Change It Up

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Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

A friend of mine recently got on the wrong end of  credit card fraud on the internet. Fortunately, she spotted the transaction and froze the card, but she still had to go through  a dozen websites changing passwords, updating security details and so forth.

Like so many of us, she’d gotten in the habit of using similar passwords and turning off two-step verification because, well, it just seemed like a hassle.

Which got me thinking about all the ways we “turn off” in daily life, or repeat ourselves because it is easy and familiar.

  • We do it in the yoga studio when we slack off in a posture, or don’t push ourselves.
  • We do it at the grocery store when we habitually by the same not-so-good foods.
  • We do it in our relationships when we have the same petty arguments.
  • We do it at work when we complain instead of addressing a problem.
  • We do it in our spiritual lives when don’t attend to our deeper needs.
  • We do it intellectually when we say things without thinking.

We are all creatures of habit. This can be positive, when it is a good habit, but we can also easily slid into carelessness.

Sometimes the consequence is as direct as  a hacked credit card, most of the time it is more subtle: dissatisfaction, boredom, frustration, lack of communication.

The good news is, we can always get out of a rut, if we try.

Mindfulness helps us identify negative patterns; practice helps us change them up.

What would you like to change? Share in the comments!

Make This Your Lucky Day

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Friday the 13th is traditionally bad luck, which makes today the perfect time to reflect on what “luck” means — and how we can make today (and every day) our “lucky day”.

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Be lucky

Luck implies that life is something that happens to us. Depending on the era and culture, people have believed that God, the Gods, fate, or some other force is responsible for handing out good and bad events.

Yoga teaches us about karma — that what we experience is a response to what do. Our actions are the root from which karma grows. They determine our “luck”.

Here are five ways to make today your lucky day.

Express love

Take the time today to tell your loved ones that you love them. Sure, they know you love them, but actually saying the words, expressing them out loud, will is an affirmation that will lift them up — and you.

Let one thing go

We all have little things that drive us crazy — the weather, a co-worker, our commute. Today, think of one of these things and make a conscious decision to let it go. Just brush it off, ignore it, don’t give it your mental energy. You’ll be surprised how free you feel.

Do a headstand

Inversions literally let us look at the world from a new angle. Headstands refresh and revitalise our mind and body and they’re just plain fun.

Give

We are exceptionally blessed in our material circumstances, which makes us an exception in the world. Take an opportunity today to share your abundance. This might mean a financial donation, but it could equally be a gift of time, attention, or expertise.

Set your intention

Our attitudes and actions are guided by our intentions. If we want to move through life in health, peace, and happiness, we need to make a conscious decision to value those things (and the actions that bring us closer to them). Today, take some time to think about what matters to you — then set your intention to guide you.

How do you bring luck into your life? Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

Yoga for Barefoot Running

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Yoga can benefit anyone, but it is especially valuable to runners. It works the whole body, increases flexibility, rejuvenates connective tissue, and improves the cardiovascular system through regular practice of Pranayama.

It is also a great tool for the growing community of barefoot runners. Why? Because barefoot running is actually quite a different practice from running in standard trainers, and it demands a level of fine-muscle strength and mobility that yoga delivers.

Here are three expert barefoot runners/yogis on their go-to yoga poses.

Emma Spencer-Goodier

“Downward facing dog is a fantastic yoga posture for runners, especially those in the throws of Barefoot Exuberance Syndrome with tight calves and tender achilles. The inverted ‘v’ shape, lengthens through the calves and hamstrings, decompresses the spine and lower back and opens shoulders that can become tight and uncomfortable.

Vincent Gerbino

“The downward dog and triangle stance are two typical postures I had done for years which helped me build strength in my ankles. Classic, one-legged balancing poses like the Tree and the Eagle both can help build ankle stability and shear leg strength.”

Charlotte Clews

Toe-breaker pose [toe squat]

Why: Tight, weak foot muscles are the main cause of plantar fasciitis. Keeping your toes strong and flexible is a key part of keeping your feet healthy.

How: Sit down with your feet tucked underneath you and your toes flexed. This can be pretty excruciatingly painful at first. You can lift your butt up off your heels for less intensity, or even lean forward and put some weight on your hands.”

Questions about running and yoga? Ask in the comments!

 

Allergy & Free-From Show

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In my last post I talked about how changing eating habits can have a big, positive impact on our well-being. This weekend is the Allergy & Free-From Show at London Olympia, which is a great opportunity to check out alternative food options and eating styles — especially if you have food allergies or intolerances.

The Allergy & Free From Show

The Allergy & Free-From Show has a huge range of products, as you can imagine, but also offers lots of practical ideas for clean eating and more.

According to its About page:

These are family-friend weekend events full of products (food, drink, skin / hair care, household items and more), cooking classes, talks, expert advice and more – all ‘free from’ and all dedicated to helping you to improve your life.

Never been to an event like this before?

