Monthly Archives: January 2014

Feeling Stuck? Yoga Can Help!

headstandSometimes we can get stuck. Maybe in a downward spiral of negative thoughts. Maybe around making a decision. Perhaps in a situation we are not happy in or we just don’t know a way out.

Our mind can go around and around not coming to any clear conclusion, decision or way out.

This is where yoga, or in fact any body movement, can help!

Our mind, body and breath are all linked. If you change one of them you will change the others. To experiment with this trying standing up, chest open, arms reaching above your head, look up and smile – try to feel sad.

Or sit slumped, shoulders rolled forward, look down to the ground – try to feel happy about life.

My favourite experiment to explore this is to skip down the road. It is impossible to feel down when you skip, it naturally makes you smile, which in turn changes your thoughts.

This is called changing your state. Your state being what you are doing with your body/ mind and breath.

So often people come my yoga class in a heightened energy state after leaving work for the day and at the end leave looking (and saying they feel) completely relaxed. Yoga is a great tool for changing your state.

It does not have to be on the mat though, you can use this tool any time through out the day.

If you catch yourself feeling stressed, anxious, stuck, in any mindset where you can’t seem to find a different perspective try out one or more of the following:

  • Deepening and lengthening your breath, really focusing on filling your tummy and chest with air before exhaling will help to calm the mind and think clearly.
  • Stand up and stretch you arms above your head, look up, smile and then shake your arms down. Shake your legs, Shake your hips. Just give your self a good old shake and see what shift comes from doing so.
  • Skip, run, dance, doing something energetic and fun to shake off that mood or simply to shift the way you are thinking about something.
  • Do a head stand/ shoulder stand/ legs up against the wall/ wild thing or gate pose. All help to see the world in a different way.
  • Child’s pose will help to calm the mind.
  • Lion pose¬†will energize you and make you smile ūüôā
  • For 10 minutes be completely mindful to calm the mind and arrive at the present moment. This could be something like walking very slowly taking in everything around you and the feel of your feet connecting with the earth, eating very slowly enjoying each bite, washing up slowly. Or just sitting and feeling your feet connected to the ground, your sitting bone on the chair, noticing your natural breath and how your body is feeling.

Just have a play around with these and you’ll be amazed what can come up! Thoughts, ideas and different perspectives can appear out of no where after changing your state.

You always have the power to change how you are feeling. The body holds our emotions, our tensions, our fears so moving it will help to release and shift the way you see things.

Namaste

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Experience the Benefits of Yoga Outside of a Class

louyogaDo you go to a yoga class, love the feeling of how present and relaxed it makes you feel and then rush off to the rest of your life, leaving that lovely Zen feeling behind?

Do you enjoy yoga because it allows you time to stop, to have time to yourself away from other distractions?

I invite you to notice the separation there is between your yoga practice and your life off the mat. Then look at what you learn in yoga to apply it to every day life.

There does not have to be a big divide, yoga provides you with tools to access how you wish to feel at any given time. Here are a few suggestions of things to experiment with:

1) Leave your yoga class slowly, remain calm and relaxed for as long as possible rather than dashing off to the next thing.

2) Through out your day stop every now and then to notice if you are holding any tension, consciously relax that area. Breathe deeply and on the exhale allow tension to melt away.

3) Notice your breathing; is it deep or shallow, slow or fast, where do you feel it; in your tummy, chest, side of ribs or just in your nostrils. Take a few moments to deepen and lengthen the breath,

4) Be kind to yourself, notice where you are forcing in life and step back a bit, ease off and breathe.

5) Experiment, just as you may play around with a posture to find the right variation for your body do the same in life. Try different things until you find something that feels best for you.

6) Connect with the stillness with in you. When you notice your mind is going 100 miles an hour, stop, connect with the ground, feet the earth beneath your feet, centre yourself and be still. Even if just for a few moments.

7) Let Go. Notice if there is anything you are attached to in life, just as you maybe when wanting posture to be a certain way. Relax, let go and allow yourself to just be in the posture, and in life.

8) Slow things down. If, like me, you have a tendency to do everything quickly a good meditative practice is to slow down. Do the washing up slowly, Walk slowly, Cook slowly, Savour every moment.

These are just a few suggestions. Have a play around with things you learn in class and try them out in life too. The benefits of yoga don’t just have to be in that 60-90 minutes in the yoga studio, yoga is within you and can impact your whole life. That is one of the reasons I love it so much!

Namaste

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Honour The Start To Your Day – Yoga With Louise

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Sunrise in Hampi, India

How you start your day can set you up for your whole experience of the day itself. I was listening to Marianne Williamson the other day who is an author and student of A Course in Miracles, she likened having a spiritual morning practice to cleaning off the dirt from the day before when you shower. I love that analogy.

What ever happened yesterday, today is a new day and you can choose how you wish to be through out what ever life throws at you. This is the power of setting an intention, one practice you may like to play around with each morning. That is choosing your way of being for that day. For example you could focus on being loving, being peaceful, being accepting of others and yourself, being mindful, really listening, bringing fun into what ever you do.

