Share Your Dreams for 2020

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Over the last few weeks I’ve written a lot about my thoughts, ideas and plans for the new year so now, I’d like to ask you: what’s on YOUR mind for 2020?

paul

What goals, ideas, plans and dreams are fuelling you as you begin the new year?

What changes are happening in your life?

What will you leave behind this year, and what would you like to encounter? 

As a yoga teacher I have the immense privilege of being part of an ongoing constructive process. Every class is an opportunity to lead, instruct and to share in the energy and collective strength of the yogi community.

Understanding your dreams, ambitions and aims helps me be a better teacher, because it allows me to understand the specific intersection of yoga with your life.

If you can speak to me before or after class — please do!

If you’re in another city, or country, and would like to share your thoughts and ideas here with the community, please do!

Post in the comments, or connect on Instagram or Twitter @YogaWithPaul 

I can’t wait to hear what you have planned for 2020.

Warm Up with Hot Yoga

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Mid-January is in the running for the dullest part of the year. The holidays are truly over (except for the credit card bills and the not-quite-sure-what-to-do-with gifts), the days are short — and short on sunshine — and all we have to look forward to is February.

With that in mind, why not take yourself out of the chill and gloom and into the warm, toasty, inviting environment of a hot yoga studio?

img_6580_1

While home practice is great there are times when the literal and metaphorical warmth of hot yoga is invaluable. The energy and inspiration of being with fellow practitioners while actually being hot will radically energise and rejuvenate you.

Warm up!

To get the most out of your hot yoga practice arrive early and spend a few extra minutes getting warmed up before the class starts. Remember to dress warmly on the way to the studio to avoid shocking your body with the temperature contrast.

During class be aware that your back and hamstrings might be particularly tight. Take your time getting into postures, focus on maintaining calm even breathing, and make smooth transitions — moving out of the posture the same way you went in.

Open up!

After the social whirl of the holidays lots of people retreat and take a break from going out in January. While there is nothing wrong with having some chill time at home, it is important to not allow yourself to feel isolated. Hot yoga is the perfect balance of being around people without too much social pressure (not to mention, it’s inexpensive!)

Loosen up!

Our bodies tend to freeze up in cold weather. Our muscles get tight and this affects our mind as well as our physical body. It can make us more rigid, less creative and less mobile, inside and out.

One of the  best ways to stay relaxed and flexible during winter is to maintain a regular yoga practice. Hot yoga or warm vinyasa flow are good options to keep your whole body moving comfortably.

Read more: Yoga inspiration – Hana, Seasonal yoga adaptations

Seasonal Food: Brussels Sprouts

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Brussels sprouts are a traditional holiday veg, but their health benefits and versatility make them a perfect seasonal food for the whole of winter.

Loaded with fibre, protein and vitamins including C, K, A and B-6, they are an incredibly nutritious addition to hot or cold dishes. Plus, the crunchy texture and nutty flavour adds wonderful character to any meal.

The traditional way to eat Brussels Sprouts is simply roasted with a bit of oil, salt and lemon juice. But your imagination is the only limit to how you use them.

 

They can easily be pureed into soup or chopped into a warm salad. If you want sprouts to be the star of the dish there are loads of great recipes available.

Try BBC Good Food’s sweet potato and sprout hash (with or without poached eggs) or the Middle Eastern-inspired cranberry, sprout and pecan pilaf.

Sprout stir-fry with green beans, pine nuts and lemon juice makes a great lunch and chilli-charred sprouts a zesty side.

For the truly adventurous, there is even a Brussels sprout cake recipe. Do let me know if you try it!

Do you have a favourite Brussels sprout dish? Share in the comments!

5 Easy Health Hacks

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

The new year comes with high hopes and expectations — and pressure. No wonder we often fall short of our ambitious plans and find ourselves repeating familiar routines.

The key to making changes that stick is to take small steps and focus on achievable goals, rather than trying to adopt sweeping transformations.

Whether you’ve made New Year’s resolutions or resolved to not make resolutions, you can still enjoy a healthier, happier year by using these five easy health hacks.

Sleep more

Getting enough rest is crucial to every part of your life. You need sleep to restore your energy, rebuild muscle, heal, and revitalise. Shorting yourself on sleep leads to all sorts of negative side-effects, from weight gain to memory problems. So take advantage of the long winter’s nights and enjoy plenty of healing sleep! And be sure you have the right pillow to help you rest well.

tea1.jpg

Photo by Igor Miske on Unsplash

Drink more

If you’ve been living it up over the holidays, this is traditionally the time to stop drinking. And that’s fine — if it is alcohol, soda or sugary juices. Otherwise, you should increase the amount you drink. Water, infusions, smoothies, tea and even coffee have incredible health benefits and are essential for detoxifying, cleansing and energising the body.

Talk more

Communication and connection are what make us feel most vibrantly alive. Our relationships, professional and personal, rely on communication, yet it is so easy to hide between the lines of email or text messages. Instead of letting your fingers do the talking, pick up the phone or better yet, meet, and speak to people.

