Sunday, 24 January 2016

One small step for yoga...One giant leap for Hanuman!

This is an ancient story explaining why the splits are called Hanumanasana in yoga…
A long time ago, when myths were truths, Rama, the king of ancient India had a beautiful wife called Sita. The demon king Ravana, who dwelt in Sri Lanka, abducted Sita.
Hanuman, one of Rama’s most loyal devotee’s, leapt the distance of one hundred yojanas (one yojana is traditionally defined as the longest distance travelled by the sound of a call from a tall place), shore to shore, from India to Lanka, to comfort the captive Sita. He stretched his mighty legs, the power of his back leg propelled him forward, while his front leg reached to the opposite shore. When he found Sita sitting desolately under a tree, guarded by demoness sentries, he stealthily delivered the news that Rama was on his way. He then gave Sita King Rama’s ring to comfort her.

Before long, King Rama’s army rescued Sita, but during the fearful battle his brother was critically wounded. The cure was an herb that grew only in the Himalayas. But how could anyone travel to the Himalayas and back in time to save the brother? Of course, it was Hanuman who made the mighty leap from the southern tip of India to the Himalayas. But when he got there he panicked, “I am a monkey, I do not know which herb is the right one!” So he picked up the entire mountain and carried it with him as he jumped back.

King Rama’s herbalists took what they needed and healed the brother. Hanuman was asked once more to make such a formidable leap – this time to return the mountain.

In his giant leaps Hanuman embodied his love for Rama. His intense devotion allowed him to do the impossible, and this is the lesson of Hanuman: devotion allows you to achieve the impossible.

Lord Hanuman is always depicted in Indian folklore as an icon of true devotion and a symbol of the power of devotion and chastity.
The yoga pose Hanumanasana is named after Lord Hanuman. Hanumanasana is full front split of the legs. It takes much practise, patience (and support initially!).

“Nothing can be forced, receptivity is everything.” 

The way you approach this pose is crucial. Trying to force your body into this position is a recipe for back pain and more! Hanumanasana teaches infinite patience, and encourages you to deepen your awareness, appreciating the subtleties as you move deeper into the pose. You must be devoted and dedicated, just like Hanuman himself.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Slow yoga is better yoga

I have dabbled in quite a few yoga styles over the years: hot & sweaty power, vinyasa, yin, astanga, hatha, etc.

I learned something from all of them...often I learned what I did not want to do with my body.

I stayed with astanga for quite some time. I was in my 20s and missing the buzz I got from karate. For me, the problem with astanga was the fact that I needed to be peeled off the roof at the end of the session. Astanga stoked our fires and egos. It became horribly competitive, people frequently hurt themselves and it became all about body beautiful. It was unhealthy for me to continue. One Iyengar class was all it took for me to realise...."Ahhhhh, so this is how calm feels." By complete contast to the astanga class, Iyengar left me feeing complete, grounded, whole, calm (whilst still getting that blissful tired body feeling that so many sporty-types enjoy).

I'm not going to bash astanga, I think for some Kapha-types it can be really useful - under the guidance of a good teacher.

I am not alone in this experience. There's a brilliant quote from an article written last year in Yoga Dork which describes it well:

"For many, power and hot yoga have become like that friend who you initially hit it off with and had so much fun with but now when you hang out it just feels negative and draining. Eventually, you drift apart."

The whole article is well worth a read (click to read the article)

I think for many people, myself included, yoga is viewed as a form of physical exercise initially. A way to tone up, lose weight, stretch out. And there's nothing wrong with that. But, when you practise yoga under the guidance of a good teacher, you practise slowly, with awareness and compassion, at some stage, you begin to notice it is so much more than physical exercise.

When you practise yoga in this way it is meditation through movement. The doing is the yoga. The final pose is simply a part of the doing, which you may or may not achieve that day. Letting go of this need to achieve, to accomplish, to show others and ourselves how good we are, is liberating.

