Yoga is a perfect start to the day. I like to remind students (and myself) is that you can do yoga almost any time and almost any place. You don’t have to go to a hot yoga studio to get the benefits of doing a few poses.
When you first get out of bed and you’re a bit stiff and groggy take a few minutes to do some gentle postures that will loosen your muscles, get oxygen into your blood, and refresh you before you even have that first cup of tea or coffee!
Here are three good wake up yoga poses:
Cat: With your hands and knees on the floor, breathe in, arch the back tucking your stomach in and tucking your tailbone in, sucking your belly button in toward the spine and your neck loose, head hanging down in Cat pose.
Cow: Exhale, dropping the belly, arching the back so your tailbone lifts up, your head is up and your shoulders are open, chest forward in Cow pose. Repeat, alternating between Cat and Cow between 10 or 15 times. This really warms up the spine, releases the hamstring and gets you into a nice rhythm for your practice.
Stand up into Mountain Pose, both feet planted on the ground, shoulder-width apart, spine straight, standing tall. Inhale, stretching your arms up parallel overhead. As you exhale, fold down into a forward bend, folding at the waist and releasing the entire upper body so you hang loose stretching the back and hamstrings. Then inhale, arch your back up into a half lift, hinging your torso up so it’s at a right angle to your legs and you are looking forward. Then exhale, releasing back down into the forward bend and holding for one or two breaths. On an inhale, straighten your body back up, extending your arms out and up as you stand so the fingertips meet, touching overhead. Look upward, extending the neck and back to elongate the spine, then release your hands down into mountain pose so you are again standing grounded in mountain pose. Repeat this cycle 5 times.
Sitting cross-legged, press your sit bones into the floor and lengthen your spine, reaching up with the crown of your head. (If this is uncomfortable, sit on a firm pillow or folded blankets, or extend one leg.) Keep both sit bones on the floor while you do this stretch. (a) Place your left hand on your right knee, inhale, and lengthen your spine. Then exhale and twist to the right. Breathe, return to center, switch sides, and repeat.
What’s your best wake-up tip (yoga or otherwise)? Share in the comments.
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This time of year we sweat more and that leads to yoga mats getting a little funky. You should clean your mat on a regular basis. Both for hygiene and because it’s nicer to have a decent-smelling mat when you’re face down in the spine-strengthening series!
Here are a few options to keep your mat fresh:
Wipe down after each class with mat wipes. Buy Jo-Sha mat wipes here.
Make your own mat spray with a 50-50 mix of water and natural vinegar. Add a few drops of essential oil like lavender or tea tree for an appealing scent.
Machine wash your mat. Once every couple of weeks run it through the wish with mild or no soap.
DON’T put it in the sun (or over the radiator). The excess heat will dry out the rubber and shorten the life of your mat.
Share your mat-cleaning tips or ideas in the comments.
Sometimes we get very self-focused in yoga practice. OUR postures, OUR breathing, OUR body, OUR class, and so forth. Connection with self is an essential part of yoga practice, but so is connection with humanity. Yoga means unity. Within ourselves and with each other.
Sri Pattabhi Jois says:
Yoga, as a way of life and a philosophy, can be practiced by anyone with inclination to undertake it, for yoga belongs to humanity as a whole. It is not the property of any one group or any one individual, but can be followed by any and all, in any corner of the globe, regardless of class, creed or religion.
Next time you’re on the mat – either in the studio or at home – take a moment in your savasana to be aware and grateful for the connection between all humanity.
How does yoga help you feel more connected? Please share in the comments!
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During warm weather you sweat more in and out of the yoga studio. This means you’re losing important electrolytes (salts) as well as water. One of my favourite drinks to naturally replenish electrolytes is coconut water, which provides an instant hit of essential sodium and potassium.
A quick way to increase your electrolyte intake is to use coconut water in your smoothies instead of milk or non-dairy milk. Coconut water is lighter than milks, so you might want to add some richer ingredients to give it that lovely creaminess.
Here’s a quick choose your own flavour guide to making fabulous electrolyte super smoothies.
Instructions: Start with liquid, add two or three fruits, one or two thickeners, a dash of flavoring, blend and enjoy!
250mlk Coconut water
1 med or 1/2 lg Mango
1 lg Peach
1 lg Nectarine
1/2 med Avocado
1 sm banana, frozen
2tbsp peanut butter
Mix and match, then share your favourite combo in the comments!
I love stories about the healing powers of Bikram. Cila, who works on the blog with me, shared these quotes from Jeff Cooper, a coach and ultra-runner who regularly runs 50 and even 100 mile races.
How long have doing Bikram yoga?
I’ve been doing it for about six or seven years. I tore my Achilles and couldn’t run. I had surgery and was in a cast for months, then I had to try to get back into it. All I could do was walk on the treadmill and ride a bike. I went to a Christmas party and a girl said, “You should try Bikram yoga, it would strengthen your calf and Achilles.”
I went home and looked online but never went to class. A year went by. The following year I had another injury (I had eight surgeries in eight years). I was at the same Christmas party — it was a runners Christmas party. This same girl said, “You should go to Bikram yoga”. The next day I went and have been going ever since.
How did your body respond?
Bikram is everything a runner needs. You’re strengthening, balancing and stretching. You’re using all those muscles. You’re getting stronger and healthier. It’s a perfect fit with running.
Did Bikram help your specific injuries?
It’s been awesome. I had two surgeries on one knee, one on the other. I have to be careful in some of the postures not to overdo it, but it definitely helped strengthen my Achilles tendon. Overall, I’m more balanced. I had therapists talking about orthotics and stuff. That’s why I go to yoga.
