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.

Monday, 17 August 2015


One of my students, Sheila, has been asking me to record the relaxation I lead at the end of the class. It's not perfect, but here it is. 
For you Sheila.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Special Yoga

Here I am (pictured left) being presented with my Special Yoga certificate after completing a course to teach Yoga & Mindfulness to children with autism and ADHD.

It was an inspiring course led by Special Yoga founder, Jo Manuel (right), the UK's leading yoga teacher trainer for special needs.
Jo and her team work with around 800 children a week at her Special Yoga centre in London and at schools across the country.

So much of what she said made sense:
"Teaching yoga to children with autism and other related conditions helps to bring them back to their bodies. It helps to bring the child to a more peaceful state where healing can take place."
While yoga is not a cure-all it will bring about positive changes such as helping children to sleep better, have regular bowel movements and improve communication.

I had never dreamed of teaching yoga to children, never mind chidlren with learning difficulties but sometimes life has a way of opening up new paths. After I qualified as a yoga teacher my son, a primary school teacher asked me to set up an after-school yoga class at his school. It was terrifying at first but the children soon taught me what to do. I was then asked to work with some of the children with autism and again I let them to teach me what they needed. To fill in the gaps I went to London to take part in the Special Yoga course and opened up a whole new set of possibilities. If you want to get some idea of how yoga can help special children just take a look at the centre's video and meet Jo.


Friday, 6 March 2015

Tiger Tiger Burning Bright

I love this One Handed Tiger Pose, it's one of my top ten poses and great for beginners.

One handed Tiger Pose or eka hasta vyaghrasana stretches the shoulder and front of the thigh, strengthens the arms and tones the kidneys. This posture increases energy and stimulates the endocrine system (adrenal glands).
To do this:

1. Start off in Tabletop pose, exhale and reach the right foot towards the ceiling with the knee bent and the spine gently arching.

2. Fix your gaze ahead and shift your weight into your right hand.

3. Slowly, slowly reach the left hand to hold the inside of the right ankle and with both arms straight lift the leg higher.

4. Hold for up to five breaths.

5. To come out of the pose exhale and let the arm and leg gently move to the floor and back into Tabletop Pose.

6. Repeat on the opposite side.

Avoid if you have had a recent or chronic injury to the back, hips, shoulders or knees.
If you find it uncomfortable on the knees place a folded blanket under the knees to protect them from the pressure.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The Balance of Yoga

It's my birthday tomorrow.
My 49th birthday.
This means I am about to enter my 50th year.
How did that happen?
While I still feel 17 inside, I have to admit that the prospect of the next 49 years going as fast as the first 49, means I am going to have to start taking the ageing process seriously.
There is nothing I can do about the years but I can do the best I can with what I've got and this means that yoga is my best anti-ageing policy.
There are numerous documented benefits of yoga and ageing but one that drew my attention this week was a study about the importance of maintaining and improving our ability to balance as we age.
Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University have discovered there is a dramatic decline in balance as we age.
You can read about it here.
The ability to balance on one leg with the eyes closed reduces from 30 seconds to just 4 seconds.
A drop in balance means we become at greater risk of falls which lead to broken bones, hospital stays and worse.
Researcher Dr Jamie McPhee, senior lecturer in Human Physiology said:
“In our study we were looking at the changes to muscle strength and size in older age. We were also looking at the way in which muscles are controlled by the nervous system. The nerves are hidden away, out of sight, so you can’t necessarily see how they change during ageing.
“Loss of balance means a greater risk of falling over. Falls in older age can be very serious because the bones are less dense, meaning they will break more easily. Broken wrists or hip bones are fairly common and result in hospitalisation and loss of confidence.
”During hospitalisation and the period of recovery, the muscles and nerves become smaller still, and that starts a spiral of deterioration.
“Our nerves control most aspects of muscles, including movements of the body, balance and co-ordination, and all of these are reduced with ageing."
Dr McPhee added that one way to cut your chances of falling is by good, old-fashioned exercise to keep muscles stronger.
 There are numerous one legged poses in yoga, from the simple Tree Pose to the Standing Big Toe Pose and Dancer's Pose and I have included some tutorials at the bottom.

