Friday, 31 March 2017

Yoga for kids - spring practice

Spring is a wonderful time - there are new born lambs, spring flowers such as crocuses, daffodils, tulips and primroses, the birds are pairing up and nesting, the days are getting longer and it's getting a little warmer.  You can spend more time playing outdoors.  

In our practice today we are really going to embrace all that is good about the springtime. 

Lets' take a cycle ride to see what signs of spring we can spot. 

Lie on your back and bring your shins level with the ceiling. Now pedal as if you are riding a bike.  We come to a sunny spot and stop to smell the beautiful flowers. 

Sit on your mat and taking a few deep breaths.  Imagine your are smelling the scent of a beautiful flower.

Sit back on your heels and bring your forehead to the mat, sweep your hand round to your heels.  Imagine you are a seed that has been waiting under the soil all winter.  At last the sun shines, the earth becomes warmer and the spring rains swell the seed.  Slowly the seed starts to uncurl and grow (breathe in, start to uncurl and come up). Eventually it will grow into a tree.  

Tree pose - continue to 'grow' as you slowly come up to standing.  Imagine you are growing roots from under your left foot into the ground.  Bring your right foot to rest against your left ankle, shin or thigh the 'grow your branches' by breathing in and lifting your arms high.  Find a spot to gaze at that is not moving - this will help stop you wobbling.  If you do wobble, that's okay too - trees sway in the wind.  When you are ready to come out of the pose, release your right foot to the mat and lower your arms as you breathe out. Repeat balancing on your right foot. What sort of tree will you be - maybe a pussy willow or a hazel catkin.

The birds are beginning to build their nests - blue tits, black birds, collared doves.  Look out for them taking twigs from the borders in your garden.  If you have a bird box, you may be lucky enough to have blue tits nesting in it.  We are going to be birds now in 
Warrior 3 pose - stand facing the short edge of your mat.  Breathe in and stretch your arms up, breath out and bring your arms down as your left leg lifts. Breathe in to come back to your start position. Don't forget to be a bird again, this time lifting your right leg - maybe you could take your arms out to the sides and flap your 'wings'.

Now let's build our nest.  Lie on your tummy, your forehead on the mat and your knees bent. Reach round with your hands to grab your feet .  Breathe in and press your feet up and back so that your chest lifts off the floor and you make a nest shape with your body.  Breathe out to lower down again. Soon the birds will be laying their eggs.

What other signs of spring can we see?  There are baby rabbits hopping around the fields. Shall we pretend to be baby rabbits nibbling the grass?  Come on to all fours, bend your elbows out to the sides and lower your head. When you are ready to come back up breathe out and push into your hands. 

As we walk by the brook, we spot some frogspawn and there are the parent frogs waving their arms and legs to aerate the eggs.  These are common frogs, browny green in colour (although their colour can vary).  Did you know they can lay up to 2000 eggs.  To be a frog come to kneeling in the middle of the mat facing the long edge.  Bring your hands down in front of you then take your knees wide and flex your feet.  Maybe you can come to your elbows. Can you croak like a frog?  To come out of the pose bring your knees in and slowly come up.

There a butterflies on the flowers sipping the nectar with their proboscis (their mouthparts). Come to seated and bring the soles of your feet together.  Hold onto your ankles and flap your butterfly wings by bringing your knees close into your body then back down.  What sort of butterfly are you - cabbage white, brimstone, tortoise shell, red admiral, or peacock? To come out of the pose, take hold of the outside of your legs and bring your knees together. 

The hedgehogs are coming out of hibernation now.  All winter they have been tucked up under some leaves and twigs.  They must be hungry and thirsty- maybe you could put some meaty cat food out if you have one in your garden and some water.  Hedgehog numbers are reducing so they need all the help they can get.  To be a hibernating hedgehog, sit with your knees bent, your feet just wider than your hips.  Thread your hands behind your ankle and hold onto the fronts of your ankles.  Lower your head.  When you are ready to come out of hibernation, breathe in and slowly come up.  

Time to go home now - just time to see the bees gathering pollen from the spring flowers. Can you see the pollen sacs on their legs?  To be a bee lie back on your mat and take your hands and feet towards the ceiling, keeping your elbows and knees bent.  When you are ready, lie back on your mat.

Enjoy the springtime!

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Yoga to rebalance - happiness / sadness

Please click on the video below to watch, 'Yoga to rebalance-  happiness / sadness'-on my YouTube Channel.

