14 February: Is Yoga Working?
Most people start yoga because of sore backs or stiffness, because they want to be healthier, move better, get in some exercise or relieve stress. Then they start a yoga class, Great! The weeks go by and maybe they start to wonder if yoga is working.
In my experience yoga works from the inside out, so here’s a handy guide for the sure signs to look for.
- First, you feel better! After class maybe your mood is lifted, maybe you feel a little lighter, feel a little calmer or have more energy.
- Second, you begin to BREATHE. Outside of class you begin to have moments where you are brought to your breath; maybe you notice can walk quicker and aren’t as winded, maybe you an hit those notes in choir you couldn’t before, maybe you breathe to calm down.
- Third, inside and then outside of class you feel more comfortable and present in your body, which starts to feel stronger (and is in fact become stronger and more agile).
Doing yoga will not make you ‘look’ a certain way, there are yoga students and teachers of all shapes and sizes and that is what makes it great and inclusive. So if you were hoping for a six pack, you’ll need to do more than come to my class!! But even though yoga’s effects may be subtle, the signs it is working are there. It has an initial effect after a class and then a compound effect week on week, month on month, year on year. Its a lifelong practice to be enjoyed for its journey.
7 February: A Week of Meditation
Whether you know it or not, if you’ve been coming to my yoga classes, you’ve been meditating! All that ‘tune into your breath, notice your thoughts and let them go on the exhale’ & the beautiful savasana that no one wants to get up from – that’s all meditation.
Sunday: ‘Beditation’, getting comfortable under a cozy blanket, in bed, with lavender eye pillow and my favourite music to breathe and just be!
Monday: ‘Mindfulness’, when I reach a certain point in the West End on my way to work, I stop whatever I’m thinking about and notice things: the temperature, the breeze, the sky, the birds, the flowers to bring my mind into the present.
Tuesday: ‘Guided Meditation’ on the train to Edinburgh. A great way to start meditating! I highly recommend Davidji & Colette-Baron Reid who both produce free guided meditations to be found through their websites or the HayHouse Meditations App.
Wednesday: ‘Webinar’ My yoga teacher led a Buddhist awareness meditation. The internet has many meditation delights to offer us, many of which are free like the Insight Timer App.
Thursday: ‘Reiki’ I always take time to tune in and settle down before I start teaching yoga and one of my favourite ways is the ‘hands on meditation’ practice of Reiki, which I wrote more about in my 18th January entry below.
Friday: ‘The Sacred Room’ aka the bathroom. I love, love, love a bath and the minute that tap turns on, that is my spa, bubbles high and a podcast/music on. Treat yourself to you time.
Saturday: ‘Gratitude’. This pic was from last Saturday before our ‘Heart’ class and before everyone arrived I took time to hold a space of gratitude for all the good things in my life.
As you can see, meditation has all different forms to suite anyone. Try some out (at least for a few days) and notice if it makes a difference in your day. A few minutes, a few deep breaths, slowly day by day it can make a real difference to your mindset. Questions?? Comment on my Facebook page!
18 January: Reiki was a Game Changer for me! It could be for you too!!
We all need ways to understand ourselves, our emotions, our thoughts, our experiences and our interactions with the world around us and Reiki can help! Reiki provides a perfect tool for relaxation and personal growth and can be a particularly effective you are an empathic person, a person who picks up ‘vibes’ when entering a room, a person who listens to their ‘gut’, a person who starts a sentence ‘I feel like…’
What is Reiki? Reiki originated in 19th-century Japan and translated as ‘Universal Energy’. Its therefore based on the philosophy that we are all connected and when we ‘tune in’ to this connection, can find greater well-being.
So what’s it like? I like to describe it as ‘hands on meditation’, through which hands are placed on or over the chakra points on the body. Most people experience deep relaxation, others experience the feeling of being hot or cold, colours or thoughts are sometimes brought to mind; all of this is normal, fine and part of meditation.
Now what’s a chakra? Chakras are part of Ancient Indian, Japanese & other Asian holistic systems of understanding the body. Each Chakra is a focal point on the body for a physical, mental, emotional or spiritual aspect of ourselves.
