Thursday 4 November 2010

“Smile and don’t forget to breathe”

New Yoga Class in High Halden for Men and Women

I am starting a new classic Yoga Class in High Halden Primary School in the lovely new hall on Thursday evenings from 7.30 – 9.30pm. All the proceeds from the first two classes on 4th November and 11th November 2010 will be donated to The Pilgrims Hospice. It will cost £10 (students £5). If I can raise £200 over the two weeks this could pay for a visit to a patient’s home by the community services team or pay for Christmas dinner for 30 patients. We just had one visit and it was just so beneficial.

I think it is pretty amazing that Yoga has been practised for over two thousand years and here we are in Kent, practising today and still reaping the benefits. I qualified with The Victor Foundation in 2004 and have been teaching yoga since 2002 in High Halden and St Michael’s.

Everyone thinks that you have to be fit to do yoga but with practise stamina improves and the body becomes more flexible and stronger. I started going to yoga classes in London twenty years ago and was not sporty at all and really stiff. It’s a different story now and my practise of yoga has really helped me to cope with the ups and downs of life. This is because yoga draws focus to the breath as well as movement of the body and this in turn calms the mind.

This class is absolutely suitable for men and women. It was the men in India who used to do yoga but, although brought to the West by men, it seems that women have often been the most keen to take it up. Everyone can benefit. Times are hard and we don’t have so much money to spend but this is when yoga comes into its own. As an example, when we loose our job, if we practise yoga on our mat, the focus and breath control can help to relieve stress that this causes and brings you into the present moment.

The classes will continue to run during term time and compliment the Monday evening class at St Michael’s and the Tuesday morning class in High Halden. Please call 01233 850711 for details.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

A DVD to try at home

A review on a Kunalini Yoga DVD to detox and de-stress with Maya Fiennes

On Friday I was recommended a Kundalini yoga DVD. I have mentioned this style of yoga in an earlier blog (in 2009) and will remind you now that it is quite different from Iyengar and Ashtanga flow classes. The movements are small, the actions repeated over and over again aided by the breath. In this particular DVD all the poses are seated or reclined on your back. The teacher is Maya Fiennes (I think sister to Ralph Fiennes) and because of this I immediately jumped to the wrong conclusion that she could make the DVD because of her famous family. I was wrong. Maya is lovely. She’s very calm and inspiring and I really love her DVD. I have since done the DVD session on 4 mornings. Each time I have understood her instructions a little more and have felt a little more body awareness. Afterwards I feel calm, my nerves soothed by the actions and breathing.
The Pranayama breathing may take a little practise if you have not done this before. If you have grasped the concept of diaphragmatic breathing and the Ujjaii breath then the techniques will make sense as the abdomen pulls in as you exhale.
My students and I all live in the countryside and it confirms to me that if we go to a local yoga class regularly and learn the basics then it allows us to try other forms of yoga in our homes. Yoga is just so beneficial, I just want everyone to try it and reap the benefits.
I love the music too and there is a bonus CD of music by Maya. My only advisary note before you rush out to get this DVD is that you do need to be able to sit cross legged comfortably, either on a block or without. With that in mind following this DVD will work to energize, cleanse and make you feel uplifted. I highly recommend this DVD for relieving stress and I truly believe it helps to detox the body.
Thank you Theresa

Monday 18 October 2010

Wise words from a strange source

Life certainly has its ups and downs. I was watching Rocky Balboa, staring and written by Sylvester Stallone, and I loved his pep talk to his son. I know it’s a film and Rocky is a boxer but although his words relate to his life they are positive and can relate to anyone.

Rocky: “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there if you let it. You, me and nobody’s gonna hit as hard as life but it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how living is done.
If you know what you’re worth go out and get what you’re worth, but you’ve got to be willing to take the hits and not pointing the finger at him, her or anybody…Until you believe in yourself you ain’t gonna have a life.”

It is surprising what can have an influence you. Regular yoga practice will help you build self esteem, confidence and help you to love yourself and you learn about yourself as you work on the poses on your mat. Sometimes when things are getting you down it helps to hear some positive words whether it be from relatives, friends or the actor on the DVD.

Saturday 21 August 2010

Indian Head Massage

Today I learned how to do Indian Head Massage at I was lucky to spot this one day course when looking online for local indoor activities for a young friend. It was a very intensive one day course. I have picked up some massage techniques over the years in the Victor Foundation workshops but I have never thought of taking it further. This was a good opportunity. It is very therapeutic, both being the giver and being the receiver of a massage.

