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 ;-)