Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Yoga for muscle strength- Part 1 Legs

As you age muscle mass deteriorates if you do not take steps to reverse this.  In fact muscle mass declines by up to 1% per year after age 40 and accelerates after 60 or if you have a sedentary lifestyle.  This leads to loss of strength and eventually reduced mobility. 
When you exercise muscles, those muscles pull on bone which helps strengthen your bones.

Also muscles burn calories, so as your muscle mass declines your metabolism lowers so that you may put on weight.

So do not delay - take steps to reverse muscle loss with the following yoga poses.

Start in Child's Pose.  Inhale onto all 4s, tuck your toes, exhale lift your hips into 
Downward Facing Dog  - Inhale, look forward bring your right foot forward by your right hand, exhale drop your back heel, turning your toes out at 45 degrees.  Inhale, get your balance and come up keeping the front knee bent and stretch your arms up towards the ceiling.  Breathe out, engage your core and straighten your front knee, breathe in and bend the front knee and continue working with your breath for several breaths.  Return to Downward Facing Dog and repeat second side.

Fierce Prayer  - come to standing and place a block between your thighs.  Breathe in and stretch your arms up, breathe out and bend your knees deeply.  Imagine you are preparing to sit in a seat that is placed a little too far back.  Hold for several breaths then inhale straighten your legs, exhale release your arms down.

Side Angle - To practice the pose come to the centre of the mat in Tadasana.  Step your feet wide and turn the whole of the right leg to the right, toes of the left foot turning in about 45 degrees. Ladies should line up front and back heels, men front heel to back instep. Bring your hands to prayer position.  Inhale stretch your arms out at shoulder height, exhale bend your front knee.  Inhale bring your right elbow to your right thigh, exhale circle your left arm down then up by your left ear.  With practice you may find that you can reach a block placed behind the right foot (remember a block has 3 levels) and eventually you may not need a block at all.  To come out of the pose, inhale windmill your arms up, straighten the front knee, exhale bring your hands to your heart, turn the feet to face forward.  Repeat on the second side.

Tree Pose - from standing take your weight into your left leg.  Find a drishti, a gaze point then bring the sole of the right foot to cup the left ankle, to the left shin or reach down and bring the right foot to the left thigh (never place the right foot on the knee).  Press the right foot into the left leg and press back into the right foot with the left leg. From this stability in the legs, inhale and take the arms up.  Keep the tail bone lengthening down towards the mat. Hold for several breaths then release on a breath out.  Repeat second side. Use a wall to help with balance if you need to.  Please see 'Lessons from yoga-It's ok to fall'-

Warrior 3 - from standing inhale take tour arms up, exhale hinge forward bringing your torso and raised leg into a T shape with the standing leg.  Hold and breathe then inhale to release. To modify bring your fingertips to a wall.

On the wellness blog, 40plusandalliswell we have been thing about other ways to keep muscles strong such as power walking and using a resistance band.  Please see 'The importance of maintaining muscle strength over 40- Part 1 Legs'-

Janet x

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Beginners' peak pose yoga practice - Half Lord of the Fishes

Please see the video on my YouTube Channel-
'Beginners' yoga peak pose practice - Half Lord of the Fishes'-

Half Lord of the Fishes is a seated twist which opens the shoulders and hips and releases tension in the lower back.  Twist poses stimulate digestion and elimination.  According to BKS Iyengar's 'squeeze and soak' theory, twists 'wring out' the abdominal organs and then as you release the twist, the abdominal organs receive a fresh supply of oxygenated blood.  

In our yoga video we start by warming up the neck and shoulders before working on the flexibility of the spine.  The neck is the most mobile part of the spine so you should take care when practicing the pose not to overstrain the neck.  We also work on opening the hips and preparing for the seated twist with a twist in Cat pose and a twist in lunge pose.  Making space in the spine before twisting is important to facilitate the twist and avoid injury - we do this in Swan pose and in a standing forward bend.  In standing forward bends the weight of the head (around 12lb) helps open up the spine. 

