Category Archives for Benefits of Yoga

How Yoga helps to reduce anxiety

How yoga helps reduce anxiety

One common reason that people turn to yoga is to try to find ways to reduce anxiety and stress. Yoga is a very powerful tool for this. You don’t have to be able to do complicated postures to achieve this benefit, as long as you have a pair of lungs you are able to harness this benefit.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a persistent feeling of unease, that may or may not have an obvious cause. It is different from stress, because stress generally has a root cause (although this can be an imagined situation, there is still a root cause). The stress response will pass once the cause is no longer an issue.

Anxiety is connected to stress, but the cause can be very non specific. Anxiety can be seen as a build up of stress. An anxiety attack may be provoked by something seemingly very insignificant. It is, in fact, the build up of anxiety that creates the problem.

There are many types of anxiety, including phobias, PTSD, post natal anxiety, IBS, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, social anxiety, hoarding and much more.

Some 3 million people in the UK are believed to suffer from some form of anxiety disorder.

How can Yoga reduce Anxiety?

Yoga is an excellent tool to help reduce anxiety. It can help you restore some peace to your life if you suffer with any form of anxiety disorder. There are many ways that Yoga can help to reduce anxiety.

Calm the nervous system

Slowing the breath and bringing awareness to your breathing in Yoga soothes and calms the nervous system. This is known as Pranayama. This takes the body and mind out of the stress response, and restores the body to balance and relaxation. Learning to breathe well has numerous benefits, but the impact on the stress response is possibly the one that 21st Century humans need most!

Stilling the mind

Anxiety is the result of thoughts that seem beyond your control. When you learn to sit quietly, to focus on the breath, and to let go of the thoughts that try to distract you, in time you will find that you are better able to do this in daily life as well. This control of the thoughts is a powerful way to reduce anxiety and stress (old video).

The Three Rules of Yoga

One of the first lessons I was taught on Yoga teacher training was Swami Gitanada’s ‘Three Rules of Yoga’. These are ‘Don’t Judge, Don’t Compare, Don’t Beat Yourself Up. These rules are very powerful guides for happy living in terms of how you interact with the world and yourself. So much anxiety and unhappiness comes from judgement, comparison and self recrimination – being able to let go of these will free you from so much stress and anxiety.

Acceptance

Yoga teaches the value of acceptance of the current state of things. That is not to say that you cannot make changes, but Yoga asks us to accept, without judgement or criticism, the fact that life is as it is. From this state of acceptance you can look calmly at what changes you need or want to make in life. This is a very empowering way to approach life – the ability to say ‘yes, this sucks, it is what it is, and I can accept that this is where I am now’ enables you to take ownership of what has happened in your life and move forward.

Physical release of tension

The mind and body are intrinsically linked – what the mind experiences manifests in the body, and vice versa. If you have anxiety in your mind, it will find its way to physical symptoms, such as IBS, high blood pressure, headaches and more. Similarly, tension held in the body will add to tension in the mind. Yoga helps you to release this tension through breath work, postures and end of class relaxation.  The practice of ‘throwing out’ which I teach in all my local and one to one classes, is a powerful and healing practice that allows you to release mental tension through the body.

Feel Good Factor

Yoga practices produce a neurotransmitter known as GABA. This is a chemical in the brain that makes us feel good and happy. This natural high is the reason that people leave yoga classes smiling. GABA deficiency is a contributory factor in conditions such as anxiety and IBS, so regular Yoga could help to alleviate this deficiency and reduce the anxiety at a biological level.

In addition to the increase of GABA, Yoga also reduces Cortisol, the stress hormone, thereby producing a double whammy of anxiety reduction and happiness.

Could Yoga reduce anxiety for you?

As you can see, there are some powerful reasons why Yoga could help you to reduce anxiety and stress. Would you like to give it a try? Subscribe now for your free 45 minute Yoga class lesson and practice tracker. Give a regular practice a try and see how you feel as a result. You never know, it might transform your life!

