Tuesday, 30 December 2014

'New Year, New You'

Please have a look at my 'New Year, New You' series on my YouTube channel for a brilliant start to the year.  There are 13 videos in the playlist for you to enjoy.  Please click on the video below to access the series.

Please read my blog disclaimer before following these videos http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/

Saturday, 27 December 2014

What's happening on 40plusandalliswell

If you've got left over chestnuts from Christmas you may want to try my 'Mushroom and Chestnut pie with white bean mash'. It would make a great vegan, New Year's Eve supper. http://www.40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/meatless-monday-mushroom-and-chestnut.html

If you want a lighter dessert for New Year please try my 'Vegan fruit jellies' http://www.40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/vegan-fruit-jellies.html

Recently in the news there was an article claiming that lifestyle factors could reduce the risk of dementia. Please read my comments on the article by following this link http://www.40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/in-news-lifestyle-factors-that-could.html

You may want to try my vegan 'Festive Nut Roast' with all those left over Christmas nuts http://www.40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/meatless-monday-festive-nut-roast.html

As 2015 approaches you may want to resolve to look after your heart. On the yoga blog we looked at the ways in which yoga can help boost heart health http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/how-yoga-boosts-heart-health.html and on the wellness blog we thought about lifestyle factors that could help keep your heart healthy http://www.40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/love-your-heart.html

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

My prayer for 2015 is for peace. In yoga we practice ahimsa, non harming. This applies not only to physical harming but wounding with the things we say and do. If we practice ahimsa on the mat, we become more accepting, and tolerant of others off the mat. This attitude has the ability to transfer to others with whom you come into contact-family, friends, your community. In this way a more peaceful way of living starts to spread through the world. 
So my message for 2015 is that peace in the world starts with us, you and me. 

Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

Janet x

How yoga boosts heart health

How yoga boosts health-Heart health-http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk
Please note this video is not intended for you if you have heart problems. You should work with a yoga teacher on a more personal level. 
Please read my blog disclaimer before following these videos http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/disclaimer.html
Copyright © 2014 Flexiladiesyoga

Last week in the news this week it was reported that yoga may protect the heart. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-30475999
It is claimed that yoga exerts its protective effect by lowering risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. The way yoga lowers blood pressure according to the report is that it boosts the level of oxygen in the body by working the muscles and pranayama techniques. When blood pressure is high, the result may be damage to artery walls. Yoga is also associated with a lower risk of obesity.  

I would add the following to the report-

  • Yoga reduces stress which is known to be a factor in high blood pressure. If high blood pressure is left unchecked it can lead to artery wall damage.  Once damaged cholesterol can 'stick' to the walls leading eventually to blockages.  
  • Yoga reduces inflammation which is also known to contribute to heart disease.  
  • The heart is a muscle and as such needs to be exercised.  Invesions bring blood to the heart 'working' the heart  muscle.  Vinyassa flows increase the heart rate also working a
  • Chest opening backbends increase lung capacity bringing extra oxygen to the body which in turn lowers blood pressure.  They also increase circulation to the heart.
  • Inversions and standing forward bends  increase blood flow to the heart, working the heart muscle.
  • Standing poses which work the leg muscles strongly such as Warrior 2 encourage blood flow back to the heart.
  • Yoga poses that work the core together with vinyassa flows help prevent abdominal fat which is a risk factor in heart disease.
Please also see 40plusandalliswell http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/love-your-heart.html where I will be looking at lifestyle factors which influence heart health.

Be healthy, be happy
Janet x

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

A Christmas yoga game to play with the kids

Keep the kids amused with this yoga game which will benefit their minds and bodies. 
Simply choose a word associated with Christmas, choose a theme for your yoga poses and match the letters of the word to the yoga poses.
The example below uses the word 'Christmas' and has an animal theme. Make yoga poses up if you want to. 




I-Iguana (Lizard)




A-Alsatian (Dog)

S-Snake (Cobra)

Have fun!
Janet x

Thursday, 18 December 2014

How yoga helps boosts brain health

On the wellness blog, I will discuss a news report which claims there are five lifestyle factors that would help ward off dementia. http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/in-news-lifestyle-factors-that-could.html

Please also see http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/love-your-brain.html 

Here I look at the ways in which just 20 minutes of yoga a day can help boost brain health.  

  • Meditation is scientifically proven to produce positive changes in the brain.  With regular practice, the grey matter in the the prefrontal cortex increases.  This is associated with higher brain functions such as awareness, concentration and decision making.  There is also a decrease in the area of the brain associated with stress.  The meditation practitioner learns to be focused, and make decisions more mindfully without emotional distractions.
  • Yoga poses may be varied in a number of ways depending on the creativity of the practitioner.  For instance in Half Lord of the Fishes pose we could twist the opposite way to the usual way, we could vary the arm position in Fierce Pose maybe to Eagle arms. When we do a different variation of a familiar pose, this engages the brain increasing concentration and focus.  A similar effect can be gained by taking an unfamiliar route to work etc
  • Yoga balances increase focus and concentration because they force us to be present in the moment.  The moment our attention wanders we fall out.  
  • Yoga chest openers for example backbends, bring more oxygen into the body.  This is then carried in the blood to all the body including the brain.  Amazingly, although the brain is only 2% of the total body weight, it uses 20% of the body's oxygen for its activities including growth and healing.
  • Yoga inversions carry fresh, oxygenated blood to the brain (see above).  Standing forward bends also have this effect.
  • Yoga poses that cross the midline, for example Eagle pose, Half Lord of the Fishes, strengthen the pathways between right and left hemispheres boosting alertness, creativity and memory.
  • Yoga cross-lateral poses such as Balancing Cat balance right and left hemispheres as does Alternate Nostril Breathing (see video)
  • It is said that yoga Thunderbolt pose directs energy to the brain to enable the practitioner to connect to the divine.

