Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Looking over my scrapbook

I’m very excited that I’ll be launching my new website very soon. This one’s been good for me; it’s just time for a little pre-Christmas tidy up, complete with new shoes and hair.
What’s been so fun is going back through all of my content over the last couple of years. I get to immediately associate where I was at that time and what was going on in my life, a bit like looking back through a scrapbook.
It’s true that when we’re on this journey that we often don’t take time to look back and admire the view. That’s because we’re always thinking that we have to move forward, to get further, higher, deeper, whatever. I am very guilty of this particular desire. It’s almost as if we have to “schedule in down time” as my friend likes to call it.
That in the end is a bit like skipping Savasana. It feels like it shouldn’t really matter, however, it’s the thing which matters most, the pose which is most challenging and most transformative. Plus, it is so honest to goodness de-lic-ious.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Root to rise and rise again

In the traditional which I’ve immersed myself in we rise up the chakras. We root to rise. I make that note because not all traditions would have it that way. There’s nothing wrong or right in this, it’s just perspective.
So we start at the Muladhara chakra, the root. If you’ve ever studied Maslow’s hierarchy of needs it’s a striking similarity. We need certain things for our safety and security before move up through the Chakras. It’s like building a house if our foundation is shaky, it’s not going to be very stable or hold us well.
We tend to bypass this need in our society because we tend to thing upwards is best, we look up to people and rise up the hierarchy. What I find, however, is that everyone can benefit from going right back to the root, to what makes us human and to remember that many of us don’t have that stability in our life. You only have to look across to the Middle East to see that.
That is to say that we don’t need to get stuck in this Chakra, there is great beauty in the balance between rooting to rise. When we have a solid foundation we don’t need to be stuck there, we can start to look upwards and enjoy all that life has to offer.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Spinning the wheels...

Over the next few weeks I'm going to be taking a journey through the chakras. It's a journey I've taken before, yet with each review more is revealed in this very ancient wisdom. Chakras are said to be vortexes of energy, each having their own special feeling. Like those moments when you've been sitting in a room and someone says the most inappropriate thing. The energy suddenly changes. That's how you know you're tuned into your perception, we can all feel that awkwardness.

Once we begin to understand the chakras and how they work individually and in relation to the other chakras we can start to interpret why we seem to get stuck in certain situations. So if we can't hold down a job or are always short of cash, that's our body telling us that something is out of sync. Because chakras can be either too open or too closed, we're looking to fin balance. We can also note that they are not linear in nature, our crown chakra may be well balanced at the same time as our heart chakra is sputtering like a Catherine wheel which hasn't got going.

My understanding of the chakras first began after I was involved in an experience in which I felt as if I had literally been uprooted. That's honestly how I felt, like all of a sudden everything which I felt was solid, wasn't and I had to find a new way. In that moment I had a choice. The choice to go and plonk myself where I had always been or to go and find some soil which would nuture and support me in a way which would give me the zip and life I want.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Shakti Sistas are go!


It's been building for a while and at long last I'm stoked to announce the birth of the Shakti Sistas. Now, let's get one thing clear: I have a lot of Shakti Sistas, and bothers, mothers, fathers and every relation inbetween of the Shakti persuasion.... It's a fun group of people I know. And who knows where this partnership between will go, right now it's us, we're looking for recruits.

I'd like to say there was a vision brought unto us as part of some kind of group Dyanic experience. There wasn't, this is what happened: My friend, Claire and I had a conversation along the lines of:

Claire: Let's teach a workshop
Adele: Yeah, like totes, let's teach inversions
Claire: OMG yeah, let's do it

So cut to three months later to this conversation, just after our Heels Over Head playshop:

Adele: Dude, that was really fun
Claire: Yeah man, let's do it again
Adele: Done deal

OK, it might have been a little more measured and a little less High School Musical. You get the gist.

Sometimes life is that simple. That's Lila, divine consciousness at play, which was great for our Heels over Head Playshop. Sometimes life rises up to meet you without any need for grasping or control. Which is a direct quote from my Sankalpa, intention, when I set it in the summer time. Which is handy since that the subject of our first event as the Shakti Sistas, a one Sub-Urban retreat in the new year - Set aside your expectations, set alight your dreams. 

Join us, it's gonna be like totes amazeballs.

To book your space, email Claire (please be quick, place are already going...)

And please join out Facebook group to join the Goddess revolution and be the first to hear what's happening!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The name's hero, super hero

I saw this cute picture last week of two window cleaners, halfway up the side of a children's hospital, cleaning the windows. It was so sweet to imagine the gaping children inside. You know that it's all some of them will talk about for the rest of the day and it will be a magical memory they'll hold forever in their hearts.

What's so beautiful is that those guys were only doing their job. Yet, that day, or maybe they do it all the time, I don't know, they took the ordinary and turned it into the extraordinary. They created magic just for those kids, just because they can.

We hold these limited views of ourselves, that we are not enough. The more yoga we do, the more we set aside those ideas and just allow our light to shine with ever more power. Because it's true, we are all heroes and not, David Bowie, just for one day. We all have it within us to change someone's day with the way we interact in the world.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Me and my mat

My husband just asked why I insist on keeping such a clapped out old yoga mat. I guess it’s because we’ve been through a lot together.

We only got together by mistake because I left my other one somewhere on a train between Brighton and Lewes. I hope someone picked it up and loves it just as much as I did.

We’ve been together in Cornwall, Chalk Farm, Copenhagen and even on honeymoon in Crete. Aswell all those other places which don’t begin with C. Most of the time though, you’re happy to hang out in the spare room waiting for the next practice.

You have two foot prints from a thousand Addho Mukka Svanasana, Plankasana, Chaturanga Dandasana, Urdva Mukka Svanasana and back to Addho Mukka Svanasanas. And a few black marks from writing class plans in flow.