Well, you are in for a treat. When you arrive at the venue, you will be directed into a huge hall where you can:

Taste incredible food and drink
Try gorgeous skin and hair care
Enjoy inspirational cooking classes
Talk to Consultant experts
Family friendly, with kids’ activities

What’s great about the show is that there are a lot of hands-on demonstrations. For example, Doves Farms is hosting demonstrations on gluten free cooking, including how to make pasta, pizza, chocolate cake and other favourites.

 

There is also a bunch of free educational seminars on topics like coeliac disease, eczema, travelling with allergies, managing IBS and more.

The show is a great chance to explore what’s out there, whether you have a specific allergy, or are looking to reduce common aggravations like gluten or conventional cleaning products.

It starts today and runs through the weekend — 6-8 July — from 10AM to 5PM at
London Olympia. You can book tickets here.

3 Life-Changing Food Ideas

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One of the best things about Yoga Holiday With Paul — this year and every year — is the food. It is amazing how alive and energised you feel after eating fresh, simple, veggie food. Even though my daily diet is pretty sound, the difference a week of really clean eating makes is notable.

The trouble of course is that I don’t have fantastic caterers to follow me around London and serve me amazing meals (though if anyone is interested… get in touch!)

The contrast between the luxurious simplicity of having great, fresh food provided for every meal and the ordinary juggle of trying to eat well while rushing between studios, classes, and other commitments got me thinking.

Is there a way to recreate some of that culinary magic without A) breaking the bank or
B) giving up work and spending all day at the farmers’ market?

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Mealtime, Yoga Holiday With Paul style

Here are three ideas, ranging from budget to investment… I’d love to hear yours!

  1. Simplify:

    Eating well doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, focusing on simplicity can help bring us back to eating whole foods in their natural state. A lot of the delicious dishes we enjoyed on the Yoga Holiday were fresh salads. What could be easier than filling a bowl with greens and adding tomatoes, cucumber, shredded carrot and beetroot, sliced radishes, etc? A splash of lemon juice and drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil is as clean and easy a dressing as you could wish for.
    Chopped fruit, or even just a bowl of berries or figs, is a perfect sweet or snack.

  2. Break one bad habit:

    We all have food weaknesses: crisps, chocolates, second helpings, extra cream in our coffee. When we’re fired up about eating better we often decide to renounce them all at once. The result? We feel deprived, get frustrated, give up. Instead of trying to have a “perfect” diet, why not give up just one thing? Maybe you don’t really like those afternoon biscuits, but they’re a habit; or maybe you pour a glass of wine when you get home without even thinking about it. Find one little habit like that, and break it. Replace the biscuits with fruit, have a glass of iced cloudy lemonade instead of wine… whatever you choose, focus on swapping the less-healthful habit for something that is going to actively make you feel better.

  3. Invest in food:

    You invest in yoga classes and equipment to keep your body healthy; you invest in grooming treatments and products to keep it looking its best; you invest in hobbies and holidays to stay happy and balanced. You should also invest in food. If you think about it, the money you spend on fruit, vegetables, and whole or near-whole foods is probably a lot less than you spend on processed products. Make a decision to invest more of your food money in products that are going to actively promote wellness. This might mean setting aside time and money for a weekly outing to the farmers’ market, it might mean upping the fruits and vegetables in your Ocado order, it might even mean trying meal delivery services like It’s Thyme that offer prepped vegan and vegetarian food for home cooking,

What’s your best tip for better eating? Share in the comments!

Yoga Holiday by Numbers

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The week has gone much, much too fast but here we are… the last day of our yoga retreat. It has been a delight, as always. Dedicating this time to practice, mindfulness, nourishing our bodies, and enjoying old friends and new.

Just for fun, here’s a little breakdown of our Yoga Holiday by numbers!

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We took full advantage of our time here to practice, rest, replenish and, of course, have some fun and absorb the glorious sunshine and local atmosphere.

Thanking all of my amazing friends & students for this experience. Have safe journeys home and may this week continue to refresh and renew you in your daily life.

Namaste.

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4 Yoga Poses for the Sacrum

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The sacrum is the large bone at the base of your spine, between your pelvic bones, that connects your spine with your hips, pelvis and coccyx. It is connected to the pelvis by the sacroiliac (SI) joints, whose ligaments act as stabilizers and shock absorbers.

Basically every movement you make involves the sacrum, though the sacrum itself is not very mobile. It’s like the chassis of a car — if you want things to run smoothly, it has to be solid. This is why I often draw attention to it in class, reminding students to be aware of this essential junction in the body.

The following four poses help align and stabilise the sacrum, increase flexibility of the SI joint, and help promote strong, pain-and-injury free skeletal system.

Locust pose (Salabhasana)

This pose strengthens your muscles and improves balance and alignment. Keep your limbs strong and straight, as you would in a standing posture. Keep your thighs tight, heels together, triceps contracted, with every muscle working in harmony.