 

increase flexibility body jattis blog post

Increasing flexibility in the body through Yoga

Flexibility is seen by many as a pre-requisite to practising Yoga. This is a damaging and worrying misconception. yoga will increase the flexibility in your body, reducing stress and tension in your muscles and your mind, but you don’t need to be flexible before you start. Indeed, the complicated, acrobatic posture you see on Instagram are not the purpose of Yoga at all, the purpose of Yoga is what you learn about yourself in the postures.

That said, physical flexibility is important for physical and mental health. As we age, we lose that flexibility, and this can lead to pain, loss of mobility, increased risk of injury and more. These simple practices, known as Jattis, can reduce tension and stiffness in the body and improve physical flexibility and wellbeing in a very short space of time.

These movements might not seem like much, but they are powerful. In one session, you will feel looser and more relaxed in body and mind. I have delivered taster sessions to people where this has been all we have done, and the impact has been amazing to see – the reduction in stress is visible on their faces.

Try the movements in this video now, and every day, and let me know what difference and benefits you see from the practice. You might be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you see progress. These are the same practices we do in all my classes, so you can try them out before you come along to a class, or to practice between classes.

And remember, progress is how far you move from where you are, not reaching anyone else’s level!

Yoga IS for men as well you know fellas!

In ancient India, Yoga was pretty much exclusively a male occupation. If you look at the history of Yoga, you will see that all the famous Gurus who travelled to the West to share the message of Yoga were men.

And yet, oddly, in the West, Yoga is a predominantly female activity. In America, according to a recent study, 72% of Yoga practitioners are female.

This is bad news for men (and for women I have to say!).

Yoga is a powerful way of life that promotes good physical and mental health, increases strength, flexibility and muscle tone, reduces stress, improves sleep and energy levels, and much more besides.

 

Yoga is good for mental health

man in downward dog meru asana yoga posture

Given the recent attention being rightly given to male mental health, we need to look at ways that men can take care for themselves differently. Much of the sport and intense physical exercise that is in the ‘male’ arena is deeply competitive in nature. While some competition is good, and striving 

to be the best can lead you to great things, when it comes to taking care of yourself, competition can be counter productive. Too much competition, in the sporting world and in life, can lead to feelings of inadequacy and inferiority, causing turmoil and damage to the self esteem. In yoga, you don’t have to be THE best, you only have to be the best YOU. Yoga will help you to get to that place of acceptance of who you are in all your glorious, flawed perfection

Men can gain hugely from attending a Yoga class that is focused on relaxation, getting in tune with yourself, learning to breathe and gently nurturing the body. With the need for competition gone, there is no need to fear ‘locker room’ style mockery if you can’t get into a posture. You can quieten the ego, take a deep breath and simply be.

Judo master Huw appreciates the advantages of Yoga. He is attending my classes in Pontypridd, and is already seeing the benefits after just a few  weeks. He writes

Tried yoga for the first time yesterday. Didn’t know what to expect despite having done quite a lot of research. I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite being the only male in a class of nine females. Esther was very welcoming and helpful. I was allowed to take the class at my own pace, I felt strangely energised and relaxed (if that’s even possible) after the class. I will definitely be going back. Highly recommended

 

Huw Jones, EGH Judo

I would love to see more men practise Yoga. I think it would do you all so much good, and be better for the people around you too.

Come along to one of my classes in Pontypridd and The Rhondda, or take a look at Beginners Yoga Club if you would rather give it a try in the privacy of your own home.

Feel free to drop me a message if you would like to ask me anything, and ladies, please share this with the men in your life!

Words of wisdom from a yoga loving Fat Bird

shan marshall fat bird yogaMy friend Shan Marshall recently made my heart sing with joy when she began attending Yoga classes in her local area. A self confessed ‘Fat Bird‘, Shan had many reasons she could have decided that Yoga wasn’t for her, but she gave it a try, and fell in love with it. She recently began a website, Fat Bird Yoga, which is one of my favourite website names ever! I wanted to ask her about her experience with Yoga as a ‘fat bird’

You discovered the joys of yoga only recently. Can you tell us what brought you to a yoga class?

I hurt my back and a chiropractor recommended I take up yoga to keep my back, shoulders and hips flexible, clear my stress and reduce the migraines.