You’ve supported me in Addho Mukka Vrksasana Pincha Mayurasana, Sirsasana, Sarvangasana, Halasana, especially in my less than elegant dismounts. Not to mention a hundred luxurious Vipariti Karanis.

We’ve spent all of our training hours together. Including when we almost split up because you wouldn’t let me hide under you and escape my final teaching exam.

You’ve been rolled out, rolled up and flung in a corner countless times. Yeah, I think we’re going to stick together a bit longer yet. You know too much.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Sewing the seeds


As we enter what I affectionately refer to as “vata season” I find the need to tune in and really listen to what my body is telling me, as opposed to what I would do BYE (Before Yoga Era): become erratic, run around and not focus on anything in particular.

If you’re not familiar with Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science here’s a quick run down. Ayurveda treats the whole person as an individual, we are said to be made of three parts to create our unique constitution: pitta (fire), vata (air), kapha (earth). We are born, live and die with this constitution so the more we understand about it and our propensities within it the more we can live balanced and harmonious (sattvic) existence. If we choose to, free will is a whole other discussion.

The point being, that while we made up of these essences, so we see it revealed in the nature we find around us. Autumn and spring are particularly vata times, there’s a lot of change happen, quite literally (eh-hem) a lot of wind flying around. And since I'm particularly vata, I feel this season particularly. We can feel scattered and thrown to the four corners. The beauty of aryuveda is that one doesn’t treat this as such, it merely provides us with a whole range of tools which we can use to bring more balance.

So for me that means, porridge and stews. It means warm drinks. It means a grounded, slow practice. It means time on the sofa under a duvet enjoying my favourite books and giving myself space for contemplation. Because as autumn is a time to slow down it is also the time we plant the seeds we wish to gestage and then grown in the spring. So it’s the time to turn inside and give space for your creativity to be sewn.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Peek a boo


This week, as I’ve continued my delve into the Bhagavad Gita <small plug for my other blog> the idea of concealment and revelation has been, well, if you’ll pardon the pun, re-revealed to me. I’m assuming a general understanding of the story of The Gita, if not, stop reading this blog and instantly go and get a copy now. I have Easwaran, however, I’ve also heard good things about Stephen Mitchell’s translation. The books I'm using to support my study are Ram Dass' Paths to God (a truly transformative read) and Dr. Douglas Brooks' Poised for Grace.

One of my favourite scenes is when Krishna reveals himself to Arjuna in his entirety. It’s one of the moments which draws me back time and again to The Gita and I’m amazed every time I see it repeated throughout every culture’s literature. My first, aha on that was when Macbeth sees Banquo’s heirs down the ages revealed to him by the three witches in Macbeth. That one truly stopped me in my tracks and made my mouth hang open! It’s like we’ve been given little sign posts along the way just to gently just our conscious mind into remembering. Today I had a hit when my IPhone shuffled its way to David Bowie, how could I forget how great that music is?

The point is this. Forgetting is in no way a problem because forgetting is an entryway into remembering what we already know. It’s the moment when your brain grasps onto something and starts wheezing because it’s desperately trying to recall something, that’s the moment of revelation. That’s the moment of friction between concealment and revelation. That’s the edge we get to play.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Alone with everybody



The thing about yoga is that you don't get to do it alone. Even though I spend so much time on my own. There is a difference between being on your own and being lonely. Let's face it, yoga is a solitary endeavour, we do it in our own little mat, sometimes we break up into partners, mainly we're in our own body and mind. I practice mostly on my own, I plan my classes on my own, when I teach it's me up there at the front on my own. The whole purpose it to go inside yourself and know you better.

So how come I never feel lonely? I never feel lonely because this is a very ancient practice, millions have walked it before me and millions will walk it afterwards. When I chant, I chant words which have been spoken through the ages and will continue to be sung because of the power in their resonance. When I'm lucky enough to be in a crowd in a class there is an energy which lifts everyone. When I read a text, the words have been read and spoken so, so many times.

I am connected through this practice. We are all connected.  

Monday, 17 September 2012

Embrace your inner Goddess


I've been contemplating the cycle of the three goddesses of late: Kali, Saraswati and Lakshmi. It somehow helps is I place myself at any one time within their realm and understand "oh, that's where I am now, huh, so this is what I need to do".

If you're not familiar with the three goddesses, here's the lowdown:

Kali is your mother when she's really mad and fighting your corner. That's right, you wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of her.

Saraswati is the one Bridget Jones always wanted to be. Organised and structured, she's in charge of music and literature.

Lakshmi is bountiful beauty, when I want to bring something into my life I look to Lakshmi, she's the
nectar. She is abundance.

What I love about these three girls is that they are all within me at any one time. We move through
the cycle because none of them work alone. We have to have fierce, raw power to destroy that
which we no longer need. Then things become a little clearer and we start to organise and plan.
After that, we get to enjoy the fruits of our labour. It helps me a lot to accept things when it all goes
a bit pear shaped, the motivation and tools to rebuild and remain humble when my dreams come
true.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

A small confession

I have a little confession to make... I've fallen off the practice bandwagon -*shock*. I know it happens; I’m not flaying myself with a birch branch about it and I know our practice ebbs and flows, that’s just how it is. However, I have noticed how it’s affected my life in some very specific and clear ways:
 
Goodbye energy:  I can’t focus, I’m down, my get up and go has got up and gone

Goodbye awareness: Conscious eating is out of the window, think before I speak? – not so much, getting gnarly about the small stuff is on the rise
 
Goodbye fun: there’s a heaviness to everything, a desire to sit under my mat not on it, I haven’t phoned a friend in a while

Interesting isn’t it. The thing about yoga practice is that when you start it’s like a hit that lights you up for days afterwards. Then after you get accustomed to feeling happy and bright most of the time it’s a huge imposition to not get that feeling. Then you get a bit complacent about it and think, it’s cool, I’ll get back to that in time. Then all of a sudden your mats in a corner gathering dust.

