Summertime! Dive in for seasonal recipes, yoga tips and inspiration in the
July Yoga With Paul newsletter
Dance is an incredibly important part of my life, as is yoga, so I always enjoy reading about other people who relate dance and yoga. The following excerpt is from a Dance Advantage by professional dancers and choreographers Erin Cella and Ashleigh Penrod, who are also yoga teachers. Dancer or not, yoga will take you deeper into the joy of movement.
Read the full article here
Yoga and the Dancer’s Body
Ashleigh suggests that yoga, as it has been integrated into Western culture, is a wonderful cross-training method for dancers because we often have imbalances in our bodies due to performance-specific training.
“People tend to fall somewhere between a spectrum of stability and mobility. The incredibly stable people tend to have strong, tight muscles, so while their joints may be protected from injury, they can experience quite a bit of pain – their tight muscles restrict range of motion and put pressure on the skeleton. On the other end of the spectrum are the “Gumby” people – they have the flexibility to bend, twist and contort their bodies, but they’re extra injury-prone, because they don’t have the muscle tone to support their motion. Yoga postures can bring everyone towards the center of this spectrum – encouraging the strong people to become more mobile and the flexible people to support themselves.”
Erin and Ashleigh have both found that yoga has helped them “untrain” some bad dance habits. Although not a substitute for regular dance classes to prepare for rehearsals and performance, having a regular yoga practice is a method dancers can use for cross-training.
“Yoga provides me with a movement practice without strings attached, which has proven to be essential as a professional performer,” says Erin. “I can practice movement linked with breath and presence, but without the added layer of a choreographer, peer, and/or audience watching.”
Training the body and the mind
Dance is a holistic experience – engaging the body, the mind, and the spirit. Erin observes that yoga is a complement to dance in this way as a cross-training method for not only the body, but for the dancer’s mental and emotional sides. “Because of yoga’s effect on my mind and overall feeling-state (it’s given me confidence and contentment with my dancing body), it’s transformed into a method of finding presence while moving, as opposed to just a training routine.”
Try one of my warm vinyasa flow classes for a combination of movement and music
We need to do less and be more.
Our daily lives are full of doing. We write “to do” lists. We dash between work, home, socialising and the yoga studio. Even in the studio we can get caught up in what we’re doing — thinking ahead to the next posture or comparing our efforts to those around us.
Our “doing” is rewarded by the satisfaction of crossing an item off the list, or going a little further than we did yesterday. It is easy to get addicted to this reward and to start doing things without thinking about why we do them. Worse, we ignore or forget other aspects of our lives and personal development.
Doing can only take you so far. Real peace and joy come from living in the present. And real growth happens when we take time to examine and reflect on our lives.
Learning to be is a skill. We are taught from childhood to do, but we have to teach ourselves how to be. These four tips from Yoga Abode will help you be more and do less.
Share your tips for Being in the comments
News is out: Andy Murray uses one of my favourite forms of supplementary training, Gyrotonic, to stay in top shape for tournaments.
“I used to train extremely hard. I don’t think I looked after my body as well as I should have done. Now that I have been looking after it, doing way more different types of stretching, sort of injury prevention work, my back is no issue whatsoever. Whereas for two years I was in a lot of pain because I was training hard but not doing the right stuff to get it better.”
This raises an important point about training and exercise generally. A lot of people have the “more is better” mindset, or “no pain no gain” but that can be very damaging. Our bodies are not machines. They are delicately balanced and every part is interconnected. Over-training or ignoring injuries doesn’t make them stronger, it breaks them down.
That’s why I’m a firm believer in yoga (of course) and supplementary exercises like Gyrotonic, which uses specially designed machines to work your muscles in a specific fashion. Like Pilates, it was created by a dancer and is designed to increase flexibility and range of motion, build core strength, ease joints and more.
Before Wimbledon Andy Murray told The Guardian Gyrotonic was, “something I started doing a lot more of when I had my back surgery. I can’t afford any more surgeries like this. I need to start looking after my body much better than what I was.”
Regardless of our age, health or fitness, we should all take the time to consider how our exercise and lifestyle affect our overall health, and make sure we are caring for our bodies. After all, we only get one!
Questions? Thoughts on supplementary training? Share in the comments!
More on Gyrotonic from Studio Seventy Four, Bermondsey.
Gyrotonic exercise, which involves exercising with pulleys, was invented by Juliu Horvath, a Romanian-born ethnic Hungarian gymnast and dancer, who defected to the US. The technique evolved from an earlier system called “yoga for dancers” that he came up with in a one-roomed mountain hut on St Thomas in the Virgin Islands in the 1970s to rehabilitate his own torn Achilles tendon and herniated vertebral disc.
It embraces the key principles in swimming, dance, yoga, tai chi and gymnastics, and emphasises continuous flowing movements synchronised with corresponding breath patterns. Horvath based his Gyrotonic expansion system on the octopus, monkey and cat “because they can move in any direction at any given time with strength and control”.
Seasonal eating means getting the most out of your food. When food is fresh it tastes better and, surprise surprise, is better for you. Not only that, it lets you benefit from the wisdom of nature which yields foods that are exactly what we need at the time. Right now loads of light, delicious, nutrient packed fruit and veg are in season. Combined with fresh herbs they provide exactly what your body needs.
