Back when I was doing my British Wheel of Yoga Teacher Training course, I remember our tutor commenting that there was a feeling in the British Wheel that teachers were offering lots of prep but not so many postures in their classes. “Where have all the postures gone?” became a bit of a catchphrase at the time.
It’s true to say we do need to warm the body up before performing more challenging postures in order to avoid injury. We also need to do counter-poses after the main posture so that we relax the effects of the main posture. For example, a strong main posture that is a backbend might be followed by a twist and then a forward bend as counter-poses. So each class is going to consist of a mixture of movements and postures that prepare and counter-pose for the main posture. We also benefit from some quiet time at the end, when the body can absorb the benefits of the practice before we move on. That doesn’t always leave a lot of time for ‘proper’ postures.
According to the ancient wisdom of the Gheranda Samhita (translated by Ian Mallinson);
“All together there are as many asanas as there are species of living beings. Shiva has taught 8,400,000. Of these, 84 are pre-eminent, of which 32 are useful in the world of mortals.”
It would be a pretty tall order to include even these 32 in a daily practice, let alone 84! So, why not try another way of looking at the issue? By doing plenty of preparatory work we can aim to maintain the body in a state where a variety of postures can be successfully practised if we choose to, even if we don’t do them daily. For example, I rarely do boat pose (navasana) but I do prep work for it each morning. So when I do want to do this posture, there is no struggle. That prep work also serves me well for any of the standing balances and strengthening poses such as plank. This way I get all the benefits and save time too! Can’t be bad!
As the crops reach their peak and harvest looms, so the poppies spring into bloom. Dotting the fields and verges with their crimson flowers, they provide a welcome splash of colour as the dryness of the summer bleaches colour from the fields and trees. Poppies are considered weeds of cultivation. The seeds can survive for years in undisturbed soil, waiting until that soil is turned over before they spring into life. As a result, poppies may give a stunning display after the completion of roadworks or on building sites. The poppy seizes the opportunity that disturbance creates to burst in action, a reminder that we too can find new paths to follow in times of change, a chance for new beginnings and for growth. We can learn to see change as a positive experience in our lives,a nd embrace it with both hands.
If you have done some yoga before, why not come along on a Tuesday evening to Bournville Quaker Meeting and give this class a try. We moved to this new venue in January, as it is more suited to our practice than the previous venue. This session also has the advantage of being a drop-in class, so if you can’t commit to a block of classes you won’t be paying for any you need to miss.
The class starts at 7.30pm with a few minutes relaxation, followed by an asana (postures) practice that takes us to about 8.30pm. This part includes a short sequence that we do each week, so you will soon pick it up if it is new to you. We then sit for a breathing or meditation practice lasting some 15 mins and this is followed by a guided relaxation practice to finish the session off.
Some previous experience of attending a yoga class is preferred so you have an idea of how we work, coordinating movement and breath – it doesn’t need to be much, a few classes will be fine! If the time suits your schedule and you want to give it a try, I look forward to meeting you soon!
…to my yoga website! Please use the menus above to find information about my classes and workshops, including venue information and details of my booking and pricing system for term-time classes.
Tuesday evening yogahas now moved to Bournville Quaker Meeting House. It is still a drop-in session, so there is no need to pre-book. If you have previous experience of yoga, why not come and join us? Please note there will be no class on 5th November.
Term-time classes started again from Monday 9th September. For details of all classes please click here. There are still a few spaces left, so please get in touch if you would like to join us.
Data Protection is big news at the moment with the introduction of the new GDPR. My Data Protection Policy is available here.
This is a common response to the question “What attracts you to doing a yoga class?” I don’t think anyone has ever told me they want to come to yoga to get stronger. However, you might be in for a surprise! Sadly, our muscular strength declines as we age and personally I don’t think our modern lifestyle helps a great deal. So many more of us have sedentary jobs these days and exercise becomes another thing to be fitted into the week, rather than happening as a matter of course.
It’s been suggested that building strength should actually take priority over becoming more flexible. Improving muscle tone helps us to maintain our body weight as muscles consume more calories than fat, even when resting (Yay!). Muscle strength helps us to improve our posture. We have greater endurance and are less prone to falls because we have better balance. Ideally we should focus initially on building core strength and then look to develop the major muscles in the body i.e. arm and leg muscles. This stops us from relying on smaller weaker muscles that are not up to the job.
A physical yoga practice helps us to build muscle strength in all the key muscle groups. Our arms and shoulders are worked with weight-bearing postures such as bowing cat or downward-facing dog. The standing postures build leg strength and balancing postures help develop the core. By making slow movements we can exercise all the fibres in the muscle, whilst by maintaining a posture we use isometric contraction of the muscles to stay in position. Another benefit of weight bearing postures (i.e. any posture that uses the body’s weight) is that is strengthens the muscles around the joints, helping to protect them from arthritis in later life.
Summer has now arrived with a vengeance, and what can be more summery than the sight of deckchairs fluttering in a gentle breeze on a promenade at the sea shore? As much as the bright colours and the cheerful scene, it was the complex pattern of shadows made by the deckchairs that drew me to capture this image. Whatever is happening in our lives, we invariably experience some shadows at times, however sunny things may seem to be on the surface. Just as shadows cast by the deckchairs change over the course of the day, so they are constantly moving in our lives. Keep following the sun and let the shadows look after themselves.