‘nough said. Less blogging more mat time.

Monday, 20 August 2012

A little thank you

I was reminded of some words from Elena Brower today: “when stuff happens I think about how I can teach this, I par it down to one sentence and refine it. Then I ask how can this be of service to others and I teach that”.

I’d forgotten these words and I’m so happy that I was reminded of them. Life deals some curve balls, stuff we didn’t expect, stuff with think is unjust, stuff which just makes you angry at the world. These words reminded me of two specific things that I’m profoundly grateful for.

Number one: that somehow I have access to this great mass of yoga philosophy through some truly phenomenal teachers. It’s like having my own personal satnav to help me find where to go when things gets really tough. Somehow my brain clicked right into it and I remember it, that’s how I know it’s serving me. I’m so grateful for that.

Number two: that I get to teach people yoga. That I get to take my experience and offer it back out into the world in a way which might just help someone, or at least that’s my intention when I teach. That in a small way have to look at my own response and work really hard to find the lesson, the nugget of gold. I’m so grateful for that.

Thanks Elena.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Celebrate good times!

It's been a brilliant couple of weeks, whole montage of human endeavour and emotion which the whole nation has got behind and supported. It's been an absolute pleasure.

Now we get to hit the pause button and just celebrate a little bit. It's so often that we don't allow ourself a moment to enjoy. Hands up who's skipped out of Savasana early? Yep, me too.

So I declare this week at week to simply bask, rest on your laurels and hang out in your favourite restorative pose for as long as you please! Enjoy, there's the rest of your life for working!

Monday, 6 August 2012

How a Doula Can Help a New Mother after Birth


I'm delighted to introduce this guest post from Katie Moore on how a doula can help a new mother...

When an expecting mother is nearing the end of her term, the benefit of having a doula, or labor coach present during the birth of a child becomes clear. With her experience, a doula can bring to the forefront the personal and individual aspects of childbirth, which can help enrich a mother’s overall birthing experience.

Likewise, a post-partum doula can help enhance a mother and newborn’s experience after birth. It may surprise some expectant mothers to know that the knowledge and skills of a doula can help them well beyond the occasion of birth itself. A doula's scope extends to the whole of the child-bearing experience, not just on what to expect during delivery and for assistance in make decisions on options available, like pain management methods, umbilical cord blood banking, immunizations and circumcision.  Indeed, a doula's greatest gift can come after birth in fostering a bond between a new mother and her child.

After giving birth, it is inevitable that a woman feel tired and overwhelmed. The experience of labor will have left a mother exhausted. Babies often need more attention than their exhausted mothers can afford to give right away. New mothers themselves require help with things they could ordinarily manage on their own. In these circumstances, a doula can provide the helpful knowledge that can allow a new mother to bond with her infant, and to insure that both mother and child are comfortable and well.

A post-partum doula can be a new mother's best source of information about baby care. Unlike baby nurses or nannies,
doulas are trained to care for both new mothers and infants, and they are familiar with the problems and questions that can arise just after birth. A doula can help get a mother through the difficult post-birth period with less worry than she might experience on her own. With the knowledge and the skills the doula shares, the mother becomes more confident in caring for her baby. The transition becomes a smooth and a joyful one.

Confidence in her own ability to care for her new baby may be most important gift a mother receives from a doula. A woman in the care of a doula in the time after giving birth is in a position of learning from a sensitive teacher what her child needs from her. More than that, a doula's care can put a mother at her ease, making her a more relaxed, more receptive parent. When her mission is successfully accomplished, the doula has prepared the mother for her new role as a capable and happy parent.

Katie Moore has written and submitted this article. Katie is an active blogger who discusses the topics of, motherhood, children, fitness, health and all other things Mommy. She enjoys writing, blogging, and meeting new people! To connect with Katie contact her via her blog, Moore From Katie or her twitter, @moorekm26.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

How Yoga Can Improve Your Sex Life

I'm delighted to introduce, Lisa Redding's guest blog on how yoga can improve your sex life...

There are many reasons to practise yoga, and many short and long-term benefits. They include better general fitness, improved mental focus, increased energy levels and decreased stress along with a myriad of other mental, physical and social benefits. Did you know that yoga can also improve your sex life?

It is not a common reason to begin practising yoga, but many people find it is a welcome, if surprising, extra benefit. Many people find that practising yoga leads to an increase in their sex drive and in better sex. People can find that they have better orgasms and more emotional closeness during sex. Couples who have been having problems with their sex life can find that yoga helps them rekindle their old desires. There is even evidence that yoga can help men who have been having problems with premature ejaculation.

Connections
There are some fairly obvious superficial parallels between yoga and sex. Both are activities that involve physical, mental and sometimes spiritual effort together. Yoga’s ability to help improve the mind and body in various ways should, by reason, also help improve someone’s sex life. There is, however, more to it than that. Studies have found some very specific connections between practising yoga and improving one’s sex life.

Physical Effects
Yoga improves general health, and so it is likely to improve general sexual function. Benefits of yoga can include improvements in the cardiovascular system and better muscle tone, which tend to just make our bodies work better in general. Better blood flow through the body can lead to more intense orgasms and can help men maintain better erections. Being more flexible can mean being able to try out more sexual positions. Being stronger can mean you can cope better with the physical demands of sex, and have sex for longer. Practising yoga regularly can often mean you have more energy in general, and of course, that can be useful during sex.

Certain yoga poses can have quite specific physical effects, especially the Mula Bandha, or root lock. This acts in a similar way to pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the muscles around the pelvis and genitals, making them stronger. In women in particular, that can help lead to explosive orgasms.