When we come to the final pose, I show you how to modify if the final pose is not accessible to you. Modifications have all the benefits of the full pose so it is not worth staining to achieve the 'perfect' pose. In fact, if you strain into a pose, you will lose all the benefits of that pose.

If you are interested in the legend associated with Half Lord of the Fishes please see 'Yoga legends-Lord of the Fishes'-

Janet x

Sunday, 24 April 2016

This week on 40plusandalliswell

Today's Meatless Monday is a recipe for 'Millet and Shiitake Arancini' which are 'bread-crumbed' baked risotto balls and a great way of using up left over risotto.
The shiitake mushrooms have a 'meaty' texture and a delicious almost ‘smoky’ flavour.
Recipe on my 'sister' blog-

Our wonderful Queen is 90 tomorrow!
In celebration of the Queen's 90th birthday, I have made this red white and blue vegan 'cheesecake'.
Recipe on my 'sister' blog-

Growing your own potatoes is so rewarding (and delicious!!!) It is now time to plant first earlies-this guest blog post on my 'sister' blog shows you how-

Yoga for every body -men- stress

Even in the 21st century, women, for the most part, are seen as the nurturers and men as the providers.  Because of this (and it pains me to say this) men do tend to have more high powered jobs than women which are stressful. This is changing but only slowly. Even if they do not have a high powered job, providing financially for the family can be stressful in this day and age.  

When women get stressed they have outlets for that stress - they may let off steam with friends (this is the mark of a good friend!) or have a good cry.  Men in general however either bottle stress up, become angry or turn to such diversions as alcohol.

There is another reason why men get more stressed than women.  When women get stressed they release the stress hormone cortisol from the adrenals, as do men.  This triggers a release of oxytocin from the brain which helps reduce the effects of cortisol by promoting relaxation but the oxytocin release in men is far less than in women.

Yoga can help reduce stress in many ways, some of which we practice in this week's video - 
  • 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 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 centred 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.ow 
Please see my yoga video on my YouTube Channel-'Yoga for every body -men- stress'-

You might also find my 'Yoga for stress series' playlist on YouTube useful-

Also my blog post on meditation, 'Meditation, ancient help for 21st century stress' -

Janet x 

Friday, 22 April 2016

Earth Day 2016

For more ideas on how you can help our beautiful planet please see the following blog post I wrote last year for Earth Day. The blog post includes a grounding yoga practice and meditation-

Thursday, 21 April 2016

6 Energizing yoga poses for Spring

I may have said this before - I love Spring!! Everything is bursting into life, the birds are nesting and there is some warmth in the sun.  

In Ayurveda, kapha dosha dominates in Spring.  This means that, even at this uplifting time of year we may feel sluggish and prone to sniffles, sinus problems and allergies.  The following poses will balance kapha dosha enabling you to really enjoy this wonderful time of year.  

Start with a few rounds of Sun Salutations then allow your breath to return to normal in Child's Pose

Bow Pose (an invigorating back bend which deepens the breath relieving fatigue and stimulates digestion and elimination) - from Child's Pose come to lying on your tummy. Bring your forehead to the mat and bend your knees as you reach back with your hands for your ankles.  If you cannot reach, take a belt around your ankles.  Your knees should be hip width apart.  Inhale press your feet up and back, lifting your chest and head up off the mat. Hold for a couple of breaths then breathe out to release. To modify practice with one leg at a time (Half Bow).  Repeat second side then take a Child's Pose.

Half Moon Pose (an energizing assymmetric back bend that encourages deeper breathing helping with upper respiratory tract infections and relieving fatigue) - from Child's Pose extend your arms forward, breathe in and come to all 4s.  Tuck your toes under, breathe out and lift your hips into a Downward Facing Dog.  Inhale look forward and step your right foot forward between your hands.  Breathe out and drop the back knee.  Inhale, bring your hands to to front knee.  Roll your shoulders back and down and on your next inhale take your arms up as you curl back, lifting your chest.  To come out of the pose, breathe out, take your hands to the mat and step back to Downward Facing Dog.  Repeat second side then from Downward Facing Dog walk your feet forward.  When your shoulders come over your hands, take hold of your elbows and slowly roll up to standing.