The massage is divided into four areas:
1. Massage to the upper back, shoulders and arms
2. Massage of the neck
3. Massage to the scalp
4. Massage of the face

Today there were 7 of us and we had two teachers. Each section was demonstrated first. Then we were talked through the massage techniques while we had our first go, then we did it again by ourselves under observation. After that we changed places with our partners so that we would have the opportunity to be massaged and feel what the massage felt like and we’d have both done the massage twice. This also gave more opportunities to asked questions. We finished up the day with a complete run through of the full Indian head massage. I forgot to time myself. I think this took between 20 to 30 minutes. We can also do a 10 minute treatment, which I’m sure would be lovely too.

Unfortunately, although this was a very thorough course it was not a certificated course so I can only massage friends and family. I know my family in particular will benefit from and enjoy this treatment. It has also been suggested that I can offer this treatment in exchange for other services. I can already think of some friends who I’d like to say thank you for your help.

Sunday 1 August 2010

Talking about love and life

Life has its ups and downs, twists and turns. We learn to adapt and to accept the good and the bad that’s thrown at us. Hopefully we become stronger, understanding ourselves and our path.
I have been deeply in love but recently lost my husband and, yes, as the saying goes; ‘ is better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all’. I am, at present, somewhat consumed with heartache and grief and quite strongly the feeling of the importance of love.
This is a gentle nudge to remind you to tell your partner and your family that you love them. In the film Fiddler on the Roof, Topol asks the question, ‘do you love me?’, of his wife and she lists all the jobs she does for him, but that’s just being a wife. Be prepared to consider if your love is returned. We have to live life honestly, so communicate your love and then let that love flow out to everyone you know. Live with no regrets. I was reminded of the importance of communication and what good advice that was. What we do and say in the present creates our past. When I am sad in the present I look back to the past for comfort and then I let that feeling comfort me in the present.

My latest advertising says:
Love Life, Love Yourself, Love Yoga
I don’t think it really matters which order these words go, they are all important and they go hand in hand. A less catchy line could be: respect yourself, respect life and, if you discipline yourself to practice yoga regularly, you’ll love it, love your body and love life.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Tai Chi

I have just started going to Tai Chi - Kam Chuen classes. I have thought about going to a Tai Chi class for a couple of years and the other day I noticed this class running locally. I like my teacher and find it elegant and calming. Like yoga the moves and breathing connect the body and mind.

The class is just one hour. We do warm ups, learn a movement with a lovely name like ‘Lion plays with a ball’, and then we work through a sequence of moves adding the latest movement at the end. We wind down standing (in Wuji) a comfortable standing position, and I can feel the energy around me and in me. In Tai Chi the energy is Chi and in Yoga it is Prana. We finish by giving ourselves a self massage, which is always lovely.

Just like in a yoga class I benefit from a bit of adjustment, how and where to hold my body so it is in alignment and how and where to hold my hands, for example holding an imaginary ball of chi energy, running my hands through water or fending off an attack. Having a good imagination helps. I like to visualize the actions if I can, then the movement can flow. Each time I have left the class feeling light, really calm and a sense of achievement.

Like Yoga Tai Chi can be practised by anyone of any age so I was surprised when my mother said that some of her friends had tried Tai Chi but had found it too slow and they could not turn off their minds. It is quite amazing to think that, today in our western civilization, women of 60 and above are so busy and stressed that a Tai Chi lesson seems slow. Luckily there are such a variety of fitness practises both from the East and West, so we can choose what suits us individually.

I love Yoga and, while I can, I will find a place for Tai Chi too. It's like learning more than one language. They have their similarities and I hope I can learn from them both.

Thursday 25 February 2010

Facing the ups and downs of life

When I wrote my blog in January I thought it would be great to ask have a photo of John standing in Tadasana for everyone to see. Things don’t always work out the way you hope and John has been quite poorly. Dancing, trips to the cinema, and even walks have been curtailed. I have to let my ego rest, while he rests. Feeling weak he is happy to relax but I have had to work at adapting to a quieter life style. For this I have began to use meditation to help me. I am so pleased that I practice yoga because I have found that yoga poses and calming breathing exercises help reduce some of my nervous energy. I have researched some postures that can help John ease his comfort and get more sleep because I believe the yoga poses can be like medicine and be quite beneficial. As I teach ‘yoga is learning about your body’.

So in my meditations I have been able to question my actions, my emotions, how I feel honestly about John’s health and the effect on our lives. I use the meditations to help me relax and be content with the here and now.

I have to say that I have been watching the highlights of the Vancouver Winter Olympics and loving it. These are amazing, fit and focussed athletes who are all just seconds away from each other to be the best. As well as the sport I love the occasional shots of the scenery and the sound of the skis and skates on ice.