Please read the disclaimer on the blog before following these videos -

We all want happiness but we all have periods of sadness.  In our pursuit of happiness we can get attached to the things we believe will give us that happiness but such attachments will ultimately lead to suffering.  We look for happiness in material things or postpone happiness until conditions are met - 'I will be happy once I have lost weight' etc but true happiness lies, not in these but within us.

As yogis we practice acceptance of both the happy times and the sad times. If we did not have the dark, cold days of winter we would not appreciate so much the newness of life that the spring brings.

We recognise that both happiness and sadness are transient - it is comforting to know that the sadness will pass and should not try to 'hold on' to the happy times.  

In our video this week we are looking to bring balance to the crown chakra in order to bring acceptance to what is. This will also help us feel connected to others and to the divine for it is disconnection that can bring suffering.  Our meditation this week is again one from nature.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

This week on 40plusandalliswell

This week's Meatless Monday may help if you are trying to lose a few pounds now that spring is here! It's filling and delicious too!
Recipe on my 'sister' blog-

Want a change from flowers and chocs to give to mum this Mother's Day?
Why not pamper her with these homemade bath salts?
See my 'sister' blog for how to make them-

These vegan, no-added sugar blueberry muffins with blueberry frosting make a perfect teatime treat for Mother's Day!
Recipe on my 'sister' blog!-

Yoga anatomy bites - internal rotation and external rotation

Imagine a line that divides the body in two from front to back at around navel height - this is the transverse plane sometimes called the horizontal plane.  It is in this plane that all twisting movements take place - Half Lord of the Fishes, Revolved Triangle, Revolved Side Angle, etc are examples.  Please see 'Yoga pose gallery'.

To get a feel of this plane of movement, lie back with your feet at hip distance and roll your legs in so that your big toes touch.  This is internal rotation of the femur (thigh bone).  Now roll your legs out so that the little toe side of the foot releases down towards the mat.  This is external rotation of the femur.

Applying this to yoga poses, in Hero or Reclined Hero pose the femur is internally rotated. Similarly with Downward Facing Dog.  

Internal rotation of the femur 

In Baddha konasana, Tree pose, Keyhole stretch and Goddess Victory Squat etc the femur is externally rotated.

External rotation of the femur

Please also see:-
'Yoga anatomy bites- flexion and extension'
'Yoga anatomy bites - adduction and abduction'.


Thursday, 23 March 2017

Spring metabolism boost

Kapha season lasts from late winter through spring and if we do not take steps to balance kapha, the result may be seasonal allergies, slow metabolism and bloating.  

Yoga can help boost metabolism, the rate at which you use energy, in several ways.  Firstly some yoga poses directly stimulate the thyroid gland, located at the front of the neck. The thyroid controls the rate at which you use energy. Yoga chest openers bring more oxygen into your body which converts food into energy. Yoga flows speed up the heart rate and improve circulation helping deliver nutrients, including oxygen to the muscles where they can be converted into energy. Yoga forward bends and inversions also help boost circulation.  Also yoga helps create lean muscle which leads to more calories being burned and therefore an increase in metabolism.  Finally yoga flows, twists and core work stoke the digestive fire, 'agni' which helps burn more calories and boost metabolism.

The following sequence will help boost metabolism, reduce bloating, stimulate the thyroid and increase circulation.

Sun Salutations - please see 'Yoga pose gallery'. 

Chair pose with twist (opens the chest) come back to standing. Take your hands into prayer position and bend both knees. Breathe in and as you breathe out, hook your left elbow over your right thigh. Hold for a breath or two then breath in to come back to centre.  Repeat second side then on the next breath in straighten your legs to come up.

Rest in Child's Pose - sit with your bottom on your heels and lower your head to your mat, a block and stacked fists.  Sweep your hands back to your heels, if you are not using your hands to rest your head on. Allow your breathing to return to normal.  When you are ready bring your hands forward, press into the mat, breathe in and come up.  

Wild Thing (opens up chest for more oxygen which is needed to release energy) - come to all fours, breathe out and lift your hips high into Downward Facing Dog.  From here breathe in and take your right leg back, breathe out and drop your right heel to your left buttock, opening your hips to the right.  Bend your left knee a little and let your right foot come down on your left side as you lift your chest towards the ceiling.  Hold for a breath or two. To come out of the pose breathe out, engage your core and 'flip' back to Downward Facing Dog. Repeat second side then take a Child's Pose. 