Janet x

Monday, 15 December 2014

The Yamas at Christmas

Ahimsa – ahimsa translates as non-harming.  This applies not only to others but also to yourself.  In this busy run-up to Christmas it is easy to forget your need for relaxation and become tired and stressed by the time Christmas arrives.  So make sure you find some ‘me time’ each day.

Satya – translates as truth.  It is easy to get carried away at Christmas by the media persuading you that no Christmas can be complete unless you have ………(whatever they want you to buy).  This is the reason many people face debt in January.  So be truthful with yourself about what you can afford and set yourself a budget.  You could also get creative.  Home-made gifts are always greatly appreciated.  They may require some effort but are usually fun to do and can be done quite cheaply.

Asteya – translates as non-stealing or non-hoarding.  At Christmas advertisers persuade you that you cannot possibly have enough of ………… (the latest craze, foods etc) This encourages greed.  Remember however that there is only so much food you can eat and a few thoughtful gifts can mean so much.  The antidote to greed is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for all you do have and recognise that actually you do have so much in your life to be grateful for.

Brahmacharya – translates as celibacy but can be taken to mean using your energy wisely to express your dharma.  In the commercialism of Christmas it is easy to forget the real meaning of Christmas and the true purpose of the yogi which is to connect to the divine.  Yet there is no easier time to feel the love of God, for why did God break into our history by sending his only son to save us?  The simple answer is that he loves us.  So do not forget in the middle of the celebrations to devote some energy to letting that love penetrate your being and bring you peace.

Aparigraha – translates as non-grasping.  This involves letting go.  Christmas is a time to let go of our usual routines so that we can spend time with friends and family.  It also involves letting go of any feelings of jealousy that arise from a perceived lack of abundance.  The answer is to be happy with what we do have which is plenty.

I wish you joy and peace for the Christmas season
Janet xx

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Winter Wellness

Here in York, UK we have had a heavy frost this weekend and it's only a few days until the winter solstice. Please watch my 'Winter Wellness Series' Playlist on YouTube to help ensure you stay well this winter. The Playlist contains five videos.

Please read my blog disclaimer before following these videos http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/ 

Why do we get more ill in winter?

There are several theories as to why we succumb to illness more in the cold weather than in the warmer summer months.
• In winter we tend to stay indoors so that viruses are more easily passed from person to person
• Because we tend to stay indoors more in the colder months, wear more clothes when we do go out and the sun’s rays are weaker there is a tendency to become deficient in vitamin D which is linked with reduced immunity
• Some viruses such as flu viruses have a fatty outer shell which in colder temperatures is more solid enabling the virus to survive longer and transmit from person to person
• In colder temperatures the blood vessels in the nostrils tend to constrict so that the white blood cells which attack invading organisms are not as near to the point of entry of the viruses and the viruses can gain entry to the body.
• Some people are particularly susceptible to winter depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder due to decreased levels of light which in turn can lower immunity.

How can yoga help us stay well in winter

• Yoga relieves stress which impairs immunity through chest opening, poses that move the area around the adrenal glands (located just above the kidneys) such as backbends.  When the adrenal glands are stimulated and supplied with fresh blood, they produce less cortisol a hormone that produces the stress response in the body and impairs immunity.  Breathing techniques and meditation also relieve stress.
• Yoga helps the endocrine system work efficiently. In particular the thymus gland processes white blood cells into T lymphocytes which stimulate the body’s production of antibodies.  Kundalini yoga is especially effective for balancing the endocrine system. Please see my videos on YouTube 'Kundalini yoga to help boost immunity' Part 1 http://youtu.be/A7Mu_lVoSUQ and Part 2 http://youtu.be/3KCEXbmh540
• Yoga forward bends and inversions encourage the flow of lymph which contains the white blood cells that deal with invading organisms.
• Yoga twists, squats and forward bends improve digestion and elimination helping to remove toxins from the body.
• Yoga chest openers and breathing techniques improve lung function, clearing out any excess mucus from the lungs which may allow invading organisms to multiply.
• Yoga inner thigh stretches and backbends balance the kidney and bladder meridians enhancing winter wellbeing.  Please see guest post on Alchem Yoga  http://alchemyoga.com/winter-intermediate-yoga-practice/#.UPK7DB26cSY#

What's happening on 40plusandalliswell?