Mental and Emotional Effects
Yoga’s physical effects, such as having improved orgasms, are also linked to the mental and emotional effects – as you would expect, given that the connection between mind and body is so fundamental to yoga practice. On a quite basic level, yoga tends to led to increased body confidence, which can lead to increased sexual confidence. Practising yoga also helps people focus on intimacy when they are having sex. This is where yoga links to tantra, although that does not mean that practising yoga means you will have tantric sex (although it could be a good place to start). However, practising yoga means that you tend to be better able to clear the mind of chatter and negative thoughts, and focus better on the connection between you. When the mind and the body are fully relaxed, sex tends to be more intense and emotional.

Yoga has also been shown to help men with premature ejaculation. One study compared the effectiveness of yoga with the drug fluoxetine (Prozac - anti-depressants are often prescribed for premature ejaculation) on men who suffered from premature ejaculation, and found it to be more effective. The men in the study practised a number of yoga poses for three months, and were found to have general improvements in their sex lives as well as being able to delay orgasm. It seems that yoga can help people have a healthy sex life in both general, and quite specific, ways. Some people might find that their sex life improves as a side-effect of yoga, but yoga can sometimes be used as a treatment for sexual problems.

While you should see plenty of benefits to your sex life from practising yoga separately, practising yoga together could become, like sex, part of your life together as a couple. Some yoga poses need two people to work together to help each other, and doing that together can help build trust in each other. Yoga should not be seen just as a tool for having better sex, but as part of a holistic approach to improving your lives, both individually and together. Though naturally, better sex can be a very enjoyable part of that!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Today's post is brought to you by the number 7...

It’s 3:42am on 8th July 2012 and I’m called on to write, I will not be able to rest until I do. I have never wished to speak about my experience on 7th July 2005 while I was going to work except in the most private of situations and I don’t wish to express it now. We all have our stories that we all carry with us. Our experience, like tiny shards of coloured glass, make a stained glass window for light to stream through in the most unique way. It is who we are, this experience is part of who I am as much as everything else which has happened to me. It is me.

Seven appears to be symbolic. Seven anniversaries have passed since what happened that day. These seven years are bookended by my country winning the Olympic bid and now being ready to deliver The Games. Seven years and my body has completely renewed itself of all its tissues. I am literally a new person. Yet I still carry the experience in every fibre of my being. What I left behind on that train made space for me to carry what my friend and hero once described as my 52 silent friends.

Words never really seem enough and yet, words are sometimes all there are. Always when I have felt like I had nothing left to give, I reached out for help. When I thought there was no help, I reached out. When I didn’t know I needed help, it came. While I sit here now I realise I had the words, they already exist and have done for centuries, they dropped into my head this morning and have been repeating themselves in my mind all day.

 

लॉका समस्ता सुखिनो भवंतु

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bavantu

"May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and my the thoughts words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom for all"


May -  this is my intention. I may not get it every moment of every day. However, in the act forgetting is the act of remembering. I will ease up on myself when sometimes, oftentimes I miss the mark.

All beings everywhere - even just within myself this asks much, yet this is what I truly believe I am being asked to step up to do. Can I accept all parts of myself: the part which forgets, the parts which gets angry, the parts which I try and hide. All of me. And all beings, that’s harder still. Every single being is here because they are meant to be. When I don’t except parts of me, when I pretend some beings are separate from me I become disconnected. When this happens, the darkness has won. If I miss one of those shards of coloured glass, light cannot shine fully through me. Therefore, I welcome and acknowledge all parts of myself and all beings.

Be happy and free
- It is our nature to be happy and free. Even on days when it feels inappropriate or our outward expression cannot be one which is joyful. We are in the uniquely privileged position of a human birth. Happy and free is what we are, this what we are meant to be. This is the light which shines through the window of my experience. Even when my window gets dirty and the light isn’t so bright, it is always there. I will shine my light.

And my the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute - thoughts, words and actions are powerful. Thoughts are unmanifested words, actions are words becoming reality. What I think, say and do is important. I choose to the best of my ability to choose my thoughts, words and actions carefully with the knowledge that I am happy and free, just like everyone else.

In some way - “No man is an island, entire of itself. Each man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main” - John Donne. My thoughts, words and actions make up part of the consciousness of humanity, a part of our collective stained glass window. We are many and we are one.

To that happiness and freedom for all - As much as my nature is to be happy and free, so is it every other being on the planet. Every single one. To ignore one is to diminish all.

To my 52 silent friends, I carry you with me always. And I set this intention for you.

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bavantu

Monday, 2 July 2012

Balancing on the paradox


The 12 segments of the Zodiac keep turning and we find ourselves deep within the Cancerian section of the zodiac. I take a peek at star signs occasionally to see what I can learn. Cancerians are known for being a bundle of contradictions, living life on the turn of their emotions. The yogi learns to balance these contradictions in the eternal paradox that it means to be human, which is: how can we be in the body and yet be free? That’s what spiritual practice is for.

Because, if we can find a place where two seemingly contradictory things meet, we have found the place of balance. And that’s the place where freedom resides. This is quite literally why we do yoga poses. The further away we take ourselves from where we feel centred, standing upright, to turning ourselves upside down, eg handstand we completely change our perspective and have to move into where it feel uncomfortable. That way, we can find our way back, whenever we get taken off centre, by whatever life throws at us. I love the quote by T.S. Eliot, one of my favourite explanations of this eternal paradox:

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Play time!

This week it's mainly been about rocking out on my yoga mat and everyone I meet. At least to the best of my abilities!

The Sanskrit word for this is lila - play. That’s what I’ve been doing my best to embody, why? Why not? Who doesn’t want to have more fun in their lives. The other day I was visiting my three year old nephew and his mum called him in to brush his teeth. His response - “I’m too busy mummy”. He was too busy lining up cars. I had to leave the room and take a little walk I was shaking so much trying not to laugh.