What did you think about yoga before this?

I thought it was just about getting in strange positions. I was curious to find out how someone could scrunch their body up and balance on one foot.

How did you feel when you went to your first class?

Apprehensive. I didn’t know what to expect and hoped that people were friendly, I wouldn’t be laughed at, and that they wouldn’t be the archetypal “yoga bunnies” – stick thin, young and perfect makeup. Oh, and colour co-ordinated outfits.

What were the biggest hurdles you felt were in the way for you when it came to practising Yoga?

Quite honestly, my boobs and belly. I was trying to do Downward Dog a couple of months ago and – I don’t know how I managed it – got the angle wrong and was gently slapped in the face by two soft pillows, my boobs. I remembered an ex-boyfriend telling me “You could suffocate in there”, and thought he was right. Then I thought “If I needed help, I don’t think anyone would hear me call out” so I stood up.

How did your yoga teacher accommodate your particular needs so that you can practice and feel comfortable in the class?

Gill Littleford was great. She told me to get two chairs and put them by my mat. Each pose the class did Gill came and sat on the other chair and showed me the modified pose. She encouraged me when I was afraid of hurting myself or falling off the chair, and she was compassionate and understanding. Seven months on, she’s still like it. She’s my “go to” teacher.

What is your favourite aspect of yoga?

It’s knowing that whatever I do, whether it’s simply sitting quietly or stretching my body into Triangle pose, I’m showing myself love. Having been brought up to love others, not myself, to be able to show love to me is amazing [editor’s note – I ADORE this!].

How has yoga impacted on your life?

Flip, where do I start?? I’m calmer, moving better, getting up the stairs easier, more open and honest. Massive impact.

You have the best named yoga website I have seen in ages, fatbirdyoga.com. What are your plans for developing the site?

Good question. I started the site to write about doing yoga as a morbidly obese 61 year old, after telling Carrie Eddins the Downward Dog/boobs story and her rolling about laughing. I want to develop it to include where to get clothing suitable for fat bird yogis, a directory of yoga teachers willing to teach fat birds yoga – i.e. who can teach modifications or at least be inclusive of fat bird yogis. This would be a paid listing when I get reader numbers up.

I want to be open about the difficulties of being a fat bird yogi in terms of movement and resisting the temptation to force yourself as low as everybody else is going. Then there are the experiences everybody faces which I haven’t seen written about such as yarts (yoga farts), yurps (yoga burps) and yorgasms (that was a surprise – thank Goodness it didn’t happen in class). [editors note – I have to say, after more than 10 years of Yoga practice, I have yet to experience a ‘yorgasm’ – I need to talk to Shan more about this!]

You don’t fit the instagram stereotype of the yoga practitioner, and can be a real inspiration for those who think that their size, age, fitness etc is a barrier to them trying Yoga. What would you say to someone who might want to try yoga but feels that is ‘isn’t for them’?

I would suggest they contact a local teacher, explain their situation – size, age, mobility, beginner, etc – and ask the teacher if they can teach modifications for chair yoga.

Do you want to try Yoga in the Rhondda

If you resonate with Shan’s story, and would like to try yoga, there is every reason why you can take part. Drop me a line and let me know your concerns, and I will be able to accomodate your needs in class.

Do you suffer from arthritis Here are 5 ways Yoga can help

Do you suffer from arthritis? Here are 5 ways Yoga can help!

Arthritis is a progressive condition that affects the health and mobility of the joints of the body. It is very common, with around 10 million people in the UK suffering from it, and while it is often thought of as an age related condition, it can strike at any age, with children also affected. 15% of women and 10% of men in Wales are reported to be affected by arthritis.

The most common form of arthritis, which affects an estimated 8 million people in the UK is osteoarthritis. This is most common in women over 40, but can strike at any age, and can be triggered by injury or other conditions, as well as age and genetic predisposition.

While there is no cure for arthritis, there are things that can be done to alleviate the symptoms, and slow down the advance of the condition. Treatment to manage symptoms and reduce pain are available on the NHS. The NHS also recommends gentle exercise to maintain as much movement in the joints as possible.

