Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Why do yoga?

I'm sure by now everyone has heard of yoga and many have been advised to do yoga. Either by your friend, doctor, midwife, osteopath, physiotherapist, etc. The reason each of these people give their recommendation will differ slightly. Your friend might rave about it because they have toned up and feel amazing. Your doctor because it helps ease anxiety and stress. A midwife knows that breathing is crucial during labour and delivery. Osteopaths and Physiotherapists have a deep understanding of the musculoskeletal system and recognise the benefit of regularly practising yoga as a way of easing pain and reducing injury.

But how?

How does yoga ease pain and reduce injury?

The short answer is, by stretching, strengthening, aligning, stabilising, twisting and improved breathing.

If you're happy with the short answer then go and roll out your yoga mat and get stuck in :-) But if, like me, you always want to know more, then read on...

Bones

Bone is the dynamic living tissue that forms the body's framework. Regular practise of yoga is beneficial for your bones because healthy stresses are applied in unusual directions. This strengthens the bones, as they respond to stress by depositing layers of calcium into the bone matrix. Ergo lack of healthy stress on bones = weak bones.

Bone mass decreases in Osteoporosis. Studies have demonstrated that resistance exercises maintain bone mass, thus helping to reduce the likelihood of developing Osteoporosis.



Spine

"Lengthening the spine" is something you hear a lot during a yoga class. 

But why?

Creating space between the bones of the spine, the vertebrae, is vital because nerves connected to the organs and structures of the body branch out from the spinal cord between the vertebrae.

If the curves of the spine become distorted, the spaces between the vertebrae are compressed. This can cause disk problems and other parts of the body may decline as they are stimulated by the nerves.

The individual vertebrae are separated and cushioned by disks of cartilage and water. These disks act as shock absorbers, allowing for weight and stress to pass through each vertebrae.

Rather depressingly, by the age of 30, the blood supply to the disks lessens. In an adult spine, all nourishment comes from movement. Fluids are drawn in and flushed out by moving forwards, backwards, sideways and twisting. If the disks are not nourished, they shrink and loose their elasticity, becoming more prone to injury such as herniation and pressure on the sciatic nerve root. Damaged or ruptured disks result in severe pain, as the bones of the vertebrae press on the spinal nerve roots.



Muscles, tendons and ligaments

Muscles, tendons and ligaments are necessary for movement. Muscles make up half a person's body weight. In addition to gross body movements, such as standing or raising an arm, muscles also make digestion possible and so much more.

We need our muscles to be strong enough and also flexible enough to enable us to carry out a basic range of movements to lead a 'normal' life.

Many athletes or sports enthusiasts get injured through overuse or muscular imbalances. Over-developing one muscle group leaves another under-developed. Yoga shines a light on these areas of over- and under-use. Holding poses has a soothing, healing effect on sore, tight and inflamed muscles, fascia, tendons and joints.

Yoga postures such as arm balances and inversions strengthen shoulder muscles, balancing stability and mobility in the joint. 




During yoga, the wide variety in a range of movements and directions contracts and stretches the muscles of the back. Yoga improves Scoliosis by stretching the muscles which have been shortened and strengthening muscles on the opposite side. This aids balance in limb length and can also improve nerve conduction.

To attempt to describe just how yoga helps each muscle group would take forever...Google Light on Yoga poses and look at the numerous images to get an inkling of an idea of how yoga reaches every tiny corner of the body!

An emotional response

Many people will experience an emotional response at some stage during their yoga practise. The scientific explanation for this is down to the fascia. Fascial planes are a matrix of thin connective tissues that cover the organs and muscles. Sensory nerves are found throughout these fascial planes and are stimulated by stretching the fascia in yoga postures. This nerve stimulation can evoke emotional and energetic releases during yoga.



Additional explanations for an emotional response during the practise of yoga is a whole other blog post!

I am no doctor and make no claims of brilliance whatsoever. I am simply a humble yoga practitioner, sharing what I have learned. The science behind this blog is all down to some amazing writers and yogis:
BKS Iyengar
Geeta Iyengar
David Coulter
Ray Long 
Suza Francina 

This blog post deals with the bones and muscles of the body. More posts will follow concerned with how yoga improves our breathing, improves our mental state and unblocks the flow of energy through our body.