Crescent Moon Pose (a side body stretch that opens the chest and increases circulation) - From standing with your feet hip distance, inhale, stretch your arms out and up and take hold of your right wrist with your left hand. Breathe out and lean to the left, opening the right side of the body. Press your hips to right. Breathe in come back to centre, breathe out and taking hold of the left wrist with the right hand, lean to the left.  Inhale back to centre and repeat once more on each side.

Triangle Pose (an intense stretch to the sides of your body, opening up the chest) - starting in the middle of your mat, step your feet a leg length apart, turn the right leg out and the left foot in 45 degrees.  Ladies should align their heel, men should align front heel to back instep. Breathe in and lift your arms to shoulder height. Breathe out and shift your hips to the left and you extend over your right leg, bringing your hand to rest on your ankle, shin or thigh.  If you are very flexible you can bring your hand down to the floor behind the right foot.  Your gaze can be up at your right thumb if your neck allows, or down at your right big toe. If you have neck issues, you may also want to place your top hand on your hips. To come out of the pose, breathe in and windmill your arms up, breathe out turn your feet to face forward and your hands to heart centre. Repeat second side.

Wide Leg Standing Forward Bend with twist (boosts circulation, improves digestion and elimination and revitalises abdominal organs)- take your feet wide and have the outside edges of the feet parallel to the short edges of the mat.  Take your hands to your hips.  On a breath out, hinging from the groin, fold forward into a flat-back position and release your hands to a block or the mat.  Breathe in and as you breathe out take the right arm up and look up at the right hand.  Breathe in as you bring the arm down, come back to centre, and repeat second side. Continue working with your breath.  To come out, breathe out, take your hands to your hips, breathe in come up slowly.

Supported Supta Baddha Konasana (opens up your chest, helping to relieve sinus problems and relaxes your nervous system) - Lie back over your bolster or rolled up blanket and bring your heels close into your buttocks. Bring the soles of your feet together, releasing your knees down towards the mat. To protect your SI joints, place a cushion under each thigh. 
Your arms should be at a 45 degree angle with palm facing up.  Stay here breathing into your abdomen for up to 3 minutes.  To come out of the pose, take your hands to the outside edges of your thighs and draw the knees together. Roll to your right and come up slowly.  

Janet x

Monday, 18 April 2016

Beginners' peak pose yoga practice - Dancer

Dancer is an energise pose that also helps to correct upper and lower body posture faults.  It stretches the hamstrings at the back of the thigh and the quadricep muscles at the front of the thigh.  Both of these muscles can become tight with for example sitting at a desk for long periods.  By opening the chest, Dancer pose encourages deeper breathing which helps relieve stress and fatigue.  Dancer also improves balance.

Dancer pose requires openness in the shoulders and hips, and leg strength and flexibility and these are the focus of our preparation for Dancer in this week's video.  We practice Dancer using a wall initially to become familiar with the pose without being too focused on balance at first.  When you move away from the wall, it is useful in balances to find a drishti, a gaze point - it really does help you balance!!

If you are interested in the story behind Dancer pose, please see 'Yoga Myths and Legends- Dancer Pose'-

Please see my video on my YouTube Channel-'Beginners' peak pose yoga practice - Dancer'-

Janet x

Sunday, 17 April 2016

This week on 40plusandalliswell

This week for my Meatless Monday recipe I have been making gluten free tostadas! 
Tostadas are a Mexican dish with a tortilla base, topped with refried beans and salad drizzled with coconut cream and garnished with fresh coriander leaves.
Great for feeding a crowd-let them assemble their own with the toppings of their choice!
Please see my 'sister' blog for the recipe-
Hope you enjoy! x

