Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Qualities cultivated by yoga - resilience

Please click on the video below to watch, 'Qualities cultivated by yoga - resilience'-on my YouTube Channel.

Please read the disclaimer on the blog before following these videos -http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/disclaimer.html

Resilience is 'an ability to adjust to misfortune or change'.  Stress and pain are part of life but how we respond to them are a choice.  If we practice tapas on the mat we can meet challenging situations mindfully and respond wisely.  Tapas is one of the niyamas and involves 'burning off' the things in our lives that do not serve us.  By practicing tapas on the mat we can meet challenges with mindfulness and respond wisely.  We can even tap into the energy of a challenge and use it for spiritual growth, so that the challenge becomes our teacher leading to transformation.  We are resilient when we can surrender to the pain without suffering.  This takes a great deal of strength which is where focusing on the navel chakra can help.  Through focusing on the third chakra on the mat we can deal with challenges off the mat staying present to the fear, anger and pain involved.  

When the pain you feel comes from the sufferings of a loved one, it is especially hard.  The practice of yoga will help you stay present and deal with it one step at a time.  The fact is caring about someone can lead to pain.

This week's video focuses on meeting challenges on the mat to balance the third chakra and dissolve away what is not serving us.  We end with a meditation on the theme.

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Sunday, 28 May 2017

This week on 40plusandalliswell

This recipe is so versatile - either include the tofu and have it as a main meal or leave it out and have it as a side salad, either use fresh veg or frozen stir fry veg. Quick and easy to make but tasty! Let's cook! 

Catch up with what's been happening on the 40plusandalliswell allotment on my 'sister' blog. 
Please see- http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/transplanting-squash-its-learning-curve.html

Here's a treat for the weekend - vegan lemon curd scones! 
Recipe on my 'sister' blog-

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Beginners' guide to the nadis

Image for illustration purposes only

Just as you have channels for the flow of blood and lymph in your body, you also have channels for the flow of prana, the life force.  The word nadis comes from the Sanscrit 'nad' meaning 'channel' or 'stream' and there are 72,000 of these channels supplying all the cells of your body with life force energy.  This energy goes not only to physical and mental activity but is necessary for spiritual development. It is therefore important to keep these nadis free of congestion and blockages.  The beauty of yoga is that through the asanas and breathing practices, it is able to do this thereby increasing our wellbeing.  

Also just as your circulatory system has major vessels, the arteries and veins as well as capillaries, there are three major nadis.  The shushumna runs from the base of the spine to the crown of the head through energy vortexes known as chakras where energy channels cross (next week we will look at these in more detail).  Spiraling around the shushumna in a double helix run two other nadis, ida and pingala.  All three end at a point between the eyebrows where the third eye chakra is located.  Ida represents feminine moon energy - cool, intuitive and nurturing whereas pingala represents masculine sun energy - warm, rational and dynamic.  All of us, whether male or female have both masculine and feminine energies which may vary throughout the day.  Hatha literally means sun/moon and its focus is bringing these two energies into balance.  When they are in balance the shushumna energy channel can open leading ultimately to enlightenment.  A good way to start to do balance ida and pingala is by practicing Alternate Nostril Breathing, nadi shodhana because ida connects to the left nostril and pingala to the right.  Please see my You Tube Channel for the video, 'Oh no it's Monday! Breathing technique for calming' for how to practice Alternate Nostril Breathing - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dY-NtZkAtQ


If you are enjoying my videos and blog posts please would you consider a small donation? Please see-http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/support-this-blog_44.html

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Avoiding yoga injuries-protecting your lower back in twists

Twists can be wonderful - when you twist the blood is 'squeezed' from your abdominal organs and when you release the twist, your organs receive a fresh supply of oxygenated blood.  This is BKS Iyengar's 'squeeze and soak' theory on twists. Twists also hydrate the spinal discs which sit between the vertebrae as a 'cushion'. These can 'dry' out as we age causing issues for your spine and twisting should be avoided.

The problem is that as we age also is that we can develop other problems with the spine that twisting postures can exacerbate.  For instance many of us may develop a slightly bulging disc without even being aware of it which can be worsened by twisting. Speaking as someone who has been diagnosed with osteoporosis, I am very cautious when twisting and if you have a similar diagnosis check with your doctor and if given the go ahead be mindful when twisting.  