You won't need others' admiration or recognition. You will learn to love yourself and appreciate the small things in yoga and your life in general.

But you must slow down to appreciate the beauty, freedom and stillness that is at the centre of all of us, just waiting to be recognised, to be felt and appreciated.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Am I too old to start yoga?

No! On the contrary, you are too old to not start yoga! 

The older you are the more you will feel the benefit from practising this ancient and healing art/science.

Yoga counteracts the aging process, by removing stiffness and increasing energy.

If you were given the name of an expensive medicine which would reduce pain, increase mobility, aid sleep, improve breathing, reduce anxiety and stress; you would try to afford that medicine, right? But because yoga is free - requiring commitment and effort, very few make that commitment or take it seriously.

I have had many inspirational experiences working with people over the age of 50. Reduced backaches & headaches, less pain in stiff joints, a general feeling of well-being and a rejuvenated vigor for life are most commonly reported improvements. But it is the ability to return to activities that have been denied that has the greatest effect on older people who practise yoga. Getting back into gardening, biking, walking uphill without struggling, and the simple but life changing ability to reach, bend and get up and down from the floor.

Sandy, age 65, did a handstand for the first time since her school days. "I have much better stamina and physical strength now. Yoga is reducing my back pain and enables me to live life to the full!"

Our culture's obsession with youth is meaningless in a yoga class. There is no 'good at yoga'. I was incredibly flexible when I began yoga in my late teens, and at the time I thought I was great at yoga. My teacher told me so and I could make my body look like those of the teacher and that of yoga photographs I had seen in books like 'Light on Yoga'. What I was missing was body intelligence. The subtlety and awareness that grows with each yoga practise. Gradually, over the years (and with the fantastic help of various yoga teachers), I have developed my inner compass and expanded my awareness. I still feel I have a long way to go, but am content that I am on the right road, and am loving the journey!

The fact that aging can bring greater understanding, expanded awareness and continued growth rather than deterioration is so refreshing for older people.

Over the years I have been taught yoga by people 3 times my age. And boy, has my body ached during and after their classes! Yoga levels the playing field because you very quickly realise there is no playing field! There is no comparison between students. You let go of your preconceived ideas of what you think you should be able to do and you just do what you can. And each time you step on to the mat, you start from wherever you are that day. 

Many of today's stress management techniques have their roots in yoga. Doctors, specialists, midwives and therapists the world over are recommending yoga to more and more people.

The hippy stigma is wearing off and more of these medical professionals have been impressed by seeing the benefits of yoga first hand (in addition to the numerous studies that clearly highlight people who do yoga are healthier and happier than those who don't).

Irrespective of your age and physical condition, the stretching, strengthening, stabilising aspects of yoga combined with the breathing and relaxation techniques can help you to improve the quality of your life and health.

You are in the driving seat.

Yoga requires committment. To greatly benefit you need to practise regularly (at least once a week). And it requires effort.

Not every class and/or teacher will suit you. Find one that does. Talk to teachers, try a few classes. 

I will be teaching a morning class specifically for the over 50s, so give me a ring if you may be interested in trying this out. Bring along a few friends and open yourself up to the possibility of feeling stronger, healthier, with less pain and more freedom to do what you want to do!

Friday, 8 January 2016

Cleansing Yoga Workshop with Sarah

The New Year has arrived, and with it all of our plans to be stronger, fitter, healthier, etc. 

Take the bull by the horns (or the downward dog by the lead!) and come along to the next yoga workshop.

You will feel infinitely better afterwards (and you can feel unbearably smug too!)

So, treat your body, mind and spirit...

Contact me for booking details: call 07427 596961 or email

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Feel good. Do Yoga.

There is something rather reassuring about getting back to normality isn't there.

Don't get me wrong - to quote Oui 3 - I need a break from the old routine as much as anyone (click here for a musical blast from the past!)