What about Energy? Angels? Spirituality? Do I have to believe in all that to do Reiki? No you don’t! If you do, bring all your beliefs with you! If you’re skeptical, that’s ok too! I am open and non-judgemental when it comes to Reiki, and all you need is to be open and curious. Its nothing weird, its not a cult or religion. The founder of Reiki, Dr. Usui was of the philosophy “Just for today do not anger, just for today do not worry, just for today be thankful, just for today honour all things in the circle of life, just for today work with integrity”. If these sound like a good life-model for you (which I think they are!), then you and Reiki will get along just fine!
So if you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, if you’re feeling like you want to live in a more authentic way, like you need support, like you need a way to help you deal with life, like you want to relax, like you want to grow into the best version of yourself, then maybe think about Reiki!
I’d love to hear from you with questions, so feel free to get in touch! I hope to hold a Reiki 1 training within the next few months, so do let me know if you are interested, I’m always happy to talk Reiki.
3 January: New Year’s Resolutions
Happy New Year & Welcome to 2019!!! I feel so grateful for spending 2018 on the mats with you – it was a great year!! This year will be bring more yoga classes & workshop, so lots to look forward to.
The start of a new year presents the opportunity for reflection, so this week at yoga class we’ll be setting intentions for the year ahead and working with Mudras to help us achieve them.
As I’ll be inviting you to set intentions in class (yoga resolutions included!), I thought I would share some of my resolutions (yoga & otherwise) for this year:
- Shop more locally, more often
- Create ‘home sanctuary’ evenings: Time for reading, writing, music, candles & comfort
- Its the year of arm balancing for yoga me: headstands, crows, cranes, side-planks, bring them on!!
- Help at least one of my yoga students do splits!! YES you heard me!! Any brave volunteers!?!? If you can touch your toes & get into pigeon you are well on your way.
As always, Namaste!
30 November: Peggy’s Yoga Gift Guide
If you’re hoping Santa might bring you some yoga goodies this season, here’s what I recommend from mats to leggings to music and more!
Mats: Yoga mats can range from £7-£200. Think about if you need more cushion & grip before making your decision.
- Warrior Mats are a great intro mat that aren’t too thick or heavy, so you can carry them to class with ease and range from £7-£20 depending on where you buy them. Best buys are at TKMaxx, but its always a gamble whether they will have them. Loads are available on amazon.
- Manuka Mats are the next step up in price from £30-£80 depending on which one you go for but are very stable for gripping, a bit hardier in terms of wear and tear. Some are also eco-friendly. https://www.yogamatters.com/mats-bags/yoga-mats
- Sweaty Betty mats £40-£65 (that’s the one I have) are of a super dense, but cushy foam and I’m very much enjoying it. They also sell the £100 Liforme mat, which some of my fellow yoga teachers have and love. https://www.sweatybetty.com/shop/accessories/yoga-mats
Blocks & Straps: Yoga props can help you get into certain poses and you are always welcome to bring them to class. Straps/belts can help in folds & arm stretches & blocks (either foam or cork) can prop you up in a seated position or ‘raise the floor’ so you have something to rest on in a forward fold twist or triangle pose. Definitely buy them online for the best price – definitely don’t spend more than £10 on a strap or £15 on a block.
Leggings: Athleisure has swept the high street and its the retail of presence of leggings that I think has really helped yoga get into the mainstream. You have loads of choice from your TKMaxx £10 leggings to Lululemon over £100 leggings. Choose what feels good and what colours you like. Myself, I like a cotton leggings. My favourite are from GAP and are the performance cotton ones. https://www.gap.co.uk/gap/women/clothing/gapfit/pants/?parentCategory=1097187
- I’m obsessed with Paperchase’s ‘My Yoga Companion’, which includes a 30 day yoga plan.
- If you like Tarot or Oracle Decks, why not try a Mudras or Yoga deck! So great to learn poses, sequence your own yoga class, or choose a pose for the day!
