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Yoga is for Every Body: Introduction to Chair Yoga

Yoga is for every body.

I have lost count of how many times I’ve heard people tell me they “can’t do yoga because they are not flexible enough”. Well, duh, that’s the point (sorry) !

Over the years I have taught yoga to people of all ages and abilities, from people with prosthetic limbs and wheelchair users, to those with  developmental disabilities or even long term illness such as MS and Parkinson’s Disease. Every body is able to do yoga, should the person so wish. Sometimes I have to physically assist a client to allow them to benefit from simple movements that are so very effective.

When I undertook yoga therapy training my tutor’s mantra was “The yoga is always the same”, by which she meant that the purpose was to focus on the breath, to relax the body and mind and to encourage the full range of motion for the joints of the body.

It is not about fancy postures but instead allowing the body to move as freely and as comfortably as it can.

In that spirit, I have put together a series of Chair yoga exercises that can be practiced at home. This introductory video lasts about 10 minutes and focuses on simple range-of-movement exercises for the whole body.

I hope you enjoy!

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Stop Should-ing On Yourself

A good friend once told me to “Stop Should-ing on myself”.

It was brilliant advice and I thought I would share it with you today, World mental Health Day.

 

I had been feeling glum and complaining: “Oh I should do this, I shouldn’t have done that”, to which my friend replied, in her own laconic way:

“Stop Should-ing on yourself”.

It made so much sense. So much of suffering is caused by beliefs such as:

 

I should be this…

I should be that…

I should do this…

I should do that…

I should be more…

I should be less…

I should have…

I should feel…

I should, I should, I should…

Plus an equal list of “I shouldn’ts” to match.

 

‘Should’ is defined as: used to indicate obligation, duty or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions.

 

So what we are doing when we ‘Should’ on ourselves is piling on self-criticism; probably with a good old dollop of guilt as well. ‘Should’ is not so much a call to action but a means of berating oneself. ‘Should’ can make a person feel rotten, especially in terms mental health and well-being

An example being: “I should feel happy but I don’t” Where we have both criticism and guilt in one simple sentence.

So what could we use instead of ‘should’?

The first challenge is being aware of the times when you are ‘Should-ing’ on yourself and dwelling on self-criticism. (I like to recall my friend’s voice when I find myself falling into that trap).

The second is acknowledging the present situation for what it is, warts and all. View it as dispassionately as possible, like an impartial witness (this is a practice in mindfulness). Remove ‘should’ from that thought along with its associated guilt and shame. So, in the example of “I should feel happy but I don’t” can be replaced with: “I am not happy at the moment but that’s OK, this feeling will pass”

The third is to replace ‘Should’ with ‘I Can…’ Transform thoughts away from negative self-criticism towards what is achievable and positive. This is a way of opening up possibilities rather than shutting down in the shame of “I should”.

 

I hope that you find this useful. Wishing you all a good World Mental Health Day and remember:

“Stop Should-ing on yourself” .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wind Down with a Yoga Moon Salutation

This Yoga Moon Salutation can be used as a gentle warm up or wind down for an evening’s yoga practice.

 

 

How to practice a Moon Salutation:

  1. Start in Table position on the hands and knees, knees about hip width apart and hands below the shoulders.
  2. Come up onto the finger tips and step the left foot forward between the hands into a lunge (if you are newer to yoga you may have to lift your hand or assist your foot into position).
  3. Come into a ‘square lunge’ and get your balance.
  4. Inhale, raise your arms up overhead, hands in prayer position.
  5. Exhale, lean back gently (avoid this move if you have any back injuries)
  6. Inhale, release the backbend.
  7. Exhale, lower arms to shoulder level.
  8. Inhale, lengthen spine,
  9. Exhale, twist to the left.
  10. Inhale back to centre,
  11. Exhale, twist to the right.
  12. Inhale back to the centre.
  13. Exhale lower the right hand to the floor and raise the left arm.
  14. Inhale back to the centre.
  15. Exhale lower the left hand to the floor and raise the right arm.
  16. Inhale back to centre.
  17. Exhale return to Table position.
  18. Inhaling sit back to heels
  19. Exhaling reach arms forward and rest in Hare posture.
  20. Return to Table posture and practice the same, this time with the left foot forward in the lunge position.