In the article 'Tis the Season to be healthy', I look at how diet can help your immune system. There are also other tips to boost your immunity. http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/tis-season-to-be-healthy.html
Now that Advent is here and we are decorating our trees, you may want to make these 'Ginger cookie Christmas tree decorations'. These are vegan and sugar free. http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/ginger-cookie-tree-decorations-vegan.html
Before the feasting of Christmas gets underway, our Meatless Monday recipe was a super healthy 'Lime and Soy Quinoa salad' http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/meatless-monday-lime-and-soy-quinoa.html 
In my article 'Natural winter remedies' I talk about my favorite winter remedies for colds and flu. You will also find a recipe for my 'Antibiotic' mushroom soup' http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/natural-winter-remedies.html
My article 'Reduce stress, increase wellbeing' we look at the causes of stress, the effects of stress and how we can reduce stress in our lives.
Staying with the healthy theme before the feasting begins, for our next Meatless Monday we made 'Bean pate with Pumpkin seed crackers' which would also be a lovely addition to the Christmas buffet or a Christmas starter for vegans http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/meatless-monday-special-bean-pate-with.html
Unbelievably I managed to make a 'Vegan, no added sugar Christmas cake'! Hope you enjoying making and eating it! http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/vegan-no-added-sugar-christmas-cake.html
Please read this article on how to keep not only your adrenals (the stress glands) but also all the glands of your endocrine system happy. http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/love-your-hormones.html

Thursday, 11 December 2014

How yoga can help endocrine health

On the wellness blog the article 'Love your hormones' discusses the role of the glands that make up the endocrine system and how you can help keep them healthy. http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/love-your-hormones.html

 Here we will look at how yoga can contribute to a healthy endocrine system.
  • Humming Bee Breath (see the video below) stimulates the secretions the pineal gland (situated at the 'third eye') which regulates your circadian rhythms and the pituitary gland, the 'master' gland (situated at the base of the brain) which influences several of the other endocrine glands and secretes growth hormone.

  • Alternate Nostril Breathing - see  http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/oh-no-its-monday-breathing-technique.html stimulates the secretions of the pineal and pituitary gland.  
  • Thymus tapping (see video above) creates vibrations that help enhance the maturation and release of lymphocytes(white blood cells) that fight invading bacteria and viruses.  Chest openers such as Cobra, Upward Facing Dog, Bow, Camel etc also stimulate the thymus gland.
  • Inversions such as Shoulder Stand and Headstand increase circulation of blood to the pituitary, pineal, and thyroid (situated at the base of the neck) nourishing these glands.  Standing forward bends where the head is below the heart also increase circulation of blood to these glands.  
  • Poses such as Shoulder Bridge and Shoulder Stand where the neck is compressed then released 'squeeze' stale blood from the thyroid and as the poses are released fresh, oxygenated blood is brought to the area.  
  • Similarly twists such as Half Lord of the Fishes 'squeeze' blood from the abdominal area where the pancreas is situated and when the twist is released the gland is supplied with fresh, oxygenated blood.
  • Backbends have the same effect on the adrenal glands situated on top of the kidneys. As you move into the backbend blood is 'squeezed' out of the adrenals and as you release the pose fresh blood nourishes the adrenals making them less likely to secrete stress hormones.
  • Hip openers such as Cobbler's Pose (Baddha Konasana) or the reclined version Supta Baddha Konasana increase blood and energy flow to the sexual organs, ovaries for women and testes for men.  If you are suffering from PMS or menopausal symptoms because of hormone imbalances you might want to look at my 'Yoga for Women' videos on You Tube https://www.youtube.com/playlist? list=PLS4Wjf00I4uwk4J_NzAsY_U5gFYLCL1An

Saturday, 6 December 2014

How can yoga help with stress?

I have a whole series of videos on You Tube on stress, see https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLS4Wjf00I4uzH0r_7p5O4pV1mlF5Rikjo

Here are some of the ways yoga can help relieve stress:-
• Most importantly yoga triggers the relaxation response and reduces negative thinking.
• The breathing techniques encourage extra oxygen to be brought to the body by increasing the capacity and elasticity of the lungs, which has a calming effect.  This is because the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which is concerned with ‘quieter’ bodily activities is activated (as opposed to the Sympathetic Nervous System which prepares the body for ‘fight or flight’)
• Inversions and forward bends bring fresh blood to the brain which calms the mind
• Twists ‘wring out’ toxins which stress the body
Backbends nourish the adrenals, located on top of the kidneys.  The adreals produce the 'stress' hormone cortisol and are more likely to produce the hormone if malnourished.
• Backbends open the chest encouraging deeper breathing which calms the body
• By releasing tension from the body, yoga also releases tension from the mind (remember the mind/body/spirit connection)
• Power yoga, Ashtanga yoga and vinyassa yoga ‘burn off’ the stress hormones
• If we develop the habit of staying centered through challenges on the mat by staying focused on the breath, eventually this transfers into our lives so when life is difficult we are more able to deal with it.
• One of the limbs of yoga is pratyahara which is turning your focus inwards through asanas such as forward bends and meditation.  In this way with practice we develop a ‘peaceful core’ that is untouched by many things that cause us stress.
Depending on your personality also stress has different effects which was mentioned when we were considering the Ayurvedic doshas (see You Tube).  If you are predominantly of the Pitta dosha your reaction to stress might be anger, irritability, high blood pressure and heart problems.  If you are of Vata constitution your reaction to stress might be to become anxious and fatigued whereas if you are of Kapha constitution your reaction to stress might be depression and difficulty concentrating.  Balancing your doshas will help therefore to reduce stress.