The simple conclusion from this study is that if you don't use it, you'll lose it.

I always try to include balancing postures in my class but if you can't get to class try and include a daily balance in your own practice.

Start in the basic tree pose balancing on leg with the raised leg on your calf and your hands in prayer at your breastbone.
Make sure you are balanced on all four corners of your feet and keep your eyes open for five breaths.
Now close your eyes and see how many breaths you can remain standing on one leg.
Don't worry about wobbles, this is your body's way of adjusting to the challenging conditions.
Only open your eyes if you think you will fall over.
Now repeat on the opposite side.
Don't worry if it is just a few seconds at first.
As my favourite yoga guru, Patthabhi Jois once said: "Practice and  all is coming."

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Sun Salutations

The Sun Salutation is perfect for warming up the body and generating an internal heat to prepare the body from inside out.
The flow of poses also helps to raise the heart rate and add an aerobic element to your yoga practice.
Although they were designed to be performed in the morning, facing the direction of the sun, they are ideal to perform at any time.
There are any number of variations but I prefer to use this version (above) for beginners.
Practising 4-6 rounds of Sun Salutations followed by 8-10 breaths in Downward Dog is the ideal way to start your daily home practice.

For a more advanced version replace Plank with Chaturanga and Cobra with Upward Dog and you will be working your core.

Remembering to use the breath to move through each of the poses.

Welcome to Formby Yoga with some Blue Sky Thinking

Although I still see myself as being at the start of my yoga journey with so much to learn, it all began in 1991.

Pregnant with my first child and used to regular exercise (I met my husband in a gym), I wanted to find an activity to accommodate, challenge but soothe my rapidly expanding body. Enter yoga. I picked a book off the shelf at WH Smith – no Amazon in those days – and found myself drawn to the ante-natal section of The Book of Yoga by the Sivananda Centre. There was a fully illustrated guide to a complete yoga session for pregnant women and I was hooked.
I practised the routine most days and despite it being my first pregnancy, Samuel James made his appearance into the world on the day he was due, after a relatively painfree birth. The early days of motherhood left little time for exercise ,but time and again I would return to the book for a gentle workout before resuming my gym routine.
The book came out again in 1995, 1997 and 1999 when I became pregnant for a second, third and fourth time and between births I would attend the sporadic classes at my local gym. Over the years running began to take over and after completing a couple of marathons and several half-marathons I became plagued with injuries as I hit my 40s.
However, it wasn’t a physical awakening that brought me back to yoga but, rather a mental or spiritual awakening. Last winter I was in a supermarket car park and ended up having a slanging match with a woman over a parking space. When I got home I was full of righteous indignation until my 16-year-old daughter (who was with me at the time) gave me a strange look and said:
“You need to calm down mum. That was embarrassing.”
She was right. I was thoroughly ashamed of myself. I could blame the stress of work and the frantic pace of life with four children but that would be the easy way out. I needed to take control of myself and calm down. The only thing I knew that had a chance of working was yoga. And so I retrieved my well-thumbed 24-year-old book from the shelf and started to practice. And practice. I found a few yoga classes to try out and I began to practice every day at home. Sometimes for just 5 minutes, other times for up to 90 minutes a day. After 48 years on this planet I have to say nothing comes closer to giving me a sense of peace and calm than yoga. And the physical benefits are great too. I am more flexible than I was in my 20s, I can stand on my head for five minutes at a time and I sleep like a baby.
The next step of my journey is to share those benefits with as many people as I can. Which is why I trained to become a yoga teacher in 2014. 
Wherever this next part of my journey takes me I will be able to take the lessons of the last 20 years with me: breathe, stay focused and practice being patient.

Keep on Yogging

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