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Need to Relax? Try this Short Relaxation for Busy People

Here is a short guided relaxation for busy people; known as ‘Yoga Nidra’, or yoga-sleep.

 

It is mental health awareness week so I decided to share this yoga nidra. I hope that you find it relaxing.

The purpose of this yoga nidra is to let your body fall into a deep state of relaxation but for your mind to remain awake. It aids a deeper state of relaxation than just sleep alone.

I have been giving guided yoga nidra relaxations and meditations for well over a decade now. This recording is from the early days, however, many people have enjoyed it, so I hope you will too! I will add different relaxations and meditations to my You Tube channel from now on, so please subscribe if you want to access more yoga tips and stress-relieving techniques.

Happy relaxing!

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Finding Strength in Weakness

How can you find strength in weakness?

‏I am learning that it is OK to have weaknesses, to be perfectly imperfect. Sometimes, being weak and asking for help takes more courage than being brave or ‘just getting on with it’.

 

“I am willing to be wrong. I am willing to be passionate about something that isn’t perceived as cool. I am willing to express a theory. I am willing to admit I am afraid. I am willing to contradict something I’ve said before. I am willing to have a knee-jerk reaction, even a wrong one. I’m willing to apologize. I’m perfectly willing to be be perfectly human”

 – Donald Millar

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Cancer support

BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH: CANCER SUPPORT

People who know me will know how deeply my family has been affected by different types of cancer, breast cancer included.

It is difficult to know how to help when first involved with someone affected by cancer, be they a cancer patient or carer. So, here is a list of Dos and Don’ts I have compiled, from my humble experience:

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Untie the Knots that Bind Us Using Yoga

How do we untie the knots that bind us using yoga?

Many yoga postures look like you are tying yourself up in knots, making yourself smaller. How can that be comfortable? It seems like it is the opposite of untying the knots that bind us.

For me, such yoga postures are actually about untying the knots. The yoga tradition refers to several knots in the subtle body (the Sanskrit word is Granthi, meaning ‘knot’ or ‘doubt’) that block our path to development. Such knots are described in three forms:

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Do You Rebel Against Yoga? Join the Club!

‏I have a confession: Sometimes I rebel against  yoga ….

We have all been there: we want to practice yoga but there is something stopping us. “I’ll practice tonight” we tell ourselves, or: “Maybe not tonight, maybe I’ll get up early tomorrow morning and practice before breakfast” –  and then we lie in. Why do we rebel against yoga, time and time again? This is a question that is close to my heart as recently I had found myself rebelling against yoga.

Misunderstanding yoga

I believe one of the reasons that people rebel against practicing yoga is the desire for perfection and the fear of falling short before they even start. There is a perception (often perpetrated by yogis themselves), that yoga practitioners glide through life on a rainbow cloud of bliss: somehow immune to everyday human experiences and emotions; never to get sick or injured, sad or upset, angry, proud, jealous, lazy, or any of the other Seven Deadly Sins.

‏It is a fallacy. Yogis, like everyone else on the planet, have all of these experiences. Let’s face it, if you are in excellent health and are naturally enlightened, then you have no need for yoga. Does that apply to anyone you know? Not me, that’s for sure. Everyone finds yoga for a reason.

‏Recently, I saw a yoga meme that read:

“I don’t know why people think yogis are together, we are all here because we’re mad”.

‏That made me laugh.

‏Yoga is not just my passion but it is also my business, which in itself causes conflict. I have been making changes to my business to incorporate major changes in my life, (including a new found love of the ocean and the therapeutic benefits of being with the sea through surfing).

‏And then I stopped.

I rebelled against yoga.

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Loose Your Stress: Find The Breath

Yoga Therapy: How can the breath relieve stress?

A very dedicated student of mine contacted me recently; she said she would be unable to make yoga for a few weeks as she was sitting with a family member in hospital whom she feared would not pull through. I could sense that she needed some reassurance …

I thought about how to respond for a long while…

In the end I opted for simplicity: “Just breathe….”

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