On the wellness blog, 40plusandalliswell I have been looking at the causes of stress, the effects of stress on your body and ways to reduce stress http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/reduce-stress-increase-wellbeing.html

Monday, 1 December 2014

What's happening on 40plusandalliswell

On 40plusandalliswell we made a treat for the weekend 'Peanut butter 'fudge' blondies' http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/214/11/a-weekend-treat-peanut-butter-fudge.html
For Meatless Monday we had a 'Mediterranean vegetable bake' http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/meatless-monday-mediterranean-vegetable.html
Wouldn't it be great to be your healthy weight by Christmas? Check out this dietary advice to help you on your way http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/your-christmas-present-to-you-your.html
To compliment our article 'It's Thanksgiving be grateful' we looked at how being grateful can boost your wellbeing http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/glow-with-gratitude.html
This was accompanied by a Meatless Monday special for Thanksgiving which would also be a great vegan main for Christmas, 'Stuffed Squash' http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/meatless-monday-thanksgiving-special.html
If you are feeling 'under the weather' our article ''Tis the season to be healthy' will give you some tips on how to boost your immunity http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/tis-season-to-be-healthy.html

'Tis the season to be jolly!

For instant energy and mood boost, try 'Breath of Joy' . Breath of Joy involves a three part inhale with arm movements (see below) followed by an exhale with knees bent and arms swept back.

               Breathe in                                         Breathe in                                   Breathe in                                   Breathe out                                                                                              
Note this breathing practice is not be for you if you have high blood pressure, glaucoma, migraine any other reason why a three part inhale would not be right for you.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Star of Wonder

When we are children Christmas is a magical experience, but as we grow older Christmas loses something of its magic.  There are many reasons for this, maybe we become disillusioned by the commercialism attached to Christmas, forgetting the true meaning of Christmas.  Maybe Christmas represents a stressful time financially or for relationships or maybe we just stop believing in Santa.  

It is the same with our yoga practice.  We start as a beginner full of enthusiasm, mindful of how every posture feels in the body.  When we have been practicing a while we may be less mindful, rushing say sun salutations so that the individual movements are less deliberate.  In this practice we will endeavour to return to the wonder of the beginner, being mindful of moving into the pose, the sensations we experience while holding the pose and how we release the pose from our bodies. In this way we might be able to recreate a sense of wonder in our approach to Christmas

Yoga Practice to cultivate wonder
Intermediate Practice

• Start in Savasana – take a few moments to assess how you are feeling at the start of your practice physically, mentally and emotionally.  Leave any concerns behind, any thoughts of all you need to do in this busy period of advent. Then starting to notice your breath.  The breath connects us all.  Spend a few moments watching the wonder of the breath noticing that as you continue to watch your breath you start to change the quality of your breath so that your breath becomes slower and deeper.  When your breath has settled into a smooth, natural rhythmical pattern gently open your eyes.  Set an intention for your practice to be open to the wonder of the poses and then carry that away with you to open up to the wonder of the advent season.

• Full Body Stretch – breath in take your arms overhead and s..t..r..e..t..c..h.  How good does it feel to draw the prana, the life force into the body.  Breathe out to release and repeat twice more.

• Gentle Twist – bend your knees drawing your heels towards your buttocks, your arms a little way from your body, palms up.  Take a breath in and as you breath out, let the knees fall to the right, just as far as feels comfortable.  Breathe in to come back to centre, exhale let your knees fall to the left. If you have no problems with your neck you could start to turn your head in the opposite direction to the head.  Be curious about how your lower back feels.  

• Hamstring Stretch- stretch your legs out then bend your right knee so that you can take hold of your big toe with your first finger and thumb. Make sure your left leg is in contact with the mat. Breathe in and as you breathe out work towards straightening your right leg lifting your head and chest towards your leg.  Breathe in to release and lie back on the mat.  Be curious about how one side of your body feels now compared to the other.  How did it feel doing a hamstring stretch without a belt which you are probably more used to if you have practiced with me for some time?  Repeat 2nd side then come into an all 4s position

• Cat/Cow – mindfully set up the pose.  Check your knees are directly under your hips, hands directly under your shoulders, fingers spread and open, middle finger pointing forward.  Breathe in lift the head and chest, let your spine dip towards the mat, tailbone points to the ceiling.  Breathe out, tuck your chin, arch your back, tuck your tailbone under and continue moving between the two positions making the movements last as long as your breath, your breath as long as the movement.  Be curious about the effect of the movements in your body, on your mind, on your emotions.  After several repetitions come back to a neutral spine. 

• Balancing Cat Variation– breath in and as you breathe out, draw back on your naval and extend your right arm to the right, your left leg to the left.  Hold and do not forget to breathe, drawing back on your naval with each breath out.  Breathe in to release coming back to an all 4s position.  Repeat with your left arm and right leg.  How did it feel to do a different variation of Balancing Cat?  Be curious.  Repeat on both sides and if you need more of a challenge hinge forward to engage the abdominals more.  Again be curious. 

Rest back in 
• Swan- come towards the back of the mat big toes touching knees wide.  Take your bottom back to your heels (used a block to fill the gap if you need to) and stretch the arms forward, fingers spread, elbows lifted.  Feel a two way stretch on your spine, tailbone pressing back, stretching forward from your hips to your armpits, armpits to your fingertips.  Press down with your index finger and thumb.  Be curious about how this feels in your chest, what effect this has on your breath.