- For a down to earth, easy to read, and informative book on Meditation I recommend Davidji’s Destressify . Davidji also produces loads of free guided meditations that you can listen to via his website.
- For some serious girl power, I recommend Rebecca Campbell’s Rise Sister Rise
Music: If you like the music I play in class, here’s my top picks (all of which can be found on iTunes, Amazon Music, Spotify however you like to get your music)
- Best of Wah!
- Divine Mother, by Craig Pruess & Ananda
- Kirtana by Philip Gass
Treat Yourself to a Relax & Recharge:
- My home-made Lavender Savasana pillows (£5)
- Early Bird sign up to Yoga Goddess Workshop, 10:30-12:30 27 January at the Space Upstairs in Burntisland (£15)
- 1 hour 1 to 1 Yoga Sessions with Me (£35-£45 depending on location)
- 1 hour Reiki Session with Me (£35)
We all give gifts at Christmas, so we may as well buy things that enrich lives & support local businesses. Namaste & happy shopping!!
9 November: Need to get started? Call on the Warrior Poses!
We’ve been doing a lot of Warrior sequences in this week’s yoga classes. Warrior poses are an invitation to feel active, brave, strong, and powerful. So whatever you need to get done, whatever you’ve been putting off, whatever you’ve been dreaming about but haven’t gotten around to starting, now is the time & your warrior poses can help.
How? Let’s look to the ancient Indian epic poem ‘The Bhagavad Gita’ where the warrior Arjuna and his charioteer (actually a deity in disguise) Krishna stand before a battlefield. After a lifetime of preparation, Arjuna starts to doubt whether or not to fight and Krishna gives him advice: ‘establish yourself in the present, and then take action’.
Thousands of years later, these words still ring true, so take whatever your goal/challenge/question is to the yoga mat:
- Warrior 1 gives us the opportunity to bring ourselves into the present moment, as we ground down through the legs. Once stable and secure in our foundations in the present moment, we are invited to reach up towards possibility.
- Warrior 2 then brings a sense of focus as we gaze over the middle finger, capturing our goal/challenge/question in our sights to consider it with a clear mind.
- Reaching Warrior 3, we fly toward the goal/challenge/question, we take action.
In this way, yoga helps to take a thought and work through it in a new way. I know I’ll be channeling that Warrior Spirit this week and I hope you will too! Namaste & I’ll see you on the mats!
18 Oct: Patsy’s Journey from Glorious & Pregnant Yoga Teacher to Beautiful, Strong Yoga Momma!
Patsy was my best yoga pal during our teacher training. It was immediately clear from the mat beside her that she had an incredible determination & strength of practice (oh, and she was also in her first trimester!). As the month-long training progressed and her body changed, she modified postures to better suit her growing daughter and in the coming months would continue to do so. (Photo of Patsy 2 weeks before her due date)
After the birth of her beautiful baby girl, Emma, she took six weeks of full recovery time. Then, she was back to the mat! Relieved to get back to those forward folds, but still coaxing back other poses Patsy reminds us to ‘always listen to our bodies & be kind to ourselves’. (Photo of Patsy 12 weeks after Emma’s birth)
I asked Patsy if I could share her photos & story because I wanted for all my students to know that Yoga can support you in whatever phase of life you are at and that regular practice can help you get stronger, move better & feel better.
Patsy & I aren’t a special breed of super-bendy people, we’ve just been doing yoga, consistently, for awhile and its in the showing up and the doing time and time again where the yoga magic happens. I look forward to seeing you on the mats!
14 Sept: Turn ‘Used to’ into ‘Still do’
One of the phrases a lot of people say to me is ‘I used to be able to…touch my toes/do cartwheels/balance on one leg/dance/do gymnastics etc etc’. So let yoga help you change the ‘used to’ into the ‘still do’. How?
- Change your thoughts: Last week I wrote about Affirmations (see below), which are the perfect way to start changing the way you think of yourself & the stories you tell yourself about your mind and body. Write down a personal affirmation and put in on your fridge, by your desk and then repeat, repeat, repeat until that is your ‘go to’ thought.