Yoga for arthritis

Yoga is a powerful tool to both prevent and manage arthritis. Research has found that regular yoga practice can improve the mental and physical wellbeing of arthritis sufferers.

Here  are 5 powerful ways that Yoga can help to make life with arthritis easier.

Increased flexibility in the joints

The arthritic joints, if not moved and exercised regularly, will stiffen more and more and pain will increase. Yoga is well known for promoting flexibility in the joints, and many of the postures can be hugely beneficial to those at risk of, or suffering from, arthritis. Care needs to be taken not to overdo it, or your yoga practice could cause more problems, but if practised with care and under the guidance of a teacher, it can be really beneficial.

If practised regularly, the jattis, or loosening exercises, we do at the start of one of my classes can promote and maintain flexibility and mobility in the joints. This can help to prevent or slow the onset and progression of arthritis.

Pain relief

Arthritis is most associated with chronic pain. Research has shown that people who regularly practice Yoga have a higher tolerance for pain and show lower brain response to pain than people who don’t practice Yoga

Pranayama, the yogic practice of breath control, has been shown to reduce pain in patients with lower back pain, and specifically with arthritis, and is believed to relieve pain in other situations as well

Improved mood and mental wellbeing

Yoga increases production of the feelgood chemical, the neurotransmittor GABA, in the brain. This creates a positive state of mind, which naturally leads to lowered stress, a higher tolerance to pain, and the ability to look beyond the pain to the positives in life. One Yoga session has been found to increase production of GABA in the mind, leading to a real, deeply felt sense of wellbeing in the body and mind.

Reduction of stress

Stress makes every bad situation much worse. Constant pain creates a great deal of stress in the body, which will try to compensate for the parts that feel pain, and the mind, which is constantly trying to deal with, or anticipating, the next flare up of pain. Yoga teaches the practitioner how to relax, to let go of tension in the body and mind, to focus the attention away from, and to breathe through pain.

Yoga can reduce inflammation

As Yoga is a condition characterised by painful inflammation, reducing the inflammation could help to relieve the pain. Yoga has been shown to reduce inflammation through the practice of Pranayama, the art of breath control. Rhythmic breathing, such as Sukha Pranayama, has been found to reduce inflammation in the body. This has powerful implications for arthritis sufferers, as it means that they can get enormous benefits just from breathing exercises, allowing participation regardless of mobility.

In the video below, I guide you through a simple Sukha Pranayama. It is a very old video, my hair looks nothing like this anymore, and I will update soon, but in the meantime, the practice is just the same!

Safety in Yoga class with arthritis

When you have any health issue, it is always best to talk to your yoga teacher, and your doctor, before beginning any exercise regime. Your doctor may have already recommended Yoga as a gentle form of exercise, but make sure that you check with the teacher to make sure that the class you hope to attend is suitable for your needs – some forms of yoga are very intense and powerful and would not benefit you at all. Your teacher should be able to make adjustments and suggestions for how you can participate in the class and still get lots of benefit while taking care of your body’s needs and being safe. I will always recomend that you sit on a chair for many of the postures, and my golden rule is always ‘listen to me, but listen to your body more, and stop and rest when you need to.

If you are based in or around the Rhondda and would like to explore how yoga can help you with arthritis, take a look at my class timetable and see if there is a location and time that works for you. All my classes are accessible to you, and I will suggest modification to suit your condition.

Get in touch if you have any specific questions, or if you would like to double check the suitability of the yoga class for your needs.

I can't do Yoga, I'm not flexible

“I can’t do Yoga, I’m not flexible”

When I tell people I teach Yoga, one common response is, ‘Oh, I’d love to do yoga, but I’m too stiff/not flexible enough’.

This makes me so sad. It is to the detriment of the ‘Yoga industry’ that people now think that they have to be flexible in order to be able to participate in a yoga class.

yoga search showing difficult postures

It is not surprising…a Google images search for the word ‘yoga’ brought up a dazzling array of postures that would intimidate any beginner – some of them I can’t do and I’ve been practicing for years!