Move more

Our bodies and minds need to be engaged and movement is key to maintaining health. It can be so tempting, on these cold winter days, to hibernate on the sofa, but that is the worst thing you can do for yourself. Commit to moving every day, whether it is a swim, jog, yoga class or home practice. When you awaken your muscles, nerves and organs your whole being can function properly, allowing you to be your best self.

move love

Photo by Everton Vila on Unsplash

Love more

The ultimate expression of humanity is love. When we give and receive love it transforms us and our experience of the world. This year, no matter what you do or where you go, try to see the world with love. As you focus on the positive and seek the good in everyone you will find more goodness and positive energy in yourself, and that in turn will be reflected back in a virtuous circle.

What is your top tip for a healthy 2020? Share in the comments!

 

 

 

4 Steps for a Positive New Year

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Happy new year!

We’ve reached (another) new decade. If you’re anything like me, you’re thinking about the joys and trials and changes of the past 10 years, and wondering what is to come.

None of us knows what the next 10 minutes or 10 hours holds, much less the next 10 years. That doesn’t mean we are helpless victims of fate, though. If we follow these four steps we have everything we need to have a positive new year, this year and every year.

women.jpg

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Who we interact with

Our relationships are the single biggest factor in determining our happiness and contentment. When we have loving, supportive, respectful relationships it gives energy and meaning to the rest of our life. If we allow ourselves to get bogged down in relationships that drain our energy or confidence we find it that much more difficult to move on with anything else.

If you do one thing in 2020, spend it with good people. You know in your heart, and your gut, the people who lift your spirits, who challenge you, who help you be your best self. Embrace them, cherish them, share your life with them. They won’t fail you.

What we focus on

It’s true in yoga class, and in life: where your mind goes, the rest follows. If you focus on positive goals, on good things, on empowering relationships, your life will move in these directions. If you focus on clarity, mindfulness and love, these will be abundant in your life. There are always obstacles and difficulties, but don’t let them define you.

speak.jpg

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

When we speak

It is so easy to open our mouths before we study our minds (and hearts). We live in a world of instant communication, where we can share our ideas and opinions with the push of a button. This power brings responsibility. We need to remember that our words have impact, whether we’re talking or Tweeting or anything else. Taking time to consider our words is a sign of self-respect, and respect for others.

How we react

Life will bring surprises — not all of them welcome. The train will be late, the friend will disappoint us, the boss will be thoughtless, the partner will be difficult. We can’t control circumstances, but we can decide how we respond. When we pause and take a deep breath we give ourselves space to choose how to react. We don’t have to be a victim of frustration and irritation, we can opt to be calm and remember that this too shall pass.

Read more: 3 ways to free yourself from frustration, 3 yoga poses for sharper focus

 

 

New Year, New Goals

Tags

, , , , , , ,

New Year’s Resolutions are a time-honoured tradition, but given that around 80% of them are abandoned by February, maybe it’s time for a different approach.

goals1.jpg

Photo by Form on Unsplash

The resolution conundrum

The problem with New Year’s Resolutions is they usually fall into the though shalt not category of negative goals, that is, giving up things we enjoy.

Common resolutions like losing weight, quitting smoking or drinking, etc all centre on not doing something. This is obviously difficult. We have our habits for a reason — they are enjoyable, comfortable, or simply familiar. Quitting them cold turkey is hard, and more often than not we give up on giving up.

Goals, not resolutions

This year, instead of framing your plans as “resolutions” why not make goals?

Goals are positive. They are something we want to achieve, they add purpose and challenge to our life, they give us a sense of accomplishment.

Not eating sweets may be an achievement, but in the moment, it feels like deprivation. Not smoking is an accomplishment, but it can leave you feeling anxious and dissatisfied. The same goes for so many other habits and routines.

Be positively charged

Framing our desires for change as goals allows for positive action. Instead of not eating dessert, we can actively plan to eat at least two vegetables with every meal. Instead of not having a drink, we can plan to do a mini-yoga session after work — stepping away recharged and happy will just be a natural side effect.

Taking action allows us to be agents in our own lives and well-being. Instead of focusing on what we’ve done “wrong” we can be excited and proud of doing things that make us feel strong, healthy and balanced.

Read more: Resolution reboot, Small actions = big changes, Master any #yogagoal

 

 

3 Holiday Yoga Sessions

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

During the holidays it is easy to over-eat, over-drink and over-indulge generally.

There is nothing wrong with relaxing and having fun. However, pretty soon you start feeling sluggish and less-than-your best. To stay in form so you can enjoy the holidays, try these three holiday yoga sessions for digestion, immunity and energy.

RevolvedAbdomenTwist

Digestion

Wind-removing pose: Do this any time to gently stimulate your digestion and encourage elimination. If you’re doing it at home, hold it for longer than you would in class, breathing mindfully and deeply to get the best massage for your colon.