Now let's look at practicing a twist mindfully to avoid injury.  For seated spinal twist sit with your legs outstretched and if your lower back is rounding, sit on a block.  Bend your right knee and draw your right knee in towards your chest.  You now need to engage your core muscle to create a 'corset' that will support your lower back as you twist.  To do this press your left heel into the mat, engage Uddiyana banda by drawing your navel back towards your spine and press your body into your thigh, your thigh into your body.  Always lengthen through the crown of your head before twisting. Twist as you breath out, wrapping your left arm around your right leg, keeping the lumbar spine neutral and twisting though your thoracic spine.  Never use your arm to pull you deeper into the twist.  Listen to your body and do not twist more than feels comfortable which can cause problems for your spine and strain your intercostal muscles which run between your ribs.  To protect your neck, keep your chin level with your breastbone.  Never use your arm to pull you deeper into the twist. To come out of the twist, breathe in and come back to centre, release your right leg and stretch it out. Repeat second side. Please see also 'Protecting your neck in seated twists'.

Standing twists are even harder to twist safely in. When practicing Revolved Triangle for instance and twisting to the right, your left hip will also want to turn to the right. To come into the pose stand facing the short edge of the mat near the back of the mat. Step your right foot forward and turn your back toes out. Level your hips to the front edge of the mat, breathe out and bring your torso level with the mat, your left hand to a block placed to the big toe side of the front foot and your right hand to your right hip. Engage Uddiyana bandha and twist to the right through the thoracic spine, keeping the lumbar spine neutral. Press the back heel into the mat. When you have reached your comfortable level of twisting raise your right arm. To come out of the twist breathe in and bring your body back level with the floor, your right hand back to your hip. Breathe out, bring your left hand to your hips, breathe in come up, bend your front knee and step your feet together. Repeat second side. Please also see 'Back to basics-Standing poses-Revolved Triangle pose'.

Please also see 'Avoiding yoga injuries'

Stay safe 


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Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Qualities cultivated by yoga - joy

Please click on the video below to watch, 'Qualities cultivated by yoga - joy'-on my YouTube Channel.

Please read the disclaimer on the blog before following these videos -http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/disclaimer.html

Today it is hard to talk about joy after the terrible bombing in Manchester - this yoga video was filmed in advance. The arena is somewhere I am very familiar with because when we lived in Lancashire, my daughters and I often went to shows there. My heart goes out to those innocent people caught up in this tragedy.

When we try to cultivate joy on our lives, it has to go hand in hand with compassion for as yogis we are not immune from the pain life sometimes brings to us.  In Buddhism compassion and joy are two of the Brahmaviharas, 'divine abodes' along with empathy and loving kindness.  When we feel such pain we have to try to allow such feelings to be and surround them with compassion, remembering that we are all connected.  In this way we can begin to heal, although this will take time and the people of Manchester need our prayers right now.

Just as we feel compassion for the such grief, we can also feel joy for the joy of others.  Joy or mudita is the capacity to savour life's blessings.  Simple things can bring us joy if we open our hearts - the scent of a spring flower, the shapes of the clouds in the sky, being in nature, the sound of the birds. 

Joy is transient so experience it to the full.  This week's video focuses on opening our hearts to joy and our meditation speaks of finding something to be grateful for each day.  


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Sunday, 21 May 2017

This week on 40plusandalliswell

Feel like a takeaway? Why not make your own? It's just as quick and tasty but healthier. 
This week on 40plusandalliswell we are making a Chinese dish, Lo Mein.
Recipe on my 'sister' blog - http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/meatless-monday-vegan-lo-mein.html

Yay, blueberries are in season at last! In this blog post we look at the health benefits of blueberries and make a Blueberry, 'nice cream' and granola layer dessert (or treat breakfast!)
Recipe on my 'sister' blog-http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/eat-rainbow-blueberries.html

If you like cooking and baking there are several vegan egg substitutes you can use.
Please see my 'sister' blog- http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/vegan-egg-substitutes.html

If you are enjoying my blog posts please would you consider a small donation? Please see- http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/p/blog-page.html

Avoiding yoga injuries

Thankfully yoga is relatively safe compared to other sports and activities but worryingly they are on the increase especially among seniors.  This may simply be that more people are taking up yoga (there are now around 30 million practicing worldwide) and more seniors want to stay well as they age (good for you!!) and are turning to yoga.  However it is important to start with a more gentle practice if you haven't practiced yoga before.  That said there is no reason why, if you follow the guidelines below, your practice should not be injury free.  In a few weeks we will look at how yoga can actually help prevent injuries off the mat.