The trouble is that Yoga has become synonymous with the fitness industry, and given the tag of ‘exercise’.  Yoga has been stripped of everything that isn’t physical, and blended with dance, gymnastic, pilates and more until it is barely recognisable.

Yoga is not exercise

The most famous definition of Yoga comes from the Yoga Sutras, the definitive text on yoga philosophy, which says

Yoga is the cessation of the whirlpools of the subconscious mind

Yoga is a way of life that aims to balance mind, body, emotions and soul. While caring for the body is a key part of this, the body is not the only thing Yoga cares about. It is not merely exercise.

Traditionally, Yoga was focused only on postures that enabled a person to sit in contemplative practices for long periods of time. It is hard to spend long sitting in meditation when your knees or other body parts hurt. The ancient Yogis would have lived very different lives than we do now in the 21st Century West, so we need more physical work in order to enable our bodies to find space and stillness. But the postures are a means to an end, they are not the end itself. Not being able to ‘do’ the posture doesn’t mean you are not ‘doing yoga’. Yoga is all about the effort. Every attempt in the right direction is rewarded.

Developing flexibility through Yoga

You might come to Yoga classes with very little movement in your spine. This is not uncommon, and is a situation you really should try to rectify. In your first class, when the teacher tells you to touch your toes, you might barely reach your knees. This is ok. If you cannot touch your toes, but you go as far as you can, then relax and breathe deeply, you are practising Yoga.

In time you will notice that you can reach a little beyond your knees, then gradually your hands reach further down the shin and one day, maybe in 6 months, maybe in 3 years, maybe more, you will reach your hands to your feet.

Yoga is not about touching your toes. It’s about unlocking your ideas about what you want, where you think you can go, and how you will achieve when you get there.” — Cyndi Lee

The Jattis, which we perform at the start of every class, are a series of gentle movements that will release tension and increase flexibility in the body, gradually increasing your flexibility.

Mind/body balance

Yoga is a mind/body discipline. What happens in the body happens in the mind, and vice versa. As well as developing the flexibility in the body, Yoga also helps you to develop flexibility in the mind. As you become strong in the muscles, you develop mental resilience. As you learn to balance your body, you create balance in your life and your emotions.

Yoga can give you what you need. The only pre-requisites to success at yoga are the desire to learn, a willingness to practice and an open mind. The only body type you need is a human body. Whatever level of flexibility, fitness, age, shape, size you are, Yoga can help you to become healthier and happier.

Want to try it?

I run classes in Porth, Clydach, Treorchy and Pontypridd, as well as workshops from time to time. Check out the class timetable here. If you can’t get to class at these times, I also offer one to one, and online one to one classes, get in touch to find out more.

Beating stress through Yoga

When you’re stressed and overwhelmed in life, it can be hard to know where to turn. You can’t sleep, you can eat, or you eat too much, you can’t think straight, you’re snappy with everyone around you and liable to burst into tears at any moment, for no obvious reason.

This is the flight or fight response in action, and too many of us live there all the time.

Run away or put em up!

The flight or fight response is a survival essential that has meant that humanity has survived and evolved for millions of years. It is a response of the nervous system to a threat to life. In ancient times, and in some parts of the world today, that threat to life is real. But in the modern western world, most of us aren’t facing life threatening situations most of the time. And yet stress is a massive problem that is rapidly becoming a worldwide health epidemic. Stress is a contributory factor in the ‘big 6’ of cause of death conditions, including heart disease, stroke, suicide and cirrhosis of the liver.

The flight or fight response is intended to be a short lived response – you see a threat, you run away or fight it, and the threat ends (or, in the case of the sabre toothed tiger that may have threatened our ancestors, you might become dinner, in which case you are no longer stressed anyway!) Unfortunately, because of the never ceasing demands of our modern lives, most of us live in a state of low to mid level stress that we have become so used to, we don’t even know we’re stressed. Conditions such as insomnia, IBS, migraine, asthma, neck, back and shoulder pain to name but a few can be stress related, and the solution we are presented with it to take a pain killer or an anti anxiety pill, and carry on. While medication has it’s place, and can enable people to live better lives (I have has asthma since childhood and am only alive now because of pharmaceutical medication), often this merely masks the symptoms, and does nothing to relieve the underlying cause of stress.