Modified Wild Thing - for the modified version, start on all fours and swing your right foot out to the right. Extend your left leg, breathe in and take your left arm up and back. Hold for a breath or two then 'flip' back to all fours.  Repeat second side then take a Child's pose. Come to standing.

Warrior 1 to Warrior 2 (strengthens muscles of legs encouraging blood flow back to heart) - from the back of the mat, turn your left toes out, step the right foot forward and level up the hips to the short edge of the mat.  Breathe in, take your arms up, breathe out, bend your front knee.  Hold for a few breaths then breathe out and open your arms to shoulder height for Warrior 2.  Turn to look down the fingers of your right hand.  To come out of the pose breathe in, straighten the front knee, breathe out bring your hands to your heart, turn your feet to face forward.  

 Warrior 1 

Warrior 2

Wide leg standing forward bend (also helps strengthen legs and helps drain mucus caused by excess kapha) - line up the outside edges of your feet with the short edges of the mat and take your hands to your hips. Inhale lift your chest, squeeze your elbows together. Breathe out come into a flat back position and release your fingertips to the mat or to a block. Stay here if you have high blood pressure or heart issues otherwise breathe in and as you breathe out release the crown of your head down, 'walk' your fingers back to under your hips. To come out of the pose, breathe out, take your hands to your hips, breathe in and come up.

Half Shoulder Stand (stimulates thyroid and encourages blood circulation to the heart). Sit with your right hip next to the wall, your knees bent. Swivel so that your legs come up the wall and lie back on your mat. Roll the soles of your feet to the wall so that your hips lift -support your lower back with your hands. Do not turn your head in the pose. To come out of the pose, remove your hands, lower your hips down, bend your knees and roll onto your right side. Stay here for a minute before slowly coming up on an in breath.
Please note- this pose may not be suitable for your if you have neck issues, heart problems or high blood pressure. Also if you are menstruating.  Stay in the legs up the wall position if you feel comfortable with that. 

Fish pose (stimulates the thyroid and is a counter pose for shoulder stand). Lie with your legs out stretched and take your hands under your body to lift your chest. Stay here if you have any neck issues or you don't like being on top of your head. If you feel comfortable, bend your elbows and come onto the top of your head. Do not turn your head. To come out of the pose release your chin to your chest and straighten your arms. Release your arms from under your body and hug your knees in. Slowly roll your head from side to side.


Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Yoga to rebalance - instinct vs reason

Please click on the video below to watch, 'Yoga to rebalance-instinct vs reason'-on my YouTube Channel.

Please read the disclaimer on the blog before following these videos -

The best decisions are born of a combination of both reason and instinct but so often we do not trust our instincts. We should - our instincts harness the power of our subconscious, that part of your mind that you are usually unaware of.  We only tend to use a very small percentage of our subconscious mind in our daily lives.  We may have glimpses of our subconscious mind in dreams but these are often forgotten when we wake.  However we can access the subconscious mind when we are in deep states of relaxation as in meditation or yoga nidra which is yogic sleep. In these deeply relaxed states, the subconscious mind will endeavor to fulfill any suggestions made to it as with 'I am calm'. You will find your behaviour undergoes subtle changes, so that you do indeed find that on a daily basis you meet challenges in a more reasoned way rather than a reactive way.

Another way in which we can access our subconscious mind is to calm our conscious mind which is what we endeavor to do in this week's yoga video.  We practice chest openers which increase lung capacity bringing more brain calming oxygen into the body.  Inversions and forward bends bring that oxygen to the brain.  We also include poses and exercises that will balance the third eye chakra, the home of our intuition.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

This week on 40plusandalliswell

This substantial lunch was made from a few odds and ends of vegetables I had left in the fridge-a great way to avoid wasted food and to add to your 'five a day'. 
Recipe on blog-

Almost half of all women get a UTI, urinary tract infection, at some point in their lives. Men are more prone to UTIs after age 50. 
In this blog post I explore natural ways to deal with UTIs-

Happy St.Patrick's Day! Celebrate with this mint choc chip nice cream!
Recipe on the blog! -

In our 'Eat a rainbow' series we are looking at yellow fruits and vegetables and in particular grapefruit. 
Please see my 'sister' blog-

Yoga anatomy bites - adduction and abduction

Imagine a line dividing your body from side to side (shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip etc) - this is the coronal plane and adduction and abduction take place in this plane.  Adduction takes place when a limb moves nearer to the midline and abduction takes place when a limb moves away from the midline.