I wish you all love, light and happiness this christmas and beyond
x

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

My recommended Yoga Reading List

A few students have asked me to recommend some books on the topic of Iyengar Yoga, so here goes:

 Yoga, The Iyengar Way by Silva Mehta is one of the first yoga books I ever bought, so will always have a special place in my heart.  It is not overwhelmingly thick, but rather a manageable and satisfying read which is not at all high-brow. I happen to like the dated photographs (think Jane Fonda-esque leotards and tights), and the bite-size chunks of text. Everything about this book is perfect for beginners, including step-by-step guides, brilliant photographs of beautifully executed poses and sequences to try at home.





  Yoga, The Path to Holistic Health by BKS Iyengar  is full of photographs, detailing a 360 degree view of a huge number of poses. Step-by-step instructions guide you into each pose, and there are lots of sequences to get you started on a home practice. The introduction is a fascinating read, including information about BKS Iyengar and his path to (and through) yoga. Of particular value is the list of ailments at the back of the book - and suggested poses (plus poses that are contraindicated). This is a chunky, A4 book which I hope will aid your self-practice as it did mine.

A book invaluable to women who are trying to conceive, or are pregnant is Iyengar Yoga for Motherhood: Safe Practice for Expectant and New Mothers. It is written by BKS Iyengar's daughter, Geeta. It is everything it says in the title. A brilliant book, but no substitute for the guidance of an experienced teacher, better to be used alongside.





If you are looking for something containing more about yogic philosophy, and yoga as a way of life then the classic Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar is the one. This is not a book to try to read from cover to cover. It is one I dip in and out of, but return to again and again. This is considered by many as the Yoga Bible, and number one on the reading list of most yoga teacher training courses. With over 200 poses photographed and described, it is a brilliant combination of fodder for the mind, body and spirit. Every time I pick it up I learn something new, or see something from a different perspective. It really does shed light on yoga, in all it's forms. A desert island book to keep you thinking, feeling motivated and inspired.

A snuggle up in front of the fire for a couple of hours book is Light on Life by BKS Iyengar. Mr Iyengar was an extraordinarily enlightened person with a gift for putting into words the indefinable. His passion, joy and spirit come across in this book as he gives examples from his own life. He shares his wisdom and experience in such a way that I frequently put the book down and soak up his nuggets of pure gold. I want to say that I find this book easy to read, but I don't want that to put you off and for you to assume that means it is basic, because it is not. It is just written so well! He explores the yogic goal of integrating mind, body, soul and emotions. He explains how the yoga postures and breathing (pranayama) help us move towards that goal, and how yoga can help us to live more harmoniously.  Pure genius.

Light on Pranayama by BKS Iyengar is one for students who have some experience of the physical practice of yoga and are interested in the art of breathing. The text is beautifully written and the sequences are fantastic. Not one for absolute beginners, in my humble opinion.







This next book is one I hope to grow into. From the moment I first opened it, I found Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by BKS Iyengar hard going, and yet I still return to it every so often. I am unashamed to say I don't understand much of it, indeed I like the fact that much of it eludes me. Perhaps it is the complexity and deeply philosophical nature that I find so alluring and mysterious, It is the antidote to a thoroughly modern life, and a bridge to the ancient art and history of yoga.





If there are any books on the topic of yoga that you would like to recommend please add your comments below.


Saturday, 5 December 2015

What to expect tomorrow...

*smiley sigh* I've just finished the plans for the workshop tomorrow. I am so excited! I have planned a sequence of poses to energise the body and mind, followed by an extended pranayama session to awaken your sensitivity of how you breathe. We will be  looking at the 4 main types of poor breathing techniques, trying out Straw Breathing and Whole Body Breathing. AUM.

Friday, 4 December 2015

2nd Iyengar yoga workshop in December going ahead!

I am delighted there are so many of you keen to attend these yoga workshops :-)

The 2nd Iyengar Yoga workshop will go ahead:

Sunday 13th December 

10-1pm 

at Great Dunmow Primary School, CM6 1DN



The entrance is on Stortford Road (green, electric gates will be open). Drive through the gates and park in the car park on the right, then walk up to the school building. The side door will be open (map)

£20 if paid before 7th December (contact me to do a bank transfer) or £25 after then.

