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:

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 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 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 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