- Little bits of consistent practice: 31 August’s entry (see below) gave recommendations for youtube & books so you can bring a little bit of yoga into your everyday life. Its not about having time, its about making time – inserting it into your routine. Like everytime you get into your car you take 2 deep breaths, like doing 3 forward folds before you put the washing in. Something really is better than nothing.
- Come to yoga class! Classes keep us accountable for the promises we make to ourselves to be healthier, move more, etc. Besides, I love to see you there on the mats! And believe me when I say I can see your improvement.
I look forward to seeing you when classes restart in October. Until then, Namaste.
7 Sept: Affirmations for your Yoga
This week I have been listening to the audio book ‘The Power is Within You’ by Louise Hay. Louise devoted her life to teaching people how to change their lives by changing their thinking. One way to do this is through affirmations: positive statements that we can repeat to ourselves to start a process of transformation.
Thoughts are powerful things; they can lead us to action, produce emotions, and even trigger biological processes in our bodies. By inserting positive affirmations into the countless thoughts that run through our heads everyday, we can begin to make the changes we want to in our lives.
Inspired by Louise, I’ve created some Yoga affirmations that you can repeat to yourself while you practice and even before & after practice – I do! It may seem silly at first, the phrases might not even seem true to you yet, but give it a try and you’ll soon find one will resonate and change will begin. I’ll be peppering photo affirmations in my social media in the coming weeks, so bring positivity into your phone & go to my homepage for links to connect on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.
- I Love Yoga & Yoga Loves Me!
- Each time I step onto my yoga mat, I am fully present and at peace.
- I each forward fold, I get closer and closer to my toes.
- As I practice my warrior pose I feel strong & centred.
- At yoga class, I am surrounded by supportive & encouraging yoga friends.
- Today, I take one deep breath. As I inhale, I am filled with new possibilities. As I exhale, I release what no longer serves my well-being.
- When I practice yoga, I do something good for my body. Today I will go to my yoga class!
- I thank my body for the way it moves. I fully accept my body as it is today.
- I use yoga & kindness to help my body reach its optimum health.
31 Aug: Livin’ the Dream – Part 2
A lot my people come to my yoga classes because they want to make a positive change in their lives. They want to be healthier, stronger, less stressed – all excellent goals that yoga can help achieve. Inspired by this, my latest video on Facebook shares a sequence of mudras (the symbolic hand gestures of yoga) where the Samputa ‘Seed Pod’ grows to the Padma ‘Lotus’ and finally reaches the Sahasrara ‘Thousand Petalled Lotus’.
Along with this, I’d like to offer some recommendations for students looking to practice yoga at home in between classes to help you reach those goals more quickly.
- For Short ‘Go to’ Yoga sequences, check out my Facebook Videos https://www.facebook.com/pg/yoga.reiki.peggy/videos/?ref=page_internal
- For longer YouTube classes Yoga with Adriene https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene or Janet Stone (with Lululemon) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ijhy1VBUWh0 provide some good beginner instruction.
- For books, ‘The Yoga Bible’ by Christina Brown in a concise and handy reference & one of my personal favourites is a workbook made by Paperchase called ‘My Yoga Companion’, which includes a 30 day yoga plan https://www.paperchase.com/en_gb/catalogsearch/result/?q=yoga%20companion.
So dream big this week and I’ll see you soon on the mats!!
16 Aug: Did you take the Forward Fold Challenge?! There’s Still Time!!
Last week’s ‘This week in Yoga’ was live from the mat, inviting you to increase your flexibility and movement by taking the ‘Forward Fold Challenge‘. If you didn’t see it, have a look on my Facebook page under Videos!
Some of you accepted the challenge (YAY!) and were surprised at the stiffness at first, but after a few days started to feel a bit better. So let’s maintain momentum – how about another week of forward folds?! Those who missed last week can join in this week too.