This week in the organic garden we are planting edible marigolds. These should be planted by the end of April. 
For all the information you need to grow edible marigolds please see Becky's guest post by following the link to my 'sister' blog below-

Many of our household cleaners have potentially harmful chemicals in them. 
In the blog post on my 'sister' blog we look at a few natural alternatives which are just as effective-

Yoga for every body - men - non-competitive

It is natural for men to be competitive but this is not what yoga is about - rather yoga is a journey of self-discovery. As our bodies gradually open, with practice as opposed to force, we open our minds to see things more clearly. Straining to compete with the person on the next mat or to achieve the 'perfect' pose can lead to injury.  

Yogis have a tool that helps - it is called 'finding your edge', that place where you feel a stretch but not a strain. If you strain into a pose, you immediately lose the benefits of that pose.  The breath is a good indicator of whether you are straining in a pose.  If the breath becomes laboured, you should either come out of the pose or take a modified version.  Don't feel that it is admitting defeat to use props either - props are a great way of encouraging your body to open gradually without injury.  The same tool can be used in meditation.  When you first start meditating many uncomfortable emotions may arise and it can be helpful to just be with these emotions but if they become overwhelming you may just have to try again another day.

In life too, being overlay competitive can lead to unhappiness.  Yogis have set of restraints to live by - the yamas, one of which is aparigraha, non-grasping, being content with what we have.  This may mean not striving so much for that promotion that we become stressed with all the health risks this has.  It may mean letting go of 'keeping up with the Jones's' because material possessions only create a need for more.  Instead practice being grateful for what you have.  When we feel gratitude for what we have, we are less likely to take more than we need because we recognise that we already have abundance in our lives and do not need to grasp for more.  You may want to try the meditation in the following blog post on asteya

Please see also my blog post 'Taking your yoga off the mat - aparigraha'-

My yoga video, 'Yoga for every body - men - non-competitive' can be found on my YouTube Channel-

Janet x

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Back to basics - Standing poses - Revolved Side Angle

Revolved Side Angle is a challenging pose. It stretches and strengthens the legs, opens up the shoulders and stimulates the abdominal organs stimulating digestion and elimination.  

Start in Downward facing dog, inhale and bring the right foot forward.  Breathe out and drop the back knee, bringing the top of the foot to the mat.  Inhale come up, exhale bring the hands into prayer position.  On your next breath out, hook the left elbow over the right thigh and twist to the right.  Lengthen through the crown of your head and release down to close the gap between right thigh and left ribcage.  There is a tendency for the arms to press the right knee in so actively press the knee out.  This may be your pose.  To go further lift the back knee.  To go further open the arms taking the left hand to a block, right hand towards the ceiling.  For the full pose bring the back heel down, turning the toes to the left at 45 degrees.

Please see the yoga video, 'Back to basics - Standing poses - Revolved Side Angle' on my YouTube Channel-

Janet x

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Lessons from yoga-selfless service

Selfless service means deeds performed for the good of others without any thought of personal gain.

Reading the news you might be forgiven for feeling you cannot make a difference.  Do not forget though that the media focus is often on the bad and all the individuals who quietly work tirelessly to alleviate suffering are not reported.  Many religions focus on service to others as a way of serving the divine. Through yoga we realise that the divine resides in each and every one of us.  Sometimes the divine in us is hidden but yoga helps us chip away anything that is blocking our view of the divine in ourselves and others.

Yoga practice brings awareness of the connection of all living beings so we are aware not only our own suffering, but that of others. Yoga also opens our hearts to love and compassion so that we have a deep desire to help alleviate that suffering. This will be the focus of our video this week. 

Life is full of opportunities to show loving kindness.  Maybe you won't change the world but you can make a difference. We end our video with a Loving Kindness meditation.

I will leave you with the inspiring words of some people I know. The first is a lady in her mid-nineties!!! She says 'I do what I can and I don't worry about the rest'.  I also had a lovely yoga teacher who used to say 'If I can see my way to help someone, I will'.