If we take Chair pose, the legs are squeezing towards the midline (practice with a block between your thighs) so this is adduction.  

In 5 pointed Star the arms and legs move away from the midline so this is abduction.  

In Triangle pose, it is a little more complicated.  The front leg moves away from the midline so this is abduction, the back leg is isometrically moving towards the midline (that is squeezing towards the midline without actually moving) so this is adduction.

Hope this makes adduction and abduction a little clearer.

You may also like 'Yoga anatomy bites-Flexion and extension'

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Yoga for the brain -Part 5- The cardiovascular health connection

It has been known for some time that the healthier your heart, the less likely you are to develop impaired cognitive function, Alzheimer's and dementia.  Keeping your heart healthy means exercise and eating healthily, avoiding obesity and taking steps to manage stress.  

Exercise combined with a healthy diet can keep cholesterol at a healthy level and this prevents build up of plaque which can block the blood vessels supplying both the heart and the brain. At worst this can lead to a heart attack or stroke but less drastically it can lead to small areas of the brain losing function.  

Exercise also improves the function of the heart (remember the heart is essentially a muscle) and this improves circulation to the brain which improves oxygen and nutrient delivery to the brain (your brain consumes around 20% of the body's oxygen and energy even though it is only around 2% of your body weight).  This improved circulation to the brain seems to prevent the build up of beta-amyloid in the brain which is associated with Alzheimer's.

Yoga can help with cardiovascular health in several ways.  Firstly, we have already looked at how it improves circulation to the brain.  Please see 'Yoga for the brain Part 2- Nourishing the brain'- 

Also yoga reduces inflammation in the body, which can affect the functioning of the heart and lead to decline of cognitive abilities.  Yoga also reduces stress. Please see 'Yoga for the brain Part 1 - Stress'  for how stress affects the brain.  A further benefit of yoga is that it improves lung capacity and function so that the heart does not have to work quite so hard and the brain has the oxygen it needs.

The following yoga sequence includes Sun Salutations to exercise the heart and get the blood circulating.  Sun Salutations also boost the metabolism helping to keep you at a healthy weight.  

The practice also focuses on stress relief and opening the chest for improved lung capacity and function.  The inversion is a mini aerobic workout for the heart because it brings blood to the heart.  For this reason if you do have heart issues or high blood pressure, a Legs up the Wall variation with your lower legs on a chair and your head on a cushion might be a better. You will need two blocks or equivalent. 

Start with a few rounds of Sun Salutations (please see 'Yoga pose gallery' ) then take a Child's pose.

Rolling Cat - come to all fours, breathe out and arch through your back, take your bottom back to your heels, breathe in, bend your elbows out to the sides and come forward to return to all fours.  Continue in a smooth rolling motion working with your breath for several moves. 

Bow pose - lie on your tummy with your arms by your sides, palms down, your forehead on the mat. Press your tailbone back to lengthen your spine.  Bend both knees and reach round with both hands to take hold of your ankles.  If you cannot reach, you could use a yoga strap or equivalent round your ankles. Inhale and press your feet up and back, lifting your chest from the mat.  Hold for a few breaths and exhale to release. Take a Child's Pose.  
If full Bow Pose is too much for you, try half Bow.  Lie with your arms stretched forward, forehead to the mat.  Bend the right knee and reach round with your right hand to hold your right ankle. Inhale and press the right foot up and back, lifting the chest from the mat.  Slide your left hand back and use the left hand to stabilise you.  Repeat second side then take a Child's pose.

Triangle pose - stand in the middle of the mat and step your feet a leg length apart, turn the right leg out and the left foot in 45 degrees.  Ladies should align their heels, men should align front heel to back instep.  Bring your hands to your heart, then on a breath in stretch your arms wide and lift your chest.  Breathe out and shift your hips to the left and you extend over your right leg, bringing your right 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 left thumb if your neck allows, or down at your right big toe. To come out of the pose, breathe in and windmill your arms back to shoulder height , breathe out turn your feet to face forward and your hands to heart centre. Repeat second side.

Seated twist - sit on a block or the mat with your legs outstretched.  Bend your right knee, drawing it close in to your chest.  Breathe in, lengthen your spine, breathe out, wrap your left arm around your right knee and twist to the right.Take your right hand behind your right hip to support you.  If it feels comfortable for your neck and you have a good twist through your spine, turn to look over your right shoulder.  Hold and breathe then inhale, lengthen through the crown of your head, exhale release the twist.  Repeat second side.