Benefits of the Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana in Sanskrit)
- Lengthens the hamstrings that tend to tighten as you sit and get sore as you stand
- Helps release lower back tension
- Relieves shoulder and neck tension
Many of you who attend my classes will be getting back into yoga after the summer holidays or may even be starting yoga for the first time. Wherever you are in your practice, be gentle with yourself. Its great to want to be more flexible, be less stiff, be more agile, be healthier – yoga can definitely help you do this – but also be willing to accept where you are today. You showed up to the mat, let that be enough, because day on day, class on class, your flexibility is increasing and you are doing something great for your body & mind. Believe in the process, I have the joy of seeing it even if you don’t realise its happening! So keep on folding & I’ll see you on the mat!
2 Aug: If you are thinking about getting into Yoga…READ ON!!
With a new series of classes starting, I wanted to take the time to tell newcomers a bit about the classes, how I teach and why I teach.
All of my classes are absolutely ok for beginners!!! Here are the differences:
Hatha Yoga Bend & Stretch takes things at a slow and steady pace and you’ll get options to take poses further if you want. Generally students are NEW to yoga, but want to increase flexibility & strength, so are happy to follow along and take things at their own pace.
Beginner’s Yoga starts at square one. We’ll spend more time getting in and out of poses and repeat sequences so you become familiar with them. Generally students are NEW to yoga and want to get back into fitness.
Total Relax Yoga is (you guessed it!) focused on relaxation. We’ll do some gentle yoga postures to shake off the stiffness of the day, yin yoga to focus on the breath and increase joint health and some blissful quiet time for relaxation/meditation. Generally students are NEW to yoga and want some of that sweet ‘me-time’.
How I teach: In my opinion, yoga should help us walk taller, sit with ease, lie down comfortably, and move with less aches and pains, so the way I teach reflects this. I’m there to help you find your yoga – finding where your forward fold is today and then working from there, without judgement. Lots of people come to class with: ‘I’ve never done this’ ‘My balance is terrible’ ‘I’m not flexible’, but that’s probably why you’re coming to the class (!!). But time and time again I see the change happen – in a few weeks’ time its ‘I felt more comfortable in downward dog today’, ‘I could hold that tree pose on one foot for longer’ ‘I am getting closer to my toes’. (And just so you know, yoga is an on-going practice, there’s no ‘mastery’ of yoga, best yoga – only more yoga!!)
Why I teach: I teach yoga because I love yoga. After over 10 years of having yoga in my life, I could not imagine being without it because its a way to keep my body healthy, to calm my mind, to connect with my inner self so I can live a better me in the world. I teach in the hopes of sharing the immense benefit yoga has brought to me with others.
So I hope this encourages you to give a class a try and I look forward to seeing you on the mats!!
27 July: If you only have time do one yoga pose a day Peggy recommends… Downward Facing Dog!
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) is a great pose because it works your whole body.
How to get into Downward Facing Dog?
Kneel on your mat/rug with knees about hip width apart and then place your hands on the mat, shoulder width apart. You are now in ‘table top position’. Spread your fingers wide, curl your toes under so they grip the mat, and then press into your hands, press into your feet and rise your hips high. You are now in Downward Facing Dog! Hold here for three deep breaths (Try inhaling through the nose for a count of four, pausing, then exhaling through the nose for a count of four, pausing and repeating). Get out of the pose the same way you came in through ‘table’.
Benefits of the pose:
- As you press into your outstretched fingers (especially the thumb and forefinger) the movement ripples up your arm creating expansion in the shoulder. This counteracts the ‘slump’ of standing and sitting for long periods of time.
- In this inversion with the tailbone rising high, the weight is taken out of your lower back and you have a chance to gently stretch this area that also suffers from too much standing or sitting.
- Encouraging the heels to come closer to the mat stretches the backs of the legs that makes actions of bending easier and loosens muscles that tighten from too much sitting.
- The gaze is soft and directed to the space between your feet so you get a whole different perspective of the world!
Things to be mindful of: If you’ve never done Downward Facing Dog before or are a little stiff, take care coming into the pose, rather than taking the full-strength pose right away. Even try ‘walking the dog’ by moving the heels up and down to loosen the muscles in the back of your legs. If you have blood pressure issues and are not used to holding forward folds or inversions you may want to hold the pose for a shorter period of time. Bottom line, always listen to your body! Yoga is there to support your health, not hinder it.
