Tuesday, 8 March 2016

I would love to do yoga but.......

Everyone is busy. 
I understand. 
I have a full-time job, four children, a husband and a dog.
I also teach five yoga classes a week. 
But I find all of it a lot easier to deal with if I get my daily practice in. 

Yoga not only tones and strengthens our internal and external body, it also creates space in the brain to relax the mind. 
And a busy person will find life much easier to cope with when the mind and body are working at 100% capacity. 
Yoga helps you get there. 

Usually I wake early to practice before work. 
But sometimes life happens, such as a college trip to London.

It as stressful trying to supervise 40+ 16-18 year-olds.
It would have been a lot more stressful if I hadn't unrolled my yoga mat and topped up my mind and body with a 45 minute yoga session in my tiny room each morning (see pic).

Of course things do happen which means committing to your class or home practice may be impossible. 
A child may be ill or need you. 
I also understand this.

But when people say they would love to do yoga but don't think they can afford the time,  my response is: 'do you think you can really afford not to find the time?
Or as a wise man once said:
'Whether you think you can or think you can't. You are right. '

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Practising At Home

I have been practising yoga for more than 20 years.
I tried it when I was pregnant, alongside my gym work and when I was injured from running and the stretching made me feel great. I would also enjoy a good night’s sleep after a relaxing Savasana. Sadly, with a job, a house to run and four children and a husband to care for, the effects soon wore off and within 24 hours I would be back to climbing the walls.
And it wasn’t until I committed to a regular home practice that I really started to notice the full power of yoga. I noticed considerable progress in my physical practice as I was able to move deeper into the postures, releasing my muscles and joints. But regular practice meant that my mind was calmer.
My moods didn’t swing quite so much and I felt I was becoming a nicer, kinder version of my old self. That once familiar feeling I experienced at work as tasks piled up and I felt helpless just disappeared as I abandoned my efforts to clear my desk by the end of the day. I do what I can and I do it well. I prioritise in a much more mindful way and nothing seems impossible anymore.

Yet I still have 24 hours in my day and still lots to do.
So how do I find time to practise yoga?

The answer is creativity.

Yesterday I locked myself in a shower room at work and spent 30 minutes practising the poses I felt I needed most. This morning I was awake early and managed 45 minutes before breakfast. The day before that I completed 3 rounds of Sun Salutations and rested in Savasana. I try to practise six days a week (not including the classes I teach).

Generally I practise at home or work Monday to Friday, take Saturday off and attend a weekly class on a Sunday. That is what works for me. Some days I will practise for 10 minutes, other days 90 minutes. On average I would say I dedicate between 20 and 30 minutes a day to asana practice – finding time when I can.

I know many dedicated yogis will schedule a regular time in their day for asana practice which is ideal – a sacred time just for you and your yoga sounds like bliss and maybe when my children are all grown up and left home it may be possible. But then again what about the other demands that may come upon my time. In reality, most of us have jobs, commitments and families that would mean missing our regular yoga time. Much better is to do what you can rather than abandon the idea all together if something comes up.

So this begs the question: what should you do?
The answer: whatever you need.

I usually start with three or found rounds of Sun Salutations and then rest in Savasana and notice how I feel. If my hips feel tight I will move into some hip openers. If my lower back feels a bit tender I will slowly stretch it out with some backbends. And so on, before ending my practice with five minutes of relaxation and focus on my breath.
Google Sun Salutations and you will find many variations.
As I practise Ashtanga Yoga I prefer Surya Namaskar A as it avoids the single leg lunges which many people find challenging, while preparing the body for asana practice.
Here is my favourite Ashtangi, Kino McGregor showing you how it's done.

Of course if you are new to yoga it isn’t as easy to work out which moves you need which is why I always suggest starting off your home practice with some Sun Salutations as they are a perfect ‘all over body’workout with a mixture of standing, forward bending, backward bending, inversion, flexion and extension. The only thing really missing is a twist which you can try at the end.

If you would like an idea of a basic home practice I would suggest the following:

Beginners Home Practice

Start by sitting on your mat and focus on your breath. Add in some side stretches and a gentle seated twist before moving to your hands and knees and move through 3 rounds of Cat/Cow.

Bring yourself to standing and move through between three and 12 rounds of Sun Salutations, starting slowly and gently – maybe pausing for a few breaths in each pose.
Add a seated spinal twist.

Before gently lying back in Savasana.