The time in the morning whilst others are asleep is great for meditation and prayer before your mind kicks in thinking about all you have to do and distractions like emails and calls begin. I personally like to hand my day over to God’s will.

If you find meditation hard then simply sitting and focusing on the breath for 15 mins helps to quieten the mind, by the end you’ll find it much easier to sit in a few minutes of stillness. I suggest the following breathing routine for the morning:

  1. Set your alarm for 15 mins so you don’t have to worry about the time
  2. 1 or 2 rounds of Kapalabhati breathing to exhale stale energy from the night before
  3. 1 or 2 rounds of Nadi Shodhanna ot balance and calm the mind
  4. Ujjayi Breath inhaling for 6 exhaling for 9. If this is too much then inhaling for 4 exhaling for 6.

Sometimes I just do Ujjayi for 15 minutes, it’s just as effective.

Practising yoga asana is a great way to get the body moving after being asleep all night. We often feel more stiff in the morning so it’s a perfect time for a good stretch. Focusing on the breath and gently moving the body helps to calm the mind and be grounded for the day ahead. If you are someone like me who wakes up and immediately starts to think about everything to do, I find it really helps me to think clearly and slowly rather than rushing straight into things. if you don’t have much time then just a few sun salutations are great for warming up the whole body, start off slow and then you can increase the speed if you feel like it. Make sure you are mindful and focus on synchronizing the breath with your movements to make it a meditation.

If you have 30 minutes then I suggest:

  • Yoga asana (eg sun salutations) for 15 mins
  • Breathing and then sitting in stillness for 15 mins
  • Set your intention for the day

Play around with this though and find out what works for you. You may prefer to do 25 mins of asana and then just sit still for 5. It’s much easier to sit in stillness after you have practised yoga asana.

If you are just looking for a quick positive burst before jumping out of bed then a daily meditation book does just the trick. Personally I love Melody Beattie Р Journey to The Heart and Alan Cohen РA Deep Breath of Life. Just reading a short inspirational passage is a great start to the day.

Finally if you really don’t have much time, perhaps you have kids jumping all over you demanding attention, then just ask yourself whilst getting up:

What am I grateful for?

What can I do to make today fantastic?

There are lots of great ways to start your day, these are just a few I have found work for me. I’d love to hear yours, please comment below.

Namaste

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5 Ways To Ease Those Stiff Muscles (in addition to yoga)

2014Many people come to yoga because their body feels stiff in some areas. Yoga is a great way to stretch, to increase your flexibility whilst also your strength. The breath is crucial in helping you do this, the deep inhalations expand your body whilst the exhalation allows it to soften and release.

As well as yoga I have also found, through having injuries of my own, a few things that have really helped me ease stiff muscles;

1) Self massage ball¬†– You place this spikey ball on a wall and position yourself against it where you feel tight, it’s great for shoulders and gluts, then press into it. It’s an intense feeling, like the one when you have a masseuse pressing into a tight knot but you just know it’s doing you good! You can also get foam rollers which are great for tightness in legs. It’s also good to massage your feet with the ball as this will affect other areas in your body too. Revitalise where I teach on Monday’s and Wednesday’s sell the spikey ball in the link above. Studio 57 where I teach on Tuesday’s have a good selection of foam rollers.

2) Magnesium Oil¬†– Magnesium is great for helping stiff muscles to soften. Better You (the brand in the link) do a good night spray and bath flakes which I have also heard are good but have only tried the regular oil so far. Just read the reviews on Amazon, it’s great! It is something you need to apply every day for a few weeks though, it takes a while to work.

3) Himalayan Salt Baths¬†– Bathing in Himalayan salt completely rebalances your energy, it’s like doing a long meditation and I advise going to bed straight after as you feel so relaxed. You need to stay in the bath for at least 20 minutes so don’t make the water too hot and you need to put a lot of salt in, I put at least 4 big handfuls in. It’s detoxing, relaxes your muscles and replaces your body with lost minerals (it has 84 in it!). Warning though, if you have an injury that is inflamed, that you have been advised to put ice on be careful with a long hot soak as you might find it makes it more inflamed.

4) Taking the easy option when practising yoga. Yoga is great for reliving tension but if you try to force yourself into a pose then you will create more of it. As you practice yoga ease up, choose the easy option, stay in child’s pose for longer, just focus on your breathing. Do the poses that feel really good for your body, and avoid the ones that feel like a struggle.

5) Massage. An obvious one but massage really does help when you are feeling tight. It might seem like a luxury but it’s so worth it. I love relaxing aromatherapy massages but find one that works for your body. Thai massage and Shiatsu have really helped me too.

Emotions are stored as tension in the body, so next time you are on the mat and notice tightness ask yourself what am I resisting? What am I holding on to? Then mentally focus on letting it go, releasing it, with every exhale.

Namaste

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