Man, I want that feeling! When nothing else matters except what you’re doing right now. Not who you were yesterday or what happens if you don’t do whatever it is perfectly. Because really none of that stuff matters, because there’s nothing you can do about it anyway. All you can do is do whatever you’re doing completely, presently and with a full heart.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Prenatal Yoga – How it Can Benefit You and Your Baby


I'm delighted to introduce, Lisa Redding's guest blog on the benefits of yoga for soon to be mums...

The holistic approach of yoga means that it is an exercise designed to benefit both mind and body – both of which come under huge strain during pregnancy. For women who want to keep fit, get toned and strengthen their muscles then yoga is a gentle exercise that is safe throughout each trimester. But aside from the physical benefits, the spiritual nature of yoga can also create a calming, harmonious effect on the mind that helps mums-to-be remain stress free throughout their pregnancy. This, of course, is also essential towards maintaining a happy mother and healthy baby. 

Here are some of the ways in which yoga can benefit pregnant ladies and their unborn babies:

Exercises
Yoga poses, or asanas, often involve holding a pose in a way that strengthens muscles and improves flexibility – both of which can help make the labour process much easier. By elasticating the ligaments and improving flexibility, women are able to adapt positions easily which minimises labour pain. Some useful asanas for pregnancy include:
  • Pyramid (Parsvottanasana) – This works the pelvic muscles, encouraging and expanding the area in order to ease delivery. It can also help relieve stiffness and lower back pain.
  • Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Shavasana) – This helps reduce fatigue by increasing blood flow to the brain. It also helps decrease swelling in the legs and ankles.
  • Bound Ankle (Baddha Konasana)  – This helps exercise the pelvic floor muscles and also corrects the pressure of the uterus which can occasionally cause water retention.
  • Daily Squats – Performing a daily squatting routine alongside your asanas can help open the pelvic muscles and bring strength to the upper leg muscles.
All of these poses are suitable during the first, second and third trimesters.

Breathing
Breathing exercises, or pranayamas, are key in performing exercises successfully and remaining centred, focused and relaxed. During pregnancy, this deep form of breathing improves the circulation of blood around the body which is good for mother and baby. It also increases the amount of oxygen to the body which can help relieve aches, pains and nausea.

Breathing techniques are also helpful during labour. Deep, slow, heavy breaths enable the muscles to absorb more oxygen which can help reduce the pain of contractions. In addition to this, deep breathing helps the mother to remain calm and reduce the amount of adrenalin flowing throughout her body. Adrenelin is produced when we are scared and actually slows down the process of labour by stopping the flow of labour inducing hormone oxytocin.

Meditation
Meditation in yoga is all about finding that perfect balance between mind and body. There are different forms of meditation, some of which include:
  • Mantra Meditation – This involves chanting a specific word or prayer which is thought to balance the body’s energy centres (also known as chakras).
  • Vipassana Meditation – This involves focusing on the internal body and immediate environment in order to become more in tune with your inner feelings.
  • Walking Meditation – Walking around a chosen spot whilst focusing on breathing and pace. This helps create a calming effect on the mind and body.
Meditation during pregnancy helps promote a greater awareness of inner feelings and sense of self, which in turn helps the mother bond with her baby. It also helps calm and relax the mother and help her to cope with mood swings. During the later stages of pregnancy, some women find that posture and poses become difficult to manage with a bump so meditation can become an important form of relaxation as labour approaches.

Post Pregnancy
Yoga can also have benefits following birth. Postnatal yoga can usually be started approximately six weeks after giving birth and helps to get the body back to its post pregnancy state. It also helps to build up the muscles that were strained during pregnancy and labour (particularly the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles).
Baby Yoga is also a new trend which promotes natural development within the body and nervous system of young babies. The age specific exercises are always gentle and designed never to overstretch your baby’s abilities. These classes often include music and singing with rhythm been used as a major tool in increasing healthy suppleness. The classes also include exercises for mum.

Due to its gentle nature, yoga is a form of exercise that can be enjoyed by a variety of people regardless of age, ability or condition. Many people enjoy it because it has numerous health benefits that improve their physical and mental well being as well as lowering medical travel insurance. But anyone who wants to begin yoga should always consult with their GP or fitness instructor first; as ever, this is particularly relevant in pregnant women. Informing your instructor that you are pregnant will ensure that you are always doing appropriate, relevant and safe exercises and allow you to get the very most out of your routines. 

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Be the butterfly


It has been a week of watershed. Slightly ironic since there’s been a lot of water around for a June. There are some times in life when you have to let go of stuff. I think it’s the yoga that’s made this a lot easier than it used to be. We like, as humans to hang on to things, things which seem to define us and make us unique. What we forget is that we already are unique, every inch of amazing us.

What’s brilliant about yoga is that it gives us permission to redefine ourselves, from breath to breath and remember how special we are. It is said that the yogi is twice born, like the butterfly. The caterpillar creates itself a chrysalis and completely dissolves its form to arise as a butterfly. Human cells also replace themselves at varying speeds and are completely replaced every seven years. It’s pretty cool to think that we get a completely new body every seven years and even cooler to think parts of our physical bodies change much more frequently than that. Our blood cells are continuously being replaced. When we practice yoga each breath, each pose, each practice is like a shedding of past habits and fears to awaken to a new dawn a new part of ourselves are revealed and once it’s started to be revealed it just keeps on coming.

The butterfly never returns to being a caterpillar.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Still Your Mind and Your Jiggle: A Guide to a Great Fitting Bra for Yoga


Introducing Cindy Prosser's fab post on buying a great fitting yoga bra...