What are the biggest benefits of Bikram for runners?
To me three keys are stretching – the heat definitely helps you stretch, the postures definitely help you. Balancing – I broke my neck in 1990, then had surgery to fuse the rest of my spine, I lost a lot of balance. If I close my eyes I can fall over. The standing series teaches you to balance your feet, spread them properly when you’re standing, and that helps in running a lot, because you learn to hit your feet the right way. Last but not least, core strength. Bikram hits everything you need for running. No other cross-training exercise does that. I tell everyone I’m coaching or training to try yoga.
Jeff is a running coach – you can contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Share your Bikram healing story in the comments!
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This sugar-free coconut energy balls recipe is from chef Michael Arthur.
His site, Michael Arthur Food has loads of creative, delicious clean food recipes with lots of vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian recipes.
These energy balls are a great energy boost before or after Bikram, and a healthy, satisfying option to scoffing chocolate or biscuits during your busy day. They’re also vegan and gluten-free.
Sugar-Free Coconut Energy balls
Energy balls are a must have in your fridge, for those of you with a sweet tooth who want a sugar-free hit. Dates have a natural sweetness to them, but are also digested very easily, therefore supplying a quick burst of energy. You could use any type of nut in this recipe. Nuts are a source of protein and general research shows that walnuts help reduce cholesterol.
Ingredients (makes approx 10 balls)
150g dates (try to buy stoned dates, as it saves a lot of time)
50g dried figs
65g dried apricots
125g dessicated coconut
Soak the dates and the figs in water for an hour. Roughly chop the dates, figs and walnuts and blend everything together. A fairly smooth consistency is best, as it makes them easier to roll, but the odd bit of walnut here and there is fine. Once this is done chop the apricots into small pieces and add to the mixture. Stir in half of the coconut.
Roll into small balls and roll in the remainder of the coconut, making sure the outside is well coated. Place the balls in a sealed container and leave in the fridge for at least an hour, before eating. These will keep for a long time, so you could make a bigger batch.
What’s your favourite healthy snack? Share in the comments!
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Wrist injuries are common thanks to the amount of time we spend on computers and messing with phones, tablets, etc. The structure of the wrist is delicate. It wasn’t designed to spend eight hours a day clicking a mouse!
Yoga is a great way to prevent and help to heal wrist strain. If you’re already injured consult with a medical professional before starting or intensifying your yoga practice to be sure you don’t aggravate anything. If you’re in good health, adding some specific wrist-strengthening poses to your practice can help stave off future problems.
In Bikram yoga salabhasana – half-locust pose – is a key for strengthening and healing your elbows, lower arms and wrists. Ensure you do it correctly for maximum benefit:
-Roll your arms under your body, placing your elbows against your abdomen as close as you can, palms flat on the floor. Spread your fingers so that they’re pointing toward your knees; this will give you a nice strong grip
-Relax, keeping your body firm and steady
-Once your legs are up, breathe normally in and out through your nose and keep using the strength in your hands and arms to maintain your weight to the front of your body, so you can hold your legs up for as long as you can
To challenge yourself and expand your practice, visit the Yoga Journal for a whole section devoted to powerhouse poses that will work your wrists — and your whole body.
Any questions? Ask in the comments and I’ll respond.
We’re just back from Yoga Holiday with Paul and I’m sure some of you are experiencing a touch of the post-holiday blues. It’s a natural fact, the better the holiday the harder it is to go back to daily life. Here are three tips to help beat the blues and incorporate the benefits of your holiday into your working routine.
Remember to Breathe
One of the great things about holiday is that you are able to be fully present. With no deadlines or buses to catch, you can savour every moment. You can continue this practice after your holiday by making a conscious decision to practice mindfulness. Some people like to set aside time in the morning or evening to practice yogic breathing, or you can simply close your eyes for a few minutes while on the bus or train and focus on the breath. This will help you stay connected to your physical body and calm your mind.
Complaining is a very British habit. We grouse about the weather, the traffic, our jobs, our partners, the price of a pint of milk. Imagine if we took all that energy and transformed it into positive thoughts and words! We always have a choice whether to grumble or be grateful. If you’re stuck on a crowded Tube you can choose to be annoyed. Or you can be grateful that you live in a cosmpolitan city where you are whisked from place to place by an incredible feat of engineering! Everything in our life, even the seeming inconveniences, is an opportunity to practice gratitude and, just like in yoga postures, you’ll get stronger every time.
What you eat deeply affects you. My yoga retreat students are always amazed at how energised and refreshed they feel after a week of eating clean whole foods. Making food a priority on your return is a way to continue that holiday buzz and honour your body. If you’re pressed for time there are lots of shortcuts: Make a big pitcher of smoothies and freeze the extra in plastic bottles for instant refreshment through the week; treat yourself to a fruit and veg box; or try out some of the healthy recipes on blog.
Share your tips for beating the post-holiday blues in the comments!
The Yoga Connects Festival starts today! It’s a three-day event at Stanford Hall in Leicestershire, so plenty of time to hop on a train and go check it out for a day or two.
Events like this are an ideal way to break out of a rut, experiment with new types of yoga, and generally get refreshed and inspired. Yoga Connects offers loads of yoga classes in a range of styles, plus live music, meditation, alternative therapies, workshops and more. As the website says:
An invitation to taste different yoga styles with different yoga teachers. Expand your horizons. Sink into wood-fired hot tubs. Run away with the Circus. Indulge in Massage. Go deep on a Meditation walk in an Enchanted Wood or Elegant Ballroom. Seek Magic at our Full Moon Ceremony. Be an activist in our Plastic Free Zone. Indulge in natural Food. Be inspired.