Your first 3 hour workshop can feel daunting. Rest assured that you will not be going at it 'hammer and tongs' for all that time! The extended time gives you an opportunity to ask
questions, explore poses on a deeper level and remain in some poses for longer - resulting in a deep, long-lasting sense of well-being, calm and contentment.

This workshop is only available to students with some yoga experience. If you are at all unsure please give me a ring so we can chat about it.

This workshop on the 13th Dec has a different thread/theme to that of the 6th Dec, so if you attended on the 6th you can also attend on the 13th :-)

I LOVE teaching workshops, and can't wait to share some of the fantastic things that have been shared with me over the last 2 decades.

Your body will blossom, your stress dissolve, your mind will be still and quiet, whilst your heart remains open. Absolute bliss!

Spread the word, share the love ;-)

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Yoga workshop this Sunday 6th December NOW FULL







SORRY - THIS WORKSHOP IS NOW FULL
Please sign up for the 13th December instead


this Sunday 6th December 

10-1pm 

at Great Dunmow Primary School, CM6 1DN



The entrance is on Stortford Road (green, electric gates will be open). Drive through the gates and park in the car park on the right, then walk up to the school building. The side door will be open (map)

£20 if paid before 1st December or £25 on the day.

Your first 3 hour workshop can feel daunting. Rest assured that you will not be going at it 'hammer and tongs' for all that time! The extended time gives you an opportunity to ask
questions, explore poses on a deeper level and remain in some poses for longer - resulting in a deep, long-lasting sense of well-being, calm and contentment.

This workshop is only available to students with some yoga experience. If you are at all unsure please give me a ring so we can chat about it.

I know some of you will be unable to make the 6th so I will be teaching another workshop on the 13th Dec (with a different thread/theme, for those die-hard students who'd like to attend both workshops!).

I can't wait! I LOVE teaching workshops!!! 

Your body will blossom, your stress dissolve, your mind will be still and quiet, whilst your heart remains open. Absolute bliss!

Spread the word, share the love ;-)



Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The power of positive thinking

Are you a positive person? Is the glass half full or half empty?


We are organic beings, heavily influenced by external references. We can start the day feeling strong and capable then...one letter / one phone call / one unpleasant interaction with someone can change it all! It doesn’t take much to knock us down. And you know what? That is normal. That is human. It is the getting back up that is important.

We all need something to hold on to, something to inspire us, to motivate us. It is these things that help us get back up again, stand tall and feel good.
The tricky bit is finding something (or things) that inspire us, motivate us and that we can hold on to – something we can trust in, that is unwavering.

Recently I was completely blindsided. It is terrifying, devastating and lonely when your ‘rock’ is gone. So I scrabbled around for a while, trying to find my footing, holding on to what I could whilst the storm abated. I was shocked by how flimsy life could feel - in just one day.

Change is certain. Nothing ever stays the same - that can be a huge comfort at times. And so, now the rain has eased, the sky cleared and the sun began to peak from behind the clouds I can reflect on what I have to inspire me, motivate me and for me to hold on to.


How to remain positive

1. Be thankful 

And before you dismiss this as happy-clappy-claptrap please read on! At the end of a yoga class, a yoga teacher once asked us to focus on what we have to be grateful for. So, I sat still, eyes closed and really considered the things I am grateful for – first to mind was the health and well-being of my children.

In this crazy, volatile, world we live in - where media forces our eyes open to atrocities across the globe, it’s not hard to be thankful for small mercies. I have water, shelter, food, I am safe from violence, I love and am loved.

I still practise this mindful gratitude every day, and often ask my yoga students to do the same.

2. Check yourself 

Every now and again, throughout your day, consider your thoughts…Are you thinking negatively? Focus on what you have achieved and done well. Think rationally and put a positive spin on things.

3. Hang out with positive people 

Negativity is contagious, but so is positivity!

4. Be kind to yourself 

Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone else. With practise, you can become less self-critical and more accepting of yourself.


