August newsletter is here!
This gorgeous x-ray video goes under the skin to show a yoga body in motion.
It’s a beautiful and inspiring reminder that yoga isn’t just about flexible muscles, or weight loss, but is a practice that transforms our whole body – from bones to skin, tendons to ligaments. Enjoy!
Our goal for this piece was to create a realistic representation of radiological (x-ray) imaging.
Instead of just creating a still image, however, we wanted to combine the beautiful moves of yoga with this new visual approach to bring the full human skeleton to life.
Technical challenges included aspects such as achieving proper bone densities and representing actual bone marrow inside each individual bone.
Quick note: This is 3D animation (no use of mocap). No one was harmed, exposed to radiation, or grew a third arm.
Life and yoga boil down to one thing: breath.
You don’t breathe, you don’t live. You don’t breathe, you aren’t doing yoga.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the asanas and forget the essential element of the breath. Because breathing is “easy” we neglect it in favour of stretching an extra few centimetres in standing-head-to-knee or going deeper in camel. Returning our attention to the breath is a continuous discipline.
Practice this outside the studio, too. When you are stressed, check your breathing and body. Note the areas of tension and breathe into them. Let them go.
As you become practiced at observing and controlling your breath, on and off the yoga mat, you discover greater peace and confidence in the face of life’s challenges.
Share your thoughts about yoga breathing in the comments.
Porridge jars are quick, healthy, versatile clean food on the go, and on the cheap.
What you do is half-fill an empty jam jar with uncooked porridge oats plus your choice of nuts, seeds, spices and a pinch of salt or sugar. Top it with non-dairy milk and pop in the fridge overnight. In the morning use it as a cold topping for fresh fruit or yogurt, heat it, or eat it straight out of the jar. Or toss it in your bag for elevenses, or a pre- or post-yoga snack.
It is great nutrition – you get complex carbohydrates and soluble fibre from the porridge oats; protein, minerals and healthy fat from the nuts; vitamins and fibre from the dried fruit; and protein and vitamins from the non-dairy milk. Adding a pinch of salt and/or sugar boosts the electrolytes. Made at home it costs a fraction of the price of an energy bar or drink. Plus it is vegetarian, vegan, and – if made with gluten free oats – gluten free.
This is one of my favourite flavour combinations:
Apple-cinnamon & peanut butter porridge jar
30g rolled porridge oats
small handful each pumpkin seeds and walnut pieces
1tbsp peanut butter
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch cloves or nutmeg (optional)
pinch sea salt
60ml unsweetened soya milk
Put all ingredients in a clean jam jar. Shake well. Refrigerate overnight. Enjoy
Share your flavour ideas in the comments!
Inversions are a key part of yoga practice. If you only do Bikram yoga you may not have inversions as a part of your practice yet — and they might seem intimidating. After all, what’s so great about being upside down?
However, there are a range of benefits to your physical body and your mind. Literally looking at the world from a different perspective opens your mind. It makes you more flexible mentally and emotionally, as well as physically. Also, there’s a reason kids love to do headstands and handstands — it’s fun!
Shoulderstand, or Sarvangasana (pronounced sar-vaan-GAH-sa-nuh) is a powerful posture. It nurtures our earth element, giving us the capacity to stop and get grounded and helps us be still and reflect (water element). The Yoga Journal has an excellent article that details how to practice Sarvangasana. For the full article click here.
1. Fold two or more firm blankets into rectangles measuring about 1 foot by 2 feet, and stack them one on top of the other. You can place a sticky mat over the blankets to help the upper arms stay in place while in the pose. Then lie on the blankets with your shoulders supported (and parallel to one of the longer edges) and your head on the floor. Lay your arms on the floor alongside your torso, then bend your knees and set your feet against the floor with the heels close to the sitting bones. Exhale, press your arms against the floor, and push your feet away from the floor, drawing your thighs into the front torso.
2. Continue to lift by curling the pelvis and then the back torso away from the floor, so that your knees come toward your face. Stretch your arms out parallel to the edge of the blanket and turn them outward so the fingers press against the floor (and the thumbs point behind you). Bend your elbows and draw them toward each other. Lay the backs of your upper arms on the blanket and spread your palms against the back of your torso. Raise your pelvis over the shoulders, so that the torso is relatively perpendicular to the floor. Walk your hands up your back (toward the floor) without letting the elbows slide too much wider than shoulder width.
3. Inhale and lift your bent knees toward the ceiling, bringing your thighs in line with your torso and hanging the heels down by your buttocks. Press your tailbone toward your pubis and turn the upper thighs inward slightly. Finally inhale and straighten the knees, pressing the heels up toward the ceiling. When the backs of the legs are fully lengthened, lift through the balls of the big toes so the inner legs are slightly longer than the outer.
4. Soften the throat and tongue. Firm the shoulder blades against the back, and move the sternum toward the chin. Your forehead should be relatively parallel to the floor, your chin perpendicular. Press the backs of your upper arms and the tops of your shoulders actively into the blanket support, and try to lift the upper spine away from the floor. Gaze softly at your chest.
