Your monthly round-up of yoga, nutrition, meditation and London life!
Hot yoga is a high-intensity, high-energy activity, which is great, unless you are too busy or exhausted to make it to the studio. You don’t have to take a full class to get the energising benefits of yoga, or even leave your house. I found a great post on Yoga for when you’re really tired on Yoga With Chris, which has some good ideas, and postures, for restorative yoga.
Here are two of the poses Chris suggests. For more poses read the whole post here.
- Lie down and rest your calves on a chair or sofa.
- Lift your hips off the floor and place a firm folded blanket, yoga block or thick book under your back. Position it so that it is supporting both your sacrum (middle of the back of the pelvis) and your lower ribs. Your tailbone and pubic bone should be sinking down towards the floor, not lifting up. Adjust until comfotable.
- Tuck chin slightly so it’s not sticking up in the air.
- Cover yourself to keep warm and dark
- Stay here for as long as you’re comfortable – up to 30 minutes
2. Savasana – with legs raised: Who doesn’t love savasana (corpse pose)? But raise the legs and it’s even lovelier. Your body doesn’t have to work so hard pumping fluids from your legs back to your vital organs, so your whole system slows down, which in turn tells the mind that you’re safe, causing it too to quieten.
Lie down and rest your calves on a sofa or chair.
Rest your head back onto a folded blanket and tuck the edges under to really support your neck. It’s worth experimenting with this until it’s just right
Rest arms out to the side or on belly.
Cover body and eyes and just be for as long as you’ve got!
Questions or thoughts about restorative yoga? Ask in the comments!
This year I’m running two Yoga Holiday with Paul retreats, from 24 June – 1 July in the Algarve and in Turkey from 5-12 September.
About half the students on last year’s retreat were returning students so it made sense to open up another week and another opportunity for yogis to share the Yoga Holiday with Paul experience.
To reserve your place or for more information email: YogaHolidayWithPaul@gmail.com
Returning students know and love the mix of activities and yoga styles on the retreat. If you are thinking about joining one of our holidays for the first time, though, here are four tips to help you make the most of it.
To reserve your place or for more information email: YogaHolidayWithPaul@gmail.com
Next time you practice yoga stop and ask yourself: What’s your best yoga pose?
Not best in a competitive sense but best for how you feel in the pose, or the sensation it gives you afterwards. Then ask yourself why you think it’s your best pose.
The answer will reveal something about where you are in your practice.
Is your best pose is one that comes easily? This is normal — we all like to feel a sense of achievement — however, beware of competitiveness. If our “best” poses are only best because they are better than someone else’s we are still comparing ourselves to others, which is not the goal of yoga.
Is your best pose one that you recently learned or improved upon? This indicates you are committed and eager to learn, which is a wonderful trait. Practicing a new posture can give great confidence and satisfaction, especially if it opens a new dimension of physical experience, such as inversions, or balancing poses.
Is your best pose one you find difficult? This is the sign of dedication and determination. Often the poses we find hard are exactly the ones our body and mind need the most, so if you are able to find joy in these challenging poses you are on your way to deepening your experience of yoga.
Is your best pose different every day? This means you love to explore and are attuned to different needs of your physical and mental being in each class. Be open to these experiences and enjoy the freshness of each new favourite.
Tell us about your best yoga pose – and why you like it – in the comments!
Rejoice, cake can be good for you! This banana bread recipe from the Minimalist Baker is simple, packed with nutritious ingredients, gluten free and can be made vegan.
Unlike store-bought treats, it has no artificial ingredients or refined sugar, and has plenty of fibre, protein and healthy fats, as well as vitamins and minerals. The sea salt and cane sugar also help balance electrolytes after a sweaty hot yoga session. Have a slice with almond or peanut butter for breakfast, or crumble it over a fruit bowl.
Click here for the full recipe via the Minimalist Baker.
The only gluten free banana bread recipe you’ll ever need. One bowl, simple ingredients, so moist, hearty and delicious.Author: Minimalist BakerRecipe type: BreakfastCuisine: Vegan, Gluten Free OptionalServes: 10Ingredients
- 3 medium ripe bananas (~1.5 cups or 337 g)
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 egg (or sub 1 chia or flax egg – see notes)
- 3 Tbsp (45 ml) grape seed or coconut oil, melted
- 1/4 cup (50 g) organic cane sugar
- 1/4 cup packed (55 g) organic brown sugar
- 2-3 Tbsp (63-84 g) honey, depending on ripeness of bananas (or sub maple syrup)
- 3.5 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) unsweetened almond or dairy milk
- 1 1/4 cup (137 g) almond meal
- 1 1/4 cup (200 g) gluten free flour blend
- 1 1/4 cup (112 g) gluten free oats
Preparing for yoga is an on-going part of practice, whether you have been doing yoga for 10 days or 10 years. Yoga teaches us we need to renew our minds and bodies daily. Yoga isn’t something you do and then stop when you’re “done” — it is a process of growth, learning, and expanding your being. The following beautiful thoughts from Swami Krishnananda, show us how we can continuously integrate yoga into our lives.
Before we start seriously any kind of practice in the direction of yoga, we must be well up with the requisite preparations. The achievements in yoga are a gradual evolution, a systematic advance and not a sudden jump. It is not a revolution that we are setting up. There is no revolutionary process in Nature. Everything grows slowly, stage by stage, without missing even one link in the process of development, as we have grown from babyhood to the adult stage. How beautifully does a tree grow from the seed! How many years does it take? There is no abrupt skipping from the seed to the fruit.