Health benefits associated with positive thinking include:
·         Ability to cope better with stress
·         Lower rates of anxiety and depression
·         Greater resistance to the common cold
·         Better psychological and physical well-being
·         Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
·         Increased life span

As yet, science cannot tell us why positive thinkers enjoy these health benefits. We know that a positive outlook reduces the harmful effects of stress on your body, and we know how detrimental stress can be on both a psychological and physical level. It's also thought that positive thinkers tend to live healthier lifestyles. Could it be that when you are kind to yourself in thought, you become kind to yourself in deed?

Breaking bad habits
If you often find yourself thinking negatively, then you are already on the road to thinking positively! In being aware of your negativity you can begin to make a change.
Firstly, don't be too hard on yourself. Consider in which area of your life you are most negative (work, relationship, children, family) and then decide whether you need to make a change in that area. If not, then try to become more self-aware and check your thinking throughout the day.
Don’t expect to change your thinking pattern overnight. Over time, with practice, you will become more accepting of yourself and less critical of others too!

'When you wake up every day you have two choices. You can either be positive or negative; an optimist or a pessimist. I choose be an optimist. It's all a matter of perspective.' (Harvey MacKay)



Monday, 23 November 2015

Iyengar Yoga Workshop Sunday 6th December








this Sunday 6th December 

10-1pm 

at Great Dunmow Primary School, CM6 1DN



The entrance is on Stortford Road (green, electric gates will be open). Drive through the gates and park in the car park on the right, then walk up to the school building. The side door will be open (map)

£20 if paid before 1st December or £25 on the day.

Your first 3 hour workshop can feel daunting. Rest assured that you will not be going at it 'hammer and tongs' for all that time! The extended time gives you an opportunity to ask
questions, explore poses on a deeper level and remain in some poses for longer - resulting in a deep, long-lasting sense of well-being, calm and contentment.

This workshop is only available to students with some yoga experience. If you are at all unsure please give me a ring so we can chat about it.

I know some of you will be unable to make the 6th so I will be teaching another workshop on the 13th Dec (with a different thread/theme, for those die-hard students who'd like to attend both workshops!).

I can't wait! I LOVE teaching workshops!!! 

Your body will blossom, your stress dissolve, your mind will be still and quiet, whilst your heart remains open. Absolute bliss!

Spread the word, share the love ;-)




Friday, 20 November 2015

No yoga class Monday 23-11-15 in Standon

Sorry guys, but there's no yoga class this coming Monday morning (23rd November) as Standon Village hall is being used for a play.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Yoga v's Gadget to aid better posture


Is it just me or has the world gone mad?

You can now buy a gadget to alert you when you are slouching. An added bonus is that it will tell you how many times you stand up during the day (Daily Mail, 14-11-15).

Seriously!!!

Talk about unnecessary expenditure!

If someone came up with a gadget that did the following, how much would you spend on it...?

1. Increases suppleness, strength and stamina

2. Improves posture, self-confidence and concentration

3. Quietens the mind to promote well-being


4. Relaxes and energises the body and mind 

5. Helps you overcome and prevent many stresses, strains, aches and pains




No gadget required. 

Do yoga. 

Move your body. 

Free your mind and improve your health and well-being.

Ooooo, and as a by-the-by, if you haven't already seen 'The truth about exercise' (Horizon - BBC2), I highly recommend it. 




Saturday, 31 October 2015

Regular yoga classes resume


Just to let you all know that regular yoga classes resume as of Monday :-)

We're back to 8 classes per week...find one that suits you here


Sunday, 25 October 2015

Yoga classes over half term


Many years ago, before I had established a yoga practise at home, it used to drive me potty when my yoga teacher cancelled every class over half term holidays. I still wanted to do yoga - half term or not! As such, I have tried to keep a few classes going over half term (wk beg. 26-10-15):


Monday Standon 10 - 11.30am     -     CANCELLED

Tuesday Bishop's Park 6 - 7.30pm     -     RUNNING AS NORMAL

Tuesday Bishop's Park 7.30 - 9pm     -     RUNNING AS NORMAL

Wednesday Manuden 9.30 - 11am     -     CANCELLED

Thursday Dunmow 10 - 11.30am     -     RUNNING AS NORMAL

Thursday Dunmow 8 - 9.30pm     -     RUNNING AS NORMAL

Friday Stansted 9.30 - 11am    -    CANCELLED

Friday Pregnancy 11 - 12.30    -    CANCELLED

All classes will be back to normal as of 2nd November.