It doesn't matter if you're a DD or don't have a lot on top. Regardless of size, every woman deserves a fantastic, supportive bra that fits how it's supposed to. This is especially helpful in yoga, as you're twisting and stretching your body in every direction.

You may be asking – Why does a perfect yoga bra matter? Small, medium, large – it seems pretty straightforward, right?

Actually, a great fitting yoga bra helps support you better and can make you much more comfortable during your workout. A poorly fitting bra (usually when the band is too tight) can cause restricted breathing and tension in the arms and shoulders. So, we've done our homework and created a list of the top things you should keep in mind when choosing your yoga bra:

Get properly measured. Sadly, about 75% of women are wearing the wrong size bra simply because they've never been properly measured. If you can, visit your local department store's lingerie section and get measured by a pro. If you'd prefer, you can also take measurements at home:

  • Stand up straight in front of a mirror while wearing a non-padded bra.
  • Use a measuring tape and wrap it around your chest. Make sure it's straight in the front and back. Round the number to the nearest whole number to get your bust measurement. Example: If you measured 35.5, round up to 36.
  • Wrap the tape just underneath your breasts (around the rib cage). Make sure you can breathe comfortably and it's not too tight. Take the result and add five inches. If your rib cage is more than 33 inches, add three inches instead. If the result is an odd number, round up to the next even number and that’s your band size.
  • Finally subtract the band size from bust size. Based on the result, here's how you find your cup size:

    • A – one-inch difference
    • B – two-inch difference
    • C – three-inch difference
    • D – four-inch difference
    • DD – five-inch difference
    • Note: Some sports bras come in S,M,L, and XL. In that case, knowing your cup size isn't as important. 
Don't rush. Grab your favorite girlfriend and make an afternoon of it. You'll want to try on several different brands and sizes to find the perfect fit, so it's not something that should be a quick shopping trip.

Try on many. Don't be afraid to try on 10 or 15 different bras. Every brand fits differently, so trying them on individually can really help. Make sure:

  • There isn't spillage on the sides or top.
  • Your breasts are centered.
  • The straps fit comfortably and don't dig in or do the opposite – fall off your shoulder.
  • The band is snug enough that it'll stay in place while you're moving your body through a yoga class.

Dance around the dressing room. OK, you don't have to dance exactly, but move around a bit (and perhaps jump up and down) to make sure your breasts stay in place and you're comfortable.

Look (and spin around) in front of the mirror. Make sure the bra sits at the same spot on your front and backside. A good fitting bra shouldn't ride up.

Replace every 6 or 12 months. What many women don't know is how size can change and bras can get stretched out and worn over time. A great sports bra should support you well – so make sure to replace your bras often so you always have great support.

A great sports bra is an essential part of your workout and is something that can make or break it. Keep the above tips in mind for a great workout – and a great fitting yoga bra. 

About the Author:
Cindy Prosser's perfect day is one that includes at least 30 minutes of yoga, time with her family and time for her freelance writing. Being a full-time mom and part-time freelance writer for BareNecessities.com poses several challenges to achieving this perfection, but a gal can dream, right?! Like Bare Necessities on Facebook and, while you're at it, grab the Bare Necessities coupon for super savings!

Monday, 11 June 2012

We could be heroes, just for one day

Some days it’s hard to muster up the courage to do what we know we ought. I for one am an absolute expert at finding myself things to be busy about, especially when I know there’s an elephant in the room or within my heart which I really need to have a conversation with.

This is the challenge of the yogi. Because sometimes knowing the right thing to do isn’t enough. Sometimes we need to take action. We need to stand tall in our own power and own it. Whatever it is. When we take the seat of the yogi we’re asked questions of ourselves and we get to choose how to respond. Sometimes that response isn’t easy, sometimes it means going against the status quo.

I love that the word courage comes from the French word for heart, coeur. Because that’s what yoga gives us. The courage to stand in our own heart, in our own courage, in our own strength.

That’s why I get on my mat and practice. To know myself more, to know my heart’s longing, so that when I get asked to respond to challenge I have the power. Then I get to stand up as a yogic warrior and act.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Yoga and Cancer


I'm delighted to offer this guest blog on how yoga can help with cancer sufferers...

While healthy individuals may practice yoga for fitness, mental clarity or emotional well-being, cancer patients may turn to gentle yoga classes as a form of therapy.

Aggressive cancers such as mesothelioma can cause symptoms that become debilitating if they are not properly managed. Yoga provides a simple, natural way to relieve both physical and mental symptoms. Mesothelioma patients may also use yoga to relieve side effects of other cancer treatments.

These benefits can be noted after just one yoga class, although patients may benefit the most from recurring sessions. Yoga studios, health clubs and senior centers often offer several gentle yoga classes each week that patients can participate in when their energy levels are high. 

Physical Benefits of Yoga for Cancer Patients
Patients can use yoga as a palliative therapy for several different cancer-related conditions.

For asbestos cancer patients, yoga can help reduce chest pain, promote easier breathing and relieve fatigue. Some of the most beneficial yoga poses for patients with these conditions include:
  • Cobra and/or upward dog (to open the chest and improve breathing)
  • Child’s pose (lessens fatigue and alleviates head, neck and chest pain
  • Extended side angle (stretches the whole body, including the chest and shoulders)
  • Warrior II (increases lung capacity)

Certain side effects of other cancer treatments can also be relieved through yoga.

Bridge pose and lotus pose can improve digestion that has been disrupted by chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Chemotherapy-induced nausea may be reduced by reclining hero pose. Many patients also find that a general yoga practice can help fight fatigue or stimulate their appetite when sleep and hunger patterns are disrupted by treatment.