Within You, Without You

The flight or fight response is the same whether the threat is real, remembered or imagined. I still have a physical response when I think if stressful moments that happened when I was a child, and I am 45 years old now! I still cringe when I remember things I regret saying or doing, and feel old emotions rising when I think about things that happened in the past. I have worked myself into states of actual grief imagining terrible things happening to my children and other people I love, and I have got myself hugely excited dreaming about things that have not materialised. The stress and emotional responses bypass the logical part of the brain completely, so there is no quality control on the response, we react as if the situation is real whether it is or not.

Some tension and stress is vital in life. We couldn’t stand up or walk without stress in the body, and stress can create impetus to act in daily life. The scientist Hans Selye, a pioneer in stress research, identified ‘eustress’ as a positive stress that motivates and excites us, that creates laser focus, energy and drive. Eustress is short lived, giving us the energy we need for as long as we need it, then it disperses. The opposite to this is distress, which is demotivating, depressing and causes worry and anxiety. This type of stress can last for a long time, and can lead to ill health as described above.

The important thing we need to do it to learn to recognise the symptoms of distress, to use the stress in life when we need it, and to learn to let go of that stress when it no longer helps and serves us.

Relax and release through Yoga

Yoga is one of the most powerful vehicles for stress busting I have come across. From my own personal experience I can absolutely vouch for this. At the start of my teacher training journey, I was trying to emerge from a breakdown the previous year, and was living in the depths of a 20 year alcohol addiction I could barely even acknowledge, and was a heavy smoker (both the legal and illegal variety!)

Through the practices I learned in teacher training, I was able to release years of tension and unhappiness from my mind and body, and to develop powerful new coping strategies to get me thought the times  when life can be extremely challenging.

There are many ways that Yoga can help you to reduce, manage and balance the stress in your body. Here are my top 5!

The space between

breathe in neon lights thanks to fabian moller on unsplash

Learning to breathe well is, in my professional and personal opinion, the most powerful gift you can give to yourself. Good breathing has a host of benefits to mental and physical health, and was the biggest factor in my recovery from addiction (I believe). When you take a deep breath in a moment of stress, you give yourself the space to bring the logical mind into action, allowing you to make a reasoned response rather than an emotion based reaction you will possibly regret once you calm down. Regularly practicing slow, deep, rhythmic breathing will help to balance the nervous system to that you spend less time in the flight or fight response in general.

Yo Gaba Gaba!

GABA is a neurotransmitter that created a relaxed, feelgood feeling in the brain. The reason alcohol seems to provide relaxation is because it mimics the effects of GABA in the brain. It is a real wolf in sheep’s clothing in this, as it actually increases levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, while fooling the drinker into thinking they are relaxed. GABA is increased naturally during a yoga practice. The relaxed, happy feeling you get after Yoga is the result of very real and powerful changes in the brain as well as the release of tension in the body. When we feel relaxed and happy, we are better able to deal with difficult situations.

Awareness means improvement

Through Yoga you develop a greater connection to, and awareness of, your body, breath and emotions. When we start to become aware of something, we can make changes to improve that situation if need be. As you deepen your yoga practice, you will start to notice things like how your body responds to stress, so that you notice the signs and can take action to rectify the situation before is escalates.

Let it go

Yoga teaches us to let go of the things that don’t serve us and help us to improve our lot in life. From promoting better care of the body, to encouraging us to shed habits that hold us back, and releasing physical and mental tension, there are a vast range of tools that Yoga offers to help us to let go. In fact , this is the ultimate goal of Yoga, to guide us to let go of the things that block our growth as humans. It is impossible to grow as a person when you are holding on to the stress, tensions, resentments and habits of the past, so you need to drop the baggage and move lightly through life.