• Frog – from Swan breathe in and come back to all 4s then turn to face the long edge of the mat. Place your hands under your shoulders, knees under hips and take the knees wide, shins parallel to the short edges of the mat.  If you want to go deeper come onto your forearms with fingers interlaced.  Close your eyes and if the sensations are intense try to breathe into them.  After several breaths bring your hands back under your shoulders and if it is safe for you to do so (that is your feet, which may be off the mat, will not slip) exhale and lift your hips into a wide leg Downward Facing Dog.  How does this different variation feel in your body?  Breathe in lower the knees and turn on the mat to take a .....

• Child Pose

• Downward Facing Dog – from Child Pose breathe in look forward, extend your arms forward.  On your next breath in come into an all 4s position, breathe out lift your hips into Downward Facing Dog.  Release your lower back and hips by circling the hips one way then the other.  

• Lunge – breathe in step your right foot forward between your hands.  Let your right hip drop slightly and lift your left thigh.  Make sure your right knee is directly over your ankle and lift up onto your fingertips noticing any affect on your breath.  Switch sides with a hop and repeat.  Step your back foot forward (knees bent if you need to), breathe in and take your arms out and up.  Straighten your legs, exhale join your palms bring your hands down to the heart.

• Tadasana –remember your intention
• Sun Salutation A (see Yoga Pose Gallery)
• Sun Salutation B (see Yoga Pose Gallery)-pause in Warrior 1 and with your right foot forward move into Eagle Arms taking your right arm under the left.  Lift your arms up and back.  Repeat 2nd side.

• Tadasana – reflect on your experience, being curious about your breath, your heart rate and allowing a few moments for everything to return to normal.

• Standing Wide Leg Forward Bend Variations – step your feet a good leg length apart and make sure the outside edges of your feet line up with the short edges of the mat.  Take your hands to your hips, breathe and squeeze your elbows back, breathe out and hinging from your groin come to a flat-back position then release your fingertips to the mat or to a block.  Breathe in and if you wish to go further as you breathe out release the crown of your head to the mat and walk your hands back under your hips.  Hold for a breath or two noticing any sensations.  To come out, breathe in come back to flat back, walk your hands forward, breathe out take your hands to the hips, breathe in and come up.  Repeat interlacing your fingers behind your hips.  Straighten through your arms, breathe in and lift your chest, breathe out and lower the crown of your head towards the mat, taking your hands up and over.  Hold a breath or two.  Are the sensations different this time, what is happening with your breath?  To come out breathe in and come up slowly, lowering your arms down and release the hands.  Step or jump the feet together.

• Tree to Warrior 3 – from Tadasana take your weight into your left foot, find a gaze point (drishti) and lifting your right foot either cup your left ankle with your right foot, take your right foot to your left shin or reach down and place your right foot on your left thigh (never opposite the knee).  Bring your hands to heart, lift through the chest and breathe for a few breaths.  Then breathe in lift the chest, breathe out start to hinge forward like a pendulum reaching the right leg back ideally bringing your right thigh parallel to the mat.  If you feel balanced extend your arms forward.  What did it feel like to transition between balancing poses?  Notice the sensations in your body, your breath, what is happening in your mind.  Balances are calming because they force you to be present,  if not you will fall out of the balance. Breathe in and lowering your right foot lift your arms (or for more advance you could return to Tree Pose!) and breathing out join your palms and bring your hands to your heart.  Repeat 2nd side, noticing any differences. Close your eyes and remember your intention.  Come to seated.

• Dandasana – sit with your legs outstretched, big toes pointing up, making sure you are on your sit bones (remove any excess to the sides).  Lift your kneecaps and let your pubic bone move towards the mat (sitting on a block helps with this).  Place your fingertips by your hips or on the block and lift your spine reaching the crown of your head towards the ceiling.  Gaze is down at your big toes.  How does it feel to sit with good posture?  Hold for 5 breaths.

• Half Lord of the Fishes Variation – from Dandasana bend your right knee and interlacing your fingers hold the knee just below the kneecap.  Breathe in and drawing your knee in, lift through your spine. Release your hands, bend your right elbow and place your right elbow to the inside of your right knee.  Take your left hand behind your hips, breathe in and lift your chest, breathe out and twist to the left.  This is not our usual way of doing this pose.  How did it feel to work with this pose in a different way?  Notice your sensations.  Can you twist a little more with each breath out  Hold for a breath or two, breathe in and lengthen your spine, breathe out and release the twist from your body.  Repeat 2nd side then bend both knees and softly fold over your legs to realign the spine before coming to seated.

• Chocolate meditation- sit in a comfortable cross-leg position and place a wrapped chocolate on the mat in front of you.  Take a few deep breaths as you gaze at the chocolate, noticing the colours of the wrapper, the patterns on the wrapper etc.  After a while pick the chocolate up and slowly unwrap it continuing to breathe slowly and deeply.  How does it feel to touch, does the wrapper make a sound?  Just notice.  Once you have revealed the chocolate turn it over in your hands.  Is there a pattern moulded onto the chocolate?  Is the surface smooth?  Continue to breathe slowly and deeply.  Now lift the chocolate towards your nose.  Notice the sensation of smell.  Is there any other effect (for example mouth watering in anticipation)?  Continue to breathe slowly and deeply.  Now take a bite.  How does the chocolate feel in your mouth.  Notice the physical sensation and as the chocolate starts to melt the sensation of take before chewing and swallowing. Continue to breathe slowly and deeply then finish the chocolate.  Do you feel the need to eat another or is eating one more mindfully more satisfying? This fun meditation shows the importance of being mindful not only of what we eat but in all we do so we can once again experience the wonder of life.