  • Firstly before you start a yoga practice, check with your doctor that you are alright to do so.  
  • In yoga we practice 'ahimsa' which means non-harming which means not harming yourself as well as others.
  • Yoga is not competitive so if you attend public classes do not compare yourself to the person on the next mat and don't compare yourself to Instagram etc.  There is nothing to gain from straining into a pose and it may result in injury.  A good indicator is your breath - if your breath becomes strained come out of the pose and try a modified version, use props or skip the pose altogether.  I will always try to give you alternatives so that you can explore what feel beneficial for your body and remember this may be different on different days.
  • Take your time getting in and out of the asanas and when transitioning  between poses, listening to your body as you go.  This will allow you to 'feel your edge', that place where you can feel a stretch but not a strain.
  • If you practice at home always do some warm up poses at the start of your practice and cool down poses at the end of your practice.  

In the meantime you might find the following blog posts useful:-

'Protecting your neck in inversions' 
'Protecting your neck in seated twists'
'Protecting your neck in standing poses'
'Protecting your neck in back bends'
'Protect your SI joint'
'Protect your knees in floor poses'
'Protecting your back in back bends'
'Protecting your hamstrings and lower back in seated forward bends'

Next week we will be looking at how to protect your spinal discs in yoga twists.  

If you are enjoying my videos and blog posts please would you consider a small donation? Please see-http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/support-this-blog_44.html


Thursday, 18 May 2017

Beginners' guide to setting an intention

Often at the start of a yoga class you will hear a teacher invite you to set an intention for your practice, a word or a phrase that indicates what you need from that practice.  

A good place to start is to take a few quiet minutes a the beginning of your practice, and before you set your intention.  Take your awareness away from what has been happening before your practice and direct your awareness to what is happening at that moment in your body and in your mind. Notice your energy levels and your emotional state. You might want to spend a few minutes consciously relaxing each part of your body then watching your breath. Bringing your awareness in will help you gain clarity. Once you are relaxed and your mind clear, bring your hands to your heart in prayer position so that your thumbs lightly connect with your heart centre and set your intention.

An intention should be in the present tense and as if it has already been manifested, so for example your intention might be 'I release stress' or 'I am calm' if you need to let go of stress in your life.  Setting an intention is not only for the time you spend on the yoga mat but will carry through to your life.  It is a very powerful tool, because of the power of your mind. When you set an intention in a calm, relaxed state, your subconscious, which is an obedient servant, will endeavor to fulfill your intention. In our latest series we have been looking at some of the qualities that yoga can cultivate and your intention could be built around one of these qualities for example 'I am patient', 'I have joy in my heart'. Your intention could also be built around any qualities that you want to let go of in your life, qualities that are not serving you and others, for instance 'I let go of fear', 'I let go of anger'. You could also set an intention for guidance such as 'I have the wisdom to make good choices for myself and others'. Your intention could also be for self-care 'I increase my wellbeing'. An intention from a place of gratitude will bring more into your life to be grateful for!  

Slightly different from an intention is a dedication.  Maybe you know someone who is in need of love and compassion at the moment and you want to send positive energies to them for their healing.  Your dedication doesn't even need to be directed at a person. For instance the earth we live on is in need of positive energy and we can do that through our yoga and meditation.  Directing positive energy to someone else or something else will not diminish your own energies, indeed the positivity you send out will be reflected back to you.  

Hope this helps you next time your teacher invites you to set an intention for your practice.

You may also like:-

'Beginners' guide to yoga styles'

'Beginners' guide to the eight limbs of yoga'

'The beginners' guide to the Bandhas'

If you are enjoying my videos and blog posts please would you consider a small donation? Please see-http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/support-this-blog_44.html


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Qualities cultivated by yoga - discernment

Please click on the video below to watch, 'Qualities cultivated by yoga - discernment'-on my YouTube Channel.