Start to observe your breath as you inhale through the nose and exhale through your nose. Relaxe your body from the tips of your toes to the top of your head. Relax there for five to fifty breaths or however long you have. Complete your practice with a full body stretch, knee hug and rolling over to your side to bring yourself slowly up to sitting.

Place your hands to your chest in prayer, inhale and thank yourself for the gift of your practice and get on with your day.


Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Teen Yoga

   Stressed-out Formby teenagers are being offered a chance to chill out with a new Teen Yoga class.

The pressures on young people today are enormous and as a pastoral support tutor in a sixth form college I have noticed that there has been a rapid rise in the number of students coming to my office with anxiety related issues. This inevitably impacts upon their ability to work and ultimately, realise their potential.

Last year I decided to gain additional qualifications to teach Mindfulness and Yoga to teenagers and completed a teacher training course with Teen Yoga UK. I am also certified to teach Mindfulness to young people after completing the Mindfulness in Schools programme (MISP) at Bangor University.

Research by Teen Yoga UK and Leeds University has found that students who take part in regular yoga classes notice a clear shift in the state of mind from stressed to calm. There is also evidence to show there is an increase in concentration, confidence and improved sleep.

In my classes I incorporate mindful practices with yoga postures to enable students to develop techniques they can use both inside and outside the classroom.

I tell the students that I can’t stop difficult things happening in their lives but I can help them to respond in a different way. Yoga and Mindfulness explores ways to respond rather than react and therefore, helps young people make better choices and take the best care of themselves.

The classes will begin at Holy Trinity Workshop every Thursday between 6.10pm and 7pm from February 25th.A six week term costs £21. All equipment is provided but students are free to bring their own mats.

For further details call me on 07808 800 681 or email janegallagher36@gmail.com

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Teen Yoga Graduate

Here I am (third from the left on the front row) after graduating with my Teen Yoga teaching qualification.
It was an eye opening course, learning about the development of the adolescent brain and how to modify yoga sessions for teenagers.
Next week I will be going into a local high school to share some of the lessons I learnt.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Mindful or Mind Full?

Much has been reported in the press recently about the rising numbers of young people affected by mental health issues.
The charity Young Minds reports that the number of young people aged 15-16  with depression has doubled between the 1980s and the 2000s.
As someone who was 15 in the 1980s and now works with that age group in the 2000s I can wholeheartedly concur with these findings.
But rarely, do these issues surface for the first time at the age of 15.
Astonishingly, nearly 80,000 children and young people suffer from severe depression and over 8,000 children aged under 10 years old suffer from severe depression.
And is it any wonder?
When I look back to my own mind at 15 there seemed plenty of space to make sense of the changing world around me.
I had TV, letters, telephone (stuck to the wall) and books to occupy me and keep me in touch with the world and my friends near and far.
But there was plenty of space to grow.
I didn't need to make space for the pressures of constant contact: of social media, texts, computers and the rest of today's multimedia onslaught on our attentions.
Is it any wonder that our children are struggling to cope?
While it may be too late to turn the clock back, there is a way of creating space for our growing young minds as I discovered three years ago when a colleague introduced me to the concept of Mindfulness.I immediately signed up for a course and when I qualified as a yoga teacher began using the techniques in my practice. 

 So what exactly is Mindfulness?

Jon Kabat-Zinn who is credited with bringing the practice into the secular world describes it very simply.
"Mindfulness means the awareness that arises from paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.'

And how can this help improve the mental health of our children?
Professor Katherine Weare summed it up in her award-winning research summary: Evidence for the Impact  of  Mindfulness on Children and Young  People:
'schools who engage in mindfulness are likely to see beneficial results on the emotional wellbeing, mental health, ability to learn and even the physical health of their students.'

 So back in July  I, (that's me far right on the second row)  joined teachers from across the globe (China, Iceland, India, the Czech Republic and South Africa)  and travelled to Bangor University to train to teach Mindfulness to primary school children.
The course was taught to us by Tabitha Sawyer (front row, left), a teacher at Ysgol Pen Bryn in Colwyn Bay where the course was piloted in 2010.
Here she is talking about the course at a TEDTalk in Cardiff.

If you think Mindfulness is something you would like to learn more about I suggest starting with Professor Mark Williams' book 'Finding Peace in a Frantic World' which comes with an amazing CD of practices.
For anyone wishing to introduce Mindfulness to young children then try reading the wonderful book, 'Sitting Still Like a Frog' which also comes with a handy CD.
Visit www.mindfulnessinschools.org for more details.