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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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Totally Tropical Christmas Pudding

TOTALLY TROPICAL CHRISTMAS PUDDING

It has become a family tradition that I make the Christmas Pudding each year. It is always slightly different depending on what I have in the kitchen and this Totally Tropical Christmas Pudding came about because I had some Malibu languishing in the back of a cupboard. I decided to go for a tropical theme with mango, papaya and coconut rather than the more traditional fruits. (The one rule I have is that there has to be no orange in it, due to the dietary needs of a family member).

The result was a tropical Christmas feast, with a much lighter flavour and texture than a traditional Christmas pudding. It is pretty easy to make, the only downside is the long steaming time.

You will see from the pictures that I have gone for a more traditional pudding in a muslin cloth; this was not due to Dickensian nostalgia but rather because I had left my pudding bowls and my parents house last year. Oh well, better lucky than good…

So, stick on some Christmas music, pour some mulled wine and lets get baking…

 

Christmas Pudding in Muslin Bag

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Spiced Apple Chutney

I had to wait several weeks after making this Spiced Apple Chutney before I was able to taste it, but it was worth the wait.

I decided to make this Spiced Apple Chutney after collecting a big bag of apple windfalls from a recent storm. What better way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon?

It is really simple to make chutney but it does take a bit of time and preparation and, just to warn you, your kitchen will smell of vinegar for days afterwards (I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the smell of cooking vinegar, it grabs you by the back of throat but is quite invigorating at the same time)

That said, it is well worth the time and effort to make your own chutney as it will be much nicer than store-bought variations. Jars of homemade chutney also make good gifts if well presented. Try this chutney with a big hunk of cheddar cheese and crusty bread, or with a ploughman’s lunch.

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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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Yoga at Home: Sun Salutations

Do you want to start a yoga practice at home? Do you wonder where to start, or how to make the time or commitment? The simple answer is Sun Salutations.  

Sun Salutations (surya namaskar) are a series of yoga postures strung together so that they flow from one pose to another. They are called sun salutations because, in India, they are traditionally done first thing in the morning as the sun rises to prepare the body for the practice of yoga.

Don’t worry if it takes a little time to perfect sun salutations; it takes practice to flow from one posture to the next. Begin by practicing each individual posture in the sequence before trying them together. In the beginning you may only manage one or two rounds, but with practice you should be able to build up to 10 rounds.

Sun salutations work the entire body and are an excellent warm up. They build strength and stamina as well as improve flexibility.

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Ruby Red Beet Hash

My daughter loves this Ruby Red Beet Hash.

She decided to become vegetarian ten days before her 7th birthday and has been sticking to it well so far. Up until then I had always let her eat whatever healthy food she wanted, meat included, but she decided on her own that she no longer wanted to eat meat or fish. I admire her principles for such a young age, though said it is her body and if she decides to go back to eating meat then that is her decision.

One major plus for her going vegetarian is that I now only have to make one dinner in the evening rather than two and the Little Lady is sticking to her end of the bargain by trying new flavours. This Ruby Red Beet Hash was quick and simple to make and was scoffed up!

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