Please read the disclaimer on the blog before following these videos -http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/disclaimer.html

The definition of discernment is 'the ability to judge well' but there are subtle differences between discernment and judgement.  Judgement is ego based - it often comes from a place of fear or insecurity.  Discernment however means making good choices based on inner wisdom and these good choices are for others as well as ourselves.  

In our video this week we will be focused on quieting the mental chatter that 'drowns out' our inner wisdom.  We will also be practicing poses to balance the third eye chakra, which helps us connect with our inner wisdom and poses for the root chakra which will help give us stability so that our choices are not made from fear or insecurity. Our meditation will help the body completely relax which in turn will calm the mind reducing mental chatter.


Sunday, 14 May 2017

This week on 40plusandalliswell

This week's Meatless Monday is a Buddha Bowl, a bowl of healthy food so full that it domes resembling the belly of the Buddha.
Great for when you are feeling super hungry! 
Recipe on my 'sister' blog- http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/meatless-monday-buddha-bowl.html

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Week I am sharing my top supplements to keep your brain healthy.
Please see my 'sister' blog- http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/supplements-for-brain.html

In this blog post is the 40plusandalliswell guide to growing herbs.
Happy gardening (and eating!!!)
Please see my 'sister' blog- http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/the-40plusandalliswell-guide-to-growing.html

Happy Mother's Day to all my American friends!
These vegan, no-added sugar blueberry muffins with blueberry frosting make a perfect teatime treat for Mother's Day! 
Recipe on my 'sister' blog- http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/blueberry-muffins-with-blueberry.html

I'm passionate about producing quality yoga and wellness content that everyone can access for free, as I want Flexiladies Yoga and 40plusandalliswell to benefit as many people as possible. However, keeping these blogs up and running isn't cheap- although I do get a small amount of revenue from adverts, it's your donations that will secure their future.
If you are enjoying these blogs could you please consider a small donation via the page on my blog - http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/support-this-blog_44.html
Thank you
Janet x

Ayurveda and spring allergies

The allergies we have tend to reflect our dominant dosha so that if you are of a vata constitution you are most likely to have vata allergies.  However this is not always the case. In spring kapha dosha is dominant and the tree pollens and grass pollens are high.  This means that many of us tend to hayfever symptoms, sinus congestion, bronchial congestion and wheezing that is more typical of the kapha constitution.

A kapha pacifying diet will help.  Especially avoid dairy which can be mucus forming. Ginger tea (please see 'Superfood-Ginger') will help reduce inflammation and if you are not vegan, local honey will help desensitise you to the pollen in the area.  Avoid heavy, oily, salty, sour or sweet foods including sugar, white bread, white flour and white pasta, fried foods, pickled foods, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and salty foods (including soy sauce).  If you are not vegan or vegetarian moderate your intake of dairy, fish, chicken and meat. 

The spring diet should be based on foods that are pungent, astringent and bitter. Pungent foods are spicy and include cumin, coriander, ginger, mustard and cinnamon as well as chillies and the garlic/onion family. Astringent foods include pomegranate fruit or juice, grapes, green apples, peas and beans.  Bitter foods include green leafy vegetables such as kale or brussel sprouts as well as broccoli, and squash.  Some foods that we think of as 'sweet' such as sweet potatoes could be included too, as could such grains as quinoa, or barley.  These help remove toxins (ama) from the body because they are high in fibre.  

We can also clear kapha through our yoga practice.  See 'Spring Practice- Balancing Kapha' on my YouTube Channel. Sun salutations help balance kapha and forward bends and inversions will help clear the congestion associated with allergies.  If you suffer with spring allergies every year, a cleanse at the start of spring will help.  

Breathing techniques can also help - Ujayii breathing for instance boosts immunity and alternate nostril breathing reduces stress which can increases inflammation.  Meditation also reduces stress.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The beginners' guide to the bandhas

The bandhas are the energy locks that can direct the flow of prana.  