Choose the herbs in this salad to taste. Dill and mint are lovely alone or together; coriander gives it a refreshing tang. Flat-leaf parsley can also be a nice addition. If you don’t do dairy, leave off the yogurt and use a simple dressing of good extra-virgin olive oil and white wine vinegar.
Share your favourite seasonal salad recipe or tip in the comments!
None of us can escape conflict. If we’re lucky enough to have peaceful personal lives we are still caught up in the social and political conflicts around us, willingly or not.
We can’t control governments or militants. We can’t control our friends, partners, parents, co-workers, or students (haha!) What does that leave us? Ourselves.
The one thing we can control is how we react to conflict. If someone is aggressive or thoughtless the one tool we have to shape the situation is our response.
Reacting with kindness and mindfulness can defuse conflict. It gives us an opportunity to engage with the person, not the problem.
However, this is easier said than done. When we’re tired, angry, impatient, frustrated, the last thing we want to do is breathe and listen.
How do we learn this skill? Yoga.
Yoga teaches us awareness, it teaches us to listen, to breathe, to relax when we feel stress, to push ourselves to do the right thing in the right way even if it is challenging.
These are the skills that help us in conflict. When we practice yoga we learn to detach from the immediate physical sensation and open ourselves to deeper meanings. We discover the strength to work though difficulties and cope with discomfort.
We can change the world by changing ourselves. Yoga gives us the tools and courage to transform conflict into greater harmony.
Share your views on how yoga can resolve conflict in the comments!
When you think about it, our bodies are literally built from the food we eat. During the summer it is a great idea to eat more foods that nourish and potentially protect our skin from sun damage. Of course, sun cream is still important, but humans were exposed to solar rays long before Superdrug. It makes sense that certain foods evolved with protective benefits. Here are four skin-protecting foods that are great to eat any time of the year.
Is there anything greens aren’t good for? Dark green lettuce, spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are sources of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which were show to stop UV-driven cell growth in animal studies.
The perfect refreshing summer fruit is also good for your skin. In addition to having lots of vitamins and being great for hydration they contain limonene, which was linked to a 34 percent lower risk of skin cancer in one university study.
Carrots help you see in the dark… and not glow in the dark. Like other red, yellow, and orange fruits and vegetables the humble carrot is a great source of carotenoids which are shown to reduce the intensity of sunburn.
The Spanish are on to something with gazpacho: tomatoes and tomato-based foods are packed with the antioxidant lycopene, which has been proven to offer long-term protection against UV-radiation-induced effects.
What are your top tips for skin-friendly foods?
It’s been a busy, busy few weeks leading up to the first Yoga Holiday With Paul retreat of 2016, I’ll have more to tell about our beautiful week in the Algarve soon. Meantime, feast your eyes on these inspiring photos.
Did you catch the Big Dance event in Trafalgar Square at the weekend? One thousand Londoners of all ages, races, shapes and sizes dancing together. Pretty amazing.
Dance is one of the most powerful ways we have to express unity and joy. Like yoga, it is one of the fundamental ways we connect with ourselves and each other.
There are still loads of Big Dance 2016 activities coming up in London, and across the UK, as it runs until 10 September. Events this week include The London Bridge City Summer Festival, Street Dance for Toddlers, and a dance-and-science evening exploring how scientists believe motor neurons work. For a full list of activities click here.
If you’re already a dancer, or involved in an organisation that does dance, you can get involved and organise an event that inspires people to get dancing. The Big Dance Hub has more information about how to be involved.
If you’re not a dancer, now is a great time to discover how amazing dance is. Like yoga, it is an integrated practice that will change your mind, body and point of view.
Yoga is a fantastic way get great abs. Regular practice will help tighten and tone your midsection and build the muscles that support your spine. These two simple yoga poses for abs via Yoga Basics are a great way to add targeted core work to your practice.
1. From a seated position bend the knees, bringing the feet flat to the floor with the legs together. Slide the hands behind your hips with the fingers pointed forward and elbows bent away from you.
2. Lean back to lift the heels an inch or two off the floor. Draw the shoulder blades together to lift and open the chest.
3. Slowly begin to straighten the legs, kicking out through the heels, lifting the legs up as high as comfortable. Release the arms forward, parallel to the floor with the palms facing down. Keep the chest open and the shoulders down and back.
4. Breathe and hold for 2-6 breaths. Put as much effort into lifting the chest as you are in lifting the legs.
5. To release: exhale and bend the knees, lowering the feet back to the floor.
Benefits: Boat pose tones and strengthens the abdominal muscles, improves balance and confidence, and stretches the backs of the legs.
1. From Standing Forward Fold, step or jump both feet back 4-5 feet into a push-up position.
2. Spread the fingers wide apart with the middle finger pointing forward, press into the palms with the arms are straight. Tuck the tailbone under so the legs, hips and torso are one straight line. Press the crown of the head forward and with the toes tucked, press the heels back.
3. Breathe and hold for 1-4 breaths.
4. To release: either bend the knees to the floor into Child pose, or bend the elbows and lower down into Kataranga.
Benefits: Plank pose builds upper and core body strength, lengthens the spine and strengthens the low back muscles.
Read more about core yoga poses at Yoga Basics.
Questions? Ask in the comments!