“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” – Abraham Lincoln
Are you wearing rose-tinted spectacles? I believe that we develop our outlook from quite a young age, perhaps influenced by those around us. Some of us see life’s adventures in a positive light, the proverbial ‘glass half full’. Or perhaps we see the same glass, half empty. Whatever life brings, it serves a purpose and we can learn from it. You may believe that someone ‘up there’ is dishing it out, you might believe in karma, it might just be the way the cookie crumbles.
Whatever the source, we all have good days and bad days, exciting experiences and unpleasant ones. And therein lies one of the problems; labelling it as good or bad, categorising and pigeonholing. I seem to remember reading somewhere that the mind keeps a better hold on the ‘bad’ things than the ‘good’ ones, so looking back we may be more inclined to recall what went wrong rather than what went right. Maybe there were good bits sandwiched in between. Perhaps we don’t remember them. Maybe we were too caught up in the bad to even see them in the first place. Little wonders like a sunny day, a spring flower, the smell of grass after the rain.
Scientists at the National Institute for Mental Health have now shown that a positive attitude really does help us to stay motivated and in a good frame of mind. This is linked to the amino acid tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin in the brain. Positive thinking as a concept has really mushroomed in recent years, and while it is important that your positivity is realistic rather than rose-tinted, having a ‘can do’ attitude is more likely to help you achieve your goals than out-and-out pessimism.
In the Tuesday class we are currently using positive affirmations at the end of our meditative practice to help develop an optimistic outlook and attitude towards ourselves. Positive affirmations are short positive statements, such as ‘I feel relaxed’ or ‘I am strong enough to do this’. Used in the present tense, they help you to believe it’s already true. If our thoughts can become self-fulfilling, better that they are positive ones. Repeat your affirmation several times, to reinforce the message. You can use them at any time; try it as a daily practice when you have a quiet moment, or as first aid when those negative thoughts start creeping in!
Yoga mats can last a surprisingly long time, which is fantastic given the potentially negative environmental impact of your mat. Sadly, the more affordable mats generally contain PVC, which is not the most environmentally-friendly substance to manufacture or dispose of. The alternatives tend to be quite expensive and may not be so easy to keep clean. In the case of rubber mats, they also come with a rather overpowering smell. However, when the time finally comes to say good bye, your mat doesn’t have to end up at the landfill site. I really dislike throwing things away if I can find a use for them, so here are some ideas for reducing the environmental impact of your unwanted mat by recycling it into new uses around the house and garden. Some are ways to use the whole mat, others will require a pair of sharp scissors and perhaps some glue or tape.
Keep using it, underneath your new mat, to provide extra padding in class
Line the boot of your car to keep it clean or as padding for pets
Line your cat or dog’s bed to provide extra insulation and padding
Cut out pieces to line terracotta plant pots in the garden. It will help reduce water loss in the summer and increase protection from frost in the winter.
Keep in the car as an impromptu picnic ‘rug’
Cut a piece to stick on a step stool for extra grip
Fold up the mat into quarters (or less) and tape or stick in place to create a kneeling mat
In the garden lay it over bare soil on new flower beds as a weed suppressant before you plant them up
Use small pieces to protect wooden floors from table legs
Pass it on; sell it on Ebay to make some money, advertise it on Freecycle or donate it to charity. You might be able to help out someone who can’t afford to buy a new mat.
I love spending time at the sea shore. This image to me represents the constant change, ebbing and flowing of life and the breath that is embodied in the sea and shore life. We like to think that things are permanent, that all will stay the same. We embrace our comfort zone and want to stay there forever. But in reality, life is change. Sometimes infinitesimally slow, sometimes lightning speed, but the only certain thing in life is change. Learn to love change and you will learn to love life.
I have always been a hoarder. Whether it is shells on the beach, interesting pebbles or clothes that still have some wear in them, I find it hard to let these things go. I have been pondering the reasons why I hang on to stuff like this and came up with quite a list. I then pondered my list and realised that all my reasons actually stem from the same source; in the end it all comes down to fear.
Whenever I consider rationalising my wardrobe there is always a cautious little voice whispering in my ear, “You are bound to need it if you throw it away, put it back!” And this has at times been true; perhaps I haven’t needed it as such, but it would have come in handy. So often I decide to clear out some ornaments or kitchen equipment and the little voice nudges me again: “It would make a great prop for some photos”, or ”Maybe you haven’t used that baking tin in years but it would come in handy”. This little voice is so often the reason that things are pushed back into the cupboard.
This cautious little voice is instilling in me the fear of needing these possessions if I no longer have them. Storing these things in my cupboards puts me back in my comfort zone. It’s all there if I need it, you never know, one day…
But I think it’s time to listen to the little voice that says “Wouldn’t it be nice to have more space? You don’t need all this stuff. Maybe someone else could use it.” This little voice is frequently drowned out by the cautious voice, but I say, “Shout louder, little voice!” Having possessions brings not only the fear of letting them go but also the fear of the inadvertent letting go of losing them. It can also bring the ideal opportunity to practise letting go. To be able to relinquish ‘stuff’ without regret or recriminations, to move forward into the future with hope and anticipation. Think of the freedom that a life without a need for so many possessions would bring! Trust in the Universe to provide and get ready for some spring cleaning!