Engaging the muscles of the perineum, at the base of the torso, by contracting them will activate mula bandha, the root lock. These muscles form a hammock between the two sit bones, the tailbone and the pubic bone. In this area also is located the root chakra, an energy vortex, so by activating the root lock, we can also balance the root chakra, which is grounding and stabilising.  In terms of your yoga practice mula bandha can be engaged to give pelvic stability so for instance it can be practiced in standing poses. The subtle contraction of mula bandha can help protect the lower back - this is especially important when transitioning between yoga standing poses.  Mula bandha is also useful to help maintain pelvic stability in seated meditation.  The upward direction of energy is said to help gain enlightenment.

See how it feels:-

It takes practice to be able to isolate the muscles required to engage mula bandha and practice mula bandha without gripping. For men mula bandha is the area between the the anus and the genitals, for women it is the area behind the cervix. Try practicing mula bandha in Tadasana, Mountain pose. Close or lower your eyes and try to tune into any sensation in your pelvic floor as you breathe.  You may notice that as you breathe in, your pelvic floor relaxes, as you breathe out, the pelvic floor lifts.  If you are finding it difficult to tune into any sensations in the pelvic floor muscles, try gently contracting them several times.  Now breathe in deeply and relax the pelvic floor. Breathe out and gently lift the pelvic floor. Hold that lift as you breathe in, then breathe out and gently lift the pelvic floor a little more like going to the next floor in an elevator.  Breathe in and fully relax the pelvic floor. With practice you may be able to reach the 'next floor in the elevator'.  

The naval lock or Uddiyana banda (meaning to 'fly up') is engaged by drawing the navel in and up. You should practice the lock at least two hours after eating to avoid indigestion.  It is engaged on the out breath and creates core stability in the core in poses such as Balancing Cat, Warrior 3, Tree pose etc

See how it feels:-

Sit in a cross-legged position and place your hands on your knees (sit on a block if your knees are higher than your hips). Breathe in, soften your abdomen, breathe out, round your spine and draw your navel in and up.  Breathe in to come back to your start position.

There are two more locks for when you become more advanced in your practice, Jalandhara Bandha, the throat lock and Maha Bandha, which is the engagement of all three bandhas.

You might also like:-
Making sense of the bandhas which has a short video on the bandhas


If you are enjoying my videos and blog posts please would you consider a small donation? Please see-http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/support-this-blog_44.html


Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Qualities cultivated by yoga - mental clarity

Please click on the video below to watch, 'Qualities cultivated by yoga - mental clarity'-on my YouTube Channel.

Please read the disclaimer on the blog before following these videos -http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/disclaimer.html

Mental clarity is difficult in our culture.  We are encouraged to be busy all the time and this results in our minds being busy.  'Monkey mind' is a Buddhist term meaning that your thoughts flit from one thought to another like a monkey swinging through a tree and this can lead to an anxious, confused state of mind.  Through yoga however we can create mental clarity.  If you imagine your busy mind creating a cloudy window of your mind, yoga can clear the 'window of your mind' so that you can see things more clearly.

Yoga can calm your mind in several ways.  Yoga helps create alpha brain waves, the type of dominant brain wave that coresponds to a calm yet alert state.  Yoga also boosts levels of GABA, gamma-animobutyric acid, a neutrotransmitter in the brain that promotes feelings of calm.  In terms of our asana practice we can calm our mind through slowing down and being in the present moment.  Egyptian salutations are ideal for calming your mind.  The salutation is a series of slow, rhythmical movements.  You need to be focused to maintain the flow and while you are focused on the flow, your mind cannot be flitting from one thought to another.  Balances have a similar effect.  In terms of your yoga asana practice also opening your chest with back bends and twists, expands the lungs bringing more oxygen into the body.  The brain is 'oxygen hungry' so the extra oxygen is very calming for the brain. Inversions can help circulate the oxygen rich blood to your brain.  Any asana practice however will calm the mind because it brings attention away from your head and into your body. Pranayama pratice is also good for calming the brain- again it requires focused attention and enriches the blood with oxygen.  

Meditation is another 'tool' for calming the mind.  It allows you to let go of your thoughts and be in the present moment.  Our meditation this week is a little different.  I am using a Himalayan singing bowl to help induce calming alpha waves in our minds.  These can be purchased for £10-20 and as well as their use in meditation they can be used to clear any negative energies from a room.

