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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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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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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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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Back Bends for opening the Heart: When back-bends don’t come easy.

Some causes of bad posture:

There  are many reasons why we develop bad posture and slouch: spending long hours on a computer or over a smart phone, driving, or lack of exercise. For me it was because I was always tall; as a child I was the tallest in the class, which didn’t bother me until puberty and I realized I was taller than all the boys. Then, like many teenage girls, when I developed breasts I became self-conscious and uncomfortable. All these elements combined and I began to slouch. The years went on my shoulders rounded, my chest sunk in and my head stooped forward.

Fast forward twenty years and now I am trying to master back bends in yoga and it is such a challenge.  For me, or anyone who has a habit of slouching forward, back bends always will be a negotiation between decades of bad posture and a comparatively brief moment on the yoga mat trying to unlock the body. Being physically tall or having a long back can make back bends more challenging. If you imagine the vertebrae as a string of beads, a person with a shorter back has shorter beads: they are more flexible, the string more bendy; a person with a longer back has the equivalent of longer beads on their string: the string is less bendy.

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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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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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‏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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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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Do you want to start your own yoga practice?

It is challenging to take up something new, especially taking the first steps towards starting your own yoga practice at home.

We have all felt that same sense of trepidation starting a new activity; there is a sense of excitement but also an underlying feeling of foolishness… What if I am rubbish at this? This is my story of how I started practicing yoga.

In these days of instagram and selfies, I see photos of yogis performing wonderful postures in beautiful locations all around the world. Scrolling through some of these images, I had a sudden flashback to how difficult it was for me to step onto my first yoga mat. Specifically, the first yoga mat that I had purchased. I had been to a few classes and decided to buy my own mat. I remember unwrapping it and rolling it out on the living room floor and just scratching my head…

What do I do?

Where do I start? Read more