Wednesday 28 January 2009

Willesborough Ladies

I am so pleased that Wendy asked me to take her classes while she was on holiday. I have really been enjoying my experience of teaching at Willesborough. If any of you ladies are reading this blog can you bring a small towel (like a hand towel) with you to the next lesson. I forgot to ask you on Tuesday. If you could pass on this message it will be helpful.
I look forward to seeing you all next week.

Monday 26 January 2009

Knee awareness

In case you’ve ever wondered why I’ve said to be careful not to over extend at the back of the knee I thought it would be interesting to understand what hyperextension of the knee is. In the lesson we found out if anyone in the class had this tendency and if so what to do about it. The week before we had drawn our awareness to our feet and so it seemed appropriate to think about protecting our knees next.

I had a wonderful trip to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden to see the classical ballet La Bayadère. It was very beautiful, both the dancing and the costumes. I found myself studying their posture. Some dancers do have a tendency to over extend at the back of the knee. Many dancers are prone to this and it may be because they are naturally flexible. It can be genetic or it may caused be bad practice.

The knee should be in alignment with the thigh bone and the shin bone. These bones are held together by ligaments and tendons attached to the quadriceps muscle and hamstrings in the thigh and the calf muscle in the lower leg. If these are stretched then this leads to hyperextension and the knee will not be in alignment. Unfortunately ligaments can not be shortened so one has to just have an awareness or the problem will be exacerbated.

Strengthen the thighs
In the following exercise you will be aware if you do have a tendency to over extend and begin to train the quadriceps to achieve alignment.
Exercise to train the quads:
Sit in Dandasana (the staff pose) on a block with your legs extended out in front of you and your feet in a neutral position
Lengthen through your spine to sit upright
Press your thigh bones to the floor
If your heals lift away from the floor then you are hyper extending
Keep your heals down
You will learn to contract your quadriceps without any hyperextension if you keep your heals down while pressing your thigh bones to the floor.
Notice the action of the upper shin bones when your heals come off the ground they drop toward the floor but they won’t when the heal is down and the thighs are working.
And keep breathing!

It can be strong but just a little practice even a couple of times a week will help. Then take this awareness into your standing poses.

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Further thoughts

OK, so I am a little worried that some of you may think that my last statement seemed a little simplistic, so I thought I’d qualify my words briefly!

We all know that we feel better when we eat a healthy balanced diet. None of us like it when we eat too much and end up feel bloated. And even my son noticed the difference when he began to eat a healthy sandwich for lunch instead of a McDonalds burger. He said he felt he had more energy. Healthy eating does involve some planning but this can make life easier on the day with less last minute panics.

Exercise…well this could be anything from taking a walk, swimming, doing yoga (of course) or climbing stairs. These are just my personal favourites. I believe we should do a little exercise everyday rather than just leave it all to one day. Again if we think about it we benefit from exercise that gets the heart pumping and also from stretching and building strength in our muscles.

And finally I recommended laughing. Even when we are feeling low or cross, if you make the effort to smile this sends messages around the body and you’ll feel better. It really works. Feel the muscles in your forehead begin to relax. Laughing is hard for some people. There are special laughter therapy classes and I have been told they really work. At home we all love ‘the big bang theory’ a comic sitcom on TV. I can let you know when it’s on again. But watch kids, they’re funny and so are animals and don’t worry if you laugh out loud on the tube when you read something funny in a book. Just enjoy it.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Laughing for health

John was reading The Daily Mail yesterday and one of the hightlight's, which as usual, of course I don't remember all the specifics, but the gist is that it has been proven that if you laugh a lot it is equivalent to going to a gym for a work out. Apparently it works the core tummy muscles so that you get a nice flat tummy. Therefore my tip is eat healthily, exercise regularly and laugh.

Friday 9 January 2009

Dancing Warrior I

This week we have been gently stretching the body after the Christmas break to improve our flexibility. We tried a variation on Virabhadrasana I - Warrior I pose. It is good for balance, works the shoulders and hips, and helps the legs become stronger and more flexible.

Dancing Warrior I - Step One

Bring your hands into Namaste the prayer position with the thumbs in line with the sternum, elbows out, careful to keep your shoulders down and soft.

Then raise your hands into cactus. Arms are in line with your shoulders, elbows are bent so your wrists are above the elbows, extend up into fingers.
Then take the hands back to prayer position, thumbs in line with the breast bone again.

Repeat this co-ordinating the movements with your breath:
Breathe out in Namaste.

Breathe in to the cactus position.

Tip: check yourself out in the mirror, you’ll be surprised what your arms and hands are doing.

Dancing Warrior – Part Two

Stand in Tadasana at the back of your mat

Place your hands on your hips and step forward with the Right foot. Keep your spine long and upright.

Press the back heal into the mat or support (see tip below)
Tips: Draw the right hip back so the hips become level.
It is ok to turn the back foot out a little and if
your heal comes off the mat pop a block or blanket under it so you have something to press

You could stand in front of a wall and have your heal against the wall to help stability.

Bring the hands to Namaste the prayer position.

Engage the quadracep muscles to lift up the knee caps, being careful not to over extend in the back of the knees.
Lift up from the pelvic floor drawing your
abdomen in.

Breathe in and take the arms out to the sides in cactus and at the same time bending the front knee. (see tip below)

Breathe out straightening out the front leg and bringing the hands back to Namaste.

Tips: Don’t let the knee extend over the foot, keep it
in line over the ankle.

Work with your breath 5 times to each leg.

Once you have worked one side, step the back leg forward and stand tall in Tadasana and breathe. Enjoy the benefits of the pose. Then return to the back of your mat to repeat the pose on the other side.

Thursday 8 January 2009


I hope that you have all had a good start to the year. Going back to work is always a shock to the system but how lovely it is to get into routine again.

I would just like to remind you that if you are one of my students that all details of the classes are on my website which are just a click away. I put the charges up this year. It was hard for me although I haven't had an increase since September 2004. I hope that if it is a problem for anyone they will see me. I don't want anyone to miss out on their yoga.

Classes started this week and I was really happy with the turn out despite the fact it has been so chilly. The heaters in the hall have been on full and the rooms were still not that warm. Three to four layers of clothing did help a bit and I couldn't condemn my students for not wanting to take off their socks. Today I had to cancel two classes at Homewood School as the caretakers wanted to prepare the gym for an exam this Friday and for the next 2 Fridays as well! Nici is on the case trying to find us a new venue. I normally teach the Year 7 and 8 girls after school and then hold another class for staff afterwards. I look forward to getting back to normal, although I sometimes wonder what the definition of normal is.

Friday 2 January 2009

Happy Memories

First of all I just wanted to wish everyone a very happy and healthy New Year.

It was with great sadness (yes, lots of tears) that on the 23rd December 2008 we had to have our cat put to sleep. Oliver was our gorgeous tabby cat who has been with us for over 18 years. We brought him and his brother Benson home in September 1990. Unfortunately Benny died back in April 1996. Although Oliver had been deaf for the last couple of years he was the strong one and Benny was the really big, long legged, daft cat. Both were healthy, well behaved and affectionate.

I like to take photos and I keep all my albums within easy reach. I decided that, with the new technology available to me today, I would scan the old photos of both Oliver and Benson to produce a slide show in their memory.

This gave me the opportunity to look through the albums and see the faces of family and friends, some who I’m still in touch with, some with whom I have parted ways and there are those who have died, but we capture happy moments with the camera and looking at them made me smile and laugh out loud. So in mourning my cat I’ve been able to rejoice at all the wonderful people I have known who have made my life so great.