Please see the video on my YouTube Channel, 'Lessons from yoga-selfless service'-

Janet x 

Sunday, 10 April 2016

This week on 40plusandalliswell

This week's Meatless Monday is a Louisiana inspired vegan gumbo. 
Recipe on my 'sister' blog-

This week we have another guest post on my 'sister' blog on organic gardening. Becky shows us the techniques of intercropping and cluster planting as we plant radish and turnips-

Many of our beauty products are laden with chemicals that are potentially hazardous to our health. In the blog post on my 'sister' blog we look at some of the chemicals used and some natural alternatives-

Yoga for every body - men - depression

Men can be reluctant to own up to depression and seek help.  They feel they should be strong, in control.  Admitting to depression seems to be viewed by some men as a threat to their masculine image.  Women on the other hand are more likely to seek help.  Men also find it more difficult to talk about their feelings whereas women are much more open.  As a result sadly men are more likely to commit suicide than women.

Symptoms of depression include despondency, loss of interest in work etc, fatigue or with anxiety related depression, panic attacks, OCD, and difficulty sleeping.  Other symptoms include sexual problems and in men depression can also take the form of anger.

We begin our yoga video with Sun Salutations - these are energizing if you have depression with fatigue but also help 'burn off' stress hormones if your depression is characterised by anxiety.

Yoga can help with depression by creating changes in our brain chemistry lowering anxiety which often accompanies depression.  Chest openers, which we practice in our video can invigorate by encouraging deeper breathing which brings more oxygen into the body. Your body needs oxygen to produce energy. Also chest openers can calm anxiety by this effect on breathing which is soothing for the brain.

When we are depressed we tend to have our shoulders forward which tightens the chest muscles impeding breathing.  Yoga improves posture opening up the chest to deeper breathing which both relieves fatigue and calms the mind.

Having opened the chest, forward bends and half inversions and inversions help bring the freshly oxygenated blood to the brain.  We practice these too in the video, 'Yoga for every body - men - depression' on my YouTube Channel-

Rest is key to recover from depression.  I would advise you to practice Savasana daily spending 10-15 minutes letting go of any tension in your body and calming your mind.


Watching the breath is a form of meditation that is useful to practice as you rest.  Let your whole attention be focused on your breath and if any thoughts pop into your head, gently but firmly let them go, returning your attention to your breath.  

Below are some other yoga videos on my YouTube Channel that you may find helpful
'Yoga for mild depression' playlist-

'Yoga Nidra' (this is 'yogic sleep' a state of complete relaxation)-

I really hope this helps.

Janet x

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Back to basics - standing poses - Revolved Triangle Pose

Revolved Triangle opens up the chest, stimulates the abdominal organs, strengthens the legs and improves balance.  

To come into the pose start at the back of the mat with the feet at hip distance.  Turn the left toes out to 45 degrees and keep the width between your feet as you step the right foot forward.  Lift through your kneecaps and bring your hands to your hips.  Ease your right hip back so that your hips line up with the short edge of the mat.  Breathe out an hinge forward pressing the tail bone back and the crown of the head forward.  Take your left hand to a block placed on the big toe side of the foot.  Breathe in and as you breathe out engage your core and rotate to the right. Raise your right arm.  Your gaze can be straight ahead or down at the mat. To come out exhale bring your right hand to your hip. inhale release the twist and come up. Step your feet together and repeat 2nd side.

For a more advanced variation line up the feet heel to heel and take the block to the little toe side of the foot.  

Please find the video on my YouTube Channel-'Back to basics - standing poses - Revolved Triangle Pose'-

Janet x

Monday, 4 April 2016

Lessons from yoga - take rests when you need to

All of nature has rest periods.  Trees shed their leaves in autumn and enter a period of dormancy.  The grass stops growing (much to my relief - mowing is not my favourite activity!!!) and many animals hibernate.  Traditionally the winter would be more restful for people too - without electric lights to artificially lengthen the day, people would sleep more and there would be little to do on the land.  

