Join Hot Yoga South online!

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In the past weeks, we’ve gone from our familiar routines to a new ‘normal’ of uncertainty, (self-) isolation and social distancing.

So I am pleased and grateful to be teaching and sharing positive energy with my students via Hot Yoga South remote yoga classes. After a crash-course in lighting, camera positioning, uploading, linking and what have you I have embraced the adventure of connecting with you from my flat.

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YWP goes virtual

It is such a privilege to be able to still share the practice of yoga and to participate in something that is so valuable to maintaining our physical and mental health.

If you’re already part of our classes, then you know how much fun we’re having.

If you’re not then come on in!

You can sign up for classes on the HYSwebsite and we’ll connect from there. You’ll be glad you did!

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Working it out, online style

Now, more than ever, it is essential to come together as a community, as yogis, as friends, and to cherish our blessings as we confront this adversity. #YogaEveryDamnDay, friends!

5 Soup Recipes to Try Now

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Eating well is vital to energy and health. Right now, it’s also important to limit your grocery shopping to reduce the risk of contagion.

Soup is a great option because it uses simple ingredients, provides loads of nutrients, can supply lots of meals, and hydrates as it fills you up.

Here are five soup recipes to try now.

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Photo by Jade Aucamp on Unsplash

Vegan Thai one-step soup

Delicious, lightly spicy and super simple — this is perfect for cooler days.

Butternut squash and cashew soup

Very warming and surprisingly rich due to the cashews, a terrific energy booster that makes a satisfying main meal.

Pea & spinach soup

Packed with immune-supporting antioxidents and nutrients, this tasty green soup is a feel-good lunch or snack.

Red pepper gazpacho

This cold soup preserves the nutrients of the ingredients and is a fresh alternative for a cooling post-yoga snack or light meal.

Cajun-spiced potato soup

This offers a great balance of energy and clean nutrition. Serve it for dinner with a salad and sourdough or flat bread.

Share your favourite soup recipes in the comments!

Yoga Home Practice Guidelines

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These past days have been unlike anything I’ve experienced. Like all of you, I have been adjusting to a new reality.

Studios have been taking full precautions, doing extra cleaning, and keeping a safe distance between students. As a teacher, I’ve stopped giving adjustments and using props to reduce contact. Now, even this minimal interaction is going to stop.

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Keep moving, stay positive!

It is crucially important, though, that we don’t lose the benefits of yoga practice — nor the feeling of community it brings. During these difficult, uncertain times yoga reinforces our physical body, supporting immunity, strengthening our lungs and helping maintain good digestion, flexibility, etc.

Yoga also calms the mind and helps us keep a positive perspective. Here are some guidelines to make the most of your home practice.

Create a home yoga space

Setting aside a space for yoga helps create a sense of ritual and signals to yourself that you are prioritising this practice. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy, just a place where you can set your mat and move comfortably. Drape some coloured fabric, or hang photos or a favourite picture to make it more inviting. Light candles or incense, or use a home-made essential oil spray for a pleasant ambiance.

Breathe deep

Breath practice is vital — especially right now. If you do nothing else, at least do yoga breathing for a few minutes, a few times a day. Use the breathe to wake up and energise in the morning; reset during the day; and calm and refresh your body in the evening. Check out Healing with the breath for tips.

Sun salutations

Doing sun salutations daily is a wonderful routine that will keep you grounded, focused, and support positive energy. Simply follow the sequence in the photos!

Meditate

Yoga is a moving meditation. Expand your practice and go deeper by adding sitting meditation. It is essential that we keep a clear head and mindful attitude as we confront the coronavirus crisis so take the time to meditate and focus positive energy. Read these tips to get started.

Practice Karma Yoga

Karma yoga is the practice of transforming what you do into selfless service. Right now, our opportunities for physical interaction and support are limited, but we can still encourage and care for each other emotionally. Reach out — call if you can, instead of texting. It is important to listen to each other, to say ‘I love you’ and to remind your friends and loved ones how important they are to you.

Let’s stay connected and spread love! Tweet your home practice photos to @YogaWithPaul, share your story, or just say hi!

Healing with the Breath

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Breathing is one of the simplest things we do — as basic as a heartbeat. Yet it is one of the most important practices for health and well-being.

As current world events show, humans are vulnerable to a range of respiratory illnesses. We cannot prevent them all but we can improve our chances of resisting infection or, if infected, being able to fight off the disease.

We should be making time every single day for breathing exercises to increase the flexibility of our lungs, fortify and detoxify our bodies.

Kapalabhati (Shining skull breath)

This is one of the most powerful forms of breathing to heat, energise and detoxify so it is a great one to use daily. The Yoga Journal has a great step-by-step  guide to doing the breath, if you are not familiar. Basically, though, kapalabhati consists of short, explosive exhales alternating with longer, passive inhales.

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Take a deep breath…

Pranayama

Pranayama breathing isn’t just for the yoga studio. Any time you find yourself stressed or needing to rebalance, you can take a break and do yogic breathing to help strengthen your body back and increase your tranquility.