Mental Benefits of Yoga for Cancer Patients
Yoga is also an excellent outlet for cancer-related stress and anxiety. Poses such as forward bend and cat-cow stretches can help induce relaxation. Savasana (the final pose in any yoga class) is also excellent for clearing the mind and releasing tension. A brief period of meditation before or after a yoga class can provide patients with even more opportunities to relax and diffuse stress.  

Even off the mat, cancer patients can use yogic practices to relieve anxiety. Yogic breathing (known as pranayama) can be used in a hospital, cancer center or any other location where patients begin to feel nervous. Slowing the breathing and becoming more attentive to the inhalation and exhalation process can help yoga practitioners feel calmer and more centered any time that anxiety strikes.

Author bio: Faith Franz is a writer for the Mesothelioma Center. She combines her interests in whole-body health and medical research to educate the mesothelioma community about the newest developments in cancer care.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Friday, 18 May 2012

Hidden gifts


Hanuman is one of my favourite deities. He’s the monkey god, the gods are reflections of ourselves so it’s not that surprising I’m drawn towards the monkey man.

All good things start, as my mum would tell me, with the mother. In Hanuman’s case this is Anjana. Anjana was a very devout woman who wanted nothing more than to be a mother. To this end she prayed and practiced daily. The wind god, Vayu, heard her prayers and resolved to help Anjana, to this end he sent some grains of rice with his bird friends to Anjana. As she reached into the air with her hands in Anjali Mudra the birds dropped the grains of rice into her hands. Knowing better than to question the gift she’d received, Anjana simply opened her mouth and tossed in the rice. As soon as they hit her stomach she became pregnant.

When we first start a yoga practice I would say it’s pretty normal to want everything straight away. To become a master or at least have a list of things we want to tick off, so we can say we’ve done it. Or at least that’s how I was and secretly still am. It took a long time for me to realise that this practice isn’t linear, sometimes it doesn’t make any sense and sometimes we feel confused and demotivated. The thing about yoga is that we get exactly what we need and we don’t get to decide what that is. We must, as Anjana did, show up, every day, clean the mirror of our deepest Self and accept whatever we are offered. In our society, that’s not so easy, staying in the moment with what is isn’t easy. However, when we do play in the present moment life gets a whole lot simpler and happier.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Hanumania!


My teaching has taken an interesting turn of late and moved into a rhythm of six weekly cycles. The cycle just gone has all been about the different elements in nature which we align with when we come to our practice. The next series is inspired by my great friend.

I’m going to be integrating the stories of Hanuman, my favourite deity, into my classes and seeing what we can learn from the great monkey god. It’s ok not to know much about Hanuman, that’s part of the fun. My teacher explains all of these things like they’re maps, they’re not there to tell us what to believe or think, they’re simply there to help us on this journey. It’s like when you visit a new city, it’s handy to have something to guide you, it’s not going to tell you which way to go.

I love the rich symbolism held within the stories of the deities. And Hanuman has lots: from the story of his birth right through to his stories of heroism. It is said that we are all of the characters in the story and although they have been told for generations we can know our own lives better by hearing and contemplating them from where we sit in the moment we hear them.

That’s why I never get tired of hearing the stories because each time they reveal something new. They are organic and ever changing. It’s Hanumania!

Monday, 30 April 2012

What's outside is inside, what's inside is outside


We've definitely witnessed the forces of nature over the last few weeks in the UK. Constant rain in the South East, much more like I remember in the South West where once I’m sure it rained from October to March without a break. It hasn't been glamorous, no flashfloods, thunderstorms or anything like that, just constant, damp and unrelenting, the weather the British climate does so well. It was greatly needed and greatly purifying. What I noticed most of all is the reflection in my own life. As things started to go somewhat awry for me personally, the rain came down and kept coming down. Even amidst the intensity I couldn’t help wondering if that rain was coming down to wash away old patterns, old ways of doing things, like a torrent, allowing for nothing but the new to arise.

What was remarkable was that once my personal intensity had past the sun started to poke out from behind the clouds. And now, as I sit with the sun blazing through the windows I’m grateful that not only is my situation resolving but I believe there’s been an opening for much deeper, more profound relationship to arise.

I’m not trying to say that the Universe brought the rain for me; even thinking that makes me smile a little. What I’m saying is that yoga is all about lining up with nature, lining up with those threads which join us all and seeing the shared human condition there. It’s about noticing that what is happening right now is not something which has been done to us, it’s simply the play of life and our role is to play our part and use our lessons wisely. Or not, there’s value in ignoring the rain sometimes too.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Give yourself some space

I’m approaching the end of my series on the five elements: space. The final frontier. Apologies, I couldn’t resist.

It’s a bit of a tricky concept because of the intangibility of space. Space is really the area that we occupy, however, the cool thing is that the world is mostly space... wah? My friend explains it this way: if Wembley Park were an atom the amount of actual matter would be the size of a pea. Yep, my eyes kinda dilated and my head expanded a little bit from that comment. Try this one: two objects can never actually touch, there’s always space inbetween. You think your hands are clapping together, the ball is bouncing on the floor, ‘fraid not, not quite!

Why does any of this matter except to bring about brain ache? It matters because when we have those moments, like every other second for me, that we’re not enough, we’re lacking, that the whole world is closing in on us and we just can’t break free we can remember how much space there is and carve a little extra out just for us.

Find a little more space this week by plonking down on a meditation cushion or other comfortable spot, setting a timer (or space creator you might call it) and taking a journey deep inside, to the final frontier.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Let go...

There are some times in life when it all becomes a little bit overwhelming. When the list of things to do or things to worry about becomes so much that there’s nothing for it but to throw everything into the air and pray that something comes in to help you out. The thing is, it does.

So this week I’ve been teaching that there is a beauty in just surrendering. I understand that surrender is a difficult word. It seems to makes us vulnerable and no longer in control. What I would say is that we’re not in control. No matter how much we think we are or how much human beings evolve to protect themselves. All it takes is a hurricane to dispel that myth.