So is yoga a gradual developmental process of the ‘wholeness’ of our personality towards an achievement of All-Being. We have, therefore, to be cautious that the necessary preparations are made. We cannot suddenly conceive of the goal without being aware of the preparatory stages. Apart from the techniques to which we shall refer a little later, five of the requisites may be noted with advantage among many others: 1. Place, 2. Time, 3. Method, 4. Regularity, and 5. Whole-souled devotion to the Ideal.
You must have a place which is suited to the practice. You must also have a time chosen for the practice. You should have a method which has to be adopted continuously, without changing it every now and then. Then the practice must be regular and there should be no break in it. And, lastly which is perhaps the most important aspect of it, you must have a whole-souled love for the practice. It is said in the yoga scriptures that one loves yoga as the mother loves the child and thinks of it the whole day and night, and there is no other thought in the mind except that. “How shall I get it?” This ardent longing from the heart is itself half of the success in the practice, and everything else comes afterwards.
How do you prepare for yoga? Is one of the five steps a special joy or challenge to you?
Share in the comments or Tweet @YogaWithPaul
If you’re looking for a visually stunning afternoon out you should check out Vogue 100: A Century of Style at the National Portrait Gallery.
It is a can’t-miss exhibit for fashion fans, and even if you’re not a fashionista it is a fascinating look at 100 years of lifestyle, celebrity and history. The show features almost 300 prints from the British Vogue collection with images from some of the world’s most famous photographers including Lee Miller, Cecil Beaton, Snowdon, Irving Penn, David Bailey, Mario Testino and Herb Ritts.
Among the shots are portraits of Henri Matisse, Lucian Freud, Damien Hirst, Gwyneth Paltrow and Lady Diana Spencer; and designs from the likes of Dior, Alexander McQueen and Saint Laurent immortalised in photography.
Yoga is a process of continuous practice and evolution, and mindfully incorporating new elements into your practice – whether at home or in the studio – is how you progress.
We are all familiar with asanas, the physical postures, and pranayama, the breath. There is another element I’d like to introduce: bandhas.
Bandha is a Sanskrit word that means “bond” or “lock”. In Hatha yoga it refers to focusing on and locking specific regions of the body to strengthen, stimulate and elevate the practice. There are three bandhas: Mula Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha and Jalandhara Bandha. The fourth, Maha Bandha, is done by performing all three together.
Here is a brief explanation of each:
Mula Bandha means “root lock” and it is done by tightening the muscles of the perineum. This channels the flow of energy within the postures (asanas) and specifically benefits the pelvic nerves, the reproductive and endocrine system, and the excretory system.
Uddiyana Bandha means “flying up lock” and refers to the lifting and compression of your internal organs. In class I regularly remind students to tighten their abdominals — performing uddiyana bandha is a deeper, more intense version. You tighten and compress your muscles, drawing your abdomen towards your spine thus compressing your organs. This lifts your energy in postures and is excellent for digestion, metabolism, balancing the adrenal system and relieving stress.
Jalandhara Bandha is the “throat lock” and is performed in conjunction with specific breathing exercises (pranayama). You can do it by sitting comfortably cross-legged, or Japanese style, with your hands on your knees like in kapalbhatti. Inhale deeply through your nose then draw your chin back and up into your throat to create a double chin. Hold the posture while you can then lift the chin and exhale to finish. Jalandhara helps regulate the circulatory and respiratory systems, and balances your thyroid and metabolism.
You should practice these three bandhas separately to begin with. Later, when you are able are confident in your “locks” you can perform all three together to do Maha Bandha.
Questions about bandhas? Ask in the comments or Tweet @YogaWithPaul
Whether you occasionally do yoga at home or would like to start, a home yoga space is an inspiring way to expand your practice. It is a contrast to the energy of a studio class and helps to make the calming mind-body benefits of yoga part of your every day life.
Here are 4 essentials to create a space that will enhance both your practice and your home.
Clear Out: You don’t need a lot of space, but you do need an uncluttered area where you can do postures comfortably and safely. Move breakable objects and give yourself enough space that if you tumble out of a posture you don’t bash against the furniture.
Brighten Up: Increasing the light in the room can lift your mood and makes the space feel more special. A simple standing lamp with a coloured shade will separate and define your yoga corner.
Get Equipped: A yoga mat and towel are essential. Depending on your practice you might also want to add stretching straps, blocks, or a blanket.
Set Boundaries: Yoga space is about more than a physical boundaries: it is about making mental and emotional space for your practice in your busy life. Once you’ve set up your home yoga area try to preserve it as a special place in your home. Practice there at least once or twice a week to reinforce its importance in your life.
Share your home practice tips in the comments!
Early spring is peak season for purple sprouting broccoli. Fresh, tender and packed with vitamins, it is a beautiful addition to stir-fries or soups. I like this simple warm salad recipe from BBC Food as it is quick, healthy and works great as a snack or side dish. Try drizzling some tahini over it and adding a dash of ground cumin for a Middle Eastern twist.
- dash olive oil
- small handful purple sprouting broccoli, cut into florets
- ½ Romero pepper, sliced
- ½ onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 lime, halved
- 1 lemon, halved
- salt and freshly ground black pepper