Sleep like a cat

sleeping cat curled up in a pot Photo by Alex Pavlou on UnsplashI know the phrase is ‘sleep like a baby’ but babies have very unpredictable sleeping patterns, I like my sleep to be catlike! I suffered with insomnia for years from childhood, which contributed to my alcohol issues, and was remedied through Yoga. Through the relaxation and breathing practices, there are many ways that Yoga can help you to sleep longer, and better, giving you more energy and allowing you to wake feeling refreshed in the morning.

 

Want to give it a try?

If you are based in the Rhondda or surrounding area, you can come to any of my ever increasing suite of classes in the local area. I now run the following classes

Monday – Cwmclydach Community Centre – 5-6.30pm, and 7 – 8.30pm

Tuesday – Telecentre and Business School (TABS), Porth – 10-11.30am, and EGH Judo, Pontypridd – 1-2.30pm

Wednesday – Oaktree Hall, Treorchy – 10-11.30am

Thursday – Oaktree Hall, Treorchy – 7-8.30pm

You can find out more about my classes and workshop days here, and find the answers to many Frequently Asked Questions here. Do get in touch if you need to know any more

Can’t get to a class?

I also offer one to one sessions, both in person and online through Skype or Zoom. Drop me a message if you think this might be a better option for you.

 

The Calm Before the Storm yoga for mothers before kids come home

The calm before the storm – the joys of pre school-run yoga!

Mamma dearest. You love your kids, and relish being with them, but isn’t it wonderful when you get time to yourself, to do adult things, to take care of your own wellbeing, and to have adult conversations? As a mum myself, and a self employed, single mother at that, I know how hard, and how wonderful it can be to carve out those moments of time for self care.

Self care is vital for us mothers. We are raised to think we need to put others first, see to the kids, the husband, the elderly relatives, the neighbours, the dog, the goldfish, before we can even think about our own needs.

All very admirable, but who takes care of things when Mum is so exhausted she gets ill? How can we be present with the children when we are so overwhelmed with all the things we have to do, we can barely think straight?

Think about how you feel after a long soak in the bath, or a night off from the kids with your best girlfriends, how good you feel when you are able to make a bit of time for yourself, when you can have time to breathe and connect to yourself properly.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could find a way to harness that feeling and bring it into your life more?

I have a solution for you……

Yoga is a wonderful practice of self care. Yoga is so much more than an exercise class, it is a whole approach to life that prioritises rest and relaxation, that tells us that we are far more effective when we can take care of ourselves body, mind and soul.

Through Yoga you learn to breathe deeply, to relax completely, to let go of the tension and stress you are holding in your body and mind, and to learn to love and accept yourself and the world you live in. A regular yoga practice builds resilience to stress, helps you to sleep better, teaches you to be more present in the things you are doing, can relieve mental and physical pain and increase energy and contentment.

As mothers, we can often feel that we have lost connection to our own identity as people, as women in our own right. Yoga connects you to yourself, and brings you back to the true you.

Yoga can help you to improve your life in ways you cannot imagine when you begin. When I started teacher training, I was a heavy smoking, unhappy alcoholic in denial. Within 7 months of my training, I had released all that and was sober, non smoking, and so much happier with my life and myself. I had no idea that was going to happen! What could improve in your life?

Rhondda Yoga offers a variety of classes you can access in the evenings or when the kids are in school. With daytime classes in Treorchy, Porth and Pontypridd, and evenings classes in Clydach Vale and Treorchy, there should be something to suit your location  and availability. Find out more about classes here, and see if I can answer your questions here.

 

Stress at work making you feel tense? Try to ‘Loosen up at Lunchtime’!

Stress at work is a rising problem in the UK, and across the world. Some shocking statistic recently revealed that stress related absence is on the rise in the UK, a trend which seems set to rise as the repercussions of Brexit continue to create uncertainty in the economy.

If you work all day, it can be hard to find time to exercise and keep yourself well. Yet that is one of the exact reasons why you need it! A busy working day with no time for caring for your body and mind will ultimately give way to illness and stress.

When I worked full time in an office, spending my days sat in front of computers, trying to bend them to my will, dealing with often conflicting demands on my time and attention from other staff and trying to manage my own mental health at the same time, I developed a powerful strategy to make sure I could keep a lid on my stress if nothing else.

