It is all too easy miss if your too busy to notice.
To help you remain mindful try setting aside as little as 5 minutes each day to re-set your intentions. Sit quietly, perhaps alone, or over a quiet cup of tea. Do nothing else except gaze softly at a blank wall, table, or natural object and settle your gaze there gently, or close your eyes. Notice your breathing, and connect with yourself for a short while. Note your intentions for the day and resolve to pursue them. Try this for 5 minutes each day through the Christmas period.
Try not to get carried away in the potential whirlwind but to stay connected to what is important to you and to enjoy the moments. If you find yourself feeling too rushed or stressed, take a few deep breaths and ask yourself 'what would my 'mindful self' do?', and then act.
Remember to take time to actually enjoy your Christmas festivities.! Keep up some yoga or other grounding practice if you can. And see you in class in the new year.
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Each week in my yoga classes in Bristol, I see people come in to class feeling tired, perhaps agitated by their day, and usually more than a little lack lustre. When they leave, there is a noticeable difference in how they are. They are usually settled, calmer, and more comfortable in themselves. A better version of themselves. They have changed.
During the class we move the body, opening, expanding, stretching, challenging, engaging and working the entire body in some way. We breathe deeply for the full class, slowing and extending the breath where possible. And we try to focus on ourselves and our breath.
I came across a fascinating talk by Amy Cuddy recently called 'Your body language shapes who you are'.
Amy is a social psychologist. She researches body language at Harvard Business School and she was interested in researching how body language not only effects other people's perceptions of us, but how it actually effects our own body chemistry.
In her research she concluded that by standing up tall with the feet apart and with the arms raised and open for only 2 minutes daily, we can raise our testosterone levels (dominance hormone supporting a confident outlook), and reduce cortisol levels (stress hormones). Simply by changing our body position in this way, we are altering our hormones and brain chemistry. We are changing ourselves to not only feel but become more powerful, confident and laid back.
In yoga classes it is very likely that you'll do a lot of arm raising like she describes, standing with the feet apart, reaching up, opening up. Also combining this with bending forwards, twisting and so on. So her research suggests that we are actually changing ourselves and our hormones in a very real way by doing this.
I took two things from Amy Cuddy's inspiring talk
- firstly, that yoga postures seem very aligned to the body changes she talks about, and that by doing them you'll actually become more confident and laid back.
- and secondly, that only a little practice, taken regularly, can make a big difference!
Pass it on...
PS. I love TED Talks!
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I've recently been inspired by reading about minimalism as an approach to living. I've been enjoying how it reflects many values that I hold close, and that I've been cultivating through my study and practice of yoga. It has also inspired me to have a really good clear out of my home!
The idea of living simply with less to enjoy life more is one that has taken more prominence for me since becoming a yoga teacher. I teach viniyoga - yoga that is applied carefully and adapted to suit those who are participating. Viniyoga embodies a minimalist approach to yoga practice. It doesn't require a super heated yoga studio, or any special kit (no blocks, belts, bolsters or even mats required). Nor does it require a certain level of fitness or skill to participate. All you need is you, your body, your breath, and your attention. In fact this is why it initially appealed to me. I wanted to start practicing yoga at home but found the foam blocks, folding chair, bolster, strap and bricks used in class rather unwieldy and off-putting to home practice, and questioned how essential they really were. Upon discovering the simplicity of viniyoga I was hooked, home practice became encouraged, and there has been no looking back.
I often do use a sticky yoga mat, but at home I'm equally happy practicing on a carpet (or even floorboards if necessary as I did last week when I was away but it's a little less comfortable). I use my body's own weight to create resistance to help strengthen and energise as I practice the various postures (asana) of yoga.
Viniyoga has a minimalist approach to the repertoire of asana usually practiced. At it's core there are a carefully selected set of primary asana, each serving an important purpose. These asana are gradually explored in further and further depth, with a deepening emphasis on breath and focus and techniques around these as the practice advances. This makes it a very accessible form of yoga practice as you can deepen your yoga practice and continue to develop without the need for a gymnast's or dancer's body. Let's face it, if you started practicing yoga as an adult, that isn't a realistic ambition for most people.
And beyond the daily bodywork and breathwork to maintain and develop our health, yoga cultivates mindful compassionate living, minimising the dependence on material attributes in our lives so that we have space to spend each day in an enjoyable, meaningful way. A wonderful way to live with amazing potential.
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Yoga practice isn't just confined to the mat. The ancient discipline suggests bringing intention to how you conduct yourself - including what you consume. So choosing to eat foods that benefit you both inside and out, are part of practicing yoga throughout your day. But how to do this and still enjoy what you eat?
I love quinoa (pronounced 'kin wa') which is a grain originally from South America. My friends are bored of me saying how great it is and coming up with new and interesting ways of eating it, so I thought I'd share my favourite recipe with you in case you hadn't discovered it yet.
It also happens to be the International Year of Quinoa as designated by the United Nations as it is so easy to grow and so nutritious. It isn't just a grain, it is a seed packed full of protein, calcium and all things good. Its delicious (when spiced up a little), nutritious, good for you and our rather lovely planet. Anyway, jump on the band wagon and try it!
Spicy Quinoa Salad
1 cup of uncooked quinoa
2 cups of boiling water
2 cloves of garlic
1 red pepper
1 cup of cooked sweetcorn
1 tin of black or adzuki (or any other) beans drained
1 tsp hot sauce or chopped chilli
1/2 tsp cumin powder
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
handful of fresh chopped coriander
Step 1: Cook the quinoa. Add the quinoa and boiling water in a pan, put the lid on and simmer for 10 mins, then turn off the heat and leave for 10 more mins with the lid on. Then fluff with a fork and allow to cool.
Step 2: While the quinoa is cooking, lightly saute the onion, garlic and red pepper, and cook the sweetcorn.
Step 3: Mix together the sweetcorn, beans, hot sauce, cumin, lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and coriander.
Step 4: Once the quinoa has cooled enough, mix all together in a big bowl and enjoy!
Check out this great quinoa recipe site
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