I have taken this time to knit rectangles and fish for my friend Alison’s newest knitting project: ‘Above and Below the Waves’. Next month she will start on her project to construct a massive wooden structure on which she will attach knitted rectangles, fish and sea-life, etc
Alison writes: "We are planning to construct a tunnel that will make it possible to walk under the sea, while above there will be rocks, a lighthouse, boats, beach etc.”.
When her creation is complete it will then tour the country and the world raising money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Alison’s recent creations were a giant knitted Christmas Tree and the Gingerbread House.

If you are feeling stressed and life isn’t going the way you plan it is always an idea to try something different. I can only hope that my bit of knitting will help Alison achieve her goal of raising money to train a crewman for a year the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
…Anyway without the downs in life we wouldn’t appreciate the ups.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Protect your knees and work your feet

Do you ever suffer from achy or weak knees? If we can strengthen the muscles in our legs then this will help to protect our knees in the long run.

We started our lesson by focusing on our alignment of our whole body beginning with the awareness in the feet, letting the weight become even. If you are not wearing shoes now, you may like to try these foot movements even while sitting at the computer.

Sit on the edge of your chair, knees hip width apart and ankles directly under your feet. Try to let your spine stay lengthened. Rock onto the heals so your toes come off the ground (feel a gentle pull in the shins) and gently stretch through the feet as you uncurl and release them down. Take your time. Come onto the balls of the feet lifting the heals (feel the pull of the calf muscle), and release down finding balance between the heals and ball of the feet. Lift your toes, wriggle them, then try to open them getting space between your toes (don’t worry if nothing happens today). Place them down. Find an evenness between the outer edge of your feet and the big toe joint to lift the inner arch.

In the lesson we focused on some standard standing yoga poses. One of the simplest is the best and it is the mountain pose of Tadasana. For those of you who don’t know yoga poses this may just look like we are standing but on closer inspection you can see how each part of the body is working to align the body.

Tadasana – the Mountain Pose
We start with getting a nice awareness in the feet (as above) wriggling the toes to get some space between them, and feeling a balance between the heal, both the outside and inside edges of the feet, feeling the mat under the big toe joint and lifting the inner arch. Once the feet are firmly planted the leg muscles can be worked. You may feel a tightening in the shin as the inner arch lifts. Then we engage the quadriceps muscles of the thighs to lift the knee caps. Then ankles, hips align as the pelvic tilt is applied. We let the top of the pelvis rotate back and then the spine can lengthen. The shoulders relax away from the ears, and we balance our heads. Take the arms just a little away from the body directing the fingers to the floor. Let your gaze become relaxed or close your eyes if you feel balanced and breathe naturally in and out through the nose. Stand in this posture for at least 30 seconds or longer.
There are lots and lots of small instructions for this simple pose but these are some of the basics

Friday 8 January 2010

Feeling happy lays the groundwork for long term well-being.

I wish you all a Very Happy and Healthy New Year 2010

I began this year with a lesson that will help you find happiness and achieve good health.

It’s a good idea to spend some time to connect with your inner joy. If you practice yoga then you can use your time on your mat. If you don’t do yoga then you just need to take a little time off, just a few minutes to sit, breathe and connect with yourself.

This is based on the start of our lesson. Anyone can try this. Sit comfortably either on the edge of a chair, feet firmly planted hip width apart and knees directly above your ankles Or sit on a block with your legs crossed. Let your spine lengthen up, relaxing your shoulders away from your ears. Rest your hands in your lap. Breathe slowly in and out through your nose. Let your chin drop. Unclench your teeth and let your face muscles soften. At any time close your eyes or let your gaze become unfocused. Think of something that will make you smile. Breathe slowly, focusing on your exhalation. As you do this let all your muscles relax. Spend a few minutes connecting with your inner joy. Hopefully you will find this blissful. Don’t worry if your mind is still busy. When you practice this seated mediation it will become easier over time.

For my non yogi friends, finish this quiet time with a deep breath, a stretch and a yawn.

In the class we did some warm ups including a slow version of the Three Way Stretch (watch the video on a past blog).

My favourite pose to illustrate finding bliss is the Cobra – Bhujangasana. Whatever level you are at you can reap the benefits. Working the pelvic tilt, making the legs strong and keeping the front of the feet down can really allow one to feel how, when the lower half is grounded, the upper body can lift and and the heart centre can open, drawing up the chest and breathing deeply in and out.
(See Blog Feb '09 demonstrating the Cobra for beginners)

When life throws obstacles our way and we don’t feel happy we can connect to the happiness that is within us all. Find it to put a smile on your face and help you cope with life’s challenges.

‘When we smile we bring happiness into the world.’

This lesson was inspired by December’s Yoga Journal.