Seated Forward Bend - sit on a block with your legs outstretched.  Breathe in stretch your arms up, breathe out fold over your legs bringing your arms down either side of your leg. Stay here for 5-10 breaths, then breathe in to come up slowly. 

Supported Shoulder Stand - lie on your mat with your knees bent.  Breathe in and lift your hips, and place two blocks under your hips so that the long edge of the block is parallel to the short edge of the mat, then lower.  Lift your hips once more and draw the top block half way towards you.  Lift your legs so that your toes come over your face - the top block will tip and support your lower back.  Hold for a few breaths then bring your feet back to the mat. Breathe in, lift your hips, remove the blocks then lower your hips.  Hug your knees in and rock from side to side.

Rest back in savasana for a few minutes.

You may also like:-

'Yoga for the brain-Part 3- Integrating right and left hemispheres'

'Yoga for the brain-Part 4-New neural connections and pathways'

If you do have heart issues ALWAYS check with your doctor before undertaking a yoga practice.


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Yoga to rebalance- establishing boundaries

Please click on the video below to watch, 'Yoga to rebalance- establishing boundaries'-on my YouTube Channel.

Please read the disclaimer on the blog before following these videos -

It is important to establish boundaries although it is hard.  We don't want to upset anyone or hurt their feelings so we say 'yes' when really we mean 'no', take on more than we can handle and end up stressed.  Remember 'ahimsa' non-harming applies to you as much as anyone else.  My grandad always used to say 'honesty is the best policy' but I would add not so much so that your honesty is hurtful. So if you are too tired, have too much on or don't feel confident in what you are being asked to do, say so.  Maybe you could offer an alternative suggestion - 'I have too much on this week but how about next week?', 'I don't really enjoy ice skating but how about going bowling?'.  You get the idea.  Sometimes though we should say 'yes' to make the other person happy - the warm glow you get inside will be worth it!

It takes strength to say no, so this week's video will include some poses for strength.  Also we need to communicate our feelings so we include some poses for the throat chakra to help with this.  The closing meditation is one that again focuses on the nature.  

I hope you enjoy your practice.


Sunday, 12 March 2017

This week on 40plusandalliswell

Thinking about your lunch? These vegan chilli dogs will delight even meat eaters  😄
Recipe on my 'sister' blog -

Last week on my 'sister' blog we looked at the causes of piles, and how we can treat and prevent them. In the short yoga sequence on my 'sister' blog we will be practicing poses to help ease constipation, one of the main causes of piles, and boost circulation to the area to ease the discomfort of piles-

It's March and the long winter wait is over - at last we can get out into the garden or on the allotment and start another year of growing delicious produce.
Follow the 40plusandalliswell gardening journey in 2017 on my 'sister' blog!! -

Yoga anatomy bites- flexion and extension

Yoga anatomy terms can be a little confusing (to me at least!), so over the next few weeks we will be looking at them in manageable blog posts.

If you imagine your body divided equally by a line from the crown of your head to your feet, this is the sagittal plane. Flexion and extension take place in this plane.  When two bones move towards each other, this is known as flexion.  When two bones move away from each other, this is known as extension.  To illustrate this, I will look at the examples below.

If you hold your hand out in front of you and turn your fingers to face upwards, this is flexion of the wrist but if you point your fingers straight forward, this is extension.  

Let's look at Chair pose.  Stand in the middle of your mat, feet hip distance and bend your knees deeply as if you are sitting in a chair that is a little too far back.  Now the thigh bone, femur, and lower leg bones come closer together and so this is flexion of the hip joint.  The knee joint is also in flexion. Now lift your arms forward and up - again this is flexion of the shoulder joint because the upper arm bone, humerus moves closer to the shoulder bones. The situation is similar when you move your arms forward and up in Tree pose. The wrist and elbow joint however are in extension.

On the other hand if you practice Camel pose with your arms back, the humerus moves away from the shoulder bones, so this is extension.  

With standing apanasana where you draw your knee into your chest the hip and knee joints are in flexion but if you then take your leg back as you would in Warrior 3 they would be in extension.

Now let's look at the very familiar Downward Facing Dog.  Here the hip is in flexion, the knee joint is extended as is the elbow, the shoulder joint is in flexion and the wrist joint extended.  

Hopefully that makes it a little clearer.