So this week, give Downward Facing Dog a try, even just once a day and let me know if you notice a difference! If you send ‘selfies from the mat’ I’ll post them on my Facebook page!
20 July: Mindfulness on and off the Mat
Its been great to see how, over the past few years, Mindfulness has become a mainstream practice. Little guides to Mindfulness, which encourage us to take a deep breath & bring our attention into the present moment in order to create calm and reduce the negative impacts of stress, can be found in any bookstore. Adult colouring books offer another creative option to focus and be present by building up colours and patterns without concern for the outcome, only the joy of the process.
Mindfulness on the Mat: Yoga is also a practice of mindfulness. It returns us to the breath, encouraging us to focus on and fully appreciate a natural action that is usually taken for granted. All the directions that lead a foot here and a hand there also shake us out of our set patterns of motion and, in doing so, enable us to be present in our bodies.
When doing yoga, we may find we move in ways we didn’t expect, we may be reminded of how easily we moved as children, and we may find we are not as mobile as perhaps we thought. As in any mindfulness practice, all this should be considered with curiosity and gentleness toward ourselves. If you can’t touch your toes, approach it with an attitude of acceptance ‘I cannot touch my toes today, but what does it feel like to fully be here, not touching my toes?’ This does not mean you will never touch your toes, but it is the process of fully showing up to the mat that is where the real yoga is happening.
Mindfulness off the Mat: Mindfulness practices can also be easily added to your normal routine. Let’s say you have a list of things to do: Before each task begins, consciously stop and take one deep breath, and after then after you finish the task, stop for another deep breath. It won’t take more than a few seconds, but in those seconds you bring your mind that is running with thoughts of the past and future into the present. Another practice of being present can be fully enjoying your walks from place to place. Instead of letting your mind wander to things you have to do, notice what it feels like to walk. Notice the summer sun (or rain!), notice the breeze, become completely interested in what all your senses are telling you. And if your mind wanders, gently bring it back to noticing things around you: even take a ‘mindful picture’ as you appreciate the view, like this one from the Dalgety Bay Sailing Club!
So give it a try!! I’ve been enjoying learning more about Mindfulness through Future Learn’s free ‘Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance’ put online by Monash University in Australia. https://www.futurelearn.com Check it out if you are interested!
12 July: Peggy’s Picks for Guided Meditation
Last Saturday I was led through a beautiful Yoga Nidra meditation journey as part of a Yoga & Art Therapy by the wonderful Rose (https://www.artyogatherapies.org) at Sacred Heart Centre in Edinburgh.
This reminded me how much I love guided meditations. In fact, that was how I started meditating! (And no, you don’t have to sit in full lotus on a cushion, you can get comfortable and listen over a cup of tea, on your couch, on a bench outside, or on the train). We all know we need to take care of our bodies by exercising and with the food we eat, but our minds need the same thing & meditation can provide that.
Hundred of Free Guided Meditations are available through the Insight Timer App & Hay House Meditations App. Some of my favourites are by:
Davidji (Soothing voice with lots of wisdom, quiet time & mantras)
Denise Linn (Encouraging voice with vibrant descriptions that help you imagine)
Sonia Choquette (Warm voice with soulful reflections)
Colette Baron-Reid (A voice full of life with powerful affirmations & a spirit of fun)
Why not give one a try? Let me know what you think!! Guided meditation will also be a part of my Yoga with your Chakras workshop on 28 July (see below for details).
3 July: Yoga with your Chakras
Have you ever felt your chest warm at the sight of your dog’s wagging tail or your stomach in knots before an interview? These are experiences of your Chakras!
‘Chakra’ literally translates from Sanskrit as ‘wheel’ or ‘disk’, but more broadly refers to our bodies’ energy centres; in other words, how we hold thoughts and emotions within our bodies. Whether you believe in the existence of these energy centres (as many eastern traditions do) or you prefer to think of chakras as a symbolic map of the different facets of the physical, mental, emotional self, gaining an understanding of your Chakras means gaining an understanding of the connections between your body-mind-emotions-consciousness/spirit.