If you are enjoying my videos and blog posts please would you consider a small donation? Please see-http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/support-this-blog_44.html


Sunday, 7 May 2017

The week on 40plusandalliswell

This Meatless Monday #recipe is a healthy version of #pizza with all the goodness of sweet potatoes, oats and nuts and yet really tasty - definitely a thumbs up in our house! 
Happy Bank Holiday Monday!
Recipe on my 'sister' blog- http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/meatless-monday-sweet-potato-crust.html

This week in the 40plusandalliswell allotment we have been learning a technique called 'double row planting' for our broad beans which we will share with you. 
Please see my 'sister' blog- http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/late-spring-planting-at.html

Did you know that air pollution can lead to age spots and wrinkles as well as affecting your health? On my 'sister' blog I explore ways to reduce the effects of air pollution on your health and skin- 

Yoga anatomy bites - the psoas, a very important muscle

When the psoas, a pair of hip flexor muscles are either short and tight, or overstretched it can lead to a whole host of problems. These problems include back pain, leg pain, knee pain, lordosis (accenuated lumbar spine) and because they are connected to the diaphragm by fascia they can cause problems for breathing and compression of the abdominal organs.  

Problems with the psoas can be caused by weak abdominal muscles, weak pelvic floor muscles or too much sitting. The psoas are often referred to as the iliopsoas because they join with the iliacus muscle. 

The psoas originate at the 12th thoracic vertebra and lumbar vertebrae 1-5 at either side of the body and inserts at the lesser trochanter of the femur (a small protuberance of bone that projects from the posterior aspect of the femur) so linking upper and lower body.  Their function is to move the hip joint and have a vital role in good posture.  Your psoas work to lift your knee up when in a standing position, they allow your leg to extend behind as in lunges, stabilise your hips in squats and are key to walking, running and kicking.
The following poses will help keep the psoas strong and flexible.

You will need two blocks for the following yoga practice

Apanasana lie on a yoga mat with your legs outstretched.  Bend your right knee and draw your right knee in close to your chest.  If you have knee issues hold on behind your thighs otherwise you can hold on just below your knee. Hold for a few breaths then release. Repeat second side.

Pigeon - come onto all fours, bring your right knee to your right wrist and lower your hips, sliding your left leg back. Take your right foot towards  the left side of the mat. Keep your shoulders over your hips and centred so you do not lean to one side and square your hips to the short edge of the mat. Tucking the toes of your back foot and pressing into your toes can help square the hips. Use a block or a cushion under your left thigh and another under your right buttock if you need to make the pose more comfortable.

Low lunge with twist, lateral stretch and side bend - from Child's pose breathe in, come onto all fours, breathe out lift your hips into a Downward Facing Dog.  Breathe in and step your right foot forward between your hands, breathe out drop your back knee.  Breathe out, twist to the right, bringing your left hand to your right thigh.  Hold for a breath or two then breathe in come back to centre. On your next breath in raise your left arm, breathe out and lean to the right bringing your right fingertips to the mat. Breathe in to centre, breathe out lower your hands to the mat and return to Downward Facing Dog.  Repeat second side.

Triangle to Side Angle-with your hands on your hips, step your feet  a leg length apart, outside edges of your feet parallel to the short edges of the mat. Turn the whole of the right leg to the right so that the knee and foot point the same way and turn the toes of the back foot in 45degrees.  The heel of your front foot should line up with the instep of your back foot.  Inhale raise your arms to  shoulder height, lift your chest. Breathe out, hinge from the hips and bring your right hand to your right leg, left arm up towards the ceiling. Gaze can be straight ahead or up at the left thumb, depending on your neck. To release, inhale windmill the arms back to shoulder height as you come up. Breathe out and bend the front knee, breathe in bring your right elbow to right thigh, breathe out circle your left arm down and up by the left ear for Side Angle pose. Hold for a few breaths then inhale bring your arms back to shoulder height, breathe out turn your feet to face forward, bring your hands to your heart.  Repeat second side. 

Tree pose -stand in the middle of the mat and take your weight into your left foot. Find a drishti, a gaze point then take your right foot to your left ankle, shin or reach down and bring your foot to your left thigh (do not have the right foot against the left knee). Breathe in and bring your hands into prayer position. Hold for several breaths if possible then breathe out to lower. 
Repeat second side.