Questions or thoughts? Share in the comments!
A friend of mine recently gave up coffee. Her morning ritual, for years, was to make a cafetiere of strong black coffee and sip it while she prepared for her day. “It’s not just the caffeine,” she told me. “It’s the ritual. It’s part of my life.”
She was unsure about giving it up, so she decided to do a three day habit challenge. Rather than say “I’m quitting forever,” she took the attitude that it was “just a break” until the next time she went grocery shopping. Instead, she bought chai tea and coconut-rice milk. When we caught up later I was as surprised as she was to hear her say: “I really don’t miss it.” She said the ritual of making and drinking chai was just as satisfying as the coffee it replaced.
Now she has the occasional decaf cappuccino when she fancies it, but the long-term habit is broken.
This is not to say you should give up coffee, or anything else. The point is, most of us have habits that feel “unbreakable”. These may be positive, negative, or neutral, but they are part of our lives and can determine our behaviour. Anything we can’t control by definition controls us — whether it’s anger, procrastination, or our morning latte.
Examining and challenging our habits is a healthy way of asserting self-control. It lets us focus on the important things and stops us getting bogged down. Habits are powerful, and can be a positive tool for managing our daily lives. However, it is worth questioning them to see whether, and to what extent, they truly serve us.
Here’s my challenge to you:
1) Think about the things you do every day.
2) Identify one habit you could live without.
3) For just three days, change your routine.
4) Ask yourself honestly what this habit holds for you, and what you might do instead.
You may not choose to change your ways, but the process of self-examination and self-discipline will bring you to greater mindfulness.
Share your 3-day habit challenge in the comments!
I’m a big believer in seasonal eating because where food comes from, and the environmental cost of producing and transporting it, is critical to the well-being of our planet and society.
Plus, seasonal eating means getting delicious foods like raspberries at their peak.
Raspberry season is relatively short, so you might want to stock up at your local shop or farmers market, wash then freeze some berries to use later in smoothies. Fresh or frozen, raspberries are rich in vitamin C, antioxidants, and fibre. Personally, I’m quite happy eating them fresh, or tossing them in fruit salads. If you want to get creative, Rate Your Burn has a post with 19 great healthy raspberry recipe ideas.
I particularly like the look of the raspberry, goats’ cheese, quinoa and basil salad; the carob raspberry vegan porridge; and the raspberry oatmeal protein pancakes.
Try ’em out and share your favourite recipe in the comments!
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“Don’t let anyone make you angry,” one Bikram teacher used to say. “Don’t let anyone piss you off. If they do, you lose.”
I remember thinking at the time, “But what if I CAN’T HELP getting angry? Then what?” Does getting angry make me a bad yogi? A bad yoga teacher? A bad person? I’ve thought about it a a lot and I don’t think that anger is a sign we’ve failed. What the teacher meant, I believe, is that we should not let anger control our behaviour.
Anger is an emotion, like elation, sadness, uncertainty or fear. We can’t control a fleeting emotion; what we can control is how we react. What yoga teaches us is that sensations are temporary. All sorts of emotions arise in the studio as struggle, breathe, pull, push, and stretch. We can feel impatient, annoyed, angry, tired, confused, hopeful, desperate, distracted, or ecstatic. Then we move to the next posture, the moment passes and we feel something else.
The beauty of yoga is that by training our body we can train our mind. So instead of reacting to the emotion of anger with angry words or angry actions, we can observe the emotion, breathe, and wait for the moment to pass.
It is unrealistic to expect to never be upset, aggravated or downright pissed off. But we can develop the wisdom to accept these feelings for what they are and choose to act in a kind, gracious manner.
How does yoga influence your emotions? Share in the comments.
We’re blazing through summer… Lots of you are going to be away on holiday. If you’re still in London, I’d love to know your top tips and plans for August.
Here are some ideas:
London Yogathon – Outdoor Yoga
Join your fellow yogis for an outdoor yoga event on 22 August in Victoria Park. #RiseForACause is part of a string of worldwide yogathons that raise money for Care for Children, a charity that provides education for children in India.
Visit to Yogathon.org to sign up
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the V&A whetted my appetite for fashion. And what better than an exhibition of another rebel icon designer – Vivienne Westwood? Cut from the Past brings together for the first time a number of her ground-breaking designs, and explores the collections that proved to be her turning point both critically and commercially.
Danson House, a restored Georgian villa, provides a tailor-made backdrop to the exhibition which highlights Westwood’s seminal work of the 1990s which was influenced by the 18th century. Her passion for 18th century design is also reflected in some earlier pieces from the ‘Cut, Slash and Pull’ and ‘Mini Crini’ collections, and the ‘Seditionaries’ Collection.
The Urban Beach at Royal Docks is a fun alternative to an actual beach holiday!
London Craft Beer Festival
Even the most dedicated yogi needs to unwind occasionally, and the London Craft Beer festival is a great place to have a few cool, creative beverages on a hot day. Check it out from 13-16 August.
What are your top tips for London in August? Please share in the comments or Tweet @yogawithpaul