At the side of my desk, I kept a Yoga mat, and at lunchtime, I would go to an empty room, roll out my mat and do a short practice. At the time I was using YogaDownload.com, and found that that small amount of time I took to my mat gave me the space in my mind and body I needed to enable me to work at my best in the afternoon.

On one particularly memorable day, when the organisation I was working for was going through a very challenging time and I was personally really struggling to cope (this was just a few months before I finally broke down) I was on the verge of walking out, never to return, when my manager told me to take an early break and go to ‘my yoga room’. When I returned 25 minutes later, I was like a new woman, ready to face the challenges the rest of the day had for us, for a while at least.

This short, 30 minute practice, is a simple practice that will allow you to release the tension you have stored up in your body throughout the morning, enabling you to go into your afternoon with a new lease of life, energy, clarity and peace.

Do you want more Yoga at work?

If you are in the South Wales area, you might be interested in asking your employer to provide office Yoga and relaxation to yourself and your colleagues as part of their staff wellbeing provision. Send this page along to your HR department and ask them to get in touch – it will benefit everyone if you, the staff, are loose and relaxed at work!

I’d love to know if this practice helps you, please share in the comments how you feel after doing the practice.

There is more to Yoga than getting thin and bendy!

When most people think of Yoga, they think of a series of postures that increase flexibility in the body, meditation and relaxation.  Yoga is seen as a very physical activity and lumped into ‘physical exercise’ categories of activity.

When I began my Yoga teacher training, I was under this impression too.  I thought that I would learn to teach an exercise class, and considered little more.  I loved my yoga classes and sessions, and loved the effect it had on my body.  I knew it relaxed and calmed me as well, even though I didn’t enjoy the relaxation or breathing exercises one bit!

Within just a few hours of starting the training, I was discovering previously unknown elements of Yoga, and as I learned more about how Yoga is, I was able to see the potential that it offered, not just to change my body, but to transform my life.

Yoga and the Body

Yoga postures will promote strength, flexibility, and increase your muscle tone and stamina. The postures work on all levels of your body, so may affect your metabolism and digestive system, improving weight loss. The reduction in stress will reduce the likelihood of comfort eating and ‘stress fat’ created by excessive cortisol.

But a ‘body beautiful’ is not the goal of yoga. You will gain a healthy, strong body that will serve you well throughout your life if you practice yoga, but more importantly, you will develop a healthier relationship with your body. Yoga is about so much more than how we look on the outside; in fact, concerns about external appearances are the very opposite of the goals of Yoga.

Yoga teaches us that we are NOT the body, we are not the mind, we are the soul that inhabits the body and the mind. We must take care of the body, as it is the vehicle for the soul, but the purpose of Yoga is to promote self awareness, acceptance, and healthy interaction with ourself and the rest of the world.

Yoga for Life

Yoga is not an exercise system, it is a life system. The postures are just one part of the whole system of Yoga. Through the postures we develop awareness, gain connection to the body, and learn to be still, strong, disciplined, flexible and focused in mind and body.

Yoga offers a holistic path to phenomenal personal growth. In its true form its goal is nothing less than complete spiritual enlightenment, which you cannot get from a mere exercise class!

Yoga teaches you to develop awareness of your thoughts, your actions, how you treat other people, yourself, the planet. It offers a path to acceptance, contentment, inner peace and true happiness, the sort of happiness that doesn’t rely on good things happening to you.

Yoga offers tools and practices that can increase your resilience to stress, help you sleep better and increase your energy levels, increase focus and clarity and connect you to your personal definition of spirituality. If you have a religious faith, yoga can enhance the teachings of that faith, and strengthen your faith and commitment.

Yoga can light the path to total transformation in life. I personally was able to walk away from an alcohol, cigarette and drug habit (dependency) that had been a core part of my identity for my entire adult life, and to do so with joy.

 

 

 

It can help you to instill new habits into your life, and remove unhelpful ones.

Yoga is a transformative system for personal growth. It is SO much more than getting a thin and bendy body!

See for yourself at any of the classes I am running in Porth, Clydach or Treorchy. Find out about the classes here.