Working with my chakras through Yoga and Reiki has been an amazing tool for reflection and change throughout my life, so much so, that I want to share it!!! So if you are a natural empath, if you are feeling ‘stuck’ in some aspect of your life, if you are seeking clarity or resolution to an issue/relationship, if you are looking for a new dimension in your yoga practice, this workshop is perfect for you. Curious?? Join me at the Sacred Heart Centre yoga studio in Edinburgh 13:00-15:00 on 28 July 2018. You can be a total beginner with yoga and know nothing about chakras aside from what you have just read, as long as you have an open mind and a willingness to give it all a try, then that’s all you need. Feel free to get in touch with questions beforehand.
25 July 2018: I have to do what? Set a Goal and Challenge yourself:
Since I started yoga, I believed it was a practice that should support me in my life. Sure it was good to be sore after a class and feel like I was doing something beneficial for my body, but I was never in it to get rippling muscles or contort myself into a pretzel. This philosophy served me well. I’ve never had a yoga injury and yoga helps me sit, stand and move with greater ease and less discomfort.
This philosophy, however, was tested at my teacher training, as we were all encouraged to go beyond the physical limits of the practices we were used to. Was I apprehensive? Yes. But surrounded by amazing people and with an experienced teacher trainer to guide us, I thought ‘If not now, then when?’
The biggest challenge was the headstand (and it’s other varieties of shoulder and handstand). We did them every day. And I did not like it. It was scary. The feeling of wheeling your legs into space, even with the wall close by and a partner to spot you is disorienting and far from zen. More like alarm bells going off in your head that say ‘You should not be doing this!’. But I didn’t want to give up, especially when I knew that it was not really shoulder and core strength that was holding me back, that would develop if I kept practicing. It was fear. Fear of falling (and I did), fear of making a fool of myself (yes, that’s the ego talking), fear of injuring myself (somewhat valid, some of my classmates did). Despite this, I vowed to give it a try, promising myself that after the course I could say ‘I’ve tried hard, but now I’m never going upside down again’.
One morning practice in week 3, my muscles were sore and I was tired. I came out of the first headstand and knew I still had time, that I should do another one. So up I went, feeling tired and sore, only to find the most beautiful sight across the room: my classmate in full headstand silhouetted against the winter morning sun doing some poetic ashtanga leg sequence. There was hope.
Around week 4 something shifted. I think it was the repetition compounded by the fact there were fifteen other people upside down in a room with me multiple times a day that did it. The fear lessened and my mind accepted the fact that it was ok to be upside down.
When training finished, there was no more teacher, no more classmates and I had the option to never do a headstand again. But now it was normal. And once you taken the trouble of allowing upside down to become normal, why go back? So I continued.
As part of my morning practice I worked on my headstand and in a couple of months I went from alarm-bells in brain wall and person supported headstand to nearby door self-supported headstand (if only for a few seconds…for now! Still a work in progress.)
So the moral of the story is, I still believe the physical practice of yoga doesn’t need to be showy (if you never do a headstand that is A-OK with me): how you feel in your practice is always more important than what you look like, but setting physical goals can be good too. Challenging yourself, safely and with support, shakes things up and hopefully helps you realise you can do more than you think you could. So set a goal, imagine your future self touching your toes, meditating in full lotus, suspended in crow, touching the mat with your heals in down dog, whatever you want and then take one step at a time toward that self that is waiting for you! I’d love to know what your goal is and help you achieve it!
15 June 2018: Whether you are new to yoga and wondering what its all about or have done yoga for years and need a reminder here are 7 REASONS TO LOVE YOGA!
- Yoga is good for your body. Yoga asana (postures) and vinyasa (posture sequences) work the whole body, so nothing gets left out, even those muscles you didn’t know you had!