When you go up it is critical to look up in this pose. This keeps you in correct alignment and will help you gradually build the posture.

Bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

This asana builds the large lower body muscles and helps improve the alignment of the sacrum. Lie on your back to begin and draw your knees up with your feet flat on the floor, about hip width apart. Press up from the four corners of your feet, engaging the legs and buttocks to lift the hips higher.

Wheel pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana

Wheel pose is a fantastic, challenging way to open up your SI joints, balance your sacrum, and work all the major muscle groups in your body. Done correctly, as in the photo, your sacrum is a “hinge” that the rest of your body revolves around. This is a very releasing, empowering pose.

To ensure you receive maximum benefits, be sure your body is correctly aligned. You need to distribute your weight evenly and move slowly in and out of the posture, always checking that you are keeping your body even. If you do this too fast and twist, you can stress the SI joints.

 

Root lock (Mula Bandha)

Mula Bandha is done by tightening the muscles of the perineum. This is a powerful tool to stabilise the sacrum and revitalise the SI joints. Mula bandha channels the flow of energy within the postures and benefits the pelvic nerves, reproductive and endocrine system, and excretory system.

Questions about sacrum health? Ask in the comments!

It’s Your Yoga Holiday Time!

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Our merry band of yogis is gathering in the Algarve to begin a week of yoga, meditation, music, laughter, food, sunshine, socialising and relaxation.

Even if you weren’t able to join us this time, you can still enjoy the benefits of a break in the midst of your daily routine. Here are three ways to turn any week into an at-home yoga holiday.

Sun salutations (also available on cloudy days)

Holiday Sun Salutations

My recommendation for keeping yourself grounded, healthy and calm during the season is to do home practice. If you don’t have the benefit of the yoga studio warm up with a few sets of Surya Namaskara (sun salutations). Do five to ten rounds of sun salutations followed by other yoga poses and then rest deeply.   This is perfect!

Home Yoga Space

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.

#YogaGoals

Summer is a time to chill, be with friends, enjoy holidays… but it can also be a time to revitalise our yoga practice. In fact, it’s the perfect time to set some #yogagoals.

When your class schedule or home practice get routine and comfortable, it is time to challenge yourself. Here are three #yogagoals to bring new vitality to your yoga.

  1. Add a class, or try a new style: Swap Bikram for Vinyasa for example, or experiment with Ashtanga, Jivamukti or Iyengar
  2. Master a new pose: Maybe you’ve always wanted to do a handstand; or learn crane pose. Or take the time to get really good at standing bow, or savasana, or camel
  3. Yogify your mind: Focus on your spiritual and mental development by meditating, practicing mindfulness, volunteering, or simply making a conscious effort to take the calm of the studio out into your daily life.

Share your yoga holiday thoughts and experiences in the comments!

 

How to Help When Life Hurts

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Yoga is a wonderful way to cultivate self-compassion, which enables us to show genuine compassion for others. But no matter how advanced our practice, or keen our empathy, we all still struggle to find the right words to say to someone who is hurting.

This inability to communicate our compassion and caring can cause us to unwittingly retreat from pain, and even strain our relationships with loved ones who are having a tough time. How can we best show our concern?

According to a great article on Thrive Global, the best thing to say to someone who is hurting is: “How can I love you best right now?”

The author, Rhiannon Webb, explains that this is a way to avoid projecting your own ideas, advice or anxieties onto the situation; it gives your friend a sense of agency; and it affirms your love and support.

Isn’t that great: How can I love you best right now?

It is a question that opens things up, that invites real communication, not just platitudes. Personally, I don’t see any reason to save it for life crisis. Asking our loved ones on a regular basis, “how can I love you best right now?” is a great way to enhance intimacy and connection in every day life.

Who are you going to ask first…?

 

Grilled Veg Pitta Pocket

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Spring and summer are the perfect time for fast, simple, seasonal food. This BBC Food recipe for grilled vegetable pitta pockets ticks all the boxes: fresh, nutritious, quick to prepare and perfect for eating on the go. Check out the original recipe at BBC Food.

Spicy courgette pitta pockets

Ingredients

  • 1 courgette, trimmed and thinly sliced lengthways
  • 2 tsp harissa paste
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • small handful broad beans (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 tbsp hummus
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp tahini paste
  • small garlic clove, crushed
  • squeeze lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 large wholemeal pitta bread

Method

  1. Toss the courgette slices in the harissa and olive oil, and season. Cook on a hot griddle pan for 2 mins each side or until tender. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  2. Cook the broad beans in boiling water for 2 mins, drain under cold running water, then slip them out of their outer skins. Discard the skins. Put the broad beans, hummus and spring onion in a small bowl and mix to combine.
  3. In another bowl, mix the tahini, garlic, lemon juice and yogurt. Toast the pitta and split it to create 2 pockets. Spoon the hummus mix inside each pocket, followed by the spicy courgette slices and a drizzle of the yogurt mixture.