Your first Yoga With Paul newsletter of 2017. Enjoy!
After weeks of chocolates, pudding, mince pies, mulled wine and biscuits you may be thinking about your sugar intake. The trouble with sweet stuff is 1) it tastes great and 2) sugar sneaks into all sorts of things you might not expect. In other words, it takes a bit of effort to cut down on sugar. It is worth it though. Sugar compromises the immune system, leads to energy spikes and crashes, and tempts us to overeat. When we reduce the amount of sugar we eat it makes room in our diet for nutritious food our bodies need.
Here are three ways you can eat less sweet.
As much as possible, eat food you’ve prepared yourself — even if it is the “same” as the shop-bought equivalent. A ready-made sandwich will probably have more sugar and salt than a homemade one; a pot of fruit-flavour yogurt has loads more sugar than plain yogurt with fresh fruit; and if you’re feeling munchy it is tempting to eat “nutritious” fruit and nut bars that are actually loaded with sugar. When you make your own food, you know exactly what goes into it, making it easier to eat less sweet.
If we’re not careful we can drink more sugar than we eat. Even if you avoid obvious sugar-traps like soda you can still get a lot of sugar from “good for you” alternatives like smoothies, fresh fruit juice, non-dairy milk, alcohol, and so forth. To truly cut out sugar, you pretty much have to just drink water! That is too extreme for most of us, and there drinks like smoothies have other positive health benefits. But it is a good idea to be mindful of what you drink and swap sweetened beverages for unsweetened drinks like Ugly, a fruit-infused sparkling water drink that has zero sugar.
A lot of times we think that sweeteners like honey or agave are “better” than sugar, or that brown sugar is better than white. The truth is, they’re all sugar as far as our body is concerned. Though less processed sugars might be appealing for other reasons, they cause the same insulin response in our body, can lead to the same energy highs and lows, and have the same ability to trigger cravings. Be sure to include these types of sweeteners when you consider your total sugar consumption.
Got tips for cutting out hidden sugar? Share in the comments?
Our spine is literally the backbone of our lives. It protects our spinal cord which transmits all the information our body needs to move, flex and function. It provides the single most important support structure in our body.
Because the spine is in constant use it is vulnerable to an array of problems. Muscular weakness or imbalance in other parts of the body can damage the spine. In turn, a stiff, painful or injured spinal column causes pain that reverberates through the body.
Yoga is a powerful tool for creating a healthy spine because it creates unity and balance. These three moves are especially useful for preventing and healing our backbones.
Sit with legs long in front of you. Bend right knee and place right foot outside of left knee. (You can keep left leg long or fold it in like a half-cross-legged seat.)
Wrap left arm around right leg and place right hand on the ground behind sacrum.
Lie on your back. Your feet are together and hands relaxed alongside the body.
Place the hands underneath the hips, palms facing down. Bring the elbows closer toward each other.
Breathing in, lift the head and chest up. Keeping the chest elevated, lower the head backward and touch the top of the head to the floor.
With the head lightly touching the floor, press the elbows firmly into the ground, placing the weight on the elbow and not on the head. Lift your chest up from in-between the shoulder blades. Press the thighs and legs to the floor.
Hold the pose for as long as you comfortably can, taking gentle long breaths in and out. Relax in the posture with every exhalation. Now lift the head up, lowering the chest and head to the floor. Bring the hands back along the sides of the body. Relax.
Questions about the best postures for your spine? Ask in the comments or Tweet @YogaWithPaul
Call me biased, but London Fashion Week is my favourite of the big European style events. Londoners have such unique, quirky fashion sense. They’re brave! I worked in fashion for many years and love how people express themselves through clothes and accessories.
One of the big differences when I initially changed career to become a yoga teacher was how bland yoga clothing was. Particularly for men, who were relegated to baggy shorts and tee-shirts. Fortunately a lot has changed.
I’m used to seeing the difference between when students arrive at the studio to an early morning class and how they look leaving. It is a total transformation. They put so much effort into preparation and presentation for the day: clothes, shoes, hair-style, make-up, accessories (and not just the women!)
It is great to see that same creativity and fun sense of self coming to light in the yoga studio. Now there are so many cool, stylish, niche brands that everyone can find a look that expresses who they are during yoga. Not, of course, that the point of yoga is appearance, but there is a value in feeling comfortable and confident.
Yoga Rebel is a shop with cool brands like Alo Yoga, Dharma Bums and Onzie.
Yogangster has great studio and casual gear for men and women.
Ohmme makes technical, stylish yoga gear especially for men.
What’s your favourite yoga gear?
Share in the Comments!
Just a reminder that Saturday 24 September from 2-4:30PM is my inversion workshop at Hot Yoga South in Balham!