Note-If you are allergic to chocolate (like me!!!) please miss out this meditation, or subsitute chocolate with another sweet or piece of fruit.
Thank you

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

How yoga helps boost immunity

At this time of year with so many colds about and Christmas approaching our thoughts turn to how we can avoid these winter 'nasties'. Here are some of the ways yoga can help boost your immunity so you are ready to any bacteria or viruses that might come your way:-

How Yoga Boosts Health-Immunity http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/ 

Please read my blog disclaimer before following these videos http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/disclaimer.html
Please note as of August 2014 I am no longer a donation based yoga teacher. Thank you
Copyright © 2014 Flexiladiesyoga

  • Yoga enhances the flow of lymph which deals with invaders to the body, that is bacteria and viruses (see my article 'How yoga can help boost the circulation of blood and lymph' http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/how-yoga-can-help-boost-circulation-of.html
  • Yoga promotes restful sleep.  When sleep is inadequate the immune system is impaired. Yoga chest openers stimulate the thymus gland which plays an important part in the immune system in that develops the lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.
  • Yoga twists 'wring out' toxins which impair the immune system
  • Yoga chest openers and inversions relieve stress.  Chest openers encourage greater intake of oxygen which has a calming effect on the brain.  Inversions encourage the flow of blood to the brain which alsp has a calming effect.
  • Yoga energizes the chakras.  Each chakra is associated with an endocrine gland and when healthy, the endocrine system works with the immune system to defend the body against invading bacteria and viruses.  For instance the endocrine system is associated with digestion through the pancreas (associated with the sacral chakra) and a healthy digestion enables the immune system to achieve optimal function.  Also the parathyroid associated with the throat chakra and is involved in vitamin D regulation. Recent research suggests vitamin D is involved in immune function to the extent that vitamin D may help prevent some cancers. The adrenals are associated with the sacral chakra and release cortisol into the blood.  When this is overproduced it causes the stress response which leads to lowered immunity.
  • Meditation reduces stress which impairs the immune system.

See my YouTube videos

Kundalini yoga to help boost immunity-Part 1-Anti-aging series

Kundalini yoga to help boost immunity-Part 2-Anti-aging series

Boosting the immunity by purifying the body Part 1, Anti-aging series

Boosting the immunity by purifying the body Part 2, Anti-aging series

Yoga to help prevent colds and flu- Part 1

Yoga to help prevent colds and flu- Part 2

Winter Wellness- Improving immunity by circulating lymph

Anti aging series-Boosting the immune system-Part 1

Anti aging series-Boosting the immune system-Part 2

See also 'Tis the season to be healthy' on 40plusandalliswell-http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/tis-season-to-be-healthy.html

Friday, 21 November 2014

It's Thanksgiving-be grateful

Happy Thanksgiving to all Americans as they celebrate Thanksgiving on 27th November. 

The year was 1621.  The Pilgrims to America had had it tough, they had faced sickness and near starvation.  Imagine how grateful they were for the bountiful harvest that year.
On the wellness blog, 40plusandalliswell http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/ we have been looking at how being grateful can improve our wellbeing http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/glow-with-gratitude.html 

Here we will look at how yoga can help us open up to feelings of gratitude which in turn lead to a more positive attitude.  

  • Yoga hip openers help release feelings of negativity which tend to be stored in this area.  Once we are free of negativity we recognise the good that surrounds us.
  • Yoga twists  'wring out' negativity.
  • Chest opening poses balance the heart chakra which is associated with love, compassion, forgiveness and gratitude.  A balanced heart chakra allows you to see the good in all people and situations.
  • Yoga helps us accept, appreciate and be grateful for what our bodies can do.
  • Yoga breath awareness and meditation help us to appreciate the present moment.  When we are not fretting about the past or worrying about the future we can really appreciate the good things in our lives right now.
  • Yoga releases tension and 'opens up' the body to gratitude.
  • Yoga flows encourage the release of endorphins which make us feel good, reducing stress and allowing us to appreciate what we have.

Try the following videos from my YouTube Channel to bring gratitude into your life and open up to feeling 'blessed'.

Gratitude Yoga Practice-Thanksgiving Practice-Part 1
Being grateful for the things in your life releases tension in the body, frees the mind from want allowing you to progress on your path to find your true self. The practice will focus on opening the body especially the heart area to cultivate the feeling of gratitude.  
Please read my blog disclaimer before following these videos http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/disclaimer.html

Copyright © 2012 Flexiladiesyoga

Gratitude Yoga Practice-Thanksgiving Practice-Part 2
Being grateful for the things in your life releases tension in the body, frees the mind from want allowing you to progress on your path to find your true self. The practice will focus on opening the body especially the heart area to cultivate the feeling of gratitude.  
Please read my blog disclaimer before following these videos http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/disclaimer.html

Copyright © 2012 Flexiladiesyoga

I leave you with this thought - 'God gives you blessings, happiness is up to you'.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Unwrap your healthy weight for Christmas and keep it all year

It's only 5 weeks to Christmas when it will be time to shed those oversize jumpers and get out your party wear.
Here are some of the ways yoga can help you look good:-