Supported Shoulder Bridge- lie on your mat with your knees bent. Inhale lift your hips, place the blocks under your hips, exhale lower.  Stretch out your legs.

Reclined twist  - lie with your knees bent, arms a little way from your body.  Breathe in and as you breathe out lower your knees to the right and turn your head to the left if you have no problems with your neck.  If your legs are up in the air support them with your blocks. Hold for a few breaths then inhale back to centre.  Repeat second side then hug your knees in. Stretch out your legs and spend a few minutes in savasana.

Please also see:-
'Yoga anatomy bites- flexion and extension'
'Yoga anatomy bites - adduction and abduction'
'Yoga anatomy bites- internal rotation and external rotation'
'Yoga anatomy bites - hamstring strength vs flexibility
'Yoga anatomy bites - foot flexibility and stability'
'Yoga anatomy bites - knee health'
'Yoga anatomy bites - piriformis'
'Yoga anatomy bites - glutes and preventing back pain'


Thursday, 4 May 2017

Beginners' guide to the eight limbs of yoga

The yoga sutras of Patanjali (the founder of yoga) were written more than 2000 years ago and offer us guidelines for reaching a state of bliss where we are connected to the divine/universe and have control over our minds.  These guidelines are still relevant today.  

The eight limbs are:-

The Yamas – there are 5 yamas or moral restraints.  

  • Ahimsa – this translates as ‘non-harming’, ‘non-violence’.  It refers not only to physical violence but violence with words and harmful thoughts.  It is to do with compassion for all living beings and towards yourself.  To be compassionate towards yourself includes letting go of self-criticism.  Some yogis are vegetarians as they believe that is in keeping with the practice of ahimsa.  In terms of your yoga practice it means that when you practice you should be mindful of your own capabilities, never straining in the posture work.  Take rests when you need to and modify the poses to better suit them to your body. For a yoga video on the theme of ahimsa please see http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/the-yamas-yama-ahimsa.html
  • Satya - this translates as truthfulness, being honest with others and behaving in accordance with our beliefs.  On the mat it means being honest with ourselves about how we are feeling, physically and energetically and working accordingly, accepting what is right for us on any particular day. To push beyond our capabilities would not be in keeping with ahimsa also and so to some extent the two yamas are linked. For a yoga video on the theme of satya please see http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/the-yamas-satya.html
  • Asteya - translates as ‘non-stealing’ but at a more subtle level it means controlling desires for material possessions.  In terms of your yoga practice I had several ideas for this yama. In practice it could be interpreted as not holding back, working to the best of your abilities while at the same time bearing in mind ahimsa and satya.  Do not ‘save energy’ for other poses in your practice.  Yoga is energy building unlike many sports that are energy depleting. A kundalini practice would illustrate this beautifully.  Start with the mantra ‘I call upon my higher self to do my very best.’ We could also bring asteya to the mat (and to our lives) with a stress relieving practice since stress ‘robs’ us of energy and ultimately our health.  Another thought I had on bringing asteya into your yoga practice was to pay attention to good alignment, for if we do not we are ‘stealing’ the enhanced benefits of the asanas from ourselves and injury may even follow.  In fact when we practice asanas we should always be present because if our minds wander we are ‘stealing’ the full experience of being in the pose from ourselves. Asteya can also be translated as hoarding material possessions.  The opposite of this is being generous. Acknowledging this it would be nice to dedicate our energy in asana practice to someone, a loved one or someone who is in need of compassion or to the earth.  For a yoga video on the theme of asteya please see http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/the-yamas-asteya.html
  • Brahmacharya – this used to translate as celibacy.  It was believed that by being celibate the yogi could direct their energies towards the ultimate goal of yoga, samedi. Today it is thought of more in terms of moderation of sexual cravings, ensuring your sexuality is based on love.  It can also be thought of as using the life force to best effect. I had two thoughts on how we can apply brahmachcharya to our asana practice.  The first is through the use of the energy locks, mula banda, uddiyana banda and jalahara banda (more on this to come). Another way to take bring brahmachya into your yoga practice is by working with the five vayus, the energy flows in the body (more on this to come).  For a yoga video on the theme of brahmacharya please see http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/the-yamas-brahmachya.html
  • Aparigraha – this translates as ‘non-covetousness’, separating what you need from what you desire.  It also encompasses appreciating what you have- life, a healthy body, family, friends, clean water, good food, etc.  In asana practice it means accepting where you are and not comparing with the person on the next mat, the person making the video or a photograph in a book.For a yoga video on the theme of aparigraha please see http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/the-yamas-aparigraha.html

The Niyamas – there are 5 niyamas which are the disciplines we should observe with respect to ourselves.