- There is a yoga style for everyone, whether you seek a gentle stretch or a power workout. (see last weeks post for more info about styles of yoga)
- Yoga is good for your mind. By drawing our attention to the breath and directions about which hand is going where etc, yoga brings us into the present moment to quiet that string of inner dialogue (you know, the ‘to-do’ lists, the ‘what am I having for dinner?’ questions, the ‘are these leggings flattering’ talk). There’s just INHALE, EXHALE, HOLD THAT POSTURE, REPEAT.
- Sweet sweet Savansana: that time at the end of every class where you can relax and let go.
- Yoga is good for your emotions. You should feel better after a yoga class, maybe sore, but better, a little more calm, a little freer, a little stronger.
- The more you learn with yoga, the more there is to learn. A new posture to work on, a different feeling you find during your practice, a new technique to try, a new style to experiment with..there’s always something fresh and exciting.
- Yoga is good for your spirit. At a class, you find a community of wonderful people. During savasana, you may find your awareness of the world around you and inside you opens up. On the mat, you find you can do more than you thought you could and accept the limit of where you are.
Those are just a few reasons I love yoga. What about you?? I’d love to hear from you.
4 June 2018: A question I am asked frequently is ‘What are the differences between all these types of yoga?’ Good question! There are a lot of varieties of yoga, which gives students a lot of choice to find a class that is right, but it can be confusing too.
All of today’s yoga traditions are rooted in ancient India (although the yogis of old would certainly look at our leggings and mats and think ‘WHAT?!’) but as far as what is on offer in the 21st-century, here’s a quick summary:
I practice and teach Hatha yoga. Hatha comes from two words in Sanskrit (the ancient language of India), ‘Ha’ meaning Sun and ‘Tha’ meaning Moon. So Hatha is about balance, between effort and rest, and between body, mind, emotions, and spirit/consciousness (whichever word you like better). Hatha is great for beginners because its a ‘slow and steady wins the race’ pace of a class, but it also doesn’t get old – tens years later, I’m still hooked!
When yoga started to become popular in the West in the 20th-century there were two main teachers who began influential branches of yoga: BKS Iyengar & K Pattabhi Jois. Iyengar yoga, is a yoga of ailment where you’ll be aiming for the ideal form of a pose. That means holding poses longer and doing lots of little adjustments to reach that perfect position, usually using props along the way. This is great for people who like to get things ‘right’, but, depending on the teacher, does not always address the fundamental differences in our anatomy. From Jois came Ashtanga yoga, an aerobic practice that is physically challenging and beautifully sequenced. This great for people who enjoy movement and rhythm, but can sometimes be too much for a beginner without a current exercise regime.
In the past few years, there has been a growing interest in hot yoga, particularly Bikram yoga, created by Bikram Choudhury. In a Bikram class, the room is heated to 35-42 degrees Celsius and you’ll be directed through the same series of poses every class, no matter the teacher or location. Great for those who love the heat, the ‘detoxifying’ of sweating, and like the reliability of a practice, but it can be too intense for some. (I must admit, I have never been to a Bikram class because I love hydrating and struggle to function, let along yoga, in the heat!)
All of these yogas are ‘yang’ style disciplines, which means you’ll be focusing on working your muscles, but classes that are ‘yin’ means holding particular poses for 3-5minutes in a way that encourages joint health. Yin yoga also brings in ideas from Asian philosophy of acceptance, allowing, and the feminine aspects of ourselves and is growing in popularity.
These are only a few forms of yoga, there is also Kundalini Yoga, Yoga Nidra, Restorative Yoga, and the list goes on and on AND every teacher will apply their discipline differently.
Final Top Tips: 1) Never be afraid to give a class a couple of tries, sometimes it takes awhile to see if you like it and get used to the format and the teacher. 2) Never be afraid to ask your teacher questions before or after a class – in my experience, it is usually welcomed. 3) Whatever class you try, always work within your own practice! If you don’t feel comfortable ‘going there’ with a pose, don’t go there. Let’s face it, you are paying to be there, so your mat, your rules. 4) Have fun with it! Trying different styles of yoga is really interesting and is even better with friends, so go out and yoga!!!