At-Work Desk Stretches…

However well intentioned we are, our posture tends to get a bit slumped when we are sat for hours at our desk, or behind a driving wheel.

You can sit tall, feel better, and beat that slump with this fabulous set of At-Work Desk Stretches by Joan Pagano

The video clip shows them done sitting, I also like to do them standing, and I am including them in my yoga classes this week.

Enjoy!

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Yogi Love Thy Belly!

As a yoga teacher I try to teach in a way that is body-friendly. Many students confide in me that the part of their body that they hate the most is their belly. So when I teach core-strength classes, I aim to encourage self-love, rather than self-loathing.

Of course there are good reasons for maintain a strong core

“Abdominal muscles assist breathing, align the pelvis, flex and rotate the trunk, keep the torso erect, support the lumbar spine, and hold in the organs of digestion.”

Ref: Yoga Journal website: “Forget Six-pack Abs”

The article above goes on to say that “Healthy abdominals are strong, but not hard. The cost of trying to obtain six-pack abs might be loss of flexibility and freedom of movement. Overdoing abs exercises can lead to a flattening of the lumbar curve creating a weakened spinal structure.”

This term, Joan Pagano’s “15 minute Abs Workout” book and DVD has provided me with some inspiration for core strength workouts (without having to resort to billions of repetitions of “crunches” or curl-ups!).

Here’s my hand-out for the core strength portion of this weeks’ class:

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And here is an excerpt from 15 minutes Abs Workout, Core Basics routine:

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I begin each core strength class with a focus on the Centring Breath, and encourage students to keep returning to the centring breathing throughout their posture work

For inspiration, I pepper the class with readings such as this one below:

Society’s obsession with flat tummies has psychological consequences too. “We want to control our feelings, so we make our bellies hard, trying to keep it together,” says yoga teacher and physical therapist Judith Lasater, Ph.D. Soft bellies appear vulnerable; abs of steel don’t. Tension interferes when trying to access the deeper wisdom that rests in the belly. As yogis we require a supple abdomen in which we can sense the stillness of our being.”

Ref: Yoga Journal website: “Forget Six-pack Abs”

I like that: “As yogis we require a supple abdomen in which we can sense the stillness of our being.”

Power Source: Love Your Abs

“Yogis may be warriors too, but we want to shed armouring. Tension interferes when trying to access the deeper wisdom that rests in the belly. As yogis, we require a supple abdomen in which we can sense the stillness of our being.”

Fernando Pages Ruiz

As Yoga teachers, we can be as guilty as anyone else, when we are teaching, of slipping on to autopilot. Luckily our students find all sorts of ways of reminding us to come back into the present moment!

I’d just taught my final class of the Summer Term. I was exchanging hugs and well wishes with students before the summer break. A student, we’ll call her Emily, had been waiting patiently to ask me a question.

“Why do we do curl-ups?” she asked.

I began to respond with a pat answer about the importance of building up core strength etc. and she interrupted me: “Yes, but what’s the Yoga reason for doing them?”

She confided in me that she hates doing curl-ups, as well as most other core strength work, but she thought that she might be able to bear it better if there was an underlying spiritual purpose for putting herself through this misery!

It was a really good question! I don’t enjoy doing curl-ups myself and I try in class, and in my own practice, to incorporate a number of alternative  exercises to them. We chatted for a while about possible “Yoga” reasons for doing curl-ups, but we had to cut the discussion short as other students were waiting to speak to me. I left the class feeling that I hadn’t really satisfactorily answered her question and it wasn’t until I  was cycling home that it dawned on me how profound a question it was. I resolved to store it away in my mind, and to return to it before term started again in September.

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There is a saying: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. And so it was with me. In a nearby country town, on a hot sunny day, after a long bike ride, I’d popped into a newsagent to get a few minutes respite from the heat (and to take a sneaky peak at the Yoga magazines). From the shelves I picked up a copy of a Yoga Journal Special Issue on: “The Ultimate Guide to a Stable Strong Core”. Continue reading

An Energising Breathing Practice

“The Nine Clearing Cycles” is my favourite morning breathing practice. It can be done before or after your morning yoga practice. Or it can be done as a stand-alone. I find it tops up my energy for the day ahead and at the same time it is profoundly relaxing. The benefits of the practice ripple out into my day, helping me to feel grounded, centred, and more able to cope with the ups and downs of daily life.

In her book “Insight Yoga” Sarah Powers describes the benefits of the Nine Clearing Cycles in this way:

 This short but potent practice is good to begin the day, as it awakens the main energy centre in your navel, which becomes more dormant during sleep and is the main energetic site from which we access our personal power.”

Here’s How: Continue reading

Everyday Yoga…

I am a self-confessed Yoga-geek and I love reading Yoga books. This addiction started when I first discovered Yoga as a teenager in the 1970s. I desperately wanted to attend Yoga evening classes, but there was a rule that you had to be 16 years old to enrol. So for a couple of years, until I was old enough to sign up, I taught myself Yoga at home from books. All these years later I still get a real buzz when I find a good new Yoga read!

My latest discovery is Sage Rountree’s book: “Everyday Yoga: At-Home Routines to Enhance Fitness, Build Strength, and Restore Your Body”. She has a real flair for imaginatively choreographing short, fun Yoga routines.

warm up Everyday Yoga
Whole-body Warm-up

 

Continue reading

The Essential Christmas Breathing Practice

We are approaching the Winter Solstice. “Solstice” means a standing still of the sun. In the dark, depths of winter this is a good time for us too to stand still, pause, and to reflect. However, at a time when all of nature is in hibernation-mode many of us find ourselves getting caught up in pre-Christmas mania and end up feeling a bit frazzled.

Don’t get me wrong there are lots of things that I love about Christmas: warm mince pies and hot punch, decorating the Christmas tree, the smell of pine needles in the morning, Christmas lights glowing in neighbour’s windows, being cosy inside by an open fire, the sense of excitement and anticipation. At the same time, like everyone one else, I do find aspects of Christmas quite stressful.

If,like me, you are looking for an antidote to pre-Christmas stress, then The Essential Breath is the perfect way for you to restore your equilibrium, and calm your system in the busy count down to Christmas. Continue reading

Mindfulness: What it can do for you

“Mindfulness means being able to bring direct, open-hearted awareness to what you are doing while you are doing it: being able to tune in to what’s going on in your mind and body, and in the outside world, moment by moment.”

The Mindful Way Workbook

If you already have an established mindfulness meditation practice I probably don’t need to remind you of the benefits of meditating: you already know and enjoy them! However, if you are having difficulty establishing a meditation practice, then perhaps a reminder of the benefits of mindfulness meditation will spur you on to start meditating. Continue reading