Hope to see you at class soon,

Sarah
x

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Children's Yoga starts after October half term

Our children are growing up in a time when advances in technology are happening at lightning speed & have massive implications for daily life.

From a very early age people have a natural thirst for knowledge, for exploring, for pushing boundaries. It is how the human race has developed and evolved to the extraordinary level that we find ourselves today.

The way children are being taught at school is changing, due to the fact children demand more interactivity and (some would say) they have shorter attention spans as a result of their hi-tech toys and computer games.

Children want more. Faster. Brighter. More challenging. Higher scores. They are used to 'completing' levels. Reaching goals. 'Finishing' a game saga.

So what does all of this have to do with yoga for children?

Yoga is pretty much the antithesis of all of that.

It is the yin to technologies yang.

In yoga there is no goal. No levels. No stickers or badges. Crucially, no one is better than anyone else.

Children enjoy yoga because they enjoy using their bodies.

They run because it feels exhilarating.

They climb because they have a natural sense of adventure.

They hang off monkey bars because it feels good to use their body!

Yoga gives children a chance to explore what their bodies can do. They can balance, twist, arch, flex, be strong, and be steady.



A children's yoga class is quite distinct from an adult one. They play games and explore yoga poses through tales of exotic animals from far off lands. They become the tiger stalking his prey. They are the cobra that prepares to strike! They freeze like a rabbit, alerted to danger. These stories draw the children in, and the children participate, using their bodies (and voices!) as much or as little as they choose.

Children adore the mystique of foreign lands. They dive headfirst into stories of adventure and undiscovered territory.

After a few sessions the children learn to be aware of their breathing. They learn to be still and quiet.

In addition to being brilliant fun, confidence-boosting and a feeling of togetherness - the physical benefits are numerous.

Weak bladders can be strengthened, posture can be improved and flexibility can help reduce the risk of injury. Children as young as six can't touch their toes (with straight legs). Many children are not taught to stretch at the end of a PE lesson (or football training session) which, over time, results in tight muscles and potential injury.

Children need to move! They need to balance, twist, arch, flex, be strong, and be steady.

And they need to do all of that in a safe environment where they feel empowered and are having great fun!

I am CRB-checked by the police. I am a qualified primary school teacher. And if you ask anyone who knows me - I am a bundle of energy who loves storytelling and children!




Children's yoga class starting after the October half term.

Please contact me to register your interest and discuss class options.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Yoga beats the exercise plateau


Sitting is the new smoking

Slumping on the sofa in the same position for hours every night not only creates a you-shaped dent in the sofa, it can weaken your core and back muscles. Add to that sitting at your desk for 8 hours, holding a phone to your ear all day...repeated over days, weeks, months, these positions can create stiffness and weakness in your body. 

Recent press has hailed sitting as the new smoking. A tad dramatic...?

Our sedentary tendencies are not necessarily our fault - thousands of years of evolution have formed our human nature to conserve energy. Just as we are 'programmed' to hold on to fat, be greedy and fight/flight. Think cavemen.

However, blaming our lazy tendencies on evolution doesn't really solve the problem of not moving our bodies enough. Although we may not necessarily relish the thought of getting off our backside, it is rather important.

Headaches, neck and backache are a few of the more common symptoms of inactivity.



But I do exercise!

When you first start an exercise program/activity your body changes and you often notice muscle tone and weight loss. 

Fast forward 6 months and you may notice the benefits have halted. If you do the same exercise over and over again, whether that be at the gym, in a studio or on a pitch, your body becomes used to the activity and, often, the physical benefits plateau. Indeed the exercise plateau is a well-documented and researched phenomenon. But what to do about it?



Shake up your routine. Mix up your moves.

There are hundreds of yoga poses. As you progress from a beginner, you begin to learn (and practise) more and more poses - challenging your body in new ways through a variety of sequences. 

These new challenges keep your body on it's toes (excuse the pun!) and help your mind to remain elastic.


Symmetry

It's not only inactivity that can cause problems.

I often have a lot of golfers and racquet sports people come to me with pain on one side of their body. This is often due to over-working one side. 