  • Certain types of yoga, such as Ashtanga, Power Yoga and Vinyassa with dynamic sequences burn calories
  • Yoga improves digestion eliminating bloating
  • Yoga helps you become more in tune with your body, so that you eat mindfully
  • Yoga reduces stress.  As overeating is often an emotional issue, reducing stress can help with weight loss
  • Yoga regulates the thyroid gland (as it does all the endocrine glands) which regulates metabolism
  • Yoga improves sleep.  As we tend to eat more when we are tired this also can help with weight loss 
  • Yoga tones
  • Yoga improves posture leading to a slimmer appearance

Here are two of my YouTube videos you may like to try:-

Yoga for weight loss-Part 1

Yoga for weight loss-Part 2

Janet x

Monday, 17 November 2014

What's happening on 40plusandalliswell

On 40plusandalliswell we had a recipe for vegan sausages http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/meatless-mondayvegan-bangers-with-fiery.html 
To compliment our 'How yoga boosts health series-Spinal health' we had 'Love your back' http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/love-your-back.html 
We talked about saturated fat which has been in the news lately because some doctors now believe saturated fat is not the 'villain' that it has been made out to be in the past http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/in-news-saturated-fat.html 
Treat yourself to a guilt free 'Caramel' apple cake made with anti-oxidant rich lacuma http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/caramel-apple-cake.html
For those cold days there is a 'Mock cock-a-leekie soup'. http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/meatless-mondaymock-cock-leekie-soup.html  
Why not make dry body brushing part of your daily routine. Learn how to body brush and read about the benefits of body brushing on the blog.  http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/love-wellness-dry-body-brushing.html
The cold weather can leave your skin feeling dry. Try out my simple face mask to regain a glowing skin http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/oatmeal-yogurt-and-honey-face-mask.html

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Meditation, ancient help for 21st century stress

The weeks leading up to Christmas can be hectic.  There is so much to do, present buying/wrapping/delivering, card writing, menu planning, invitations to send, food to buy and prepare as well as all the things you normally do.  Its important to stay calm, eat well and get your sleep to prevent getting run down and being too tired and irritable to enjoy Christmas when it comes.  
Meditation can help with the build up to Christmas! Meditation, practiced regularly is calming, helps you stay focused and aids deep physical relaxation.   In addition meditation causes measurable changes in the brain in that it increases the grey matter in the frontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with focus and concentration.  This usually decreases as we age so meditation could be said to reverse aging.  
How does meditation work?
Meditation is a way of accessing and controlling a deeper level of the mind, the subconscious. Imagine meditation creating a ‘tunnel’ through the conscious mind.  Each time you meditate you extend this tunnel until you reach your subconscious mind.  The subconscious mind governs much more of our behaviour than people realise and it is in this part of the mind, the ‘inner critic’ and negativity reside.  Don’t be surprised if when you start meditating suppressed emotions arise.  Try not to judge but be accepting, it is all part of the healing process that will allow you to gain access to your true self which is kind, compassionate. 
The following story illustrates how meditation works.
The Elephant in the Rock by Eknath Easwaran (http://www.ijourney.org/index.php?op=author&sel=e)
This is an edited extract from Eknath Easwaran’s ‘God makes the rivers to flow’ explains how meditation works:-
 In Ancient India there lived a sculptor renowned for his life size statues of elephants.  With trunks curled high these carved beasts seemed to trumpet to the sky.  One day the king came to see these magnificent works.  Struck with wonder the king asked the sculptor ‘What is the secret of your artistry?’  The sculptor replied, ’Great King, with the help of many men I quarry a gigantic piece of granite from the banks of the river.  I have it set in my courtyard and for a long time I do nothing but observe this block of stone and study it from every angle.  I focus all my concentration on this task and do not allow anyone or anybody to disturb me.  At first I see nothing but a shapeless rock sitting there, meaningless, indifferent to my purpose.  Then slowly, very slowly I begin to notice something in the substance of the rock.  I feel an outline scarcely discernible show itself to me though others I suspect would perceive nothing.  I watch with an open eye and joyous, eager heart.  The outline grows stronger ‘Yes I can see it, an elephant is stirring in there’.  Only then do I start work.  I use my chisel and mallet, always clinging to my sense of that outline which grows ever stronger.  How the big fellow strains, how he yearns to be out, he wants to live.  It seems so clear now, I know the thing I must do.  With an utter singleness of purpose I must chip away every piece of stone that is not an elephant, then what remains must be an elephant’.
What can we learn from this story?  Just like the elephant ‘exists’ in the rock but cannot be seen until the rock is chiseled away, so too, our true self which radiates love and compassion already exists, but we do not see it.  Meditation is the tool that allows us to chip away everything that is not true self.
Myths about meditation
• You need a completely empty mind – thoughts will naturally arise, simply acknowledge them then continue to focus on the breath, mantra, etc (see below)
• Meditation is the same as relaxation – meditation is an active practice and therefore not the same as relaxation in which you completely surrender, let go
• You have to sit in Lotus position saying ‘om’ – you can meditate in any comfortable position.  The important point is not to be distracted by feelings of discomfort. When yoga was first practiced,the reason asana (posture) work developed was to be able to sit comfortably for meditation for long periods. Meditations can use mantras (a word or a phrase to focus on) such as ‘om’ (the supposed sound of the universe) but this is not the only way to meditate.
• Meditation is a religious observance- there is often no religious connection although if you wish a religious word or phrase can be used as a mantra. 
• Yoga has no place in western society – in our 24/7,  21st century society meditation is needed more than ever to prevent stress causing health problems. 