These days we are more out of touch with the rhythms of the seasons and with our own bodies.  We push through feelings of tiredness, knowing we should rest.  Rest is important as I found out the hard way many years ago.  I was half way through the year studying for a degree in science when my husband had a heart attack.  My children were young and on their summer long break. That year I had decided to take an extra course to complete my degree earlier.  The only way to fit in hospital visits, entertaining the children, cooking etc was to study into the night. Surviving on just four hours sleep each night, I made it to my end of year exams.  Time to relax? Just after my exams I succumbed to pneumonia - my body was letting me know in no uncertain terms that it did not like the treatment I was giving it.  

Rest allows your body to repair itself, rejuvenating your body and mind.  Not enough rest therefore can lead to stress, impaired immunity, impaired learning and memory, irritable mood and even weight gain.

Even in our yoga practice there are days when an energetic sequence does not feel right for the needs of our body. Even if you do decide to do a more energetic practice, be sure to take rests when you need to. For those days when you need a more restful practice restorative yoga is ideal.

Restorative yoga uses props to allow the body to open slowly without strain.  In the video, I am using a bolster but if you do not have one a rolled up blanket will be fine.The poses are held for a few minutes to allow for this.  While you are holding the poses tune into your breath or the sensations in your body rather than letting your 'monkey' mind take over .  In this way restorative yoga increases mindfulness and reduces stress.  In turn this can boost immunity and allow for better sleep.

Please see the yoga video on my YouTube Channel-'Lessons from yoga - take rests when you need to' -

Janet x

Sunday, 3 April 2016

This week on 40plusandalliswell

Today's Meatless Monday is an Mexican inspired dish and is a different way of enjoying your chilli. It originated in the corn growing areas of North America. The cornbread topping provides a sweet contrast to the spicy beans. Delicious! 
If you are feeding a crowd this Bank Holiday Monday you might want to scale up the quantities.
'Spiced chilli beans topped with cornbread'-Recipe on my 'sister' blog-

Introducing Becky, my lovely daughter who is going to be doing some spring planting gardening blog posts for my 'sister' blog 40plusandalliswell. We start this week with turnips and radishes-

In the last of our series on healthy snacks we are making double choc fruit and nut oat bars which have no sugar added. 
Recipe on my 'sister' blog-

Yoga for every body - men- hip flexibility

Men tend to be less flexible in their joints than women.  This may be partly because men tend to have greater muscle mass than women and if muscles are not stretched regularly they tighten which may limit the range of motion of the joints.  Women also have more flexible hips due to their hormones.  

Flexibility is important for several reasons.  Firstly when muscles around a joint are tight, blood and prana flow to that joint are impeded which can impact on the long term health of that joint eventually leading to impaired joint function and bone loss.  If you participate in sports, increasing your flexibility will lower your risk of injury as well as your everyday risk of injury. Your hips are also where you hold onto negative emotions so increasing the flexibility in the hips will help you let these go. Improving your hip flexibility also helps you to maintain good posture.

In the video below we put the hip joint through its full range of motion, rotation, flexion and extension.  In the west we spend so much of our day seated with our legs forward and rarely open our hips. This shortens the hip flexors and tightens the hamstrings which can lead to back pain.  Running and other sports or even walking require hip strength, not flexibility but it is important to combine flexibility with strength.

A word of warning - hip openers can be challenging because the hip ligaments are strong so be prepared to let your hips open gradually with practice - never force as this can cause injury.

Please see the video on my YouTube Channel-'Yoga for every body - men - hip flexibility'-

I would also recommend you do the following yoga videos from my YouTube Channel:-
Back pain 3-Hamstrings and Hips-Part 1
Back pain 3-Hamstrings and Hips-Part 2
Posture, lower body Part 1 - Anti-aging series
Posture, lower body Part 1 - Anti-aging series

Janet x