Saucha – this translates as cleanliness.  It refers not only physical cleanliness but to purity in thought.  An asana class focusing on this would be one of cleansing twists and meditation. For a yoga video on the theme of saucha please see http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/the-niyamas-saucha.html

Santosha – this translates as contentment.  In asana practice the focus should be on acceptance of where you are in your yoga practice. For a yoga video on the theme of santosha please see http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/the-niyamas-santosha.html

Tapas – this translates as heat, perseverance.  In asana practice the focus should be on effort while at the same time bearing santosha in mind.  For a yoga video on the theme of tapas please see http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/the-niyamas-tapas.html

Svadhyaya- this refers to the self-study that leads to self-discovery.  In asana practice the focus should be on learning more about yourself through the posture work.  This means tuning in to how you feel and pausing between asanas to become aware of the effect of the pose on your body.  For a yoga video on the theme of svadhyaya please see http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/the-niyamas-svadhyaya.html

Ishvarapranidhana – this translates as surrender to God.  This means recognising a higher force (even if you are a non-believer, you may still recognise the higher force of nature) and divine nature that is at the core of all beings. This ‘true self’ is compassionate, peaceful, and gives unconditional love.  In asana practice connect to nature with chanting sun salutations, moon salutations etc and when poses are challenging do not struggle for a result but surrender to what is. For a yoga video on the theme of ishvarapranidhana please see http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/the-niyamas-ishvara-pranidhara.html

The asanas are the limb of yoga that you are probably most familiar with.  It is the posture work.  When yoga originated the yoga poses were just a means of purifying and preparing the body for long hours of seated meditation, deemed necessary to reach the state of bliss.
Pranayama refers to the breathing practices through which control of prana, the life force is gained.  The breath is also considered the bridge between body and mind.  
Pratyahara is the. withdrawal of the senses. .When we gain control over our senses, the fluctuations of the mind lessen and we come closer to bliss.
Dharana is concentration of the mind, the ability to direct your mind to an object and stay focused on that object.  
Dhyana - this is meditation where the mind has a focus such as the breath, a mantra, an object such as a candle etc.
Samadhi is a state where the yogi gains control over the fluctuations of the mind.

You might also like:-

Yoga and the environment - http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/the-yamas-and-environment.html 

'The peace within-Pratyahara and meditation' on my YouTube Channel- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AN9-G2EWtJw

'Beginners' guide to yoga styles'-http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/a-beginners-guide-to-yoga-styles.html


Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Qualities cultivated by yoga - compassion

Please click on the video below to watch, 'Qualities cultivated by yoga - compassion'-on my YouTube Channel. 

Please read the disclaimer on the blog before following these videos -http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/p/disclaimer.html

B.K.S Iyengar in his book, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali interprets Yoga Sutra I.33. He says  "This sutra asks us to rejoice with the happy, to be compassionate to the sorrowful, friendly to the virtuous, and indifferent to those who continue to live in vice despite our attempts to change them." 

There is a great deal in our troubled world to stir up feelings of compassion. Compassion is a concern for the sufferings of others but self compassion is also important.  

We all want to be free from suffering and through yoga we come to realise our connection to others and this creates empathy when we see the sufferings of others.  Through yoga also you recognise your own suffering in the suffering of others. This does not mean that you will not have thoughts or feelings that are not compassionate.  Compassion is something we have to work on and be mindful of  thoughts and feelings that are not compassionate.  

In our yoga video this week I have focused on the heart chakra.  By opening the heart space we can open up to feelings of compassion.  We end with a meditation in which we send good wishes to all, including those we find difficult.