“The breath and mind go together,” says Swami Karunananda, a teacher at Yogaville in Buckingham, Virginia, who specializes in using pranayama to deal with fear, anger, and depression. “If the breath is calm, steady, and even, so are we. If the breath is shallow, agitated, and arrhythmic, the mind won’t be able to concentrate.”

Bitilasana & Marjyasana (Cat-Cow)

Cat and cow poses engage the full body in the inhale and exhale, as flex your spin moving through the breath cycle. This has the additional benefit of opening your spine and shoulders, invigorating the organs and stimulating the circulation.

If you need a refresher on cat-cow Yoga Digest has a great, detailed guide.

Breathe deep — take care of yourself — love each other. Namaste.

4 Self-Care Tips for Public Health

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Right now the world is reeling as coronavirus sweeps across countries. Though COVID-19 — to use its official name — appears to be an illness most healthy, younger people can overcome, it’s rapid spread across the UK has huge implications.

Those of us fortunate enough to be healthy and fit have an important role to play.

How? By maintaining our own health to avoid putting additional strain on the NHS, and by taking common-sense measure to avoid spreading the virus.

Here are four self-care steps we can take to enhance public health and help protect those in our community who are more vulnerable to infection.

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Keep up the yoga practice!

Mind your manners

The NHS says viruses like COVID-19 are spread in cough droplets. This means taking basic precautions like covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your arm if you cough or sneeze. We are on the cusp between flu season and allergy season causing lots of coughing and sneezing. So let’s be super-mindful of maintaining personal space and good hygiene to avoid risk.

Keep up your yoga practice

In times of stress and health concerns, maintaining immunity is critical. Daily yoga practice is one of the best ways to preserve and boost your body’s natural defences, and calm your mind. If you feel more comfortable practicing at home right now, load up a video or check out my posts on sun salutations and how to set up a home yoga space.

Eat well

This is absolutely vital. Though in times of stress it might be tempting to indulge in unhealthy foods, our dietary choices directly influence our health and well-being. We cannot afford to let our guard down right now, so focus on eating whole, nutritious foodsand staying well hydrated. Adding healing foods like honey to your routine is also a good way to boost your wellness.

Practice mindfulness

In times of uncertainty, it is important to stay grounded and not get swept up in anxiety. Mindfulness practice and meditation are ways of staying centred maintaining a clear head in the midst of difficulties. Not only that, mindfulness helps us be more compassionate and aware of others needs, which is critical in a time when we face a challenge as a community. Find out how to practice realistic positive thinking or take time to do some guided meditation.

We’re in this together!
Share your thoughts, concerns or health tips in the comments.

3 High-Energy Alternatives to Wheat

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Wheat is not necessarily unhealthy food, unless you have an intolerance or coeliac disease, but it often comes in highly processed forms such as bread, crackers, biscuits and cakes. Eating a lot of these foods adds sugar, salt, fat and fillers into your diet which you don’t really need.

But, reaching for a sandwich, bagel, or nutrition bar is a quick fix. What to do?

Here are three high-energy, healthful alternatives to wheat to keep your engine running.

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Photo by Juno Jo on Unsplash

Potatoes

This cupboard staple is available year-round and can be eaten in countless ways. Not only that, in addition to being carbohydrate-rich for energy, potatoes have a high water content ensuring you stay hydrated too. Boil, mash, roast or steam some spuds for an easy breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Sweet potatoes

Tasty, and packed with vitamins A and C, and potassium, sweet potatoes should be a regular in your veg basket. Try a warming sweet potato soup, add to stir-fries, roast, bake or steam and toss with herbs and olive oil. However you eat them, they are a great way to stay fuelled while increasing your nutrient intake.

Socca

If you need a bread fix, socca, aka chickpea flour flatbread, is easy to make, delicious, naturally gluten free and vegan. The flatbread is perfect for a quick lunch, snack, or to serve along with soup and salad as a light dinner.

What’s your favourite gluten-free carb? Share in the comments.

Natural Immune-Boosting Tips

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With coronavirus in the news a lot of people are wondering how to healthy.

Obviously, I am not a medical professional, and if you have health concerns you should see a doctor immediately.

However, there are things that all of us can do to keep our body’s immune systems strong and to help prevent seasonal infections.

Here are some every day actions you can take to stay well.

Practice immune-boosting yoga 

Pranayama: Our lungs are an important defence system so give them extra attention. In addition to breathing exercises in class take a short break two or three times a day and do some extra breathing. Pranayama is perfect for expelling stale air, while Kapalabhati detoxes and heats the body internally.

Focus on the core: The digestive system is crucial to immunity so take care to do plenty of asanas to strengthen and stimulate it. Try to do postures like Pavanamuktasana (wind-removing pose) and Adho Mukha Svanasa (downward-facing dog) for a few minutes each day.

Inversions: Inversions promote the circulation of lymph fluid. This lymphatic system transports immune cells through the body and works to detox the blood, so it is crucial for staying healthy. You can do shoulder-stands, headstands, or handstands. Or lie on your back with your bum next to the wall and your legs up for a gentle but effective inversion.