Hands to feet pulling pose: This is another wonderful massage for your internal organs. Pulling your body tight against your thighs means no room for light or air anywhere on the outside, and no room for excess on the inside either! Bend your knees as much as you need to to keep a good compression between your abdomen and thighs.

Cobra pose: Lying on your belly puts gentle pressure on your stomach and digestive system, encouraging the movement of any trapped wind. As you rise, really contract your back and leg muscles to strengthen this massage.

Savasana: Embrace the benefits of stillness. Whether you’ve over-eaten, drunk too much, or simply gotten stressed out by everything, taking a few minutes to relax in corpse pose, breathing evenly in and out through your nose, is a great way to calm the body and bring it back into balance.

Immunity

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.

crescent_lunge

Energy

Crescent lunge

This is a fantastic energising pose that activates the major muscle groups of your core and lower body, opens your heart, and gets the energy flowing along your spine.

Wheel pose:

Wheel pose is a challenging, invigorating posture that creates great space in the body. The amazing front body stretch and compression of the spine reverse our normal posture, rebalancing our energy and opening our hearts.

Downward-facing dog

Downward-facing dog is a great posture for immediately activating and engaging the whole body, at the beginning of your practice, or as a reset from the stress of the day. It engages the major muscle groups, stimulates the digestion and elongates the spine.

With a little help from yoga the holiday season can be happier, healthier and more fun!

 

 

Wishes for a Peaceful Mind

Tags

, , , , , ,

As we celebrate the holidays, however we do so, let’s take a moment to centre on the mind and the power it holds.

lights 1.jpg

Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

The Buddhist scripture Dhammapada tells us:

“Mind precedes all mental states.
Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought.
If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts
suffering follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.

Mind precedes all mental states.
Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought.
If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts
happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow.”

Dhammapada 1: 1-2

Happy, sad, confused, joyous — the key to our experiences is in our mind and attitude. Yoga is one of the ways we can hold ourselves in the space of a pure and peaceful mind. Let’s embrace that mindfulness, and share it with others this season.

Happy holidays to you all, with peace and love.

Namaste.

 

Breathe Yourself Warm

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Pranayama breathing opens our lungs, and minds. It connects us to our inner strength, energises the body, soothes the mind, and generates positive heat.

All of this is well-known to yogis and a key part of our practice, so I was fascinated to learn about someone who is takes breath and mind-body function to another level.

ice.jpg

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Wim Hof, known as the Ice Man, practices meditation and breathing techniques that enable him to be comfortable in extreme conditions.

The Dutchman has a number of remarkable accomplishmentsto his name, including

  • Running a half marathon above the Arctic Circle, barefoot only wearing shorts
  • Swimming underneath ice for 66 meters
  • Climbing the highest mountains in the world while wearing shorts

These might seem like stunts (albeit incredible ones) but Hof considers all of this part of his mission to teach people how they, too, can learn to control their bodies through using the breath and meditating.

Hof’s achievements have drawn the attention of scientists, who have verified his ability to control his breathing, heart rate, and circulation, and documented how these factors have improved his immune system and allow him to withstand extreme temperatures.

While leaping into iceberg-studded waters might not be on your to-do list, it is exciting to think about the power we can access through breathing and mediation.

And the idea of being able to keep warm in the coldest settings, simply by controlling the breath, is very appealing!

For more on Wim Hof’s method, visit his website.

If you’ve ever tried his techniques please share your experiences in the comments!

6 Vegan Christmas Treats

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

‘Tis the season to be surrounded by biscuits, cakes, chocolates, mince pies, fudge… a plethora of sugary confections whose allure doesn’t always bode well for our health.

Fortunately, there are loads of amazing recipes for vegan (and often gluten free) versions of holiday favourites. Many of them are still quite sweet, so not something to eat three meals a day, but at least you can feel confident you are treating your body right with plant-based alternatives to commercial Christmas foods.

The following are links to some great recipes — follow them for more ideas!

cookies.jpg

Photo by Miroslava on Unsplash

Gluten free gingerbread 

The warm-spiced winter classic in a delicious, soft, chewy gluten free version.

Vegan sugar cookies 

Classic biscuits, perfect for decorating (especially if you have kids who need a holiday project!) They look great on a plate.

Pumpkin spice latte cookies

Warm seasonal flavours in this lightly spiced biscuit, and better for you than coffee pumped full of sugar-water.

Citrus rosemary cookies

These have a sophisticated twist, with the pungency of rosemary adding a Mediterranean flair to the tart citrus.

Dairy-free shortbread

Enjoy the classic British shortbread in a dairy-free version — it makes a great base for desserts with fruit, or accompaniment to a cup of tea.

Spiced oatmeal cranberry cookies

Oatmeal and cranberries combine in this moreish seasonal biscuit that will almost have you convinced it’s health food!

cookies1.jpg

Photo by Kai Wenzel on Unsplash