Sometimes, we all need a little perspective. Literally nothing changes your view of the world like looking at it upside down. Inversions are a wonderful, playful, empowering element of yoga practice. Students get so excited the first time they achieve an inversion.
This workshop will explore headstand and crow pose. You will learn the fundamentals of the postures and how to observe the yoga practice from a different perspective. We will playfully concentrate on the Vinyasa sequence: being mindful through conscious placement. As always, elements of meditation, breathing exercise and deep relaxation will be integrated during the workshop. All levels are welcome! I hope to see you there.
Yoga helps and heals your body, no matter how hard you work. American runner Desi Linden has competed in the last two Olympic marathons, placing 7th in Rio. Marathon running is simple but grueling. Elite runners like Desi often run more than 100 miles a week. This puts tremendous strain on the body. Linden wound up with a stress fracture in her femur after training for the London Olympic marathon but came back strong.
Her top tip? Doing yoga. Linden told Outside magazine that she regularly practices yoga. “It combines stretching and strength (both of which are very important for preventing injuries) in a fun activity. It’s a great way to ensure you stay on top of the little things.”
She has the mental attitude that you would expect from a yogi, saying: “I’m super competitive. Outside of that, I don’t really care much if people notice me or whatever. I just do the work.”
This is the mark of an individual who understands and embraces the ethos of yoga. Linden’s discipline and success spring not from wanting to be noticed, but from her commitment to daily practice.
Whether or not we run marathons, this approach is the key to success. If we commit ourselves to doing the work, we will always make progress. In the studio and in life!
Who’s your most inspiring Olympic athlete? Share 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!
The first thing we learn as yoga students is to leave the trappings of daily life when we enter the studio. We put aside our bags, shoes, phones, and watches.
Yet we often carry the heaviest baggage into the studio — our ego.
Ego has different layers of meaning, from “pride” to “sense of self”. They all signify the same thing, though: Ego is the part of us that makes us feel different from others. It can be expressed as arrogance, insecurity, anxiety, dominance, or a hundred other shades of emotion but it always comes back to the sense that we are separate from those around us.
Separation is the antithesis of yoga, which means “unity”. We come to the studio to break down the barriers between mind and body, between action and thought, between ourselves and each other. Bringing our egos into the studio creates conflict. Instead of advancing in our practice we compare or compete. We may advance in our physical practice with this attitude, but the ego holds back the cultivation of true unity.
How do we leave our ego at the door? At first it may feel like trying to peel off our skin. After all, our ego has been with us since we were born, and our hectic, competitive culture is especially good at stoking and rewarding the ego.
There is no single answer. Like yoga, learning to detach from our ego is a practice. Here are three tips to help us begin:
Listen to your mind, don’t control it: The first thing to do is be aware of your thoughts. When are are in the studio, tune in to the chatter in your head. Is it saying: “look how much better X is at that posture?” or is it making a shopping list? Whatever your mind is doing, listen with detachment instead of trying to control it. The more you try to not think about something, the more your mind will go that direction. Just observe. Notice the thoughts that arise from ego — feelings of superiority, inferiority, anxiety, smugness, whatever. Stay with the breath and let these thoughts drift away.
Don’t believe the first thing your ego tells you: As you develop the practice of observing your thoughts, pay close attention when an ego message flashes up. If a work colleague gets a promotion, or your partner is busy with a new hobby, or your child wants you to drop them off around the corner because you’re old and embarrassing, your ego will likely flare up. The emotion may come out as anger, irritation, disgust, or a feeling of moral superiority. Don’t accept that this emotion is a true reflection of the situation. Take a few minutes to breathe deeply. Consider the situation from the other person’s point of view. Think about the bigger picture. Does a colleague advancing make your work any less important? No. Gradually, as you question your knee-jerk ego responses you will be able to see the world in a more detached way.
More love, less ego: The quickest and maybe hardest way to leave our ego is to acknowledge the egos of other. There is a lovely quote from a Yoga Journal article that sums up this idea:
Swami Muktananda, used to say that our real ego problem is that our egos aren’t big enough. He said that we identify with our limited self when what we should really identify with is the pure awareness, power, and love that live at the heart of everything. A young actor once said to him, “I feel guilty because I always want to be special.” Muktananda replied, “You are special.” Then, as the actor smiled in pleasure, Muktananda added, “Everybody’s special. Everybody is God.”
Understanding that we are fundamentally connected to all other humans (even the ones we don’t like) is a profound realisation. It allows us to see things not as “me vs them” but “us”. Instead of competing in the studio, we can understand that everyone’s practice is a part of our collective energy and experience. Instead of feeling better or worse than other people, we can identify our common loves and fears.
Yoga is a drive to unity, and unity is a path to happiness and peace. The more we practice and cultivate compassion, the faster we advance towards wholeness of mind and body.
What’s your biggest ego trap? How would you like to change? Share in the comments.