What it doesn’t mean is that we give up responsibility, and therein lies the paradox. We can only take responsibility for our actions and let go of the outcome. How we are within and without ourselves does have an effect on the world, so what do you choose? I choose to charge myself with as much positive energy as I can muster so that I create that energy in my world. We can choose to do the opposite. It’s just that at some point we have to just leave for more space, more breath and more light to move into us. We can only do that if we’ve let go of the expectations we have for our life. That’s surrender.

So this week, let go by turning throwing it into the air and turning everything upside down. Literally. Do a handstand, a headstand, a shoulderstand or simply put your legs up the wall. Then let it go.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

I'm on fire!

Moving through the elements we get to fire. I’m generally a pretty fiery person which is good most of the time. However, if I’m not careful I get burnt out. Quite literally. Fire does that, it can be destructive or it can be a way to bring about change. Nothing ever happened because we wished for it, at some point we also had to act.

So what does that mean when we come to our yoga mats? Because there always has something to be do with yoga, right?

From the first breath it’s the reason why we set an intention for the practice. Why we practice, why we continue to ask that question, like a match sparking. Then we really get fired up, we engage muscles so our bodies can carry that intention. After that we stoke the fire with more air by finding more space in the pelvis and shoulders. The fire really starts to roar when we scoop our sitting bones and draw the heads of the armbones back. Then the final expansion comes in as we spread our fiery bodies out from that super ignited core. No you’re on fire!

That’s in every pose, and that’s how dreams come true.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Dive in!

This week is all about the water element. It’s fun to think of our asana practice in terms of how we relate to each of the five elements, it gives us a totally different perspective on these poses we do all the time. The thing about water is that it appears to us in many different forms, from the deep ocean to the playful stream.

It holds great mystery and great danger. Energy flows through all of our body’s systems like a vast series of underground rivers, it gets stuck and stagnant so that sometimes we have to flush it out.

This week when you come to your mat I invite you to dive deep into the ocean of your own consciousness and explore the unknown within. Choose a pose, a backbend is good, that calls upon you to hold the stillness so that you can open up fully, crash like a wild wave and open your heart to this great universal flow.

Then allow everything to settle back into the river bed, the silt which you’ve shaken up to be refreshed by a new vibrancy and openness. Allow each part of yourself to be refreshed and revived. And you don’t even need to go anywhere near a beach, unless you want to.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Out of the bubble

I’ve just come back from teacher training, again. It was so much fun. No matter how much training I do there’s always something new to learn. What I learnt this time most of all is that this whole thing is a journey. We start off in the little protected bubble of the mat, being guided by our teachers and held by our friends. Then, and sometimes I’m not sure why, we step off the mat and walk to the front of the room. That’s when we get all these amazing maps and all of a sudden our mat becomes a flying carpet from which we view the world afresh.

Doing a training of any kind, by which I mean really any practice infact – from closing your eyes for a few moments, to a kickasana practice to a 108 hour TT – is much like stopping in at a rest stop. You get touch in with your journey. I’m not really concerned with where I’m going anymore, except Starbucks, that’s usually in the equation somewhere.

Sometimes we need to dust off our maps a bit or unfold that corner which got crumpled in your bag that time you forgot about it. Then to look up at the sky on a beautiful sunny day and feel so grateful you’re on this path and someone gave you some landmark and then you never want to stop seeking out new places to go.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Twisting the night away...

It’s around this time of year when go home and my mum has turned the house upside down. Dust, vacuum, stuff, everywhere. Oh yes, it’s spring cleaning time. I have to say, I’m not quite as diligent as my mum. However, I do find that I’m drawn into my kitchen and it does end up looking like a microcosm of my mum’s house. I love to cook so to create deliciousness in my home I first need to do a bit of organisation. That means everything comes out of the cupboards, shelves, fridge and freezer. Create a bit of space. Then everything gets clean and put back so I know exactly where it is. The rubbish gets junked, that spice I used in a curry a year ago, it’s outta here. Then I restock my kitchen with what I really want in there, so I can make magic.

So it’s a thing at spring time I know. And the yogis equivalent of spring cleaning is twists. This week I’ve been on my mat twisting away, rinsing and soaking, as we say, my internal organs. Doing twists is like cooking from a recipe, you need certain ingredients:

  1. A strong foundation, whatever part of you is on the floor stays on the floor. That means the side you’re twisting away from doesn’t join the party. That, my friends, is what you call a turn, not a twist
  2. A whole wad of a big breath, so you get super long in the torso
  3. Hugging the midline so you’re super clear through the whole of your spine
  4. Then you have everything you need twist the night away. Make sure you drink lots of water, sluice out the toxins.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Up above the streets and houses...

I had my haircut last weekend. That’s not a cue for lots of compliments about my hair, although; please feel free to compliment my hair. It was one of those days which doesn’t know whether to rain or be sunny or do both... at the same time.

So I had my hair washed and was being sat down to be made pretty and the lady washing my hair said “I wish it would stop raining”... I looked outside and said “wow, look at that rainbow”. Suddenly she got totally excited about the rainbow and even apologised for getting excited. I was like “dude, I know, I get excited by a cup of tea and a biscuit, it’s the small things that matter”.

Thing is, often we’re so busy with day to day stuff that we forget that there’s so much beauty around us, that moment in time where the conditions are perfect to create this amazing vision; a rainbow. It’s a miracle that light and water combine to split apart white light into a spectrum of colours. I wonder how many times I’ve missed one because I’ve been rushing away from the next downpour.

So this week is most definitely a backbend week. How many ways can I fully extend my spine into a perfect arch the most radiant way and create my very own rainbow. Who knows, I might find my very own pot of gold.