Get plenty of rest

Getting sick occasionally is normal. Being constantly unwell is a sign your immune system is run down. A meta study of research on the relationship between stress and immunity found that “for stress of any significant duration, from a few days to a few months or years, as happens in real life, all aspects of immunity went downhill.” So if you don’t feel well, don’t try to work through it. Make space in your schedule and give your body time to heal itself naturally.

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Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

Eat well

Focus on foods that support immunity.

Squash

Butternut, pumpkin, acorn… all kinds of squash are incredibly good for you. They’re packed with anti-oxidant vitamins like A ,C, and E. The high fibre and water levels in squash help maintain hydration and good digestive function to eliminate toxins.

Cabbage

It’s not a very sexy vegetable, but cabbage is incredibly good for you. Along with vitamins K, C , B6, thiamine and folate it is rich in minerals and fibre. Sauerkraut and kimchee are two of the most delicious ways to prepare cabbage, and have even more health benefits since they are fermented and supply disease-fighting probiotics.

Herbs

Fresh or dried, herbs like rosemary, thyme and coriander have potent anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant properties. They are great in winter dishes like soups, stews and casseroles.

Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water and infusions helps cleanse your body and support its natural defences. Check out my posts on warming autumn infusions and herbal smoothies.

Most importantly, listen to your body. If you don’t feel well, seek medical attention,
rest and take care of yourself. 

4 Fascinating Food Documentaries

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What You Eat Matters (2018)

This documentary focuses on the link between health and the consumption of meat and animal products. Not surprisingly, the experts and interviewees — including renowned scientists and physicians T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell B. Esselstyn — agree that a high-meat diet is a recipe for illness.

Fed Up (2014) directed by Stephanie Soechtig

This documentary focused on the myth of “calorie in/calorie out” weight-loss. It highlighted the fact that what we eat is a crucial factor in maintaining health.

As the film website puts it:

Everything we’ve been told about food and exercise for the past 30 years is dead wrong. FED UP is the film the food industry doesn’t want you to see.

 

Food Choices (2018) directed by Michal Siewierski

This is documentary follows the director’s attempt to understand the implications of our food choices — not only for health, but also for animals, the environment and our society.

 

Sugar: The Bitter Truth (2017) with Dr. Robert Lustig

This is a university lecture, so not as eye-catching as some of the commercial documentaries above, but it is a fascinating, scientifically supported look at the dangers of having a high-sugar diet.

Seen a fascinating food documentary? Please share in the comments!

Thank You Phuket!

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In May of last year, I had the incredible experience of going to Thailand and spending time with the wonderful kids (and adults) of Phuket Has Been Good To Us. This organisation works to improve the opportunities and life chances of underprivileged Thai youth through high quality English language education.

We came back to visit Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation in February, with some additional donations from Hot Yoga South, and to have some fun at Coconut Club!

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In addition to sharing the donations, I had the chance to help the students learn a thing or two about balance 🙂

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Thank you everyone! It has been magic!

I look forward to sharing more about this great experience once things have settled down after the journey.

5 Yoga Poses for Strong Legs

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Our legs carry us everywhere. The stronger they are, the more easily and comfortably we can carry out routine activities. These 5 yoga poses for strong legs will ensure you have the power and flexibility to move smoothly through your day.

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Awkward pose (Utkatasana)

This is a great pose to strengthen the knees, and a wake-up call to major muscle groups including quadriceps, abs and calves. Building these large muscle groups increases your overall strength and stability. Key posture points are to keep your feet parallel in the shape of an 11 (don’t let your feet turn in or out), and to keep your abs tight.

Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyssana)

To super-charge your legs, try Anjaneyssana. This energising pose activates all the large muscles of your lower body, with an emphasis on the quads and glutes. To protect your knee, make sure it stays above the ankle on the front leg; straighten your back leg, tuck the pelvis, tighten the abs, and reach for the sky.

Standing bow pulling pose (Dandayamana Dhanurasana)

This pose builds balance, strength and flexibility. Begin square, with your right hand holding your right ankle from the inside and left arm up, palm forward. As you kick your body tilts forward, activating the muscles in both legs. Kick into the hand until you can see your foot in the mirror at the centre of your head. Keep the hips level to the ground.

Tree Pose (Vrikshasana)

In this pose you challenge your legs by balancing while holding a tall, straight posture like a tree. Create a firm base by locking the knee of your standing leg, which activates your muscles. Find your balance as you bring your other leg up. Once in the posture breathe deeply, extending your spine and growing upward with each breath.

Eagle pose (Garudasana)

Eagle pose builds lower body power while increasing overall flexibility. Your standing leg is working hard to keep your body level, which rapidly strengthens your msucles. This is a challenging pose so start with a few seconds and gradually increase your time. Keep the weight evenly distributed on the foot and hips straight. Wrapping the second leg creates a deep stretch in the muscles and connective tissue.

Read more: Three single-leg balancing poses, Three yoga poses for toes