Yoga can restore balance and harmony to your body. It shines a light on (and in) your body, opening your eyes and increasing your awareness and sensitivity regarding your own body alignment. It provides a way of working which can undo, heal, repair, rebuild, straighten, strengthen, stretch and open.



30 million

Recent estimates (BBC) suggest 30 million people practise yoga worldwide. 

It's got to be worth a try. 

Your first class is FREE...get moving! 

Click here for class timetables and venues










Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Worrying stress levels in our children...and how yoga can help

Last week’s Sunday Times documented the rise in stress levels of our children, due to unprecedented workloads and pressure at many of the UK's top schools and colleges.
Many schools across Europe have an enrichment programme, where children can unwind, let off steam and explore a non-academic environment.
The aim is to provide something different to the normal classroom experience and enable students to:
  • Learn skills they could not acquire in a classroom 
  • Have opportunities for leadership 
  • Develop new interests 
  • Serve the wider community 
  • Learn to cope with new challenges


Perhaps we should be introducing more of these programmes in our schools and teaching our children in such a way as to allow them to questions, grow, develop and learn whilst reducing their stress levels...


 
I am passionate about the diverse and numerous benefits of yoga within the realm of education. There are many articles documenting these benefits, below is just one of them:


Children face different levels of stress in the classroom environment. These difficulties, problems, conflicts, distractions and dissipation of their energies affect their learning and well-being.

Within Europe, many schools have a psychologist who monitors the performance, behaviour and aptitude of the children. Children practising yoga display a marked improvement in their responses, creativity, receptivity, memory, willpower and behaviour. The children were more relaxed, focused, and tranquil than their counterparts who were not practising yoga (these children were more destructive, restless, violent and distracted).


And yoga is not just for the children...Our society is too stressful, violent and fast-paced for many of us. How can stressed, overworked teachers ever hope to meet National Curriculum demands and achieve their learning objectives when their pupils are equally stressed, agitated, aggressive, overly emotional, and mentally exhausted? 

Yoga has an impressive array of methods for managing the energies of pupils and teachers alike, and for preventing the kind of stress that is becoming increasingly synonymous with the teaching profession in this country.

If you would like yoga in your child's school (through weekly yoga classes as a part of their PE curriculum, part of their enrichment program, an after-school activity, etc.) please tell your Headteacher.


Sunday, 20 September 2015

Stress, anxiety, depression and yoga


This coming weeks yoga poses have been selected and sequenced to help balance the mind and emotions.

We experience stress from the moment of birth, and spend our lives adjusting to it. Some of us manage stress better than others for a variety of reasons (including personality, environment, one's physical condition). But at some time in our lives, we have to deal with the effects of stress.

The practice of yoga asanas (poses) and pranyama (breathing techniques) can be an extremely effective (and natural) therapy for stress. Practised together, asanas and pranayama generate enormous amounts of energy in the body, stimulating the cells and relaxing tense muscles. The effect on the mind takes longer to register because yoga deals with the causes, and not just the symptoms of stress. Slow, effortless exhalation during the practice of an asana brings serenity to the body cells, relaxes the muscles and releases tension. The brain quietens and all thoughts are stilled. Then, invading fears and anxieties cannot penetrate  to the brain. When you develop this ability, you perform you daily activities with efficiency and economy, you generate energy rather than deplete your reserves and your mind is filled with calm and tranquility.



Some physical symptoms associated with stress and anxiety are nausea, hot flushes, dizziness, trembling, muscular tension, headaches, backache, or a tight feeling in the chest.

Depression can arouse feelings of not being in control, anger or frustration. Other symptoms include an increase or decrease in appetite, sleep disorders, low self-esteem, fatigue, irritability, restlessness, suicidal feelings and poor concentration.



If you think you may be suffering from anxiety and depression please contact your GP and also let me know, so I can help tailor your yoga practice to help alleviate your symptoms and harmonise your body and mind.

You can always email or ring me to talk about this or anything else, in complete confidence. I just want to help in any way I can, just as my yoga teachers have helped me.

Please note: If you are not suffering from stress, anxiety or depression, this weeks classes will still be relevant and challenging, so still come and practice!

Yours,
Sarah

(With thanks to BKS Iyengar for his wisdom and research into stress, anxiety, depression and yoga. I am simply passing on his wisdom and teaching, to the very best of my ability.)