Ways to meditate – for all the following techniques sit in a comfortable position (on a chair if you wish).
If thoughts or feelings arise acknowledge then then gently but firmly bring your focus back
• Focus on the breath – just watching the breath move in and out of the body (do not try to change the breath in any way)
• Count the breath – breathe in, breathe out, count one, breathe in, breathe out, count two etc. until you get to 10 then start the count again. If a thought/feeling intervenes start the count again (most of us cannot get beyond a count of three at first)
• Focus on a mantra – this might be a word such ‘om’, ‘peace’, ‘love’ or a phrase such as ‘om shanti om’ (peace to all).  You can even use your own name saying your first name as you breathe in, you surname as you breathe out (or the first syllable of your first name as you breathe in, the second as you breathe out). If a thought/feeling intervenes gently but firmly return your focus to your mantra. One of the first people to meditate in this way was Wordsworth.
• Focus on an object – this might be a candle, flower or any object you wish to focus on.  If thoughts/feelings arise gently but firmly return to focusing on your object.
So there you have some basic techniques for meditating. Start today and start to receive the benefits.
See also

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Introduction to new series - How yoga boosts health

The inspiration for my next series came from reading my article 'How yoga can help heal'. http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/yoga-therapy.html  So many of us come to yoga with the aim of improving our health and it is true that yoga can lead to improvements in health, in many and diverse ways.  Recently, as you may know if you follow my blog, I have had a broken wrist.  When my 'pot' was removed they recommended yoga as a way of getting flexibility back into my wrist.  This was certainly 'preaching to the converted'!!
Science is confirming what yogis have known for thousands of years.  Current reseach suggests yoga may reduce back pain, stress, anxiety and depression, lower high blood pressure, and relieve insomnia.  Yoga can also reduce heart rate, which helps people with heart disease.  I believe yoga has helped improve my lung function (I suffered lung damage when chicken pox invaded my lung some years ago) and has improved my bone density (osteoporosis was a 'side effect' of steroid inhalers taken to improve breathing when my lung was damaged).  In other words yoga has given me my life back and I can now lead a very active life with daily yoga and long country walks.
As always check with your doctor if you suffer from any health condition before practicing yoga.
I hope that the series will be of benefit to everyone!
Be healthy, be happy.
Janet x
See my YouTube channel for the new series

How yoga helps with the health of the spine

Your spine is a really important part of your body.  It consists of small bones called vertebrae which protect the spinal cord, an extension of the brain.  From this spinal cord arise 31 pairs of nerves which control movement and feed sensory information to the brain.  Sometimes the spinal cord directs movement without involving the brain initially.  For instance if you were to accidently touch something hot, a 'reflex arc' involving only your spinal cord would cause you to quickly withdraw your hand.  Only then would the information be relayed to the brain. The spinal nerves also control the functioning of the internal organs.  

Yogis believe that 'you are as young as your spine is flexible'.  Yoga certainly helps with the flexibility of the spine by putting the spine through its complete range of motion.  There are six natural movements of the spine, that is forward and back, lateral stretch to the right and left, twist to the right and left.  We explore the flexibility of the spine in our first video on spinal health.

The muscles of the core support the lower spine preventing the 'rounding' that so often can occur in the lower back which leads to back pain. In our second video we practice yoga poses that will strengthen muscles supporting the spine.  

Yoga also creates 'space' in the spine.  This is important because where vertebrae are compressed the intervertebral discs which act as 'shock absorbers' can become herniated and the vertebrae themselves may wear.  We will 'open up' the spine through yoga in our third video.

Earlier in the 'How yoga boosts health' series we focused on how yoga helps with posture. Good posture is important for correct alignment of the spine which in turn prevents wear and tear on the vertebrae and also prevents the intervertebral discs from herniating.  In the video 'How yoga boosts health - Posture 3' http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/how-yoga-boosts-health-posture-3.html we focused on stretching the hamstrings and hip flexors'.  Where these are tight they can pull the lower spine out of alignment leading to back pain.  
Your spine is a really important part of your body, so please take good care of it.
Janet x

Please note-these videos are not intended for people who have spinal health problems. They are intended to prevent spinal health problems.

How Yoga Boosts Health-Spinal health-1 http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/
Please read my blog disclaimer before following these videos http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/disclaimer.html
Article that accompanies this video http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/how-yoga-helps-with-health-of-spine.html
Please note as of August 2014 I am no longer a donation based yoga teacher. Thank you

Please note-these videos are not intended for people who have spinal health problems. They are intended to prevent spinal health problems.

How Yoga Boosts Health-Spinal health-2 http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/
Please read my blog disclaimer before following these videos http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/disclaimer.html
Article that accompanies this video http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/how-yoga-helps-with-health-of-spine.html
Please note as of August 2014 I am no longer a donation based yoga teacher. Thank you
Copyright © 2014 Flexiladiesyoga

Please note-these videos are not intended for people who have spinal health problems. They are intended to prevent spinal health problems.

How Yoga Boosts Health-Spinal health-3 http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/
Please read my blog disclaimer before following these videos http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/disclaimer.html
Article that accompanies this video http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/how-yoga-helps-with-health-of-spine.html
Please note as of August 2014 I am no longer a donation based yoga teacher. Thank you
Copyright © 2014 Flexiladiesyoga

Copyright © 2014 Flexiladiesyoga