But after a couple of weeks of not knowing what day it is, or where I am supposed to be, or who with, it is quite a comfort to finally know what I'm doing and when.

So tomorrow at 10am I'll be teaching a mixed level class at Standon Village Hall...yippeeeeee!

All this week the classes will focus on bringing our awareness back. 

At Christmas we can get swept up in the gluttony and think we are spoiling ourselves by stuffing in yet more food and watching one more movie. In reality, after a while that doesn't feel good. We feel slow and heavy after being so slothful. And judging by the number of hits on my website on Jan 2nd, you are looking for action!

I, too, have crammed in one too many mince pies and my body is longing to be used. So get back on the mat with me this week and reconnect body, mind and spirit.

Feel good. Do yoga.

(click here for timetable & venues)

Saturday, 2 January 2016

What have you got to lose? Give yoga a try!

It's like nothing you've ever done before.

If you have tried yoga and didn't like it, it's because the class/teacher wasn't right for you. Don't dismiss yoga because of one class.

There are many types of yoga and a variety of teaching styles. Add into this mix the teacher's personality and there are a huge number of variables.

January is a popular month for people searching for the thing to make them happy, relaxed, slimmer, fitter, healthier, stronger. 

Iyengar Yoga reduces injuries in athletes (click here to read more)

It calms stressed people (click here to read more) (and here!)

It energises couch potatoes 

It makes you stronger and leaner

30 million people worldwide practice yoga...find out why.

Your first class with me is totally free. 

No need to sign up to a course, just come along and give it a whirl! (click here for timetable and venues)

How Iyengar Yoga eases Stress

The information explosion has provided us with unrivalled, almost unlimited, access to knowledge. Paradoxically, such scientific and technological advances have increased rather than reduced our stress levels.

Financial security, desire for worldly pleasures, appetite for success, keeping up with the Jones'...these pressures can push us into a spiral of anxiety and a feeling of always chasing our tail. We can lose sight of what is really important, unknowingly twisting the truth to suit personal goals. We can be blinkered to friendliness, warmth, honesty and compassion - instead perceiving deceit, dishonesty, greed and pride.

Egoism and pride cause an individual to lose contact with their emotional centre. The ancient teachings of yoga tell us that it is only when the heart and head are in harmony that peace of mind, stability and happiness can be found enabling you to cope with the stresses and strains that knock you off balance from time to time.

As long as the heart and head remain separate, stress will manifest itself physically and emotionally...anger, confusion, depression, contracted muscles, tense facial expressions and undesirable behavioural patterns are all common symptoms of stress.

Inevitably our health suffers. The science of psycho-neuro-immunology has established the connection between the body, mind and emotions (a connection the ancient yogis recognised a millennium ago!). Stress leads to disease, premature aging and in extreme cases, fatal illness.

Many people respond to stress by resorting to alcohol, comfort eating, nicotine, prescribed and non-prescribed drugs. These may bring temporary relief, but it is temporary and mostly counter-productive. They also have dangerous side-effects that actually increase stress levels!

The tension associated with stress is stored mainly in the muscles, diaphragm and the nervous system. If these areas are relaxed, stress is reduced. Yoga postures and breathing have a profound effect on the central nervous system, as well as the circulatory, respiratory and digestive systems. Improved blood flow stabilises the heart rate and blood pressure, better breathing results in a higher intake of oxygen.

Regular yoga, along with a healthy diet and lifestyle, can help you to internalise positive attitudes, which enable you to face stressful situations with calmness and stability. It helps to generate enormous amounts of energy in the body, stimulates the cells and relaxes tense muscles. With patience and dedication, you will discover a feeling of well-being during and after your practise. Your entire being becomes calm and steady.

In summary...YOGA ROCKS!!!

It makes you feel good, and does you good, inside and out.

(All my yoga ramblings are due to the grace, intellectualism, wisdom and kindness of all my yoga teachers over the last two decades, including of course, BKS Iyengar himself)