Happy New Year all! Enjoy the final Yoga With Paul newsletter of 2016.
Peace & love to you all.
Yoga challenges us to push boundaries and discover greater levels of mental and physical strength and flexibility. I loved this Yoga Journal post about “extreme yoga poses” — the photos are beautiful and inspiring and it reminded me that there is always something to work towards.
The point of “yoga challenge” isn’t necessarily to twist yourself like a pretzel (not all of us can, even if we want to!) The point is to go beyond our comfort zone. Daily practice is a wonderful way to stay strong and grounded but it can get routine.
Challenging ourselves to try a new class, learn a new pose, or meditate, are ways to increase the benefits of our practice. Only when we push ourselves can we discover our true capabilities.
Take a look at all the beautiful poses… Be inspired…
Picture your dreams for 2017… Set yourself a 2017 Yoga Challenge…
Then share in the comments or Tweet @YogaWithPaul using #2017challenge…
Hips are one of the hardest-working joints in the body. Every time we take a step, sit down, stand up, etc we are putting them to work. You might not notice when they’re stiff in the way you notice tight hamstrings or a sore back, but you will feel the difference when they are open and flexible.
This modified variation on Crescent Lunge — Anjaneyasana — stretches the hip flexors and thighs, while also helping to open the abdomen, chest, and shoulders.
A standard pose in many yoga styles, Extended Triangle — Utthita Trikonasana — tones the legs and stretches the hips, groins, and hamstrings. It also opens the chest and shoulders, and helps to relieve lower back pain, stress, and sluggish digestion.
3. Tree Pose
A popular balancing pose, Tree Pose —Vrksasana — stretches the hips, thighs, torso, and shoulders. It builds strength in the ankles and calves, and helps remedy flat feet.
Questions? Need help with a pose? Ask in the comments!
The V&A is always putting on spectacular exhibitions and Undressed – A Brief History of Underwear is no exception. Whether you love fashion, underwear, or both, it is a sumptuous, sexy, fascinating look at the evolution of underclothes.
According to the V&A site:
This exhibition tells the story of underwear design from the 18th century to the present day. It explores the intimate relationship between underwear and fashion and its role in moulding the body to a fashionable ideal. Underwear is sometimes controversial, sparking debates about health and hygiene, body image and stereotyping. Its cut, fit, fabric and decoration reflect changing attitudes to gender, sex and morality; shifting notions of public and private; and innovations in fabric technology and design.
You don’t have to be interested in the politics and social semantics to enjoy the incredible designs though. It’s a fun look at how fashion changes with the times, and how one era’s undergarments become another generation’s streetwear!
Event or exhibition recommendations? Please share in the comments!
What does food mean to you? Is it an indulgence? Necessity? Pleasure? Worry?
I recently read a great post about attitudes to food that reminded me of the many ways we think about food — and how those attitudes affect our strength and well-being. This paragraph really jumped out:
[I often] eat far less than I know I should, mostly because of poor time management. Now, this is a pretty common problem, and here’s some ways that people like me talk about it:
“I know I should have, I just didn’t have time to eat lunch today.”
“There just wasn’t a break between classes and things just had to get done, so I just couldn’t eat before training.”
The problem, though, isn’t just the skipped meals. It’s the fact that secretly I’m proud of having skipped them. This pride is a holdover from a mentality that calories are bad (they aren’t). But being secretly proud of your skipped lunch should make as little sense as being secretly proud of your skipped workout, because both types of activity (eating and exercising) are important.
As a dancer and now a yoga teacher I am very aware of the pressure towards and pursuit of the “perfect body”, which is reinforced by media and marketing. We see so many images of slimness that are equated to health we subconsciously absorb the message that thinner = fitter. If you stop to think about this, it makes no sense. Strength, fitness, and flexibility are independent of body mass. While extreme overweight or thinness can be dangerous there is a vast range of perfectly healthy body shapes, types and sizes.
One great thing about the Rio Olympics was the diversity of athletic bodies on display. Shot-putters look nothing like gymnasts; distance runners would never pass for swimmers; boxers and equestrians have totally different forms. Yet despite this positive reality, it is easy to get caught in the fiction that you’re not really fit unless you’re slim.
This thought process leads to an unhealthy relationship to food. It becomes an enemy or, at best, a grudging necessity. The fact is, food is fuel. When your car needs petrol you don’t mutter and criticise, you just fill it up. We need to have a similarly practical approach to our bodies. We need to eat regular meals of mostly whole foods. We need to enjoy food and appreciate its role in our well-being.
How do you view food? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Extra! Extra! It’s the August Yoga With Paul newsletter, with a round-up of inspiration, ideas, and insights from my blog and around the web.
Read. Share. Repost. Leave your feedback in the comments!
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.
Massage is a wonderful tool for healing and enhancing physical and mental well-being. Like many yoga teachers, I am also a masseuse, in part because it allows me to offer students a complimentary therapy that can deepen and improve their practice.
Three key ways it does this is by increasing flexibility, healing injuries, and fighting stress.
Massage increases and maintains flexibility through manipulation of the muscles, connective tissue, tendons and ligaments, and by stimulating the production and retention of the natural lubricants between the connective tissue fibers.
Massage helps address common injuries such as carpal tunnel and back pain. A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that massage therapy was more effective at relieving back pain than other therapies such as acupuncture and spinal modification. Research on carpal tunnel patients showed those that regular massage reduced pain and symptoms and improved grip strength.
Massage is a great way to combat stress, anxiety and depression. Massage is able to lower the body’s level of cortisol, a stress hormone, by as much as 50 percent. It also appears to increase the serotonin and dopamine levels, which lifts your mood.
This adds up to major life-enhancement, as massage helps fight the aches, pains, stiffness, and stress that can keep us out of the studio and away from our practice. Combined with yoga, it keeps our minds and bodies resilient and working in harmony.
photo credit: Spa By Payot ©DavidAndre via photopin (license)
Understanding anatomy is a great way to deepen your yoga practice. As we become more aware of the different parts of our body and the roles they play, we can bring more mindful attention to them in the studio.
Our bodies have many types of connective tissue. Three that are key to our physical movements are tendons, ligaments, and fascia.
A tendon (or sinew) is a tough band of fibrous connective tissue — collagen — that connects muscle to bone and is capable of withstanding tension. Tendons facilitate movement; when our muscles contract they convey that tension to the bone so we can move. Tendons, like bones, can be strengthened by exercise.
Also made from collagen, ligaments connect bone to bone to form joints. People with highly elastic ligaments are “double-jointed”, but anyone can improve their flexibility through yoga. Ligaments don’t regenerate on their own, so staying flexible through stretching is key to avoiding injuries.
These connective tissue fibers (made mostly of collagen) form sheets or bands beneath the skin to attach, stabilize, enclose, and separate muscles and other internal organs. Fasciae transmit mechanical tension from muscle movement, or external pressure. They work to reduce friction from muscular force and provide a supportive, movable wrapping for nerves and blood vessels as they pass through and between muscles.
Ask your yoga anatomy questions in the comments & I’ll reply!